Archive for the ‘OuterSpace’ Category


Will: Corpus- The StarSeed Foundation

September 20, 2017

The following is a means to my end. A semi-charitable foundation looking to generate revenue in order to carry out its mandate. My Estate, such that it is, is invested by my beneficiary and their duly authorised successors, (descendants!) in conventional stocks until the StarSeed Foundation becomes a legally constituted organisation. Naturally paying themselves a commensurate fee for their time and effort! This continuing until the StarSeed Foundation is …er founded! Whereupon my Estate then becomes part of its seed stock and eventually my seed –or selected genetic traits– are expressed in some distant time and distant location.

But you are way ahead of me!


This is similar to that of the various cryonic schemes in the 1960s. (And scams of the 1970s!) However this time your immortality is in your genes. Rather than brain soup!

Conventionally most of us seek immortality by having children. A survival of the fittest going back to homo habilis. Alas it would appear that none of the opposite sex ever found me fit! Not that I would blame them. Indeed I would probably agree with their assessment. Nevertheless, buried amongst my junk D.N.A., not to be passed forward into the future, there just might be a few codons worthwhile preserving. And these days we only need to preserve a single cell to get at its genetic code!

However this is not about Cloning. We have enough problems with overpopulation as it is!

Instead the Foundation has two goals in attracting the wealthy patron/ client or a selected and worthy person. Its prime purpose: preserving their genes (ova/ sperm/ stem cells) for future utilisation in medium term post-human solar system and, in the distant future: gene-seeded colonies in our stellar neighbourhood.

The idea of an interstellar ark as posited in the last century with a living population taking a couple of generations to get there has its merits. Preserving human society along with its genes. And one would like to think that this route will be explored. However this futurist posits the more likely outcome of a post Singularity culture. Hopefully benign! It is thus more likely that humans will be taken for a ride by their Dei ex Machinae.

Well we can hope…

The benefits of interstellar colonisation using cellular seed stocks are obvious. No requirements for life support. And the greatest genetic diversity for the minimum payload mass. The one problem: the first generation raised by robotic parents. But that problem sould solve itself after a few normal generations. That is whatever passes for normal parenting in two to three hundred years!

Ways and Means

Alas this futurist also posits a Perfect Storm [Vide:Beddington] and the StarSeed Foundation will have to ride out the Global Catastrophies of the middle of this century. To that end I would suggest that the StarSeed bank start in Iceland. Isolated and hopefully spared the conflagration. A bastion from where  the Reconstruction can take place. With the bonus of cheap geothermal power and a degree of cold. Then, once we are capable of such luxuries, a.s.a.p. to the Moon and the lunar poles. Where there will be Deep Cold and (near) permanent photo-electricity. I would expect the Foundation to remain there for a great deal of time until the stored genes are needed for specific traits in a post-human solar system, or on board an interstellar seed ship.

At the same time as the genotype is preserved for our future, the second ‘Immortality’ would lie in preserving the works, links and entire ‘digital fingerprint’ of one of our patrons, clients or specially selected individuals. This gestalt would be stored on the latest stable medium and made available as an ever more sophisticated avatar; as synthetic personalities draw on the personal database to project a voice and opinion from beyond the ‘Veil’ ūüôā

However this does give rise to the ‘spectre’… of the Dead Vote! This futurist posits such Ghosts in the Machine will be disenfranchised! Their role closer to the Lares and Penates of Classical Rome. Brought out for special occasions!

Since writing these words back –in 2008!–¬†Things have moved on.

Naturally with advances in technology our patrons/ clients/ worthies will be better served. But the Foundation should also maintain and, where possible, improve on the earlier more primitive ‘fingerprints’ of the early adopters!

Like me…

Blessed Be




Redirecting the Asteroid Redirect Mission

February 16, 2016

A cosmic Dust bunny being captured by ARM

It’s in the bag!

Since it would seem from a recent hearing that –in the Capitol and Capital a least– there is a strong negative feeling towards the Asteroid Redirect Mission [ARM <wiki>]: it behoves its supporters¬† to come to its aid.¬† Bearing in mind that, with it’s cancellation, the technological development of an advanced ion engine (and all the rest of it) …is likely to be abandoned as well. Thus: yet another nail in the coffin labelled “Flexible Path <wiki>” as outlined by that august body the Augustine Committee <wiki> (Source materials).

Ahem. My little contribution under the¬†section¬†“Plan For Exploration Beyond LEO Responses” (pdf, 56k)

Whilst ARM and the Asteroid Redirect Crewed Mission (ARCM) is a far cry from President Obama’s original proposed human crewed asteroid mission it is probably for the good.. Baby steps rather than giant leaps being the order of the day in our modern, risk averse, culture. I for one was immensely pleased at the new direction for NASA. For all the polar hype the moon is a dry hole when it comes to water [1]. The real watering hole, I suspect, will be Ceres. (As will be noted in previous articles on this blog: this author is of the firm belief that the asteroids represent the paramount materials source for the evolution of humanity into a Kardashev II civilization. <wiki>. Since any extra-planetary society will be some 60% water –by mass alone– it is thus necessary to: FOLLOW THE WATER!
(But try not to crawl back down into another planetary cradle whilst doing so. Please!)

At this point I must admit that the boulder retrieval option selected by the review committee was a grave disappointment. Even if, as the most recent publication suggests [FAST 23rd November 2015 pdf¬†4.3MB], the mission is lucky enough to discover and recover a lump of water rich carbonaceous chondrite. (Handy to the sun blasted surface!) The likelihood is that its geology will so closely match that of any such similar meteorite that serious questions will be subsequently raised as to the value of the mission. This was not true of the other proposal: the recovery of a sizeable 10 metre diameter cosmic dust bunny. The morphology and composition of which would have been radically different from anything that survives a ballistic style plummet to the ground. Indeed the exploration and characterization of such a friable body would also have provided a real challenge to any EVA carried out from Orion: tethering, sampling, dust mitigation, utilization, bootprinting, flagplanting,… All would have been a deal more complex than a rendezvous with a small hard rock!
Moreover a small hard rock with a diameter in the region of one to five metres has a high probability of lacking the surface properties suitable for taking a bootprint and any flag planting in a small hard rock is more likely to raise a derisory smile rather than a national wave of pride or a global gasp of amazement!

However all is not lost.
I would suggest in the strongest possible terms that –if a boulder is to be retrieved– then ARM now be focussed on a boulder retrieval from the surface of Phobos or Deimos, after a ~600 day loiter in Mars orbit characterizing the surfaces of the two bodies in question and, ideally recovering a boulder from a shadowed crater or, better still, determining if a boulder represents material blasted off from the Martian surface and subsequently impacting one of the two moons.
In the latter case one would truly be able to claim that NASA was carrying out Martian surface studies in Lunar Orbit!
Failing that serendipitous outcome a Phobos or Deimos sample return would be seen as a real step in “The Journey to Mars.”
One that Congress would be less likely to axe.
One could take this opportunity to wax lyrically on the advantages of a Phobiean or Deimosian base camp: utilizing the abundance of local materials for: radiation protection, fuel, building materials,… 3D printing of household utensils; as well as developing the necessary tools, skills and techniques for interactions with the boundless riches of Near Earth and Main Belt objects to be found in the inner system. One could spend several pages explaining just why developing a permanent settlement in Mars Orbit is that much more easy –Certainly more easy than laboriously building one on the Martian surface, only to find that the really interesting spot is fifty kilometres beyond the range of any Mars Buggy!– and the huge advantages of carrying out surface explorations using robotic avatars and real time teleoperations. At a stroke removing the huge costs of long term surface life support; providing the flexibility to explore anywhere on –or under– the Martian surface with no risk to human life and, last but not least, meeting with the prime consideration of planetary protection.

This astrobiologist would quite happily defer human landings on Mars until after the day that we have conclusively determined that Mars was indeed lifeless but, thanks to terraforming, is now a suitable place for colonization!

However ARM does not stop there.
I would seriously suggest that ARM be developed as a modular carrier. In its FIRST mission: the boulder grappling mechanism is its payload. After the Orion mission ARCM#1 is over then a second Orion mission Asteroid Redirect Maintenance Mission [ARMM] be scheduled to refurbish and refuel ARM; now relabeled: Asteroidal Rendezvous Surveyor and Explorer [ARSAE. Phew! :-P] parked at L1. A third Orion mission –or possibly a robotic space tug– would subsequently dock the payload for the SECOND ARSAE mission. Here I would suggest an “all hands” request by NASA for Phobos Landers. NASA would select the best six and then ARSAE would deliver them to the surface. The various teams would then conduct various experiments: mobility; ISRU; exploration; surveying; digging; tunnelling;… utilizing ARSAE as a communications relay. After another ~600 day loiter in Mars orbit, a second set of small sample and artefactual returns would then accompany ARSAE on its return to L1. A THIRD MISSION would repeat the process only with Deimos as the target. In between each ARSAE mission there would be one or more Orion missions: servicing; repairing; upgrading ARSAE in much the same way that NASA maintained Hubble. The synergistic combination of human flexibility and robotic durability producing results much greater than the sum of its parts. As part and parcel of these Orion missions: L1 could be developed as a “Lunar Gateway” complex as envisaged by various prior studies.¬† OASIS springs to mind.

Lunar Gateway (OASIS Study)

Lunar Gateway (OASIS Study)

Note that the ISS –or any subsequent LEO station– is NOT the ideal location for such refurbishment. Better to have the solar electric arrays in the harsh cis-lunar environment rather than continually ploughing a track through the Van Allen radiation Belts.
Also Note that with ARSAE in Mars orbit it can at least provide stunning views of the Martian surface as well as contribute to the Martian orbital satellite collective. In this way one of the major problems of ARM is mitigated: a long period of time when NOTHING IS HAPPENING!

When ARSAE as a concept has been proved, then further –more powerful– iterations of an ion powered modular carrier can then visit asteroids in keeping with the original plan. [2] Now delivering ever bigger rocks to a growing settlement at L1. If nothing else IRSUed into a radiation shelter.
With enough rocks in situ we can then start building the Bernal sphere!
Job done!

[1] Let’s take Paul Spudis’s values at 600,000,000 tonnes at North pole, say it’s all ice (Not a given..) and that ice and water are equivalent density¬† [1 tonne ice = one cubic metre.]
= 1.2 km^3 for two poles worth (Not a given.) A little over a Gigatonne! Sounds a lot doesn’t it?
To put this in a terrestrial context. (Involving sailing!)
Lake Superior: (Now that is a lot of water!) 12,000 km^3 Whoops too big! Perhaps a little smaller and human made:
Lake Mead: 32 km^3 (Currently running out of water…) Getting closer but still too big. O.K. let’s look for something smaller.
Loch Ness: Scotland 7.4 km^3 Smaller still
(and so on…) until
Lake Windermere 0.98 km^3 (being generous) the largest natural fresh water lake in England.
Windermere pop. 8,245 although the lake obviously supports other villages. That’s it!
The total water to be had on the Moon is rougly equivalent to a small lake in England.
Find a reservoir near you with that sort of capacity (~1 cubic kilometer) and that is the size of population it will support.
Doesn’t seen so “abundant now does it?
Then consider the robotic infrastructure required to extract a mixture of: cyanogen; ammonia; acetylene; complex organics and all the other cometary ices *that are not water* from stratified deposits spread over thousands of cubic kilometers of rugged terrain… That is BTW in permanent shade and as close to absolute zero as not to make any difference.
Add humans and the costs skyrocket!

Even with perfect recycling and perfect life support systems and perfect seals …and a policy of making sure that any transients lose weight during their Lunar Vacation; any “Lunar Authority” allowing this precious hydrogen to be exported as fuel or in the form of foodstuffs deserves to be lined up against the wall and blasted with an ice mining laser.
Ceres (0.51 km/s to orbit), on the other hand, may contain more fresh water than the whole Earth.
wiki:fact “contains 200 million cubic kilometers of water, which is more than the amount of fresh water on the Earth.[62] ”
Moon (2.38 km/s to orbit).¬† One cubic kilometer…
Now do you see why asteroids are so attractive?

This author would strongly protest this constant mantra emerging from certain parties in the United States that there is abundant water for (commercial) exploitation at the lunar poles.
Moreover any water we do find, should be carefully conserved. Firstly as a scientific resource to be studied and then, secondly, utilised on an international basis in keeping with the spirit of the Treaty on Outer Space. And, yes, the Moon Treaty too! That Lunar Lake Windermere is clearly the common heritage of Humanity until we start importing water from other locations to grow our lunar community.

BubbleWorld (Dandridge & Cole) Credit: Roy Scarfo

BubbleWorld (Dandridge & Cole) Credit: Roy Scarfo

[2] This rockrat would seriously suggest 2010 TK7. And sod the deltaVee! After all this is a lump of rock some 300 odd metres across! A bit of tunnelling and bingo O’Neill Station is in situ.. Later a bubbleworld ( Dandridge and Cole) could be contemplated. Pending this happy day I would also suggest that NASA urgently and seriously consider a Gravity Tractor experiment –or other asteroidal deflection technique– with the aim of reducing and stabilizing the orbit of TK7 –over decades if need be– until its lissajous has been domesticated to a level that permits a human visit! It’s three hundred metres across!!!
BOTE assuming that its pure water (!) that’s 14,137,167 tonnes of cis-lunar/ Lagrangean space station!
In the right place!


NEO Colonialism

January 11, 2013

NASA mulls plan to drag asteroid into moon’s orbit” New Scientist

It is partly because of the above pdf that the following is written. As those of you familiar with my writings know, I am a huge fan of the “Flexible Path” as suggested by the Augustine Committee for the future of Human Spaceflight.

From this the ‘ObamaSpace’ initiative of an asteroid vs the Bush back to the Moon (VSE) was a welcome move but I never imagined this!

Hats off to the authors of this study. It is simply breathtaking in its grandeur and simplicity and I wish it every success.

The Essentials of Asteroid Mining
(Warning some factual content!)

Sizes:: Term
>1000km Planet  (Unless you
are Ceres!)
<1000km Planetoid
<100km Planetissimal [sic]
<10km. Chunk
<1000m Lump
<100m Hunk
<10m Nugget
<1m Meteor
“Debris” If it’s too small to take
a bootprint, it’s:

For¬†the most part this is a misnomer as it is not really possible to¬†“mine” an asteroid. (Well it is! But not in a traditional Terrestrial¬†sense!) These are largely undifferentiated¬†bodies, “Cosmic Dust Bunnies” untouched by the vagaries of plate tectonics; volcanism; high pressures & temperatures …and time. There are no seams of ore to¬†follow into the rock face. Merely an even mixture of material:¬†comprising the unevapourated leftovers local to the Zone it formed in.

PyroZone:: Metals and high temperature silicates …to Cryo:: Hydrogen ice and traces of everything else.

Instead, a mining operation is primarily a prospecting operation. With the hope of a ‘Motherlode!’¬†Or discovering that giant impact¬†diamond needed for¬†the fictional Gravity Drives or even more fictional FtL!

Paydirt can take the following forms:
The¬†mainstay of the operation is discovering an asteroid (Henceforth ‘Roid’. ) …that has more than just the usual powdered and melted regolith dross. More often as not this is usually a matter of placement rather than content. Thus in the inner System (In-Sys) a ‘strike’ takes the form of an ex-cometary body rich in carbon; nitrogen and, ideally, hydrogen that has wandered in from the CryoZone and has not quite melted yet. It came as some surprise —even to this Space Cadet— that there are in reality large lumps of water ice out there in Near Earth Orbit and as for ice at the poles of Mercury?

(One of the great myths and bad jokes of space travel is that there is no atmosphere. On the contrary there is plenty of atmosphere, as oxygen can be found almost anywhere. The main shortage In-Sys is hydrogen which is sort of necessary if you want to drink (H2O) or (C2H5OH) for that matter! But that requires carbon as well! And very little oxygen you will note.)
At the other end of the System¬†(Out-Sys) the ‘strike’ is finding a rare body of metals and minerals¬†where the Cometary Zone is just crammed (in a relative sense) …with¬†hydrogen and¬†all those other volatiles absent In-Sys.

But these are the lucky strikes.
What pays the bills is finding a ‘Roid with slightly more than its fair share of these relatively precious materials; placing a traditional marker beacon and¬†spray-slagging the rock with BIG macroGraphics: “this is mine!” Or words to that effect with the obligatory mining laser. Meanwhile the astrogator is charting its course and selling the information to the big CorpRats who really do ‘mine’ the ‘Roids’.

Much, much later: a Refinery might get sent out to process your find and then, in due¬†course, perhaps a¬†percentage of the profit would be paid to your bank balance. Or, more¬†likely, your descendants…

[Here I would SERIOUSLY recommend “Heavy Time” by C.J. Cherryh.]

In a slightly more fictional setting: a really commercially viable¬†‘Roid¬†may have more than it’s fair share of the rare¬†commodities: platinum and other precious metals; radio-actives such¬†as thorium and perhaps uranium and the various rare earths. All¬†will only be present in very small quantities. But when you refine a¬†whole¬†‘Roid¬†there is a lot of ‘quantity’ to start with! Unfortunately, Science¬†Fiction aside, only bulk processing will pay dividends and salaries¬†and big fat director bonuses. On the other hand we have found¬†ice at the poles of¬†Mercury…
So who’s to say what we might¬†find out there!

It would seem that the traditional Meteor Miner is a science fantasy rather than science fact. Pity. But a small independant concern prospecting away in the Void has one advantage: it is there on the spot. Or, rather, in the right orbit! Here there is always the chance of finding that rare commodity: a chunk of core material which HAS undergone differentiation. And is small enough for a small concern to refine itself. Or better still: haul away.

Small is beautiful after all.

HardCore material?
During the formation of a Solar System sometimes a planet gets born and grows by accretion – just like Earth. Differentiating to form a core full of really dense stuff that we only see a tiny fraction of, stuck out here on the crust. Which then gets smashed up by something nearly as big – just like Earth. This collision sending material all over the place. Some of it: into orbits that cannot permit a large body to form because of the perturbation of a larger body. Just like Jupiter!

There it sits. Full of dense materials and metals waiting for the lucky prospector to come along.

These bodies naturally are very valuable and other¬†‘Roid miners ‘RockRats” will try to take it away from you.
As will the large CorpRats. And that’s when the real Mining¬†starts.

With Mines. And Lasers and Missile Platforms…

Other Tactics

However if we have lasers we can also shoot¬†at something else! Whilst prospecting a likely looking body: a close visual inspection of the various major impact craters in combination with a delicate gravimetric analysis may prove fruitful. The gravimetric scan, along with other fine detail sensor work being carried out by mini-satellites; similar to that of the recent GRAIL mission but at a much reduced scale and much higher resolution. Some of these craters may contain MASCONS “mass concentrations” little chunks of core materials or perhaps a nickel-iron ‘Roid just loaded with platinum.
As impact velocities can be quite low there is a good chance that these bodies have landed relatively intact. Blasting into the depths of a likely looking crater with a delicate succession of pulses from a mining laser will produce a plume of data for spectro-analysis with the occasional payoff! Then it’s time to EVA and dig the mother(lode) out!

Then, once any really valuable ore has been removed: the location; orbit and composition of the ‘Roid can still be sold on to the CorpRats!

Alternatively nature may do the blasting for us and a small ‘Roid may have smaller denser (richer) moonlets of just ripe for the pirating!

Ascending (descending?) into Science Fiction; another useful weapon in the mining arsenal is a neutrino detector, using the local primary as a source. Fluctuations in the ‘neutrino energy state’ could be used to map the interior densities of the prospective ‘Roid and then perhaps a real shaft would be drilled
into the heart of the ‘Roid for a deeply buried lump of core material. Real space mining at last. The tunnels forming habitat and the farms of Heinlein’s “…Harsh Mistress” And voil√† another revolutionary enclave in the making!

Meteor mining by Wild Bill¬†Williams (E.E. “Doc. Smith Grey Lensman refers.) Smaller hunks of differentiated ores ‘nuggets’ would be handled differently.¬† With varying amounts of NiFe/ CHON/ and rare earths accruing in a special container to be redeemed at a refinery or trade station for a premium price. And, whilst you are out there roaming the Belt: there may be that chance encounter with a small meteor in a close pass or barrelling in on a collision vector! But before blasting it to harmless MMOD “micro-meteor/ orbital debris” vapour… a fine milliSecond burn could reveal something of value… Any excuse for a sortie on the traditional SpaceBike! Or, perhaps, firing off a grapple net and reeling in a prize catch!

Then there are the mainstays of REALLY fictional meteor mining: superMetals; nanoBlack holes; Magnetic Monopoles; the SeeTee of Jack Williamson and the mysterious Artifacts left over from the inhabitants of the Lost Planet!



July 17, 2010

Low Earth to Geosynchronous Orbital Spacecraft

One of the oft quoted memes, usually by proper rocket scientists to armchair astronauts, is that “Rockets are not LEGOs.” But what if they WERE!

For this to work we must assume a New World Order. As I write the world is in the process of designing no less than six different space to ground [S2G] ballistic capsules:¬† Orion CEV (NASA);¬† PPTS (RKA); Dragon (SpaceX); ARV (ESA); ‘Ratri [1] ‘ (ISRO); CST-100 (Boeing).¬† The capsules already in service Shenzhou (CNSA) and Soyuz (RKA) bring this total to eight. The DreamChaser(SpaceDev) -not a capsule- makes nine. Talk about needless duplication of effort!

So for the purposes of this thought experiment, this Future Historian assumes that “The Collapse” has happened: a confluence of resource depletion; water wars; global warming; eco-collapse and a mass extinction of the human population. Hurrah! The survivors have picked themselves up, formed a stable world govenment/ workers paradise and discovered they have one last chance to get Out of the Cradle. If they mess it up this time there are no second chances and the future is a one planet culture until the Sun inflates and makes us ALL a Galactic Might Have Been. Alternatively if we can avoid all that sort of thing. This sort of thing might be a sensible way forward.

First stage. Cheap access to space: Skylon. Crash program. NOW! Sorted.

O.K. Perhaps a two stage to orbit variant or even an equatorial Mag Lev launch track at high altitude to further improve efficiency. But I digress…

Without cheap access to space we remain DOOMED. Disposable rockets are an unsustainable technology. Heavy Lift an unsupportable technology. A reusable launch system remains our only long term option.

Now what does it launch so that we can harvest the Asteroids and start to incorporate the resources of the Solar System into our worker’s paradise?

Second Stage. Modular space craft: LEGOS.

The following borrows heavily from the:

“Soyuz Evolution: Vestrecha “Reunion”- a series of long term and long duration manned space utility vehicles (SUVs)” (Anglo-Russian Co-op., Project Congreve.)

All crewed SUV modules:

  • fit inside a nominal 5 cubic metre box with notional interconnects on the faces of that box
  • have at least one next generation: androgenous and active autonomous docking system [A4DS]
  • are capable of remote operation and autonomous rendezvous and docking
  • at least one Universal Common Berthing Mechanism hatch with a 130 cm square opening. (Just to be different!)
  • internal whipple shields for orbital debris
  • external attachments for kevlar / thermal padding, cable routers, handholds, Space Station Remote Manipulator [SSRMS] grapple fixture (or equivalent)
  • integrated power systems inc. solar array (detachable); batteries (rechargable and replacable); mechanical charger (emergency); power bus (universal)
  • integrated and automatic power inter-connectors between modules providing a universal bus
  • a wired backup for communications and computing via the universal bus
  • integrated wireless communications and computing network
  • integrated thermal control cooling loop and automatic inter-connectors between modules
  • an emergency distress beacon
  • minimal ship to ship, ship to ground communications
  • limited life support: CO2 scrubbers; oxygen reserve; emergency food and water supply

and critically

  • long term durability in the space environment. Entirely space based, all systems would be re-designed to maximise ease of maintenance and repair in zero-gee: externally and internally.

Crew Modules
Vs-G Orbital Command Module [2 x A4DS] “Gagarin” At present the CEV/ PPTS re-entry module and command module are one and the same. The Vs-G has the re-entry capabilities removed but retains and extends those required for orbital manoeuvre: navigational platform; command, control and communications; integrated attitude control systems and wireless links to remote attitude and main manoeuvre rocket motors. Includes: workstations for ROV operations: minimal personal¬† hygiene compartment, extended life support, food storage and reconstitution facility. Normally docked to an upgraded Service and Propulsion Modules (u.i.), the VsG is thus provided with power, life support services [LSS], tankage and motor capacity for long duration flights with minimal crew (2 fixed seats). Short duration crew (fittings for 10 minimal acceleration hammocks) for transport between stations, habitats, deep space vessels or free flying platforms, from a deep space vessel to the surface of an asteroid;… and as an emergency return of crew (as many as can be crammed in) from the Lunar Orbital Outpost; L1/ L2 Gateways or other cis-lunar habitats. The VsG would include the latest in ‘fly by wire’ and auto-piloting/ naive operations support. Whilst various standard operations: in flight refuelling; rendezvous; docking; course correction and other critical operations will be manually achievable by suitably trained pilots; they should be rarely required!

Vs-L Orbital Work Module [1 x A4DS, 1 Airlock Hatch] “Leonov” An enlarged version of the Pirs/Poisk orbital module this becomes the location of hazardous activities: notably the Mk. X zero gee Toilet [2].
Module has internal fittings for four Next Gen SpaceSuits and MMUs; equipment for the recharge and maintenance of same; a separately pressurised vestibule for EVA preparations; airlock;…¬† Also standard fittings for Univeral Standard Payload Rack used for potentially hazardous experimental packages. Module has external fittings for EVA support including inflatable vacuum porch and illuminated external work platform. EVA consumables resupply, equipment storage,…

Vs-K Orbital Habitation Module [1 x A4DS] “Krikalev” This Module evolved to become a ‘safe haven’ with better radiation protection; Closed Loop Life Support¬† Systems [CLLSS]; compact zero gee kitchen, food storage and mess; group entertainment/briefing/’window’;¬† personal hygiene facilities: toilet and fresher. Provides accommodation for four (to eight) additional passengers. This may be adapted from the proposed conversion of the Integrated Cargo Carrier (ATV) into a “Habitation Module” as part of the PPTS.

Vs-V Lobby Module [6 x A4DS] “Volynov” Non-maneuverable. Largely identical to the proposed Russian multiple docking node with six UCBM docking ports/ hatches. Integrated power and life support nodes. Enables the construction of multi-module craft specialised for long duration missions.¬† Exterior has even more external attachments for cables.

Vs-F Repair and Construction Module [1 x A4DS, 1 Airlock Hatch] “Feoktistov” A specialised combination of the Vs-G and Vs-L optimised as a “shirt sleeve” construction tug for ‘hands-on’ large scale projects: SPS deployment; Habitat construction; recovery of spent kick stages; transportation of small asteroids;… Exterior has attachment points for a variety of remote manipulators and external tool kits.

Vs-B Re-entry Module [1 x A4DS, 1 Escape Hatch] “Belyayev” An enlarged version of proposed CEV/ PPTS re-entry modules with a long life de-orbit solid/ hypergol retro pack; hypergolic attitude control thrusters; ballute; parafoil wing; flotation bags; landing thrusters;… This Module is evolved to become capable of naive Space to Ground (S2G) transfers with an automatic re-entry capability; carrying incapacitated crew (minimally seven), or just a single frightened tourist! Initially only the interior fittings will be reuseable. With modifications, eventually valuable exterior sub-assemblies should be capable of re-use. Ultimately utilising a disposable aeroshell or ballute the Vs-B core will be wholly reusable. Range: anywhere in cis Lunar Space. Evolving to Cis Terran Space (SEL1 to SEL2).

Vs-T Greenhouse Module [2 x A4DS] “Tsiolkovski” In addition to the extensive CLLSS systems, this human tended module would contain a hydroponics facility not only for fresh foods: herbs, spices and other high value plants but an essential ‘connection’ with nature.¬† Carniculture and myco-protein reactors would be supported by aquaculture tanks located toroidally around the module providing radiation protection and a source of fresh protein.

Other Modules would support a Spin component. Notably a Vs-V Spin Isolation Hub with four hatches to two, or four, spin modules incorporating tether mechanisms. Once sealed and lowered into place, these modules could provide: Medical, Gymnastic, Hygiene, Experimental and other facilities where spin gravity is required. These would either incorporate a counter spinning flywheel  or on larger deep space vessels be installed as counter rotating pairs.

Support Modules

The form and function of the existing Soyuz service module [PAO] and all proposed Service Modules are divided into separate propulsion and life support modules. Both provide power via solar arrays, batteries and fuel cells; naturally feeding into the universal power bus.

Vs-N Long Endurance Chemical Propulsion Module “Nikolayev” [1 x A4DS] Requires Orbital Propellant Repository [OPR], International Space Station [ISS]; Lunar Orbiting Outpost [LOO], Nearside Station [EML-1] Farside Station [EML-2] and eventually transportation nodes beyond. Currently the Soyuz has a ‘life in orbit’ of six months with plans to extend to one year. This relatively short period of ‘cool soaking’ must be extended to a full ‘cold soak’. Ultimately with an indefinite duration ‘cryo soak’. Initially using ‘green’ hypergolics and then ‘zero boil off’ LOX/LCH4[3] tankage; used for both main propulsion and RCS. Propulsive systems and flight electronics must be capable of being prepared for a prolonged ‘cryo soak’. In a similar manner to that of a family leaving the house for an extended winter holiday: the plumbing is drained of highly diffusable helium, cryo-propellants LOX (54.36 ¬įK ) LCH4 (91 ¬įK) ,… temperature sensitive equipment will be buffered using a suitable fluid, circulated via radiators, to maintain an even temperature; gyros will be spun down; most of the solar arrays retracted; batteries set to trickle charge from a singular array or external source;… In this condition the module will be capable of being docked to some facility as a last resort backup; a non-emergency return vehicle¬† (LOO) or spare rescue craft (ISS).

Vs-P Long Endurance Service Module “Polyakov” [2 x A4DS] Principally applied to non-closed chemical and mechanical methods of life support. Whilst attached to a node in a ‘warm soak’ would see the principle consumable: water plumbed in as part of the CLLSS or as radiation protection of that node. For a ‘cold soak’ the water would be drained while other systems: atmospheric filters, CO2 scrubbers, would be robust enough to withstand the cold. Electronics and sensitive mechanical systems would be buffered in a similar manner to those of the VsN. This module would not only provide LSS for¬† spacecraft returning from a distant target but also act as emergency LSS attached to a free flying orbital outpost/ space refuge attached to an automated facility.

Vs-S Long Range Chemical Propulsion Module “Sevastyanov” [1 x A4DS] Studies have shown that a nuclear engine is too mass intensive for short duration/ short haul missions. Short of a breakthrough beyond existing studies, notably: LANTR (Lox Augmented Nuclear Thermal Rocket); TRITON (Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne [pdf]) or a Nuclear powered VASIMR (Ad Astra Rocket Company) Or public acceptance of, say, a next generation pulsed bomblet system such as¬† MiniMag Orion; the routine operation of a nuclear vessel in cis-lunar space is unlikely. Even when the exploration of NEO asteroids, the moons of Mars and the industrialisation of the Main Belt takes place; there still will be a place for a LOX/LCH4 motor optimised to the space environment. Especially if the propellants concerned can be obtained off Earth: utilising an atmosphere skimming Hydrogen propellant factory PROFAC and lunar derived oxygen LUNOX. The starting point is an upgrade of the wide belled Apollo Service Module engine: burning LOX/LCH4 upscaled from the XCOR/ATK Methane Motor.
In addition to the durability and reliability obtained from the Long Duration variation; this Module should be capable of being repaired a long way from any orbital ‘spacedock’. The module comprises multiple motors/ nozzles and a core ‘inboard’ propellant capacity, complemented by attachment points for stageable external tanks. The latter could carry beacons to allow eventual recovery/ reuse.

(VsT+ Long Range Service Module ) “Tsiolkovski Mk2” Long term life support will probably require more than just tankage and will require regular access for sowing, weeding, pruning, harvesting and general tender loving care. Resembling his “cosmic greenhouse” this module will be largely uncrewed with a CO2 rich and water saturated atmosphere.)

Long Range Ion Propulsion Module An autonomous SEP Tug based on the CLIPPER Program.

From the above Modules a variety of Space Utility Vehicles can be configured in orbit suited to the task at hand. Large scale passenger transit can be achieved by a cluster of Vs-K attached to a Vs-G+Vs-N; emergency repairs by a Vs-F; refurbishment of a free flying facility by a Vs-L and a Lunar Orbiting Outpost (LOO) constructed by an appropriate assembly of modules integrated to the Lunar Orbital Propellant Repository (LPR). Similarly stations at the various Lagrangian points gain modularity, redundancy and reconfigurability. Such Modules also become the basis for bases on Phobos & Deimos and other NEOs until we start to terraform these worldlets into habitats!


1: This author’s designation: Hindu goddess of Night.

2: Space Potty humour

3: LH is just too volatile and valuable to be wasted as ‘boil-off’!


Selling Space

May 16, 2010

This is an extended post based on my comment to @keithcowing ‘s ever excellent NASAWatch:
Media Bias in Shuttle Coverage?
It got me thinking about the disconnect between “Down Here” and “Out there!”
A few points:

“It’s the Science Stupid”
It’s not just space coverage that is poorly reported by the Main Stream Media [MSM] but science coverage in general. In addition to its somewhat ‘dry’ nature, Science gets little coverage because the media types don’t have a science background. Media types understand the media. Locked in this media bubble the development of the current Celebrity culture with a focus on Hollywood becomes a given.
This is a positive feedback loop.
It will get worse.

This does however suggest a solution: cultivating Celebs who espouse Space. Tom Hanks and James Cameron spring to mind. Giving Colbert the chance to train as an Astronaut may be the best thing NASA ever does for public outreach. Short of putting him up there via a Soyuz. (Fingers crossed!) And whilst they are at it @milesobrien is owed one too.
[Miles O’Brien is a long time Science and Space News journalist who was to be the first American reporter in space. Alas Columbia…]

I would add here for the British reader that our very own ‘Major’ Tim Peake is an ideal focus for the pro-Space agenda:
UK astronaut Tim Peake makes first weightless flight. (BBC)

“No bucks. No Buck Rogers.”
Alas the public are all too satisfied with the fictional Buck Rogers. Reality comes in a poor second. IMHO it was Star Trek that destroyed public interest in RealSpace. As fighting and then making friends with the Klingons, Borg, etc. was far more satisfying.

I TOTALLY agree with Keith that there should be a better connection between the product of Hollywood and NASA. Actors and Producers need to be courted and supported if a movie has a ‘space theme.’
We need a “Space Camp” for the next generation and more product placement. I would suggest a TV Serial along the lines of Moonbase 3 or Star Cops. I.e near term human drama in space.

Defying Gravity” (<–really good criticism piece here) is a perfect example of how not to do it!

Conversely the BBC’s excellent Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets was nigh on perfect. And that, as my friends know, is true praise indeed! All which goes to prove my hypothesis. Here in the UK we don’t have a real space program so naturally our Space Programmes are better! Indeed we have a Space-Time program based in Cardiff!

“The World according to [the] Gap!”
Frequenting and commenting on the various Space Blogs in the States (sad BOF that I am!) this Space Cadet continue to be AMAZED by the partisan comment that swamps every topic under the sun. I am reminded of the politics between Clinton and Gingrich. Only worse. Whilst the broad right and patriots bemoan “The Gap” and the Tea Party claim that anything Obama does is a commie plot to destroy Amerika… This is NOTHING like the interregnum between Apollo and Shuttle. (July 24, 1975 to April 12, 1981.) Indeed it is an amazing opportunity to demonstrate the international nature of the effort.

Some space propaganda needs to be revisited.
Footage includes the son of Khrushchev stating that one of his father’s regrets was not accepting Kennedy’s offer to go to the Moon as a partnership. The history of Apollo-Soyuz and how we got to where we are on the ISS.


At the low point perhaps NASA/MSM could sponsor a Space tourist and follow their progress through Russian space training. Or better still the process a Flight Engineer has to undergo.
Survival training in Siberia anyone!

Also needed is better coverage of international partners. NASATV has started this. But there is room for improvement! I would suggest a series on Space Ports co-sponsored by the Discovery Channel. Featuring the usual suspects plus the newcomers Brazil and India and a chance to see behind the Bamboo Curtain! Iran?

“Childrens Crusade”
The fusion between children (of all ages) and the biggest sand pit ever (our Moon) using Tele-Robotics is freaking ginormous. But most here will know that I have been banging on about this topic forever. For those that don’t:


King Log is Dead… Queen Stork?

April 27, 2009

(Adapted from a comment to the NASAWatch site in response to the Lori Garver as next NASA Administrator Rumourings)

As a fan of a British Space Program (sigh) I¬† rarely comment on these threads being somewhat divorced from the “ins and outs” of the American Space Political scene but simply HAD to comment on the reappearance of the oft touted “historical transportation model” used whenever access to space is discussed. That of the covered wagon and the railways that opened up the “Wild West.”
Whilst it is understandable  for Americans that the above model: filled as it is with heroic Pioneering Spirit and Righteous Stuff has its appeal but conveniently forgets that the Solutrians (nee Clovis), Vikings and entire Indian Nation got there first! With the latter being forcibly displaced by the Pioneers and layers of the Iron Road!

And if it isn’t the “Wild West” metaphor,¬† it’s the Founding Fathers; Mayflower; Columbus; etc.

But the time machine has to be set somewhat earlier: believe me the better transportation metaphor for Space Colonisation is the early Neolithic Hollow Log; abandoned as being too difficult to build and replaced with the fallback technology: a Big Stick. Which, by all accounts, is just too small to float us across to the next Island in Space.

Much discussion and uproar around the tribal campfires!

It would seem to this particular interloper around  [that] particular fire that we must put our differences aside with the neighbouring tribes. And, after putting out the various forest fires that seem to have started, as a community we might just yet build the next level in technological readiness: the Outrigger Canoe that colonised Polynesia!

Lots of Islands in Space!

Including the ones we build for ourselves.

However from the posturings from your tribal chiefs [insert your favorite joke about “swine fever” and earmarks here] and, even more surprisingly, the outpourings from the various clans of space enthusiasts; indicate to this layperson that there is a long way to go.

Whilst I am not as qualified to pass comment on Lori Garver as some so clearly are:
“OH PLEASE DEAR GOD, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Patrick (References please Patrick:)
I note that the other female candidate also produced a kneejerk reaction from such Steely eyed Missile Men.
In summary: You have tried professional scientists (Saganite); you have tried professional engineers (vonBraunian).¬† From her resume it would seem that Lori Garver has graduated ‘summa cu laude” from the O’Neillian clan. Perhaps there is a third way after all!

Another reference, to replace the “Lurking Poisons” of Graves*. Although it appears there is still some “hatching” to do.

“King stork was welcome to replace a log,
They tittered at the thrill, then hushed, agog.”

Thom Gunn “The Court Revolt” (1954).

[*A previous post to that site on the Obama Administration’s delay in appointing a new NASA Administrator. ]

Update (May 23, 2009)

Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals for key administration posts: General Charles Bolden, Administrator of NASA and Lori Garver, Deputy Administrator of NASA.

President Obama said, “These talented individuals will help put NASA on course to boldly push the boundaries of science, aeronautics and exploration in the 21st century and ensure the long-term vibrancy of America’s space program.”


Apollo on Cholesterol

April 23, 2009

As NasaSpaceFlight hinted early last month, weight issues with Orion (or rather poor performance of the soon to be¬† “ex one”) …seem to have reduced the crew size from six to LEO to just four.¬† Meanwhile additional changes to the design indicate that, on the early lunar missions at least:¬† the CEV will now require a pilot. Thus by the time they get there, NASA rocket science and some fifty years of scientific progress¬† …will be able to put just one additional person on the moon.¬† Now whilst I am all in favour of incremental development, this is no baby step ….more like a Parkinsonian shuffle: “… gait is characterized by short steps, with feet barely leaving the ground, producing an audible shuffling noise. Small obstacles tend to cause the patient to trip.”

As one early comment  on the Aviation Week article states:

“It appears that America doesn‚Äôt know how to build a spacecraft anymore.”

I would concur – with one slight amendment – that of replacing “America” with “NASA”. America has plenty of NuBlood with the Right Stuff: Rutan, Bezos, Musk and the Renegade Rocketeers!

I feel that with each Revelation, NASA’s “End Times” rapidly approach and unless the new administration are very careful; the end of an¬† ‘official’ American space program! Eschatology aside, one wonders if a New Messiah can save the vision of previous prophets like Gerard O’Neill and, latterly:¬† John Marburger.

Keep the Faith!