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posted by janrinok on Wednesday August 15 2018, @09:13PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the to-infinity-and-beyond dept.

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy eyed by Europe/Japan

According to RussianSpaceWeb, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket is under serious consideration for launches of major European and Japanese payloads associated with the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (formerly the Deep Space Gateway).

[...] The first payload considering Falcon Heavy for launch services is the Japanese Space Agency's (JAXA) HTV-X, and upgraded version of a spacecraft the country developed to assist in resupplying the International Space Station (ISS). HTV-X is primarily being designed with an ISS-resupply role still at the forefront, but RussianSpaceWeb recently reported that JAXA is seriously considering the development of a variant of the robotic spacecraft dedicated to resupplying the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOPG; and I truly wish I were joking about both the name and acronym).

[...] Regardless of the LOPG's existential merits, a lot of energy (and money) is currently being funneled into planning and initial hardware development for the lunar station's various modular segments. JAXA is currently analyzing ways to resupply LOPG and its crew complement with its HTV-X cargo spacecraft, currently targeting its first annual ISS resupply mission by the end of 2021. While JAXA will use its own domestic H-III rocket to launch HTV-X to the ISS, that rocket simply is not powerful enough to place a minimum of ~10,000 kg (22,000 lb) on a trans-lunar insertion (TLI) trajectory. As such, JAXA is examining SpaceX's Falcon Heavy as a prime (and affordable) option: by recovering both side boosters on SpaceX's drone ships and sacrificing the rocket's center core, a 2/3rds-reusable Falcon Heavy should be able to send as much as 20,000 kg to TLI (lunar orbit), according to comments made by CEO Elon Musk.

That impressive performance would also be needed for another LOPG payload, this time for ESA's 5-6 ton European System Providing Refueling Infrastructure and Telecommunications (ESPRIT) lunar station module. That component is unlikely to reach launch readiness before 2024, but ESA is already considering Falcon Heavy (over its own Ariane 6 rocket) in order to save some of the module's propellant. Weighing 6 metric tons at most, Falcon Heavy could most likely launch ESPRIT while still recovering all three of its booster stages.

Previously: NASA's Chief of Human Spaceflight Rules Out Use of Falcon Heavy for Lunar Station

Related: NASA and International Partners Planning Orbital Lunar Outpost
Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway
This Week in Space Pessimism: SLS, Mars, and Lunar Gateway


Original Submission

Related Stories

NASA and International Partners Planning Orbital Lunar Outpost 10 comments

According to Popular Mechanics, the Russians might finally reach the Moon... aboard an American-made Orion spacecraft en route to an internationally built and operated orbital lunar outpost:

During the past couple of years, American, Russian, European, Japanese, and Canadian officials quietly discussed a possible joint human space flight program after the retirement of the ISS. Although these five space agencies might not be on the same page as far as whether to go to the moon first or head straight to Mars, they're getting closer to an agreement that a human outpost in lunar orbit would be the necessary first step either way.

During the latest round of negotiations in Houston last month, the ISS partners narrowed down the list of potential modules that would comprise their periodically visited habitat. According to the provisional plan, four key pieces made the cut for the first phase of the assembly, which is penciled in to take place from 2023 to 2028 in lunar orbit: The spartan outpost will include the U.S.-European space tug, a Canadian robot arm, a pair of habitation modules from Europe and Japan, and an airlock module from Russia. This hardware would hitchhike on NASA's giant SLS rocket, along with the Orion crew vehicle at the top of each booster.


Original Submission

Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway 8 comments

Deep Space Gateway (DSG) is a planned space station in lunar orbit. The U.S. and Russia signed an agreement last year to work on the station's development. Now Russia has created an engineering department inside the RKK Energia space corporation in order to plan the nation's lunar exploration, including a possible manned landing:

Officially, Moscow has been on a path to put a human on the Moon since 2013, when President Putin approved a general direction for human space flight in the coming decade. The program had been stalling for several years due to falling prices for oil, the main source of revenue for the Russian budget. Last year, however, the Russian lunar exploration effort was given a new impetus when the Kremlin made a strategic decision to cooperate with NASA on the construction of a habitable outpost in the orbit around the Moon, known as Deep Space Gateway, DSG.

Although the US saw the primary goal of the DSG as a springboard for missions to Mars, NASA's international partners, including Russia, have been pushing the idea of exploring the Moon first. On the Russian side, RKK Energia led key engineering studies into the design of the DSG and participated in negotiations with NASA on sharing responsibilities for the project.

To coordinate various technical aspects of lunar exploration, the head of RKK Energia Vladimir Solntsev signed an order late last year to form Center No. 23Ts, which would report directly to him. According to a document seen by Ars Technica, the group will be responsible for developing long-term plans for human missions to the vicinity of the Moon and to its surface, as well as for implementing proposals for international cooperation in lunar missions. This is a clear signal that NASA might soon have a new liaison in Russia for all things related to the DSG. The same group will also take care of all the relevant domestic interactions between RKK Energia and its subcontractors.

Unlike the ISS, the DSG should not require any orbital boost burns and could reach any altitude above the Moon using ion thrusters.

Here are two op-eds from last year about the Deep Space Gateway:

Terry Virts: The Deep Space Gateway would shackle human exploration, not enable it

John Thornton: The Deep Space Gateway as a cislunar port

Related articles:


Original Submission

NASA's Chief of Human Spaceflight Rules Out Use of Falcon Heavy for Lunar Station 43 comments

NASA chief explains why agency won't buy a bunch of Falcon Heavy rockets

Since the launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket in February, NASA has faced some uncomfortable questions about the affordability of its own Space Launch System rocket. By some estimates, NASA could afford 17 to 27 Falcon Heavy launches a year for what it is paying annually to develop the SLS rocket, which won't fly before 2020. Even President Trump has mused about the high costs of NASA's rocket. On Monday, during a committee meeting of NASA's Advisory Council, former Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale raised this issue. Following a presentation by Bill Gerstenmaier, chief of human spaceflight for NASA, Hale asked whether the space agency wouldn't be better off going with the cheaper commercial rocket.

[...] In response, Gerstenmaier pointed Hale and other members of the advisory committee—composed of external aerospace experts who provide non-binding advice to the space agency—to a chart he had shown earlier in the presentation. This chart showed the payload capacity of the Space Launch System in various configurations in terms of mass sent to the Moon. "It's a lot smaller than any of those," Gerstenmaier said, referring to the Falcon Heavy's payload capacity to TLI, or "trans-lunar injection," which effectively means the amount of mass that can be broken out of low-Earth orbit and sent into a lunar trajectory. In the chart, the SLS Block 1 rocket has a TLI capacity of 26 metric tons. (The chart also contains the more advanced Block 2 version of the SLS, with a capacity of 45 tons. However, this rocket is at least a decade away, and it will require billions of dollars more to design and develop.)

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy TLI capacity is unknown, but estimated to be somewhere between 18 and 22 tons (between the known payloads of 16.8 tons to Mars and 26.7 tons to geostationary orbit).

Does the SLS need to launch more than 18 tons to TLI? No. All of the currently planned components of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (formerly the Deep Space Gateway) have a mass of 10 tons or less due to flying alongside a crewed Orion capsule rather than by themselves. Only by 2027's Exploration Mission 6 would NASA launch more massive payloads, by which time SpaceX's BFR could take 150 tons to TLI or even Mars when using in-orbit refueling.

Related: NASA Eyeing Mini Space Station in Lunar Orbit as Stepping Stone to Mars
NASA and Roscosmos Sign Joint Statement on the Development of a Lunar Space Station
President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1
Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway
After the Falcon Heavy Launch, Time to Defund the Space Launch System?
President Trump Praises Falcon Heavy, Diminishes NASA's SLS Effort


Original Submission

This Week in Space Pessimism: SLS, Mars, and Lunar Gateway 25 comments

NASA's Space Launch System: Rocketing Towards Cancellation?

The National Space Society recently held a conference in Los Angeles, and SLS was apparently a hot topic at the gathering. Over the course of four days of mingling with space industry muckety-mucks, Politico Space reports it heard multiple rumblings that bode ill for the Space Launch System money-pot.

For one thing, SLS has been marketed as key to NASA's efforts to eventually put astronauts on Mars. But as Politico reports, attendees at the conference expressed doubts as to "the wisdom or efficacy of a crewed mission to Mars in the next decade." California Republican and House space subcommittee member Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, for one, criticized the technology as too immature to support a manned Mars mission, saying "I think all this talk about going to Mars has been premature," and warning that NASA won't actually be ready to conduct a manned Mars mission before "20 years from now, maybe more."

Astronaut Chris Hadfield says the rockets from NASA, SpaceX, and Blue Origin won't take people to Mars

[Chris] Hadfield, who's now retired, shares his expertise about rockets, spaceships, spacewalking, and Mars exploration in a new web course on the online platform MasterClass. To follow up on those lessons, we asked Hadfield what he thinks about the future rocket ships of three major players in the new space race: NASA's Space Launch System, SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket, and Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket.

[...] "Personally, I don't think any of those three rockets is taking people to Mars," Hadfield told Business Insider. " I don't think those are a practical way to send people to Mars because they're dangerous and it takes too long."

Response to Hadfield's remarks: SpaceX BFR can be used for massive space development, orbital, lunar and Mars colonization

White House Budget Request Would Move Launches from SLS to Commercial Providers 49 comments

NASA budget proposal targets SLS (Space Launch System)

The White House's fiscal year 2020 budget request for NASA proposes to delay work on an upgraded version of the Space Launch System and would transfer some of that vehicle's payloads to other rockets.

The proposal, released by the Office of Management and Budget March 11, offers a total of $21 billion for the space agency, a decrease of $500 million over what Congress appropriated in the final fiscal year 2019 spending bill signed into law Feb. 15.

A major element of the proposal is to defer work on the Block 1B version of the SLS, which would increase the rocket's performance by replacing its existing Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage with the more powerful Exploration Upper Stage. The budget "instead focuses the program on the completion of the initial version of the SLS and supporting a reliable SLS and Orion annual flight cadence," the OMB budget stated. The first SLS/Orion mission, without a crew, is now planned for the "early 2020s," according to the budget, an apparent slip from the planned 2020 launch of Exploration Mission 1.

NASA had previously planned to use the Block 1B version of SLS to launch elements of its lunar Gateway, using a "co-manifesting" capability enabled by the rocket's greater performance. Instead, according to the budget document, those components will be launched on "competitively procured vehicles, complementing crew transport flights on the SLS and Orion."

[...] The budget proposal would also remove one non-exploration payload from the SLS manifest. The proposal offers $600 million for the Europa Clipper mission, enabling a launch in 2023. However, NASA would instead seek to launch the mission on a commercial launch vehicle rather than SLS, a move it claims "would save over $700 million, allowing multiple new activities to be funded across the Agency." The fiscal year 2019 budget request also proposed a commercial launch of Europa Clipper, but Congress placed into law in the final funding bill the requirement to use SLS for that mission.

Are we nearing a good timeline?

Related: After the Falcon Heavy Launch, Time to Defund the Space Launch System?
House Spending Bill Offers NASA More Money Than the Agency or Administration Wanted
NASA Administrator Ponders the Fate of SLS in Interview
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Could Launch Japanese and European Payloads to Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway
Northrop Grumman Exec Warns of Coming "Affordability" in the Space Launch System's Future
Impact of the Midterm Elections May be Felt at NASA
When Space Science Becomes a Political Liability


Original Submission

SpaceX Picks Up New Customers for the Falcon Heavy 18 comments

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket seems to be a hit with satellite companies

When the Falcon Heavy rocket launched for the first time in February, some critics of the company wondered what exactly the rocket's purpose was. After all, the company's Falcon 9 rocket had become powerful enough that it could satisfy the needs of most commercial customers. One such critic even told me, "The Falcon Heavy is just a vanity project for Elon Musk."

[...] Last week, the Swedish satellite company Ovzon signed a deal for a Falcon Heavy launch as early as late 2020 for a geostationary satellite mission. And just on Thursday, ViaSat announced that it, too, had chosen the Falcon Heavy to launch one of its future ViaSat-3 satellite missions in the 2020 to 2022 timeframe.

[...] In explaining their rocket choice, both Ovzon and ViaSat cited the ability of the Falcon Heavy to deliver heavy payloads "direct"—or almost directly—to geostationary orbit, an altitude nearly 36,000km above the Earth's surface. Typically, rockets launching payloads bound for geostationary orbit drop their satellites into a "transfer" orbit, from which the satellite itself must spend time and propellant to reach the higher orbit. (More on these orbits can be found here).

[...] The demonstration flight of the Falcon Heavy apparently convinced not only the military of the rocket's direct-to-geo capability but satellite fleet operators as well. The Falcon Heavy rocket now seems nicely positioned to offer satellite companies relatively low-cost access to orbits they desire, with a minimum of time spent getting there in space.

See also: SpaceX heading to two to four Falcon Heavy paid launches per year

Related: How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently
Falcon Heavy Maiden Launch Successful (Mostly)
SpaceX Confirms it Lost the Center Core of the Falcon Heavy
After the Falcon Heavy Launch, Time to Defund the Space Launch System?
NASA's Chief of Human Spaceflight Rules Out Use of Falcon Heavy for Lunar Station
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Could Launch Japanese and European Payloads to Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway


Original Submission

Head of Russian Space Agency Roscosmos Wavers on Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway 33 comments

Russia throws doubt on joint lunar space station with U.S.: RIA

Moscow may abandon a project to build a space station in lunar orbit in partnership with U.S. space agency NASA because it does not want a "second fiddle role," a Russian official said on Saturday.

[...] [The] head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, said Russia might exit the joint program and instead propose its own lunar orbit space station project.

[...] A spokesman for Roscosmos said later that Russia had no immediate plans to leave the project. "Russia has not refused to take part in the project of the lunar orbit station with the USA," Vladimir Ustimenko was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency.

FLOP-G?

Also at ABC (Associated Press).

Previously:

Related:


Original Submission

Canada Will Contribute to the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway 19 comments

Gateway Moon station: Canada joins Nasa space project

Canada will contribute US$1.4bn to a proposed Nasa space station that will orbit the Moon and act as a base to land astronauts on its surface.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the step would "push the boundaries of innovation".

The space station, called Gateway, is a key element in Nasa's plan to return to the Moon with humans in the 2020s.

As part of the 24-year commitment, Canada will build a next-generation robotic arm for the new lunar outpost.

"Canada is going to the Moon," Mr Trudeau told a news conference at Canadian Space Agency's headquarters near Montreal, according to AFP.

*Canada is going near the Moon.

Also at CBC and Popular Mechanics.

Previously: Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway
China Will Focus on a Lunar Surface Station Rather than a Lunar Orbiting Station
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Could Launch Japanese and European Payloads to Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway
Head of Russian Space Agency Roscosmos Wavers on Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway
Is the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway the Right Way to the Moon?

Related: Future of U.S.-Russian Space Cooperation in Doubt
ESA Plans to Send Mining Equipment to the Moon


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Wednesday August 15 2018, @09:21PM (11 children)

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 15 2018, @09:21PM (#721922) Homepage Journal

    Charged particles from the Sun mostly, also the full energy of Cosmic Rays. (The Cosmic Rays that reach the ground are the products of scattering and so have lower energies than the original particles.)

    The Apollo astronauts could see the insides of their eyes sparkling when they closed them, then went on to develop cataracts out of proportion to the general population.

    Surely they have _some_ plan for the radiation. Why is it never mentioned in the press?

    --
    Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
    • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Wednesday August 15 2018, @09:31PM (3 children)

      by RS3 (6367) on Wednesday August 15 2018, @09:31PM (#721928)

      Using CRISPR / genetic engineering they're breeding radiation-hardened humans. At least that's the official statement.

      (I'm kidding for those who are confused... but you never know- some people survive "deadly" radiation exposure.)

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Wednesday August 15 2018, @10:24PM

        by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 15 2018, @10:24PM (#721937) Homepage Journal

        My father was a civil service EE at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California.

        He told me that when they drained the reactor coolant there, they cut a hole in the hull of the submarines, then ran a pipe out that hole, on the end of which is welded a flange. That flange is bolted to another flange that's welded to a pipe that goes to a big tank.

        One day they forget to bolt the two flanges together.

        Some poor sot was standing directly underneath where those flanges should have been connected but weren't. While he survived he got his entire lifetime's permissible dose in just a few seconds. Dad told me that poor sot still worked at Mare Island but was no longer permitted in the Nuclear Yard.

        --
        Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday August 15 2018, @10:41PM

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday August 15 2018, @10:41PM (#721943) Journal

        Fund [nextbigfuture.com] SENS [nextbigfuture.com]. Anti-aging technologies could allow us to repair some of the damage caused by radiation.

        That being said, the amount of radiation exposure in a shielded spacecraft isn't *that* bad and NASA's definition of acceptable radiation risk is ridiculously strict:

        https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/1_NAC_HEO_SMD_Committee_Mars_Radiation_Intro_2015April7_Final_TAGGED.pdf [nasa.gov]

        Meeting The Current Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Space Radiation Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) Standard Will Be Challenging for a Mars Mission
        - NASA exposure limit is the most conservative of all space agencies

        ≤ 3% REID (Risk of Exposure Induced Death, 95% C.I.)

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 16 2018, @12:05AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 16 2018, @12:05AM (#721963)

        Did they try V1agra?

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by takyon on Wednesday August 15 2018, @10:44PM (6 children)

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday August 15 2018, @10:44PM (#721945) Journal

      Is a 3.5% risk of death due to radiation exposure (including cancer, etc.) on a months-long Mars mission unacceptable? It is according to NASA [nasa.gov].

      It's entirely possible that a 30-something-year-old astronaut could walk on Mars, return to Earth, and see all or most cancers cured by the time they reach age 60.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 2) by suburbanitemediocrity on Wednesday August 15 2018, @11:41PM (1 child)

        by suburbanitemediocrity (6844) on Wednesday August 15 2018, @11:41PM (#721956)

        And a 40% of dying through some unexpected system failure.

      • (Score: 2) by PartTimeZombie on Wednesday August 15 2018, @11:51PM (1 child)

        by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Wednesday August 15 2018, @11:51PM (#721959)

        It is also entirely possible that if the risks were explained to all the astronauts employed by NASA, they would all volunteer for as many Mars missions as they could possibly go on anyway.

        I suspect there would be a fair few who would volunteer for a one way Mars trip also.

        If that's the case, let's do it.

        • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 16 2018, @02:47AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 16 2018, @02:47AM (#722027)

          I recall reading once that NASA doesn't accept people who would go on known suicide missions as astronauts.

      • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 16 2018, @01:20AM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 16 2018, @01:20AM (#721995)

        and see all or most cancers cured by the time they reach age 60.

        The incurable optimist, you.
        I'm still waiting for the flying car (which is a technology problem) for 50 years already, and you think that all cancers will be cured in 30 years (a science problem)

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday August 16 2018, @03:44AM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday August 16 2018, @03:44AM (#722044) Journal

          I'm still waiting for the flying car (which is a technology problem) for 50 years already

          What problem is the flying car solving? We already have regular cars and helicopters, for example. Curing cancer means you probably will live longer (depending of course, on how long it takes for the next leading cause of death to get you).

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bob_super on Wednesday August 15 2018, @11:56PM (1 child)

    by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday August 15 2018, @11:56PM (#721961)

    I've got a stupid question, and there's no way Elon hasn't asked it to his team:
    You need enough propellant to do RTLS, limiting payload. You still need a decent amount of propellant left to land on OCISLY a few hundred miles away.
    How much less propellant would you need if you tried to land at KSC, having launched from Browsville ? (overlooking the problem of overflying two major cities)

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by Pslytely Psycho on Thursday August 16 2018, @02:07AM

      by Pslytely Psycho (1218) on Thursday August 16 2018, @02:07AM (#722007)

      Let's see, Brownsville TX to the Kerbal Space Center will require some interesting new interdimensional apparatus. The biggest problem will be to not get stuck in hell as the Event Horizon did......
      Perhaps we need to enlist Matthew McConaughey...... (;

      --
      Alex Jones lawyer inspires new TV series: CSI Moron Division.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 16 2018, @04:55PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 16 2018, @04:55PM (#722325)

    Anybody, who wants efficient human spaceflight program should check out this petition

    https://www.change.org/p/save-america-s-space-program [change.org]

    and this show:

    https://thespaceshow.com/show/13-aug-2018/broadcast-3171-howard-bloom [thespaceshow.com]

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday August 16 2018, @06:25PM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Thursday August 16 2018, @06:25PM (#722402) Journal

      I will probably check out the podcast. With the low amount of interest in that petition, it's unlikely to go anywhere, even though the amount of people who want SLS cancelled is obviously far more than 734. The /r/spacex [reddit.com] subreddit alone has more readers than that in any given moment.

      If/when BFR launches, momentum to cancel SLS should increase significantly, even if it has already flown once. It's possible that BFR will reach orbit before SLS can.

      Compare that $30 billion with the cost of developing Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy—less than a billion dollars. In other words, for the cost of developing the Space Launch System, we could develop thirty brand new rockets if we took the Elon Musk route. Or we could develop an entire Moon and Mars program.

      Falcon Heavy had the advantage of being built on top of the Falcon 9 (which also explains Falcon Heavy's years of delays - Falcon 9 evolved too fast, increasing its capabilities over the years). Will BFR development cost a mere $1 billion? How about a BFR successor, such as the Interplanetary Transport System?

      One thing that should be done immediately: give funds to SpaceX to research or develop the Falcon Superheavy, which would attach 2 more booster cores to the Falcon Heavy. This could act as a nice niche launcher before BFR debuts, and could help it to match the capabilities of the SLS.

      And reusable rockets, like reusable busses, trucks, trains, cars, and airplanes, will lower our cost of access to space dramatically.

      Reusable buses, trucks, trains, cares, and airplanes don't do much to help us get to space. ;-)

      Then there’s the Orion capsule that the SLS will fling into space. It cannot land. It can’t land on the Moon. It can’t land on Mars. And it’s too small to carry crews to Mars. It is a boondoggle.

      An important and shocking fact.

      Lunar Orbital Platform – Gateway

      The reason LOP-G can't be crewed year-round is due to radiation risks, right? Well, while LOP-G isn't very useful and probably should be cancelled before it's too late, the concept could be improved significantly. A propellant depot could be added, allowing certain spacecraft (likely the BFR) to deposit or refuel there for Moon trips. Construction could be done with Falcon Heavy launches, and crew could be sent with Falcon 9 + Dragon, lowering costs dramatically. It could act as a second testing site for new space station technologies. A spinning gravity simulation would be nice, if possible. And I definitely want to see more aggressive testing of Bigelow Aerospace's inflatable modules. Some of these, such as the BA 2100 [wikipedia.org], would offer a greater volume than the entire current volume of the ISS.

      Another thing you could do at LOP-G is have a human assembled and serviceable space telescope either near or attached to the station. This could be one way to offer JWST/LUVOIR-tier capabilities but at a lower cost. You could assemble a gigantic space telescope using multiple launches, and you could reduce the amount of testing and just swap out parts if mistakes are made.

      Obviously, these objectives could also be accomplished at the ISS or another LEO space station, such as China's planned one [soylentnews.org]. But if the ISS is going to be disassembled or destroyed, a replacement could be warranted. The inability for crew to stay there more than a couple of months at a time is not that bad since we already know that microgravity is crap for astronaut health. If some or more of the above ideas are realized, maybe it would be worth it to install better shielding on such a station.

      I might expand on these in a journal entry.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
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