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Jun 22, 2013, 12:47 AM
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The space program that won't die

The answer is yes. NASA is still around, with a budget reduced to 2007 levels, or 1776 levels after inflation. They're still trying to build a rocket more powerful than the Saturn V while constrained to the same infrastructure as the Saturn V, which requires making it a lot more efficient.

They spent the 1990's trying to perfect carbon fiber fuel tanks, only to go back to aluminum. Now, the buzzword is friction stir welded aluminum.

After spending 10 years testing small scale friction stir welding tools for hardware that will never fly, they are only now starting to build the full size tools for the actual rocket. Making the end caps of a giant rocket fuel tank is very hard. Hobbyists spend most of their focus on just perfecting a fuel tank which can take the highest pressure with the least mass. You need a dome welding tool the size of the actual dome.

Then you need a machine the size of the entire fuel tank to weld the end caps & barrel together.

After building all the tools, you hopefully haven't lost interest & still build the rocket. That was a lot of work, just to have lighter welds.

J-2X Gimbal Testing at Stennis Space Center (1 min 26 sec)

There's a nifty video of a J2-X gimbal test, the 1st time a full rocket flame with its shock cone was pointed around the test stand since the 1970's. The gas generator exhaust pipe snaking its way around the nozzle is a definite return of a Saturn V trademark to modern times.

It would be neat if someone drew a modern space mission diagram in the style of the 1960's drawings that depicted the Apollo missions, with the same fonts, but with modern vehicles.

Maybe there could be a simulated TV broadcast of a modern mission with the 1960's style graphics.

There just aren't any modern missions as ambitious.
Last edited by Jack Crossfire; Jun 22, 2013 at 02:01 AM.
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Jun 22, 2013, 11:43 AM
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Apollo was a moment in time that launched the careers of thousands (actually an entire generation) of engineers.
I was a kid who became fascinated with Apollo and credit NASA with my decision to become an engineer.

Sadly, the brilliant designs of the Apollo engineers were relegated to scrap/salvage yards.
Today's younger engineers were unable to recreate what had been done before many were born, even with modern tools and technologies.
So, a program was started to locate old Apollo engineers and ask them to mentor the younger engineers on "how they did it". They also went around to salvage yards buying back old Apollo technology.

I don't think we will ever see another "Apollo effort" started by this country and it's people. it's too bad, I wish my kids could experience the same thing I did.
Jun 24, 2013, 08:46 PM
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I don't want to be negative, but I believe that both of you are mistaken. Nasa's new SLS program is impressive, but even more impressive is the rapid progression of SpaceX!

As for "apollo effort" It isn't exactly on the same scale, but for a private company to fund, and engineer their rockets from the ground up, SpaceX is rather "close" to the "apollo effort" in my mind!

For instance, the current Falcon 9 rocket already boasts a higher payload than the shuttle ever did (29,000 pounds to LEO), yet it is capable to not only maintain mission safety, but continue the mission after losing 2 of their 9 engines!

Not to mention SpaceX entered the commercial market at a whopping $1000 per pound launch cost! That is EXTREMELY cheap compared to the standard $9,000 per pound that it previously cost. Not to mention with the new Falcon 9 Merlin 1D engines on the new Falcon 9 V1.1 rocket they knocked that price down again to $750, and eventually have a goal of reaching $500 per pound. Absolutely blowing every government, or commercial space program out of the water.

Not only are they currently carrying out resupply missions to the ISS, but this year they will be launching their new Falcon heavy rocket, as well as getting full manned certification for their (already in use) Dragon space craft. When this happens they will officially be the first private "shuttle" service to ISS or LEO in general.

Keep in mind, if you scale the Virgin Galactic guys (Burt Rutan and Richard Bronson) SpaceX is absolutely amazing!
Last edited by Jwmflying14; Jun 24, 2013 at 10:56 PM.
Jun 24, 2013, 08:52 PM
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The gas generator exhaust pipe snaking its way around the nozzle is a definite return of a Saturn V trademark to modern times.
I don't quite think this is accurate... Like SpaceX and most other space technologies, I believe they are using liquid oxygen fuel supply to help cool the nozzle prior to entering the gas turbine fuel pump which supplies the main engine. You can think of the Turbine like a Turbo in a car, however it is a pre-burner which is burning fuel prior to the main combustion chamber, this preburner forces thousands of gallons of fuel into the combustion chamber. This is extremely common, and is used quite often, especially on reusable rockets. Not to mention that current technology will soon be leaving the Gas turbine fuel pump in the past for a more economical, and longer lasting piston powered fuel pump which can allow almost instant rocket reuse without having to change out fuel pumps (gas turbines) every launch.
Jun 24, 2013, 11:45 PM
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I can't think of a modern engineering achievement that compares to Apollo.
Alan Shepherd to Neil Armstrong in less than a decade is absolutely awe inspiring.
Jun 24, 2013, 11:56 PM
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I never said I don't agree, I simply do not think you can possibly say unparalleled. For instance, by the time Falcon Heavy launches, it will be approximately the same time span as the mercury to Saturn rockets, on a tighter Privatized budget, with safer and more reliable technology.

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