118 votes

What can the KSP game actually teach about spaceflight and orbital mechanics, and what are its limitations?

In my former job I was writing educational software. In short, it's exactly what you described: we offered a paid version of what you could get for free by looking out on the internet, going to class,...
Antzi's user avatar
  • 12.6k
99 votes

What can the KSP game actually teach about spaceflight and orbital mechanics, and what are its limitations?

In several press conferences, employees of NASA or private space firms have been asked if they played KSP, and some answered with "Yes". NASA used patched conics to find candidate orbits for ...
Polygnome's user avatar
  • 6,936
70 votes

Why do we not fly to space with helicopters? What are the practical altitude limits?

A 25m diameter rotor has a perimeter of around 78 meters. At that size, at 500rpm, the rotor tips would be going in excess of 1,400mph. At those kind of speeds, even though it doesn't take much power ...
jacksonj04's user avatar
55 votes

Why do we not fly to space with helicopters? What are the practical altitude limits?

At 100 km altitude, you get to the Karman line. This is the altitude where you have to fly at orbital speed to get sufficient lift. This definition is based on the lift equation, which applies to all ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
54 votes
Accepted

Why not explore Cruithne?

3753 Cruinthe ranks as target number 16832 in JPL's list of near earth asteroids that might be worth visiting, someday. With 16381 better targets, that "someday" most likely will be a long time from ...
David Hammen's user avatar
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52 votes

Were there any unmanned expeditions to the moon that returned to Earth prior to Apollo?

I'm wondering if there were any test missions to get unmanned ships to the moon and safely back to Earth? There were no uncrewed round-trip missions to the moon prior to Apollo 11. Several one-way ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
50 votes

What is "mission design"? What do mission designers do (if such a designation exists)?

Yes, there are people whose sole job is "mission design." They design the trajectory that a spacecraft should follow to fulfill its mission and all of the maneuvers needed for that to happen....
ChrisR's user avatar
  • 6,220
34 votes

Has any object launched from Earth gone into the Sun?

No, not yet. The Parker Solar Probe became the closest ever artificial object to the sun on October 29th, 2018, surpassing Helios 2 which held the record since 1975 [1]. No other human-made object ...
Polygnome's user avatar
  • 6,936
33 votes

Why do we not fly to space with helicopters? What are the practical altitude limits?

Space is really like this (XKCD What if) In theory a plane could reach most of the way to space, but it won't be able to reach orbital speeds. Bottom line, it just isn't practical. Maybe someday a ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
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32 votes
Accepted

Could an Apollo LM land uncrewed?

I purchased "The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture and Operation" to answer this question (an excellent read). And the answer is yes it might be possible to land on the moon unmanned. However, a ...
Mark Omo's user avatar
  • 5,301
30 votes
Accepted

Are fans ever used in un-crewed spacecraft?

Soviet planetary probes sometimes had pressurized compartments, so I suspected that they might contain fans. This answer confirms that Venera-8 had a fan. The illustration in the answer has the inner ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
27 votes
Accepted

Why don't we build standardized space probes?

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 ...
ChrisR's user avatar
  • 6,220
26 votes

What can the KSP game actually teach about spaceflight and orbital mechanics, and what are its limitations?

In a sense, you're correct; KSP does not teach you any of the math involved in orbital dynamics. But it gives you an incredibly good intuitive sense of how they work. For example, one of the first ...
Phiteros's user avatar
  • 5,626
26 votes

First use of an incandescent light in an un-crewed spacecraft?

This may be stretching the definition of "incandescent light" quite a bit, but the V-2, which was the first artificial object to cross the Kármán line in June 1944 (and thus technically an ...
kgutwin's user avatar
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25 votes
Accepted

Did any spacecraft ever use the Sun's gravity for acceleration?

It doesn't really work that way. We can use the Sun to change direction, but we need rocket thrust to increase speed with the msneuver. To begin with, the closest stars (apart from the Sun) are not ...
Oscar Lanzi's user avatar
  • 8,505
24 votes

Why do we not fly to space with helicopters? What are the practical altitude limits?

The propellor needs to be strong enough not to pull itself apart via centrifugal force. If you go through the math, you find that the maximum stress on the propellor blade will be halfway along its ...
Michael Seifert's user avatar
23 votes

Did any spacecraft ever use the Sun's gravity for acceleration?

The "gravitational" (slingshot) maneuvers space probes are performing are actually not so much about gravity. The gravity is method to "tie" temporarily these two bodies, but you could (purely ...
Martin's user avatar
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23 votes
Accepted

When was the last time that an incandescent light bulb was launched into space?

December 2011. At that time, Soyuz TMA-03M flew to ISS. On its successor, TMA-04M, its SMI-4 light was replaced with a LED headlight. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soyuz_MS phrases it: the old ...
Camille Goudeseune's user avatar
19 votes

Why do we not fly to space with helicopters? What are the practical altitude limits?

OrganicMarble touched on this in a comment but I think it deserves an answer as well, since the question doesn't stop at the Karman line (approx. 100km if you're really defining it as the height where ...
Erin Anne's user avatar
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19 votes
Accepted

Will SLS be launched as often as the space shuttle was?

Given the available data, no. Ignoring details like the lengthy stand-downs after the two loss-of-crew-and-vehicle shuttle mishaps, a naive calculation (135 launches between 4/12/81 and 7/8/11) gives ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
18 votes

What can the KSP game actually teach about spaceflight and orbital mechanics, and what are its limitations?

The other 4 answers here do a wonderful job of articulating what I love about KSP, but I'd like to point out one more thing from my perspective as a game designer who has logged over 600 hours in the ...
Cody's user avatar
  • 550
18 votes
Accepted

First use of an incandescent light in an un-crewed spacecraft?

The Gemini Agena Target Vehicle was an uncrewed docking target utilized during the Gemini program. Although uncrewed itself, it had an externally mounted lighted display panel that could be viewed by ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
16 votes

Why don't we build standardized space probes?

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 ...
J...'s user avatar
  • 807
15 votes

Why do we not fly to space with helicopters? What are the practical altitude limits?

We don't fly to space with helicopters because we can't. We would if we could, believe me. Aside from all the very valid concerns raised by others, the question doesn't properly account for weight*. ...
Erin Anne's user avatar
  • 11.3k
15 votes

Are fans ever used in un-crewed spacecraft?

Sputnik-1 was filled with dry nitrogen pressurized to about 1.3 bar and had a fan to control gas temperature between 20° and 30° C. See Wikipedia in german or english. A picture of Sputnik-1 design ...
Uwe's user avatar
  • 49k
15 votes

Will SLS be launched as often as the space shuttle was?

Your question is based on Wikipedia's description of this as "successor to the retired Space Shuttle". This statement is so severely flawed as to be basically untrue. The Shuttle was ...
Graham's user avatar
  • 1,922
14 votes
Accepted

How likely is it that the Voyager spacecrafts haven't yet been damaged by micrometeoroids?

This is a great question, I'm no planetary scientist but I'll give a partial answer to get things started. Interplanetary dust is ubiquitous in the solar system and interplanetary spacecraft including ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
13 votes

Did any spacecraft ever use the Sun's gravity for acceleration?

I think the question is based on a misconception about how gravity assists work. If you just let yourself get pulled to a distant object then continue out the other side, the same gravity that ...
Asteroids With Wings's user avatar
12 votes

What can the KSP game actually teach about spaceflight and orbital mechanics, and what are its limitations?

You concentrate on the unrealistic points which have to be present in the game and ignore strong realistic points. The Kerbal Space Program is not a perfect spacecraft simulator however it ...
OON's user avatar
  • 1,684
12 votes

What is "mission design"? What do mission designers do (if such a designation exists)?

For the shuttle program this work was called "flight design". Acronymology: DM - Organization code for Flight Design and Dynamics Division GPC - General Purpose Computer ISS - ...
Organic Marble's user avatar

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