atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#846: Okay, NOW can we bring back the Saturn V??

An AP article today on problems with Ares, the booster for Orion.
The shaking problem, which is common to solid rocket boosters, involves pulses of added acceleration caused by gas vortices in the rocket similar to the wake that develops behind a fast-moving boat, said Arenas, who has researched vibration and space-launch issues.

Those vortices happen to match the natural vibrating frequencies of the motor's combustion chamber, and the combination causes the shaking.
We have to have a brand new booster, of course.

The Saturn V didn't have that kind of problem and it had a payload capacity of 100 freaking tons. The first stage ran on kerosene and liquid oxygen.

Ever smelled the exhaust from an engine burning MTBE and ammonium perchlorate? That's what the space shuttle SRBs burn, and it is nasty-smelling stuff when it burns. "Eco-friendly" it ain't. In fact you don't want to smell too much of it because it's double-plus-bad for you.

Kerosene and liquid oxygen, by comparison, generates carbon dioxide and water.

You can't throttle a solid rocket and you can't shut it off once you start it. And as the article notes they don't provide "clean" thrust. The primary advantages of solid rockets are that they are cheap and simple. (Unless, of course, you operate them outside their temperature envelope, leading the stupid seals to leak, leading to the catastrophic loss of a ship costing $1 billion.)

It's a stupid idea to rely on them for most of your first-stage boost, damn it. It's also a stupid idea to reinvent the freaking wheel when we already have a good heavy-lift booster, one which could be greatly improved with modern technology.

People say, "Oh, but we couldn't build the Saturn V now! We'd have to rebuild all the tooling!" And we don't have to build tooling to make the asinine junk they're planning? We have all the engineering data and designs for a mature, man-rated platform, and the stuff that isn't available any more (primarily electronics) could be replaced with smaller, cheaper, lighter, more reliable parts. No we can't just go into the parts room and come out with what we need to build a Saturn V, but it would be a hell of a lot easier and cheaper to haul out the plans and update them than it would be to design an entirely new system from the ground up.

And faster, too, I'd wager.

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