He complains about the weather in NZ
- and wants to go to Venus?
As Rocket Lab sought to get its Electron booster back into action, The Register spoke to CEO Peter Beck about finding faults, recovering rockets, and missions to Venus. "It's rubbish at the moment," observed Beck of the weather at the New Zealand launch site as the privately owned company looked to return to flight this week …
In Tori Bruno's tour of the ULA factory he mentions the "exchange rate" for Atlas (7000 series Aluminum isogrid) as about 7:1 for booster mass increase Vs loss of US payload.
So a 15Kg payload loss equates to 105Kg of additional equipment on the booster.
This is probably still too much to make the Vulcan booster reusable in its entirety :-(
OTOH they do have the highest performance US in the world with pressure stabilized steel tanks and LH2 fuel.
I have always wondered why there are not more probes sent to Venus, I know Mars is interesting because it offers more potential for life and colonies but Venus is close and has a lot of organic chemistry going on.
It would be amazing if some kind of extremophile life was found in the clouds.
Venus probes tend to have a very short lived lifespan, and it has a much less hospitable environment for radio signals. Simply put, for the same cost as getting a little data from venus, you can get a lot of data from mars. However it is starting to get to the point where a little data from venus offers more unique insights than "yet more data from mars".
Why? Those amazing years between 1960 & 1975 saw a rapid advance in technology and achievement that, imho, has not been matched since,
Not only spaceflight but aircraft, computers and, even more importantly, MUSIC. Oh and remember Venus in Blue Jeans? Yep, girls were much prettier then.
The reason why we don't send more probes to Venus might have to do with the fact that the surface of the planet is hot enough to melt lead. Yes, around 400°C. The only photographs from Venus (that I'm aware of) are from Russian probes back in the 1960s. As for having life in the clouds, sulphuric acid isn't exactly conductive to life...although we have microbes that can survive in highly acidic environments here on Earth.
The tendency to melt/breakdown/fail within minutes has a lot to do with it
IIRC one probe turned into a puddle of slag when the environmental chamber was opened
There have been a number of proposals for balloon probes, but slowing things down enough to deploy them is one problem and the sulfuric(*) acid cloud composition won't be kind to devices either
That said: If there WAS life on Venus it's likely to still be there and most likely in the clouds or several tens of metres underground. Extremophiles will ensure that's the case
(*) It's the correct internationalised spelling, unfortunately :(
Might have something to do with the fact that one can drop something on Mars and it'll trundle around until it gets stuck or dies of old age.
Venus, on the other hand, it's impressive if a probe can make it to the ground before melting, which - I'm sure you can understand - makes it rather difficult to perform all those important on-site tests and examinations that would be necessary to help us understand Venus.
The Soviet Union included a couple of balloon probes in their two Vega landers. These explored the upper Venusian atmosphere for a couple of days before their batteries died. The two balloons were made of PTFE-coated plastic to protect them from sulfuric acid (and the hydrofluoric acid they discovered) and floated at just about the altitude you suggested, not just because it is a good pressure, but because it has the strongest winds. More info here:
A shame there haven't been any further missions along these lines; if only to try and pin down whether Venus has lightning and perhaps to listen for infrasound from any volcanoes that might be grumbling away down there.
the sun has warmed up enough in the last 4 billion years that earth is now sitting perilously close to the inner edge of the goldilocks zone.
In 500 million years we will face the same fate as Venus, without AGW. AGW could just make it happen "sooner" (or could cause a Permian Reset)
> In 500 million years we will face the same fate as Venus,
I once saw a proposal about what could be done about it. It involves steering an asteroid to make regular fly-bys of Earth, arranged so that it gradually nudges Earth to a higher orbit. This has to go on for thousands of years, because each nudge has a very small effect.
Of course, this is utterly infeasible. The technical problems of finding and steering a suitable asteroid could probably be solved (Orion engines!), but there is no way we can finance and run a global, technically sophisticated organization for thousands of years to take care of it. So the 500 million years is the limit of our existence. Too bad.
Well, there's always this ... :-)
The 'Earth Rocket': a Method for Keeping the Earth in the Habitable Zone
Mark A. Wessels
The Sun is expected to increase its radiant output by about 10% per billion years. The rate at which the radius of the Earth's orbit would need to increase in order to keep the present value of the Sun's radiant flux at the Earth constant is calculated. The mechanical power required to achieve this is also calculated. Remarkably, this is a small fraction (2.3%) of the total solar flux currently intercepted by the Earth. Treating the Earth itself as a rocket, the thrust required to increase the orbit is found, as well as the rate of mass ejection. The Earth has sufficient mass to maintain this rate for several billion years, allowing for the possibility that the Earth could remain habitable to biological life for billions of years into the future.
From what I remember there are a couple of other factors to take into account:
Quite how these compare in 500m years time...
The FAA has approved Rocket Lab's application for US launches. iI can now officially operate from their LC-2 pad at Wallops Island, Virginia.
A pint of Becks for Mr. Beck.
And best of luck with Venus. The unknown UV absorbers in the clouds have been speculated as being microbes since Carl Sagan.
I, myself, am hoping for blimp-like filter feeders.
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BTW until Electron started flying Beck reckoned doing recovery on a launcher this size was impossible.
After about 12 flights (and actual telemetry) that started to change. And should continue to improve as they leverage Li ion cell improvements in the market.
With pad turnaround times at 31 days. (and hopefully continuing to drop) Flight 17 flies by early December.
Actual in flight catching could follow as soon as flight 18
However actual reflight of the recovered stage is likely much further off. SX, who like it or not are the only benchmark for this, took roughly a year to refly their first recovered booster. OTOH Electron is much smaller and presents a smaller inspection target.
By Dec 2021 we could be looking at 2 partially reusable launch vehicles one of which is 100x bigger than the other.
That means anyone looking to get funding for yet another TSTO ELV without 1st stage reuse had either better have their funding already committed or have one hell of a sales pitch, because there's no real reason to bother otherwise. :-(
Caveats. This assumes no further launch mishaps leading to stand downs and ocean recovery reveals no show stoppers needing either extensive re-design (making it uneconomic) or issues with the physics that make it impossible at this scale. As always, hope for the best but plan for the worst.
All of which means pretty exciting times for those of us interested in this sort of thing.
This also assumes that Flight 17 (provisionally entitled "I'm not sure what we'll call this one yet") is recovered in the first and does not sink like a stone in very deep water.
IOW Although they are looking good (RTF in less than 3 months is pretty sharp) it's not a done deal by a long way.
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