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Why didn't the U.S. choose cheaper and better option?

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posted on Nov, 4 2008 @ 03:56 PM
Hey everybody!!

I'm wondering, why didn't the U.S. make a Space shuttle external tank derived space station, where astronauts would live inside oxygen and hydrogen tanks.

The External tank (ET) gaines 98% of orbital velocity before it is dropped. If you launch an empty Shuttle I'm sure it could gain full orbital velocity and enter orbit. It would be much cheaper, since one Shuttle launch costs officially 400 M$, in fact the cost is around 1B$. That's 1/100 of the cost of the ISS (cost: 100B$). All you'd need to do, is to make 5 or so expeditions, maybe 10 to equip the tank station with internal equipment, connection between LOX and LH2 tanks, docking modules, ... But it would cost less than 10B$!!!

Whats more, is volume. In ET-derived space station you could build whole floors, because volume is so huge. The volume of liquid oxygen tank (which is the smaller one) is 553 m3, the volume of hydrogen tank is impressive 1500 m3(!!), while the volume of whole ISS is 358 m3(!?).

I know you'd say the tank isn't optimized for that, but the tanks are not mass produced. You could make ONE tank a bit special, a bit optimized for living and for later arriving docking modules and so.

Another problem is political. ISS was purposely made to warm relations between Washington and Moscow (at that time in post-soviet Russia). But I'm asking myself why didn't U.S. make such station sooner. The first Shuttle flight was in 1981!! Reagan administration considered such station possible, but after the Challenger disaster ended the project. Later they purposed Space station Freedom, which was also smaller, more expensive.....

So... what does the ATS think about it? I find the idea really interesting and just can't understand...

posted on Nov, 4 2008 @ 04:35 PM
I can't understand why the Mercury/Apollo program was basically scraped. Wastrels on all sides, my friend.

That is a good idea of course. Maybe there is a problem with how they are designed and converting them to use as a pressurized biosphere for human use after the fuel is spent? How would anything put in the tank survive, etc.

posted on Nov, 4 2008 @ 04:48 PM
reply to post by sovietman

Good topic, haven't seen this discussed before. Here's a concept drawing depicting the kind of station you're talking about.
There's a 1994 report on the concept available here, though I'm having issues getting it to load atm:
There are certain reasons why you might not want to do it though. The ET insulation is designed for cryogenic fuel; that might not be compatible with the need to radiate heat generated by equipment away from the space station. You'd also need to a lot of work inside it to make it habital once in orbit. A Shuttle's time on orbit to do such work is extremely limited. I have heard this idea discussed before and I think it's not necessarily a bad idea, it just needed some polish.

*the links to the images don't work if you just click them. Copy the link into a google search and it will come up right away.

[edit on 4-11-2008 by ngchunter]

posted on Nov, 5 2008 @ 09:04 AM
Yes SolarSeaman, I know the ET isn't designed for that, because it wasn't meant for such things. But as I mentioned in the OP you could design one tank a bit special and I doubt it would add so much weight that it wouldn't be able to reach orbit.

Ngchunter: sorry but the links don't work on my computer even if I copy them in google. But nevermind I know there is a page on Astronautica about that. You mentioned the possible problem of insulation. You could put the giant surfaces for heat radiation outside the ET itself, like they have on ISS. About the work: You could build the interior after the Shuttle landed. Just establish life support system and a few beds
and the astronauts would work. Yeah I agree there is a lot of work, but I doubt the cots would be higher than for the ISS and as said before, volume is huge....
I totally agree, the idea should be polished.


posted on Nov, 5 2008 @ 04:23 PM

Originally posted by sovietman
You mentioned the possible problem of insulation. You could put the giant surfaces for heat radiation outside the ET itself, like they have on ISS.

I'm thinking a very large reflective parasol might be the key; the trick would be to engineer a way to anchor it to the ET on all 4 corners. Such an approach was used for cooling skylab when the micrometeoroid shield was damaged on launch.

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