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Human Spaceflight Progress Around the World: Part 2

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posted on Jul, 5 2018 @ 08:03 PM
I started the post on the progress of human spaceflight around the world and hit the post length limit for ATS. Interesting that. I also had sources update with progress for India and China just after or soon after I posted. China announced they were building a bigger rocket for placing people on the Moon and India had their successful pad abort test.

I would write more about the European and Japanese spaceflight programs, but there's not much to say. Neither, erm, nation is making an independent human spaceflight capability a priority. They wish to use the American, Russian or potentially Chinese capabilities in the future. There's little interest in pursuing this on their own. They have their own cargo ships for the ISS, but they are not going to make any more of them as far as I can tell.

That leaves one nation left.

The United States

The US lost its independent human spaceflight capability in 2011 when the space shuttle was retired. The space shuttle program had been flying for nigh on 30 years, which was far, far longer than what had been originally planned. However, it is not to say that the US has abandoned space. Rather that the US repeated a pattern it did when the Apollo program was ended. It merely took a breather, booked flights with the Russians, and began working on its own capabilities to get into space.

The US first invested in the capabilities to deliver cargo to space, to support the ISS, independent of the Russians. The SpaceX Dragon capsule ferries supplies to the space station and has the reentry capability so it may bring experiments back: this capability came into play on Oct 8, 2012. The Northrop Grumman (formerly Orbital ATK) Cygnus also provides the capability to delivery supplies to the space station. However, it cannot return the experiments to the surface of the Earth and burns up on reentry. It did its first delivery in Nov 2013. The second round of contracts for delivering cargo the space station added Sierra Nevada's DreamChaser in an unmanned form for six deliveries between 2019 and 2024.

The US also invested in the SpaceX Dragon 2 capsule that will allow it to fly people to the space station and back. This is supposed to have an unmanned flight in August, 2018 as a demonstration, but is expected to slip. The first crewed flight was to be in December 2018, but with the slip of the unmanned flight, the manned will be delayed. Likewise, the US invested in the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. This was supposed to have an unmanned test flight in October, 2018, but that too is expected to slip as well. However, the manned flights are likely to take place in 2019. After an eight year hiatus, longer than anyone expected, the US will return to an independent human spaceflight.

It should be noted the above capsules and solitary spaceplane all fly on different rockets. The Dragons fly on Space Falcon9 rockets and, theoretically, on the FalconHeavy. The Starliner and DreamChaser fly on Atlas V rockets. The Cygnus flies on the Antares primarily, but can fly on the Atlas V (and has when the Antares had a launch failure).

All of the above was designed with the intent that should any one path to space be a problem, there was a backup plan. it's a pretty significant investment that the US has made and will make sure issues like the Challenger or Columbia happen, the US will not lose access to space. That alone would be an impressive development for access to space, but that is not all the US is doing.

The US is also developing the Orion space capsule. While the Dragon 2 and Starliner are intended for operations in LEO, the Orion is intended to operate beyond low earth orbit. A test flight of the Orion capsule on a Delta IV rocket took place in Dec 2014. The next launch will involve the Space Launch System, a very heavy rocket, in June 2020. This will be unmanned, but will be followed by the first manned flight no later than 2023. However, a wrinkle in those plans developed when Congress provided the funding for a second crawler, allowing for NASA to potentially continue to launch the original version of the SLS while working on the other crawler for the even larger version of the SLS. Previously, the crawler would have been taken out of service to upgrade it to carry the bigger rocket. This could mean the first manned Orion mission might happen faster than 2023. This capsule will head to the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway on its second manned mission. The planned flight rate is meant to be an annual flight. With the second crawler, and assuming sufficient funding, this may increase to twice per year.

It should be noted the service module, ie engines and fuel, for the Orion are being built by the Europeans in lieu of resupply missions to the International Space Station. The Europeans were on the hook for those missions, but NASA negotiated a swap to save money since we are now capable of resupply of the station independent of the Russians with the Dragon, Cygnus and soon to be DreamChaser. On that thought, the Cygnus is partially built by the Italians, at least the module part, as were some of the modules that were American on the ISS.

The US isn't quite done yet. Congress has funded the proposed Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. This is a space station will be in an orbit around the moon, but such that it never falls in the shadow of the Moon. NASA has already been testing tech and doing studies for the space station. However, NASA will be awarding contract for the first element, the propulsion module, this near year. The expected launch date is 2022. These will be followed with a habitation module and docking port. These will be placed by 2026. There are also calls, but not as yet plans for a fuel depot as well. The LOPG is intended to be port where astronauts will temporarily stay before they either head to the Moon or onto Mars. The LOPG is also intended to be the assembly point of the 'ship' astronauts use to go Mars.

The 'ship' astronauts will use to go to Mars is the Deep Space Transport. This is the functional equivalent of the Hermes spacecraft in the movie, "The Martian." This will be launched in 2027 and connected to the LOPG. It is planned to have a one year long shakedown cruise in cislunar space prior to taking a shot at Mars in 2033. The plan would be for the DTS to return to the LOPG after each martian mission.

If the direction of the President is followed, there will be lunar landings as well. If the second crawler actually materializes and the funding to increase the SLS launch cadence to biannually, then it might be possible to get a lunar landing annually into the mix. However, no funding has been provided as yet for a manned lunar OR martian lander. These, too, must be funded.

One more part coming.

posted on Jul, 5 2018 @ 09:59 PM
a reply to: anzha

Hey, a thread that's not about how Trump supporters are being victimized by rabid zombie liberals. I almost forgot what ATS is supposed to be about.

posted on Jul, 6 2018 @ 01:59 AM
a reply to: anzha

Very informative.

Thanks for taking the time to put these threads together.

Kind regards,


posted on Jul, 6 2018 @ 02:38 AM
My personal view is that human space flight at the moment is a bit pointless. It's more a PR exercise. Decades ago the US proved the possibilities, so the technology and method is old hat and proven. It will come when it's not such an effort and can become routine, so give it time. Space tourism is limited, in my view.

The real space stuff is the science. Some amazing science programmes going on from many of the space agencies at the moment. A human passenger would just get in the way!
edit on 6/7/2018 by paraphi because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 6 2018 @ 05:27 AM
a reply to: anzha

This is a great thread with lots of interesting info.

This is an astrophysicist's presentation.

Good work anzha.

edit on 6-7-2018 by blackcrowe because: To correct youtube link

posted on Jul, 6 2018 @ 12:21 PM
a reply to: bally001

Thanks everyone. One more coming up. Probably tonight.

Just a fair warning, even though it looks good for the US right now, a change of administrations can muck up everything. The shift from Bush to Obama and Obama to Trump has issues both times. Bush wanted the Moon and Mars. Obama didn't want the Moon and didn't want to pay for Mars, so asteroids. Trump didn't want asteroids and wanted the Moon.

NASA has design an architecture flexible enough that should the direction change, they need not change what they are funding too much. However, all it would take is one administration coming in and stating: nah, no space and all of this could be tossed out the window. Historically, Reagan kinda did: there was a reason there were so few space probes launched in the 80s and into the mid 90s.

A significant difference between now and the Reagan Era is Congress is far more involved in funding and running NASA than it has ever been in the past. A good example is Culbert's Europa Clipper and lander projects: he wanted them, pushed for the funding for them, demanding they go on the SLS, and away we went. The Clipper is getting the funding it needs to date and the Lander is going through the design phase now. Likewise, the cuts to the education segment of NASA have always been reversed by Congress and the cuts to the earth observing portions have been largely as well.

posted on Jul, 6 2018 @ 12:28 PM
a reply to: paraphi

The idea that people would be just in the way is wildly incorrect.

The amount of science done by the rovers (Pathfinder, Opportunity, Spirit, Curiosity) and Landers (Vikings 1 & 2, Pathfinder and Phoenix) has been incredible. However, all of their geological work (not meteorological, that takes time and favors a bot) could have been done in a day or two by a person. Even in a space suit. A single human mission to Mars would do the geological science of nearly a century of bots doing the same.

If you want long term observation, a bot works better. If you want to investigate the geology, people are 100x better. If you want to look for life, bots cannot compete. At least so far.
edit on 6-7-2018 by anzha because: bot not 'not' . oy.

posted on Jul, 6 2018 @ 12:34 PM
Thanks for these threads. It's nice to remember that ATS doesn't mean "Americans Talk #". lol

Much appreciated.

posted on Jul, 10 2018 @ 03:22 PM
a reply to: AtomicKangaroo

Tis official. US is adding 2 more SLS block 1 flights. One is likely for the Europa Clipper mission.
edit on 10-7-2018 by anzha because: forgot the link. oops.

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