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An end of an era..

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  • An end of an era..

    The Space Shuttle fleet will be retired after a couple of more flights. I can appreciate all the reasons given why this has to be done but I still can't feel a bit sad. For all its problems and two tragic accidents, the shuttles are magnificent machines and there's something to be said about a winged spacecraft being flown back to land under the hands of a human pilot.
    When the ISS was first being built, it was projected that at least 2 shuttles would be lost during its construction.. NASA lost one, Columbia.

  • #2
    One reason for retiring the Shuttles is due to the enormous stresses the craft undergoes during takeoff and landing. During liftoff there are several G's of side to side force alone, as well as massive thermal cycling of the cryogenic systems, rocket motors and the entire spacecraft as it goes from the atmosphere to space and back. All these forces wear out the basic structure and components of the Shuttles and make them unsafe to fly.

    The only real advantage of the shuttle is for repair and return missions such as was done with the Hubble Space Telescope and some scientific packages (e.g. humans from the space station). For simply launching things into space, the Shuttle is not very efficient because of the large mass that doesn't remain in space after launch.

    The X-34 successors will someday replace many of the Shuttle's mission types and eventually we will have ScramJet aircraft that can fly into space from a runway and back.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbital_Sciences_X-34
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scramjet

    The X-43 is being used to test the scramjet concept but it has a long way to go.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-43A

    The main problem with scramjets is that the inside of the motor needs to be actively reconfigured as the aircraft achieves higher and higher mach numbers. This is because the supersonic shockwaves inside the motor change the position and fuel density of the combustion point. Modeling these supersonic flows is difficult and the high temperatures/pressures inside the motor complicate the engineering side of things.

    Of course, the military will use scramjets to make intercontinental cruise missiles long before there are any civilian applications, but the technology is coming. It's only a matter of time & $$$...
    Battles are dangerous affairs... Wang Hsi

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    • #3
      Meanwhile, the shittle space dump trucks are necessary to maintain the ISS, but America will be related to a position of Third World importance because we can no longer afford our own program.

      We can bail everybody else out who is broke, but we can't handle our own bills. Sheer brilliance.

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