A final report issued by a blue-ribbon commission on NASA's future enthusiastically embraces in-space refueling and commercial spaceflight to low-Earth orbit, but curiously leaves out NASA's Ares-I rocket in future scenarios.
The Augustine Commission appears to once again favor private commercial spaceflight for launching cargo and crews to orbit, such as SpaceX's Falcon rockets. The report makes mention of a modified Ares V rocket and the Orion spacecraft as NASA's backup in case private industry fails to deliver, but does not mention the Ares-I rocket that is slated for its first test flight next week.
It also touts in-space refueling as a way to give both smaller and larger rockets longer legs on space missions. The report noted that a rocket would typically burn part of its fuel during launch, and then spend the rest injecting its payload toward whatever destination beyond low-Earth orbit. But a space tanker or fuel depot could provide more fuel for a greater boost.
"Studies commissioned by the Committee found that in-space refueling could increase by at least two to three times the injection capability from low-Earth orbit of a launcher system, and in some cases more," the report states. As one example, the Ares-V could launch 130 metric tons to the moon by topping off in space, as opposed to just 63 metric tons without.
U.S. aerospace companies such as Boeing and United Launch Alliance have already floated proposals for space depots. Technology Review also notes that Russia has already performed in-space refueling of its space stations using its Progress spacecraft.
So leaving aside NASA's future with Ares-I, at least space refueling sounds like a concept that just about everyone can get behind.
The commission has been stuck like dinosaurs in the past and has completely missed most of the answer.
By ignoring Hyperion nuclear reactors coupled to Vasimir plasma engines for interplanetary travel (moon,asteroids,Mars, they made their report irrelevant. Only a tiny of amount of fuel would be required for the Vasimir.
Take a Vasimir/Hyperion assembly, attached it to the space station, fire the whole thing into a 2 month long Mars-Earth orbit pattern. Crashing into the ocean in 2020 - these people are morons.
Launch several more Vasimir/Hyperion units to use as high speed shuttles at Mars and Earth.
Also it would be handy to use a Vasimir/Hyperion tug to move nickel iron and carbon/water asteriods into earth orbit for supplies, construction materials. and a habitat.
It's all about money and politics, which is extremely sad and stupid.
Good ideas Seth; I hope the private sector does that. Forget NASA, it's a doomed agency. Let the private sector take over, since the military seems to have lost interest and fails.
The problem with space endeavors is that humanity does not work together, but separately. We are a selfish not altruistic society.
Until our species works as one, we will try to bleed each other to death and never truly conquer our solar system, let alone step out onto the porch.
Handing anything over to private enterprise feeds the selfish.
The commission seems to have quite a few members with ties to private sector space/aerospace companies. Not too surprising that they would talk up the private sector.
I'm not saying that they're wrong, but I do wonder about the objectivity.
Blue-ribbon commission always implies some brilliant coalition of pure technology experts. Unfortunately, almost everybody has an axe to grind.
While I doubt some of the motives that have led to this, I just gotta say that the idea of boosting raw fuel and supplies in a 'dumb payload' is sensible. Should NASA be handling it? No. Should we be looking at any of the current startup companies to help? We should definitely look, but not necessarily buy their services, without exploring all available avenues that have the potential to get mass up to orbit much more cheaply. To have this go the way of other government projects and have the government back either an expensive option or one that will not fill our needs when in a position to really advance our planet's growth into space, would be a real shame.