Could the Atlas V carry astronauts?

Could the Atlas V carry astronauts?

NASA and the United Lauch Alliance — the joint space venture of two little mom-and-pop companies called Boeing and Lockheed Martin — have agreed to share information going forward as they study whether one of the military’s workhorse rockets could eventually carry humans, the Orlando Sentinel reports. That could mean astronauts might use a version of the same rocket that carries “payloads,” i.e. spy satellites, for the National Reconnaissance Office, as well as other satellites for the military.

Wrote Sentinel reporter Mark Matthews:

The new contract, which does not come with money, allows NASA to trade data with ULA as the company examines how it could safely fly astronauts aboard the Atlas V — a rocket with about two dozen launches under its belt that NASA and the Pentagon have used for unmanned payloads since 2002.

“ULA looks forward to continued work with NASA to develop a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability …” said George Sowers, vice president for business development at ULA, in a statement.

He said that under a best-case scenario, ULA could have an Atlas V ready to launch astronauts by mid-decade. Studies of the potential to launch humans aboard an Atlas V largely are expected to be completed by years-end, according to ULA.

For more than a year, President Barack Obama has pushed NASA to rely on commercial rockets to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station once the shuttle era is over.

The agreement between NASA and ULA, a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is a sign that industry is transitioning to this new line of thinking. It also will put ULA in direct competition with SpaceX, an upstart company from California that has led the charge for NASA to use commercial companies, rather than government rockets, to ferry astronauts to the station.

Matthews goes on to write that NASA officials have looked before at the possibility of using the Atlas V to carry humans, but preferred instead to try to pursue different space vehicles as part of their now-cancelled Constellation program.

Join the Conversation

Hell yeah it could. There is no significant difference between the reliability of a “man rated” rocket and a “non-man rated rocket”. NASA’s own launch data from the last 25 years proves it.

One small step for mediocrity. One giant step backward for mankind

While I don’t know what the “man safe” requirements are for the Atlas V, or what it would take to certify it — I do know they will need a capsule of some sort. And that capsule will have to be able to maneuver, dock with the space station, and be capable of returning to earth with the astronauts safely. That’s the hard part — not the booster.

reliability is only one issue, satellites can withstand more G-forces than man can, so the flight profile has to be changed to keep the G-forces in check.

ULA has two vehicles to offer — Atlas and Delta. Atlas uses Ukrainian engines and so has “made in the USA” problems. The Delta uses a version of the Space Shuttle Main Engine which is a US product. That is the difference between the two — politically.
Now, both could lift a variety of capsules — just shape the trajectory and design the capsule for the available lift of the rocket. The Boeing CST-100 should be able to fly on either. The MPCV/Orion is coming in very heavy, for that reason they have already dropped (a long time ago) two of six crew seats.
Man-rating would imply added redundant avionics where needed — of course both Atlas and Delta launch very expensive and unique satellites right now so they are highly reliable. The long experience with both is the best assurance of reliability.

the RD-180 engine is russian

You’re exactly right… human rating a launch vehicle is so much more strict because NASA seems to want the astronauts to survive the trip up.

Heck with all that–bring the Saturn 5 out of moth balls–problem solved.

Delta4 heavy will probably never be able to be man rated unless they do something to control the initial flame up at ignition. Many of them have burn marks all the way up on the fairing at launch. Atlas certainly has the thrust… but there are some issues with vibration with the use of the add-on SRB’s, which would probably need to be used.

Either way… the re-design effort would only be slightly less inclusive than building a new launch vehicle since we seem to be committed to the Apollo-era big stick rather than pushing ahead with the next logical step after Shuttle.

Better to increase efforts on improving robotics technologies that better extend to other applications both in space and on Earth.


didn’t john glenn go into orbit on an atlas rocket? didn’t the gemini astronauts go into orbit atop titan rockets? do we have any of these left, just waiting to be modified and refurbished? couldn’t we build manrated titan-3 or titan-4 h.l.l.v. systems with the appropriate new design (variable thrust boosters to adjust the missile’s artifical gravitational increase in order to not over stress crew, payload, and/or launch systems) should the job? is n.a.s.a., at this very moment, not relearning and/or redesigning the apollo 1 and apollo 5 h.l.l.v. systems, with all ancilliary equipment? it would seem logical that in the last half century,with all the advances in all technical areas, we could quickly meet and exceed what we mastered 50 years ago.

Further to BJFLA’s comment…

What exactly is the REAL issue against bringing back the Saturn V. I don’t buy the tired myth that all the “plans” for the F-1 engine are gone or destroyed, and we no longer have the expertise. I also don’t buy some other arguments I have seen which imply each F-1 engine was a “one-off” and further implies that each engine had to be subtley tweaked to prevent combustion instabiity.

Given today’s modern computational fluid dynamics and combustion simulation software, I find it hard to believe that a “standardized” F-1 engine could not be re-produced. Heck, it would most certainly be improved upon. With the special casting technologies, massive advances in high speed turbo machinery, reliability and robustness of cooling and bearing systems (not to mention metallurgy), I have to think that a modernized F-1 would be superior, and potentially cheaper solution then the current SLS plan of throwing away costly SSMEs with each launch of hypothetical HLV.

Space-plane on a booster? I’ve seen this concept before. The complete payload wouldn’t even have to fit into the rocket nose!

Earth has its charms, but for how long should humans be kept out of Space?

If NASA was so concerned about humans surviving the trip, rockets wouldn’t blow up at a rate of 2 or 3 per hundred launches. Hell, 1 out of every 8 shuttle astronauts died in a fire ball. The g-force issue can be dealt with by changing the launch profile and with some timing issues. So far no one has been able to make a rocket that didn’t blow up all the f’ing time, and this is a 70 year old technology, so I don’t want to hear about how airplanes used to be like that.

Do you want to sit on what is for most purposes a giant fire bomb that’s a 40 or 50 year old refurbished booster. I doubt it. Apollo 1 was the capsule that killed three astronauts.

You apparently haven’t seen the on camera interview of the guy who helped perfect the Saturn V’s main engine. It required considerable tweaking due to combustion instability. But what does he know. There were huge fluid dynamics and combustion velocity problems.

I think you have the right issue here. The criteria for man rating is different and they would have to go through the whole rocket design to see where they stand against the different specifications. It would be so much work, a completely new custom design might be cost competitive. That is what is wrong with building new Saturn Vs also, assuming the performance is even a good match to requirements. If all the drawings and tools were saved, and they weren’t, the materials and processes used to make the parts are hopelessly obsolete. Some of them are even banned by the EPA now, for instance. We would have redesign many things to modern standards, build back the whole infrastructure, repeat all the testing, etc. Better to start from scratch?

Bronco — you need to distinguish between rockets and capsules, they are different you know.

For the Apollo 1 crew, the booster had nothing to do with the accident — and the discussion was about the booster. The capsule was made by a separate company and there were few similarities.

Also — the reports tell us that it was not the capsule that killed the crew but the poor decision making of the managers. The assembly was rushed, leading to frayed wiring. The atmosphere was not studied, leading to a dangerous atmosphere. The testing was compressed, leading to possible overwork of the systems and crew.

The errors in your statement are far too numerous to mention individually, it is a wonder how so many mistakes can be packed into so few words.
Still — the Challenger accident could be interpreted as fitting your description but not the Columbia (accident during re-entry). There is re-entry heating but when the vehicle failed it was not in a “fire ball”. Hot gasses were allowed into the wing, which melted it off, but the loss had nothing to do with the launch (and the accompanying engine exhaust) that you refer to.
The Shuttle will retire with a record of 135 launches and one loss on ascent — that is one per 135, quite different from your claimed 2 or 4 per one hundred. With such small numbers, statistics cannot be used carelessly.

Oh, so sorry, this is clearly not a fireball: http://​www​.britannica​.com/​E​B​c​h​e​c​k​e​d​/​m​e​d​i​a​/​6​8​8​7​0/S

What was I thinking? And Chuck, dead is dead. It don’t much matter if it is on ascent or descent. Even a tiny mind should be able to get that.

You may have misunderstood my post. The fact that the original F-1 design had serious (catastrophic) combustion instability is well documented, and I am not discounting that. Eventually, through trial and error they were able to finally develop a solution. My point is that once they had solved the problem, the F-1 design was “finalized”, incorporating the required modifications to the injector/diffuser, I dispute the claims made (by some) that every F-1 engine made thereafter, was a “one-off”. Yes, they were hand built…but they were built to a final design specification with exacting tolerances. Yes, each engine may have had to undergo a certification firing. Some have claimed, or implied that each and every F-1 engine had to be “tweaked” individually in order to prevent the instability. I say that is rubbish. Once the combustion instability problem was solved and a final design fix was made, it applied to every subsequent, certified build.

Going from one spacecraft, bound to LEO and launching about 4 times a year at a $Billion+ per launch to several spacecraft on multiple boosters, each launching multiple times a year (including some on Beyond-Earth Orbit missions) while costing substantially less per mission is a giant step backwards?

Apollo one was mentioned! All things Apollo were capsules; and Apollo one burned. The booster for that capsule was a Saturn V. If you want a booster and order an Apollo; you won’t get what you want. And the cause of the fire was never determined. It was attributed to “arcing”. The fire was made worse by large amounts of flammable materials in that first design and the pure oxygen atmosphere.

These boosters will carry fewer crew members then the shuttle, have little payload capability during manned missions, and would not be capable of servicing anything in orbit. And any beyond LEO missions would only be unmanned and could not have the size or weight of shuttle launched payloads.

SpaceX already has tested their dragon (flown in Dec 2010, can carry up to 7)
http://​www​.spacex​.com/​u​p​d​a​t​e​s​.​php http://​www​.spacex​.com/​d​r​a​g​o​n​.​php

The design is there, it just needs to go through it’s qualification testing. It is scheduled for an ISS fly-by this year.

Why waste time developing another spacecraft… unless for deep space.

SpaceX already has a design that passed its first unmanned orbital flight.

If Altas can’t handle it then bring back the “SATURN” launch vehicle.

I thought we finished launching tin cans on Atlas rockets a half century ago with the Mercury program. Change indeed.

One man’s ancient history is another’s proven reliable technology.

Besides, the Russians never stopped launching tin cans…maybe they’ve got the right idea?

I believe the Saturn V could & should be brought back to service.
It performed great for the Apollo program & could do the same
with delivering materials & personnel to the Space Station.
Fellow worker at MTF..Dick Doll– Space Systems QAR

We have all the components on the shelf. There isn’t any “hard parts” to it. They have all the numbers and all needed is to match the component to the task and make required adjustments.
We have spent billions on the lifting body science with landing gears so water landings cost should not enter the equation.
“Man safe” systems require triple backups into all components. Yes, the manned lifting body will require booster nose mtg. No Strapping to the booster side, that rodeo is over using liquid fueled boosters.

I don’t see anything happening until Nasa fires the butt sucking directer. Nobama, knows who his house boy is and has layed down the marching orders.

I believe it can. I believe the same type of rocket was used by the Chinese to send its Chinese astronaut to its own space station.

Here Am I Kilroy was here.

yes i agree the saturn five is the best option


NOTE: Comments are limited to 2500 characters and spaces.

By commenting on this topic you agree to the terms and conditions of our User Agreement

AdChoices | Like us on , follow us on and join us on Google+
© 2015 Military Advantage
A Monster Company.