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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  • United Launch Alliance Atlas V Launch System

    The United Launch Alliance Atlas system, formerly operated by Lockheed-Martin, like the Boeing Delta rockets, has an excellent record for sending manned and unmanned payloads into orbit and also for use in unmanned space exploration. To date, 28 out of 29 launches have been successful.
    Like the Delta IV, the Atlas V comes in several variants depending on the payload requirements. Atlas V is slated to be the launch system for the Dreamchaser and the Boeing CST-100.
    Vital specs: Atlas V
  • The Space Launch System, or SLS, is a multi-stage rocket and booster system that uses technologies and components recycled from the Space Shuttle program, namely the multi-segment SRB (Solid Rocket Booster), the External Tank (ET) as well as the RS-25 Space Shuttle Main Engines built by United Technolgies' Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne division.

    This re-use of components built and designed originally for the Shuttle is supposed to result in a launch system that will be fairly quick to design, test and send into service. 
    SLS is a heavy lift system which is intended to be used in the future of space exploration to the Moon and Mars into the 2030's, not just re-supply and crew ferrying to the ISS. SLS is comparable in launch and payload capability to the Saturn V used in the Apollo program in the 1960's.
    While no tests of the SLS are currently underway or scheduled for near-term, there is a tentative first flight on the books for an unmanned Orion MPCV capsule to be sent to the Moon and back in an an unmanned mission in December of 2017.
    Vital Specs: NASA SLS

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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