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Don Nelson, Tuesday, 11-3-15 November 4, 2015

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Don Nelson, Tuesday, 11-3-15

http://archived.thespaceshow.com/shows/2578-BWB-2015-11-03.mp3

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Guest: Don Nelson.  Topic:  Development of a fleet of privately operated Commercial Space Shuttle Freighters (CSS Freighter) for commercial space, NASA & Air Force.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.  For those listening to archives using live365.com and rating the programs, please email me as to why you assign a specific rating to the show. This will help me bring better programming to the audience.

We welcomed Don Nelson back to the show for this 90 minute discussion regarding his Commercial Space Shuttle Freighter (CSS Freighter) concept.  During the first segment, Don provided us with an overview of our current launch and human spaceflight situation, he talked about safety and reliability, then he started describing his CSS Freighter Concept.  You can learn more about it at his website, www.spacetran21.org.  He spent time explaining why wings were needed despite the common misconception that they become worthless mass in space.  He said over and over again that if one does the trades, wings come out far better than carrying additional propellant for a vertical landing.  He also said he was a strong proponent of full reusability, not just first stage reusability.  In response to several questions, he said his CSS Freighter was modeled after the shuttle but with new upgrade designs and technology though to save money and reduce development time, the freighters were to be based on existing technology.  He had much to say about the difficulty they had in upgrading space shuttle systems so this time around he said upgrades would be modular and as close to plug and play as possible.  His idea is that the freighters will be built and operated by the private sector.  He suggested the extensive use of composite materials to save on mass and to use reusable Space Shuttle Main Engines (SMEs).  He referenced the Air Force X-37B program, he talked about the advance state of the thermal protection systems (TPS) for this top secret spacecraft suggesting it would be the TPS of choice for the freighters.  Our guest was challenged in both segments regarding other reusability options including the advancement toward success represented by SpaceX and the Falcon 9.  Don said it was first stage only, he was talking about full vehicle reusability and making the case for his approach with wings.  Don’t miss the challenges and the replies. Don also spelled out the advantages of horizontal as compared to vertical vehicle landing regarding reusability.

In the second segment, BJohn asked about the Soviet version of the shuttle, the Buran.  Don mostly talked about lessons learned by their not having a reusable space shuttle main engine (SME).  Don was asked about international vehicle participation in his freighter project. He said not with this Congress and referenced our policy on not talking with China.  Don was also asked for the rational for doing this and he focused on competition.  Make sure you hear this discussion.  He said he was including the Air Force in his plan given the rapid turnaround time for the vehicle (five days).  He explained the Air Force market in detail and is in touch with key Air Force people.  In addition, he has made presentations to members of Congress and their staffs plus key people at NASA.  I asked him how they responded to the concept.  You don’t want to miss what he said about that.  Alex asked an email question about launch pads and NASA having altered or gotten rid of the shuttle launch pads.  Don said launch pads were not an issue, even suggested foreign launch sites, but did say KSC was a prime launch location in the U.S.  Don attacked expendable rockets over and over again in both segments so Ben from Seattle pressed him as to why his reusable freighter would be more reliable than an expendable rocket.  He said each flight of an expendable rocket was a test flight.  Our guest received a questions about suborbital flight evolving to orbital flight, listeners asked about private Bigelow space stations, and one listener wanted his thoughts on the Skylon.  Tim called in and talked about chemical rockets and rocket fuel. He also inquired about scramjets and Big Dumb Boosters.  Doug called in to challenge his reusability comments citing the Falcon 9 to make his case that wings were wasted mass.  Don’t miss this discussion.  When asked if he thought things would change as a result of the coming elections, he suggested that a new congress would likely terminate SLS given our budget & SLS problems.  Don’t miss the balance of his concluding comments.

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog above.  You can reach Don Nelson through me or his website.

Comments»

1. Andy Hill - November 8, 2015

I not sure that resurrecting the shuttle is such a good idea, most of the infrastructure has gone or in disrepair and would require a lot of investment.

I think that Orion, if it ever flies, is a retrograde step back to a capsule and that a smaller shuttle variant would have been a better option. Something with an orbiter 30% to 50% in size would give most of the utility of the original orbiters but should reduce costs and make processing easier.

I must admit I think it was a stupid idea to get rid of the shuttle before having a replacement ready but the funds that were made available at the time made that decision unavoidable.

2. B John - November 5, 2015

I think Don Nelson argued very well for the shuttle concept. Instead of deriving an expendable launch system out of it, which anyway seems no cheaper, and with much lower launch frequency, maybe it would’ve been better to improve and evolve the shuttle concept? While still with lots of current experience and competence about it around (now withering, I suppose). I’ve heard hardly anything about that option in this whole Ares/SLS/Commercial debate online.


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