Vessel Transorbital tug / Hauler

Arvil

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Uncrewed hauler would be autonomous, but it could be flown remotely to dock during approach by the station crew if need be. That could be part of the sim. When landing at, let’s say, Brighton Beach, might be safer to auto land at a pad remote maybe a km instead right next to the base.
 
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Urwumpe

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We could also build autonomous ships and don't (yet). Maybe its simply smarter to have somebody onboard, who can fix things, improvise in failures and can make decisions.

If we play things like in Orbiter, with 99% of the flight time being at high timewarp, this might not look necessary. But if your daily work is full of maintenance, checks and planning, a crew makes more sense. Teleoperation only makes sense, if the spacecraft is cheap enough itself to become a full loss.
 

jedidia

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Ok, after the unlucky start, let me try again with those stories (again, some order is implicit, where not implicit it's not important)...

  • I want to be able to fly around between orbits and dock
  • I want to be able to switch individual systems on and off with a keypress (mains, rcs, dockport etc).
  • I want to flip a couple of switches to turn systems on and off (interface)
  • I want the craft to feel plausible (mass, propellant, performance etc)
  • I want to see what the craft looks like (mesh)
  • I want to to be able to load and unload payloads
  • I want to have to go through a checklist and flip some switches before undocking
  • I want to have to go through a checklist after docking
  • I want some fuses to blow or similar if I go through the checklists completely wrong
  • I want to be able to die (not necessarily of dysentery, though)
  • I want to have to go through a checklist before turning on the main engine
  • I want the cockpit to look nice and be less confusing than it probably will be at this point...
  • I want to explode in a great ball of fire if I go aero-or lithobreaking (ok, that one's very optional...).

There, that looks better.
 
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Urwumpe

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Yeah, that is a good set of users stories to start with. And it is supposed to be a unwinged, pure spacecraft.
 

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Here is a first quick suggestion for a spacecraft configuration based on the early discussions, without any trace of vanity, I decided to name this configuration U0:



It is based on a small LANTR engine as main propulsion and main power source, the cargo and the crew being stacked above. I think a crew of two could be minimum there, while the primary structure could likely also be large enough to allow carrying 3-4 passengers. From an organisational POV, I think a crew of three might be smarter, having one person dedicated to the cargo handling and engineering duties, while the other two handle navigation and communication, and command and management.

The crew section and the engineering section can be separated in emergency, leaving the crew section as minimalist lifeboat. I think about putting a classic bipropellant outside the primary structure into four separate module (each with its own propellant resources and engines), for simpler servicing (I think disconnecting propellant lines in space is more work than it really saves weight). Those RCS modules could also be used for docking. Primary RCS would be using superheated hydrogen from the reactor core. There should be also enough electricity available to improve the ISP by using ArcJets - but I think its not necessary.

The communications gear is mostly placed into a gimballing communications mast, that can be placed between the cargo containers when no longer needed (eg, when docking), for making the spacecraft fit better into a limited approach cone.

There is a standard docking port on front (the drawing is not perfectly on scale - modelling is no self-purpose).

All stuff that could be a major explosion or radiation risk is put into the engineering section. The H2 tanks have a rather poor empty mass for a chemical rocket engine, but are more robust. All the H2 tanks are surrounded by a sunshade that reduces the need for refrigeration and recompression. This one also acts as first layer of MMOD protection and can easily be replaced even without docking the spacecraft to a space dock/station. Again, by using a LANTR, a lot of the structure can be build more massive and robust, than possible with chemical propulsion, allowing a longer lifetime of the spacecraft in space. I am still not fully sure where to put the small LOX tank for the LANTR, because the size of it is still unknown - it depends on how the propulsion should be optimized (or not, allowing more freedom for the crew). The separate cylindrical H2 tanks could also allow managing the CoG a bit, should the cargo be too uneven to use engine gimballing.

The LANTR reactor core is supposed to be one self-contained unit, that can be replaced and reprocessed by the manufacturer as whole, the nozzle extension can be replaced independently. All support equipment, that is not directly connected to the core is in front of the radiation shield structure. It is installed into modules that can again be replaced rather easily (at the expensive of more weight), that should be usually be hidden by panels with chevron louvers, allowing the heat of the turbines and pumps to be directly radiated into space,. Most of the flight time, the standard radiators should be enough for keeping the systems cooled, while using the main engine or afterwards for dumping decay heat, heavy duty radiators can be used. Maybe it makes sense to allow retracting them and protect them against MMODs, but right now I consider this unneeded complexity. Right now the standard radiators point backwards, away from the propellant tanks. Not sure if this is really the best choice, maybe its better to extend the radiation shield structure a bit more and place them at the sides, allowing to use the radiation shield also as additional sunshield during cruise phases.

The design right now looks rather slick and cylindrical, but I am sure this will change later. Aerodynamics are not needed. The crew module looks conical towards the docking port now, but even that is not necessary. It could be come more complex shaped. Especially I think about putting many consumables and parts with a short lifetime into modules on the outside of the hull, for easier servicing and isolating possible damage better (should one such module get badly damaged by a MMOD strike, the rest of the spacecraft should only get slightly damaged)

Again, its just a first quick drawing done during the idle holiday hours. I hope I will see some less boring ideas from others here.
 

Owenmck

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I always liked the cockpits from Rogue Spaceship, with massive display screens instead of heavy, vulnerable windows.

21CE9BB0-3E69-442B-B6AA-54A709D70066.jpeg
(Reference Image)
 

Urwumpe

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I always liked the cockpits from Rogue Spaceship, with massive display screens instead of heavy, vulnerable windows.

View attachment 26080
(Reference Image)

Yeah, maybe harder to produce in Orbiter, but makes sense. Though I think, they are slightly overperforming - a more low tech version could also do the job in Orbiter. A good navigation display is likely more important than a virtual reality screen.
 

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Here is a first quick suggestion for a spacecraft configuration based on the early discussions, without any trace of vanity, I decided to name this configuration U0:



It is based on a small LANTR engine as main propulsion and main power source, the cargo and the crew being stacked above. I think a crew of two could be minimum there, while the primary structure could likely also be large enough to allow carrying 3-4 passengers. From an organisational POV, I think a crew of three might be smarter, having one person dedicated to the cargo handling and engineering duties, while the other two handle navigation and communication, and command and management.
I'm not familiar with the specifics of LANTR engines but given that it's nuclear then this caveat probably applies to it as well, in which case those radiators would probably need to be moved forward towards the crewed section; but otherwise i really like the design, has a nice rugged and reliable feel to it.
 

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Ok, not sure how dangerous the gamma radiation from backscatter can become, but it looks like a critical design aspect. I think I will make 5 fixed radiators and move them behind a larger shield.

Here is a fixed version of the suggestion including the backscatter zones. Lengthened it a bit to produce more space for the radiators, sadly longer distance between reactor core and machinery. Moved the standard radiators to the crew section, while hiding the propulsion radiators behind a second ring shaped shield.

 
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turtle91

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So more or less a modified LSTS craft like the one from Greg Burch ( https://www.orbithangar.com/showAddon.php?id=62a8e74e-eaef-4414-87f4-9679063607ae).
In my opinion a still nice looking boat....which I am still using even today.
If the SC3/4 limitations could be replaced using a DLL with some of the previous mentioned features.....
It has some nice moving parts which could be part of the docking checklist.
Found this small PDF about LANTR, not much, but the lander looks again a bit Burch'ish IMO. :)
https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/19950005290
 

jedidia

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Again, its just a first quick drawing done during the idle holiday hours. I hope I will see some less boring ideas from others here.
Boring? I'm loving this! It's already a lot more detailed than I could have come up with!

Yeah, maybe harder to produce in Orbiter, but makes sense.
Might be a bit tough in a VC, I'm not sure, I've never worked with them. But if the controll interface is to be more like touchscreens rather than switches, and implemented as a panel, I do have that UI framework lying around (it's essentially a high-level abstraction of the orbiter panel with a toolkit for common UI elements like buttons, listboxes etc), so at least in a panel something like this would actually be easier for me to do than a traditional panel. Trouble is, I like switches... 😖
 

Urwumpe

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Might be a bit tough in a VC, I'm not sure, I've never worked eith them. But if the controll interface is to be more like touchscreens rather than switches, and implemented as a panel, I do have that UI framework lying around (it's essentially a high-level abstraction of the orbiter panel with a toolkit for common UI elements like buttons, listboxes etc), so at least in a panel something like this would actually be easier for me to do than a traditional panel. Trouble is, I like switches... 😖

Why not both? Have touchscreens for all the high-level functions, since we can also assume some lot of automatisation or even some level of AI.

Maybe even mobile tablets for various maintenance and management tasks.

And have a small number of switches and circuit breakers at the low level for maintenance, cold start or "finding SCE to AUX".

For example, like this concept: First booting up the core system of the spacecraft and then using this for bringing the top level functions online with increasing automatisation.

For example, there could be a number of master power switches somewhere. Once the power buses and power distribution systems are online, the crew could use a tablet or touchscreen to manually power up further subsystems until automatic power control is possible. Once this is available, the crew can focus on initializing the other subsystems, while the automatic system keeps generation and supply balanced. The more subsystems are booted up, the more applications become available, just like at some point, the AI will be able to take over and perform the remaining tasks, without being in distress because of the missing sensors and effectors. At this point, the crew could have some time for performing the manual IVA work, like stowing food, preparing for the tour of duty (Maybe 2-12 weeks in space before the crew is swapped) and prepare for departure.


Found this small PDF about LANTR, not much, but the lander looks again a bit Burch'ish IMO. :)
https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/19950005290

yeah, we also got those vehicles in the add-on TTM24. That is also one reason why I picked a LANTR - there is so much research about it available to build the add-on on.
 

jedidia

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The crew module looks conical towards the docking port now, but even that is not necessary. It could be come more complex shaped.
As for this, I was thinking maybe it could be spherical, or kind of "LEMish" (I don't even know how to describe that shape... "roughly cubical with lots of edges?").
 

Owenmck

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As for this, I was thinking maybe it could be spherical, or kind of "LEMish" (I don't even know how to describe that shape... "roughly cubical with lots of edges?").
Lemical? Lemgular?
 

jedidia

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For example, like this concept: First booting up the core system of the spacecraft and then using this for bringing the top level functions online with increasing automatisation.
I was rereading this, and now I can't get the idea of a small screen going through the boot log of the mainframe after power-up out of my head anymore... I might be getting a tiiiiny bit ahead of myself 😫
 

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As for this, I was thinking maybe it could be spherical, or kind of "LEMish" (I don't even know how to describe that shape... "roughly cubical with lots of edges?").

You mean about like this:

 

Urwumpe

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I was rereading this, and now I can't get the idea of a small screen going through the boot log of the mainframe after power-up out of my head anymore... I might be getting a tiiiiny bit ahead of myself 😫

Yeah, that would be one of the details to include (much) later. Maybe somebody else would like to provide a different configuration there, otherwise the next phase would scaling things. For example, I am pretty sure, that the main engine could become smaller relative to the vessel (Depends on how much thrust we need for TLI), the crew compartment is just a placeholder right now to provide some basic idea about how the full vessel could look like.

Sadly I don't have access to Dassaults NoMagic anymore - that would have made things much easier now. I can't even tell how expensive it would be for buying a licence as "independent mercenary".
 
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