Paper models, photos and musings of a Paper Kosmonaut

11 September 2016

Ariane 6 #2: Finished. Kind of. More meh than yay...

Well after such a rant about disliking a certain rocket it's time again for some paper model stuff. I started on that Ariane 6 a week or so ago and well, I have finished building. I am only partially satisfied with the outcome, I see it as a proof of concept and a fun scratch build and I have indeed proven to myself a couple of things in measuring and scratch building. I also learnt some more about having to be even more precise about placing stuff and well, keeping my hands clean. It has not become the most spotless of models, I am afraid. I think in the end I had lost my patience a little, wanting it to be finished, perhaps I should have left the model alone for some time but well, the impatience made me do it. Blame me. I don't really care. I will share it because I want you all to know that I sometimes make a little mess and that it's not great and all the whole time. From a distance it still looks nice anyway. (-:

 My problem was mainly with the boosters; the aligning of the cone with the straight hull was off because the curvature of the transition was too big. This led to a banana shape. It doesn't show that much but too much for my liking. I know how to change it but I couldn't be bothered with this build. Proof of concept. Also the aligning with the core was hard because I didn't put any marks on the hull beforehand. This led to some readjustments and tearing of paper. It was an easy repair but it left its scars. Furthermore, I got some blemishes here and there I couldn't get rid of. This was at a moment the core already was in a too far advanced state to tear it apart easily so I let it be. Proof of concept.

10 September 2016

Here's a little rant about SLS, the whitest elephant in the room.

Recently, NASA told the press they still don't know how much an actual SLS launch will cost but that they wanted to bring the costs of a single SLS flight down to under 2 billion dollars. When you take into account they ultimately plan at maximum two flights per year, it still is an extremely big amount of money, even compared to the total costs of a single space shuttle flight. And then I didn't even add the development costs to the equation. Now, I understand that SLS has been heavily endorsed by politics (it hasn't been nicknamed the Senate Launch System for nothing), securing thousands of jobs in otherwise emptied NASA-related factories, but I don’t see any other practical reason why NASA insists on actually making any launch vehicle themselves.

SLS in an earlier livery. © NASA
To be clear, I of course am not an American, I am Dutch. But I also pay taxes and see some of it being spent on European spaceflight endeavours. But in Europe, the ESA itself doesn’t build launchers. That is left to the industry. ESA creates missions, schools astronauts and coordinates the EU space efforts in general. The industrial consortium called Arianespace and smaller European companies are manufacturing the rockets, satellite buses and space probes. This leaves ESA with lots of room to deal with the other aspects of spaceflight. Mainly the organising aspect and the combining of all the separate efforts into one more or less streamlined practice. (That also used to be different somewhat 50 years ago, but I think 'we' kind of learnt from it...) 
Now before I go on, Here is a recent and  interesting article on Arstechnica on the SLS.  
And another one. 
And here's a shorter one on NASAwatch. 
Further below, I will have a nice personal rant about the SLS and its predecessors to get some stuff off my chest.

03 September 2016

Empty shelves! Quick! Make something new!

While in the background I am trying to figure out how to bring the N1 to a good end, fairing and LK3 train included, I have embarked on a new project. This is kind of a first for me, because I have never built a not-yet-realised rocket before. No, not that dreaded SLS, of which I am still not a fan at all, but the European Ariane 6. And not even because I think it is a good rocket. I just think it looks very pretty with that dark grey colour hull parts and those four small booster rockets:

Artist's impression of the Ariane 6. I don't think they'll leave those sporty stripes on the boosters.
It surely will save a couple of kilos in weight, leaving them off. Unless they are of course go-faster stripes. (Picture: © esa) 
There’s a lot to say about the Ariane 6, just like there is a lot to say about the SLS. Do we need them? The Ariane for example, won't be reusable at all. It'll be bigger than Ariane 5, polluting the environments with its kerolox burning main engines and powder-powered SRB’s. It will probably be a little lighter than the Ariane 5 because of lighter materials and different tank structures. Also maybe a little cheaper to produce because of the already existing first stages of the Vega launcher, are used here as booster rockets.
But Arianespace just wants it to compete with SpaceX. And that race they will not win, I am afraid. It is perhaps a good rocket, proven technology and all, it might perhaps have a good reputation. But it won’t ever be as cheap as a Falcon9. (And although SpaceX have had a major setback with that F9 blowing up on the pad the other day, I think they'll recover reasonably soon. I really hope they will..)

On the left, Ariane 5 with the two previous incarnations of the Ariane 6. Firstly, the PPH version, a solid rocket first stage with added boosters of the same type and a liquid second stage. Secondly, the newer Airbus-Safran proposed liquid fueled varsion with two and four boosters. This variant eventually has evolved into the definitive version on the first picture. (picture: © esa)
All that aside, the Ariane 6 just looks great. So that is why I chose to make this one.
The Ariane 6 has been going through a couple of big transformations. There is one model available of the Ariane 6 at Aries Space Models, by Erik te Groen. But that one is of the previous design configuration. These A62's and A64's had their booster cones like little stubby pencils pointing up into the sky, while the newer, definitive version has its booster cones pointing towards the hull, like the Ariane 5 has. Further has the fairing been redesigned to be flush with the fuselage. So that is why I now am kind of scratch-building it.
Using the measurements of the Ariane 5, which has the same diameter, I used a couple of pictures of the A6 launcher to make the different parts of the hull. The engine compartment is very different form the Ariane 5 and will need special attention. I'll make my own version of the Vega first stage including engines and all for the booster rockets and I’ll use my own designed Ariane 5 fairing on top.

But I won’t make it into a 100% realistic model, because it still has to be built and presumably is still subject of change. I intend to make it look like a 'show model'. Nice and shiny white contrasting with grey. So super gloss white photo paper combined with the dark grey fuel tank insulation parts. No mission logos, no flags of ESA member states and no ESA logo. And also no separable stages. So that makes this one a relatively easy build. But nevertheless, like I already said, looking quite awesome.

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