How Mission Designers Invent Futuristic Spacecraft

How Mission Designers Invent Futuristic Spacecraft


A submarine that can dive through Titan’s
methane seas. A celestial hopper that can harvest frozen
nitrogen as propellant. These are the types of futuristic spacecraft
that could explore distant worlds for us. But while they look straight from science
fiction, there’s actually an in-house conceptual design team at NASA behind them. I’m Steve Oleson. I run the NASA COMPASS team. COMPASS was begun in 2006 during the Constellation
program. We put the team together to basically design
lunar landers. How do you get people down to the surface? How do you do it efficiently? While the Constellation program was cancelled
by the Obama Administration, word got out about COMPASS’s expertise. This team can deliver a new spacecraft design
and scope the costs in just two weeks. And it all starts with a wild idea. A new technologist will bring their new power
system to us and say, “Here’s a reactor. I want to put it on the moon. How would I package it? How would I land it? How would I operate it?” To us, every new environment, every new place
to go requires a new vehicle. These vehicles, a lot of times, they are spacecraft,
but there’s other times, they’re rovers and submarines. It’s always something new, but we do about
16 designs a year. Our mantra is, “Base it on physics.” There could be technologies that needed to
be developed. We try to infuse those into our designs, but
it’s still something that is based on physics. There are so many different spheres of expertise
that go into designing a new spacecraft — like propulsion, materials, software — and they’re
all woven in simultaneously during the development process. Imagine something flying through space has
to have obviously a structure to it. It’s going to need power. You may be able to talk to it, right? You have the science instruments that gather
data, so you got to send back the data with a communication system. We have to have some kind of radiator, so
the thermal systems keep us at the right temperature, so that things don’t get too hot, things don’t
get too cold. Of course, propulsion to get us to stop or
start or go wherever we want to go. Finally, trajectories — so how do we get
to there and get back again? Ultimately though, we want to lay this whole
thing out, so we have a computer configuration. They look really great, and they could be
feasible, but will it cost too much? Is this something that’s affordable for this
approach? We have people on the team to do all those
things. To get all of these team members to work together,
they really need to think outside the box. We do need them to know what the box is that
they’re trying to get out of, but communication is really the key. I’m like the game show host. One of my biggest roles is getting new creativity
out of people. We often combine electric propulsion with
chemical propulsion, which one would think, those are at odds with each other. But it turns out, chemical propulsion is really
great when you’re near a planetary body. Electric propulsion is fantastic in deep space. The technologies were already there, but how
do you combine those together in a new way? That’s the creativity. With all of these emerging discoveries, NASA’s
problem isn’t trying to find places to go, it’s figuring out which place to go first. Titan is a wonderful place. It has a very thick atmosphere. Except for the temperature, if I put you on
Titan in a spacesuit, you could put on some wings, and you could flap around and fly,
because the gravity is so low, and the atmosphere is so dense…. you can splash down in the
sea and become a submarine. So where do you even start when you have to
conceptualize a submarine to float 1.27 billion kilometers away on one of Saturn’s Moon. The biggest challenge with the submarine was
communications and basic going up and down. A boat just has to float, so we did ballast
systems. The other big question was communications. It turns out that the liquid methane is actually
radio transparent. Technically, if you have an orbiter above
you, you can sit on the bottom, a kilometer deep, and talk through all that liquid methane. It’s those fascinating things to us. It looks like a regular submarine, but we’ve
got a lot of different things, because the environment, the physics are so different
on that moon. Compass’s spacecraft designs are based off
of the limited data we have so far of these worlds, and hopefully they’ll advance our
understanding even further. There’s Europa with the 20 kilometers of ice
and what could be below in the ocean. We’ve designed a tunnel bot that would actually
dig through there using a reactor to melt its way through. For the Venus land-sailing rover, we basically
came up with a design that has a wing that you would just turn, and you would sail in
the direction you want. Again, the high temperature electronics are
key to making that thing work. Venus is a scorching 465 degrees Celsius,
enough to melt most commercial electronics. To get this land sail to cruise, a team of
scientists are working on new integrated circuits that can withstand those high temps. It’s still in the conceptual design phases….You
need to demonstrate the high temperature in electronics first, and that’s what we’re doing
with some demonstrations, working that now. Once you get those, now you can start to explore. Because Compass has to dream up the impossible,
it pushes other teams to invent new technologies that would power future missions. And that has major benefits for us here on
Earth. A lot of things we’ve done have not flown
yet, because it takes time. One of the greatest things that we did was
this thing called Fetch, which basically was going to grab an asteroid, and we’re talking
something in, roughly, 10 meters diameter, actually grab that with this bag and use electric
propulsion to push it back. This is one of the neatest things I think
we’ve done, because this is completely out-of-the-box. Can you actually grab an asteroid and move
it back? This project was part of Obama’s Asteroid
Retrieval Mission, which pledged to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025. That mission was cancelled by Trump in 2017. We have a joke here at NASA, that every solar
cycle or 11 years or so, we switch from going to Mars to the moon, and that’s really what’s
happened. Bush said, “We’re going back to the moon.” Then, of course, Obama came in and said, “We’re
going to grab the asteroid, go to that.” Now, Trump is here. Instead of grabbing the asteroid now, we’re
going to basically send a crew to orbit the moon. The same vehicle that we came up with in 2012
is now the power propulsion element for the Gateway. A lot of things evolved, and a one-week study
evolved into now the power system and propulsion system for what the astronauts are going to
ride on. At the heart of all of these designs, the
COMPASS team enjoys the challenge. They’re taking futuristic, sci-fi designs
and making them real. Science fiction has led the way in a lot of
space exploration just with being able to think out-of-the-box. In fact, we have discussions on whether they’re
a Star Wars fan or a Star Trek fan, right? We all love those genres. We grew up on them.Seeing science fiction
in the movies, reading the books, gives you that mindset that anything is possible, and
that there are new worlds out there. The COMPASS team is developing new concepts,
so the public can get a better window on all these things, see these new, fascinating things
and maybe get a little better understanding of maybe how unique we are or how unique we
aren’t. For more science documentaries, check out
this one right here. Don’t forget to subscribe and keep coming
back to Seeker for more videos.


100 thoughts on “How Mission Designers Invent Futuristic Spacecraft

  1. Design something to get garbage out of our island, the government sucks its going to end it self again like the Romans, everyone's getting fat, that's step 1, step 2 is no body can hunt when the "system fails" but WE GOIN TO SPASE YALL

  2. Becareful. You leak any oxygen into Titans Methane atmosphere, and you could catch the whole planet on fire

  3. NASA is just a front company the military is already exploring space as we speak with their back engineered saucers

  4. Old news, we OBVIOUSLY ALREADY HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY TO DO UNLIMITED THINGS. WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THIS IS NEW? The excitement is when they actually start USING this stuff AGAIN!!! YES AGAIN!!!

  5. First they take our tax money, then they make animated movies and post big dreams then they waste the money rinse and repeat.

  6. NASA wasting dat tax money. free energy and anti gravity-propulsion already have been developed by US military. look for Gary Mckinnon, thank me later

    this guy also a legend, alexey chekurkov

  7. nasa..? ha ha ha. nasa is a baby compared to what the chinese space agencies and military are designing, experimenting and achieving and they are far ahead in crucial areas. and with trump now taking chinese companies like huawei hostage to suppress china's rise, you can bet china is more deadly serious in leaving the usa and the world in its dust.

  8. Star Wars fans? At NASA? Hey if we need to sink a ship in a swamp planet swamp we'll know who to call

  9. I love how at 3:38 he makes a face like "who would have thought" when he drops this crazy cool fact about liquid methane 😂

  10. We are all stuck in the mindset that we can put value on matirial things in this world. It rains diamonds on Venus for Pete's sake. Aliens are watching us right now and laughing because our greed is like a parisite on this planet; we're just killing ourselves off. Yet here we are worring about shiny rocks instead saving the planet and researching other planets for knowledge rather than recources aka money.

  11. NASA is a thing of the past… it's all eye's on SpaceX, they're advancing much quicker than the governments space program!

  12. Come on NASA!! Come clean on all the deceptions over the decades concerning SPACE! we ain’t GOING there!! it’s all been a deception! Total CGI! and the moon landings were ALL FAKED!! “Space walks” all conducted in extremely large deep water pools with underwater green screens for all the added CGI!! and it’s all to keep the deception going!! and to hide earths REAL cosmology! Research FLAT EARTH!!

  13. For heat resistant electronics, I've always imagined trying to find a material that wont work for electrical transfer unless it's hot as hell itself. Not exactly sure what individual or combination of things it would be but I don't know why titanium isnt used since it magically gets lighter and stronger almost all the way up to its melting point.

  14. We would have been back on the moon and lot closer to Mars by now if Barack Hussein Obama hadn’t had NASA chasing dumb asteroids, defunding manned space flight and focusing on the weather. So you liberal sci fi guys can thank your guy for that. So if you want to live to see us land on Mars you better vote correctly this time and KEEP AMERICA GREAT in 2020.

  15. Until we have the courage to leap beyond chemical propulsion, manned space ventures will remain limited, long and dangerous.

  16. NASA has great videos and concepts. But, they do not have the ability to build any of this. NASA is a bureaucratic mess. Engineering by committee does not work.

  17. I remember watching a documentary a while back with one of NASA's scientist being very frustrated and angry after spending billions of dollars and time on projects for the last 30 years+ that keeps getting cancelled every time there's a new President in office.

  18. @Seeker – THIS should be your next series. 16 designs a year of far-out left-field engineering for space engineering! Surely it writes itself.

  19. Still trillions missing from the pentagon.. pretty sure they just disclose new spacecraft made 50 years ago lol

  20. Why create new designs? If the cosmos is like an ocean why not replicate sea creature movement? You are welcome.

  21. Excellent report!!!!!! I would like to get involve as Architect and Enginier or Structural PhD….

  22. NASA has number space designs there is are, but they do not put nothing into the works. Space X is only comp. and few companies that are put their money into true dreams.

  23. Trump cancels one program but brings back even more but they don't mention it at all a little biased maybe.

  24. I like how on this vid, Trump gets directly the blame and Obama gets praised. Meanwhile on another vid, when ever something is canceled, it's 'Obama's team'. Nice one, lol.

  25. I need you to build me Rick's flying saucer from Rick and Morty.. I don't have any money.. also, have you built the millennium falcon and is it fast?

  26. Light speed propulsion system

    A donut shaped accelerator on a starship would work by getting a ferrous based plasma up to speed then releasing it. However, to get the plasma to move faster than light the evenly spaced electromagnetic coil rings don't need to pulse in a step fashion faster, they need to be stepped differently. At first each electromagnetic coil ring needs to pulse, then when the plasma reach maximum velocity every other electromagnetic coil ring needs to pulse in a step fashion. Then when the plasma reach maximum velocity every third electromagnetic coil ring needs to pulse in a step fashion… so on and so forth. Once the plasma is up to the desired speed it can be released into a straight tube and directed out the back of the ship. In order to maintain balance the ship would need two accelerators, each moving the plasma in opposite directions.  This was discovered in another dimension while I was in something similar to a electromagnet coil ring accelerator.

    Propelling a space vessel faster than light speed (This can only be done in the vacuum of space)

    1st, we need to have a 10 to 20 foot diameter pipe line, formed into a 5 to 10 mile in diameter circle or donut shape.

    2nd, there would need to be independently powered electromagnetic coils wrapped around the pipe which would be evenly spaced.

    3rd, we would need to build a bullet shaped space vessel made of a ferrous metal alloy with its own electromagnetic pulse generator

    The vessel would need to travel around through the pipeline several times until it got up to light speed. Once the vessel reaches light speed it can be released into a straight tube that is pointed in the direction we wanted the vessel to go. This can be accomplished by each electromagnet producing a magnetic pulse which will propel the vessel forward and just beyond the next electromagnet which will fire the next magnetic pulse. As the accelerator’s electromagnetic pulse occurs so does the magnetic pulse generator in the vessel

    In Phase 1,  each accelerator’s electromagnetic needs to pulse to gets the vessel to maximum potential

    In Phase 2,  every other electromagnet in the accelerator needs to pulse  to get the vessel to to its next maximum potential velocity.

    In phase 3 every third electromagnet needs to pulse to get the vessel to its next maximum potential velocity.

    In Phase 4 each forth electromagnet needs to pulse to get the vessel to its next maximum potential which is limited only by its structural integrity. Structural integrity can be increased by jelling the inside of the ship.

  27. How painful and sad it is that the advancement of science and human knowledge is stopped if there is no oil or a strategic position to own 🙄. But hey! We may get a Space Force 😵

  28. Imagine drawing and making up shit that will never be created and being payed for it anyway by the tax payer. SpaceX will destroy these stupid fucks. Just shows corporations with good CEOs can do much better than government funded programs.

  29. Not gonna lie, the thumbnail instantly made me think of those Imperial ships in Legend of the galactic heroes.

  30. I don’t know.. I don’t trust this video because I’ve seen NASA’s rovers.. they are worse than Chinese products.. why can’t they just send a Land Rover or something alike there.. why do they always send some half-made junk.. my freaking iPhone has more electronics in it..

  31. we need a space agency under the UN and there where the money can raise from around the world. The main problem that America don't want to is sharing the information and technology.

  32. you guys need presidents to back off for at least 4 terms and then NASA might get to the moon and Mars before space X, as it is; Space X; China or Russia will definitely get there before you.

    that's it. get the presidents to back off those projects once they set their objectives it's really that simple i think.

  33. Really wish the government would get their hands out of NASA. Wonder where we be at if we let NASA decide for themselves.

  34. Shameless copiers! The first "sail-wagen" were of a Simon Stevin conception and rode on the beaches of Scheveningen in 1602.

  35. Biggest threat to humanity are stupid ass politicians those are 90% that only do them in self gain so disgusting we could be out there already without these stupid politics AND PAPER MONEY…

  36. The government needs to give NASA a specific set of goals (like the Fed), provide them a fixed inflation adjusted budget, and make them politically independent (like the Fed). NASA can't produce results if objects constantly change. Additionally, NASA's inefficiency partial stems from maintaining facilities in multiple states to influence political good will. Vertical integration is essential for efficiency.
    Look at Starlink from Spacex. They vertically integrated their rocket manufacturing and their satellite manufacturing. Each satellite costs $500,000 to make (unbelievably cheap) and around $16.5 Million in operating costs for a launch of 60 satellites on a falcon 9 block 5.

  37. I've always wondered "who is coming up with these awesome ideas" well now I know, these guys are awesome. #Real_Rock_Stars.

  38. Life can be there anywhere but why life is not found in otherwise planets or moons are asteroids. There are thousand reasons why life can be there. There are an other thousand reasons why life cannot be there. But one of the major reason for life to exist is what is called uniform gravity. To construct something you need steady force and not random. Take moon for example it has varying levels of gravity and random. Earth is a beauty pageant. And a single uniform breeze by moon to get shape.

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