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Orbiting Assembly Platform
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The Quest for Technology

The Space Shuttle is winding down its mission to build the International Space Station after that it will be retired. The Space Shuttle was built to build the Space Station but because of the short-sightedness of congress NASA had to go looking for international partners to build the space station and this was a huge mistake.

We need to be going into space as a single nation and not part of some international organization. With partners you need to share technology with them. They get access to space without paying the cost of time, sweat, tears and money that we and Russia has paid.


Some say why go into space the money could be better spent here on earth and I have to argue with that. We go into space for three reasons


·         To gain knowledge about solar system in which we live and how it came about.

·         To gain technology because there is no better way to attain technology than the exploration of space with an aggressive space program. Technology comes from solving all the difficult problems of space exploration

·         Exploration is deeply rooted in mankind we have an undying curiosity of what’s on the other side of the mountain, across the sea or on other planets and moons. It’s been a driving force of man since the dawn of time.


President Obama has cancelled the Constellation program which was to take man back to the moon and on to mars and I agree with him on that. NASA had talked of building a base on the moon and traveling to mars but the Orion spacecraft was simply too small to be building bases or carry crews and their supplies to mars. Using Orion to build a base on the moon would be like loaded your compact car up with building materials in New York City and then driving across country to California to build a house with those buildings materials. It wouldn’t have been very practical. And Orion was certainly too small to carry all the supplies and sustain crews for the 2 ½ year mission to mars and back so. Plus the Constellation Program was over budget which also added to the decision to cancel the program.


The area I disagree with President Obama is using private companies and the Falcon 9 rocket to ferry crews and cargo to the International Space Station. This is a waste and will cause us to fall behind in space exploration and aerospace engineering. President Obama wants to open the door of space to private companies but carrying crews and cargo to the space station is not the solution. A private company might make 3 or 4 trips to the space station every year. That doesn’t provide a lot of revenue for the company especially since they are suppose to be cheaper than a shuttle flight. There is no money to be made carrying crews and cargo to the space station. Russia isn’t going to use this private company because they have their own rockets. And other countries that are developing rockets are not going to use this private company because of a sense of national pride in using their own rockets. The real money in space for private is going to come from tourism.


You can carry very many people in a capsule so what the private sector needs to do is to develop their own version of the space shuttle that has passenger seats in what is now the cargo bay on the current shuttle. This passenger cabin should have a glass ceiling with cargo bay doors that open once in orbit giving the passenger cabin a view of the earth and space. This is where the money is for private companies and not carrying crews and supplies to the space station.


But this would leave NASA with no means of their own to access the space station which is rather ironic since we built and carried the modules into orbit. NASA needs to keep one shuttle flying probably Endeavour since it is the youngest so they have access to the space station until a replacement is built.

New Shuttle Fleet with a New Mission

Assembly PlatformWe need to shift our economy to a high tech economy and we need to invest in our strengths. We have the lead in space and aerospace engineering but that lead is disappearing. We need to take all skills we gained from building the space station and take those skills to the next level by building a New Shuttle Fleet and give it the mission of building an Orbiting Assembly Platform. I know what the heck is an Orbiting Assembly Platform? You can think of it as a sort of mini railroad yard in space that assembles spacecraft modules together.

In a train yard locomotives and cars are coupled together forming a train to carry specific cargo. If you are ship coal then you couple coal cars to the locomotive, if your shipping freight then you use box cars. We can use this same principle to assembly spacecraft in orbit. We would couple different modules like propulsion, command modules, life support, living quarters, scientific modules together in orbit.

One of the biggest challenges of building a spacecraft is atmospheric flight. Flying though the atmosphere places tremendous stress on a spacecraft and building spacecraft to withstand these stresses is expensive.

The solution is divide the spacecraft up into modules and carry them into orbit in the cargo bay of the shuttle. This way the modules don’t have to be built to withstand the stress of atmospheric flight. The spacecraft would be assembled in orbit and crews would use the space shuttle to travel between the earth and the Orbiting Assembly Platform.


ModulesThis would give NASA the flexibility to assembly missions specific spacecraft and it would also be very cost effective. Just like a train you figure out how many life support modules, propulsion modules, scientific modules, you need along with command module and living quarters module you need to carry out a specific mission. NASA could assemble spacecraft for a wide variety of mission form earth orbit missions that might repair a telescope, satellite or shoot space debris into lower orbits so it burns up. Or longer missions to the moon, or to intercept a comet or asteroid, to going to mars or the asteroid belt. This assembly platform could assemble spacecraft for any mission might want to take. Except for Maritain Landers those would have to be launched from earth. Those will need heat shielding and would probably be easier to assemble on earth. These modules would be pulled off of the rack and assembled and once the mission was complete they would be placed back on the racked and serviced. This way we are not throwing modules away. We reuse modules in different configurations for different missions.

Open the Door to Commercial Ventures

The Assembly Platform can also be use to assemble large communication platforms which would handle far more traffic than current communications satellites. We could build a global network of communication platforms that are strung around the planet. These platforms would handle radio, television, telephone and cell phone, internet and email, inventory control, banking and credit card transactions, tracking fleets of vehicles, weather to name a few. Just as GPS lets us know where we are anywhere on the planet, a network of communication platforms will allow two way communication anywhere on the planet. The global demand for data transfer and communications will only grow and there is a lot of money to be made in global communications.


Oriting Assembly PlatformThe Assemble Platform will also allow us to build Construction Platforms which would be used to build orbiting tourist facilities. This is the next logical step after suborbital tourist flights which are schedule to start fairly soon. Virgin already has a finish spacecraft and is in the testing stage with its first maiden flight to happen fairly soon. This will lead to orbital flights and then people taking vacations in orbit. Space tourism will have instant worldwide demand as soon as the spacecraft and facilities are ready. And it will be a very profitable business because people will have almost religious experience and they will want to go into space time and time again.

It’s an Orbiting Repair Station

The Assembly Platform will be equip with a pressurized hanger to make repairs on the shuttle or other spacecraft.  After the Columbia accident NASA got concerned about flying the shuttle because of damage to the tiles. The Assembly Platform will be handle these types of repairs so spacecraft can make it back to earth. If you are going to have tourism you need a place with repairs can be done in orbit.

Unmatched Capability

A new Space Shuttle Fleet and an Orbiting Assembly Platform will give this country unmatched capability in space that no other country will be able to match for a very long time. This means job security because these jobs can’t be outsourced. And the platform opens the door for exploration and attaining new technology. While it might be nice to be all friendly with other countries in space at the end of the day it’s all about technology because technology translates in to jobs and products in our factories and it makes the economy strong.

We don’t want other countries having as much technology as we have and we certainly don’t want them having more technology than we have. Space is a competition to see what’s out there and who gets there first and to attain technology. In the old days they use to sail the seas in search of gold and minerals, and spices. Today space is the seas and technology is the gold.

The only way our country is going to compete with other countries who have lower labor costs is by shifting our economy to a high tech economy. And the very best way to attain that technology is solving the difficult problems of manned exploration in space. Solving what man needs to explore in space translates to better products here on earth.

We need to take $150 billion dollars from the Recovery & Reinvestment Act funds and invest in the high technology of space. Building new replacement Space Shuttles along with the components of the of the Orbiting Assembly Platform will save approximately 9,000 jobs currently tied to the Space Shuttle and create thousands of more high technology jobs. These are the jobs that can't be exported. We need to shift our economy to high technology and you don't do that by eliminating the Space Shuttle.

Out of over 130 flights the Space Shuttle had two accident. That is a great safety record and it shows the Space Shuttle is a sound design. The only problem the shuttle has is with insulation from the external tank falling off and striking the heat tiles. This can be fixed with a simple fairing over the external tank in areas where the insulation could fall of and strike the shuttle. A simple lightweight carbon fiber (or made from other material) fairing would do it. We have had 25 years of service from the space shuttle and its worth the money to get another 25 years of service. There is not a better replacement. And space capsules are not the solution to getting into space because they throw too much hardware away getting into orbit. The name of the game is reusable spacecraft. You won't get the people's support by throwing away tens or hundreds of millions of dollars worth of hardware every time you want to go into space.

We need to be working on reusable spacecraft because this is the way toward space tourism and starting an entirely new industry. And we should be the gateway for that industry. If we don't lead some other country will be happy to and I have a problem with that. Other countries leading won't help our economy, and our nations pride.