Friday, November 11, 2011

Orion scheduled for 2014

From NASA via DVICE.COM comes word that the Orion crew capsule is indeed scheduled for a 2014 flight! Now before you start dancin a jig, let's qualify this first mission:
  • The plan is to send the capsule through two orbits, ending up farther from Earth than any craft intended for human transport has been since 1973. Then, Orion will return for a splashdown in the Pacific.

Now this does sound a bit anticlimactic, like the article stated, it is further than anyone has gone for a very very long time. Far enough to start thinking....are these guys crazy? None of the tech looks any more advanced than 60s era Apollo and the are flying it into deep-space and then come back at 20k mph to splash down in the Pacific ocean? Let me show you why that makes me nervous.....

Now granted, this was test one and it looked too high, too fast and the angle of attack much to high....still....ugly AND scarey! If you go a bit further, test 2's results are much easier to watch!


Blizno said...

I'm confused by the 20 kmph comment.

Clearly that's the speed of the capsule during reentry long before parachutes could possibly open. That's hypersonic speed and the heat shield would be bright red from the heat of the shock wave.

The first video looked fairly gentle to me. The crew will be strapped into g-chairs and will be expecting a sharp shock. The speed during the first video was probably tens of mph.
The second video looked improbably gentle.

As for "sixties tech", that's the stuff that brought every Apollo astronaut safely home. Electronics will be the best that the 21st Century can provide but the 60s-era capsule shape has proven itself to be the simplest and safest design for reentry.

Beam Me Up said...

Doesn't look right does it...but re-entry would be 20 thousand kph so I think I dropped a zero or something.

Believe me, I am not busting on Apollo - no sir, that was easily the pinnacle of the USA's space initiative. What I am calling out is the Orion project being touted as something new and innovative. I am willing to bet there are some Apollo engineers that flinch every time they are marginalized and dismissed.

All I am saying is don't piss on my head and tell me it's raining.

Blizno said...

I would never piss on your head!

My feeling is that we veered off course for decades when we concentrated on the space shuttle. It looked great at first; a space-truck that could deliver a heavy load to low-Earth orbit, land safely and then do the same a week later.
The reality was that it was far more expensive to operate the shuttles than anybody expected.

By far the mightiest rocket USA ever launched was the Saturn V, which never had a catastrophic failure. Every US reentry using the tried-and-true capsule design brought its crew home safely.
I don't think that returning to our best, safest designs is a step backwards. We can improve them, of course, but those basic concepts are the most reliable we've invented so far.

I wouldn't call designing a single-use capsule on top of a huge rocket innovative, but returning to our strengths is a very good thing to do right now. Ten years from now we can launch our first FTL ship after carrying its components to orbit using our space elevator. For now, reliable launches to beyond LEO will be a triumph.

Beam Me Up said...

Ok, I have tried my hardest to rattle you on this. But you clearly understand what made the Apollo system great. Once I got you away from Saturn (yes, it was an amazing system of several launch stacks but in reality it was little more than Titan grown big) The crew system was damn good once it was flying (No I am not going to argue did however highlight many of he major shortfalls the system had) I honestly thought at the time that Apollo with more room and the ability to carry a larger crew was the direction it should have taken. Many of the people championing Orion never saw Apollo fly. I would truly like to see an honestly good reusable program that the SST was suppose to be. We don't have the time or the initiative for this to happen. But if we can get a reliable single use system to the pad...Man I am there waving the S&S