NASA TODAY ANNOUNCED THEIR CHOICES FOR SERVICING THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION CREWS. CAPSULES WILL RULE OVER WINGED VEHICLES IN MANNED OPERATIONS NOW.
We do still have the Air Force operating the unmanned X-37, which continues to validate winged shuttles as reusable space vehicles. Sierra Nevada’s Dreamchaser may live on for other missions as well.
While NASA may feel threatened by the ghost of failures and costs from the shuttle program, the safety problems of winged vehicles were only created by problems associated with the booster stage tanks and rockets. The winged shuttle orbiters were reliable and reusable aside from those issues. For ALL national manned space systems to be capsule based only ignores the value of those great vehicles.
The Dreamchaser is a design based on previous NASA development, and represents salvation of a lot of taxpayer investment. Too many NASA experiments have been terminated with no return value to the taxpayers. The Dreamchaser is built on a legacy of successful reusable orbital winged reentry vehicles. To date NO manned capsule has ever been reusable. There is no legacy or history of such re-usability, and both of the “winners” of this competition depend on delivering the unproven promise.
Parachutes have delivered capsules to the ocean and they may be able to clean off the salt water and burned up heat shields. The Spacex vertical landing idea is still being tested. Spacex is more successful with vertical landing tests, but still suffer an occasional mishap. There is a legacy of failed vertical landers among other firms though. One group reported a power failure at altitude as “an interesting data point”. As these rockets grow larger the interesting data points may come from a seismograph! It seems reasonable to suggest that statistically a mishap will eventually come to these manned capsule operations. They lack the potential to glide to a safe landing. Spacex may offer parachutes as a backup at least.
While capsules are a proven system generally, why should all of our tax dollars go to only one system? Why should we abandon a valid alternative that is being demonstrated regularly by the Air Force X-37? The deep space Orion Capsule is another example of missing the boat in this way. Our tax investment should not be all put in one basket while we lose the lessons of a valuable alternative system.
While this blog is dedicated to the virtues of horizontal launch, it is dependent on the lessons of the past, including horizontal landing. Horizontal launch includes the Orbital Sciences Pegasus, the X-15, and Space Ship One. Our vision for fully reusable orbiters is built on the legacy of the Prime Lifting Body, the shuttles, and the X-37. Without the reentry technology re-usability is non-existent. To date, only winged orbiters have ever achieved this goal. This is the wrong time to look back to the Mercury program of the early 60s and hope to convert them to reusable systems. Tax payers should insist on keeping the most viable technologies in service while new solutions are tested.
While this is a horizontal launch advocacy site, we are inviting Sierra Nevada to publish here too. If they wish to help us to educate the public about the opportunity here we welcome contributions. I hope that qualified investors will recognize the value of such a proven technology. We need to see support for the courage expressed by Sierra Nevada in expressing interest in pressing on for new missions and markets.
Sierra Nevada could use a serious asteroid miner, moon ventures, and tourist destinations to assure investors of a market. The U.S. mail contract was a big deal, but biplanes filled that first assignment. Visionary investors need to see the value waiting. There WILL be another generation of launch vehicles equivalent to the DC3; efficient commercial vessels. Now is the time to buy low and sell high. Sierra Nevada holds the best technology for returning treasures to earth now.
KEEP THE DREAM ALIVE!
THE WORLD’S ONLY OPERATIONAL REUSABLE ORBITER; THE X-37