71

Your question is based on a false assumption namely: So why didn't NASA take money from the private sector to do these later two on the behalf of corporations? NASA did take money from the private sector to do these things. The STS-5, STS-7, STS-8, STS-41-B, STS-41-D, STS-51-A, STS-51-D, STS-51-G, STS-51-I, STS-61-B, and STS-61-C Space Shuttle missions ...


54

Did they reach space? Branson: yes The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo class craft "VS Unity" flew Branson up to 53.5 miles (86 kilometres). This altitude is considered "space" by the US air force, and nobody else. It is above most of the atmosphere, and does provide a nice view of the Earth. Bezos: yes The Blue Origin New Shepard class ...


44

I wonder why nobody ever proposed a space launch system like Starship. What exactly do you mean by "like Starship"? Systems like Starship have been proposed before, although differing in the details, going back to Von Braun's mid-1950s Mars expedition concepts. Starship is ambitious in several ways, but it's more evolutionary than revolutionary. ...


41

Fundamentally, it's because of economics. There simply wasn't any demand for a large rocket between today and the space race. Let's analyze what (I think) makes the Starship concept special: Size: Starship is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) rockets ever constructed. Reusability: One of Starship's core design goals is to be reusable comparable to ...


39

The Space Shuttle was designed to be inexpensive, but in the first launch, it was actually found to be quite a bit more expensive than it was thought. The shuttle was supposed to take only a week or two to turn around, in which case it would have been a very effective launch vehicle. Instead, the tiles ended up needing replacing after every flight, which ...


29

A Space Elevator would still be amazingly useful The two factors that come to mind are forms of power and scale: Power With a space elevator connected to the ground, you could use the energy in your power grid to lift everything up. By doing this, we can use green and renewable energies. With rockets, baring any massive advancements, we are restricted to ...


26

There already is some economy of scale in the space industry which I describe a bit more below. When it comes to interplanetary missions however, there is a significant limitation on the destination of the probe, and the mass of the vehicle. Earth orbiters Geostationary spacecraft Several (all?) of the major geostationary spacecraft manufacturers have a ...


16

The benefits of tooling up for mass production only matter if you plan to make a lot of something. A cheap consumer computer case that sells for $63 requires millions and millions of dollars of tooling and equipment to produce them for that cost, and it requires that a large volume of them are sold to pay for that initial capital outlay. If you only needed ...


15

Rockets suffer from the tyrrany of the rocket equation. While a reusable rocket is great, you need to burn a lot of propellant for each kg of mass to reach orbital velocity. A space elevator can steal momentum from the planet itself to provide the speed required to reach orbital velocity (or beyond). In general, fast energy expenditure is less efficient ...


12

One perspective from "Stonekettle Station: Pie in the Sky" (via the glorious Project Rho), edits and emphasis mine: The objectives of our space program are many and varied, but none of those objectives will ever lead to the kind of self-sustaining commercial ventures visualized in the popular speculation of the Golden Age. The Shuttle is a perfect ...


12

It's not hypergolics per se that are super-desirable for ICBMs, but room-temperature-storable fuels. ICBMs have to stay ready for long periods of time and be launched on short notice, so that means they have to stay fueled up more or less constantly. In practice, that means solid fuels or something in the UDMH/NTO family. A cryogenic fuel ICBM would need ...


12

Whatever concept of space elevator you want to build, it requires you to transport massive amounts of material into space, so no. Having cheap launch vehicles is actually a requirement to building a space elevator. Whether the elevator could ever break even given its high mass is another matter altogether.


12

The current cost per launch of Falcon 9 is \$62 million. According to the planned launch cost BFR will be cheaper to launch than Falcon 1. That means it's cheaper than a marginal $7 million per launch. Elon provided a chart that compares the launch costs of different rockets at his BFR presentation: Even when BFR only carries a small payload it will still ...


12

The question how much revenue might arise from a patent isn't something that can generally be proved or disproved (except sometimes in retrospect). Bear in mind, though, that the Apollo program was from the 1960s, and the term of patents (in the United States) used to be 17 years (from issue-date) (and is now 20 years from application-date) -- https://en....


12

This is actually built on a false premise. NASA can, and does, charge for patent usage. See this page for what it takes to get a NASA patent license. Note this: including higher royalties Or this one: NASA will collect a standard net royalty fee This shows the NASA process for managing patents. They actually will pay the inventor a portion of the ...


11

It's mostly people. Engineers to operate the vehicle and a science team to direct the activities, interpret the results, and write papers. There are also support personnel to keep the ground systems running, testbed personnel to keep the testbeds running and run tests on them. And some management and business people. And a small portion of the budget for ...


10

The CRS contract pays upon delivery. Cygnus and Dragon both failed to deliver on their last missions. They do not get paid for those flights. These are no longer development contracts, they are contracts for delivery. Then they get to negotiate with NASA as to how to proceed. Do they repeat the mission? Do they consolidate into fewer heavier launches (Which ...


10

Salvatore T. "Tory" Bruno, president and chief executive officer for United Launch Alliance (ULA), shared this "Launch Vehicle Weight and Cost By Major Elements" infographic in one of his recent tweets:      There was no additional description posted for it that I could find. It seems to be for the Atlas V though (judging by the vehicle'...


10

Given your constraints I can't see it being worthwhile, period, even if it were our own moon. Lets throw some numbers at it: Current cost to deliver a kilogram of payload to the moon: \$1.2 million. Price of a kilogram of gold: \$40k. In other words, for every kilogram you land on the target you need to bring back 30kg of gold just to pay your launch ...


10

Two points that the answers so far have missed. First, missions are not all that frequent, and technology improves between each mission. For instance, consider the difference between the Voyager cameras https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/spacecraft/instruments/iss/ and https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/missions/cassini/mission/spacecraft/cassini-orbiter/...


10

The Orion capsule can carry 6 because that is what the NASA requirements it was designed to satisfy asked for. Unbelievably these requirements date from 2004. Orion then was supposed to be a multi-purpose vehicle taking crew to the ISS as well as lunar and planetary destinations. ~16 years later it still hasn't flown with a crew. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/...


9

SpaceX won't exit the medium lift market. They plan to use BFR for small payloads too. BFR, unlike Falcon 9 enables reuse of the second stage, they hope this will make BFR cheaper to run than Falcon 9.


8

Let's start from the misconceptions in your question: "Unlimited reaction mass" - there's no unlimited reaction mass in pulsed nuclear propulsion - you can go as far as your bomb supply lasts, but no further. Specifically, you cannot manufacture nuclear devices on board. "Military advantage of getting an ice-teroid" - there's no advantage to be gained by ...


8

One of the most important things for any company looking to achieve something new in the field of aerospace is to have a good budget. NASA is funded by the United States government, which has its plusses and minuses. The big plus is that its budget is rather large: Close to or over 18 billion dollars, for the last part of the 2000s. Is that good? Yes. There ...


7

In addition to what the previous answers are already saying, I would like to point out that recent developments have almost all been solid, even on the Russian and Chinese side. If you look at the DF-31, the Topol-M or Yars, you will see why military leaders like them: They are doomsday devices in the truest sense of the word. They can be deployed anywhere, ...


7

Customization Costs are Not Significant There are a lot of costs associated with operating an inter-planetary probe. Customizing the hardware is not a major driver. For example, this article claims that the rocket to launch Curiosity was 20% of the 2.5 billion total price tag. The sky crane wasn't included in that figure, so the "rocket" that ...


6

Aon International Space Brokers does, according to this article. Although they likely only cover liability type losses from SpaceX, not the cost of the rocket themselves. In fact, this 2012 FCC document states that SpaceX has 3rd party liability insurance for the first 45 days after a launch, afterward which they are self-insured. Each payload that is on ...


6

LOX/LH2 motors can achieve a higher specific impulse than hypergolic motors. According to the liquid rocket propellant page on wikipedia, theoretically LOX/LH2 has 111 second lead over UDMH/NTO. This might not seem like much, but changes in the specific impulse affect the rocket's delta-v significantly according to the rocket equation, so any gain is a big ...


6

The company that launched the rocket pays for the cost of the rocket, as geoffc said. As for the payload, it seems likely that those who provided the items have the choice of what to do. They can insure it, otherwise they are held accountable. This is why NASA does in fact have a say about the launch of their rockets.


6

Yes, they can, at least they are designed to do such. Here's some links supporting that: http://www.space.com/21541-nasa-orion-spacecraft-reusable.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orion_%28spacecraft%29#Crew_module_.28CM.29 " The CM is designed to be refurbished and reused." http://www.informationweek.com/government/leadership/nasa-orion-space-capsule-has-...


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