DIRECT v2.0

I just thought I’d quickly mention that the team behind DIRECT has just released a much improved revision. To put it mildly, I’m not much of a fan of shuttle derived launch vehicles, but of all the alternatives out there (including and Ares V and especially Ares I), I think that this approach makes the most sense. I was tangentially involved with the effort, and I think this proposal is a lot more solid than the previous one. The big difference is that they ditched the unproven RS-68 upgrades and the tank stretch, and made up for it on the “Heavy” version by using a 2x J-2X configuration on the upper stage.

I still think that using a propellant depot and orbital propellant transfer to disaggregate the launch portion of the transportation architecture from the in-space portion of the architecture. However, if NASA really must insist on keeping as many people in Florida, Texas, Utah, etc busy as possible, this at least doesn’t “suck all the air out of the room”. It leaves enough budget flexibility to deal with setbacks as they happen, while having more money available for funding projects that are high-risk/high-return like propellant transfer, Centennial Challenges, COTS, etc.

Quite frankly the only thing going against it as far as I can see is that it isn’t Scotty Horowitz’s idea.

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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11 Responses to DIRECT v2.0

  1. Ferris Valyn says:

    Quite frankly the only thing going against it as far as I can see is that it isn’t Scotty Horowitz’s idea.

    Which means it prolly won’t happen – at least under this administration

    BTW, Jon, you all set for Dallas?

  2. Christine says:

    Or we could lose the solids and all the support infrastructure involved to support them, and go with Atlas V Phase 3B.

  3. kert says:

    However, if NASA really must insist on keeping as many people in Florida, Texas, Utah, etc busy as possible,
    The one thing that nobody has still satisfactorily explained is, why cant those people be busy doing something more useful, like build the aforementioned orbital fuel staging post instead ?

    We had a looong list of stuff here a while ago which was considered necessary for spacefaring society, its not like those people wouldnt have tons of stuff to work on.

  4. tankmodeler says:

    >>why cant those people be busy doing something more useful, like build the aforementioned orbital fuel staging post instead ?

    I think this is fall-out from the assertions that refueling and assembly in space are too unsafe for a manned program. NASA set that as one of the ground rules in the beginning and it is unlikely that they will change from this unless dragged kicking and screaming by some other part of the government. _That_ isn’t going to happen because there’s no-one in the government who knows enough about this to convince the technically unsophisticated congress committees that NASA is doing it wrong. Congress can see that NASA is not meeting schedules and can see that other budgets are being swallowed by Ares/Orion, but Congress, as an organisation, really doesn’t have the depth of scientific knowledge to refute statements by NASA. Even if specific members bring out a horde of rocket scientists saying that NSASA is wrong, the dynamic of politics makles it extremely unlikely that they can force NASA to change a technical decision like this. Especially one based on safety.

    Congress can cut and redirect budgets and they could force NASA to go with Direct Mk II because it still meets NASA’s stated architecture. Changing the whole shootin’ match isn’t likely to be on, no matter how bad the money situation gets. Congress will just shut it down if NASA, internally, decides to stick to it’s guns (or boosters, in this case).

    NASA will stick to the “assembly/refueling in space is dangerous” line primarily because if you allow either or, especially, both of these concepts then the entire Ares booster development effort is unneeded and then all those NASA jobs evaporate because you will just ramp up the exisiting Delta or Atlas lines. The Orion development will shift a lot, but remain. Maintaining NASA jobs it the only reason for this rigidity.

    NASA is sticking to its boosters primarily because they are incapable of admitting, on an organisational level, that they didn’t think of this first. I dare say individuals inside NASA like the Direct approach a lot, but the higher ups have a lot of ego invested in this. Lets face it how would this look to the originators of the sooner, safer guys if someone else comes up with a concept that’s soonerer and saferer?

    Direct shows up the Ares I & V archictecture as bloated and massively inefficient. In comparison with Direct, NASA’s effort becomes more evidently the porkbarrel that it is. It’s embarassing for them and thus, will never be accepted by the current mob. I suspect if they were forced to do Direct, they’d do such a hash job of it that it would soon become worse than Ares and then the finger pointing would start all over again.

    Paul, the cynic…

  5. tankmodeler says:

    Go over to NASA spaceflight.com and take a look at the latest Orion design, the 606. There’s not much left of the SM, that’s for sure, yet the use of covers as opposed tot he integral skin for the SM would seem to increase mass, not reduce it?

    The greatly reduced interior volume of the SM makes me wonder just how long you could stay in such a craft for the “exploration” part of the later missions?

  6. Habitat Hermit says:

    Thanks for the heads-up, Direct v2 sure looks sweet. I think orbital refueling would fit perfectly as an additional capability boost after development and regular launching of both the Jupiter 120 and Jupiter 232 – best of all worlds so to speak.

    I’m hoping some of the following possibilities could make Direct v2 happen:
    1. Nasa realizes that they’ll likely never get back to the moon (or perhaps even the ISS since COTS is only a few years away) with their current plans.
    2. Congress realizes just how badly Nasa is butchering the VSE (which had bipartisan support and probably still does) and that space-pork opportunities will be lost in the long term (Florida, Texas, Utah etc. might wake up).
    3. Nasa thinks possiblity number 2 will happen because of all the noise generated on the net, in the press, writing your Representatives, lobbying Congress etc.

    Possibilities 2 and 3 seems the most likely among these but if nothing of this sort happens I guess the VSE will simply be cancelled.

  7. Gaetano Marano says:

    .

    about “Direct 2.0” … I’ve posted a comment in your groups.google.sci.space.policy thread:

    http://groups.google.com/group/sci.space.policy/browse_thread/thread/11a40f02f4119416/67486e91754ed90e#67486e91754ed90e

    about the latest Orion design … the tower-LAS looks everyday bigger (then, they need o shift to a lighter underside-LAS) while the “butterfly” solar panels seem beutiful but risky… then, I suggest a “daisy” shaped design (+ side panles and extra redundancy) http://www.gaetanomarano.it/articles/027solarpanels.html

    .

  8. Anonymous says:

    NASA set that as one of the ground rules in the beginning and it is unlikely that they will change from this unless dragged kicking and screaming by some other part of the government.

    What NASA fails to understand is that they won’t be dragged kicking and screaming, they’ll just have their program cancelled outright in the next budget crunch. Permanently cancelled.

    They were an inch away from being snuffed out in the 90’s by Clinton, and clearly they have learnt nothing in the intervening years.

  9. meiza says:

    The main direct guy Kraisee is furiously opposing any orbital refueling attempts.

    http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=4047

  10. Gaetano Marano says:

    .

    meiza said… “main direct guy Kraisee is furiously opposing any orbital refueling attempts”

    because an orbital fuel depot (filled with dozens LOW COST launches from Russia, China, India, COTS, etc.) should “KILL” (nearly) ALL big (and expensive) rockets’ projects like [sarcasm]”””HIS”””[/sarcasm] (August 2006) “Direct Launcher”, the NASA AresV and other concepts like my (April 2006) SLV, my (May 2006) FAST-SLV, etc.

    nobody likes the orbital refuel in the space industry since the “fuel” is over 80% of the mass of a mission, so, launching the “fuel” with low cost rockets could CUT over 80% of the payload launched with expensive rockets (and 80% of their business… 🙂

    however, I’m sure that (soon) many privates and/or emerging space countries will build and fill some orbital fuel depots, so, all space agencies will have no excuses to further ignore the refuel technology

    .

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