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How Best to Access the ISS-and LEO?

By frank_sietzen
May 31, 2009

Frank’s note: Readers, Keith has asked me to keep posting for awhile, so heres my latest query: been reading some of the ideas for a commercially-derived lifting body crewed spacecraft that would make use of the existing expendable launch vehicle fleet, although the spacecraft itself would largely be reusable. My question: If a COTS-D solicitation is to be made, should it be opened to a lifting body as well as a blunt-bodied capsule? Would a spacecraft capable of a Shuttle-like reentry and runway landing be a more efficient way of bringing astronauts-and commercial experiment samples-back from the ISS rather than landing in the ocean and waiting weeks for the capsule and its contents to come back to land? Or would a steerable parachute for the capsule achieve the same capability? What do you think-gliding to a runway vs. splashing in the ocean?