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Thread: What would you do with 550 tons in earth orbit?

  1. #1 What would you do with 550 tons in earth orbit? 
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    I came across this article describing a very large, sea launched rocket called Sea Dragon that NASA thought about building in the 1960s: http://hubpages.com/hub/Spaceships-That-Never-Were

    According to the article, it could launch 550 tons into low earth orbit for about the same price as a Saturn V launch. For comparison, according to wikipedia the mass of the ISS is only about 400 tons. The shuttle can do 25 tons at a time. Yikes. It's kind of sad to imagine the sorts of things we could have built/done in space with a rocket like that for such a low price, if only the money to build it had been there. It seems like that could actually open the door to building permanent colonies on other planets, mining asteroids, and lots of other cool stuff that people talk about doing in space but that we don't actually have the launch capacity for.

    The question, though, is whether or not there's actually anything that anyone wants to do in space at the moment that would need a 550 ton launcher. It's like a chicken and the egg problem; people won't build a rocket like that unless there is a use for it, and no one will seriously consider the sorts of things that a rocket like that could be used for until such a rocket exists...


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    I think establishing a mostly self-reliant research facility on the moon is still the next step. Planting it on the moon requires far less maintenance than keeping it in steady orbit like the ISS, and allows for larger facilities and easier expansions, especially if we can deliver loads 550 tons at a time. I'd volunteer to be a lunar pioneer :-D


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  4. #3  
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    We could do an unlimited number of things with something like that. One could be building a massive solar array to power a very large space station, beam the energy back down to earth, or to power a giant linear magnetic accelerator that could give space ships a good initial push into space (more ideally this could be built on the moon, in which case we would still need very large payload capacity to send all of the parts there).

    Nothing angers me more than a scientific endeavor canceled half way through. The list is very large, including the SSC (Super conducting Super Collider) which would have had a power output of 40Tev, almost 3X as much as the LHC's 14Tev. DAMN POLITICIANS!!!!
    Of all the wonders in the universe, none is likely more fascinating and complicated than human nature.

    "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."

    "Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence"

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  5. #4  
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    I wonder if the main reason it didn't get the go ahead originally was that we didn't have the computer technology to send it up without a pilot. (And it doesn't look safe enough to want to risk human lives on it).


    That would be very ironic when you consider how far computers have come. We could totally fly it by wire now.
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I wonder if the main reason it didn't get the go ahead originally was that we didn't have the computer technology to send it up without a pilot. (And it doesn't look safe enough to want to risk human lives on it).


    That would be very ironic when you consider how far computers have come. We could totally fly it by wire now.
    They were doing unmanned space flights back in the 1960s, so I assume the tech was there.
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  7. #6  
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    The Shuttle carries two disposable boosters to near orbit that weigh 35 tons each when empty. These could easily be placed into stable orbit and used for construction/habitation:

    http://www.permanent.com/ext-tank.htm

    With over a hundred missions so far, we have wasted about 7000 tons of materiel.

    Here is a better link for the diagrams of the booster uses:

    http://permanent.com/p-extank.htm
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arch2008
    The Shuttle carries two disposable boosters to near orbit that weigh 35 tons each when empty. These could easily be placed into stable orbit and used for construction/habitation:

    http://www.permanent.com/ext-tank.htm

    With over a hundred missions so far, we have wasted about 7000 tons of materiel.

    Here is a better link for the diagrams of the booster uses:

    http://permanent.com/p-extank.htm
    The external tank is disposable. The solid rocket boosters are reused, and I definitely don't think they could be carried into orbit by the shuttle.
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cold Fusion
    Nothing angers me more than a scientific endeavor canceled half way through.
    It's especially sad that on another part of that page it talks about how they wanted to eventually turn the X-20 into a low cost support ship for a space station...so if both had gone through, we could have built HUGE space stations and also had a cheap way to supply them and bring crew back and forth.
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by cold fusion
    beam the energy back down to earth
    did tesla make a recent breakthrough?!? i dont think we can beam energy -yet.

    however just for the fun of this topic.. i would create an asteroid foundry, and start refining the asteroid belt into the best conducting metals... until there were 2 thin wires orbiting the entire sun (between earth and mars though.. not tnear the asteroid belt) then attach a few billion solar panels to it.
    (0||i|\|!||0)
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  11. #10  
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    What would you do with 550 tons in earth orbit?
    Sphere of ordinary fresh water/ice.
    Air bubble inside.
    Solar panel & heatlamp to keep the core warm and slightly pressurized.
    Bit of mud, algae, bugs, weeds.
    See what happens.
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Odd Ass City
    Quote Originally Posted by cold fusion
    beam the energy back down to earth
    did tesla make a recent breakthrough?!? i dont think we can beam energy -yet.

    however just for the fun of this topic.. i would create an asteroid foundry, and start refining the asteroid belt into the best conducting metals... until there were 2 thin wires orbiting the entire sun (between earth and mars though.. not tnear the asteroid belt) then attach a few billion solar panels to it.

    Depends on how big a loss you're willing to accept.

    Of course, we don't need to beam things. If we ever got genuine large scale industrial capital built up there, we'd probably build some kind of glider shuttles to carry the energy down in the form of some kind of special fuels. (Like maybe Helium3, which the Moon supposedly has a good amount of).
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  13. #12  
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    You can make solar panels from moon dust/rocks. I say send up some automated robots to build solar panels all over the moon's surface, and store the energy as antimatter. Once you have, say, 1/10 of the moon's surface covered, you will have all the energy you will ever need.

    (side note: first you have to figure out how to store large amounts of antimatter)
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