Aviation Week: France, Italy Shun Orion Development
PARIS — Two of Europe’s biggest International Space Station contributors have rejected a NASA proposal that would see the European Space Agency (ESA) pay its share of ISS operating costs by building a propulsion module for NASA’s Orion crew transport capsule, saying the proposal is technologically lackluster and unlikely to generate public enthusiasm.
The idea on the table is that ESA would work on adapting the ATV capsule currently used for ISS resupply to a service module for the Orion capsule. France and Italy are pushing back that that isn't sexy enough.
Doug Messier finds this odd, and suggests that this is related to their ongoing development of the small satellite-oriented Vega launch vehicle. He also points out that if Europe balks, it will raise the cost of Orion development for the U.S. and possibly crowd out CCDev budgets. I suspect this is mostly maneuvering for best positions in the NASA-ESA negotiations on a new barter arrangement for ISS operations beyond 2015. The article also mentions that France instead wants to develop a new vehicle geared to orbital debris capture (which could also be used for sample return missions). It's understandable that other countries want a more challenging and substantive role in developing new space technologies, but it's also critical for the U.S. to have successful cooperative arrangements. That's not getting any easier now that China is making substantive attempts to develop bilateral relationships with several European space agencies (Germany, France, and Italy that I know of, possibly others) - and because the U.S. has tied its feet together with the misguided Wolf clause that freezes NASA out of any discussion with China (bilateral or multilateral).
Artist's concept of the HTV spacecraft and a returnable cargo capsule. The proposed HTV-R spacecraft could launch by 2018, proving key technologies for a Japanese human spaceflight capability. Credit: JAXA
If approved by the Japanese government, the craft's development would follow a crawl-walk-run approach. Japan has already demonstrated its H-2 Transfer Vehicle can haul cargo and experiments to the space station, and next up could be developing a return capsule to bring equipment from the outpost back to Earth.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to fly seven HTVs in support of the space station through 2016. Two Japanese cargo freighters successfully flew in 2009 and 2011, and five more are due to launch at a rate of one per year.
JAXA's leadership is openly pitching the HTV as the foundation of a manned spacecraft, which could fly Japanese crews as soon as 2025. But the idea requires approval by Japanese lawmakers and the endorsement of the government agency in charge of JAXA.
Japanese spending priorities have shifted in the wake of the costly Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, straining JAXA's budget in the process.
Keiji Tachikawa, president of JAXA, said developing a recoverable capsule for the HTV would be the next technological leap needed to make a Japanese manned spaceship a reality.
Today the U.S. space program is laboring under a set of unrealistic goals because the present leaders in the White House, Congress and NASA are ignoring the environment the nation faces and the history of canceled space initiatives over the past 30 years. It really doesn’t have to be that way.
To be specific, the present concept to initiate a large-scale rocket with the plan to land on an asteroid in 2025 and travel to Mars in 2035 is not a realistic goal. The national budget will not support the cost and the technology required to accomplish these objectives. The money is simply not available, nor will it be anytime soon. The studies that have been conducted over many years by both NASA and other groups support this conclusion. Therefore, as time passes, it will become painfully obvious that this approach is unrealistic and overly expensive, and it will likely meet the same fate that other large NASA projects have in recent decades and be canceled.
If one looks around, there are obvious ways to formulate a rational and economic set of goals that could produce a meaningful human space exploration program and meet the budget limitations the United States faces over the next two decades. That is, the assets already available in both the U.S. and the rest of the world should be the starting basis upon which plans could be formulated. This approach would in itself dictate the program. In addition, it would benefit from the experience base of the way in which the international space station (ISS) came to pass. Europe, Russia, Canada, Japan, India and others who want to participate would be very supportive of this idea and have in recent months been trying to influence the U.S. to utilize the ISS blueprint that has been so successful.
The short answer is: think Salyut, not Skylab - and definitely not the ISS. Contrary to some reports, it is a space module (or space lab) not a space station (although it is a step towards that goal).
Tiangong-1 is an important step in China's strategy to master critical space techniques and technology. It will be visited by one unmanned and two manned Shenzhou missions, and will be succeeded by two space modules in 2013 and 2015, each with increasing levels of sophistication. The Tiangong program is intended to lead to the deployment of a Chinese Mir-class space station sometime around 2020.
This panoramic view, photographed from the International Space Station, looking past the docked space shuttle Atlantis' cargo bay and part of the station including a solar array panel toward Earth, was taken on July 14 as the joint complex passed over the southern hemisphere. Aurora Australis or the Soutern Lights can be seen on Earth's horizon and a number of stars are visible also.
Among Atlantis’s final contributions to the ISS is the Robotic Refueling Mission, developed at Goddard Space Flight Center. Atlantis brought this module to the International Space Station, where it will provide key support in maintaining future spacecrafts for years to come. STS-135 astronauts traveled to Goddard to complete special training for these robotics, a major component of the final shuttle mission. RRM is one of dozens of Goddard payloads to travel aboard orbiters into space throughout the 30-year flight history of the Shuttle Program.
Parabolic Arc discusses a Technology Review post by Anatoly Zak about Russia’s plan to replace the Soyuz rocket and spacecraft (already behind schedule) falling further behind due to budget competition with facility construction cost for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. While NASA's $60 million-a-pop payments for seats on Soyuz headed to the ISS would otherwise be a windfall to fund Russia's next generation space capsule and launch system: