“If you wish your students to build better ships don’t teach them carpentry, teach them to long for the open ocean”.
New Growth Industry New Space
We live in interesting times. A world where technology moves deceptively fast. An ever increasing number of new companies investing in space tourism and future space based resource collection go online seemingly daily. This provides a huge opportunity for those interested in STEM education and science literacy.
Today engineers and scientists envision and plan horizontal take off single stage to orbit space craft, once operational these concepts could cut the cost of reaching orbit by 99%, making way for a paradigm shift in the space industry as space becomes commercially viable and accessible. We already see private space industry taking on traditional government lead programs flying manned missions to low Earth orbit.
Space X, Virgin Galactic with spaceship 2, Blue Origin and a number of other new companies are racing full speed to be the first to commercialize space and fly tourists into space a £125 million investment, with plans for full orbital flights and hotels orbiting the moon. Today it is hard to keep up, blink, and we have moved on so fast to the next best and bright shiny thing has already passed you by. When VPACC founder Karl Bushby began building VPACC’s ideas the goal was to have a mature business in place ready for when humanity next left low Earth orbit in order to capture that interest that would follow, he believed we had time. This year founder and CEO of SpaceX announced plans for a private manned flight around the Moon. Sooner than anyone would have expected, we will continue to be surprised at the rapid pace of innovation and execution of our boldest dreams.
Very soon advances in technologies will dramatically lower the cost of achieving orbit, opening massive opportunities for future investment in space industry. These industries will require a competent and skilled workforce. These industries will understand the need to invest in this future work force. Within this nexus there is ample opportunities for partnerships and joint endeavors to achieve compatible goals.
Space is going to play an important role in our future one way or another.
“It’s not about showing them information anymore, it’s about them feeling the experience” - Professor Brian Cox
Upon our horizon looms the next chapters in our history: the advent of space tourism, the commercialization of space, and humanity's push beyond low Earth orbit. Should we fail to have capable and mature capture strategies in place, waiting to accept the firestorm of enthusiasm that will follow, then we deserve the harshest judgment history will arrange.
Inspired by real world events in human space exploration a child today willing to act on those desires, or a parent wishing to enroll children in worthy after-school programs, may struggle, what are the options? Unfortunately the fact is there is not much available that would allow youth, or the public, to pursue these interests. Perhaps computer games, movies or TV shows or, if you are lucky, a visit to space camp. Discouraged, the fires of inspiration and enthusiasm would dwindle fast and be lost.
There is little available to capture this potential enthusiasm; thus far we have failed to provide the infrastructure and required access for the next generation. We are not laying the paths for them to follow as we must.
Above we talked about how influential the US Apollo program had been in both inspiring generations and empowering the economy for decades. A 2009 survey found that fifty percent of the internationally renowned scientists who published in the prestigious journal Nature during the previous three years had been inspired by Apollo to become scientists; 89% of the respondents also agreed that human spaceflight inspires younger generations to study science.
How can we build upon, and expand these elements designed to inspire? With the predicted growth of commercial and space tourism and human space exploration beyond low Earth orbit, now is the time to create that robust strategy and its infrastructure to capture those hearts and minds. VPACC intends on being part of that development. As a small but growing team of committed citizens VPACC is looking to partner with industry, with whom we share collective goals, to help shape this strategic imperative. There are two principal mechanisms to a capture strategy; opportunities and interest derived from real world events leading to VPACC, and interest inspired in-situ, created due to exposure to VPACC.
VPACC’s capture strategy, in its most basic form, is to capture, nurture and harvest the interest of the public. The 'capture' component is the entertainment interface with the public, 'nurture' is the implementation of long term programs and as important as the ideas is our ability to 'harvest' the interest created allowing us to feed the STEAM pipeline. On the back end of our capture strategy are the ecosystems that dovetail with formal and informal education organizations across the country.
Accommodating A Team
VPACC is built around a team, or flight crew, of four. Each member has an active responsibility as captain, co-pilot, engineering/navigator and science/payload. This would encourage teamwork and ensure active participation throughout the mission. Both pilots and rear workstations would be equipped with MFDs (Multi-Functional Displays) allowing teams to share responsibility and monitor a variety of core operations during the mission as well as their own specialized responsibility.
A New Era Of Flight Simulation
A long standing favorite of the flight sim community Microsoft Flight simulator has received a major make over with a new 3rd party modification to the game engine allowing for ballistic trajectories, the high speeds required for accurately simulating orbit. The surfaces of other bodies in the solar system can also be modeled. This takes the simulation to a whole new level and creates opportunities for other model makers and designers to open up a new frontier in aerospace simulation. This allows VPACC to experiment with unique mission architecture and its goal of highly immersive and long term simulated scenarios and programs from just flight to long term planning and mission design. From orbit to inter planetary exploration and more.
FSX SpacePort give us great flexibility and opens up the possibility of interplanetary exploration by modeling other bodies in the Solar system. For example the Luna surface as seen in the images below.
Understanding The Need For Mission Architecture And Its Components
The objective of using an entertainment route to engage and inspire the public requires integrating a number of ideas and concepts. Chiefly among them the need for a wide range of options within our sandbox universe that allow the teams to develop the idea of a virtual career path. We achieve mission architecture by linking or docking our physical platforms in sequence, allowing the motion platform to play the role of a multi-purpose flight deck spanning all the scenarios being played out, including a descent and ascent vehicle for planet surfaces depending on the final design and scenario.
In order to create longer duration missions it’s important to be able to transfer crew from one platform to another seamlessly and create a seamless immersive mission profile. A static platform can be used to simulate the aft part of the orbiter vehicle. During the simulation, as the simulated flight reaches orbit, the motion simulator comes to rest, we no longer need the 6DOF physical motion cuing. Once in orbit all motion cueing could be visual only, with the exceptions of acceleration or de-acceleration for events like insertion burns or aero-braking. Once in a stable orbit, the motion platform is deactivated, the crew will then be allowed to leave their seats and have access to the mission module (static platform). This will allow for longer missions and would include basic facilities, the science lab, ablutions simulated airlock etc.
Expanding the mission scenarios for longer duration missions, will allow the crew access to the larger components or other static simulators, making it possible to daisy chain platforms. From the perspective of the crew, these static platforms could simulate either an orbiting space station or an interplanetary spacecraft. The linked platforms/simulators bring a broader mission spectrum and the possibility of a mission duration spanning days. It also expands the range of STEM-based subjects children can be exposed to and engaged with.
VPACC Flying, Orbiting, Exploring
Multi Purpose Exploration Vehicle Model
The simulated MPEV Multi Purpose Exploration Vehicle is the crux of the operation. It consists of the crew cockpit and aft cabin and behaves as a separate highly flexible spacecraft with many functions including orbital vehicle LEO, NEO exploration (combined with Mission Propulsion Module MPM), planetary exploration (combined with larger spacecraft) and be able to be part of a descent/ascent vehicle to planet and moon surfaces.
Because of the limiting realities of VPACs hardware every action or scenario needs to be performed from the cockpit and cabin. Therefor all aspects of the game must revolved around the cockpit. The cockpit has to do everything.
MPEV mission capabilities
Requires a technical docking nose cone, and a crew docking port to the rear.
Requires its own life support, propellant and RCS engines.
Required to carry out a number of rolls scientific and exploration.
The aft compartment is mission modular in design (internal modules).
Requires its own power array and radiators.
Cockpit section is required to able to perform as an inflight ejection capsule and escape and reentry capsule.
Required to be part of an descent and ascent vehicle.
Aft section requires a stowed robotic arm, remotely operated capable of lifting equipment in and out of the cargo bays.
Long range deep space communications.
Carries thermal shield for aero-braking and atmospheric entry (mission optional).