Aviation Week & Space Technology

A Peek Inside the Future of Aerospace Propulsion


It’s not just rocket scientists gathering at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ annual Propulsion & Energy conference, held this year in Atlanta. This is a mecca for turbine engineers, hypersonics researchers and, in a new development, those energized by the emerging field of electrified aircraft propulsion. Aviation Week technology writers Guy Norris and Graham Warwick discuss the thrusts of this year’s conference.

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Discuss this Video 4

on Jul 14, 2017

NASA and the government’s recent enthusiasm for a circumlunar space station seems to me a bit of silliness. It would be a black hole for funds and eventually unsustainable without any real purpose.

Partnering with the ESA and other countries to develop a self-sustaining lunar base on the other hand has great potential. There are water ice and building materials on the moon. Water ice cannot only provide drinking water and oxygen for the station but rocket fuel for lunar to Earth shuttles. Even more pertinent there requires no great advancements in propulsion technology to shorten the transit time to Mars by using cheap lunar hydrogen / oxygen fuel to provide the impulse power to a lunar / Mars shuttle.

If construction metals can be produced on the moon, more shuttles can be built at larger sizes fueled with lunar water. An abundance of fuel can shorten the trip to Mars and production facilities on the Moon can become economically self-sustaining.

on Aug 8, 2017

Concerning interplanetary human missions the showstopper is cosmic radiation and the only practical solution is the ice at the lunar poles. The "Parker Minimum" of around 400 tons of water shielding for a small capsule (specified by Eugene Parker in 2006) equates to well over a thousand tons for any long duration crew compartment. The shallow gravity well of the Moon and robot landers are the way to acquire that water shielding. This, however, leads to the question of how to push such a spaceship around the solar system. There is only one system available- Nuclear Pulse Propulsion, or more descriptively, H-bombs. The Super Heavy Lift Vehicle (evolved SLS) wet workshop with a powerful Launch Abort System being the path to transporting the workshop, landers, and fissionable material to the Moon.

on Jul 14, 2017

Send robots not delicate animals to space.

on Jul 17, 2017

Lets keep (and Use) our heads.

Dan, Check your RAM. Are we, in the next day and a half, going to find a learning robot to send into the unknown? Isaac Asimov, in his short stories, constantly pointed out the shortcomings of human programmed robots (having the 3 laws).
The Commander has given us a peek into a tiny porthole. The Commander speaks truth that the moon is an untapped treasure chest. But, on the other hand, she had warts.
Humans require a 1-Earth gravity force to stay healthy. Station a 1-G habitat wheel at L-1,L-2, or even lunar orbit in an international endeavor (crew and construction). Then shuttle crews (1-G, depending) to lunar orbit with a cargo shuttle to and from the surface. At some stage, the ore is transferred to a factory complex using a solar furnace to manufacture alloys undreamt of at the bottom of Earth's gravity well.
The Commander has a point. But we need to look at the entire sentence. Let us not put the cart before the horse. Do not put bureaucrats in charge. Remember Challenger and Columbia.

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