September 21, 2006
Well...That Was Unexpected...
Initially, and due to the huge amount of money involved, the companies will announce they are to focus on exploring the technical requirements for the human-rated launch services needed to transport commercial crew and cargo to expandable orbital space complexes. Bigelow and Lockheed Martin will examine the production and supply of Atlas rockets and comprehensive data describing flight safety and performance. Potential business models and business plans will also be discussed.Wow. How sweet is that?
The reason for the NASA ESAS man-rating concerns was due to the 25mT CEV mass requirement, which ESAS maintained could not safely even be met by the massive Atlas V Heavy variant. According to a Lockheed Martin paper unveiled this week at the Space 2006 conference, the basic Atlas V 401 can meet FAA and NASA man-rating requirements with little modification with a much smaller capsule mass of 20,000 lbs.Considering what we had to do to fit six people in a CEV capsule roughly more than twice as heavy, I can only imagine that this 8-person capsule would be significantly simpler, less capable, shorter duration, and, ahh, cozier than what NASA wanted for CEV. Which is not really surprising, considering CEV is intended for lunar flights as well as LEO...if you don't need a toilet or a galley on board and don't have to carry consumables for more than a couple of days (among other possible differences) it could lighten things up a bit.
But 20,000lbs? The Apollo CSM weighed in at around 66,000lbs. On the other hand, Gemini weighed around 8500lbs, and had a mission more analogous to this Bigelow taxi spacecraft. It's a sporty goal, but not out of the realm of the possible...especially if the crew size turns out to be less than 8.
ADDENDUM: Rand Simberg liveblogged the announcement from the AIAA Space 2006 conference.Posted by T.L. James on September 21, 2006 09:57 PM | TrackBack