Japan Takes One Giant Leap Towards Budget Space Travel

Japan Takes One Giant Leap Towards Budget Space Travel

Could Japan's rocket, controlled by two laptops and a "DIY spacesuit" pave the way for low cost space programs?

With an average annual budget of $15.8 billion, NASA is a recurring black hole in American expenditure. Governments can plunge hundreds of millions of dollars into their space programs for the purposes of placing satellites in orbit, resupplying the International Space Station and continuing endeavors of scientific research beyond Earth's atmosphere. But, with the simplified launch of a Japanese rocket and the testing of the Danish "DIY spacesuit," has the time of low budget space exploration arrived?

The Epsilon rocket blasted off from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Uchinoura Space Center on Saturday. The launch was handled by no more than eight people with two laptops. The big red button was pressed by Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who said that the rocket demonstrated Japan's expertise in "highly reliable" space technology. The rocket itself still cost 3.8bn yen ($38.4m) which sounds like a pretty steep price tag. However, new faster assembly procedures and an on board computer system that performs its own checks means Epsilon is half the price of the old H2-A rocket. These advancements lead to significantly reduced staff requirements, down from the team of 150 required to launch its predecessor. The Epsilon rocket was designed to launch satellites and has just carried the SPRINT-A up into orbit, which will now voyage to observe Venus, Mars and Jupiter in ultraviolet wavelengths.

This new venture into cost cutting space travel comes as the Danish non-profit Copenhagen Suborbitals has revealed its "DIY Spacesuit" made from components found at local DIY stores. Compared to NASA's $11.9m equivalent, the suit is expected to cost considerably less. It is constructed from cork-tiles serving as heat shields and basic household plumbing for air and water supplies, amongst other odds and ends. The team's approach to testing procedure was also innovative and similarly low budget in aspiration. A low-pressure environment was recreated using medical technology borrowed from a local hospital. They even rented a theme park ride to test the suits response to g-forces.

"We went to Copenhagen's Tivoli gardens and tested the g-forces on fairground rides. Turns out the Vertigo ride has exactly the same g-force as our rockets, so we hired it for a day", said Kristian von Bengston, an ex-NASA scientist.

Japan has proven that launching objects into orbit can cost less from every angle. Going beyond NASA's low cost ambitions of the reusable space shuttle, but lowering the required staff required to oversee mission operations. With the fast paced advances being made in observing the universe, space exploration is only going to become more popular over the coming years. This rise in demand will send prices out of this world, maybe these ideas will inspire new cost cutting ways to bring prices back to Earth.

Source: The Telegraph

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Finally, an excuse to learn Japanese without people thinking I'm a weeaboo.

And how does this compare to Virgins two-stage aircraft-shuttlecock space tourism thing?

gigastar:
And how does this compare to Virgins two-stage aircraft-shuttlecock space tourism thing?

These actually go in to space. Virgin were just offering sub-orbital flights if I remember correctly.

I'm not really sure I'd trust a DIY space suit with my life, unless it was made of duct-tape I suppose.

Lowering the staff down from 150 to what exactly?

Holy hell, whoever volunteers to go up first in one of those rockets and in a so-called DIY spacesuit has balls of granite.

RatherDull:
Finally, an excuse to learn Japanese without people thinking I'm a weeaboo.

Off topic but if you display a modicum of restraint and moderation it's really not difficult. I did Japanese lessons for a number of years and so long as you put yourself over as having a healthy interest in that among other things (as opposed to an unhealthy interest in that and little else) then you've nothing to worry about. In fact from my experience the weeaboos were very much in the minority and are mostly weeded out once you get past stages 1 or 2 of your course.

NASA a black hole in expenditure? Not that thing again. That is terrible missinformation. look this Wikipedia list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_spin-off_technologies. THat is probably far much things given to the world (not just USA) in relation to expenditure than even DARPA or almost any other branch of the government. NASA is not a waste of money, as the phrasing suggests, it is a great investment in our future. THis is nice and all, and hope it makes space travel even better in the future, but please do not propagate that stereotypical view.

Teoes:
Holy hell, whoever volunteers to go up first in one of those rockets and in a so-called DIY spacesuit has balls of granite.

RatherDull:
Finally, an excuse to learn Japanese without people thinking I'm a weeaboo.

Off topic but if you display a modicum of restraint and moderation it's really not difficult. I did Japanese lessons for a number of years and so long as you put yourself over as having a healthy interest in that among other things (as opposed to an unhealthy interest in that and little else) then you've nothing to worry about. In fact from my experience the weeaboos were very much in the minority and are mostly weeded out once you get past stages 1 or 2 of your course.

Yeah, most crazy anime fans that believe that they know Japanese from watching anime are just weeded out, leaving people interested in the language and culture in a more serious manner.

DVS BSTrD:
Lowering the staff down from 150 to what exactly?

Says right there in the article: 8. Just eight.

I imagine many many people in the future will have space programs rivalling that of mine in Kerbal Space Program: massive failures on the launch pad, failures to get into orbit (due to exploding and decoupling rocket parts), and running out of fuel when actually in space and no way to return. Also forgetting to put parachutes on the return vessel. Or multiple parts of the previously mentioned.

NASA is a black hole being one of the cheapest and most useful technologically governmetn investment projects in history of humanity. yeah... no, this is simple stupid sentence that should never passed the first draft.

OCAdam:
I imagine many many people in the future will have space programs rivalling that of mine in Kerbal Space Program: massive failures on the launch pad, failures to get into orbit (due to exploding and decoupling rocket parts), and running out of fuel when actually in space and no way to return. Also forgetting to put parachutes on the return vessel. Or multiple parts of the previously mentioned.

LOL, pretty much summed up my thoughts on this.

I'm sorry but whenever I hear "low cost" and "space travel" in the same sentence I can't help but think about all the different ways things could go horribly HORRIBLY wrong.

Not saying that this kind of business model won't eventually work out and become the norm...just don't be surprised if I don't volunteer to be one of the new space faring pioneers despite how cool the idea of space travel being common place sounds.

EDIT: Damn, really should have picked up Kerbal Space Program during the STEAM summer sale.

Kind of reminds me of that whole "Pen and Pencil" story:

America spending a crapton of money to make a pen that writes in space. Russians just use a pencil.

 

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