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View Full Version : Would Original Shuttle Design Proposal Have Prevented...



Rich
2003-Feb-03, 09:02 PM
...both this and the Challenger loss? If I remember correctly the original proposal called for an entirely reusable, single stage-to-orbit, one piece vehicle capable of powered flight. The boosters and large fuel tank were added to reduce size, weight, and hence cost. Correct?

Without the boosters and fuel tank neither of these accidents would have happened. Challenger's demise was caused by the infamous faulty o-rings on the boosters. Columbia appears, at this point, to have something to do with debris falling off the main fuel tank.

I'm not saying that other accidents or fault points wouldn't have arisen from a different end design. I just find it ironically sad that design compromises 25+ odd years ago resulted in the very systems that were our current failure points.

(I also fully acknowledge that without those very compromises the shuttle program may never have been completed.)

sacrelicious
2003-Feb-03, 09:24 PM
well, the funny thing is, if they had gone with the original design they would have spent far less money over the long term.

stupid congress and their damned short sightedness!

JayUtah
2003-Feb-03, 09:30 PM
The space shuttle went through so many design iterations that it's difficult to pin down "the" original design.

The earliest design concept that comes to mind involved two manned units -- a booster and an orbiter, both reusable. I don't recall a single-stage-to-orbit design.

While it's true the catastrophic failures of STS have involved the "compromise" pieces (i.e., something other than the orbiter) it is not supportable to say that some other design would have been more robust. It's the classic engineering dilemma of trading knowns for unknowns. While it's possible that a different design would have presented fewer reliability problems, the fact remains that we know a whole lot more about STS-type systems than we do about any postulated SSTO design.

joema
2003-Feb-03, 09:55 PM
Here's a very detailed account of the Shuttle origin: http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4221/sp4221.htm

As Jay said, there were many, many variations considered. However almost all of them were two-stage (not SSTO) and most were parallel staged, not serially like the Saturn V.

I think there's a slight argument that parallel staging is more dangerous. Certain failure modes will impinge on adjacent stages, causing damage. Of course the counter argument is those failures shouldn't be happening, anyway, so why adopt a design to avoid those. Nonetheless, it's slightly conceivable had the current shuttle been a serial design without strap-on boosters (say like the old Dyna-Soar, but on a Titan II), neither the Challenger nor Columbia disasters would have happened.

I always liked the DC-X SSTO proposal: http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/x-33/menu_dcx.htm However even that (in the final version) had silica tiles, so if they got damaged it would fail like Columbia did. However the SSTO design would have made damage from adjacent machinery less likely.

-- Joe

Eric McLoughlin
2003-Feb-04, 08:26 AM
The main difference in the earlier NASA Shuttle concepts is that the orbiters were based in lifting body designs i.e. they had no wings. It was USAF requiremnts for better gliding characteristics that brought about the final winged design.

Bill S.
2003-Feb-04, 03:38 PM
For those of you who don't already know, you may find http://www.astronautix.com interesting reading; it shows many, many different never-flew designs (X20 Dynasoar (a transatmospheric fighter-bomber), a Saturn-V based shuttle system etc.)

I highly recommend the 'site.

logicboy
2003-Feb-04, 04:38 PM
If we have this technology why is it taking so long to implement it?

Why are we still flying a fleet of Ships more than a decade old?

We need a cheap reusable system and we needed it 20 years ago.

David Hall
2003-Feb-04, 04:50 PM
On 2003-02-04 11:38, logicboy wrote:

We need a cheap reusable system and we needed it 20 years ago.


I agree here. They should've begun serious design work on a replacement almost from the time the first shuttles rolled off the line. But don't blame NASA for it. If they had had the funding they wanted, I bet we'd have a really useful fleet of vehicles. It's the budget minders in Washington that have forced NASA to give this such a low priority.

joema
2003-Feb-04, 05:47 PM
On 2003-02-04 11:50, David Hall wrote:
But don't blame NASA for it. If they had had the funding they wanted, I bet we'd have a really useful fleet of vehicles.

I think NASA deserves a little of the blame. In the 1970s, had they got all the funding they wanted, we'd still have something just like the current shuttle (with all its limitations and complexities) only with a flyback booster. In the 90s, with the DC-X, there was a clear opportunity for a reliable, reusable, SSTO ship. The focus of that design was simplicity and reliability. NASA instead chose the Lockheed proposal which was very cool and had lots of advanced technology. I liked it myself from a "gee whiz" standpoint. However it required breakthroughs in several areas to ultimately achieve what the DC-X/Y/1 would have provided at less apparent development risk. The Lockheed X-33 development basically collapsed due to multiple problems, many stemming from the bleeding edge nature of the design.

Maybe some SSTO work will now be resurrected.

AstroGman
2003-Feb-05, 03:05 AM
I agree with those who say it,s time to build a different space system.But you know the government.Bureaucracy and budget cutbacks ALWAYS get in the way.

Graham2001
2003-Feb-05, 08:05 AM
On 2003-02-04 10:38, Bill S. wrote:
For those of you who don't already know, you may find http://www.astronautix.com interesting reading; it shows many, many different never-flew designs (X20 Dynasoar (a transatmospheric fighter-bomber), a Saturn-V based shuttle system etc.)

I highly recommend the 'site.


Also on astonautix.com is this listing of all the proposed 'space lifeboats' ( http://www.astronautix.com/craftfam/rescue.htm ) including the (in)famous 'rescue ball' announced after Challenger.

It makes for sobering reading.