SpaceX Vehicle Returns to Earth After Leaving Space Station
By Brendan McGarry - 2012-05-31T15:48:48Z
Space Exploration Technologies Corp.s supply ship returned to Earth hours after leaving the International Space Station.
Closely held SpaceX, controlled by billionaire Elon Musk, on May 25 became the first company to dock a craft at the station. The feat was previously accomplished only by the U.S., European, Japanese and Russian governments.
The ship parachuted down and splashed into the Pacific Ocean at 11:42 a.m. New York time, about 500 miles off the coast of southern California. It returned with about 1,400 pounds of cargo.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration retired its shuttle fleet last year and wants the private sector to take over ferrying supplies and eventually astronauts to the station. SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, California, may begin regular resupply missions to the lab in September.
Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-31/spacex-vehicle-returns-to-earth-after-leaving-space-station.html
Model S can be equipped with a Single Charger (10 kW) or Twin Chargers (20 kW). Tesla provides two charger capabilities based on significant research into customer needs. The Twin Chargers are needed for pairing with power sources between 10 and 20 kW. To determine the power of an outlet (measured in kilowatts), multiply the voltage by the current. At 20 kW,, Model S can recover 62 miles range per hour of charge.
A guy behind me saw and said to his buddy "They named the company after the guy who invented electricity". I know what he meant, but it didn't stop me from laughing.
There were a lot of delays (and I'm not convinced the last one wasn't a staged test of the post-ignition hold-down system), but once that thing got off the ground, it did everything right.
If things keep going this well for SpaceX and the Falcon 9 Heavy works as well as this next year, it's only a question of money for some enterprising individual who wishes to (slowly) travel to other planets.
The vehicle can be assembled and/or parked near the ISS, and the vehicle won't require high-thrust rockets or reentry shielding. Ion thrusters, solar panels, and a couple thousand pounds of xenon should be able to take a camper-sized craft to Saturn and back, but it would take years and health complications are a near certainty if you're doing it on the cheap.
I'd still do it. Anyone have a spare $200 million lying around?
More like 200 billion (at least), and most likely they would die in the attempt.
Acta Astronomica (a scholarly journal) has an article about likely costs sor point-to-point sub-orbital flights within the Earth. The costs really are astronomical, even for this relatively minor type of spaceflight. I have no doubt that a trip to Saturn would exceed the resources of all the world's private billionaires combined.
...I think we've reached a tipping point where all the technologies which needed to be perfected have been, and now they are quickly dropping in price.
The efficiency and low cost of solar arrays is a good example.
The perfection of the ion thruster is another. They don't fail, even after years of exposure in space and thousands of firings (see for example the Dawn mission). That gives a spacecraft the ability to match orbits with just about any object within Saturn's orbit (beyond that point, solar power collection becomes less useful).
Life support systems have long since been proven good enough to be sustained in a vacuum for years at a time. If such systems are not fully self-contained (as the ISS is not), a craft can be easily resupplied using the same solar array and ion thruster systems. If the resupply craft is then tacked on board the main vehicle, it augments the main vehicle's power and ability to change its delta-v.
An ion powered craft is not limited to Hohmann transfer orbits and/or gravity assist, as more conventional deep spacecraft like Curiosity and Cassini have used. There are at least three opportunities for a hu-manned vehicle to resupply itself with water ice and olivine: in the asteroid belt, at Jupiter or its trojans, and at Saturn itself. In a pinch, ice can supply water, fuel, and air, and olivine can scrub carbon dioxide, so humans can potentially survive even if some of the systems on its craft fail.
Communications also are not much of a problem since NASA has kindly provided the solar system with an Internet-like communications net.
That leaves only the somewhat unknown factors of prolonged exposure to solar radiation, and prolonged weightlessness, but solutions for those problems have been proposed and debated for a hundred years. A person who launched for Saturn's orbit four years from now and returned to LEO twelve years later might be sterile, cancerous, and unable to survive in Earth's gravity... or perhaps not if one keeps some of the craft's water mass between the sun and the life support zone. I know I'd take that risk in order to leave as soon as possible, and others would quickly benefit from my experience.
As far as the money goes, one way I would improve my safety factor, lower operating costs, and allow for constant systems monitoring would be to make a large part of my Mission Control an open-source project, where geeks like me can make themselves useful in the knowledge that their spare time really counts for something. I'd generate revenue by producing science and reality entertainment, contracting for science projects and conducting experiments, selling ride-along space for others' experiments and observations, setting up a foundation for donors to support me, helping to build strategically placed resupply depots and improving the solar system's comm net, and allowing Democratic Underground to sponsor me.
Oh yeah, I've been thinking about this a lot, and for a long time. I'll only be crazy until I pull it off.
I'll pass on space travel myself. I don't even like airplanes.
You and the robots can tell us planetary homebodies what it's like out there.
Other than walking, my favorite mode of travel is a comfortable train traveling less than 50 kilometers per hour.
Last edited Sun Jun 3, 2012, 12:23 AM - Edit history (1)
Good luck with that. Still, this is kind of cool.
But I think the major point is that made by Dr. deGrasse-Tyson, it's not just taking payloads into orbit, the key to this endeavor's success is whether or not it fires the imagination of the public.
One company scheduled to launch with SpaceX is Bigelow Aerospace, which has resurrected the NASA Transhab concept (ahem, killed by the Republican-controlled 106th Congress in 2000).
The inflatable habitation concept is particularly resistant to micrometeoroid impacts and, if built as a double bladder with honeycombs, should be able to squish the majority of the water storage to the sun side to partially block solar radiation. There could be an additional "safe room" one could retreat to during storms.
If they pull that off, then you get more of an apartment rather than a camper. And, occasionally, one might have to conduct an EVA in the truly great outdoors... but I'd want to do that as little as possible.
in the very foreseeable future (10-15 years max) then this nation's economic and scientific future will be very bleak indeed. Only Mars will do.