Report Library

All reports in the After Columbia Report Library are done to the standard format that you see below to allow easy comparison of After Columbia's spacecraft concepts and any other concepts done in this format.

Delta Sprint | Sprint Program

Spacecraft Report


Presented in a small, more modern technical looking Arial font.


1. Mission and Description


1.1 Baseline Mission


A detailed description of the mission or missions the spacecraft is to engage in.  As single missions are easier to design spacecraft for, also include a brief statement as to why the multiple missions of the spacecraft, if it has multiple missions, are easier to combine in a single craft than in different craft.  This is not to be confused with single-use and multiple-use spacecraft ("expendable" and "reusable" in most media.)


1.2 Launch System


A brief description of the craft and its launch system.


1.3 The Importance of This Mission


A statement about why this mission should be undertaken and why this craft is a good option to do so.


2. Spacecraft General Properties


2.1 The Baseline Spacecraft


A detailed description of the "baseline" spacecraft.  "Baseline" is in quotes, because the terminology is not important; you may use "Mark 1", or your "favorite" planform if there are different planform options...say for Orbital Space Plane, your "favorite" option is "Lifting Body".  "Favorite" is in quotes because you might prefer to refer as "baseline" an option you do not actually prefer to be built.  If the spacecraft has major options (such as different launch vehicles, element planforms, etc.) pick "your favorites" and describe only them in this section.


2.2 Alternatives Arrangements


Describe all the spacecraft's different major options by comparing them to the "baseline" above (only refer to different launch systems if adoption of those launch systems change the spacecraft significantly.)


3. Spacecraft Ascent


3.1 Baseline Spacecraft Ascent


A detailed description of the "baseline" spacecraft launch system or reference to it, if it is an existing launch system.  Include only summary mention of the abort systems (whether the spacecraft is equipped with them, and whether they are used to contribute to a normal ascent.)


3.2 Fallback Ascent Arrangements


Describe all fallback options, or refer to existing launch systems that can accomodate the spacecraft, or both if applicable.  Don't just fire off existing launch systems without first making sure that the launch vehicle can get your craft's mass to the required initial orbit its mission requires (i.e. Soyuz is too heavy for a Delta II.)


3.3 Future Ascent Arrangments


Describe all future options, those not available with current technologies or technologies not required by the "baseline".  If you have a baseline that requires technologies that are more advanced than many options available, consider using a lower technology option as the "baseline."


3.4 Details and Bibliography


The details are not initially required, but when they are ready, they should be prepared as a separate document and reference added to them in an updated version of the spacecraft report.  Reference to any commercial launch system being used should be made here.


4. Spacecraft Recovery


After Columbias Summary:  Piloted spacecraft crews need to be recovered.  The goal is a 99.99% probability of crew recovery per mission (average of one fatal failure in 10,000 missions.)   Full redundancy for all phases of the mission is desirable, but probably expensive and impractical to actually attain, and on airline class operational spacecraft, will become difficult and expensive to continue to carry.  On an "operational" spacecraft/launch system, backup recovery needs to be provided for the test flight and early operational phases, but must be removable when the development of the craft progresses to a sufficiently safe and reliable level (99.99% probability of overall mission success...1 failure every 10,000 flights), and replaceable for recertification flights.  Backup recovery systems should be designed to allow crew survival in 99.99% of all flights regardless of mission outcomes, and inclusive of normal mission completion (i.e. if the spacecraft has a 99.00% probability of overall mission success, the backup recovery modes have a requirement to accommodate 99.00% of mission failures, for a cumulative crew survival probability of 99.99% per mission.)  As demonstrated by the close calls of the NASA 1960s manned programs, and the failures of the Shuttle program, effective management and training has a greater effect on the safety of piloted spacecraft than on-board systems.  The spacecraft designer is therefore charged with providing this management with as many options and backups as practical.  Some missions, such as the initial exploration of Mars, where there is a willingness to take greater personal risks, can accept more risk.  I, personally, would be willing to fly a mission to Mars with an overall crew survival probability as low as 75.00%, but would expect the 99.99% overall crew survivability on the next piloted craft design for Low Energy Orbit (LEO, also known as Low Earth Orbit.)


4.1 Baseline Recovery


The "baseline" model of the spacecraft:


4.1.1 Normal Mission


A detailed description of the normal mission recovery sequence and equipment of the spacecraft.


4.1.2 Ascent Failures and Aborts


A detailed description of the ascent abort systems and modes.  (The difference between ascent abort systems and backup recovery systems are that backup recovery systems work during a failure in any phase of the flight, while ascent abort systems are designed to get the crew clear of a failing launch system and are not useful beyond ascent.)


4.1.3 Backup Recovery Modes


A detailed synopsis of the backup recovery systems and modes.  These are systems and modes that the spacecraft can use if normal mission recovery equipment is not available.  (Required even for "operational" spacecraft with an anticipated overall mission success probabilities at or higher than 99.99%, because it is not likely to have that high mission success during its development flights and initial operations; also backup recovery systems which are light and cheap, like fire extinquishers, should always be retained, regardless of mission success probability.)


4.1.4 Mission Emergencies


A detailed description of how the spacecraft deals with in-mission flight emergencies, especially if the spacecraft's mission (like Delta Sprint's bailout mission) has a requirement for dealing with them.


4.2 Delta Baseline Recovery Options


4.2.1 Normal Mission


4.2.2 Ascent Failures and Aborts


4.2.3 Backup Recovery Modes


4.2.4 Mission Emergencies


(4.2.x sections required only when modes differ from the baseline model.)


4.3 Mechanical and Thermal Loads


Not immediately required is an analysis on the spacecraft entry thermal and aerodynamic loads for each of its missions to estimate how much program risk there is in developing the materials and systems required for the spacecraft.  (For Delta Sprint, Shuttle thermal protection materials should be adequate for its crew transfer and station bailout missions to Low Energy Orbit; its mission as a bailout craft for Mars Direct has considerably higher thermal loads that may preclude it from ever undertaking that mission!)


4.4 Details and Bibliography


The details are not initially required, but when they are ready, they should be prepared as a separate document and reference added to them in an updated version of the spacecraft report.


5. Spacecraft Mission Technologies


5.1 Baseline Spacecraft Concept


Systems and consumables for essential spacecraft functions such as structure, life support, electricity, cooling, guidance, propulsion, deorbit (including backup deorbit, if applicable), maneuvering, rendezvous and docking (radar/lidar, possibly a contamination-free RCS), mid-course correction, landing and taking off from the planetary destination, scientific instrumentation, as applicable.  If the spacecraft is a launch system, then its mission is to launch a payload into space and recover its multiple use components and as applicable, crew and payload; these have already been covered, so "mission technologies" for these concepts are limited.


5.2 Delta-Baseline Alternatives


Current options presented as "delta-baseline" and also mission requirements that are different for the spacecraft's different missions if applicable.


5.3 Future Options for Basic Mission


Future options presented as "delta-baseline" for the craft's initial mission(s).


5.4 Future Options for Extended Mission


Future options presented as "delta-baseline" for the craft's extended mission(s).  (Delta Sprint has bailout as an extended mission.)


5.5 Details and Bibliography


The details are not initially required, but when they are ready, they should be prepared as a separate document and reference added to them in an updated version of the spacecraft report.


6. Spacecraft Program Considerations


6.1 Positive Program Interactions


A description of positive influences on the existing and future spacecraft programs it will interact with.  (i.e.: Delta Sprint is part of the Sprint program; Delta Sprint is a crew transfer vehicle for the International Space Station; as a potential bailout resource for Mars Direct, Delta Sprint increases the crew survival probability of Mars Direct; operational experience from Delta Sprint will benefit the International Space Transportation System.)


6.2 Negative Program Interactions


Describe the negative influences on the existing and future spacecraft programs it will interact with, while trying to keep a positive outlook.  (i.e.: Delta Sprint replaces the Space Shuttle's crew transfer role and subsequently competes with Soyuz in its crew transfer and bailout roles, although having two different types of spacecraft for this role allows for the failure of one without compromising the International Space Station; Delta Sprint's secondary mission as a Mars Direct bailout vehicle has high technical risk associated with it: if it is insisted upon, it may compromise the success of both programs; Delta Sprint competes with Orbital Space Plane to provide a simpler and cheaper vehicle which may be available sooner.)


6.3 New Technology Requirements


Summarize the major technology prerequisites required for the spacecraft.  (i.e.: Bluestar requires a breakthrough in reusable cryogenic tankage; VentureStar requires cryogenic linear aerospike rocketry, a very immature technology; Delta Sprint requires a breakthrough in NASA's customary "not-invented-here" strategies.)


6.4 Spacecraft Retirement


When is it over?  What defines the end of the useful life of the spacecraft, such as its replacement or wearing out?  If current foresight does not see the spacecraft becoming obsolete or wearing out, provide a statement to that effect.  Are there any "threats" to it from other programs?  "Threats" is in quotes because replacement or cancellation of a program does not necessarily have a negative connotation.  (I.e.: Delta Sprint will no longer be useful for the role of crew transfer when the International Space Transportation System is certified for crew transfer and can do the job more safely and cheaply, although may continue to be useful in the bailout role.)

Last updated on

Spacecraft Report for Normal People
Done in a bigger newspaper-like font and with most of the details skipped to let the basic points shine through.
1. Mission and Description
What it does in a nutshell
2. Spacecraft General Properties
What it is and looks like in a nutshell, tries to compare it to something familiar, like Soyuz or Apollo.
3. Spacecraft Ascent
If provided at all, would be a narrative of what a ride on board is like.  Ascent, after all, really is rocket science!
4. Spacecraft Recovery
Provides estimates or goals of how likely the craft is to complete its mission and allow its crew to survive (the goal for crew survival is 99.99% regardless of mission outcome, unless its something you're more willing to take risks a first trip to Mars.)
The extent of technical detail in the "Normal People's" report will be provided as a narrative of what its like to ride it home...or possibly to ride it out in a disaster.
5. Spacecraft Mission Technologies
What the craft uses during its mission, like on orbit propulsion, life-support, guidance and the like.  Does it orbit, dock, fly, float, roll, or just sit there, scoop up dirt and put it in a little lab to figure out what's in it?
6. Spacecraft Program Interactions
6.1 Positive Interactions: Largely a "why" section on what the concept supports or allows in other programs.
6.2 Negative Interactions: Largely a "why not" section on what it competes with or replaces.  Notes on NASA's wierd internal politics can be found here as well.
6.3 New Technology Requirements:  Essentially, why would this thing be expensive and risky to untertake? it made out of that "unobtainium" material Hal Gehman referred to in August? (i.e. high-spin temperature-independent monoatomic superconductor...see for an application of this particular form of unobtainium.)
6.4 End of the Program: What replaces this concept in the more distant future in the overall vision of space travel.

Appendix A: Delta-V Feasibility Analysis


This is a fairly simple analysis that After Columbia's only volunteer (as of this writing) can do in about an hour.  It determines whether or not the craft can make orbit and has enough impulse to conduct the maneuvers that it needs to.  (The published configuration of Bristol Spaceplanes' Spacebus concept failed this analysis!!)


Appendix B: Basic Drawings / Renderings


Getting spacecraft dimensions and fits right is tough (just take a look at the PAF drawings for a commercial launch vehicle and youll catch my drift _real_ fast!!)  Also, it certainly helps to give your supporters, investors, customers, and friends something to look at.  This is best done by an engineering artist, and After Columbia doesnt have any of those yet (thats why is almost completely devoid of any spacecraft drawings!)

Appendix C: Safety Analysis

This complicated analysis goes through all the steps of the mission, determining where things can go wrong, and then going through each of those things and determining the outcome for the crew, including if more things can go wrong.  During this analysis, unusual Apollo 13-like close calls are identified, and this analysis can then be used to determine what requirements and systems should be carried to increase the safety of the mission.  This analysis does produce two numbers which can be easily scrutinized by the public: Mission Success Probability (MSP for short, the percentage chance that we will get our moneys worth from the mission) and Crew Survivability Probability (CSP, the percentage chance that all crew members will survive the mission, even if things go wrong.)  On a spacecraft with few abort and survival options, such as the Space Shuttle, these numbers will be close together.  On a spacecraft that goes out of its way to anticipate and compensate for failures, such as Delta Sprint, these numbers are much further apart, with CSP leading the way, and MSP actually suffering because of the potential of accidental abort system activation.

(c) 2004 After Columbia
Permission granted to use this Report Format for any spacecraft or program concept and therefore, to be copied and used for personal or commercial use
If used, please submit the resulting report to for inclusion in the Report Library.
Note: This Report Format is not known to be compatible with any existing payload questionaire or Request for Proposals (RFP) format and is provided for reference purposes.