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Questions tagged [engineering]

Questions regarding the design or process of design of a spacecraft.

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47 votes
8 answers
13k views

What would be the (most difficult) challenge to make a 10,000 year satellite?

Update: Bezos' recent Tweeted update on the 10,000 year clock. Also see The Verge's Construction begins on Jeff Bezos’ $42 million 10,000-year clock The discussions associated with the question Can ...
uhoh's user avatar
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33 votes
1 answer
4k views

Why do the Shuttle's external tanks appear to be rusted?

Wikipedia article states as STS-1 at liftoff. The External Tank was painted white for the first two Space Shuttle launches. From STS-3 on, it was left unpainted. I wonder why the ...
Hash's user avatar
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6 votes
4 answers
1k views

Can a solar sail be added to an ion engine and work better?

Has there been a concept vehicle that uses both solar sails and ion engines? Does the added mass of each system increase or reduce the spacecrafts total delta V capabilities? Inspired by S.F. As S.F....
Muze's user avatar
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20 votes
3 answers
5k views

How are fuel tanks filled with cryogenic hydrogen?

Cryogenic hydrogen can react with the atmospheric Oxygen to produce an explosion: as well as being cold enough to liquefy (and possibly solidify) atmospheric oxygen, which can be an explosion ...
Hash's user avatar
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12 votes
3 answers
1k views

Strategies for combating ESD and ground plane potential shifts on spacecraft charging?

What are some common design guidelines/practices to combat the electrical effects of spacecraft charging(e.g. ESD, ground plane shift). Is it to focus on more resilient parts, and reduce resistance/...
user5826's user avatar
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11 votes
4 answers
42k views

Becoming an astronaut with engineering background

Which engineering branch will be most suitable for becoming an astronaut, and what other options do I have if I want to become an astronaut with an engineering background?
D.S. Maura's user avatar
12 votes
1 answer
2k views

Why was the Hubble Space Telescope purged with nitrogen gas?

Wikipedia states that The telescope had to be kept in a clean room, powered up and purged with nitrogen, until a launch could be rescheduled. Spacecraft are always kept in a clean room ...
Hash's user avatar
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10 votes
3 answers
3k views

Troubleshooting a DIY Ion Thruster

Been following a Make-Magazine article on how to make your own ion thruster: https://makezine.com/projects/ionic-thruster/ Went through the tutorial step by step, not seeming to get any thrust out of ...
Colin Warn's user avatar
8 votes
1 answer
2k views

Why are the nose cones of current spacecraft less pointy?

You would think that with the quest for aerodynamic efficiency in current spacecraft that the nose-cones at the pointy end of the launch-vehicle would have a sharp taper, more so for craft that aren't ...
My Other Head's user avatar
4 votes
3 answers
716 views

Is there a space-certification procedure used by commercial spacecraft manufactures for electronic components?

For electronic components at the level of say electrolytic capacitors, ethernet connectors connectors, and possibly in the future fiber optic connectors/electrical signal interfaces are there well ...
uhoh's user avatar
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13 votes
4 answers
8k views

How big would a manned ascent stage for Mars need to be?

For a manned mission to Mars that isn't a one-way trip, we'll need an ascent stage that can reach orbit from Mars' surface. How big would this need to be to transport e.g. 3 astronauts to orbit? We've ...
Hobbes's user avatar
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13 votes
1 answer
1k views

Why does the YF-75D nozzle have such a strong spiral pattern?

Why does the YF-75D nozzle material have such a strong spiral pattern? Is it a result/biproduct of a manufacturing process only, or does it have some specific function? edit: The last, cropped ...
uhoh's user avatar
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13 votes
1 answer
11k views

What material properties would be necessary to shield a lander from the environment of the Venusian surface?

On March 1, 1982, the Venera 13 lander survived for 127 minutes in an environment with a temperature of 457 °C (855 °F) and a pressure of 89 Earth atmospheres (9.0 MPa). This says nothing of the ...
Anthony Neace's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
436 views

What exactly are Tindallgrams? (spaceflight related)

The word "Tindallgram" appears in three posts: this answer to How complex was the math and physics necessary to place Apollo 11 on the moon? What is a “Lear Processor” and how did it work? this ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
3 votes
1 answer
232 views

Would a small electron microscope in a cubesat work well in space at 400 km?

There is now an electron microscope in space! Suppose that once I win a lottery I can build a small, modest SEM column and put it in a 6U cubesat that opens one side to allow the electron optics to ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
3 votes
0 answers
316 views

Could multimode (polymer) optical fiber Gigabit Ethernet be a better choice than WiFi inside future satellites?

In this answer the recent question Are and should satellites use wireless communication internally, rather than cables? it is stated that: This is actually an open research area and despite ...
uhoh's user avatar
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34 votes
1 answer
9k views

How do manned spacecraft achieve an airtight connection while docking?

By another question I was reminded how hard it is to build airtight equipment such as vacuum chambers from multiple pieces. Docking or berthing space ships / space station modules is a rather similar ...
s-m-e's user avatar
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28 votes
1 answer
4k views

How realistic would the Sea Dragon engine be to produce given today's technology?

Just learned of the Sea Dragon proposal from back in 1962. From the Wikipedia entry The first stage was to be powered by a single enormous 80,000,000 pounds-force (360 MN) thrust engine burning RP-...
Ezra Bailey's user avatar
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27 votes
4 answers
10k views

Why is SpaceX building the Big Falcon Ship before the Big Falcon Rocket?

I believe that SpaceX is planning on building the BFS (Big Falcon Spacecraft) before the BFR (Big Falcon Rocket), which serves as the first stage for the second-stage BFS. Does anyone know why they ...
Slarty's user avatar
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25 votes
2 answers
5k views

Why do pressure fed engines have combustion instabilities?

Reading about the Sea Dragon idea, I came upon this argument against it, which sounds compelling, but relies on more detailed knowledge than I have: Those are to be pressure-fed to avoid "...
AlanSE's user avatar
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19 votes
3 answers
5k views

Why are Curiosity's wheels aluminum rather than titanium?

I was just reading this article on how Curiosity's aluminum wheels are getting pretty dinged up. Usually titanium alloy is considered an upgrade from aluminum alloys in most applications, from ...
joseph_morris's user avatar
16 votes
2 answers
4k views

How hot do rocket engine nozzles get?

What temperatures are encountered by the nozzles of rocket engines like those in SpaceX's Merlin series? Radiative or regenerative cooling, atmosphere or vacuum. There's plenty of info about exhaust ...
Camille Goudeseune's user avatar
15 votes
4 answers
6k views

How feasible is it to harvest isotopes of Helium or Hydrogen from the gas giants?

The gas giants in our solar system have abundant quantities of Helium and Hydrogen. Is it possible to harvest these resources there? Does NASA have any plans to build some permanent base in space for ...
Shuhao Cao's user avatar
12 votes
2 answers
421 views

What mitigation procedures are in place in space systems to prevent whisker growth?

It has been found (from missions like the Long Duration Exposure Facility, LDEF) that some metals, especially tin and cadmium in solders, used in space-electronics assemblies, form crystal whiskers ...
My Other Head's user avatar
9 votes
1 answer
739 views

Sea level static test of an upper stage possible?

As we know that for the upper stages of the rocket, we need high propulsion efficiency thereby high specific impulse. For that we employ a nozzle with higher expansion ratios. Now, if we conduct the ...
cosmic_tintin's user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
2k views

Why is Electron painted in black?

Falcon 9 is painted white to avoid heating the liquid oxygen. Why is Electron not also painted white? Rocket color-related questions: Why parts of RocketLab's Electron become white before launch? ...
Joe Jobs's user avatar
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7 votes
2 answers
499 views

Which explode in spaceflight more often, nuts or bolts?

The history of spaceflight is littered with exists because of exploded nuts and bolts (and upon further reflection, a whole lot of other items!) "Exploding bolts" is really a generic term. ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
6 votes
1 answer
2k views

How do the booms on ISS (and other spacecraft) extend and retract?

In an answer to my previous question, OrganicMarble posted a video: The booms like through the center of ISS solar panels are quite common in space use - supporting ...
SF.'s user avatar
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6 votes
0 answers
137 views

Did or do space station engineers need to worry about angular momentum stored in circulating fluids?

One of the ISS' main uses is to provide a long duration microgravity environment for a wide variety of experiments. For some experiments residual acceleration needs to be much smaller than average. ...
uhoh's user avatar
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6 votes
2 answers
787 views

How does a thermal control system of a spacecraft basicaly work?

I'd like to know how a thermal control system of a spacecraft basically works. As the only possibility to get rid of the thermal heat is through radiation, I'd like to get a basic qualitative ...
LandonZeKepitelOfGreytBritn's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
769 views

Why is NASA sending wavy grousers to Mars?

In this answer to What are the lines on the wheels of the Perseverance rover called? Are they different than Curiosity's? and in sources linked therein we've learned that the lines across the business ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
4 votes
1 answer
3k views

How to seal the connection between the combustion chamber and outer shell in this rocket engine model?

Here is rocket engine drawing. The combustion chamber made from copper and the outer shell from stainless steel. The coolant, either water or gasoline will be between (source: wonderhowto.com) With ...
Robotex's user avatar
  • 604
2 votes
1 answer
163 views

Demonstrating molten oxide electrolysis on the Moon, what would require the most power, keeping it molten or driving the electrolysis?

It seems that oxygen may be extractable from oxides in lunar regolith using "some variant of the" molten oxide electrolysis. Assuming that solar energy is used in a lunar setting, what would ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
34 votes
8 answers
13k views

What led NASA et al. to decide the ISS should be a zero-g station when the massive negative health and quality of life impacts of zero-g were known?

As the month of November 2020 has marked 2 decades of the ISS being operational as well as the first operational flight of a next-generation spacecraft to it, I felt it fit to ask this question today. ...
Grant Hartlage's user avatar
25 votes
3 answers
5k views

How realistic is the 1 kg/km² solar sail in "Death's End"?

(This question has been migrated from the SciFi StackExchange.) From Cixin Liu's 2010 sci-fi novel Death's End (pages 68–69): "A radiation sail can be made very thin and light. Based on the ...
Quuxplusone's user avatar
22 votes
2 answers
11k views

What is the ideal shape for a rocket?

Obviously there are many factors that go into the design of a rocket. However, to me, many rockets seem very tall and skinny. What I mean is that an ideal rocket would have as little mass used for ...
DarcyThomas's user avatar
17 votes
1 answer
3k views

Why design new rocket engines instead of using the existing types?

Already in the 1960s rocket engines seem to have achieved near maximum chemical efficiency. What are the reasons for new designs being in demand? How much better could a new engine design be than the ...
LocalFluff's user avatar
13 votes
2 answers
5k views

Transitioning into space software engineering

I have been a Web Developer in London since I graduated in 2012. My skills reside mainly in the Microsoft stack (MSSQL, .NET, C#, MVC and all the front-end stuff). I have always been very interested ...
Andy Furniss's user avatar
11 votes
1 answer
1k views

Function of the RL10 Oxygen Turbopump's Splined Shaft End

The oxygen turbopump in the RL10 upper stage engine has been openly discussed by NASA for some decades now, in publications like SP-8107. On page 8 of this document is a drawing of this turbopump. The ...
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi's user avatar
10 votes
1 answer
832 views

Has any work been done on alternatives to rolling element bearings in rocket turbopumps?

Specifically: Using some high pressure gas (before or after combustion) as a fluid bearing. A superconducting maglev bearing, possibly using fuel as coolant. Any related work is also welcome.
Mercury's user avatar
  • 103
10 votes
2 answers
287 views

What is it about parachutes that makes people always want to "re-invent the wheel"?

For technology that involves complex engineering issues, standardization and specialization is extremely helpful. If I want to design a complex ASIC IC I don't design it from scratch, I just drag-and-...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
10 votes
4 answers
697 views

Who are the actual lead designers of manned spacecraft?

By "lead designer" I mean a person who oversaw the preliminary design phase for a manned spacecraft, being intimately involved in and ultimately responsible for crucial design choices and compromises. ...
Deer Hunter's user avatar
  • 11.4k
8 votes
2 answers
435 views

What are the practical engineering difficulties in building and launching large inflatable modules?

Currently there seem to be two efforts under way: Bigelow Aerospace RKK Energiya The latter source (an article in the Popular Mechanics by Anatoly Zak) intimates that structural creep is a major ...
Deer Hunter's user avatar
  • 11.4k
8 votes
1 answer
4k views

How are umbilical connectors held in place until their intended detachment?

When a rocket is on its launch pad, umbilicals allow the flow of liquids, gases, electric power, and signals to the spacecraft. The umbilical is detached from the spacecraft at or before launch, to ...
DrSheldon's user avatar
  • 48k
7 votes
1 answer
386 views

explain to a 6 year old the parts of a rocket

The curious 6 year-old sitting next to me asks "how do you build a rocket?" What kind of rocket? "A big rocket that flies". (He came by when I was answering a question and he was very excited when I ...
anthumchris's user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
2k views

Is there a diagram of different nozzle diameters to scale?

I am looking for a diagram that shows the different diameters of various nozzle openings, including Rocketdyne's F1 (150 inches) SpaceX's Merlin (66 inches), the Air Force's Delta IV Heavy, and NPO ...
Stu's user avatar
  • 5,938
5 votes
1 answer
281 views

Is it possible to launch a rocket with steam by using a fission reactor?

The idea is to use a fission reactor to turn water into steam pumping it outside the reaction chamber through heat pipes.
billy's user avatar
  • 175
5 votes
2 answers
174 views

Have solid dish antennas on deep space spacecraft (as opposed to meshes) ever provided any other helpful function? As meteor shields perhaps?

This answer to Which deep space spacecraft had main dish antennas that were perforated or made from mesh? tells the tale: Galileo's troubled high gain antenna was made from "a gold-plated ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
5 votes
4 answers
6k views

Why does the heatshield have to be on the outside?

To what extent has internal insulation been tested to deal with the heat of re-entry? In the case of Starship, is the existing steel strong enough (to be non-ablative!), or would a different type of ...
Dagelf's user avatar
  • 517
5 votes
0 answers
105 views

Are ferrofluidic seals used in spaceflight? Main applications? Human-rated?

Comments below this answer have inspired this quesiton. Wikipedia's Ferrofluidic seal sez: Ferrofluid-sealed feedthroughs routinely operate in environments including ultra-high vacuum (below 10⁻⁸ ...
uhoh's user avatar
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