Wednesday, August 27, 2008

N-1



I think Russian rockets are pretty much the coolest of all. The N1 is possibly the most impressive, best looking rocket ever made. The inter-stage open truss design (common in communist rockets) might be a big part of it. Or could it be the conical shape of the thing? Anyway, there is something about the N1 that makes it look larger than any other, even the Saturn V and space shuttle. Larger and better, and maybe in some way what rockets should ideally have become. It looks somewhat slapped together also, like a borg spaceship... Note the spherical fuel tanks... these are less than optimum, but are just a very nice touch. The use of RP1 and LO2 is, as you all may know, about my favorite combination. RP1, Kerosene, Methane... these are ideal fuels for so many reasons. Our use of Liquid hydrogen can, in many ways, hold our rockets back. However as I think about fuels more, I am forced to remember how the cost of organic fuels has gone up a ton recently. Perhaps hydrogen will be more important in the near future as the cost of kerosene will go up even more.

It is sad that the N1 never flew to orbit (or even space?) and that the remaining parts were just tossed around parks. One fuel tank became the roof of a gazebo.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Skylab






"Skylab was launched 14 May 1973 by a Saturn INT-21 (a two-stage version of the Saturn V launch vehicle) into a 235 nautical mile (435 km) orbit. The launch is sometimes referred to as Skylab 1, or SL-1. Severe damage was sustained during launch, including the loss of the station's micrometeoroid shield/sun shade and one of its main solar panels. Debris from the lost micrometeoroid shield further complicated matters by pinning the remaining solar panel to the side of the station, preventing its deployment and thus leaving the station with a huge power deficit. The station underwent extensive repair during a spacewalk by the first crew, which launched on 25 May 1973 (the SL-2 mission) atop a Saturn IB. If the crew had failed to repair Skylab in time, the plastic insulation inside the station would have melted, releasing poisonous gas and making Skylab completely uninhabitable. They stayed in orbit with Skylab for 28 days. Two additional missions followed on 28 July 1973 (SL-3) and 16 November 1973 (SL-4) with stay times of 59 and 84 days, respectively. The last Skylab crew returned to Earth on 8 February 1974."

This was the early history... The rest is a bit more depressing (to be fair the whole project had problems.) You see Skylab needed to be boosted from time to time to maintain orbit. There were several plans to do this, but none came about. Towards the end, it was planned that space shuttle visits would repair and boost the station from time to time. But the shuttle came online later than expected, and solar activity increased.

"Increased solar activity, heating the outer layers of the Earth's atmosphere and thereby increasing drag on Skylab, led to an early reentry at approximately 16:37 UTC 11 July 1979. In the weeks leading up to the reentry, ground controllers had re-established contact with the six year old vehicle, and were able to adjust its attitude for optimal reentry dynamics. Earth reentry footprint was a narrow band (approx. 4° wide) beginning at about [show location on an interactive map] 48° S 87° E and ending at about [show location on an interactive map] 12° S 144° E, an area covering portions of the Indian Ocean and Western Australia. Debris was found between Esperance and Rawlinna, 31–34°S, 122–126°E. The Shire of Esperance fined the United States $400 for littering, a fine which, to this day, remains unpaid."