Firing the Space Shuttle: Top 9 replacements (gallery)

Firing the Space Shuttle: Top 9 replacements (gallery)

Summary: The Space Shuttle might be history but there's a line forming to take its place and enter the new space race.

TOPICS: Nasa / Space

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  • The venerable Soyuz and Progress spacecraft, combined with the Soyuz launch system has been in use by the Russian Federation and the Soviet Union for more than 40 years. It's a tested and reliable design and is now what NASA has resorted to using for manned spaceflight and orbital resupply since the Space Shuttle was finally put out to pasture after its final flight last July. The Soyuz can carry up to three astronauts into orbit.
    Until other designs shown in this gallery can be thoroughly tested for manned spaceflight, there won't be an American solution to getting our own astronauts into space.
    Other galleries you might like:

  • The SpaceX system, which consists of the re-useable Dragon capsule and the Falcon 9 launch system is the most promising of all commercial designs. The Falcon 9 rocket, which has undergone 2 successful independent launch tests, has been cleared by NASA for a launch and docking mission to the International Space Station on April 30, 2012.
    The Dragon is currently a unmanned capsule designed for re-supply missions to the ISS, but two derivatives which can carry three or seven (The "Super Draco") astronauts are currently under development.
    The Falcon 9 rocket is a two-stage system which has been designed to be re-useable. As of the current date, SpaceX has not been able to recover the stages of the booster. Future versions of the Dragon capsule and the Falcon 9 stages, codenamed "Grashopper" are supposed to be able to launch, return from orbit and land vertically under their own power, sans parachute, a la "Buck Rogers", however SpaceX has not yet started testing of these radical design improvements in either the Dragon or the Falcon.
    Vital Specs: Falcon 9 Rocket

Topic: Nasa / Space


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Dream Chaser

    It doesn't have to carry extra fuel to land, like Bezos' entry, and it won't require a parachute water landing which will give it the ability to land anywhere, or where it took off from. The Atlas V which will carry it into orbit uses the highly reliable and efficient RD-180 first stage engine and the RL-10 to power the upper stage.
    • Dream Chaser

      I looked at every replacment and kept saying it dosent fly. Except for Dreamchaser. From there we go to turbojet /scramjet/rocket power flight to orbit, from a runway. It dosent fall out of the sky when you lose an engine.
    • is the best place where you can meet millionaires

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  • Correction about Super Draco

    Super Draco is the name of a small engine that will be added to future versions of Dragon that will be used for powered landings.
  • The worst part is...

    Rpokeytruck@... I understand your comment about flying applies to aerodynamic flight. What's more concerning is the number of years post-Shuttle retirement before there is anything working except Soyuz. Heck, the Chinese may have something ready before we do!
  • Rockets - 700 year old tech at its best

    Are humans so historically constrained that we can't fund and develop a more advanced NEO launch system that doesn't use 700 year old technology? "Light the fuse and run like hell" still holds with these megalithic nozzle bombs on steroids. Come on! Let's get some funding for tech other than rockets. StarTram, maglev, even the Navy has a ballistic system now that could be extended to deliver payloads into NEO. Take a looks a this: and that is primitive as hell. The age of the rocketeer is at an end. Time for the next gen space launch system.
    • 700?

      Well, hell, let's stop using wheels, too, then. They make rockets look positively fresh. And how well do those systems scale, and how well do they work with *humans?*
    • The trick to many of these:

      Lots of alternate launch systems have the problem that launching people is iffy; I recall a discussion of a "railgun" launcher that would launch inanimate cargo just fine (if it wasn't fragile) but packed too many Gs for humans or fragile cargo to survive.

      To work for humans, you need to reach escape velocity over enough time that you limit the acceleration to just a few Gs. This has traditionally meant engines and fuel carried onboard, hence the "nozzle bomb" approach. Here's a two-year-old link on the subject:
  • Ares I not Ares V

    Orion was to go up on an Ares I not an Ares V. The allowed Orion to be used even when a huge cargo was not. Any Orion missions needing more mass would launch on an Ares I and the Orion would dock with the equipment launched on the Ares V. This would mean the Ares V would be able to haul more to orbit since it didn't have the Orion.

    Congress destroyed all the savings when it mandated the Space Launch System (also known as the Senate Launch System pork feast) and slowed our ability to develop human launch vehicles.
  • There is a reason why we call it 'Rocket Science'

    and we don't call it 'Rocket Science' because all the easy-sounding terms are used up. This is tough stuff to do; spend some time reading about "combustion instability" in the F1 (50+ years ago) to get an idea just how complex. Few organizations other than NASA and the Russian equivalent have really mastered it. The Chinese copied the Russians, and no one else is close to man-rated vehicles.
    So far all the private organizations that have tried to do space flight have had very spotty records, at least partially because they are trying to do things quickly and on the cheap.
    Notably missing from the list here is (of course) the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo. I came across an online discussion with people wondered why the SS1 design could not be "tweaked' to be an orbital vehicle. The simple reason is... SS1 made it to all of 15% of escape velocity. Yes, just FIFTEEN PERCENT. It would be like trying to "tweak" a moped to compete in the Indy 500.
    I expect any of these groups that actually get a vehicle off the ground to do exactly what SpaceX has done repeatedly - put it in-the-drink.

    Don't hold your breath waiting for commercial, manned spaceflight.
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