Weekend Walkabout – Do you want to design a Rocket Ship?

According to Wikipedia, a “Walkabout” is “…a rite of passage during which male Australian Aborigines would undergo a journey during adolescence and live in the wilderness for a period as long as six months“.  But a Walkabout is also, according to the Urban Dictionary, “…a spontaneous journey through the wilderness of one’s choosing in an effort to satisfy one’s itchy feet“.  We all have the urge to explore new territory and, while this is THE Space Elevator Blog, I have occasionally posted items which are not strictly space-elevator related.  They were, IMHO, something which might be of interest to you or maybe just something I wanted to opine about (it’s a FEATURE not a BUG 🙂 )…  These posts have been varied, ranging from How I Installed DSL for My Mother to Blaming NASA for Selfies.  In the future, I’m going to make these types of postings the “Weekend Walkabout” feature of this blog, leaving the weekday postings to ‘strictly’ space elevator related items.  These Weekend Walkabout postings might be related to space exploration or anything else, but I’ll try and keep the Politics to a minimum.

I’ve set up a new Blogroll category; “Weekend Walkabout” and will label all future such postings with it and will also, as time permits, perhaps revisit older postings which fall in this category (posted on a weekend or not) and label them as such…

And without further ado, our first Weekend Walkabout…

Conventional wisdom (if I can use that term while referring to a Space Elevator) says that, once we have a Space Elevator, we won’t need Rocket ships anymore.  Not so.  We (the human race) will need even MORE rocket ships once a space elevator is built.  There will be a much greater need to send people and cargo to really interesting places like the Moon, Mars, the Asteroid belt, etc. and that will still require rocket ships.

So, if you are a fan of space elevators, don’t think of Rocket ships as “obsolete” or “evil” – they have their place, it’s just not where they need to use 95% of their weight (the propellant) to get stuff out of earth’s gravity well…

And that brings me to this; the National Space Society (NSS), an affiliate of the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) has launched a project called “Enterprise in Space“, a multi-year effort to “…design, build, fly, and eventually return to Earth an orbiter containing student experiments.  This project will be a tribute to the many great visionaries of science and science fiction.  It will demonstrate and pioneer new technologies while inspiring and encouraging space enterprise.  It will promote the development of educational curricula and activities contributing to related future endeavors in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM).  This project engages and inspires the next generation – all ages and walks of life – by igniting a renewed interest in space exploration and development.

The NSS Press Release gives this information about the project from the project’s manager, Jim Plaxco:

“My first tip is to do it. Not only are there some great prizes for the contest winner but the winner will have a place in the history of private/personal space exploration.

My second tip is that you don’t have to be a master of 3D or CAD software. I’ll remind you that such software is a very recent invention. It’s the design that counts and that can be illustrated using nothing more complex than paper, pencil, and ruler.

Third is to follow the rules. An important rule is to not design a spacecraft that looks like a spacecraft that is associated with a spacecraft from TV or film. It must be your own original design.

Fourth is to be mindful that the spacecraft you design will be housing somewhere around one hundred student experiments. That means avoiding a design that minimizes internal volume. Once manufactured, your orbiter will physically have as its maximum dimensions 8 feet by 8 feet by 6 feet so be mindful of the factors 8 x 8 x 6 in designing your craft.

So now is the time to either fire up your favorite graphics software or grab your drafting supplies and get to designing a spacecraft that is truly unique. The submission deadline is fast approaching so don’t delay. But first make sure you fully understand the contest by reading the Enterprise In Space Design Contest Rules.”

Designing a rocket ship?  This sounds Über-cool.  The deadline to get your design in is December 7th – not very far away…

Oh, and why did I use that particular picture thumbnail (which I obtained from here) in this post?  Check out the Enterprise in Space website to find out…

One thought on “Weekend Walkabout – Do you want to design a Rocket Ship?

  1. Bob Munck

    I’m not sure I’d call those vessels rocket ships. After all, you can get to Mars, for example, by climbing down to the outer end of the SE and letting go at just the right instant; it’ll throw you to Mars, and you can aerobrake/parachute down to the surface. No rockets needed.

    However, I suspect that that “right instant” for any given destination occurs very infrequently, once a year or so. That’s due to the inclination of the Earth’s axis (and hence the plane of the SE) to the ecliptic. So we will need rockets after all, to “correct” the vector of the SE’s throw. These can probably be very weak high-ISP ion engines powered by solar arrays, because they fire over the entire length of the voyage.

    Another tweak would involve being caught by SEs hanging outward from Phobos or Deimos, and then climbing down one hanging inward from Deimos to just above the atmosphere and parachuting from there. Surprisingly, you’d be traveling just 26 kph relative to the Mars surface when you let go (yes, kilometers per hour, 16 mph. The Martian moons are weird). No aerobraking, hence no heat shield.

    I once made some effort to work out an entire Earth-Mars transport system, using SEs on Earth, Mars, Phobos, and Deimos and ion rockets. My ships were four large cylinders, three of them in a triangle rotating around the fourth, held together by a web of CNT cables and with shirt-sleeve tunnels leading up from the rotating three to the zero-gee one at the axis. I got sidetracked speculating about a 2nd-generation Earth SE, a rotating loop that hauls unpowered vehicles up to GEO in a bit over a day, getting passengers through the radiation belts quickly.

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