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Larry Jacks
2007-Feb-23, 07:17 PM
Interesting article (http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2007/02/22/65477.aspx) on MSNBC about Bigelow's long range plans. After mastering LEO, he wants to assemble a lunar habitat at L1 then land it in one piece on the moon. He's investigating a way to shield the modules with lunar regolith.

Q: I’ll definitely return to that in a second, but I did want to ask you about your approach to the base and the regolith insulation. Someone coming in from the outside might say, “Well, you just take one of those inflatable modules and you plunk that down on the lunar surface and pile moon dirt around it. It doesn’t sound that complicated.” Is the devil in the details, or is there some radically different way in which Bigelow would approach that challenge?

A: Yes, there’s a significant difference, because both of those are very significant challenges.

The regolith is made up of very, very fine, talcum-powder-type of glass particles. As you probably know, these particles are a significant abrasive, and they are able to penetrate the smallest of joints in any moving system. So what you don’t want to have, if possible, is a reliance on any moving systems to deploy that material.

Now, all the architectures for deploying the regolith involve some kind of conveyor belt, or a tractor or some other kind of large equipment that rolls around the surface, scoops up the material and transports it like you see on construction sites terrestrially. Usually, that type of solution is imagined because people look to construction excavation as the methodology to deal with the lunar regolith problem. Being a general contractor as we have for over 30 years, we’ve been on an awful lot of construction sites, and we’ve excavated an awful lot of material.

If people have ever been around a construction site at night, they’ll see a bunch of lights on those machines, and some service trucks there. Those service trucks aren’t there just because there’s nothing better to do than visit the machinery. It’s because that machinery breaks down constantly on Earth, all of the time. Every construction site has that feature to it. People who have never been to construction sites are completely unaware that this is a habitual problem on Earth, let alone the moon.

The last thing you want to do is handcuff yourself to an Earth solution for moving material – a strategy that would be just crazy to apply to a lunar application. We have enough problems as it is keeping the machinery running – Caterpillars, loaders, excavators, all kinds of machinery.

So our solution is something entirely different, involving a method where no machinery actually is used. We’re going to be trying the method this year, using one of our steel simulators as a prototype, because it’s the size of vessel that mimics the full-scale module. We’re actually going to try in Las Vegas to apply our solution for covering up a full-scale module, involving only two people, with a depth of soil on the crown of at least 2 or 3 feet. We’ll give you more on this later as we progress with this experiment.

Doodler
2007-Feb-23, 09:15 PM
Howard Hughes would be proud.

Launch window
2007-Mar-02, 01:29 PM
I still have my doubts on how much the private sector will contribute to space exploration

Ilya
2007-Mar-02, 01:53 PM
I still have my doubts on how much the private sector will contribute to space exploration

A lot of people think of "space exploration" as an end in itself. It is not, or should not be. Exploration is just a preliminary step before exploitation. Exploration does not bring direct financial benefit ("spinoffs" are an indirect benefit); exploitation does. Not surprisingly, private businesses are interested in exploitation.

So your doubts about "how much the private sector will contribute to space exploration" are more than justified -- because these efforts are not about "exploration" at all! They are about economic activity which comes after. However, I expect these private efforts will ultimately benefit space science (i.e. exploration) by lowering launch costs. Up until now there has been simply no compelling reason for aerospace companies to lower lauch costs -- and no realistic way to do so even if they wanted to. Space tourist market may or may not break this price jam, but nothing else will. Not in near future, anyway.

Larry Jacks
2007-Mar-02, 02:11 PM
Using a historical analogy, centuries ago governments and sometimes companies (e.g. the Hudson Bay Company) sponsored exploration of the New World and other locations. Ultimately, the private companies were interested in making a profit. So were the governments, but they were less up front about it.

Space exploration is about going to new places and seeing what's there. Space exploitation is about deriving economic benefit from the things that were discovered there.

NEOWatcher
2010-Jan-20, 07:56 PM
Old thread bump to highlight the the "all talk"...

Today on MSNBC to compare to the OP article.
Private space stations edge closer to reality (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34957156/ns/technology_and_science-space/)

Both read fairly close to the same, but here's a glaring difference.

In the op:

Bigelow's plan calls for launching the company's first space "hotel" capable of accommodating guests (or researchers, for that matter) in 2010.

In today's article:

Bigelow is now eyeing 2015 as the year when the larger human-rated habitats will be in Earth orbit, ready for boarding.

In other words, it was 3 years away a few years ago, and now it's 5 years away.

Sounds like the closer they get, the longer it's going to take.

And people complain of NASA's delays thinking private industry can eliminate them. :naughty:

Swift
2010-Jan-20, 08:21 PM
In other words, it was 3 years away a few years ago, and now it's 5 years away.

And in 20 years it will be powered by nuclear fusion. ;)

Larry Jacks
2010-Jan-20, 09:53 PM
And people complain of NASA's delays thinking private industry can eliminate them.

Bigelow is in the unfortunate position of being dependent on others. He has no booster of his own so he'll need someone else to launch not only the modules but the people into space. There are no available passenger spacecraft available this year. The Soyuz capsule exists but there is limited production, all booked. What other passenger carrying vehicle is ready - the Chinese one? The one that's launched with passengers something like 3 times over 6 years or so?

Bigelow may be self-financed but without the means to launch passengers himself, there's little point of putting his modules into space.

Garrison
2010-Jan-21, 12:06 AM
And people complain of NASA's delays thinking private industry can eliminate them.

Bigelow is in the unfortunate position of being dependent on others. He has no booster of his own so he'll need someone else to launch not only the modules but the people into space. There are no available passenger spacecraft available this year. The Soyuz capsule exists but there is limited production, all booked. What other passenger carrying vehicle is ready - the Chinese one? The one that's launched with passengers something like 3 times over 6 years or so?

Bigelow may be self-financed but without the means to launch passengers himself, there's little point of putting his modules into space.

Isn't he basically depending on the Falcon9/Dragon succeeding? It's probably either that or wait for Skylon or SpaceShipThree...

KaiYeves
2010-Jan-21, 01:15 AM
Everybody has delays. ("Nobody's perfect, I've gotta work it...")

peledre
2010-Jan-21, 01:23 AM
I still have my doubts on how much the private sector will contribute to space exploration

My money is on the private sector contributing a roughly equivalent amount to the advancement of space exploration and colonization as the private sector contributed in the Western European exploration and colonization of the New World.

Columbus "re-discovered" the New World at the tail end of the 15th century and within 150-200 years commercial expeditions were being mounted to the New World that in size, scope, time and cost could be comparable to commercial expeditions to the Moon and Mars.

We first "discovered" space travel in the 1960's, I would bet that commercial exploration of this "new world" begins in ~ 1/3 the time it took for the previous new world.

Glom
2010-Jan-21, 08:33 AM
Big talk. How did that inflatable hotel go?

Larry Jacks
2010-Jan-21, 02:20 PM
Isn't he basically depending on the Falcon9/Dragon succeeding? It's probably either that or wait for Skylon or SpaceShipThree...

IIRC, he was also working with Lockheed to develop a capsule for the Atlas V. I don't know the status of that project. Falcon 9 has yet to make its first flight and it'll be at least a few years before Dragon is ready to carry people, assuming everything goes well.

NEOWatcher
2010-Jan-21, 03:47 PM
Bigelow is in the unfortunate position of being dependent on others. He has no booster of his own so he'll need someone else to launch not only the modules but the people into space. [...]
Bigelow may be self-financed but without the means to launch passengers himself, there's little point of putting his modules into space.
Sure; but the same situation existed when he said 2010.
So; what speculation is he going on? What assumptions?

I've heard plenty of talk on this board about business plans, and how private industry doesn't just jump ahead hoping to solve problems as they go like NASA does.

So; Either he had specific plans and/or expectations which changed considerably in the last 2 years, or his module is running into problems, or he's just blowing smoke for the publicity.

At least with NASA, we get some disclosure as to what's happening.

peledre
2010-Jan-21, 04:04 PM
At least with NASA, we get some disclosure as to what's happening.

Public vs. Private.

NEOWatcher
2010-Jan-21, 04:08 PM
Public vs. Private.
Yep... That's why private always wins. They have the opportunity to hide thier woes from the publie.

Larry Jacks
2010-Jan-21, 04:16 PM
Only if they're not a publicly traded company. If they're publicly traded, they're required to disclose information like that.

Delays are increasingly common, both in the public and private sector. Airbus was about 2 years late with their A-380 and their A-400 transport is way late. Boeing is over 2 years late with their 787. Lockheed-Martin is running late with their F-35 testing program. It's taking SpaceX longer than originally anticipated to get their Falcon 9 flying. Many military satellite programs are years late and grossly over budget. Likewise, NASA has been late on just about everything they've done for the past 30 years. So why are you only picking on one side?

NEOWatcher
2010-Jan-21, 05:11 PM
]...So why are you only picking on one side?
I'm not trying to pick on one side. I am trying to point out that the same issues occur on both sides. There seems to be an inordinate amount of NASA bashing around here, and I'm just trying to point out that it's because of what we hear, and not because it's "bad NASA".

And thanks for the further examples.

The media plays a part too. They are willing to glorify a business' press release because it's harder to get the real scoop, than it is with NASA.

Garrison
2010-Jan-21, 07:28 PM
Isn't he basically depending on the Falcon9/Dragon succeeding? It's probably either that or wait for Skylon or SpaceShipThree...

IIRC, he was also working with Lockheed to develop a capsule for the Atlas V. I don't know the status of that project. Falcon 9 has yet to make its first flight and it'll be at least a few years before Dragon is ready to carry people, assuming everything goes well.

That's what I thought as far as Dragon goes, and yet it looks like they are the closest of any of the commercial launch outfits, unless Bigelow pulls a rabbit out of the hat with the Atlas capsule.

Glom
2010-Jan-22, 08:35 AM
Only if they're not a publicly traded company. If they're publicly traded, they're required to disclose information like that.

Delays are increasingly common, both in the public and private sector. Airbus was about 2 years late with their A-380 and their A-400 transport is way late. Boeing is over 2 years late with their 787. Lockheed-Martin is running late with their F-35 testing program. It's taking SpaceX longer than originally anticipated to get their Falcon 9 flying. Many military satellite programs are years late and grossly over budget. Likewise, NASA has been late on just about everything they've done for the past 30 years. So why are you only picking on one side?

There's been talk of them cancelling the A400M altogether.

Damburger
2010-Jan-22, 12:32 PM
TBH, I think he has fallen into a common trap for space entrepreneurs.

They see mature government efforts, and inflated with a bunch of largely ideological assumptions about 'big government' decide that most of what goes on in these efforts, that they don't understand, is waste - and that the lean, mean private sector is going to do without that waste.

Of course, when they start doing some actual engineering, they slowly come to a horrid realisation. NASA is doing things, give or take, as efficiently as they can be done. All that apparently bureaucratic process they bring into everything was in fact developed out of nessecity during the early days of blowing up an awful lot of expensive hardware.

NASA learned to make spacecraft instead of billion-dollar fireworks through a pretty harsh learning curve, and the entrepreneurs who think they can sweep away the established aerospace order are setting themselves up for that same learning curve; Elon Musks initial string of failures, and Virgin Galactics tragic accident are examples of this.

Nicolas
2010-Jan-22, 01:14 PM
There's been talk of them cancelling the A400M altogether.

It made its first flight mere weeks ago?

NEOWatcher
2010-Jan-22, 01:59 PM
There's been talk of them cancelling the A400M altogether.
It made its first flight mere weeks ago?

FYI: In today's news.
Airbus A400M Talks to Be Continued Shortly (http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=9632319)


Crucial negotiations between European aerospace contractor EADS and seven customer nations over the future of the troubled Airbus A400M military transport plane ended without an agreement Friday, a German government official said.

Nicolas
2010-Jan-22, 04:55 PM
Thanks for the link. I haven't seen the news today. Elephants. I've seen elephants today. They tend not to do small talk about the A400m though...

Oh well, if the A400M is to be cancelled, I'm sure the prototype would make for a great first stage of a TSTO launcher.

Seriously though, it's a bit of a pity that they have to reach this phase, no matter what the outcome, so soon after they finally had their first flight. It didn't end in a crash, so I would assume the first flight would only be an argument not to cancel the project? But of course, there's the money issue... In a time where banks get billions upon billions, one would assume that a few billion for this craft and thousands of jobs wouldn't be out of line...Wait and see how this one ends.

Larry Jacks
2010-Jan-22, 07:47 PM
There are a lot of things that we don't know about the A-400. Sure, it had it's first flight. How successful was it, really? Did they find some problems that could add to further delays and cost increases? I honestly don't know.

About 10 years ago, there was a proposal to build a very light jet called the Eclipse 500 (http://www.eclipseaerospace.net/). It was going to be powered by two very small Williams turbofan engines and cost less than $1 million. They raised a lot of money and built a prototype. It flew - once - before finding out that those beautiful little Willians engines just weren't going to work. See Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine article: The Little Engine That Couldn't (http://www.airspacemag.com/flight-today/engine.html)). Eclipse had to switch to some small Pratt & Whitney turbofans, which were considerably larger and heavier than the Williams engines. It required an extensive redesign of the plane. They eventually worked though all of the problems and got the plane certificated for production. The plane was years late and the price was heading towards $2 million. Some 250 were built before the company went bankrupt. Under new ownership, they're trying to restart production. I know a doctor here in town that owns one. He loves it and has promised to give me a ride someday. I'm holding him to that promise.

For all I know, there are no serious problems with the A-400. It's just so late and over budget that many of the customers may have lost interest or can no longer afford it.