Feeds

New spaceplane proposed for NASA station crew contract

Pocket shuttle offers astronauts backdoor entry

High performance access to file storage

Another candidate to replace NASA's space shuttle in the task of carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) has come forward. Unlike most of the other contenders, it is a winged space plane rather than a capsule.

The proposed CCDev spaceplane from Orbital Sciences pictured during ISS operations. Credit: OSC

In space, nobody can hear your ship going 'beep beep beep'

Orbital Sciences Corporation, an American firm which makes satellites and launch rockets, yesterday announced its proposal for NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) plan, under which the space agency will hire private companies to provide passage to and from the ISS. CCDev is a new way of doing business for NASA, which formerly bought rockets, spacecraft etc from contractors but operated them itself.

The Orbital proposal has several important differences from today's Shuttles. The "blended lifting body" spaceplane doesn't have its own engines like a Shuttle orbiter: rather it will travel into space atop a conventional throwaway rocket stack. It will carry just four astronauts, and will dock with the space station using a hatch situated at the rear, where the Shuttle has its engines. After departing from ISS, the Orbital craft will descend to a runway landing.

Most other contenders for CCDev - Elon Musk's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft, Boeing's CST-100 and the Orion craft which survives from NASA's cancelled Constellation programme - are capsules, intended to re-enter the atmosphere without much alteration to their orbital track and set down by parachute. The Shuttle's spotty safety record has made many designers wary of spaceplanes.

That said, there is another winged craft contending to be a CCDev astronaut lifter, the "Dream Chaser" design submitted by Sierra Nevada Corporation. Orbital's new offering is somewhat smaller, with four seats as compared to six, and appears to have more wing area - hinting at greater "cross range" capabilities.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
IBM Hursley Park: Where Big Blue buries the past, polishes family jewels
How the internet of things has deep roots in the English countryside
Video games make you NASTY AND VIOLENT
Especially if you are bad at them and keep losing
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Honeybee boffin STINGS OWN WEDDING TACKLE... for SCIENCE
Not the worst place to be stung, says one man
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.