Saturday, 20 August 2011

Space Shuttle To The Moon - What NASA Has Missed and What Should Be Done When Space Shuttle Still Operational

When I had the first look at the space shuttle, it was like everything from fiction movie soon become a reality for future exploration in outer space. It has the technology and appearance that become symbolic of space age. I always want to see it, one day flying to outer space, or at least become part of human transportation to the moon.
            Unfortunately, it’s not happening. When I saw the every last day of each space shuttle, even though knowing the fact that I’m Malaysian, this is the first time in my own word I will shed in tears, because that the space shuttle will end its service. Maybe because I was naturally Space Exploration freak and the fact that I was born the same year as the first launch of the space shuttle itself, loosing the shuttle means loosing the most Iconic symbol and the most technological advancements of space explorations as well.
            It’s like to see the dream shattered by means that the shuttles were either too expensive or too complex to be operated. When I see the proposed rocket for moon exploration, I’m not saying it’s not good, but it’s like going back to the 1970 era of space exploration with small spacecraft, few astronauts and lots of space trash in space. Strangely for NASA, 40 years after the first successful moon spacewalk, while have huge resources, advancements in technology and claim to have the most talented individual and manpower on earth, it’s like moving step backward, unable to determine best methods to gain full potential of this remarkable vessel!
            In order to live the spirits for future space exploration, internationally, I’m presenting this thesis in terms of key modification, method or flight plan and long term goal at my very best knowledge, that can be achieved and the reason why this remarkable vessel were still has huge potential for future space exploration. Although if it was too late, I was called to present this thesis; at least give a rough idea on how this modification the spacecraft and future prospects that can be achieved.
            I hope that with this presentation; at least provide better idea and also to speed up the time needed for future moon space exploration. I'm also hope that this presentation can give 2nd chances to space shuttle to prove its worthiness as an important vessel for moon exploration. If somebody else not do this, then who else will. I hope that this presentation will fulfill even older and younger generation across the globe, and also become a boost for everyone, especially space exploration lover looking forward for future exploration in space, to pay their attention on this matter and I end with thank you.  

Shaik Fazli
Space Shuttle fan

By Shaik Fazli

The idea is to construct or to modify 1 or 2, similar design but a few modifications of this remarkable vehicle to use for moon exploration. The benefit for this purpose, without any doubt, is ENORMOUS. This is because unlike year 1970, 4 vital components were not yet exist, until 1990-2010. The 4 vital components are the ISS, the space shuttle itself, the Energia rocket booster and Apollo Spacecrafts flight plan that become the foundation flight plan for mission to moon. Also, during the shuttle operational, much technological advancement have been achieved to make space exploration safest as possible. As from now on, we will refer this new version as New Space Shuttle (NSS).

1.         Practical method if it means for moon exploration.
2.         Minimum upgrades to selected fleet of space shuttle, in this case space shuttle Endeavour (because the Endeavour have 10 more remaining years), the youngest of the five shuttles (rather than spend more money/resources & time for building spacecraft that still in design concept).
3.         Space shuttle itself is bigger than Apollo Moon Lander that land on the moon dated back in 1970.
4.         If it is used in conjunction with International Space Station (ISS), the departure and arrival of new space shuttle (or NSS) will be within ISS and the moon, which therefore increase the strength of material use in the shuttle spacecraft. Since the shuttle were not enter earth atmosphere, the space shuttle no longer subject to earth gravitational effect, which therefore increase its lifespan.
5.         Need to apply thermal heat under the spacecraft only once, as the mission is between the ISS and the moon (moon have no air or atmosphere to ‘burn’ the thermal heat shield currently use for shuttle entry to earth).
6.         No need big tank, thermal heat shield & expensive solid rocket booster as from now on it will only be use between ISS and the moon, except during the only launch from earth. From here it can use its own power (the shuttle main engine + 2 external boosters) to launch to the moon.
1.         Need airfield to land on moon. So for some while, the space shuttle can orbit the moon (Using flight pattern of the Apollo Moon Spacecraft).
2.         Need to refurbish (selected number only).

The key component for refurbish the space shuttle is:
·         2 external booster
·         Redesign cargo bay / wing structure
·         Redesign and increase fuel for side, down and up thruster
·         Avionics package
·         Permanent NSS docking point with ISS
·         Change position for NSS and regular shuttle artificial robot arm position
·         Arrestor hook
·         Make compartments to ease fuel transfer
·         And perhaps, the landing gear upgrade, if necessary.

2 External Boosters
As you can see from picture above (sorry for poor quality of the drawings, but just want to show the extent of the upgrade), the blue dot shows the original line of the cargo bay, and the red line is the extension upgrade of the space shuttle. Two external boosters will be attached together with the shuttle. The arrangement or the installation process will be much like the 'Armageddon' film, but shorter version, because we want to retain the cargo bay.

Figure 2
Redesign Cargo bay / Wing Structure to Increase Fuel
In this case you'll have 2 options. In order to retain the wing structure, you'll need to reduce the cargo bay size to install new fuel tank for main engine + 2 external boosters, in addition to the existing tank (Figure 2, top). Or if you want to retain the cargo bay size, you can redesign the wing structure of the space shuttle (Figure 2, below). Remember, this NSS no longer needed to enter earth soil, but will dock and orbit with the ISS.

 Picture impression shows NSS with International Space Station (ISS)

Make Compartments to Ease Fuel Transfer
What I mean from this title is that you cannot do fuel transfer simply by use piping method, between ISS and NSS at space because, of course for safety reason. I believe that liquid hydrogen, or oxygen were kept in freezing temperature and of course you cannot do fuel transfer when the temperature is +300 degree in space because there is no atmosphere / ozone layer to cover the sunlight! It’s like trying to expose you to explosion waiting to come! However what can be done the best is to make modification so that the fuel tank becomes modular, means that there will be compartments to ease fuel tank to move inside and outside the engine compartments of the space shuttle. This can also be applied to fuel tank of the thrusters as well. That right, simply changes the whole tank in space, rather than use piping to make fuel transfer! You cannot do ‘Armageddon film’ style fuel transfer in real situation. I don’t its difficult to astronaut to conduct changes to fuel tank because there is no weight in space. Lastly, you need some kind of screw connection to secure the connection and valve to allow flow of the fuel tank.

Figure 3
Redesign and increase fuel tank For Side, Up and Down Thruster
In order to maintain sufficient amount of energy needed for space shuttle maneuverability, increase size of fuel tank for this thruster is necessary, since the distance between moon and the earth is very high. Also, with this upgrade enable the shuttle to evade foreign object from hit the NSS during its journey to the moon. Redesign the thruster (in this case is the thruster tank) is by means to ease the astronaut to change the fuel tank when the tank is empty, and also because the fact that most of the time the NSS is docking at the ISS.
Avionics Package
Avionics upgrade is necessary, since flight to the moon is very different with earth orbiting flight. In addition, a special sensor / debris warning system to detect incoming debris, leftover rocket parts or even satellite were deemed important to enable astronaut to conduct evasive maneuver from this dangerous object, especially during flight (same concept from Armageddon movie). Lastly, you might think of the flight training for the NSS, since the NSS will be left with ISS. To complement this, you'll need the earth base simulator for NSS training.

Permanent Docking Point
Because the NSS will spend most of its time at ISS, it is important to accommodate the NSS permanent docking point. This will ease the astronaut to move from ISS to NSS. Picture above shows the docking point currently used at the space shuttle just on the left, near the cockpit. The exact design for NSS is similar with this one, but the main difference is that this docking point is to be permanently installed and it also to become part of the NSS.

Change Position for NSS and Regular Shuttle Artificial Robot Arm 
I’m almost missing this point. The reason for changing position of the shuttle (sorry, now I change to Venture Star) and NSS artificial robotic arm is because to avoid obstacles when both shuttles dock together with the ISS. When both shuttles dock together, it seems that the lower module of ISS might block the transfer. So, the reposition of the artificial robotic arm is necessary.

Arrestor hook
To enable the space shuttle to landing on a very short runway when the moon base finally can be realized, arrestor hook is needed. The need for arrestor hook seems important because of several factors. The most important is because the moon base at the beginning stage was small and had limited / short runway for landing and also take off.

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