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Ares-1 will be the first "dead-weight launcher"
February 4, 2008

Carry a payload to LEO was, is and always will be (until new and very cheap rockets' technologies will be found, someday) a very expensive job!!!

EACH mT carried to LEO costs between $12M and $20M, if launched with a commercial rocket like Delta, Atlas or Ariane, and between $25M and $45M, if launched with the Space Shuttle (that has also seven astronauts aboard) while the russian Progress (the cheaper cargo vehicle available so far) can't fall under $10M per mT launched.

Also the SpaceX Falcon 1 (when it will, finally, perform a successful flight) at "only" $6.5M per launch, with its 670 kg. payload, just breaks the $10M per mT barrier; a "low" price that still is too high!

At prices still over $10,000 per kg. of payload launched the #1 goal of ALL space agencies and aerospace companies is and always will be, to SAVE as much WEIGHT as possible!

That's why all the space hardware use the lighter materials and alloys, why the life support on all manned vehicles was/is/will be limited to the missions' duration (about 2-2.5 weeks for Apollo, Shuttle, Soyuz and, also, Orion) with small margins for redundancy, why the Apollo LM crew cabin was just a little bigger than a phone booth, etc.

But now the ESAS hardware has changed this gold rule, since, it will be the FIRST to launch (both) useful payload AND a "dead-weight" payload!!!

The launch of dead-weight payload comes from the bad choice to develop and build a six-seats capsule that will always be launched with only three or four astronauts, like a 300 seats airline jet that always flies with only 150 or 200 passengers, losing a big amount of money at every flight!

The 5.5 m. (now 5 m.) ESAS capsule (the CEV, now called Orion) can launch up to SIX astronauts, but in ALL Moon missions the new Orion will have only FOUR astronauts aboard, that since (both) the Altair/LSAM (to land on the Moon) and the EDS (to perform the Trans Lunar Injection) are designed to carry to (and land on) the Moon ONLY four astronauts, NOT SIX.

The same thing will happen in ALL ISS Orion mission when only THREE astronauts will be launched, that (mainly) since, also the "finished" ISS, will be not able to host more than six astronauts, three-four of which are (and will always be) russian and european, that (both) use the (15+ times cheaper) Soyuz or the future (always cheaper than Orion) ACTS developed by ESA and Russia.

Just add the fact that the (current designed) Orion is already overweighted, with three or four astronauts aboard, then, it NEVER can carry TWO MORE astronauts to LEO with their own weight, their spacesuits, a +50% extra life support, etc.

The (current) Orion is expected to weigh over 10.5 mT (without the astronauts) with a 13.5 mT Service Module (with propellents) and a 6.4 mT LAS, so, it could seem, that, if resized for three astronauts, it can weigh HALF than now, but it's NOT that simple since every version of the Orion must have some parts and systems in common, no matter how many astronauts it will carry.

However, my evaluation is that a three-seats resized Orion may weigh (about) 35%-40% less than a six seats, while, a four seats resized Orion may weigh (about) 25%-30% less.

Of course, it's too expensive to develop and build two versions/sizes of the Orion (one with three seats and one with four seats) then, a single version of the Orion must be developed with four seats to carry three or four astronauts, with a weight saving of (at least) -25% on the current (owerweighted) 10.5 mT Orion that, thanks to this resizing, may weigh LESS THAN 8 mT.

Clearly, a -25% resized Orion needs a resized Service Module + propellent (just 10 mT) a resized LAS (less than 5 mT for a tower-LAS or less than 3 mT if an underside-LAS is adopted) a resized 2nd stage (around 120-130 mT) that may work with the J-2X engine without any superengine and a resized 1st stage (simply, the ready available, reliable, tested, cheap and man-rated standard 4-segments SRB rather than the unexisting, and very expensive 5-segments SRB) SAVING a GIANT amount of mass (shown in RED in the Orion/Ares-1 image published here) and MONEY at EVERY launch.

Also, a -25% resized Orion can be launched with a ready available (and just man-rated) Delta IV Heavy for all lunar missions or a cheaper Ariane5 for all orbital/ISS missions (that need less than half SM propellent) saving over $7 billion (planned to develop the Ares-1) + (at least) $100 million saved at every launch (thanks to a smaller Orion).

Unfortunately, the REAL Orion will be designed for six astronauts, then, EVERY LAUNCH will be +25% overweighted and (at least) +15% overpriced thanks to a bigger Orion and a bigger Ares-1 that needs the bigger 5-segments SRB and a bigger 2nd stage.

In other words, EACH Orion/Ares-1 launch will carry (at least) +25% of "dead-weight" and will burn (at least) $250 million (an extra $100M for the 5-segments SRB, an extra $50M for the bigger 2nd stage and a bigger J-2Y engine and an extra $100M for a bigger Orion with a bigger SM and a bigger LAS) that means at least $7.5 BILLION BURNED (in the next 20 years) ONLY for the first 30 Orion/Ares-1 missions (three test launches, 15 orbital/ISS and 12 lunar missions).

Also, that $7.5 BILLION are NOT the TOTAL AMOUNT of money LOST to launch a 25% of "dead-weight" at EVERY Orion/Ares-1 launch, since the Orion and Ares-1 extra-mass will FALL like an AVALANCHE on the entire ESAS hardware and its costs that may rise very much due to the "dead-weight" launched!

That since a +25% heavier Orion needs more propellents in the Altair tanks (to perform the Lunar Orbit Insertion) and (both) need a bigger EDS (with more propellents) then a bigger Ares-5 to launch this further (useless but very expensive) "dead-weight".

My last (preventive) answer, is to all peoples that claim a six-seats Orion is absolutely necessary for some ISS missions, for ISS rescue missions and for future Mars missions.

Well, first of all, I think that the Ares-1 can't fly (not even with three or four astronauts) but, assuming it can fly, surely it can't carry SIX astronauts without any improvement.

IF the Ares-1 will fly and IF it will be able to carry an Orion with six astronauts, this kind of missions will be almost RARE (maybe, one every 30+ orbital/lunar missions!) then, it's VERY IRRATIONAL to build a +25% overweighted and +15% overpriced "six-seats" Orion and launch it 29 times out of 30 with three-four astronauts (burning $250M per mission!) while, it's MORE RATIONAL and LOGICAL to build a smaller "four-seats" Orion for ALL orbital and lunar missions (launched with a smaller and cheaper Ares-1) then, use TWO of them for the (very rare) orbital missions that need six or more astronauts!

A six-seats "rescue Orion" would be very useful until 2010 to bring back to earth the full crew of a damaged Shuttle docked to the ISS, but, after the Shuttle retirement, that kind of "rescue-capsule" will be completely useless, since...

1. after the Shuttle retirement, never can happen to have six-seven Shuttle astronauts aboard the ISS without a vehicle able to bring them back to earth, that since after 2010 the only manned vehicles, in all ISS missions, will be Soyuz (the old version and the new "Dgital-Soyuz") and after 2016 the Orion (and, maybe, also the european ACTS and the chinese Shenzhou) then, the number of astronauts aboard the ISS will ALWAYS equals the number of "seats" of the capsules docked to the ISS ...one Soyuz = 3 astronauts... two Soyuz = 6 astronauts... one Soyuz + one Orion = 6-7 astronauts... etc. so, in case of an emergency ISS rescue contingency, the astronauts aboard the ISS, can, just, use the capsules docked to the ISS to come back to earth, WITHOUT NEED of any "special" rescue Orion or similar.

2. assuming an ISS "rescue vehicle" will be necessary (that's not true, since the ISS has never had, and, still, doesn't have any special "rescue vehicle", than, simply, the Soyuz used to fly to/from the ISS) the very expensive Orion is NOT the right vehicle, since it will have a six-months only orbital autonomy, then, this six-seats (extra) rescue Orion must be replaced every six months, that, at over $1 billion per Orion/Ares-1 launch, means an extra cost of over $10 billion in the first five operational years, that's a big waste of money!!!

3. then, again, assuming an ISS "rescue vehicle" will be necessary (that's not true) the right choice is to develop, build, launch and dock to the ISS a low cost rescue vehicle like my Multipurpose Orbital Rescue Vehicle (using one "six seats" or two "three seats" a time docked to the ISS) that must have a "cold thrust" engine without any cryogenic or hypergolic propellents (that have a few months loiter time) so that this useless rescue extra-vehicle (just a duplication of the Soyuz and Orion already docked to the ISS) will remain docked to the ISS (ready to fly) three-four years or more without replacement.

4. last time, assuming an ISS "rescue vehicle" will be necessary (that's not true) another rational solution (rather than build only six-seats Orion) is to modify a (resized) standard four-seats Orion to allocate up to six astronauts for emergency purposes, that since, all kinds of "orbital emergency" just need a vehicle able to bring back to earth the ISS crew within a few hours, then, without need any "special equipment" or very long life support.

About the Orion used for Mars missions, I think that every kind of Mars missions' plan is just SCI-FI to-day, since, a so complex and expensive mission needs (at least) 30 years to develop and build the right hardware, that, I'm sure/feel/think/believe, absolutely NOT use the Orion or the Ares-1/5 nor any "chemical" rocket nor great part of the technology available to-day, but (clearly) the BEST technologies developed in the next 30 years!

However, assuming that a (smaller and primitive) Orion will be able to accomplish a Mars mission, it's (simply) a NONSENSE to build and launch HUNDREDS (oversized) six-seats capsules in the next 30+ years (losing over $250M per launch!) to just have this Orion "ready for Mars" in 2040 (or LATER) while, it's MORE RATIONAL and LOGICAL to build an "enlarged" version of the Orion IF and WHEN it will be necessary for Mars missions!
 

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