The asteroid mission mentioned earlier was officially part of the President’s budget announced yesterday. In conjunction with the formalization, NASA released a video of the concept:
I have trouble seeing how the spacecraft will match rates with the asteroid for all but the slowest rotations, and hope that the problem is my imagination and not some ticking technical time bomb for the mission.
The $100M seed money for the asteroid-gather-astronaut-visit mission got an endorsement from Senator Bill Nelson. In the remarks, he said that the astronauts would visit the captured asteroid in 2021, which would align with the first crewed mission of SLS. This mission was previously targeting a lunar orbit mission. The timeline is pretty short, considering that the retrieval spacecraft still needs to be built, launched fly to and capture the asteroid. Wrestling it into a stable Cislunar location doesn’t happen overnight either. They are most likely limited to asteroids already discovered, because they need one that doesn’t move very fast relative to Earth. Such an asteroid has a long synodic period, meaning that the times between Earth passages can be measured in tens of years.
Methinks NASA and their government supporters may be feeling a wee bit of pressure to ratchet up the ‘boldness’ level given new players in town. I think that’s a good thing.
Update: White House confirms.
Looks like the plan is to restart stage 1 and do some slowdown maneuvers into the ocean starting with some of the very first flights. This profile would get more aggressive as time goes on, leading to a first stage flyback potentially by 2014 if all goes well.
…but then I thought “A bridge too far?” NASA’s 2014 budget request includes $100M in seed money to move a 7m diameter asteroid to Cislunar space for a later visit by a manned craft.
Successful splashdown off the coast of California today.
Well, we’ve heard about the loss of college assistance for soldiers, and the cutting of support programs for families who lost loved ones in Afghanistan or Iraq. NASA is cutting travel pretty heavily, and has its eye on educational outreach as well. There’s a problem with lots of people receiving Federal money. What you consider as a critical program is someone else’s pork, and vice versa. Should NASA shut down a mission in its prime? Should the military delay other aircraft carrier refuelings or weapons systems? Yes, everyone believes there is bloat, but no one believes the program they work on or rely on is part of that bloat. Cuts must be made, and there’s no such thing as a victimless cut.
I’m glad I’m not in charge.
SpaceX’s Dragon Capsule won’t return from the ISS until Tuesday, due to predicted bad weather at the landing site on Monday.
Usually, robots that travel beyond Mars (sometimes, even robots that land on Mars) bring a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator as their primary power source. These power sources not only provide electricity but critical heat as well. In the case of Curiosity, the waste heat from the generator cuts overall electricity usage by significant amounts. Production of Plutonium, even non-bomb-grade Pu238, is always a sticky situation, but Congress went out of their way to make things more difficult over the last few years. Production has started again, though at a relatively slow rate, only fast enough to produce enough plutonium for a mission every five years or so. Hopefully, things can ramp up over time.
Looks like a meteor lit up the skies around the East Coast last night. Excellent timing, considering the Congressional hearings on planetary defense this week. Reminds me of a time when there was a Congressional hearing on funding for space weather, and a solar flare put the sun on the front page of the Washington Post.
In an earlier article (also listed in The Space Review), I did some data mining from JPL’s NEO website and found what I thought were some good candidate missions to asteroids before such activity became cool. Well, for those with less time on their hands, there’s a trajectory browser online from Ames Research Center that does my analysis and more. The tool plots missions based on their launch date, mission length, and required delta-v, and it even animates any of those missions you click on. So far, it looks like part of my analysis holds, because two of the asteroids I mentioned in the paper (2000 SG344 and 1991 VG[though the date that looked best to me for a flight to "VG" was in 2068, outside the trajectory browser's range, and outside the reasonable expectation of predicting such things]) are still showing up though with different delta-v values and some different dates than I calculated. As I described in the paper, there’s a definite trade off between mission length and required amount of delta-v, with all the low delta-v missions hanging around in the ~1 year mission length category.
Update: Looking at the sprint missions of 90 days or less, I notice a common theme of very consistent Earth departure delta-vs (3.21-3.38 km/sec) and the bigger differences happening post injection (2.6-4.66km/sec). With a short travel out time, that opens the possibilities of using the upper stage for all or part of the asteroid arrival delta-v.