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Sturgeon

The Space Exploration Achievements Thread

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Minor comment about the space race. Lost does an excellent job describing why the Soviet Lunar Program failed, but one thing he doesn't mention is that the Soviets kind of put the ball in the USA's court by not embracing the competitive nature of the space race early on. By not declaring an ultimatum before Kennedy's speeches to Congress and Rice, the Soviets effectively lost the initiative and allowed the Americans to set the terms of the subsequent space race, which they did to deliberately force the Soviets into a contest they were unlikely to win (i.e., a Moon mission requiring much more technical expertise where the Americans were ahead, as opposed to the Soviets whose strengths lie mostly in launch vehicle technology).

 

At least that's my understanding of it. Discuss.

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It's has more specific impulse, so you need less propelant to get the same delta-V. That means your spacecraft can be a lot smaller (most of the mass of spacecraft/launch vehicles is propellant).

 

Of course, since it's an ion engine, you can't use the most efficient trajectories (such as Hohmann transfers), which somewhat reduces the delta-V advantage. Also, you need a shitload of power for large ion engines, which means either all the solar panels or a reactor.

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