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DARPA orders spaceplane capable of 10 launches in 10 days

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Does that include dodgy weather since NASA et all can't launch 1 craft if 's a bit windy.

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The difference between "tolerable" and "optimal" conditions for doing anything is telling yourself "it's not an emergency, let's wait and get a better result tomorrow"

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Does the US military have a bunch of spare satellites just sitting around waiting to be launched?

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Sssh....you'll give the game away!

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Black Helicopters

I think you misunderstand the purpose of this project.

It's not about being able to launch satellites. It's about shovelling another boatload of money to Boeing.

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It about rapidly replacing them when Chinese, Russians, are shooting them down missiles or lasers.

I will be surprise if this vehicle ever flies.

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It about rapidly replacing them when Chinese, Russians, are shooting them down missiles or lasers.

Most probable forms of anti-satellite aggression would result in a huge amount of high velocity space debris. Unless the US have also got a space debris road sweeper, putting up a new GPS satellite fleet won't last that long. Of course, the same applies to the satellites of any aggressor, so they stand a good chance of putting their own assets out of commission - and because much of the debris will remain shooting around in LEO, that risk will remain for years afterwards.

Not that such a risk will deter the jar-head's of many countries' military from trying to develop anti-sat weapons, though that's more of a deterrent than a practical military asset. However, for the Iranians or the Norks, whose total orbital assets are a couple of dead hamsters, and a wildly tumbling beacon with no actual function, then there are not that many downsides to developing anti satellite weapons. Both the named countries have access to long range and ballistic missiles - converting one to an LEO muckspreader would be well within their capabilities.

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What about Kim Jung Un?

Countries that don't have satellites of their own or depend on those of others, want to hurt countries who depend on them, but don't want to kill anyone and risk having themselves attacked might be interested in shooting down satellites.

While everyone is so worried about North Korea gaining the ability to hit Honolulu or Los Angeles with an ICBM, perhaps we should be more worried about them using those missiles to shoot down satellites, or explode a nuke in high orbit for an EMP that fries many satellites at once. Bring the rest of the world down to their dark ages level of technology...

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"Does the US military have a bunch of spare satellites just sitting around waiting to be launched?"

re:“deploy a 3,000-pound satellite to polar orbit.”

That's about the right size for evacuating 'critical' personnel to the secret moonbase in event of Trumpagaddeon in small, hard to target one man escape pods.

(Been reading waaay too many conspiracy websites lately!)

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Re: "It's about shovelling another boatload of money to Boeing."

Actually this one is about shoveling money to AR. With BO in the driver's seat for the Vulcan engine contract it was only a matter of time before we saw a program designed to support AR. Boeing getting in on the action is just icing on the cake.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people like pork flavored cake.

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"Most probable forms of anti-satellite aggression would result in a huge amount of high velocity space debris. Unless the US have also got a space debris road sweeper, putting up a new GPS satellite fleet won't last that long."

Betcha you never looked up what's where up there. For instance, GPS satellites are not in LEO by any definition I've heard of - actually, they're two-thirds of the way to full geostationary, which itself is amazeballs far. Yes, even very small stuff flying around would indeed be mighty inconvenient but people reliably fail to realize how mind-bogglingly huge Space is - I'd wager they'd manage to find some other orbit band that debris from the original sats could not possibly intersect (not to mention that there's a world of difference between being hit by something in the same orbit as you from the opposite direction than from the same as you're going). Everything being in the same orbit as everything else and only a few miles away is only true in Hollywoodland - "Gravity" Is Not A Documentary you know.

What I'd like to know instead is what use it would be to be able to replace a blown-up sat once or twice, considering any enemy who managed to shoot it down once can likely do it again and again _way_ cheaper than you can replace it. Are there massive stockpiles of replacement sats somewhere...?

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Isn't the bigger issue..

...whatever knocked the original satellites out in the first place?

Solar flare perhaps?

Any agressive act gives a lot of issues to resolve before you can reestablish your satellite fleet.

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WTF?

There are plenty of issues with this.

Starting with the fact they ditched Blue Origin as their engine partner in favour of some SSME's that AJR say they will cobble together from the left over parts they've got lying around the workshop.

Were Blue too expensive or where they just bid candy to impress DARPA?

Then there's the fact the whole budget is $146m. I'm not sure if that's going to include the upper stage, which being expendable you want as cheap as possible. OTOH being solid makes it quite expensive (H&S nappies everywhere).

"Attitude" is a difficult thing to assess but you've got to wonder if Boeing has the right attitude to pull this off or are they playing the same route LM did with their X33/Venturestar BS?

Incidentally "Operationally Responsive Space" ("launch on demand" perhaps give you a better sense of what they want) is a thing for the DoD. Partly it's about how fast could they replace a satellite if it was (for any reason) taken out of service.

It's also about how fast could they add capacity (EG comms, imaging, ELINT) over a particular area (say for example the D decides to invade Poland for some reason, who knows) if needed.

Yes this also needs a set of either standardized payloads or payloads you can plug together to perform missions at short notice.

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Anyone else get the impression...

... that there's a lot more going on in orbit than we're led to believe?

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Re: Anyone else get the impression...

No, there is less going on than we beleive.

It would violate WTO rules to simply give $Bn to Boeing

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Re: Anyone else get the impression...

It would violate WTO rules to simply give $Bn to Boeing

I very much doubt that WTO rules ban the US defence research agency from giving the money to whom it wants, for what it wants.

I know Airbus (recipients of generous EU state aid for decades) made the case to the WTO that Boeing benefited in the civil sector from US military contracts, but given the A400M fiasco, Airbus might now be regretting lodging the claim.

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Re: Anyone else get the impression...

Well Boeing is going to need the cash if Space X and Blue Origin eat all the Delta and Atlas money.

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Re: Anyone else get the impression...

That's why they do it.

Giving a $bn to Boeing to help it crush Airbus = naughty

Giving a $Bn to Boeing for a secret project with no accounting and no deliverables = legal

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"Well Boeing is going to need the cash "

Only partly right.

ULA makes those rockets and Boeing only gets money for Delta launches, which are very much the minority. LM's design choices mean Atlas still gets non-USG launches on a regular basis. Delta IV is pretty much only a USG LV.

I presume when ULA transitions to Vulcan the JV agreement will mean they get 505 of all launches.

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$5m sounds very cheap

Hopefully by 2020 SpaceX will have been reusing first stages and fairings for years, and maybe second stages too (at least for Falcon Heavy). They should have paid for a lot of their research and be able to pass savings onto customers. Even so, getting below $10m will be challenging.

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Unhappy

"Even so, getting below $10m will be challenging."

Impossible.

Shotwell was talking $5-6m a launch for a fully resuable F9. 1st stage, 2nd stage and (in hindsight) fairing, itself a $5m item.

If you throw away the upper stage that price target is impossible.

If you need a 54 tonne capacity to launch 3000 lb that target is impossible.

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WTF?

Trigger's broom?

So you send up the spaceplane and recover it, then swap out the “easily accessible subsystem components”; such as engine, fuel tanks, wings, and electronics. Then launch it again while you overhaul the components you just removed.

Is it just me or does this barely meet the specification "re-usable"? You may be re-using the fuselage (assuming the thermal tiling or whatever is used is undamaged) but the rest is potentially all new, or substantially refurbished. Rather than ordering one spacecraft this could actually be one fuselage with 10 sets of wings, 10 engines, etc; launch 10 satellites in 10 days then do nothing for several weeks whilst you get all the components serviceable again.

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Re: Trigger's broom?

Of course it's reusable, as long as everything can be reused.

The actual number of swappable components is relatively immaterial as long as the basic frame can stand the pace.

If the object is to, for example, rebuild the GPS constellation, after it's unexpected demise, in a few days then I can totally see a production-line approach where used components are removed, tested, re-filled and slotted back into other airframes for re-use.

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Re: Trigger's broom?

Fair enough to both points; it just worries me that Boeing could deliver to the requirement without actually delivering to the spirit.

Treat yourselves to an icon! :)

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Re: Trigger's broom?

> Is it just me or does this barely meet the specification "re-usable"?

Of coarse it does. It's like my trusty axe. Had it for 30 years. Replaced the handle 4 times and the head twice but it's the same axe!

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Unhappy

"Then swap out the “easily accessible subsystem components”; such as engine, fuel tanks,"

No, the goal is most of it is not swapped out unless necessary. They mean it's designed to be taken apart, unlike the Shuttle, which was a PITA to service. Eliminating pyrotechnics is also a good idea.

It's called "designing the support" rather than "supporting the design."

The Shuttle had about 100 separate data bases to track stuff on it, done to it or to be done to it. Despite this there was no central DB for fluids (there was for electrical components). That meant you could pull a list (say) of exactly where a certain switch type was used. Handy if they were from a defective batch.OTOH with fluids (and all LV's have lots of fluids) all they could say about how many and where valve type X was used was "lots" and "everywhere."

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Re: "Then swap out the “easily accessible subsystem components”; such as engine, fuel tanks,"

See my reply to my original post; yours is one of the "both points".

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Ahahahahahaha!

'Boeing', 'cheap', 'reusable' in conjunction with rocketry - funniest joke I've heard in days...

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We dont need a space elevator

we need a moon based elastic band.

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Strategic contingency planning

Strategic contingency planning would appear to be at the heart of this. Only three things are plausibly likely to knock out several satellites at once—

1. A Solar event, like a Coronal Mass Ejection

2. Enemy action, either physical military assault or (conceivably) via cyber attack

3. An orbital accident which generates very large amounts of fast-moving debris, the cloud of which will shotgun many satellites

No 3 is unlikely to cause the kind of attrition that this project seems to be catering for. There is, to be sure, a worry that a major satellite collision/explosion or series thereof could worsen exponentially, filling orbits with vicious splinters, but, saving a rather foolish Chinese episode a few years back, space powers are mostly showing some good sense in avoiding this scenario. Space junk is a problem, but it's one which cheaper access to orbit might actually help to cure: there are various practical notions for gathering junk and de-orbiting it, including a "booger" approach which could stick a whole bunch of crap together and then drop it on Mar-a-Lag—sorry, the Pacific.

No 1 is inevitable, it's only a question of when—100 years or tomorrow. A really powerful CME aimed squarely at Earth will cause mayhem. But the worst of its effects might not even be in orbit. Lots of satellites, especially military, are well-hardened against radiation, and anything that knocks out US satellites is at least as likely to fry Russian or Chinese ones. The worst effects of a big CME could be dreadful right here on Earth's surface, if for example a substantial proportion of power grid transformers are killed: we should be very concerned about sweeping long-term power cuts, not to mention the almost unimaginable effects of large swathes of electronics being baked. No country is remotely well-prepared for a big solar storm.

As for No 2, I'd submit DARPA are showing due common sense. Anti-satellite weapons, either satellites themselves or launched from the ground, are a well-maturing technology, and it would seem very likely that a major conflict will see nations trying to blind their enemies' eyes and ears. WW2 made manifest the critical importance of knowledge—of your enemy's movements, resources, plans, communications—and the US, despite some dire mistakes with NSA, knows full well that against any serious adversary, information is as important as fighter jets, missiles or boots on the ground.

Whether kludging together a surge-to-orbit capability in this particular way is the best choice or not, I wouldn't like to say: but they're quite right to plan a contingency to have *something* ready.

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Re: Strategic contingency planning

4. Company that provided and serviced that critical bit of code folds. All data is "in the cloud" and gets erased before anyone can negotiate a deal to take over the remains.

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That video shows the rocket getting itself and the satellite up to orbital speed, and then releasing the satellite and at least four other chunks of junk - at orbital speed.

It's no wonder they need a fast launch capability if they are going to be dumping that much rubbish in orbit to knock out satellites.

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Yes, it did seem a bit odd in animation that the fairings were one of the last things to be dumped. That's some delta V being wasted for no good reason. Hears hoping the engineers are cleverer than the PR monkeys.

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If they need to be able to launch 10 time in 10 days or ever 10 hours then use 10 vehicles and 10 launch pads.

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Unhappy

"launch 10 time in 10 days or ever 10 hours then use 10 vehicles and 10 launch pads."

Today having 2 launch pads for a vehicle is a large programme.

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Re: "launch 10 time in 10 days or ever 10 hours then use 10 vehicles and 10 launch pads."

Elon Musk's new rocket will go to 11

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Re: "launch 10 time in 10 days or ever 10 hours then use 10 vehicles and 10 launch pads."

"Elon Musk's new rocket will go to 11"

Never a truer word said in jest. A SpaceX launch costs 10x the projected price of one of these launches and can carry more than 10x the payload with the risk of only one launch, so cheaper and less risky, assuming that single launch doesn't fail of course :-)

And by the time the new system is built and certified, SpaceX will likely be cheaper again if they get more re-usable bits and find the acceptable level of refurbishment needed.

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Re: "launch 10 time in 10 days or ever 10 hours then use 10 vehicles and 10 launch pads."

Hands up who thinks that the actual cost of one of these launches will be within a factor of 50 of the "projected cost" ?

Remember the shuttle was "projected" to fly every day and cost $50M/flight, it just happened to fly every month at $1.5Bn/flight

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Let's just hope

they don't re-use the solid rocket tech of the shuttles. Orrin Hatch is, after all, still quite powerful in the Senate.

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If Boeing is successful with this

I wouldn't be surprised to see them make a bigger model that could hold modern communication satellites massing 10 tons into GEO. A lot cheaper than current launches, and should be very competitive with SpaceX's reusable first stage.

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WTF?

10 launches in 10 days ?

Right ! How long did it take the so-called «space shuttles» to turn around ? Has Boeing devised a technique to eliminate, e g, heating and ablation upon re-entry into the atmosphere ?...

A boondoggle, as usual....

Henri

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Unhappy

"Right ! How long did it take the so-called «space shuttles» to turn around ? "

Sorry to interrupt your little rant but Shuttle sacrificed everything to keep its development budget under $1Bn a year, with no allowance for inflation or cost overruns and no ability to retain money not spent for large item spends in following years.

Couple this insane spending cap with a failure of both engine suppliers to deliver their promised Isp on the SSME and the SRBs and complete failure to design the support and you get the fragile, maintenance heavy hangar queen.

In theory the AR22, will have a known Isp to begin with, but AJR can still f**k that up.

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