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ESA Completes Important Step Toward Vega Launcher

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the like-capsela dept.

Space 158

Sven-Erik writes "ESA is reporting that 'An important step forward has just been made in the development of ESA's Vega launcher. After several months' work at the Guiana Propellant Plant at Europe's Spaceport the inert casting of the main Vega motor has been successfully carried out.' The 30-meter tall Vega launcher will be capable of placing a 1.5 ton payload into polar orbit, and it is scheduled for its first launch in 2006 from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana, where the Ariane 1 launch facilities are being adapted for its use. It will be a perfect complement to ESA's large Ariane 5 and the medium-classed Soyuz."

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158 comments

Could someone... (1)

anethema (99553) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301581)

Could someone...enlighten us to some details of the 'vega launcher' and why its special ?

Re:Could someone... (1)

anethema (99553) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301587)

Sorry, the article wouldnt load, I thought it was slashdotted. Explains it fairly well :)

Re:Could someone... (2, Insightful)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301598)

Because it makes launching payloads between 300 and 2000 kg cheap, I guess. ( at least relatively speaking :-) )

Re:Could someone... (3, Informative)

Polkyb (732262) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301601)

Vega will make access to space easier, quicker and cheaper.

It will also be sharing technology with the Ariane-5 program

Re:Could someone... (5, Informative)

Googo (695955) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301622)

Text on the Vega.

Vega

Main Data Vega
Height 30 m
Diameter 3 m
Liftoff mass 136 tonnes
Payload mass* 1500 kg

Although there is a growing tendency for satellites to become larger, there is still a need for a small launcher to place 300 to 2000 kg satellites, economically, into the polar and low-Earth orbits used for many scientific and Earth observation missions.

Europes answer to these needs is Vega, named after the second brightest star in the northern hemisphere. Vega will make access to space easier, quicker and cheaper.

Costs are being kept to a minimum by using advanced low-cost technologies and by introducing an optimised synergy with existing production facilities used for Ariane launchers.

Vega has been designed as a single body launcher with three solid propulsion stages and an additional liquid propulsion upper module used for attitude and orbit control, and satellite release. Unlike most small launchers, Vega will be able to place multiple payloads into orbit.

Development of the Vega launcher started in 1998. The first launch is planned for 2006 from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana where the Ariane 1 launch facilities are being adapted for its use.

* Launch in circular orbit, 90inclination, 700 km

So basically it is europes light payload rocket.

Re:Could someone... (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 9 years ago | (#9303105)

Yes. Usually Rokot [astronautix.com] or Dnepr [kosmotras.ru] launches (old refurbished Russian ICBMs) are bought for small and cheap payloads, but they aren't exactly reliable...

Re:Could someone... (1, Funny)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301636)

Sure a small inexpensive device designed to carry cargo in the tightest of corners. Unfortunately, it will be broken down all the time due to the cheap alumnin block that is used in it. It will be replaced by the competition with a pinto launcher that likes to catch on fire.

Re:Could someone... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9301657)

The Vega launcher is intended to be much simpler and cheaper than Ariane (or similar rockets), for smaller payloads. It's a business jet to complement the jumbo that is already in service, if you will.

The reduced cost is partly due to being a (mostly) solid-fuel rocket, which are a lot simpler in construction and require less maintenance. Extra cool: A second, future use for the Vega is to be replace the solid-fuel boosters currently used on the Ariane 5, thus significantly boosting the payload.

Re:Could someone... (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 9 years ago | (#9303156)

They intend to use some Vega P80 technology for a future evolution of the Ariane 5 P230 solid rocket boosters. They are both manufactured by the same people AFAIK. The technologies to be re-used include cheaper filament-wound casing and a new nozzle.

Re:Could someone... (-1, Offtopic)

The Original Yama (454111) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301694)

He's from Spain, he wears a mask, he fights with claws and he's damn fast. ...or he wears a military uniform with a cape and he's quite powerful.

It depends on which version you play. :)

Re:Could someone... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302955)

offtopic??? WTF? The mods obviously haven't played any of the Street Fighter games.

Re:Could someone... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302016)

It's designed to launch a Volkswagen into low orbit. They would have called it the Volksrocket but that's overused. It can also launch a Chevy Vega, so that's what they called it. (Calling it the Pinto had certain safety issues.)

Re:Could someone... (2, Insightful)

Eccles (932) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302536)

Could someone...enlighten us to some details of the 'vega launcher' and why its special ?

If you had ever owned a Vega, [qis.net] you would understand why they want to launch any remaining ones into space...

Re:Could someone... (2, Interesting)

Kosmonavt (784573) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302595)

Reasons this story is interesting: Space frontier: A new rocket is developed Economic: It will have to compete with the cheap decommissioned Russian ICBMs Technological: solid fuel (aka firework material) that is harnessed to produce thrust Geekly: the test reported refers to the casting process for the solid fuel using an inert alternative (which? sugar cake - yamm!) Flamebait: another stage for US-European space antagonism Italians in space: it is mostly an Italian project within ESA

See (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9301600)

See this
blog [ittoolbox.com]

Re:See- Please mode the parent up. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9301665)

It is informative.. +5 interesting

Economics (2)

kwikrick (755625) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301611)

Apearently, the Vega is the answer for economically lanching small payloads. Wouldn't it be more economical to lauch many small payloads at once using a large rocket, e.g. Ariane 5. It can't be that hard to mount some kind of multi-payload carrier on the latter also...

Re:Economics (1)

Polkyb (732262) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301640)

I would have said that the issue with launching many payloads on the top of one Ariane-5 would be more of an insurance problem that logistical

I'm not sure of the numbers, but, strapping 10 payloads (worth $25M a pop) onto a firework, is more risky than strapping 2 payloads a time onto 5. There is certainly a greater chance that you'll get at least some of your toy's into orbit.

Why? (0, Troll)

tsotha (720379) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301629)

There really isn't any shortage of small-payload launchers. In fact, there's a glut. It doesn't make any sense to develop yet another one. The whole market is depressed.

Customers are actually pushing the envelope on the other end. Maybe a 25 ton launcher...

Re:Why? (0)

CaptainCheese (724779) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301672)

Yup. Ever since NASAs dead hand crushed the Saturn as a launch vehicle, there hasn't been anything really capable of putting my large granite house into geosychronous orbit.

Not that I think I'd use it, but it annoys me that I can't.

Re:Why? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301701)

hummmm. Braun comes to mind which had IIRC, more than saturn (150) vs. something around 175 . However, Braun was never fully luanched, so not really fair comparision.

The truely sad part of the Saturn is that we develop it, but have lost most of the engineers from those days. I suspect that it will take much longer to develop something similar these days.

Re:Why? (5, Informative)

ttsalo (126195) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301769)

Ever since NASAs dead hand crushed the Saturn as a launch vehicle, there hasn't been anything really capable of putting my large granite house into geosychronous orbit.

Not true. Russian Energia can lift considerably more than Saturn. (175 tons to LEO in the maximum configuration, although only lighter configurations have actually flown). There just hasn't been much demand for this sort of capability, so the last Energia sits mothballed in a hangar...

--

Re:Why? (0, Troll)

sander (7831) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301949)

Energia exists only in the same sense that Staurn V - somebody still has the plans. The hangar sitter is a bout as much a usable launcher as the 2-3 display copies of staurn v. nice to look at but not usable to launch anything.

Re:Why? (4, Informative)

ttsalo (126195) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302130)

I don't agree. It was mothballed as recently as in 1992 and the company that made it (S.P.Korolev RSC Energia) is still in business making rockets. I don't claim that they could take the Energia out, fuel and launch it, but the availability of the manufacturing equipment, launch facilities and especially the people who could make it happen are on a completely different level when compared to Saturn V.

If you had enough money, you could buy an Energia launch from RSC Energia - but not a Saturn launch from NASA. (Well, maybe you could with really enough money...)

--

Re:Why? (0, Troll)

sander (7831) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302759)

no, the equipment is not available either. Evevn if there was a factory full of equipment set aside for future energia production (there isn't) you would still essentialy need to start from scratch - and aremuch better off starting from scratch.

Besides - NASA didn't manufacture Starun V-s.

Re:Why? (2, Interesting)

mrright (301778) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302462)

Property is a central economic institution of any society, and private property is the central institution of a free society.

That is not true. The RD-170 engines for the boosters are still in production for the zenit sea launch vehicles. And the first stage of the zenit vehicle was used as the booster rockets of the energia. So the only thing you would have to do would be to resume production of the core stage.

The problem is that there is no demand for such large payloads. But if you gave the russians a few billion USD they could certainly reactivate the energia.

--

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

ebassi (591699) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301971)

In fact, there's a glut

Where? Primarly in the US. I'm sorry, but I don't think EU would like to financially help Lockeed-Martin. Yes, there are some LEO/low-cost vectors actually developed in China, Brazil and India, but the same reasoning applies.

Useless (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9301633)

Vega is a LEO (Low Earth Orbit) launcher. There isn't a commercial market for low earth orbit satellites. Commercial satellites want GEO (geosynchronous orbit). The US military is not going to outsource to ESA (they aren't Indian). So I dont see the point of Vega. If I was doing research and needed a LEO for taking pictures or whatever, I would go with the cheaper reliable Chinese launcher.

ESO need to concentrate on improving Ariane 5 reliability and cost.

Or yeah, and ESO needs to build the OWL!! This earth based telescope should be able to image some planets better than space probes that visited them up and saw them up close.

http://www.eso.org/projects/owl/

Re:Useless (5, Insightful)

Polkyb (732262) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301668)

I give you two quotes from TFA

Costs are being kept to a minimum by using advanced low-cost technologies and by introducing an optimised synergy with existing production facilities used for Ariane launchers.

and

Unlike most small launchers, Vega will be able to place multiple payloads into orbit.

Seems to me like two damn good reasons to me. Another, being; If you were Europe, would you REALLY want the Chinese to launch your Top Secret military satelites...?

multiple payloads. (3, Insightful)

lingqi (577227) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301760)

Chinese can lauch multiple satellites too, you know. However, once a rocket bites the dust, several satellites go with it instead of one.

While indeed that no *small* chinese launchers can do this, there are really not such a big market for satellites small enough that several fit into a Vega.

Can't argue with the military aspects, though. I don't think EU trusts the US pushing military satelites into space either these days...

Re:multiple payloads. (3, Insightful)

Polkyb (732262) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301895)

All fair points, but, I suspect the major reason that the EU want their own "fleet" of vehicles is just plainly and simply that they don't want to have to rely on another countries space program

I can understand the mentality, in a way... If we screw up, then WE'VE screwed up.

Re:multiple payloads. (1)

sander (7831) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301908)

You are discounting micro and nanosats that are increasingly more used. Or why do you think there is a special platform for them that flies every time Ariane 5 does?

Re:multiple payloads. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302037)

don't forget Galileo! I don't know how heavy those birds are, but they certainly ain't geo birds. And with 40-odd guys up there, I wouldn't bet on them being 5t apiece.

Re:Useless (1)

kilyerd (768611) | more than 9 years ago | (#9303236)

Another, being; If you were Europe, would you REALLY want the Chinese to launch your Top Secret military satelites...?

ESA doesn't launch any military object.
It has been created *only* for commercial and scientific missions, so this point is out of question.
On the other side having a small and cheap launcher is good for all the microsatellites built by small enterprises in Europe and abroad.
An example could be receivers for some low power, low priority transmitters, for instance an in-orbit receiver of the electrical power counter state, to prepare power bills without paying a man to read the counter value door-to-door.

Re:Useless (2, Interesting)

dekeji (784080) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301739)

I think Europe just wants a complete complement of space technologies at their disposal; they don't want to depend on either the Americans or the Chinese to provide it for them, neither for research satellites nor for military ones.

Re:Useless (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301807)

In some cases that's probably right for logical reasons, but I think they also have planned for and carried out several fairly innovative and unique missions to increase our knowledge beyond Earth.

Re:Useless (2, Insightful)

ebassi (591699) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301976)

Vega is a LEO (Low Earth Orbit) launcher. There isn't a commercial market for low earth orbit satellites.

Yes, there is a market. Universities and small companies, for instance.

I would go with the cheaper reliable Chinese launcher

What part of "competition" you did not understand?

Re:Useless (2, Informative)

HenrikOxUK (776979) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302025)

ESO need to concentrate on improving Ariane 5 reliability and cost.

The European Southern Observatory (ESO), makes telecopes (like VLT and OWL), not rockets. You've mixed up ESO and ESA (European Space Agency).

Re:Useless (1)

TehHustler (709893) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302081)

Yes, you're half right, comms sats will be mostly going to Geo synchronous orbit, but theres a lot of use for sun synchronous orbits, which the vega looks like its capable of.

Is it any good? (3, Informative)

dj245 (732906) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301642)

I read the articles, (yep, must be new here), but they don't indicate whether its a very complicated design or a very simple one. Generally, the simplest design that can do the job is the best, but the shuttle is not a good example of this. Anyone have any thoughts? Is it more complex than the Ariane? Does it have more fiddly bits?

The Soyuz design is a good one because it is proven, and very very simple. No fiddly bits. You could probably launch in a hurricane if you absolutely had to [floridatoday.com]: little short of a thunderstorm over the pad will stop the launch. This is no space shuttle, and weather-related scrubs are almost unheard of here.

On the other hand, the Arianes have fiddly bits [space.com] and can't launch in bad weather. [rednova.com] So where does this thing fall, somewhere in between? Even more fiddly than Ariane? Less complex than Soyuz?

Re:Is it any good? (3, Insightful)

mj_1903 (570130) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301914)

As all its stages are solid fuel (except the final stage), Vega doesn't need the hazards of complex machinery, fuelling, insulation and other things that can possibly make it fail or delay a launch.

What I find interesting is that it is such a small vehicle. I imagine its going to push some g's on launch because its thrust to weight ratio is quite high. I haven't seen any numbers to support this theory though.

Re:Is it any good? (2, Interesting)

Vadim Makarov (529622) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302099)

The Soyuz design is a good one because it is proven, and very very simple. No fiddly bits. You could probably launch in a hurricane if you absolutely had to.

This is because Soyuz booster is based on an early days military design, or should we say multiple-use design. I believe at one time a couple of these boosters were on standby with nuclear warheards attached (until USSR installed better ICBMs). You don't want weather over the launch pad to preclude a nuclear strike, don't you? No wonder the boosters were designed to be all-weather from the beginning.

Jodie Foster unavailable for comment... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9301644)

/obvious

Why not fuel free? (4, Interesting)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301653)

Is anyone researching fuel free launches?

I mean things like shooting the payload from a cannon or something... ...or possibly using a HUGE rubber band to send a capsule flying into space.

As long as we need 100*X pounds of fuel to launch X pounds into space, space travel will remain uneconomical for most purposes.

Re:Why not fuel free? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301663)

We had that several days ago with helium ballons.

But there are several designs for using large cannons and electrorail runs for launching somethings.

Re:Why not fuel free? (3, Informative)

mrright (301778) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301728)

The most promising propellantless launch technology is rotating tethers.

Check out this [tethers.com] for plenty of information about what is possible. here [tethers.com] is a paper about a tether for LEO to GTO boost that could be built today.

All the other things like electric catapults are much too large to be practical if you want reasonable g-forces.

--

who said there arn't? (4, Interesting)

lingqi (577227) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301770)

i know you are kidding, but there are fuel free research. some almost exact replicas of Verne's canon. Of course, since you have to travel through dense atmosphere for a _long_time_, 7.9km/s is not nearly enough.

And the payload would go through something like 10,000G through the acceleration phase. I think they are suggesting that electronics can generally handle this, which is surprising to me.

AND the payload would burn through about five inches of ablative.

I think the current technical problem they are facing is to get the huge acceleration out of the canon - because chemical charges can not ever get you the muzzle velocity, probably ever. So now you are in the realm of railguns. don't expect to see payloads shot up this way for a few years. =)

but, like i said, there are ideas floating around about it.

Re:who said there arn't? (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302645)

I had a neighbor that was involved in a guided artillery shell project. He said that some of the more interesting, non-code related issues were, they had to be very careful with the orientation of their surface mount electronics because they had a bad habbit of ripping off or moving in surprising ways.

Re:Why not fuel free? (1)

Epistax (544591) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301861)

You're not as stupid as you sound (or our best testing indicates). Any way we can get the launching platform to do part of the boost (especially if it doesn't destroy itself) would be of big help.
The problem is acceleration. If we shoot the payload like a bullet, everything/body goes splat. I remember seeing one design once that kinda looked like a traintrack up a mountain. The idea was to give it a decent speed upon launch after accelerating over a good deal of track (via maglev I'd imagine). The problem with this design is.. well.. you're accelerating a rocket up a mountain... it can't be right ;)

Re:Why not fuel free? (1)

McWilde (643703) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301873)

I've been working on something like this with friends. Posted on it before here [slashdot.org].
We we're actually planning to launch people across the British Channel, because we thought it would be a hell of a ride. Research was limited to some rough calculations on the back of a beer coaster. Turns out that using a trebuchet isn't economically feasible for these kinds of things.

Lasers on the way (1)

mihal (753927) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301907)

I heard of research works on laser launches. Like, they get 100kW CO2 laser and put some rubbish really high.

Re:Why not fuel free? (4, Informative)

grozzie2 (698656) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301962)

This was being done in the early 60's by a Canadian research team. Google for Harp Gun, and read here [nasa.gov] . Basically they started with 7 inch guns, and were shooting probes up to do high altitude research. In phase 2 of the project they were using a 16 inch gun, and projectiles that included a rocket motor. The 16 inch gun was capable of lifting a 200lb projectile to an altitude of 90 miles.

The projectiles they were firing (the martlett) had a bunch of electronics in them, and they had designed them with a small rocket motor to maneuver at that altitude, not sure if they actually flew any with the motor.

The entire story is quite interesting, after the Harp project ended, Gerald Bull (the engineer behind it) went on to continue the research covertly funded by the cia initially. When he had a major falling out with the cia, he worked with other foriegn governments to continue the upscaling of the concept. He was assasinated when he built one that was capable of launching a 1000kg projectile over a distance of a thousand miles, before they had a chance to fire it. Interestingly, that one was capable of orbiting a much smaller projectile.

Re:Why not fuel free? (3, Informative)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301991)

A search of "Babylon gun" will get you links. [astronautix.com] It was never finished--a certain neighbour of Iraq was not happy about the likely practical uses.

Re:Why not fuel free? (3, Informative)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301982)

The BIG problem is that with such a lauch the vehicle will be fastest where there is the most air resistance. You cant just easily get something to mach 20 on ground level without it burning up.

One suggestion is building a HUGE railgun into a mountain range of decent height. That way you get your highest speed in a height of 4-5km, where air density is already quite a bit lower than on ground, and you can spread your acceleration over a minute or so.

Re:Why not fuel free? (1)

sander (7831) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302005)

Basicly becuase they need the launcher in a certain timeframe and there is no way any alternative technology will be ready in time?

A step backward (3, Informative)

mrright (301778) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301690)

Vega is a solid-fueled launcher based on the Ariane V boosters. Solid-fueled launchers are great for the military since they can launch at a moments notice, but other than that they are a big PITA.

Since they arrive at the launch complex fully fueled, they are a major safety risk. There have been numerous accidents with solid-fueled boosters. The last major accident was in brazil, and it killed several people and completely destroyed the launch complex.

The solid fueled boosters of the shuttle make assembly much more difficult, and if a shuttle SRB were to accidentally go off while in the assembly building, it would probably kill hundreds of people. That is why NASA tries to limit the number of people working on the shuttle while the SRB are attached, which of course increases the cost and the processing time.

For a really modern and cheap small launcher, take a look at the falcon [spacex.com].

--

Re:A step backward (3, Interesting)

mrright (301778) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301759)

To back up my assertion that the vega is not competitive: here are a few launch prices:
The vega [esrin.esa.it] is supposed to cost 20 million USD for a payload of 1500kg to LEO. The Falcon I will cost 6 million USD for a payload of 700kg to a similar orbit, and the Falcon V will cost 12 million USD and have a payload of 4200kg to LEO.

So commercially vega will be a complete desaster. The only payloads that will go to vega will be government payloads that can not go to falcon for reasons of national prestige.

On the other hand, vega is a decent ICBM with MIRV capability.

Re:A step backward (1)

mj_1903 (570130) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301929)

I don't know about complete failure. The ESA has a very good track record and I am sure big companies would rather pay for reliability (assuming that it is). You also have the fact that the ESA can now offer a complete solution to all customers, whether it be light Vega payloads or heavy Ariane 5 launches, they will cover it all.

On the other hand, the market is extremely small for light payloads to LEO, so both maybe a commercial disaster.

Re:A step backward (1)

mrright (301778) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301943)

Small solid launch vehicles have been tried before. For example the athena and taurus [astronautix.com] rockets by lockheed. Even though they used old ICBM technology they are commercial failures.

Another problem with solid rockets is that they have a rather extreme launch environment (lots of vibration), so you have to beef up your payload to handle the vibrations.

Solid rockets for civilian applications are just a bad idea.

--

Re:A step backward (3, Insightful)

ttsalo (126195) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301937)

here are a few launch prices: ... Falcon I ... Falcon V ...

Those Falcon launchers sound impressive, but are completely unproven and it remains to be seen how they perform in reality and what the real cost is. Saying that something is "a step backward" from stuff that doesn't exist doesn't make much sense.

On the other hand, vega is a decent ICBM with MIRV capability.

Conspiracy theory time! I wonder what the throw weight is, say, halfway around the globe?

--

Re:A step backward (2, Interesting)

mrright (301778) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302108)

Those Falcon launchers sound impressive, but are completely unproven and it remains to be seen how they perform in reality and what the real cost is. Saying that something is "a step backward" from stuff that doesn't exist doesn't make much sense.
The falcon launchers are just as unproven as the vega launcher. Neither of them has flown, but the engines of both falcon and vega have been tested on test stands.

And I am totally convinced that using solids for civilian launchers is a major step backward. Imagine having to work on a launch vehicle full of highly explosive propellant. A liquid fueled launch vehicle on the other hand gets fueled on the pad, so as long as it is in the assembly building it is just a bunch of totally inert metal. Even if you can control the risk, the safety precautions make assembling the solid-fueled launcher much more expensive.

The first falcon I launch will be in this summer, and the first falcon V launch will be in the fall of next year if all goes according to plan. The first vega launch will be in 2006.

Conspiracy theory time! I wonder what the throw weight is, say, halfway around the globe?
About three to four tons. But that was just a joke. It could be used as an ICBM though.
--

Re:A step backward (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 9 years ago | (#9303336)

The large solids are filled at a facility near the launch site. They don't come fueled all the way from Europe.

But yes, I agree. Solids are not very good for anything but military launches where rapid response time is paramount. Hybrids like Rutan's SpaceShipOne is using are better, but the technology is not as well developed. One last note: these solids are being made by the same people who do the P230 solids of Ariane 5. P230 has never failed on an Ariane launch.

Re:A step backward (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302057)

Ah yes, the Falcon I, the proven solution for cheap launches. Oh wait, there has *never* been a launch of the Falcon I.

They were supposed to launch early 2004, to bring TacSat I in orbit, then it became march, and for months now it has been awfully quiet at SpaceX.

So yeah, silly Europeans, trying to compete with vaporware.

Re:A step backward (-1, Flamebait)

zzabur (611866) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301979)

That was also said when Europe went ahead with the first version of extremely successful Ariane launcher family. US Space Shuttle was supposed to be the way of the future and to make space travel much more affordable than ever possible with expendable launchers. And of course, in late 1990's USAsians were about to put Arianespace out of business with X33/VentureStar -- again Europe was taking a giant step backward with their obselete expendable Ariane 5. Now USA is back in expendable launchers. But USAsian expendable launcers are much more advanced than anything those backward socialist Europeans could ever develop. Falcon is even going to be more affordable and reliable than anything ever designed in Europe could be. The Chinese and Russians can make that even cheaper, but as we all well know that would never be possible without stolen American technology. We also know that there is no point in EF-2000 as super-advanced F-35/JSF is so much superior and is going to shoot Europe out of the sky in 2015. And the Chinese shouldn't bother to develop their own spacecraft at all -- at most they can hope to do what the USAsians were able to do in 1960's; and for even that they need stolen USAsian technology. Silly Europeans. They should know that they can never match the mighty USA and its superior creativity, innovation and business sense. Instead, they should stop trying and focus on worshiping superior American innovation.

Re:A step backward (1)

savuporo (658486) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302497)

The solid fueled boosters of the shuttle make assembly much more difficult, and if a shuttle SRB were to accidentally go off while in the assembly building, it would probably kill hundreds of people. Or even worse, if one of the SRBs would malfunction during launch. The beast would be doing cartwheels all over KSC

Why do they even try? (-1, Flamebait)

Bender_ (179208) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301705)

Why do they even try? As I take it they can hardly catch up with the NASA, taken all the envirowhiners in europe. Why do they even waste money on it then?

Polar orbit? (5, Interesting)

Eric Smith (4379) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301730)

Is a polar orbit useful for anything other than military payloads? If they can get a 1.5 tonne payload into a polar orbit, how massive a payload can they get into a more non-polar LEO?

The Space Shuttle's delta wing design was based on a requirement from the military that it be capable of polar orbit. But they've never used it for that. If they'd just told the military to get lost, they could have used a better design. Sigh.

Re:Polar orbit? (4, Insightful)

Sven-Erik (177541) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301992)

Scientific satellites very often use polar orbits since it allows them to cover the whole of the earth surface.

And if the US military hadn't been involved with NASA and space development throughout its history, I doubt there would be much, if any, NASA.

Re:Polar orbit? (4, Informative)

charboy1 (468037) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302028)

Is a polar orbit useful for anything other than military payloads?

The ESA payload GOCE [esa.int] - Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer - for example would preferably fly in a polar orbit to gather gravity field data for the entire planet including the poles. Instead near-ground (i.e. airplane) measurements will need to fill in the data gaps at the poles. GOCE will fly in a dawn-dusk sun-synchronous [ku.edu.np] orbit, launched by Rockot [eurockot.com].

- charboy

Re:Polar orbit? (1)

-brazil- (111867) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302204)

Is a polar orbit useful for anything other than military payloads?


GPS and Galileo satellites, for example.

Re:Polar orbit? (3, Informative)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302288)

Yep, polar orbits are useful when you need global coverage. Think about one of those basketball-things and imagine in spinning like the Earth. Now use your finger as the satellite. Equatorial orbits will only cover a thin horizontal stripe of area (remember that LEO spacecraft don't have a huge footprint because they're not too high above hte planet.)

If you now move the satellite in a polar orbit, you'll see that the footprint will cover the entire basketball-earth in a series of vertical stripes.

Why is this useful? Consider remote data collection anywhere on the planet. If you're observing weather in Peru, or ice flows in the North Atlantic shipping channels, and want to convey that information to your university research center in the Bahamas, then you need global coverage for the transponders (especially for the ice flows - you can't determine where they're going to go.) Polar orbit spacecraft like NOAA7 and NOAA9 performed store-and-forward functions for jobs like these. I built sonar-buoy hardware for tracking conditions in the North Atlantic shipping lanes waaaay back. Here's a decent summary of some of the NOAA satellites that used polar LEO orbits. [fsu.edu]

What's the matter with you people? (5, Insightful)

marsu_k (701360) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301761)

It seems every time a story gets submitted here about ESA and new technologies they're trying to develop, most of the comments are negative. Let's take a look at the discussion so far: "Useless" by AC (+4, insightful), "Is it any good?" (+3, interesting), "Why not fuel free?" (+3, interesting), "A step backward" (+3, informative)... see a pattern here?

First of all, I really have a hard time believing that your random slashdotter would have sufficient knowledge to make any intelligent observations about the projects involved (posting as AC doesn't certainly help); furthermore, even if they would have (I've seen people claim working for NASA here), ESA press relases are (naturally) very thin on technical details. After all, you wouldn't want the whole world to know all of your research, right?

OK, so there have been failed ESA projects (NASA/Russians have also failed more than once if I'm not mistaken), Beagle 2 being the latest (however it is often forgotten here that Mars Express was the real purpose of the mission). So yeah, they might be wasting my tax Euros. I wish they'd waste more! IMHO more research put into space programs ultimately helps everybody, it certainly isn't "useless".

Re:What's the matter with you people? (1)

dddno (743682) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301824)

It seems every time a story gets submitted here about ESA and new technologies they're trying to develop, most of the comments are negative.

Sigh. I also get the impression that ESA-related news on ./ often enough are not actually worth posting. Like this one, IMHO. That makes it a cakewalk for numerous dolts to get cheap ego boosts by picking it apart.

VEGA is not news because, obviously, it is not really new. Nobody even claims so. Its a reconfiguration of existing technology.

Re:What's the matter with you people? (4, Interesting)

lxt (724570) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301829)

"OK, so there have been failed ESA projects (NASA/Russians have also failed more than once if I'm not mistaken), Beagle 2 being the latest (however it is often forgotten here that Mars Express was the real purpose of the mission). So yeah, they might be wasting my tax Euros. I wish they'd waste more!"

I agree with you completely - however, just to point out that I believe Beagle 2 was not funded by the ESA...of course, clearly some money from the ESA went towards Beagle 2 due to the cost of adpating Mars Express and payload launch costs, but I think the probe itself wasn't funded by ESA.

Which leaves even more money to spend on other exciting ESA projects - people may be complaining about how VEGA is "useless", but would they rather the ESA not invest money in space technology at all?

Re:What's the matter with you people? (2, Informative)

sander (7831) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301933)

ESA paid for about 50% of Beagle - but most of the satellite and its problems were indepepdent from ESA (that is, ESA didn't manage the project). The summary of its failure was approximately - too much on too small amount of money too fast.

As a result we now have a good idea on how cheaply we can make a planetary probe with present technology.

Re:What's the matter with you people? (5, Interesting)

VanillaCoke420 (662576) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301839)

Exactly. The reason why ESA is developing its own line of launchers is because they want to ensure independent European access to space - both for heavy loads (Ariane 5) and lighter loads (Vega). Perhaps ESA will also incorporate the EADS Phoenix shuttle in its launcher family, which would give us independent manned access to space as well. I believe that this is where we might be going, and I would gladly see more money go to European space research. The Aurora programme is especially intriguing.

Re-inventing the wheel (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9301998)

Yeah, that's really smart. You're re-inventing the wheel at a horrible cost.

Re:What's the matter with you people? (3, Interesting)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301859)

You forget many readers are from the US and they are becoming increasingly concerned that their technological lead in space is being eroded. I think the US really would prefer to have all other countries depend on it for satellite and space access.

Re:What's the matter with you people? (3, Interesting)

Spellbinder (615834) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301927)

what technological lead
maybe the moon landing?? (if it was real)
some missions to mars
the russians are the only ones flying humans to space
ESA has about 60 % of all comercial payload
i don't think there is a leader at all
except maybe in their head

Re:What's the matter with you people? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302011)

Then why has the ESA been issuing so many statements about trying to keep up with the US?

Re:What's the matter with you people? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302548)

To get funding? It's sad that the ESA is emulating NASA who IMHO is a proven failure.

Re:What's the matter with you people? (2, Informative)

HokieJP (741860) | more than 9 years ago | (#9303313)

Do you have a source for that 60% number? I did a search, and the most current numbers I found were for 2002, when ESA had 41% of commercial space launches (down from 50% in 2001).

Re:What's the matter with you people? (2, Insightful)

mrright (301778) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301892)

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to see that when falcon V costs 12 million USD and has a payload of 4200kg while vega costs 20 million USD and has a payload of 1500kg, the vega project does not make any sense.

And everybody on sci.space.tech or sci.space.policy will agree that using solid propellant for a civilian launcher is just asking for trouble.

21 rocket scientists [spacetoday.net] from brazil would definitely agree with this. Unfortunately they can't because they are all dead!

--

Re:What's the matter with you people? (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302159)

What are the launch statistics for the Falcon V and the company behind them?

Considering that ESA holds 60% of the commercial market at between $60m and $200m a launch, I really don't think they are worried about a budget $20m launcher costing more than a competitor's. This will only get them more of the market.

And whilst I won't diss the Brazilians, their technology is going to be a lot further behind than ESA who have been around a long time. It isn't like you can't have major accidents with liquid fuel either...

Re:What's the matter with you people? (1)

Maljin Jolt (746064) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302174)

In space operations, money is not at the first place. I prefer our technologic independence from USA in that matter.

Re:What's the matter with you people? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9301922)

Its just the typical americans problem with

NOT INVENTED HERE

They use this to compensate for the small size of their dicks

Re:What's the matter with you people? (1)

marsu_k (701360) | more than 9 years ago | (#9301947)

Teeheehee, I thought it was the other way around? "We cannot achieve so much with such small penis, but you American wow, penis so big, so big penis!"

Re:What's the matter with you people? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9301973)

Shut your cum-slurping cockhole, eurofag.

Re:What's the matter with you people? (1)

Hittite Creosote (535397) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302161)

Well, in terms of commercial viability, there were reports back in 2000 such as this one [space.com] which stated that France declined to participate in Vega because of concerns about its commercial viability (although they did fund the P80 advanced solid propulsion stage).

Mirror, just in case (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9301787)

Here [no-ip.com]'s a mirror, just in case.

Here is a plan for a low-cost reuseable launcher. (2, Interesting)

HenrikOxUK (776979) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302093)

Make a modern space-plane like the shuttle, and strap it to the back of a modified large commercial jet-aircraft like a 747, as seen here [nasa.gov]. Then use the concept used by Scaled Composits [scaled.com] for SpaceShipOne, to bring the space plane up to a high altitude and release it there. It then continues into orbit using rocket power.

The trick is that because the shuttle is attached to the TOP of the 747, and not underneath, you have to do a roll and fly upside down for a bit when releasing the shuttle. But that's no problem. Planes can do that; even 747s :)

Re:Here is a plan for a low-cost reuseable launche (1)

wulfhound (614369) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302380)

Won't work. SpaceShipOne is able to be small enough to be carried by an airliner because it doesn't go all that high - so it needs little fuel, and almost no reentry shielding. Manned truly orbital vehicles need to be much more heavily constructed - the 35,000ft in altitude and 600mph in velocity you gain by piggy-backing your orbital vehicle on a 747 is not a very significant percentage of the journey in to orbit, and whilst a 747 can indeed carry a shuttle, it would not be able to carry the drop tank & boosters as well.

That said, for very small (a few kilos) unmanned satellites, the US military has used this approach courtesy of the B-52 and the Pegasus rocket.

been done... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302913)

For all it's worth, it's been done here [imdb.com] and here [nasa.gov].

My first thought was Chevy Vega (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9302114)

I used to have one, and I would have *loved* to launch it into orbit.

Wow this is an interesting rocket, but we all need (1)

thbigr (514105) | more than 9 years ago | (#9302207)

A 50-100 ton lifter. The Russians where building one just before the collapse. To bad. We could have built something cool in orbit.
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