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Abandon-In-Place Shuttle

Get some use from the old shuttles.
  [vote for,

NASA's three remaining orbiters, no matter what NASA says, are getting on in the years. Rather than scrapping them outright as several politicians want to do, or letting them crash and kill three more shuttle crews as NASA seems to want to do, we should fill the cargo bays with spacelab pods (a pressurised, inhabitable tube that allows scientists to carry out various experiments) and put the shuttles in orbit near the ISS. That way we'd get a lot more room in the station and the hardware is already paid for. The shuttles need not ever re-enter the atmosphere. They'd do just fine as pressurised enclosures. Granted, the equipment to re-supply a shuttle in orbit may not exist at this time, but due to the modular nature of the cargo bay it should not be very difficult to aquire this capability.
Madcat, Sep 13 2003


       Let's just fill up the cargo bays with all the existing copies of Gigli and shoot them to the sun.
DeathNinja, Sep 13 2003

       Keep 'em as life boats. Any port in a storm...
phoenix, Sep 13 2003

       Return in a blaze of gory.
FarmerJohn, Sep 13 2003

       Like a daylight shooting star...
starjump, Sep 13 2003

       Probably not too well I'm afraid. Anything that stays up there for a decent length of time gets whacked by debris and eventually becomes rather pitted. I wouldn't really trust a heat-shield or tiles after a year in space. On the other hand, I would trust it if the alternative was Certain Flaming Death (tm).
Madcat, Sep 13 2003

       //Let's just fill up the cargo bays with all the existing copies of Gigli and shoot them to the sun.\\   

       Sadly, Congress forced NASA to build the Shuttle in such a way that it would be incapable of reaching escape velocity. Fortunately, you need not use a shuttle to launch Gigli into the sun. A Delta is quite capable of performing that feat.
Madcat, Sep 13 2003

       Fill it up with supplies for the ISS (oxygen,water,food etc) and keep them up there for storage. ISS garages.
EdZ, Oct 28 2003

       Fill it with O2 and some sort of micrometeorite-resistant blanket that they can wrap around it while sitting around and waiting. Park it near Hubble, and this would save the Hubble from the fear mongers who want to kill it off for safety reasons.   

       Or use UB's idea (above), and use the shuttle as the micrometeorite shield.
Worldgineer, Mar 12 2004

       Actually, this is not a bad plan at all... The shuttle could be launched carrying its own micrometeorite shield to be extended around it for its time in space.   

       It would be interesting to see how long one would remain in orbit without serious decay. That alone might make a good experiment.
zigness, Mar 12 2004

       Heh, a sort of orbiting Smithsonian? Go post it zigness, good idea in its own right.
Madcat, Mar 12 2004

       Has anyone seen the current NASA mission plan? I read that in the event of a serious malfunction the astronauts are to get to the ISS and direct the malfunctioning shuttle INTO THE PACIFIC OCEAN!   

       They then wait for the next Shuttle home. This effectively cancels the Shuttle program as they don't want anyone stranded in space & won't be able to keep both remaining shuttles operational at the same time. (So they say.)   

       If it's already in space, can't it be parked next to the ISS as said here and used somehow?   

       What a waste.
Zimmy, Mar 22 2005

       //If it's already in space, can't it be parked next to the ISS as said here and used somehow?//   

       Because the shuttle was not designed to be capable of major orbit shifts - it has a small amount of maneuverability, but that's it - it could never really reach geosynchronous orbit height.
shapu, Mar 22 2005

       It's ironic, isn't it. NASA's current motto appears to be 'if in doubt, send the Russians'.   

       Hang on [shapu] - the shuttle must be able to reach the ISS and match volcities with it. What's the difference between that and geosynchronous orbit?
moomintroll, Mar 22 2005

       I can see the ISS being dumped into the pacific shortly after completion when there's nothing left that can get to it. Joined up strategy in space seems to have gone the way of Skylab.
wagster, Mar 22 2005

       [moomintroll] - Shuttle flights to the ISS are planned months in advance, and the shuttle basically glides to the ISS with the ability to adjust its position a few meters. Shuttles don't carry any fuel into space, mind you - just a few gas cannisters.   

       So if a shuttle that's not on a flight path to the ISS gets into trouble, it really doesn't have a lot of chances with regards to getting to the ISS in the first place. I know NASA is trying to do just that, but the shuttle would require a lot more propulsive gasses than it comes equipped with now. If they can get it hammered out, good for them - but if it's an emergency at the end of the mission, then there will be seven more empty lockers in Florida at the end of the day.
shapu, Mar 22 2005

       I think that the shuttles can be flown without astronauts on board (the USSR's version flew its ONLY mission that way). If they could be completely automated that would increase their cargo capacity and also reduce human risk - while we continue to work on the next generation of orbital vehicles.   

       Rig those birds for RC flight and run 'em 'til the wings fall off!
justibone, Mar 23 2005

       // and run 'em 'til the wongs fall off// ...and land on a school.   

       Sorry. Obviously the shuttle's wongs very rarely fall off, being securely attached to the drexler by a whole set of 3/8 monkey gripneys. I'm more concerned about its wings, really.   

       Further up: so what you're saying [shapu] is that the ISS is at the extreme edge of the Space Shuttle's range.
moomintroll, Mar 23 2005

       //and run 'em 'til the wings fall off//   

       Obviously just an expression. There are many ways to ensure that re-entering shuttles do not hit populated areas.   

       Sheesh. Watch out for pedants in the spaceship threads!
justibone, Mar 23 2005

       [moomintroll]Precisely. Achieving an orbit that high is just not technically feasible given current shuttle equipment.   

       Double-entendre typo response: Most wongs never fall off. But it's best if they do it far away from dense populations.
shapu, Mar 23 2005

       <edit>OK, the OMS is actually quite weedy</edit> As the shuttle is quite capable of reaching the ISS (it was used in the construction) I see no problem with sending them up and parking them next to the it, they'd make half decent lifeboats, if nowt else. You could spray the tiled sections with something (in space) that'll burn off on reentry and provide protection against micrometeorite 'weathering'; this'd save ESA (or whoever got the job) a lot of money trying to develop a fancy new lifeboat for the ISS.   

       I don't think the shuttle's big enough to be an orbital station, although they've taken pods up in the cargo bay before and done experiments in them. Anyway, here's my rubbish plan: equip a shuttle with a big fuel tank (as big as poss. allowing for weight restrictions) in the cargo bay, connected to the fuel system for the OMS rockets (the 2 little ones on the tail) and wee manouvering thrusters. Send the shuttle up with a 2 person crew (assuming that's the minimum number required) and dock with the ISS (again, assuming there's a free docking port somewhere and that they've brought the shuttle docking thingy) and have them return to earth in a Soyuz capsule that went up with supplies in it. OK, I expect that the cargo version of the Soyuz is rather different from the passenger one, surely they can just use a passenger one and strap everything down inside it.
squigbobble, Apr 26 2005

       I wonder if they could run a non- tensioned cable from abandoned shuttle to ISS to use as a "sidewalk". Non-tensioned cable holder could be patterned after a garden hose holder/dispensor.
Zimmy, Apr 26 2005

       Of course they won't do anything to prevent another shuttle crashing, because money is more valuable than human life in our current politicians state of mind. Sad, but true. Why would you want to scrap a 20 year old 100 million dollar space craft? Even if it is dangerous?
EvilPickels, Apr 26 2005

       I thought that the shuttles had been grounded since the disaster while emergency repair kits were designed and fitted to prevent them crashing, hence they are only now coming back into service?
david_scothern, Apr 26 2005

       The ISS isn't in a geosynchronous orbit. The problem with reaching the ISS has been that not all orbits intersect, even at the same altitude. Moving from one orbit to another even at the same height requires fuel. Think of the difference between a polar orbit (crossing the north and south poles) and one that circles the equator.   

       All future missions will be in orbits from where the ISS can be reached in an emergency.   

       [+] for the idea. These things are still useable one-shot spacecraft, even if they can't be guaranteed for re-entry. Let 'em take one last payload up.
BunsenHoneydew, Jul 17 2005


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