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CorkScrew Orion or SwissKnife Orion?
Develop and build Orion needs 7+ years, launch it needs 9+ years and the operational life of the new capsule (and its Service Module) may be 30+ years (to 2035 and beyond) with only SMALL changes of its electronics (like was done in last 25 years with the Space Shuttle's Orbiter) then, ALL to-day's Orion design choices will remain unchanged (in the next 40+ years!) including the small (11.2 mT) Service Module with its small tanks for 7.4 mT of propellants (4.5 mT for TEI + 2,9 mT for meneuverings, emergency and redundancy).
A so small SM with a so little amount of propellant, looks me like a sort of "CorkScrew Orion" since it (like a corkscrew) can perform only ONE role in only ONE mission profile and NOTHING ELSE: burn its engine for a Trans Earth Injection to come back to earth when the ("Apollo-like") lunar surface mission ends... nothing more, nothing less!
Since I find absurd its current design, in my article "The GIANT mistake of the Orion's SM" (and in this new article) I suggest to develop and build a bigger SM for the Orion (with larger tanks for 25+ mT of propellant and one-two months of extra life support) able to perform MANY different roles with MANY different missions' profiles... like a sort of "SwissKnife Orion"!
Some of the "best uses" of a bigOrion need (or may be better performed with) a Lunar Space Station that may be developed, built and launched, before the first moon mission, with the same Orion technology and rockets at a reasonable cost, probably the price of half moon mission for a (very useful!) Lunar Station that, resupplied, can be used 15+ years!
The small Lunar Space Station can use ISS or ATV derived technologies and may be part of a (possible) NASA/ESA/Russia (China?) international cooperation in the next moon missions (as proposed by NASA chief in a recent interview).
I explain here some possible uses and missions of a (big-SM) "SwissKnife" Orion, but, I'm sure, we will see many other good uses of it that (now) we can't imagine nor plan!
1. With a bigSM (and small LSAM) both vehicles will be able to perform a Lunar Orbit Insertion and the a Trans Earth Injection to DOUBLE the safety an reliability of the lunar-convoy and reduce to HALF the (high) risk of a moon mission.
2. With TWICE the opportunity of (safely) enter the lunar orbit, there are less probability of a mission fail, since, with its one-two months of extra life support (or, better, a Lunar Space Station + refuel tanks) the astronauts can refuel the LSAM and accomplish the lunar surface mission while waiting the launch of a remote-controlled (unmanned) spare/rescue Orion used to come back to earth at the end of the lunar mission. This is the BEST choice since the astronauts can accomplish the lunar surface mission without delays, it is a giant money/hardware saving since it doesn't need the launch of a full new lunar-hardware for the same mission and avoid the very high risk of twice earth launch and reentry for the crew!
3. In an ISS mission the extra propellant of a bigSM (compared with a Soyuz/Progress) can perform DOZENS orbital reboost/changes without launch (everytime) a VERY EXPENSIVE new Orion with a small SM, or, BETTER, the Ares' extra payload can be used to launch an Orion with a smaller SM and a VERY USEFUL 15+ mT (like six Progress or one and half ATVs) resupply or new ISS hardware!
4. After the lunar surface mission end, the Orion engine (and its RCS backup) may fail the TEI burn to come back to earth, but, with a bigSM the Orion crew can wait ALIVE two+ months in orbit (without an LSS) or six+ months (docked to an LSS) while a spare/rescue remote-controlled (unmanned) Orion will be launched from earth!
5. With a bigSM, also a cargo-Orion (too expensive and completely unnecessary for the ISS) can fly to the moon orbit without the use (everytime) the BIG and VERY EXPENSIVE AresV+bigEDS+LSAM (the only vehicle able to perform a LOI with the current ESAS plan hardware!) to launch small payloads for resupply/refuel/experiments/spare-parts/etc. The cargo-Orion may be built in two versions: a standard 3 mT send/return cargo to/from lunar orbit and a bigger 10+ mT payload send-only cargo.
6. Like the Apollo, also the Orion can't send back big payloads FROM the moon but only 220 lbs. while an autonomous cargo-Orion with a bigSM (for LOI and TEI) will be the ONLY vehicle able to bring back to earth up to 3 mT (over 30 times the payload of a crewed Orion) with a GIANT saving, since, to bring back from the Moon or from an LSS the same total payload of a SINGLE cargo-return Orion, NASA must launch 30 Orion + 30 Ares-I + 30 AresV + 30 bigEDS + 30 LSAM!!!!!! The possible use of a 3+ mT cargo-return-Orion are INFINITE and UNIMAGINABLE now! Not only it can bring back the same moon samples of 30+ missions with a SINGLE (low cost) vehicle (a very useful purpose when we will have longer surface missions or a lunar outpost!) but it may give the way to perform many biological experiments with small animals and plants enbedded in self powered (heavy) modules that can be let on the moon in a mission and sent back to earth (after months or years!) in a following mission for accurate study on earth with advanced istruments and many scientists! This may be very useful to know the biological effects of months/years stay at 1/6 gravity, compare it with the zero gravity effects and extrapolate the effect on humans of years' long stay on the Moon and Mars (adjusting to Mars gravity). This VERY IMPORTANT research is IMPOSSIBLE to do with the standard "one-week" (220 lbs. only cargo-return) ESAS missions, also, a lunar outpost on the moon will be available only (around) 2030 when we ALREADY need to know the consequences of a long time stay at a reduced gravity! I'm sure that scientists can find hundreds experiments that need a "return" of "something" heavy that need a 3 mT cargo-return Orion.
7. The extra propellant of a bigSM can be used for many orbital reboos of the Lunar Space Station, so, without engines, tanks and propellant for reboost, it may be SAFER and BIGGER, to have MORE internal space for more astronauts, more docking ports, more solar panels and YEARS of life support!
8. With a small SM the Orion can't never change its orbit around the moon. Have more propellant is very useful to accomplish MANY lunar landings (with reusable or expendable LSAMs) in many different places (like the polar sites) but only a bigSM can have the propellant to accomplish that missions!
9. Many think (or hope...) that an Orion can accomplish (also) some missions to asteroids traveling near our planet millions miles away from our moon... but that's COMPLETELY FALSE since the (planned) SM of the Orion will have ONLY the propellant for a modest TEI from lunar orbit! Only a bigSM may (probably) have sufficient propellant for such "asteroid" missions!
10. The Orion will be designed to survive an high speed direct reentry from the moon, but a lower reentry speed may be SAFER for the astronauts, then, a bigSM can be designed with a small amount of extra propellant to brake the Orion speed at reentry, from the high G lunar-direct speed to a low G (orbital-like reentry) speed, with an (optional) brief burning of the SM engine before it will be jettisoned. Of course, this CAN'T BE a standard (reentry) flight profile but ONLY a SAFER option and the Orion TPS must be designed for a SAFE reentry also WITHOUT the SM engine burning!
I will update this page with every other good reason (I'll think) to have a "SwissKnife Orion" but the TEN reasons explained here are sufficient to build a bigSM since, a small SM, may be a GIANT mistake that can survive for the next 40+ years!!!
September 18 - 2006
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Copyright © 2006 Gaetano Marano - All rights reserved - The base images used for the drawings are © NASA