Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

NASA and Boeing look ahead to long-term SLS production

“If you buy one SLS rocket, the price is really high. If you buy two, the price goes down significantly, and if you buy the three it keeps going down,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said-”

It is not one launch every six months that should be the goal, it is six launches in one year, and every year for the next 30 years that should be the NASA position. The 4 billion a year presently being completely wasted on the space station to nowhere would be better spent on building two more SLS core stage production lines. The rivers of tears cried by NewSpace fans if NASA officials were to discuss this option would do my heart good. The 150 metric ton payload target would be no problem if the SLS boosters were replaced with two New Glenn lower stages. This is what is needed to loft a double-hulled “fat workshop.”

In my view the necessary building block for a cislunar infrastructure is a minimum 50 foot diameter fat workshop that has an outer 15 foot envelope filled with lunar water as a cosmic ray shield. A 60 foot diameter stage with a 15 foot outer hull would provide a 30 foot diameter inner hull. By sending these workshops with robot landers to Low Lunar Orbit (LLO) a crew compartment pipeline will be created. The landers go down to the ice and convert some of it into propellent and take the rest up to the workshops and repeat. Eventually the cosmic ray shields will be full and by connecting a pair of workshops with a tether system they can be spun to provide a Near-Sea-Level-Radiation-1-Gravity environment (NSLR1G).

These crew compartment pairs can be used first as LLO space stations and then as Lunar Cyclers and GEO platforms. Their most important application will be for spaceships. Nuclear Pulse Propulsion and NSLR1G enables multi-year missions to the ocean moons of the gas and ice giants. True atomic spaceships with cosmic ray water shields and tether-generated artificial gravity are the logical replacement for the terrestrial strategic deterrent. These space boomer fleets would allow guest scientists to go on voyages of exploration. Placing the nuclear arsenals of the superpowers months away in deep space would ratchet down over half a century of launch-on-warning risk and provide a means to intercept comet and asteroid impact threats. The Ayn-Rand-in-space crowd does not like the idea of progress in space being directly subsidized by the state but it shows how completely clueless they are. Everything comes from the state. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSJjlaggbK0

The SLS has been demonized by the NewSpace mob from the day the program was announced. The reason for this propaganda campaign is not hard to figure out. Literally libraries of death-to-SLS comments have been posted by a legion of cyberthugs because SLS competes for tax dollars with SpaceX, that poster child for corporate welfare. When anyone interrupts the decade-long non-stop infomercial that public space blog forums have become since NewSpace cyberbullies hijacked them, a dogpile of trolls quickly silences them. This kind of exposure drives the SpaceX fans into a frenzy of wailing and gnashing of teeth. They are the most toxic group on the internet as proven by survey.

In a perfect world the Saturn V would NOT have been killed and, instead, would have evolved into the reusable vehicle the space shuttle was meant to be. Instead of retreating to the dead end of LEO the Moon would have remained the focus of Human Space Flight. Instead of an Outer Space Treaty forbidding nuclear weapons it would have embraced the use of nuclear energy in space outside the Earth’s magnetosphere. Interestingly, Human Space Flight, with human-rating standards and escape tower technology, was the best path to transporting fissile material Beyond Earth Orbit with the least risk. It is not widely publicized that landing back rockets was NOT invented by SpaceX but is actually technology from almost 30 years ago. After only two years of development the McDonnell Douglas Delta Clipper rocket landed back in 1993.

Hindsight can sometimes be engaged retroactively by resurrecting and repurposing an old concept. The Falcon 9 is essentially an upgraded design of the 1961 Saturn I rocket with Soviet propellent super-cooling added. The Saturn I rocket engine was the H-1, development began in 1958 to upgrade an earlier engine to a thrust of 205,000 pounds, a thrust to weight ration of 102.47 to 1, and a seal level Isp of 255 seconds. The Merlin engine used by the Falcon 9 used technology developed by TRW for NASA in 1964 for the lunar lander. The Merlin has slightly better numbers and must “hover slam” land back, unlike the Delta Clipper. The hobby rocket payload is appropriate for satellites but far below what is necessary for any Human Space Flight Beyond Earth Orbit (HSF-BEO) applications.

In retrospect the mighty Saturn V first stage could have been modified to land back and be reused. The most efficient arrangement for the shuttle would likely have been two large turbopumps driving 4 thrust bells of well over 2 million pounds of thrust each and a smaller central gimbaled engine capable of landing the stage. Likewise the second stage would have landed back but just the engines and some feeder tanks, which would have separated from the stage just short of orbital velocity and then reentered using a heat shield with the stage structure expended. The first stage would have ideally used 4 large thrust bells and one small one while the second stage one large central bell and 4 much smaller ones for landing the engine section. The third stage would have been a single engine wet workshop with a lunar lander (and it’s engine) and may have even recovered it’s single engine using a free return lunar trajectory, heat shield, water barrier, and parachutes. This works out to 12 liquid fuel engines of 6 different types powering 3 stages and a lunar lander.

Sadly, the space shuttle was designed by committee, some say with a secret mission to kidnap Soviet spy satellites driving the requirements. Having served in the military I would say that does not sound like a conspiracy theory and is probably true.



Published by billgamesh

Revivable Cryopreservation Advocate

20 thoughts on “Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

    1. A couple of those New Glenn lower stages would be great replacements for the SRB’s and with the right upper stage would put the payload at well over 150 metric tons. That is what is needed.


  1. How difficult would it be to modify the New Glenn first stage to replace the solid rocket boosters? My understanding is that would add years to SLS development and drive up costs.


    1. Your “understanding” is obviously colored by years of anti-SLS propaganda.
      You make it sound so ridiculously negative- as if it is somehow wrong to do what is right. Typical NewSpace garbage.

      In reality, it would cost money boosting the payload to over 150 tons with reusable boosters and it would take a couple years minimum- AND make it far superior to any other launch vehicle- including anything made by spacex.


    1. Scam. The space shuttle was fairly convincing proof that wings and landing gear in a vacuum is ridiculous. Even landing back and reusing the first stage may not break even. The NewSpace flagship company has yet to reveal any numbers that disprove it is cheaper to simply drop spent stages in the ocean. These kind of dream machines are impractical and without unobtanium, wishalloy, and handwavium, will remain so. Beam propulsion is the only likely path to an “airliner to space.” Such a system would require first building a Space Solar Power infrastructure to beam power down as the “second stage.” If you look at the top of my blog you will see “The Beam is the Dream.”


  2. I don’t understand why anything you don’t like is automatically a scam. The Shuttle didn’t prove or disprove anything. Chemistry and materials science has improved considerably since the Shuttle was designed (back in the 1970s) and will continue to do so. Metallic hydrogen is a good candidate for an SSTO, as it has a very high specific energy compared to liquid hydrogen or methane, while graphene, aerogel, and carbon nanotubes offer potentially much lighter and stronger frames. Also, isn’t New Glenn supposed to reuse its first stage? Difficult does not mean ‘impossible.’

    While beamed propulsion should see investment, there’s also technology such as orbital rings, which require no technical advances to build. There are always multiple means of tackling any problem.


    1. I do understand why what I “don’t like” is a scam. It is because it will not work and is being presented as if it will. That is a scam. See how that works? Physics have not changed and materials science and chemistry have not changed as much as you seem to think. You have been reading too much science fiction. The Shuttle proved and disproved many things, so that is a completely false statement. You are starting to argue absurdities again which is when I generally stop posting your comments. I maintain beam propulsion is the only likely prospect for SSTO while you talk about metallic hydrogen? Really? Do you have any idea how impractical any use of metallic hydrogen is? Next you will be talking about fusion reactors burning helium 3 and space elevators. Puh-leez. I will give you the benefit of a doubt and guess you are mistaking slush hydrogen for metallic.


  3. If it won’t work, why is that? You’re right that physics doesn’t change, but our understanding absolutely does. I’m not mistaking metallic hydrogen for slush – it’s already been made, which you can read about here: https://phys.org/news/2017-01-metallic-hydrogen-theory-reality.html, and NASA themselves talk about its potential for rocket propulsion here: https://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/early_stage_innovation/niac/silvera_metallic_hydrogen.html

    What I know is that yes, metallic (or metastable) hydrogen is a challenge to make currently, and because it needs a high temperature reaction chamber we either need better materials (graphene looks to reach about 4500 K: https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2017/cp/c6cp06940a#!divAbstract), or we dilute it with LH2 to bring the temperature down to what our current materials can handle, which will reduce Isp somewhat (but still beyond what NTRs are capable of managing). Helium-3 fusion reactors are a ways off, unfortunately – I would be surprised if there were any spacecraft reactor that could fuse 3He and D together before the 2050s – and we don’t have the ready materials yet that would make a space elevator practical. Carbon nanotubes are a possibility, but they need to be much cheaper and made in industrial quantities first.

    None of this is science fiction. It’s really frustrating how your vision for humanity’s future is so narrow – instead of insisting on only wet workshops, only nuclear pulse propulsion, etc., why not ask yourself what the technical challenges are, and examine all approaches to solving them? If the goal is free-space colonies all over the solar system, and solar power satellites in geosynchronous orbit, keeping an open, but critical mind, is no downside. It costs you nothing, and if you want to get people excited, there has to be room for ideas besides solely those you favor.


    1. I have the “open but critical mind” here. You are the one resorting to technology that does not exist and buying into the whole entrepreneurial miracle. There are no miracles. Why not ask yourself what works Hug? What works right now and will work for the next half a century. That is how you do it. Not shiny starship hobby welded junk and tens of thousands of cheap satellites. The whole NewSpace ideological perspective is garbage.

      Try a Green New Deal with Space Solar Power as the defining issue. We had everything we needed in the 70’s to move forward but the Reagan revolution was in the works and it all went bad. You don’t see it but I did see it all happen. Nuclear Pulse Propulsion is the ONLY practical system for interplanetary travel. The Super Heavy Lift Vehicle is the ONLY practical system for building a cislunar infrastructure. A state sponsored public works project is the ONLY path that will succeed in expanding humankind into the solar system. Look carefully at how these key enablers are being suppressed, demonized, and ridiculed, and you will begin to understand.


  4. This isn’t an entrepreneurial miracle, as there are no entrepreneurs working on it. It’s universities and the government. You don’t use little-changed technology for a half century unless you can’t afford to do anything else. Graphene currently exists – the work that needs to be done is not to make it real, it’s to make it in vast quantities at a lower price. Metastable hydrogen currently exists – the challenge is to make it in large quantities at a lower price, and to be able to store it. Both are things worth funding through NASA, because isn’t that part of what NASA is for – funding advanced technology development?

    The people in the government pushing a Green New Deal have no idea that space solar power exists – listen to what they say carefully; as far as they’re concerned, all our energy needs can be met solely through ground solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric, and through reducing our energy use and thus our wealth. They show no signs of wanting to fund a massively expanded program to build solar power satellites or colonies in space.

    Okay, if nuclear pulse propulsion is the only practical system for interplanetary travel, then you must have numbers – instead of mere assertions – that this is true. In particular Isp, ΔV, mass ratio, dry mass, as well as specifics on spacecraft design and operation. If you do not have numbers, these are mere assertions on your part and not facts. Similarly, can you do so for the SLS? Did you know the Trans-Alaska Pipeline from Prudhoe Bay was entirely privately financed? Private entities spent nearly $40 billion on the project in today’s money, which is certainly a sum that would be useful for opening up the frontier. Should they do it alone now? Not a chance! The best option, as O’Neill saw it as well, is a public-private partnership, using the advantages of both to help ameliorate the disadvantages of both.

    Who is demonizing a public works program to build solar power satellites or nuclear pulse propulsion? Hardly anyone in the general public has a clue either is even an option. Bring them up to those people and they’ll think you’re talking about science fiction.


    1. Graphene and metastable hydrogen are right behind space elevators and fusion reactors. You are clueless.

      Space Solar and the New Green Deal have been mentioned in several recent articles, including

      Nuclear Pulse has so much history and hard data behind it your statement shows your utter ignorance. This is just one paper, and I have actually corresponded with Bonometti:

      Click to access 20000096503.pdf

      You blather about the Alaska pipeline and try to O’Neill shame me…again?
      The demonizing of the SLS, the ridicule whenever Nuclear Pulse is brought up, and Elon Musk not supporting a lunar return or Space Solar Power…all of this is well known. Except by you I guess.

      No more of this borderline insult game Hug. You came close to that old nasty “you should start your own rocket company” B.S. but did not cross that line. Don’t keep doing this if you want to keep posting comments here.


  5. They’re far ahead, because they both exist. As before, the problem is to make them in industrial-scale quantities and at an affordable price. If NASA builds a future spacecraft out of graphene and fuels it with metastable hydrogen, we all win.

    Ah, that’s new, I’d missed that. Regardless, I don’t see either the Democrats or the Republicans spending the tens of billions (or hundreds of billions) for the full-scale effort that would be needed. The political capital for it doesn’t exist yet. I wonder if that article came at Bezos’s insistence.

    I’m well aware about the capabilities of nuclear pulse propulsion – what I’m disputing is that it’s the only option for long-duration manned spaceflight. It is one option among many good ones, not the *only* option. We have a hard enough time launching things as simple as RTGs into space without protests, launching thousands of nuclear weapons would be much worse.

    I don’t care what Elon Musk does or doesn’t support.

    We’re taxpayers. We deserve a strong, well-functioning space program through NASA< don't we?


    1. Your wishalloy and unobtanium is no different than Mars as a second home. Childish and naïve.

      “Launching thousands of nuclear weapons” is how you remove them from Earth- and protect the planet from impact threats- and expand humankind into the solar system. If you think the unwashed masses are too stupid to get that then you have been reading too much Fountainhead. They did not execute the guy who invented fire.

      If you don’t care what Elon Musk does then you are part of the problem.


  6. This is childish and naive: my way or the highway, which is precisely what your language says. You can ignore current scientific research only so long.

    I don’t know who or what Fountainhead is. There are other ways to protect the planet from asteroid impacts – one of them involving building NTRs to use an asteroid’s mass as propellant and redirect it where we want it. To use nukes to destroy an asteroid before it hits Earth likely means knowing where it is within a radius of nearly 750,000,00 kilometers, which is a huge task. You’d also have to have an excellent idea of how to spread the energy of the explosions throughout the asteroid, which means a crew on site. There are always people resistant to change – look at your own attitude towards technologies that aren’t your favored approach.

    He has very little power, and he wants things I don’t. Why should I care?


    1. You can’t google Fountainhead and figure it out? Really?

      Those same pulse units that direct 80 percent of the energy of a nuclear device into a stream of plasma are just as efficient at deflecting an asteroid as propelling a spaceship. Your ignorance is blatant and your whining is shrill.

      Why should you care? Straight out of The Fountainhead.

      You are not going to making any more comments like your last one on this blog. No more.


  7. I did, but I don’t care for Ayn Rand or her philosophy.

    I’m not saying they won’t work, I’m saying you have to do a lot of work to ensure that they work the way you wan them to. It seems you take anything that isn’t full, enthusiastic, immediate agreement for precisely what you want as a sign that someone is your direst enemy. This is not the case.

    What’s your goal with your posts? Is it to find people who agree with everything you want, or is it to get people to support the idea of space colonization, with room for others to have their own approaches?


    1. My goal is to state my views. I have 4 and sometimes a few more people who are visiting this blog. Anybody posting comments I don’t agree with gets disagreed with. If you want to push your agenda start your own blog. Arguing with me about conclusions I have spent years coming to means you get what you get. Go argue with another host, I am not putting up with your nonsense anymore. Goodbye Hug.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: