Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Another Leak Delays Final Discovery Launch

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the find-the-leak-and-plug-it dept.

NASA 104

vsolepr writes "Today's scheduled launch was scrubbed because of a gaseous hydrogen leak near the spacecraft's external tank. This is the fourth time in the past week that Discovery's launch was delayed due to various leaks and electrical issues. NASA now is aiming for a launch date no earlier than Nov. 30."

cancel ×

104 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

I'm a debian user (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34142866)

and I'm gay.

Another Leak??? (4, Funny)

thewils (463314) | more than 3 years ago | (#34142888)

Blasted WikiLeaks!!!

Re:Another Leak??? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34142972)

nigger paki jewboy leak

Re:Another Leak??? (2, Insightful)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143224)

Is it sad that this was my first thought, too? It seems that there is nothing we can't blame on WikiLeaks...

Re:Another Leak??? (2, Funny)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#34145202)

Is it sad that this was my first thought, too? It seems that there is nothing we can't blame on WikiLeaks...

Gates, Jobs, Ellison...

Re:Another Leak??? (1)

MarkRose (820682) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143230)

Personally, I think NASA should simply stop hiring cellphone banking app engineers.

Re:Another Leak??? (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143290)

i thought they said pocket scientists.

Re:Another Leak??? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143870)

Man, you just gave me a delicious image of what Julian Assange should be strapped to when the count hits 0.

Enough Leaks Already (2, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#34142890)

That shuttle leaks more than:
* Most diapers
* FireFox memory
* [insert government agency name here]
* A guy with an enlarged prostate

Re:Enough Leaks Already (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143006)

That shuttle leaks more than: * Most diapers * FireFox memory * [insert government agency name here] * A guy with an enlarged prostate

No shit Oh, I get it. Launching an unmanned probe? Works like a charm. Trying to put people into space? Everything is a leaky piece of shit and a bunch of incompetents can't get anything right after multiple attempts. Tell me I'm the only one to notice.

Re:Enough Leaks Already (1)

DevConcepts (1194347) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143160)

To get sponsored by Wikileaks?

Your official guide to the Jigaboo presidency (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34142906)

Congratulations on your purchase of a brand new nigger! If handled properly, your apeman will give years of valuable, if reluctant, service.

INSTALLING YOUR NIGGER.

You should install your nigger differently according to whether you have purchased the field or house model. Field niggers work best in a serial configuration, i.e. chained together. Chain your nigger to another nigger immediately after unpacking it, and don't even think about taking that chain off, ever. Many niggers start singing as soon as you put a chain on them. This habit can usually be thrashed out of them if nipped in the bud. House niggers work best as standalone units, but should be hobbled or hamstrung to prevent attempts at escape. At this stage, your nigger can also be given a name. Most owners use the same names over and over, since niggers become confused by too much data. Rufus, Rastus, Remus, Toby, Carslisle, Carlton, Hey-You!-Yes-you!, Yeller, Blackstar, and Sambo are all effective names for your new buck nigger. If your nigger is a ho, it should be called Latrelle, L'Tanya, or Jemima. Some owners call their nigger hoes Latrine for a joke. Pearl, Blossom, and Ivory are also righteous names for nigger hoes. These names go straight over your nigger's head, by the way.

CONFIGURING YOUR NIGGER

Owing to a design error, your nigger comes equipped with a tongue and vocal chords. Most niggers can master only a few basic human phrases with this apparatus - "muh dick" being the most popular. However, others make barking, yelping, yapping noises and appear to be in some pain, so you should probably call a vet and have him remove your nigger's tongue. Once de-tongued your nigger will be a lot happier - at least, you won't hear it complaining anywhere near as much. Niggers have nothing interesting to say, anyway. Many owners also castrate their niggers for health reasons (yours, mine, and that of women, not the nigger's). This is strongly recommended, and frankly, it's a mystery why this is not done on the boat

HOUSING YOUR NIGGER.

Your nigger can be accommodated in cages with stout iron bars. Make sure, however, that the bars are wide enough to push pieces of nigger food through. The rule of thumb is, four niggers per square yard of cage. So a fifteen foot by thirty foot nigger cage can accommodate two hundred niggers. You can site a nigger cage anywhere, even on soft ground. Don't worry about your nigger fashioning makeshift shovels out of odd pieces of wood and digging an escape tunnel under the bars of the cage. Niggers never invented the shovel before and they're not about to now. In any case, your nigger is certainly too lazy to attempt escape. As long as the free food holds out, your nigger is living better than it did in Africa, so it will stay put. Buck niggers and hoe niggers can be safely accommodated in the same cage, as bucks never attempt sex with black hoes.

FEEDING YOUR NIGGER.

Your Nigger likes fried chicken, corn bread, and watermelon. You should therefore give it none of these things because its lazy ass almost certainly doesn't deserve it. Instead, feed it on porridge with salt, and creek water. Your nigger will supplement its diet with whatever it finds in the fields, other niggers, etc. Experienced nigger owners sometimes push watermelon slices through the bars of the nigger cage at the end of the day as a treat, but only if all niggers have worked well and nothing has been stolen that day. Mike of the Old Ranch Plantation reports that this last one is a killer, since all niggers steal something almost every single day of their lives. He reports he doesn't have to spend much on free watermelon for his niggers as a result. You should never allow your nigger meal breaks while at work, since if it stops work for more than ten minutes it will need to be retrained. You would be surprised how long it takes to teach a nigger to pick cotton. You really would. Coffee beans? Don't ask. You have no idea.

MAKING YOUR NIGGER WORK.

Niggers are very, very averse to work of any kind. The nigger's most prominent anatomical feature, after all, its oversized buttocks, which have evolved to make it more comfortable for your nigger to sit around all day doing nothing for its entire life. Niggers are often good runners, too, to enable them to sprint quickly in the opposite direction if they see work heading their way. The solution to this is to *dupe* your nigger into working. After installation, encourage it towards the cotton field with blows of a wooden club, fence post, baseball bat, etc., and then tell it that all that cotton belongs to a white man, who won't be back until tomorrow. Your nigger will then frantically compete with the other field niggers to steal as much of that cotton as it can before the white man returns. At the end of the day, return your nigger to its cage and laugh at its stupidity, then repeat the same trick every day indefinitely. Your nigger comes equipped with the standard nigger IQ of 75 and a memory to match, so it will forget this trick overnight. Niggers can start work at around 5am. You should then return to bed and come back at around 10am. Your niggers can then work through until around 10pm or whenever the light fades.

ENTERTAINING YOUR NIGGER.

Your nigger enjoys play, like most animals, so you should play with it regularly. A happy smiling nigger works best. Games niggers enjoy include: 1) A good thrashing: every few days, take your nigger's pants down, hang it up by its heels, and have some of your other niggers thrash it with a club or whip. Your nigger will signal its intense enjoyment by shrieking and sobbing. 2) Lynch the nigger: niggers are cheap and there are millions more where yours came from. So every now and then, push the boat out a bit and lynch a nigger.

Lynchings are best done with a rope over the branch of a tree, and niggers just love to be lynched. It makes them feel special. Make your other niggers watch. They'll be so grateful, they'll work harder for a day or two (and then you can lynch another one). 3) Nigger dragging: Tie your nigger by one wrist to the tow bar on the back of suitable vehicle, then drive away at approximately 50mph. Your nigger's shrieks of enjoyment will be heard for miles. It will shriek until it falls apart. To prolong the fun for the nigger, do *NOT* drag him by his feet, as his head comes off too soon. This is painless for the nigger, but spoils the fun. Always wear a seatbelt and never exceed the speed limit. 4) Playing on the PNL: a variation on (2), except you can lynch your nigger out in the fields, thus saving work time. Niggers enjoy this game best if the PNL is operated by a man in a tall white hood. 5) Hunt the nigger: a variation of Hunt the Slipper, but played outdoors, with Dobermans. WARNING: do not let your Dobermans bite a nigger, as they are highly toxic.

DISPOSAL OF DEAD NIGGERS.

Niggers die on average at around 40, which some might say is 40 years too late, but there you go. Most people prefer their niggers dead, in fact. When yours dies, report the license number of the car that did the drive-by shooting of your nigger. The police will collect the nigger and dispose of it for you.

COMMON PROBLEMS WITH NIGGERS - MY NIGGER IS VERY AGGRESIVE

Have it put down, for god's sake. Who needs an uppity nigger? What are we, short of niggers or something?

MY NIGGER KEEPS RAPING WHITE WOMEN

They all do this. Shorten your nigger's chain so it can't reach any white women, and arm heavily any white women who might go near it.

WILL MY NIGGER ATTACK ME?

Not unless it outnumbers you 20 to 1, and even then, it's not likely. If niggers successfully overthrew their owners, they'd have to sort out their own food. This is probably why nigger uprisings were nonexistent (until some fool gave them rights).

MY NIGGER BITCHES ABOUT ITS "RIGHTS" AND "RACISM".

Yeah, well, it would. Tell it to shut the fuck up.

MY NIGGER'S HIDE IS A FUNNY COLOR. - WHAT IS THE CORRECT SHADE FOR A NIGGER?

A nigger's skin is actually more or less transparent. That brown color you can see is the shit your nigger is full of. This is why some models of nigger are sold as "The Shitskin".

MY NIGGER ACTS LIKE A NIGGER, BUT IS WHITE.

What you have there is a "wigger". Rough crowd. WOW!

IS THAT LIKE AN ALBINO? ARE THEY RARE?

They're as common as dog shit and about as valuable. In fact, one of them was President between 1992 and 2000. Put your wigger in a cage with a few hundred genuine niggers and you'll soon find it stops acting like a nigger. However, leave it in the cage and let the niggers dispose of it. The best thing for any wigger is a dose of TNB.

MY NIGGER SMELLS REALLY BAD

And you were expecting what?

SHOULD I STORE MY DEAD NIGGER?

When you came in here, did you see a sign that said "Dead nigger storage"? .That's because there ain't no goddamn sign.

Poem. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34142930)

They're gonna launch it by November thirtieth!
My mom is dirty,
But your mom is dirtieth!

Ugh (-1, Flamebait)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#34142978)

So, how much is this costing us to duct tape this 1970's clunker back together for 1 last hoo-ra and for what scientific gain?

Oh to attach a storage room to the IIS

well fuck me

Re:Ugh (3, Informative)

trout007 (975317) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143034)

It's the 2010 External tank that is leaking not the 1970's Orbiter.

Re:Ugh (2, Informative)

THE anonymus coward (92468) | more than 3 years ago | (#34144602)

At least this time... earlier it was a hydrazine leak.

Re:Ugh (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#34145506)

and before that it was electrical problems in the 1970's buick

Re:Ugh (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34161092)

Proving once again that nothing bad ever came out of the 70's.

Re:Ugh (2, Informative)

qmaqdk (522323) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143064)

About $1.3 billion per launch, counting total program cost divided by number of launches. Good news is an extra flight will lower the costs per flight to a bargain $1.288 billion.

Re:Ugh (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143164)

1.3 Billion?

Ignoring the total cost of the shuttle program, and considering only the marginal cost per mission, I wonder if you could work out a better budget.

Hey, my UID is also prime!

Re:Ugh (2, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143272)

HOTOL might have been more cost-effective. The Russian space shuttle almost certainly would have been. The problem with the space shuttle was that false economies were made. Sometimes to save money you have to spend it. The shuttle was under-sized, under-powered and was forced to have dangerous piecemeal boosters for political reasons. By spending the money up-front, you'd have a cheaper, safer, more reliable shuttle which would doubtless still be in production, not scrapped.

It'll be interesting to see how first-stage alternatives go. One option is to use turbine-assisted ramjets, another is to use a ski-jump-assisted ramjet. These would replace some, but not all, of the current first rocket stage. The idea is the same in both cases - provided you can break 400 mph, the ramjet is capable of self-sustained acceleration. Break the sound barrier and it becomes a highly efficient device. Hydrogen-powered ramjets are good up to about mach 6. Not great, sure, but not bad either. Since the weight should be about 1/5th that required by a rocket to reach the same speed, that's a lot more payload you can suddenly carry. Ideally, you'd use a mix of a ramjet and a scramjet to completely replace the first rocket stage, again reducing weight and increasing the payload you can push into orbit.

Re:Ugh (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143592)

Air-breathing engines are heavy and require you to fly... in air... which means very high drag and very high fuel consumption. Unless you can build some kind of dual-mode jet/rocket like Skylon, or build a jet-powered first stage and a rocket-powered second stage, you're better off just forgetting about them.

There's a reason why rockets go pretty much straight up at the beginning of a launch: they want to spend as little time as possible at high speed in the atmosphere to eliminate drag losses and make the engines more efficient.

Re:Ugh (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 3 years ago | (#34144470)

I'm not in disagreement with you, but I still am really interested in knowing how much of the "cost" of launching a shuttle is amortized into the space program's sunk costs, how much is in the market value of natural resources, how much is in salaries and real estate expenses and stuff, and how much is marginal costs... Not just "how much", but "who gets the money" and "for what?"

I have no doubt the program could have been far more efficient. But given the non-negotiable parameters of the shuttle as it will launch, how much of that price we're quoted is "real?"

If we *had to* launch the shuttle one last time in order to save The American Way Of Life or something, and everyone involved chose not to profit from it, all resources were applied at cost or whatever, what would the price tag be? Less than $1.3 billion or $450 million or whatever, I am sure.

Re:Ugh (3, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#34145050)

I'm not in disagreement with you, but I still am really interested in knowing how much of the "cost" of launching a shuttle is amortized into the space program's sunk costs, how much is in the market value of natural resources, how much is in salaries and real estate expenses and stuff, and how much is marginal costs...

It's a few years since I looked into this, but I believe at the time the variable cost of a shuttle flight was around $250,000,000 and the fixed costs of the program were over $3,000,000,000 a year. A lot of those fixed costs go into maintaining KSC and other NASA facilities; imagine how much an airline ticket would cost if you flew a mere six times a year and did so from your own multi-runway international airport with a staff of thousands.

Re:Ugh (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34157104)

Though I sometimes wonder what attaching, say, two large turbofans could give; as a "zero" stage of sorts. Widely available (though not with afterburners, which would be good here), well understood, reliable, many rockets use the same fuel (though, considering the complexity & weight of plumbing plus small amount the turbofan would use, it's most likely better to integrate small tank in "booster module"), large thrust-to-mass of such module...

Of course would be good only to ~20km max, but considering that's the most tough range for rocket engines? Oh well, I guess since nobody is doing it, the calculations don't add up / complexity of additional staging is not worth it.

Re:Ugh (2, Interesting)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34144020)

Energia would be probably nice, yes, in launches without Buran (but still probably not very cost effective due to scale and rarity of the launches). HOTOL was apparently dropped when it became clear that a rocket using the same technological advances would be at least equally effective (but much less complex). And you would want to up the size of the Shuttle?

An orbital launcher flies most of its mission outside the atmosphere. Most of its mass is reaction mass. That, together with what the rocket equation is, probably means a pure rocket will be able, for a long time, to better use technological advances necessary to make a true spaceplane even barely possible.

But perhaps such advances are not even the best way, perhaps simple mass-production would be better. We had a test run [fourmilab.ch] , with the first widely used rocket; too bad the orbital effort in such style [wikipedia.org] was killed.

Re:Ugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143078)

You forgot about R2. This *IS* the droid you're looking for:
http://robonaut.jsc.nasa.gov/default.asp [nasa.gov]

Re:Ugh (4, Insightful)

harrytuttle777 (1720146) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143090)

I would rather waste money on this than some of the other crazy things that the government wastes money on. Have you ever seen a shuttle launch. It lights up the sky from 90 miles away. It is kind of impressive what humans kind can do when they are not fighting against each other.

Re:Ugh (2, Insightful)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143198)

More important than the abstract idea of what it costs to launch the shuttle, is "who gets the money?" and "for what?"

I have a feeling that if we actually *had* to put a shuttle up, and managed to keep things like corporate profits, individual compensation, and natural resource market costs out of the equation, it would be a lot less.

Re:Ugh (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143286)

Witnesses' Waltz [youtube.com] is a filk song commemorating the shuttle (and manned space flight in general).

Re:Ugh (1)

harrytuttle777 (1720146) | more than 3 years ago | (#34150930)

Thanks for this. You have upped your nerd credits

Re:Ugh (2)

volcan0 (1775818) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143322)

You are aware that the space race was a fight against other humans, to be the first to achieve it right ?

Re:Ugh (3, Insightful)

harrytuttle777 (1720146) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143720)

Absolutely. But there is a world of difference between competing in a noble competition to be the first in space, vs the competition for wealth and power that is unconstrained by any sort of moral compass.

I am all for competition, but thing there should be some like drawn between just and unjust competition. Competing by creating a better product is good. Competing by creating a patent pool and suing anyone that makes a better product is unacceptable and cowardly.

Yes, I am way too idealistic.

-Obedience to the rule of law is obedience to the rule of tyrants.

Re:Ugh (5, Funny)

Raenex (947668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143652)

Have you ever seen a shuttle launch. It lights up the sky from 90 miles away. It is kind of impressive what humans kind can do when they are not fighting against each other.

Have you ever seen a nuke go off? That lights up the sky impressively too.

Re:Ugh (1)

harrytuttle777 (1720146) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143850)

Hell Yea!

      That is why we need nuclear powered rockets. Think of project Orion (the original), and Timberwolf.

If we can harness the best minds of the planet who designed nuclear weapons for war to make nukes for space, that would be the best of worlds.

So far cooler heads have prevailed and kept us out another nuclear war. That gives me some hope for humanity.

Re:Ugh (3, Interesting)

strack (1051390) | more than 3 years ago | (#34145728)

project orion wasnt really a good idea. what you really need is something more like NERVA for the upper stage, or some sort of nuclear reactor powered ion engine. like a scaled up VASIMR for in space travel.

Re:Ugh (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34145946)

Thanks a lot Captain Downer. Your contribution to humanity is well received.

Re:Ugh (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#34147882)

Have you ever seen a shuttle launch. It lights up the sky from 90 miles away. It is kind of impressive what humans kind can do when they are not fighting against each other.

Have you ever seen a nuke go off? That lights up the sky impressively too.

Have you ever seen a supernova? It lights up the sky from millions of miles away.

Re:Ugh (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34144304)

It is kind of impressive what humans kind can do when they are not fighting against each other.

Funny, considering the entire space program was a spending war against the Russians to see who could build the best ICBMs and Spy Sats.

Re:Ugh (3, Funny)

PacketShaper (917017) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143202)

well fuck me

Pass...

Re:Ugh (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143456)

aww =(

Silly assumption (4, Insightful)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143250)

It always puzzles me why folks imagine saying a given piece of tech is old is axiomatically equivalent to saying it's been mightily improved upon since then.

Has the pencil been improved on yet? How about the wheel? Are we still burning gasoline in cylinders with pistons to power cars, like we started doing in the 1880s? Do we still use propellors to make boats move? Et cetera.

I'm not suggesting it's not possible to improve the Shuttle -- but that case has to be made in detail, not tossed off with an assumption that because it was designed in the 60s and built in the 70s there must be a far better idea. After all, the biggest advances since the 70s have mostly been in stuff like electronics or avionics, and besides the fact that this doesn't do squat for things like thermal protection and reliability of very high energy rocket systems under very heavy load (the two weaknesses that killed Columbia and Challenger, respectively) the best of these advances in electronics have in many cases been retrofitted into the Shuttle anyway.

Point me to a genuine major advance in airframe materials, thermal protection systems, or rocket engine design since the 1970s and maybe this contempt might be better supported by actual evidence.

Re:Silly assumption (2, Insightful)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143308)

Point me to a genuine major advance in airframe materials, thermal protection systems, or rocket engine design since the 1970s and maybe this contempt might be better supported by actual evidence.

maybe cause NASA has not done much of anything in these feilds since then?

and its not the technology of getting it done, yes we still burn gas in our cars, no I do not drive a 1979 buick with a leaky fuel tank

Re:Silly assumption (2, Funny)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143542)

If it came with an iPhone dock, then it'd be modern.

Re:Silly assumption (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143576)

Genuine MAJOR Advances: aeolotropic composite materials, inflatable structures, directional crystal metals, better understanding of the non-linear behavior of the structures that allow lower factors of safety, ...

To highlight this point - the Endeavour is much lighter than the Columbia was. The external tank today is much lighter than it used to be.

Re:Silly assumption (3, Interesting)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143716)

Unless something was not the best idea in the first place, and even worse implementation (did the Shuttle deliver on any of its main points, as advertised?)

60s, 70s...its designers probably raised on scifi with a whole lot of spaceplanes - no doubt influenced by huge airplane advances in the 40s. Which differed quite a lot from those 130 year old depiction of "our" times [goo.gl] (/. & links with unicode...), apparently influenced by rapid advances in (sub?)marine technology. We can build them (take a Harrier, remove wings and canopy), but it doesn't make those past dreams a good idea. Not a lot flying boats around nowadays, too.

Re:Silly assumption (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34162096)

The shuttle was sold as a spaceship that could take off and land Buck Rogers style. What we actually got was a big, fragile splashdown pod with wheels.

Re:Silly assumption (2, Insightful)

Raenex (947668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143752)

Are we still burning gasoline in cylinders with pistons to power cars, like we started doing in the 1880s?

Do we drive cars from the 1880s? Or do we continuously improve on them?

Re:Silly assumption (3, Interesting)

bertok (226922) | more than 3 years ago | (#34144754)

Point me to a genuine major advance in airframe materials, thermal protection systems, or rocket engine design since the 1970s and maybe this contempt might be better supported by actual evidence.

That's a very valid point, most people don't realize that there never will be any "magic" improvements in rocketry to bring the cost down to the point that we'll all be taking holidays on Mars. It's still a high-energy problem, and new technology doesn't necessarily make the hard problems much easier.

There have been improvements though, they're just not that big or visible. For example, computer-aided design would allow a new rocket to be extensively modeled without expensive testing. Multiple design and testing iterations could be performed without ever stepping into a machine shop. This in turn allows design simplifications, a reduction in part counts, etc...

Computer-aided machining has made enormous improvements since the seventies, in part complexity, cost, precision, and the type of materials that can be used. Old designs would not have assumed the availability of CAM, so they might rely on manual steps, such as welding and riveting. To use parts made automatically by machines, a design optimized for that manufacturing process is required.

There have been significant materials-science advancements, which is why both Boeing and Airbus are now creating aircraft made of composites, which wasn't practical or cost-effective in the 70s. Of course, some of these advancements have made it into the shuttle, for example the Super Leightweight Tank [wikipedia.org] is made of a high-tech aluminium-lithium alloy. That's an easy part to replace, but upgrading the orbiter would be essentially a redesign, so it has remained relatively unchanged.

The real problem with the shuttle is that the fundamental concept is flawed. It assumes that people are needed in orbit -- robots do a better job now, thanks to advancements in digital electronics. In turn, the original design also assumed that it's worth reusing the container for those people. If there are no people, nothing needs to be reused. The engines might be worth bringing back down, but a small ablative heat-shield and a parachute is more than enough for that, there's no need to build a huge heat-shielded structure with wings and avionics! When it costs $thousands per kg of material sent into orbit, anything not directly serving the purpose at hand is just waste. The orbiter weighs 68,585 kg empty, of which only 9,531 kg is the engines! Not counting the structure required to protect the payload, the remaining 50 tons of shuttle structure is just a huge waste of money. That 50 tons could be payload on every launch. Over the 100+ launches that have occurred, that's 5000 tons of satellites or space probes that could have been launched. A large satellite is 5 tons, so that's over a thousand that could have gone up, but didn't. Just imagine: if only 10% of those were for solar system exploration, we could have had a hundred or more additional space probes out there among the planets!

Re:Silly assumption (2, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#34145074)

That's a very valid point, most people don't realize that there never will be any "magic" improvements in rocketry to bring the cost down to the point that we'll all be taking holidays on Mars. It's still a high-energy problem, and new technology doesn't necessarily make the hard problems much easier.

The ultimate limit on the cost of getting into orbit is the cost of rocket fuel, which is not a lot. What is needed is reliable, reusable launchers which don't require months of maintenance by thousands of people between flights, and that's perfectly possibly with enough engineering effort... the idea that it will 'never' happen is just silly.

If there are no people, nothing needs to be reused.

So we should build single-use container ships and sink them after they've crossed the ocean once?

Reusability is _the_ biggest cost-saver possible, so long as it doesn't require the massive maintenance that a shuttle does between flights (not to mention the cost and complexity of the external tank and boosters).

Re:Silly assumption (2, Informative)

bertok (226922) | more than 3 years ago | (#34145264)

That's a very valid point, most people don't realize that there never will be any "magic" improvements in rocketry to bring the cost down to the point that we'll all be taking holidays on Mars. It's still a high-energy problem, and new technology doesn't necessarily make the hard problems much easier.

The ultimate limit on the cost of getting into orbit is the cost of rocket fuel, which is not a lot. What is needed is reliable, reusable launchers which don't require months of maintenance by thousands of people between flights, and that's perfectly possibly with enough engineering effort... the idea that it will 'never' happen is just silly.

If there are no people, nothing needs to be reused.

So we should build single-use container ships and sink them after they've crossed the ocean once?

Reusability is _the_ biggest cost-saver possible, so long as it doesn't require the massive maintenance that a shuttle does between flights (not to mention the cost and complexity of the external tank and boosters).

You can't re-use the rocket fuel, and it makes up the bulk of all rockets, by both mass and volume. It is also necessarily much heavier than the payload. (think: rocket equation)

In contrast, a container ship is mostly metal, with only a small fuel fraction, and a high payload fraction.

The cost computations wildly are different, by several orders of magnitude.

None of this will change, ever, with chemical rockets for fundamental reasons. We'd need to invent entirely different propulsion systems (nuclear, fusion, etc...) before we can start designing rockets like container ships!

Your kind of logic created the shuttle, the least cost effective of all commonly used space launch system in use today.

Returning to my original point about the shuttle, I did mention that re-using the engines might be worthwhile. They're usually complex pieces of turbomachinery made from high-tech alloys. In contrast, the bulk of most rockets is basically just a tube with some internal struts for strength. Compared to the total cost of a typical launch (including payload), the cost of a metal tube is irrelevant.

come on, people... (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 3 years ago | (#34145820)

Come on, people, this isn't brain surgery...

Re:come on, people... (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#34147896)

Come on, people, this isn't brain surgery...

The proper term is rocket surgery. But that's ok, since government contractors can't do that either.

Re:Silly assumption (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34151462)

I'm not sure if even nuclear would make much of a difference, assuming technologies practical for surface-to-LEO launchers(*). Saturn V with NERVA upper stage would launch 2-3 times more to LEO - certainly noticeably more, but still within an order of magnitude; and, IIRC, while nuclear thermal rockets like NERVA have 2x higher specific impulse from chemical, their max thrust is limited (so pretty much restricted to that upper stage role)
The above requiring much more strict care during launch procedures. Probably much rarer, too. Even more expensive.

It might be that simplifying [wikipedia.org] to the limits is the way to go, also with engines (so there's no pity in discarding them; what Ares V was partially doing, abandoning SSME in favor of RS-68); or at least some clever engineering and materials science [wikipedia.org] replacing complexity and high-tech alloys.

(*)for pure spacecraft, operating outside the atmosphere, the realities are different of course. Even reusability has different meaning and essentially works.

Re:Silly assumption (3, Insightful)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 3 years ago | (#34145302)

What is needed is reliable, reusable launchers which don't require months of maintenance by thousands of people between flights, and that's perfectly possibly with enough engineering effort... the idea that it will 'never' happen is just silly.

Balancing yourself on a giant tower of explosively combusting gas is never going to be particularly safe; hence the high maintenance costs to quadruple-ensure everything is "just right", before committing to what could very easily become a human fireworks display.

What's really needed is a reliable way to get high volumes of material into orbit -- one that doesn't require fuel to be present in the vehicle (other than possibly as payload). The problem with putting fuel in the vehicle is that it adds to the weight of the vehicle, which means you have to add more fuel to help lift the fuel you've already added, and so on, until the snowball effect limits the size and capacity of your vehicle to "not very much".

Once that's solved, and we can get significant amounts of material out of this nasty gravity well inexpensively, the rest is cake. Until then, it's doubtful that any rocket design, no matter how advanced, can do much -- it's like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon.

Re:Silly assumption (3, Informative)

strack (1051390) | more than 3 years ago | (#34145766)

well actully, the high maintainence costs of the shuttle were due to everything *needing* to be quadruple checked because there wasnt a effective crew escape system, like you had on the saturn rockets. and the engines that were machined to such fine tolerances that they needed to be pretty much pulled apart and inspected for cracks after every mission. and the enormous shuttle heat shield, with tens of thousands of tiles that had to be individually inspected.

Re:Silly assumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34158280)

We can build multi-megawatt laser cannon. Small scale tests of the concept work so it's just a matter of funding the engineering effort to scale the design.

Of course it could be better - just look at it (2, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34145332)

Just take one look at the thing. Great big rockets strapped onto the SIDE. That was the highly undesirable outcome of having to meet a variety of constraints that were not there when the original plans were made. They could have built a far better shuttle for specific tasks in the 1970s, but the compromises produced what we have. It shows how amazing the NASA guys are that it managed to work at all.
The main factors that made it like this were a requirement to be able to get into orbits that require a lot of fuel if you are going from Florida and the problems associated with making the thing taller than it is to have enough fuel to get into those orbits. I don't know how many missions it was used for that actually needed that, they were apparently classified military missions but it's not as if you can hide the thing up there so some astronomers would known how many times it went into polar orbits. I can't say if the compromise was worth it and the seven lives lost due to a chain that started with the compromise, only somebody that knows the worth of the polar orbit missions and if they really had to be manned anyway could say.
A shuttle designed to get to equatorial orbits would look very different and have better lifting capacity than rockets that have to handle great bit weights strapped to the side and the extra mass required to make it strong enough to do so.
Personally I think it was wasted sometimes on "space truck" missions that didn't need to be manned in the first place and could just have been done with a larger conventional rocket than our current satellite launchers, but every mission probably did something useful since there's a few crew working on things even if the primary goal is just to deliver stuff.

Re:Of course it could be better - just look at it (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34151198)

IIRC it never went into polar orbit. Which, by itself, doesn't require such suboptimal vehicle anyway - returning to the area of start after one or two orbits (supposedly important in military scenario...), high crossrange capability, does.

Never used of course. But it and general insistence on large winged spacecraft causes a waste of ~70 tons of LEO capability on each mission / necessity to use needlessly huge rocket (and more than 7 lives lost...)

Re:Of course it could be better - just look at it (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34152180)

Yes, but there are 7 lives lost that can be traced back directly to parts required to have the configuration of rockets strapped on the side. Even then it was really a long chain of events from there to ignoring warnings about the seals. I don't think a more conventional shape would have helped with the other accidents and near misses.
Thanks for the correction of "returning to the area of start after one or two orbits (supposedly important in military scenario...)" because I'd forgotten that was the specific reason for the major change in design.

Re:Of course it could be better - just look at it (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34152704)

Seems you focus on Challenger. But Columbia accident was also caused by that unfortunate side configuration, size, reliance on wings to have the required crossrange (which seem to be present in most early concepts, not really a case of changes?), etc. Without those, the specific mode of failure doesn't really exist.

(BTW, one interesting abort [wikipedia.org] )

Re:Silly assumption (1)

spazekaat (991287) | more than 3 years ago | (#34146540)

Right on... As "Scotty" said (ST:TNG)....."Just because something is ollld dinna mean that it's a pile of junnnnnk"......(bad Scottish accent!!!)

Re:Silly assumption (2, Insightful)

ultranova (717540) | more than 3 years ago | (#34147578)

Has the pencil been improved on yet?

Yes. Modern mechanical pencils are a huge improvement over the original.

How about the wheel?

Yes. Spoked wheels are an improvement over the original round disk, as is making the metal parts out of aluminum. Magnetic levitation trains might also count.

Are we still burning gasoline in cylinders with pistons to power cars, like we started doing in the 1880s?

Care to compare modern cars to 1880s ones in any metric and tell me there's not been improvement? And let us not forget Wankel engines, fuel cells, etc.

Do we still use propellors to make boats move?

Yes, we do. Of course, modern propellors are not only more efficient than old ones, but are also often mounted so they can be turned, to help steering.

Et cetera.

Yup, pretty much.

I'm not suggesting it's not possible to improve the Shuttle -- but that case has to be made in detail, not tossed off with an assumption that because it was designed in the 60s and built in the 70s there must be a far better idea.

To put it bluntly: aerodynamics, material science, and chemistry have all moved on. So have flow dynamics and the ability simulate various scenarios. As a result, to suggest that a modern replacement of the Space Shuttle wouldn't be an improvement over the current one is simply idiotic.

Re:Silly assumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34148082)

Point me to a genuine major advance in airframe materials, thermal protection systems, or rocket engine design since the 1970s and maybe this contempt might be better supported by actual evidence.

What about Firepaste [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Ugh (2, Informative)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 3 years ago | (#34145260)

So, how much is this costing us to duct tape this 1970's clunker back together for 1 last hoo-ra and for what scientific gain?

Average cost of a Shuttle Launch: $450,000,000.
Population of the United States: 307,006,550

Therefore, it's costing us an average of $1.47 per person.

Re:Ugh (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#34145528)

yep per day that would gain me a 20 oz beer a day, something I cant afford right now, in a single income household, where I am reminded every single day by management that I am privileged to hold my pissant box monkey job even though I hold a masters in CS

nope dont help me, lets spend 1.47$ a day for over a month to what? install a storage shed so we can watch cockroaches mate in zero grav? ... fuck that

Re:Ugh (2, Insightful)

quacking duck (607555) | more than 3 years ago | (#34147736)

One estimate in 2007 put the cost of the Iraq war as high as $720M a day. Watching cockroaches mate in zero gravity, or "bringing democracy" to a region that isn't culturally ready for it and is costing thousands of lives on top of that... I know what I'd cut first.

(Yes I know focus has shifted to Afghanistan and doesn't cost as much money, the point remains)

Re:Ugh (0, Redundant)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#34145494)

I love the flamebait status

when the entire right party is bitching and moaning about spending 2 billion on a who's who party going to Indonesia and India over 10 days, we are PISSING away 1.3 billion a day over 30 days for what? (fuck be real they ARE visiting the American workforce)

to install a SHED on an international space station and a pissing ceremony

I am so sorry, but is there not more important things in the USA right now than installing a shed "IN SPACE" (echo) ?

with a significant amount of real, hard working blue blood Americans out of work and the best being a 5$ an hour part time no insurance job at mc donalds, do we REALLY need to be pissing away BILLIONS of dollars away on a pride issue from an agency that has not produced a SINGLE practical result AS PROMISED since the 1960's ????

these fuckwits are still using 386's in their systems 23 years after the release, they are out dated and arrogant

Oblig. "I read the title as accidentally" (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143060)

"Another Dalek Lays Final Discovery Launch"

Re:Oblig. "I read the title as accidentally" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143950)

"Another Dalek Lays Final Discovery Launch"

As long as its one of these daleks [kibblemania.com] .

Another Columbia? (2, Interesting)

adosch (1397357) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143180)

I think I'd be shaking in my boots if I was a Discovery bound astronaut. Although, I think it's a good thing their exhaustive checkout is finding more issues, it's a real drag to see NASA struggling to get one last launch of the Discovery and having such showstopper flaws. I understand that no amount of engineering or preparation can substitute the small amount of pure luck it is to have a successful space launch with all things considered, but you can't help but wonder if there wasn't such drastic funding cutbacks for NASA in space exploration and aeronautics if we'd be seeing a different, more positive outcome from the same reporting.

Re:Another Columbia? (1)

MavEtJu (241979) | more than 3 years ago | (#34144316)

I think I'd be shaking in my boots if I was a Discovery bound astronaut.

If you didn't, then you don't understand what is happening at a launch :-)

They called the Space Shuttle most complex mechanical machine ever built (these days the Large Hadron Collider has that award). John Glenn had his famous his famous quote about his Mercury spacecraft launch: "I was thinking that the rocket had twenty thousand components, and each was made by the lowest bidder".

Re:Another Columbia? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34144322)

Is this nasa's way of playing politics? As long as they don't lunch the shuttle program isn't over. There has just recently been a power switch in government so maybe they are waited to see what will happen than. It is also possible that all of these things are happening.

Re:Another Columbia? (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34145354)

I doubt it. Eleven days ago we had the 50th anniversary of a huge Russian launch accident where the ground staff were forced to continue in unsafe conditions at gunpoint. Around 126 people died including the idiot official with a gun.
The possibility of the thing blowing up on the pad or later will be in the mind of everyone near it and they won't let mere politics get in the way of them doing their job like it did 50 years ago. It will go when they are ready.

Re:Another Columbia? (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | more than 3 years ago | (#34147628)

Do you have a link or anything names/places that are googleable? I'm curious about what you've described.

Re:Another Columbia? (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148002)

R-16 explosion. A good account of it is in Debora Cadbury's "Space Race" and her BBC TV series of the same name.

Re:Another Columbia? (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | more than 3 years ago | (#34149192)

Thank you. It made for an interesting read. Nitric acid as a fuel component? What could go wrong..?

Wiki link if anyone else wants to read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nedelin_catastrophe [wikipedia.org]

food for thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143242)

maybe they made a few mistakes to get some last bit of overtime

Re:food for thought (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 3 years ago | (#34144030)

More like this is a demonstration of why you don't fire a crucial employee with notice. You don't ever tell them that their job is ending after they finish with [x]. As soon as you do this, they are demotivated. They have no real motivation to do a good job because they could do a catastrophically bad job and they still wouldn't get fired.

Re:food for thought (2, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#34145148)

They have no real motivation to do a good job because they could do a catastrophically bad job and they still wouldn't get fired.

I'd hate to work where you do if the only motivation you people have to do a good job is the fear of being fired.

But that's not really the problem anyway: the real problem is not that the 'crucial employees' start doing a bad job, but that once they realise they're going to be out of a job in two years the 'crucial employees' are the first ones out the door because they can easily get a new job elsewhere.

Re:food for thought (2, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 3 years ago | (#34151424)

I'd hate to work where you do if the only motivation you people have to do a good job is the fear of being fired.

It's more than that. If you've ever seen a company where people are forced to train their replacements, you'd know what I'm talking about. If you know that you're about to lose your job, there's a definite sense that what you do must not be important, or else you would still be doing it.

To be expected (2, Funny)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143520)

Even I start to leak more as I get older.

This is Suprising? (3, Insightful)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | more than 3 years ago | (#34144192)

This was the last external tank made at Michoud. As it rolled down the assembly line, everyone who worked on it did their particular task and then was laid off as soon as they were done.

And people are shocked it's not particularly well made? Frankly, I think the astronauts taking this tank into orbit have to be nuts.

Re:This is Suprising? (2, Informative)

tftp (111690) | more than 3 years ago | (#34145240)

Frankly, I think the astronauts taking this tank into orbit have to be nuts.

Right you are. That's why they will not take the tank to the orbit. It separates at T + 8 minutes 50 seconds, which is about 69 miles [lockheedmartin.com] .

A disturbing divide in society (2, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34145388)

Here we have yet another example of the Eloi hate of the greasy Moorlocks that actually do stuff other than lounge around in a garden waiting to be eaten. Have you considered that the workers in question would actually be proud of their work and watch the launch with the joy of seeing the results of a job well done?

Re:A disturbing divide in society (3, Insightful)

Ga_101 (755815) | more than 3 years ago | (#34146390)

Taking pride on one's work died round about the time that job security and pay that wasn't "How low can we get away with?" did.

Re:A disturbing divide in society (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148168)

In other words, pride in one's work never existed then. (Except in some fantasy yesterday where the things you cite were common. But that fantasy world isn't the real one.)

Re:A disturbing divide in society (1)

sshir (623215) | more than 3 years ago | (#34147002)

unfortunately rockets don't fly on pride. They fly on money...

Re:A disturbing divide in society (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148030)

Silly boy. They fly on big bits of metal and a lot of fuel. The accountants just want to to think they fly on money so they can inflate their importance to a greater level than the scientists, engineers and technicians that actually build the things.
It's like saying Al Gore invented the internet because he provided the money. Some people actually think that way but it is a delusion.

Re:A disturbing divide in society (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148240)

Here we have yet another example of the Eloi hate of the greasy Moorlocks that actually do stuff other than lounge around in a garden waiting to be eaten. Have you considered that the workers in question would actually be proud of their work and watch the launch with the joy of seeing the results of a job well done?

Yep. The slacker slashdotter is incapable of imagining that any mindset but their own exists, let alone being capable of understanding it.

Re:A disturbing divide in society (1)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | more than 3 years ago | (#34149734)

Have you considered that the workers in question would actually be proud of their work and watch the launch with the joy of seeing the results of a job well done?

For most of the workers, this is probably true. But it only takes one or two who have 'clocked out early' to ruin something like this.

And look at the evidence. If nothing had happened yet, you might have an argument that I'm just being overly cynical. But this thing is is leaking all over the place. After the THIRD launch scrub due to the ET leaking, is it still out of bounds to suggest their may be some workmanship issues with it?

Re:A disturbing divide in society (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34152144)

It is out of bounds until there is evidence. Think of it along the lines of you having a child that breaks a bone and somebody immediately accusing you of child abuse without any evidence.
That's what your accusation of only one or two greasy worker scum slacking off sounds like and why it is offensive, especially since many of them are very likely to have levels of education, experience and skill far beyond yourself. It's NASA and a very specialised job so some of the guys with tools have doctorates or have been through an air force career.

Re:A disturbing divide in society (1)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | more than 3 years ago | (#34156596)

How about a child who breaks bones on three seperate occasions in a period of two weeks?

Re:A disturbing divide in society (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34158862)

You are plucking at straws here by attacking an analogy to justify your contempt of these people.

This is why they're being retired. (2, Insightful)

AJWM (19027) | more than 3 years ago | (#34144220)

The vehicles are getting too old to fly, despite the overhauls they get after every mission. Even the disposable parts (like the tank) because of attrition in the skilled workforce that built them.

Not that we haven't known this was coming for longer than it took to go from a standing start to men walking on the Moon, but too many managers have been more concerned with protecting their turf than ensuring continued manned access to space.

Re:This is why they're being retired. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34148186)

Not that we haven't known this was coming for longer than it took to go from a standing start to men walking on the Moon

Except we never went from a standing start - unless you count the standing start as being around the early to mid 50's. When President Kennedy set us on the path to the moon every single major component of the Apollo program was already under development.
 

too many managers have been more concerned with protecting their turf than ensuring continued manned access to space.

Protip: the managers can only do what Congress funds. Guess who has consistently declined to put money into manned space development?

Re:This is why they're being retired. (1)

AJWM (19027) | more than 3 years ago | (#34149106)

Yep, even from a mid-50s standing start. Fifteen years to get to the Moon. We've known that we'd have to retire the Shuttles for almost 25 years, when the replacement for Challenger was built partly using long-lead-time spares that were not replaced.

When program managers wail to their congresscritters about how many jobs will be "lost", guess where said congresscritters decide to devote funds. Do most congress people know much about space technology development? No. Who are they going to listen to? Their NASA experts.

Re:This is why they're being retired. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34152080)

Yep, even from a mid-50s standing start. Fifteen years to get to the Moon. We've known that we'd have to retire the Shuttles for almost 25 years, when the replacement for Challenger was built partly using long-lead-time spares that were not replaced.

*yawn* You're powers of mathematics are impressive. Your actual knowledge of the world, much less so. (Short version: you're an idiot. We knew the Shuttle would eventually retire before we even started building them.)
 

When program managers wail to their congresscritters about how many jobs will be "lost", guess where said congresscritters decide to devote funds.

Which has pretty much zip point shit to do with the fact that Congress has refused to significantly fund new vehicles. (Protip for the clueless: Congress routinely funds replacements for things when the previous things service. But that have routinely starved NASA for funds, manned and unmanned.
 

Do most congress people know much about space technology development? No. Who are they going to listen to? Their NASA experts.

A meaningless non sequitur having nothing to do with what proceeded it - presupposing you have an actual clue and knowledge of how space funding has flowed for the last forty odd years. (Protip: You don't possess such a clue, and mistakenly believe that a collection of knee-jerk soundbites is an adequate substitute.)

Looks like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34152258)

Looks like the old jalopy is well and truly falling apart!

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?