to build now
Space Station with artificial
You know, that, all space agencies, are the world's champions of the money wasted since, their governments, give them lots of funds, but never do deep controls on how these funds are used.
Of course, NASA, as #1 space agency of the world (thanks to the larger annual budget of all space agencies) is also the #1 money burner with its never finished projects (like the X-38, the HL-20 or the X-33) or very costly programs like the $168 billion ISS, the $35 billion Ares-1 and the $4 billion COTS/CRS program.
Well, following these (very bad) iper-costs habits, also the european space agency, ESA, seems want to burn its slice of billion$ in the atmosphere, especially thanks to the ($1.3 billion R&D priced) ATV program, started in March 9, 2008 with the successful launch of the Jules Verne followed by the "successful" burning in the atmosphere, of the same ATV, exactly one year ago, in September 29, 2008.
Since each ATV has a "price" of over $600M (including the Ariane-5, but excluding the shared R&D costs) it's really TOO BAD to burn it in the atmosphere just to destroy the ISS waste (a job that can be accomplished by the cheaper Progress cargo vehicles that regularly visit the ISS) while the bigger ATVs (that have a large pressurized module) can be better used for other purposes in space!
There are studies made by ESA that suggest alternative uses of the ATV technology (to develop crew and/or cargo-return vehicles or a twin ATV "mini space station") but all them are just concepts, that (especially the crew and cargo-return versions) may need a political decision (always not easy with so many countries behind ESA) very much time and huge extra-funds to become real.
Well, my proposal isn't to build more ATVs nor to waste too much time and money to develop, build and test completely new versions of the cargo ATV but to carry in orbit the (slightly modified) ATVs already scheduled to launch in the next years and, when they have accomplished their missions, don't burn them in the atmosphere, with the ISS waste (that can be carried away from ISS with the Progress) but keep all them in orbit and use them to build the first and very low cost Space Station with artificial gravity!
The basic version of my idea needs only five ATVs (the next five ATVs already planned for launch and NOT five NEW vehicles!) of which just ONE must be modified (to add four more docking ports for the next four ATVs) while all other ATVs can be exactly the same launched to resupply the ISS, but reused to build a Space Station with artificial gravity.
But the happiest part of the story is the VERY LOW "price" of the new Space Station that's NOT "$168 billion" (like the ISS) nor "$35 billion" (like the Ares-1 R&D) nor "$4 billion" (like the very expensive COTS/CRS program) but LESS THAN 1 BILLION since, all you need to make, is a slightly modified version of the first ATV to allow it to join to four other ATVs.
A further, useful and low cost design change (to all ATVs of the artificial gravity Space Station) could be to remove two of the four independent engines (image below) of the ATVs (since, two engines and their propellants, are enough to reach the ISS, or another orbit, while, the 2nd half of the propellants for ISS reboost and the ATV's deorbit, will be no longer necessary) and replace the propellants tanks with bigger oxygen and water tanks to increase very much the ISS-2 life support between two resupply.
Each ATV must just make its job (for which it is already planned and be "paid") that is to resupply the ISS, then, when it has done its main mission, it will be moved to a parking place near the ISS where it can wait the arrival of the next ATVs necessary to build the new Space Station.
Of course, many other options are possible from this basic design of an ISS-2, like...
• join four other ATVs to the rear docking ports of the first four ATVs, and/or...
• to pile two or more basic (five ATVs each) Space Stations horizontally, and/or...
• add a pressurized module to join the rotating ISS-2 to the non-rotating ISS, and/or...
• change some of the standard ports of the ATVs with LIDS to dock the Orion, and/or...
• assemble many ISS-lite in other Earth's orbits and/or build a Lunar Space Station, etc.
And (please note!) all that can be made without the Space Shuttle (since the ATVs are able to fly in space and dock autonomously) and at very low costs (if compared with things like the ISS, the Ares-1, etc.) that clearly demonstrate as untrue the legend that ALL the space-hardware MUST "absolutely need" tons of billion$!!!
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