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Space Shuttle Launch Delayed Until July

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the another-in-a-long-line-of-dissapointments dept.

77

DarkNemesis618 writes "NASA decided on Tuesday to delay the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery until July, squashing all hopes that it would launch in May. The external fuel tank is again the culprit, but this time it's not the foam. One of the four fuel sensors in the fuel tank that control when the space shuttle's main engines cut off was discovered to be faulty. This delay does however, give NASA the time it needs to decide what to do about the small crack found on the robotic arm. Over a week ago, a worker bumped the arm leaving a small crack in it. The arm is key to this next mission as the cameras and lasers used to inspect the shuttle for damage are mounted on the robotic arm. All things aside, NASA engineers are saying that the next possible launch date will be July 1st."

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77 comments

Watch (0, Troll)

tealover (187148) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921285)

as the same Sony fanboys who make every excuse for the delay of the PS3 will sing a different tune now.

No wonder they are losers.

This is news? (4, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921286)

As much as some moan about the concept, turning space into a tourist attraction may be the only way we're ever really going to get off this rock. It's pretty apparent that NASA isn't going to be doing much more than sending out probes. Not to say that probes aren't needed but we need to be a bit more mobile. Life is not a spectators sport.

Re:This is news? (3, Interesting)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921325)

A Fourth of July launch with George Bush and American flags all over the last place? No problem. Unless the shuttle goes boom in a real bad way. That might put an end to the manned space program and going back to Moon and Mars. Don't want a repeat of the Challenger disaster, where that shuttle launch was supposed coincide with President Reagan's State of The Union address and a phone call to the first teacher in space. NASA would be launching space probes if that was to happen again.

Re:This is news? (2)

east coast (590680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921339)

NASA would be launching space probes if that was to happen again.

With any luck NASA will be disbanded in the next decade.

Re:This is news? (1)

tsotha (720379) | more than 8 years ago | (#14922058)

A Fourth of July launch with George Bush and American flags all over the last place?

I'm pretty sure no sane national politician wants to be associated with this clunker. Maybe if it brings jobs to his district.

I'm sure Bush'll give a nice speech if everything goes well and an even nicer one if it doesn't.

Most things worthwhile are also risky (4, Insightful)

xtal (49134) | more than 8 years ago | (#14923151)

Talk to an astronaut, and they all understand the risks of manned space flight. It wouldn't stop them for a second, though.

How many people died discovering the new world? How many died in WWII defending western democracy?

Somebody is going to put men on mars and the moon. Maybe it'll be China or Japan instead of the USA. Maybe it'll be Russia. If we are unwilling to accept the risk, then we will not share in the reward.

Re:This is news? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926007)

A Fourth of July launch with George Bush and American flags all over the last place? No problem. Unless the shuttle goes boom in a real bad way. That might put an end to the manned space program and going back to Moon and Mars. Don't want a repeat of the Challenger disaster, where that shuttle launch was supposed coincide with President Reagan's State of The Union address and a phone call to the first teacher in space.
An ongoing rumor (Challenger/Reagan) for which no shred of evidence has ever been found - and a lot of people have been looking quite hard for twenty years now. (And it's ridiculous on the face of it considering how often the launch was delayed.)

Re:This is news? (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926129)

I remember the Challenger incident quite well. There was pressure on NASA to get the shuttle up in space so President Reagan could make the "historic" phone call to the first teacher in space during the middle of the State of the Union address. Of course, the Reagan Administration denied that there was any pressure on NASA or that they made arrangements to have a phone call made. I always did like the Reagan Administration for having a "it's sunny and you're rich" spin on the events.

Re:This is news? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 8 years ago | (#14929146)

I remember the Challenger incident quite well. There was pressure on NASA to get the shuttle up in space so President Reagan could make the "historic" phone call to the first teacher in space during the middle of the State of the Union address.
You state that as if it were a fact - please privide a reference or a cite.
Of course, the Reagan Administration denied that there was any pressure on NASA or that they made arrangements to have a phone call made. I always did like the Reagan Administration for having a "it's sunny and you're rich" spin on the events.
Ah - here's the real truth. You don't have a reference, or a cite, or even a memory of the event.

What you have is an oft repeated rumor - a rumor for which not a shred of evidence exists. None. (And the Reagan Administration never denied the rumor, or adressed it in any way, shape, or form.) As I said, many people have looked for evidence, positive and negative, and none has ever appeared.

Re:This is news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#14961281)

i see you taliing about the space program... well i hope you dont want to go into space the requiered amount of rocket fuel wont fit in the tank on our current modles. you just to fat man you should start your own solarsystem, you could be like Venus you soo fat like WTF go get surgery you consume to much spce in our small world i think you may want to see a doctor that is if you can get threw the door so witjh that i will leave saying wow your a fat fuck,

Re:This is news? (2, Insightful)

heatdeath (217147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921337)

turning space into a tourist attraction may be the only way we're ever really going to get off this rock

Why exactly do we need to get off of this rock, again? I mean, star trek is cool and everything, but until we're close to being able to teraform other planets, it's not going to be terribly useful to send people to live in space. The historical need for humans to be sent to different places in space has been the lack of ability to remote-control things because of time delays, but I guarentee you that AI will progress at a much faster rate than our ability to cheaply send something to another planet that can keep a human alive and safe.

The problem isn't getting off of this rock, the problem is preventing us from turning earth into a rock. How about we focus on that instead of being in such a hurry to leave it.

Re:This is news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14921385)

This is one of the wisest comments on the subject of manned space travel I have ever read.

Re:This is news? (3, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921392)

I mean, star trek is cool and everything, but until we're close to being able to teraform other planets, it's not going to be terribly useful to send people to live in space.

Please, don't insult me with your Star Trek comments.

There are TONS [direct.ca] of [thespacereview.com] resources [markelowitz.com] out there for the taking, resources that would make expensive technology inexpensive.

the problem is preventing us from turning earth into a rock. How about we focus on that instead of being in such a hurry to leave it.

Are you only capable of doing one thing in your life? I'm all for making things better here but don't act like we have to choose between the two.

Re:This is news? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14922181)

Yes, there are "tons of resources". Now address why, as the gp mentioned, you think humans should be involved in gathering them at all, given that robotic missions usually are a 20th the price of an equivalent manned mission.

I should add, however, that lunar resources are pretty dismal. Yes, there's helium 3, but helium itself is in ppm quantities on the moon and helium 3 a small fraction of the total lunar helium. Meanwhile, we don't even have a Dt-T fusion reactor let alone an He3 reactor, *And* we can make He3 right here on Earth from tritium; we just need to step up our tritium breeding.

In general, the lunar surface is very mineral poor. I mean, hey, if you're interested in a small subset of ceramics, it can't be beat; they're everywhere. Apart from that, it's not so great.

Now, elsewhere is a different story. Metallic asteroids are, quite often, bloody wonderful mineral wise. Gold, platinum, indium, irridium, and all sorts of other rare minerals are found in abundance. Mars isn't as great, but it has (or at least should have) about the mineral diversity of Earth.

Re:This is news? (1)

Tango42 (662363) | more than 8 years ago | (#14923375)

"Yes, there are "tons of resources". Now address why, as the gp mentioned, you think humans should be involved in gathering them at all, given that robotic missions usually are a 20th the price of an equivalent manned mission."

Small scale mining missions would probably be cheaper with robots, yes - once the scale gets larger it becomes economically viable to have technicians on hand to fix things that go wrong. Once the scale gets larger still, it becomes viable to have entire colonies to do the mining.

We'll probably start with robots, but people have a purpose in space too.

Re:This is news? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14924644)

Scale makes humans even more unneeded. It never becomes economical to send humans to fix things when you could send robots without needing habitation, radiation shielding, air, food, water, entertainment, sleeping quarters, toilet facilities, etc.

That is, unless you can reduce launch costs. Right now, you're balancing the cost of developing robotics to accomplish a given task with the cost of launching many tonnes of initial mass and several tonnes of annual resupply to keep humans alive, and there's no comparison. But if those launch costs go down, the robotic costs become more expensive by comparison to human costs, and humans become more justifiable.

Re:This is news? (1)

Tango42 (662363) | more than 8 years ago | (#14927316)

The cost of having a human technican on site is a constant, regardless of scale. The benefit, however, increases as the number of things for him to fix increases. There becomes a point where the money saved by not having to bring things back to be fixed or even completely replace them outweighs the cost of keeping a human there. Exactly where that point it does indeed depend on costs of things like launches, but the point is somewhere. (Of course, at current costs that point might require more mining than is possible on a single asteriod, so effectively doesn't exist, but oh well.)

Of course, if we get a working space elevator, pretty much everything becomes viable... Hopefully that dream will become a reality sooner or later...

Re:This is news? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14927686)

The larger the tasks you're picturing need to be done, the more people you need. Scale doesn't help you. With current launch prices to the moon, there's no way humans could even dream of being more efficient than robotics in terms of fixing things.

Lets say 25k$/kg to the moon, initial setup overall is 30,000 kg, per person is 20,000 kg and annual resupply is 2,500kg. That wouldn't pay for any return trips, but lets pretend that they're convicts exported to the moon for life ;) Do the numbers sound high to you? It may surprise you to learn that an average house weighs about 100 tonnes, so we're assuming that the one-person's dwelling, life supportment, machinery that they need to do their job, descent stage, etc are half the weight of a typical house, and that their annual resupply (again, including descent stage) is the weight of a large SUV. These numbers are overly kind.

How much does this cost? 1.2 BILLION dollars in the first year alone. For that kind of money, you could develop a hundred robots that could fly like superman, make pancakes, juggle geese, and solve the poincare conjecture all at once. ;)

Re:This is news? (1)

Tango42 (662363) | more than 8 years ago | (#14928383)

I think your ratio of initial setup to per person is off by quite a bit. The extra cost of making a 2 person base rather than a 1 person base is quite small relative to the cost of the first person. The living space doesn't need to be twice the size. The square-cube law means you need less materials to build a larger dome (proportionally). Atmosphere cycling needs to be increased linearly, but I expect the cost of it isn't linear.

Also, even taking into account that most of your last sentence was an exaggeration, you are overestimating the value of 1.2 billion dollars. Setting up a simple, robotic mining mission will run into the 10s of billions at least, I would guess - adding some people will increase it significantly, but not overwhelmingly.

Re:This is news? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14928592)

The cost of making a 2 person base rather than a 1 person base is quite small

The living space *does* need to be almost doubled, the life support systems need to be double capacity, etc. I was being extremely kind by my numbers (1 person = 50k kg, 2 people = 70k kg). I also left out some massive costs from that budget - for example, the development of a new heavy lift vehicle.

Overestimating the value of 1.2 billion dollars

In robotics, 1.2 billion dollars is an utter fortune. Any task a human might need to do, a robotic system could do it for a small fraction of the price. That's why they're used in space exploration. Heck, on the moon you don't even have to deal with significant latency, so there's little AI work that needs to be done.

Re:This is news? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14928700)

Here, lets just further my point a bit more. Asimo rents for $160k/yr. 1.2 billion would get you 7500 robot years of Asimo. All you need to control it on the moon is a 802.11 transmitter on the surface. Buy or mass produce Asimos, and you could easily increase that many-fold (a new asimo is currently $1m with current production rates - you could buy 1,200 of them assuming no mass production). Heck, Honda would probably supply Asimos for cheap or free just for the publicity ;) Yet Asimo has a lot of "intelligence" capabilities that just aren't needed - voice recognition, posture recognition, facial recognition, etc. It is *more* than is needed for lunar repairs, capabilities-wise. Doesn't meet your capability? Honda has only spent "tens" of millions of dollars on Asimo; build your own.

Are you seing yet how much cheaper robots are in space than humans?

Yet, lets go back to the subject of repairs, shall we? What are you picturing breaking that can be repaired so easily? We don't even have experience with atmosphereless welding currently. Yet, you're talking about fixing intricate machinery with only whatever spare parts were thought to send up in advance? Sorry, but you can't just fedex something to the moon :) Are we to have a complete, second system's worth of parts to replace things with? To be able to do what is sometimes microscale assembly or cleaning on the moon? What's your plan here?

Re:This is news? (1)

Tango42 (662363) | more than 8 years ago | (#14929097)

Do those robots of yours work in the extreme range of temperatures you get on the moon? A better comparison would be to existing space probes - say the Mars rovers. Apparently they cost a little short of a billion dollars for 2. Getting to the moon is slightly cheaper than to Mars, and mass production reduces costs, so you're talking a billion or 2 for a lunar mining operation - much higher than your prices.

You also need to factor in the cost of getting whatever you mine back to Earth. Chances are you're going to be sending cargo ships back and forth - you might as well have some supplies on the outward journeys, so no extra cost for sending the required food (and we're already ignoring hydroponics etc).

As for repairs - you can normally tell what is most likely to go wrong with a machine and prepare for it. It is easier for a human to repair such things than another robot.

Admittedly, the almost realtime communications possible with the moon make remote controlled repairs a possibility, but I was thinking about mining asteroids, rather than the moon. If you're going to have people living in the asteriod belt, you might well want to lunar base for a launching platform.

Re:This is news? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14929310)

extreme temperature range

You mean the one that far worse for humans?

mars rovers ... billion dollars for two

Much of that was launch cost. Most of the rest was scientific equipment development costs.

getting what you mine back to earth

The entire premise is just plain silly. There's nothing worth mining on the moon anyways, as I demonstrated way back in the thread without anyone contesting the basic point.

ignoring hydroponics

Ignoring that astronauts consume 3,000 calories per day, plants grow slowly, farms are preposterously heavy, and that night on the moon is two weeks long (requiring artificial light)

it is easier for humans to repair

Oh, okay. Go grab a 400 degree pipe leaking sulfuric acid.

Re:This is news? (4, Interesting)

kimvette (919543) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921503)

By that logic, why did you ever leave Mommy and Daddy to go out on your own (or have you yet)? This is intended to be funny and drive across the point, BTW, and not an attack.

Why go to a bar, or to a movie? It's not even remotely useful to do either since they do not provide a living.

Ever go skiing? Why go up a mountain just to take a huge risk balancing on narrow pieces of fibreglass while sliding down the side of a mountain at 60-90mph, when at any moment you might just fall and end up crashing into a tree and dying?

Why bother doing ANYTHING?

It's human nature. Why not explore? I would LOVE to see the gas giants up close - especially Jupiter and Saturn. I would love visit the Horsehead nebulae up close. I would love to visit the vicinity of a black hole just to find out whether it is actually visible or not. I would love to visit a brown dwarf to see just what happens while a star "dies."

Wouldn't it be fascinating? For no other reason than to SEE it. In person. Wonder in amazment at the universe.

We're human. We explore. We have curiousity. Of COURSE we want to get off this "rock" - does there have to be any reason other than "it's out there, and I have never been there." - to paraphrase from The Truman Show - "Because I never have! That's why people go places, isn't it?"

Does there HAVE to be a tangible result?

of course, I'd love to see an end to political strife, starvation, etc. first before spending money on space exploration, but again, it's all human nature and it's human nature to bicker and those issues will never be solved, so why not spend money on exploration?

Re:This is news? (4, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14922201)

There's a more fundamental bit of logic one must apply. Believe me, I know what you're talking about: few here *wouldn't* like to be able to go into space. Even seeing others do it is a rush at times. But lets back up for a moment. Payload launch costs are 7,000$/kg, and that's if you go Russian (unless you get a special deal, which is known to happen). Manned launch costs are even more pricey than just paying to ship your mass up. Only the rich can afford that, plain and simple. And there's only one thing that can change this state of affairs: money. Lots and lots and lots of money invested in tech, tech, launch subsidies (to help build a self-sustaining industry), and more tech.

If we blow our space budgets flying people around the cosmos with current launch prices, that's all we're doing: blowing our budgets. Better to put the money into tech research (and stick to cheapo robotic probes to satisfy our exploration needs for now) than to have a few select humans darting about space on economically unsustainable joyrides.

Re:This is news? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926127)

And there's only one thing that can change this state of affairs: [overpriced launches] money. Lots and lots and lots of money invested in tech, tech, launch subsidies (to help build a self-sustaining industry), and more tech.
And it's this misguided view thats precisely why launch costs remain so expensive - that tech and money is the answer to everything. We have the technology. We've had the technology for forty years.

But the politics of the Space Race forced us down an evolutionary dead end.

Instead of developing rockets with large margins that could be built like Ford builds Explorers - we went the expensive, but faster, method of building what we have and spending billions (over the years) needlessly making payloads lighter. The secret to lowering costs is fly early, fly often. Mass production (and eventually reuseability) is the key to cheap spaceflight. Airplanes and air travel didn't become cheap because they went high tech - they became cheap because of mass production and high reliability. (Along with lowered maintenance costs.)

We've been throwing money and tech at the problem for decades and it doesn't work.

Re:This is news? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926344)

We have the technology

Really? Fascinating! Explain to me the technology we have to produce CVD diamond panels for rentry shielding, and for more efficient carbon-carbon production. Explain to me the technology we have for alane rocket boosters and metastable helium. Explain to me the technology we have for scramjet engines. Explain to me the tech we have for gas/plasma injection during reentry. Explain to me the technology we have for MPD thrusters. Explain the technology we have for our nuclear thermal rockets.

Need I keep going on? There is a huge amount of cost-cutting research going on right now, but sadly it is underfunded.

Mass production is the key to cheap spaceflight

Yet therein lies the crux of the problem. Even if all of today's spacecraft were launched on the same type of rocket, it wouldn't be a very great degree of mass production. Yet such a proposal is clearly ludicrous; a rocket big enough to launch Cassini/Huygens would be an utter waste on a nanosat. There simply isn't the market. You need lower costs *before* a market will appear.

You mention the Ford Explorer. Ford produces several million of them every year; that's why their cost is so low. Want to try that with an Ariane-5 (lets just pretend than an Ariane-5 is big enough to launch everything; it's not, but lets pretend). It's 180 million per launch currently. If you're producing 50 a year, you might cut the price in half. 1,000 a year, perhaps a quarter. 50,000 a year? Perhaps a tenth. But who the heck do you think can afford 900 billion dollars to do even that moderate level of mass production?

Yes, we could reduce the competition. The midsize launch market is fought over between Soyuz, Zenit, Proton, Atlas, Delta, Long March, and a few others. Yet, even merging all of them into one company with one system won't gain you that much - and how would you propose to go about that?

Now, there are some more practical proposals - for example, Otrag. Otrag was designed to have each individual rocket be made out of mass produced components. The smallest type of Otrag vehicle would have a whopping 48 first stage tanks/engines. The second stage would have 12, and the third 4. It was a horribly inefficient design because it burned a low ISP fuel and was pressure-propelled, but it was designed to brute force its way to orbit, very inefficiently. The tanks were just giant steel drums of pressurized acids and kerosene; the engines were stamped. Kayser figured that he'd capture most of the world's market, and in doing so, he figured he could produce each tank for 30k$ each, making the manufacturing cost actually be comparable to the assembly costs and have propellant for once be a sizable percentage of the launch costs. Unfortunately for Kayser, his equipment was siezed by the Libyans in the 80s.

Kayser is currently still trying to restart Otrag in the US. But you know what he needs? *Money*. You see where this is going? Money funds tech. Tech produces cost reductions. There's no saying that Otrag is "the" way to go (although it certainly deserves a chance). You need to invest in each scientifically sound, realistic route, because most of them will be failures. Only then will you get your costs down.

Re:This is news? (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 8 years ago | (#14928206)

We have the technology

Really? Fascinating! Explain to me the technology we have to produce CVD diamond panels for rentry shielding, and for more efficient carbon-carbon production. Explain to me the technology we have for alane rocket boosters and metastable helium. Explain to me the technology we have for scramjet engines. Explain to me the tech we have for gas/plasma injection during reentry. Explain to me the technology we have for MPD thrusters. Explain the technology we have for our nuclear thermal rockets.


SpaceX doesn't have any of those technologies, and yet they've still managed to develop an orbital rocket which costs much less than the competition. Granted, I'm sure they'll eventually reach a limit to how much they can reduce costs until they'll have to pursue some of the technologies you describe, but it'll be a while until they reach that limit. By that time, SpaceX will hopefully have generated enough of a market for their lower-priced rockets that it'll be economically justifiable to invest money in more advanced launch technologies.

Re:This is news? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14928546)

SpaceX doesn't have any of those technologies, and yet they've still managed to develop an orbital rocket which costs much less than the competition.

Yes, they did a good job at taking current tech and optimizing it (although I'd bet money that those prices won't stick; Delta IV heavy's and Ariane's didn't). They're still way too expensive, and you really can't go much further down than that with current tech unless A) the satellite market gets a tremendous boom far beyond anything we've seen in the past, justifying at least a modicum of mass production or B) you get a high level of reusability from your vehicle.

SpaceX will hopefully have generated enough of a market for their lower-priced rockets that it'll be economically justifiable to invest money in more advanced launch technologies.

You don't invest in basic research right when it becomes needed. You invest in basic research well before it's needed, or your "need" is held up by twenty years. And don't expect SpaceX to have the money to fund much basic research; they built a simple rocket by standing on the shoulders of giants. Still an impressive feat, but a pittiance compared to the cost of the huge amount of tech research that gets conducted every year even on NASA's current research budget.

Re:This is news? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 8 years ago | (#14929336)

We have the technology

Really? Fascinating! Explain to me the technology we have to:

[snip list of handwaving fanboy fantasies]

That's just the point - we don't need any of those techologies. Not one.

Take heatshields for example - we don't some exotic material that may or may not work when it hits the real world. 'old fashioned' fiberglass and resin works just fine. What we need is to *automate the production of the heatshields*. Rather than designing them to the .9999 percentile, build bigger rockets so the heatshield design can have deeper margins! (The cost of a booster scales very weakly with size - but very strongly with the engineering effort needed to make it perform on the bleeding edge. We've been stuck on the bleeding edge for forty years.)

Need I keep going on? There is a huge amount of cost-cutting research going on right now, but sadly it is underfunded.
There's a lot of pigs eating at the trough and repeating the mantra "we need tech, we need tech, we need tech". Meanwhile perfectly serviceable tech gets discarded in favor of the next big thing. (Anyone with any knowledge of engineering history knows full well how few promising technologies ever deliver on their promises.) NASA and the Usual Suspects push this agenda because it keeps the money flowing from Congress. The L5 society and their ilk push this agenda because it fits their predjudices that space is a high tech science fiction endeavor. The public believes it because of years of FUD by the above groups.
Mass production is the key to cheap spaceflight

Yet therein lies the crux of the problem. Even if all of today's spacecraft were launched on the same type of rocket, it wouldn't be a very great degree of mass production. Yet such a proposal is clearly ludicrous; a rocket big enough to launch Cassini/Huygens would be an utter waste on a nanosat.

Given that 90% of all payloads launched per year over the last decade and more have been the same size +/- about 40%, such a proposal is clearly not ludicrous.
You mention the Ford Explorer. Ford produces several million of them every year; that's why their cost is so low. Want to try that with an Ariane-5 (lets just pretend than an Ariane-5 is big enough to launch everything; it's not, but lets pretend). It's 180 million per launch currently. If you're producing 50 a year, you might cut the price in half. 1,000 a year, perhaps a quarter. 50,000 a year? Perhaps a tenth. But who the heck do you think can afford 900 billion dollars to do even that moderate level of mass production?
An Ariane-5 costs what it does because tens of thousands of man-hours are needed to prepare it for launch. It costs what it does because it's handbuilt in a clean room. Only a fool would propose trying to mass produce the Ariane-5.

A new design, designed from the *start* for producibility and low man hours (both in production and preparation) is an entirely different matter. (It's also the gold standard for engineering design in virtually every field except space travel.)

Kayser is currently still trying to restart Otrag in the US. But you know what he needs? *Money*. You see where this is going? Money funds tech. Tech produces cost reductions.
Your blinders fit so tightly you don't even read what you write. Otrag doesn't need money to produce tech (niether did Rutan) - he needs money to produce *components*. Plain, simple, dirt cheap brute force components - exactly what I propose.
There's no saying that Otrag is "the" way to go (although it certainly deserves a chance). You need to invest in each scientifically sound, realistic route, because most of them will be failures. Only then will you get your costs down.
But what you propose is the exact opposite. You propose tossing away well developed tech - that has never been fully exploited, and standard engineering processes in favor of tommorows pie in the sky.

Re:This is news? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14930752)

[snip list of handwaving fanboy fantasies]

So "fanboy" that multiple governments and governmental agencies worldwide decided to work on them.

That's just the point - we don't need any of those techologies. Not one.

Thanks for your psychic predictions of what will actually work out to produce cheap space access.

Take heatshields for example - we don't some exotic material that may or may not work when it hits the real world. 'old fashioned' fiberglass and resin works just fine.

Bzzzt. Fiberglass isn't even close to being able to withstand reentry by itself. Are you confusing it with ablatives? Current reentry systems are either radiative (such as shuttle tiles) or ablative (you burn off an outer coating; often you also need a heatsink to absorb what you don't burn off).

The problems with both of them are that they're both heavy, brittle, and time consuming to create.

What we need is to *automate the production of the heatshields*

There's a number of problems with that, which is why it isn't done in most situations.

First off, there's the reason why prefab housing has gotten such a bad reputation: inconsistancies in the material aren't dealt with intelligently by machines. With ablatives, you need a nice, neat, bubble-free chip-free layer. With tiles, they are (well, were) mass produced to some extent, but have to be fitted individually (and to some extent shaped individually). Any flaws can spell doom for the crew.

Then there is the shape problem. Irregular shapes are, simply, hard to coat and shape properly. It's much easier just to use people.

There's issues of scale. Space agencies do cost-benefit analysis on almost everything. When it doesn't work out to be economical, they don't do it. Building a system to do effective automatic TPS application is no trivial task.

All of that said, there *is* some automatic TPS application - just not reentry TPS, generally. Large sections of the shuttle ET are automatically foamed, for example (yes, the foam is insulation. It's also a TPS).

Rather than designing them to the .9999 percentile, build bigger rockets so the heatshield design can have deeper margins!

Great plan there, especially when you consider that small increases in mass in the upper stage translate to huge increases to the lower stages. You double the mass (and thus cost) of your rocket to get that extra 10% of your top stage's mass. All to eliminate proportionally small line item in your turnaround costs. That's patently foolish.

The cost of a booster scales very weakly with size

Bzzzt, wrong. I think NASA would be thrilled to learn, thanks to your secret sources, that they can get shuttle SRBs for just a little bit more than the old Atlas rockets cost!

Why don't you spend some time on Astronautix before you start claiming BS in the future?

We've been stuck on the bleeding edge for forty years

In some respects. On other respects, look at it this way: the lower stage of the shuttle, the SRBs, has poor performance compared to most rocket engines. The oft-sited Buran/Energia launch vehicle trounced it out of the ballpark in first stage ISP. Even Ariane beats it. So no, it's not on the cutting edge. The SSMEs are, though.

As for what ISP performance does for you, I suggest you look up Otrag vs. the Saturn V. Saturn V wasn't a performance record setter, but you'll notice that having 50% better ISP than the Otrag stages makes it weigh a tenth as much for a given amount of payload. Materials not only cost money in themselves, and cost machining costs, but they make the spacecraft unwieldy. More stages makes a spacecraft riskier and more expensive. Etc. There are payoffs and risks out there with every proposal; if there weren't, everyone would have jumped onboard with Otrag from day one.

Meanwhile perfectly serviceable tech gets discarded in favor of the next big thing.

"Perfectly servicable tech" doesn't get us under 2k$/kg without some nonexistant satellite boom. Yelling "mass produce" till you turn blue in the face while ignoring that there's nothing to mass produce *for* doesn't get you anywhere.

Anyone with any knowledge of engineering history knows full well how few promising technologies ever deliver on their promises.

I suggest that you keep shunning fire. Those claims by the people in the cave next door about it cooking food and making better weapons will never hold up.

NASA and the Usual Suspects push this agenda because it keeps the money flowing from Congress.

NASA, the Pentagon, Russia, the ESA, Australia, Japan, you name it. If it were just one agency, you might have a point, but scientists around the world have been pushing these techs. Oh, but wait, I know: you know better than most scientists in the field. Silly me. :)

Given that 90% of all payloads launched per year over the last decade and more have been the same size +/- about 40%, such a proposal is clearly not ludicrous.

Oh my god, that's bloody hilarious! Tell me what the "same size" is. The numerous 100kg microsats? The numerous 1 tonne satellites and light probes? The 10 tonne large sats and probes (less common, but do they not get to launch)? The >10 tonne space modules? Not to mention that larger sats typically go to GEO, which takes even more ISP. Tell me the specs on your "one size fits all" rocket, I'm dying to hear it!

An Ariane-5 costs what it does because tens of thousands of man-hours are needed to prepare it for launch. It costs what it does because it's handbuilt in a clean room.

False. Ariane-5 is not built in a clean room.

Like all rockets, it is parts. Hand-machined parts. You can automate part production on the Ariane, or insert-your-dream-rocket-here. The problem with all automation is that you need the scale to justify it: a facility to build a part takes far more money and work to make than the part itself. The same goes with assembly.

Kayser is currently still trying to restart Otrag in the US. But you know what he needs? *Money*. You see where this is going? Money funds tech. Tech produces cost reductions.

Your blinders fit so tightly you don't even read what you write. Otrag doesn't need money to produce tech (niether did Rutan) - he needs money to produce *components*.


Oh, silly me! Otrag is trying to scam the world, then, because according to you he only needs the 1 million unit price, not the tens of millions he's trying to raise to, according to him (obviously lies!), "develop the system". Should I get in on his scam at ground level?

But what you propose is the exact opposite. You propose tossing away well developed tech - that has never been fully exploited

Otrag is far from "developed tech". Show me the last time you saw a rocket separate 48 stages at once and I'll be impressed. From a practical standpoint, his design reminds me of the N1. Yes, the N1 wasn't separate stages, and it was a higher performing craft, but the general concept of having a ridiculous number of engines burning at once (30 NK-15s). Of course, we all saw how well the N1 turned out. Oh wait, you probably don't even know what the N1 is, even though it was one of the biggest rocketry projects of this century. Read about it [astronautix.com].

Still, Otrag deserves a shot! But acting like it's a hole in one is just stupid. Nothing like it has ever been done before, and that's asking for problems. On paper and in sims, it looks great. On paper and in sims, so do scramjets. So do next-gen reusables. So do better reentry systems like gas/plasma injection and inflatables. So do high density/high ISP fuels. So does nuclear thermal. All sorts of things look great on paper and in sims. We have to see which ones run into major snags when they transfer to real life - and I bet you that 80% of them will, and Otrag is anything but immune.

 

Re:This is news? (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 8 years ago | (#14922250)


By that logic, why did you ever leave Mommy and Daddy to go out on your own (or have you yet)?

Space exploration doesn't have to be cowboy-style and risk human lives anymore, we have machines that can do that now (unlike the Apollo days when most of the motivation was to upstage the Soviets for PR value).

Re:This is news? (1)

pintpusher (854001) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921570)

because eventually some other rock is gonna hit this rock and if we're all still stuck on this rock, well...

Re:This is news? (2, Interesting)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 8 years ago | (#14922164)

mean, star trek is cool and everything, but until we're close to being able to teraform other planets, it's not going to be terribly useful to send people to live in space.

And how do you expect us to learn how to terraform other planets without going out there? For that matter, why do you think we need to terraform them? Space is full of resources just waiting to be exploited, but to do that, we're going to have to get out there because there's just so much you can do with robots and probes and it's just not enough. Right now, we're on the edge of having a long-term, sustainable presence in Earth orbit, and that puts us half-way to wherever else we want or need to go.

Re:This is news? (5, Insightful)

brother bloat (888898) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921348)

Without proper funding, the space program can't do a heck of a lot. Right now, even the international space station has barely enough funding for maintenence, let along cutting-edge research.

Maybe commercial space flight will do something to jump-start space exploration once more.

Re:This is news? (2)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921440)

Without proper funding, the space program can't do a heck of a lot.

The shuttle program has many problems, but a lack of funding isn't one of them. From a recent post by Clark Lindsay's RLV News [hobbyspace.com]: ... For example, the paper [colorado.edu] notes that "conventional wisdom" holds that if NASA had gotten all the funding it wanted and allowed to build one of the original Shuttle designs, which included a fully reusable fly-back first stage, it could have achieved the original Shuttle mission goals of frequent flights (~50 per year) and greatly lower launch costs. Instead, the design was chopped down to fit within the funding limitations set by Nixon and Congress.

The paper notes that it is in fact arguable that a lavishly funded NASA system would have done so well and, regardless, once NASA lowered the system performance it should have lowered expectations. "Instead, in the effort to promote the programme, NASA held policy goals constant to inflate the programme's apparent benefits while the design was compromised.:

Another common belief is that Congress starved NASA of funding during the Shuttle development. Figure 1, however, shows that Congress typically gave NASA more funding that it asked for during the 1971-81 period.

Griffin talks about how he cannot rely on the commercial sector to achieve the goals of the VSE. So Plan A must be a system specified in detail and implemented wholly by NASA as the agency did with the Shuttle and ISS. However, he should look at Table 1, which compares the promise of the Shuttle program and the actual performance. It does not exactly support his great confidence in the agency's ability to fulfill program goals.

In the summary section, the paper suggests that "quick, smaller, and independent" programs are better than a single huge, centralized, long term program like the shuttle. I think this is exactly right, especially if the smaller programs heavily involve or sponsor commercial firms.

Its Energy (-1, Offtopic)

Freaky Spook (811861) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921487)

It takes a lot of energy to get into space, unfortunatly the engery that gets the shuttle into space is running out so governments are spending much more money on fighting over the last scraps of it.

Until there is a real motivation to go to space again, Say China announcing plans for a nuclear powered space station which could fuel another space race.

Tourism will help push us into space, with the rising costs of oil its going to cause a lot of problems getting there.
If Airlines are going broke everwhere, keeping a space tourism business going would be extremly high risk.

Re:Its Energy (3, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921534)

It takes a lot of energy to get into space, unfortunatly the engery that gets the shuttle into space is running out so governments are spending much more money on fighting over the last scraps of it.

Cute, but not quite. By far the biggest cost for the Space Shuttle is the standing army of around 10,000 people that's paid to work on the Shuttle, regardless of how often it's actually flying. The cost of the rocket fuel itself is less than one percent of the total launch cost.

Re:Its Energy (1, Insightful)

Freaky Spook (811861) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921571)

With the 100's of billions America is devoting to freeing Iraq its pretty obvious what is more important.

The fuel may be a small account for the total cost, but the US is more focused on trying to secure oil, then explore space.

My point was until there is an immediate reason to be there for the good of the US, the govenrment isn't going to want to put any more money then is needed.

Re:Its Energy (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14922213)

Quite true. I've heard it said before that if you can make fuel be a sizable percentage of your orbital rocketry program's operating costs, you're doing something right. ;)

Water is running out?! OMG!!?!? (4, Informative)

NekoXP (67564) | more than 8 years ago | (#14922394)

But the shuttle uses hydrogen and oxygen to get into space. That's what's in the orange foam-clad tank.

The SRB's (the little white ones) use aluminium and ammonium perchlorate.

No oil there.

For manuevering the shuttle burns hydrazine and oxygen (there was a big fuss when Columbia crashed as hydrazine is pretty toxic)

Not gasoline, not even kerosene. Why is fighting over oil affecting then again?

Re:Water is running out?! OMG!!?!? (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926757)

Deploy nitpickers:

  • The US's biggest source of hydrogren production is from the processing of fossil fuels.
  • Hydrazine requires large amounts of ammonia, and ammonia is obtained from the Haber process [wikipedia.org], which uses natural gas. Same thing for ammonium perc.

Just about every industrial chemical process we use consume hydrocarbons, which of course the US consumes far in excess of its own production. The depressing thing is that people assume that moving away from buring fossil fuels in the thing they own (a car) will cause consumption to decrease. It might cause the chemical process to change, perhaps to something "cleaner," but all of these processes free up carbon, which will end up in the atmosphere unless sequestered. Sequestration is easier of all the carbon is getting made in one place (a hydrogen plant instead of 100 million tailpipes), but trying telling the energy industry to do anything.

The cleanest source of hydrogen on the Earth's surface would be solar-powered or catalyzed hydrolysis of water. Off the Earth's surface, Hydrogen is the most plentiful element in the universe. Of course, for every 2 Hs you bring down to Earth, you'd have to bring down an Oxygen, otherwise fuel cells will eat all our oxygen.

If only we could send rocket tankers to Jupiter :)

Re:This is news? (1)

Julian Morrison (5575) | more than 8 years ago | (#14924466)

The core problem of funding is that a government space program - NASA - doesn't get its' money back. For a repeat performance, it has to tax people all over again, and there are political and economic limits.

A private, commercial space program is predicated on profit. It may be a bit slow starting, but if properly run, it makes back more than the money it invests. The next time, it can go further. There is no theoretical ceiling on the funding of a for-profit space program, so long as it continues turning a profit.

NASA is not merely underfunded. It's impossible to fund. Only private spaceflight will get us off this rock.

Re:This is news? (1)

thpdg (519053) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921455)

If the commercial space travel agencies don't take the same cautions that NASA is in delaying these launches, we could have a very serious number of fatal accidents.

Re:This is news? (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921497)

If the commercial space travel agencies don't take the same cautions that NASA is in delaying these launches, we could have a very serious number of fatal accidents.

And it'll be up to the people paying for rides on those rockets whether or not that's a risk they want to take, much like they decide if getting in an automobile is worth the risk. Regrettably, it's also possible that a well-publicized accident early on might result in congressmen pushing for legislation to protect people from their own decisions.

In any case, I'd be quite surprised if in the long-term commercial space firms aren't able to do better than the 2% fatality rate for the Space Shuttle.

Re:This is news? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14922229)

The Russians couldn't. And lets not even talk about the percentage of Ariane-5 failures thusfar, assuming Europe were to actually fund one of their proposed manned launch vehicles.

Space travel is bloody dangerous, plain and simple.

Lets look at it a different way. What caused the delay? A fuel sensor. One of *four*. You only need one working fuel sensor to measure your fuel levels. Sounds like being extremely overcautious, doesn't it? Well, it might until you think of the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of similar potential failure points. You have to be this extremely cautious or the laws of probability will come back and bite you.

One reason that I'm fond of scramjet research is that waverider scramjets are just so simple. Your airbreathing stage only carries fuel (oxidizer pumping requirements are much higher, so it's a fraction of the total pumping work), you only have half a combustion chamber, half an expansion nozzle, etc. Not to mention, your craft is almost by default able to handle the stresses of reentry. The big thing is the capital costs: you need a large amount of carbon-carbon or better on each craft, and we're still in the beginning of research. And for all we know, a stumbling block might be reached that could make scramjets never pay off. But it's just one example of a long-term technology that seriously needs funding, but could greatly increase safety and reduce launch costs.

Re:This is news? (3, Insightful)

slashdot_commentator (444053) | more than 8 years ago | (#14922180)

As much as some moan about the concept, turning space into a tourist attraction may be the only way we're ever really going to get off this rock.

You should be careful about presuming the underlying conditions will remain to give you a sustainable result. You have to realize your worldview is based on a life experience in the US, which has experienced a vast amount of economic wealth since the 1950's, and has been pissing it away ever since. Its like living off your credit card, presuming you'll eventually get a higher paying job to pay off the debts. The world doesn't work like that, and that experience is almost a chapter in history.

There is no future higher paying job (unless you're in the health care industry). The US has abandoned its industrial base, the industries it had an economic advantage in, and is so f*cking up its high tech industries and education, it will not even have that as a growth industry. You have a brain that can find a cure for AIDS or the next technological marvel? Fine, you have a future. Everyone else will be a form of wage slave or white collar con-man.

NASA & the Apollo space programs existed for two reasons. 1) The US was so ridiculously rich, it wanted to piss away tax dollars to aerospace companies. 2) The US was in a military competition and wanted to divert dollars to military-industrial complex without calling it weapons. There may be a new boom in space exploration, but it won't be led by the US. It will be too financially broken from its non-critical military adventurism. And if the gov't is bankrupt, be sure there will not be lots of new millionaires to take up the space exploration spending slack.

Already, only one third of our US budget is deemed "discretionary" spending. That means if we nuked every social welfare program, education subsidy, stopped all subsidized construction, opened our border to illegals and terrorists, allowed interstate crime to go unchecked, disbanded the military, we would only be able to reduce the total tax burden by a third. The IRS would still have to collect taxes for everything that doesn't enhance our lives, which is interest on treasury debt, and financial obligations, like federal pensions and social security. This is what's called maxing out your credit card; now live like a debt slave. Sure, the US can declare bankruptcy, its called hyperinflation. The rest of the world we owe money to will not take kindly to that. It will be a world wide depression (recession, if the rest of the world is lucky), and we will experience starvation and loss of material wealth (like housing, cars, entertainment devices). No more highspeed Internet or Slashdot, you won't be able to afford it.

Right now, the Treasury secretary is begging the Congress to raise the debt ceiling, i.e. borrow more money that its currently allowed to by law. If the Congress does not, the gov't will experience chapter 11-like bankruptcy situation; we won't have enough cash to pay currently due bills. Of course, the Congress could choose to just shutdown gov't programs and make the US live within its means. No, we're going to hit the credit card harder this year. You see this crisis on the TV or papers? Nope, stay clueless and happy, mushroom.

It's pretty apparent that NASA isn't going to be doing much more than sending out probes.

It may not even be able to do that. Bush cronies, for years, has been looking for ways to loot NASA's science budget (which barely cracks a few billion). But if they kill all space probe exploration, there will be quite a stink. (They're not killing manned programs, because it already helps their buds, like DeLay.) So, what does Bush do? He announces a NEW program to put man back on the moon and to Mars. Forget the fact the US does not have that kind of discretionary spending, like it did in the 1960's. Of course it costs more than probes. So, we take money away from exploring asteroids and Pluto, and put it into exploratory committees to organize a new space effort, and a CEV. When Bush is out of office, the next administration sees its not going to increase NASA's budget tenfold to pursue an manned stunt to anywhere, and kill the programs. Bush's cronies get a few more bucks in 2006-2008, and the science geeks get f**ked over. Every politician is happy.

Back to the original premise. In order for space programs to be subsidized by tourism, you need people rich enough to be willing to spend those vacation dollars in space. It won't be the US. There won't be a middle class anymore, just the starving poor, and the poor that can get by. The 1% of the world with some form of wealth may or may not want to take a trip to space, but they're more like Nicki Hilton, than Dennis Tito or Richard Branson.

Ideally, I'd like to see NASA keep its probe exploration, and dismantle as much of its manned program that it can. If we can't have that, it would be nice if NASA spent its money trying to encourage commercial space development, rather than hindering it with turf squabbles.

Re:This is news? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926340)

Already, only one third of our US budget is deemed "discretionary" spending. That means if we nuked every social welfare program, education subsidy, stopped all subsidized construction, opened our border to illegals and terrorists, allowed interstate crime to go unchecked, disbanded the military, we would only be able to reduce the total tax burden by a third. The IRS would still have to collect taxes for everything that doesn't enhance our lives, which is interest on treasury debt, and financial obligations, like federal pensions and social security.
Unhappily - the facts don't support your rant. Social welfare programs are not in the discretionary portion of the budget - and in fact, they are the single biggest line item in the non-discretionary portion. It's truly frightening how much is hidden from view in the 'budget' - and how people actually do the research. Instead they prefer FUD to facts.
It may not even be able to do that. Bush cronies, for years, has been looking for ways to loot NASA's science budget (which barely cracks a few billion). But if they kill all space probe exploration, there will be quite a stink. (They're not killing manned programs, because it already helps their buds, like DeLay.) So, what does Bush do? He announces a NEW program to put man back on the moon and to Mars. Forget the fact the US does not have that kind of discretionary spending, like it did in the 1960's. Of course it costs more than probes. So, we take money away from exploring asteroids and Pluto, and put it into exploratory committees to organize a new space effort, and a CEV.
Unhappily - the facts don't support your rant. In reality, the science program funding has remained essentially stable. The 2006/2007 numbers are within 3% of the 2005 numbers - which varied little from the years before.

The science program that is being 'starved' accounts for 1/3 of NASA's budget, 1.5% of NASA's *total budget* is being reprogammed from science to VSE. But those numbers you'll never hear from the science side - because they reveal the truth. That the return they have generated for that 33% of the budget is shamefully low. That nearly every program has severe accounting problems. That the bid process for new missions is badly broken.

What has happened is that NASA went through the umanned program with a fine toothed comb and cut killed numerous projects that were already over budget, over schedule, *or both*. When the scientists and companies had their pork cut off - they stood back on the hind legs and howled. And the anti-Bush folks (who in the main care little for facts) have taken to repeating their FUD as fact.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of the current Administration, and I think the VSE is about the worst thing to happen to space exploration since the refactoring of the Apollo Program by Kennedy - but I prefer to base my conclusions on facts. Repeating FUD without understanding the facts makes you a tool of those who instigate the FUD.

Justifying thier existance (1, Interesting)

NETHED (258016) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921335)

Is the shuttle program just forgotten about (due to war, bird flu, etc) and the workers just making work to look busy? We ALL know that the shuttle program is going to be scrapped; the Soyuz capsules were purchased because of it! Literally BILLIONS of dollars are being poured down the drain (no, fixing an old shuttle is not new science). The only thing I can see this being used for is to train new scientists.

Launch Date (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14921342)

They should launch it on July 4th. Then we either have a successful launch to celebrate, or, worse-case, we have an impressive fireworks display.

Launch pushed back? (4, Funny)

cgenman (325138) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921345)

They must be revamping the copyprotection.

Re:Launch pushed back? (1)

ian_mackereth (889101) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921396)

It's a damn shame that it couldn't launch on the fourth of May, to coincide with Star Wars Day. (You know, "May the Fourth be with you")

I hope they've at least considered using duck tape for the robotic arm.

the point? (1)

spazoidspam (708589) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921377)

I never quite saw the point of the shuttle(compared to its predecessors) in the first place. I mean, why is it so important to land like an airplane when it still needs to take off on a giant rocket. I applaud NASA on the new designs to get back to technology that actually was reliable. On a side note, why don't they just install heisenberg compensators in the ISS and make everything easy.

Re:the point? (1)

mnemonic_ (164550) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921418)

So you think it should land like a rocket or what? The only landings of rockets I can recall were during wars.

Re:the point? (1)

spazoidspam (708589) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921499)

It's not that I don't think it should land like an airplane(on a runway), its that too much cost has been put into it to make it land that way vs. landing using a parachute. The old apollo capsules fell to the earth with less exposed to burn up during re-entry. I'm not an expert in thermodynamics so someone please corrent me if I'm wrong.

The point I made about it still taking off on top of giant rockets was my attempt at being silly(how else is it going to aquire enough energy to orbit the planet with technology from this century).

the point? (1)

ecalkin (468811) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921521)

the point was being able to recover stuff and return it to earth in a non-crispy fashion. there was a lot of stuff that went up in the cargo bay and came back in the cargo bay that would have had a really tough time on a parachute landing.

    it also occurs to me that i have a really funny picture somewhere of a probe that was supposed to decelerate via parachutes and the photo is of it halfway into the dirt in the desert. 'cause the chute was mis-implemented.

eric

Re:the point? (2, Interesting)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921547)

there was a lot of stuff that went up in the cargo bay and came back in the cargo bay that would have had a really tough time on a parachute landing.

Do you have examples? I'm under the impression that the cargo retrieval capability was only used once or twice in the Space Shuttle's history, although the Air Force fantasized that they would use it to do things like snatch Soviet satellites out of the sky.

Re:the point? (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 8 years ago | (#14922209)

It's not that I don't think it should land like an airplane(on a runway), its that too much cost has been put into it to make it land that way vs. landing using a parachute.

The point of having it land like an airplane is that it's a controlled landing rather than dropping into the ocean as Mercury, Gemini and Apollo did. The shuttle lands where we want it to, at an airport or airbase, instead of needing to be picked up by helicopter and transported by ship. Not only that, it's bigger than would be practical with a parachute/chopper type landing. In the pre-shuttle days, astronauts didn't pilot their ships (except on the Moon landings/takeoffs themselves) but were little more than glorified passengers.

Re:the point? (1)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921432)

something about cold war needs and to be able to land on any decent runway strip after deploying some kind of payload.

Re:the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14921466)

I never quite saw the point of the shuttle(compared to its predecessors) in the first place. I mean, why is it so important to land like an airplane when it still needs to take off on a giant rocket.

Wikipedia has a great article on the NASA Space Shuttle decision [wikipedia.org].

Re:the point? (2, Interesting)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921968)

I mean, why is it so important to land like an airplane

To retrieve Soviet satellites... among other things. So you are right. Prettymuch pointless now. Which is why the CEV removes this requirement.

Galileo and preemptive management (2, Insightful)

Lord Satri (609291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921386)

Galileo just announced the launch delay of Giove-B [bbc.co.uk] for good reasons: Giove-A [slashdot.org] is considered a success and Giove-B will be more useful later this year (september launch instead of spring). I like to call this "preemtive management": plan the second satellite now in case we need it and delay it if we don't , instead of, oops - we would need another satellite since the first one has failed.

All that said, I hope such preemptive management could be used for NASA's projects. The circumstances are quite different (you know, the budget cuts...), but it's never bad to have a Plan B.

Re:Galileo and preemptive management (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926462)

Galileo just announced the launch delay of Giove-B for good reasons: Giove-A is considered a success and Giove-B will be more useful later this year (september launch instead of spring). I like to call this "preemtive management": plan the second satellite now in case we need it and delay it if we don't , instead of, oops - we would need another satellite since the first one has failed.
That's not preemptive managment - it's spin control. GIOVE-A is the backup bird, GIOVE-B is the 'full meal deal'. What is now GIOVE-B was supposed to fly first and -A was a sop to critics of the pork inherent in the program. (-B was awared to the usual giants.)

What is now GIOVE-A was advertised as a cheaper alternative 'just in case' GIOVE-B went over schedule or overbudget. GIOVE-A was never expected to fly, let alone under budget and on schedule. When (unsurprisingly) the -B bird (built by the usual suspects) did in fact do both (go overschedule and overbudget) the -A bird (built by a small fringe company) was quietly elevated from 'backup' to 'pathfinder'.

Re:Galileo and preemptive management (1)

Lord Satri (609291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926813)

Well, thank you Derek. Your input was informed, while mine was just an half-informed statement about wise management... (and provided news about the Giove-B delay announcement)

Re:Galileo and preemptive management (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 8 years ago | (#14928377)

That's not preemptive managment - it's spin control. GIOVE-A is the backup bird, GIOVE-B is the 'full meal deal'. What is now GIOVE-B was supposed to fly first and -A was a sop to critics of the pork inherent in the program.

Do you happen to have a source for this? I think I'd like to add the information to the wikipedia article on GIOVE [wikipedia.org].

A modest suggestion (4, Insightful)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921406)

"Over a week ago, a worker bumped the arm leaving a small crack in it. The arm is key to this next mission as the cameras and lasers used to inspect the shuttle for damage are mounted on the robotic arm."

JB Weld

Re:A modest suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14921688)

I wonder what they mean by "bump"? Did he nudge it with his elbow or did he smash it with a forklift or something?

That arm is a piece of shit if you ask me. Like a lot of stuff designed at NASA (some is very good don't get me wrong) it's designed to work within insanely too small a tolerence. The world is not a static place and the unexpected can happen, don't design a frigging billion dollar robotic arm that breaks if you touch it. I can't even count how many times those arms have broken.

Re:A modest suggestion (RE:AC) its not NASA... (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921989)

Like a lot of stuff designed at NASA

The robotic arm wasn't designed by NASA... it is Canadian (the so-called "Canada Arm")

Re:A modest suggestion (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14922148)

Oh, crap, one shouldn't feed the trolls. I sin. I'm no supporter of the shuttle orbiters, but this one has to be answered.

Mods- if you have any sense at all, make the parent +1 DUMBASS, then make this post +1 Troll pickler. Let folks read it and judge for themselvs. Yes, I'm going to unload on the fucker. And I'm going to say FUCK! Repeatedly! I might even misspeel. My nomex briefs are on...

I wonder what they mean by "bump"?

Lets start out with an article from a real space news site: http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n0603/08shuttle/ [spaceflightnow.com]

Go read that, or at least the first sentance. Then think about it for a bit. I quote:

The shuttle Discovery's robot arm is undergoing ultrasound inspections after a weekend mishap in which a moveable access bucket bumped into the arm during work to clean up broken glass.

As in the dipshits at KSC were working to clean up broken glass from a busted heat lamp, and rammed the fucker with a movable man holding bucket. I'll bet that would even put a nice sized ding in your beat to hell dumbass driver's Ford pinto http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Pinto/ [wikipedia.org]. Probably not a quarter million dollar ding, though. And they wouldn't likely need to spend a quarter mill worth of analysis to figure out what if anything to do to fix your pinto. Hell, I'd offer to fix your ride by gluing old bubble gum onto the side of your shitbucket with stale ass chaff- for free.

That arm is a piece of shit if you ask me. Like a lot of stuff designed at NASA (some is very good don't get me wrong) it's designed to work within insanely too small a tolerence.

Stick to something besides pretending to intelligently critique space hardware design.

See, an item like the arm doesn't just need to be precise (as you muttle on about), but also a few other things that go along with space flight hardware:

+ Strong (its a flying crane and can handle 65,000 pounds on orbit.)
+ Clean. As in contiminate free so that it doesn't fuck up things that fly inside the shuttle.
+ Lightweight. As in every pound that the arm packs up is an pound of cargo you can't fly (at ~$12k to $30K per pound).
+ TVAC compatible. As in it lives in space. Insane heat, vacum, cold... Nasty stuff. Also, cant outgass or warp in space.
+ Shirtsleeve compatible. As in lives inside the VAB and landing sites and everywhere the shuttle goes on earth.
+ Highly instrumented.
+ Accurate. (look that one up, it is different than precise)
+ Gentle. (can't damage the hardware while schlepping it around)
+ Reliable as all hell(as in who thefuck fixes it if it breaks on orbit)
+ Able to carry the OBSS: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbital_Boom_Sensor_S ystem/ [wikipedia.org]
+ Documented to all bloody hell. As in the QA bastards can probably tell you what mine hauled up the metal in the wire that runs down the arm next to the bump, what miner brought it up, on what shift, using which truck, and so on and so on... For every component, again for every subassembly, again for every next level assembly. Oh, and the entire build, test, rework, and flight history of everything associated with the SRMS. Go look up heritage, in the space flight context.


The world is not a static place and the unexpected can happen, don't design a frigging billion dollar robotic arm that breaks if you touch it. I can't even count how many times those arms have broken.

Really? You must be mistaking the SRMS with that pinto that you drive!

Do you want to try and tell the world how many times the SRMS has broken on orbit?

disclaimers: Yes, homer, I do work in the aerospace business. No, I don't work for the fine cannucks that build the SRMS. Yes, I think that thier shit kicks ass. Yes, my company may have done buisiness with that company. We may again in the future. No, I don't give a reverse flying assfuck about any of that because it doesn't change the verifyable facts above.

Let's hope they avoid... (1)

BearRanger (945122) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921516)

Choosing July 4th as the launch date. NASA's recent record has given me an old "Schoolhouse Rock" earworm:

"There's gonna be fireworks...on the 4th of July. . ."

Scrap the shuttle already. It's better at killing astronauts than doing manned science in space.

Wow... (2, Funny)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921517)

Over a week ago, a worker bumped the arm leaving a small crack in it.

That's got to be one Hell of a bump! I mean, what's that thing made of? Is it a Chihuly?

Scrap it Now (2, Funny)

Ranger (1783) | more than 8 years ago | (#14921894)

I think we should scrap the Shuttle now. The US should pay the Russians to keep the ISS on life support until we can replace the shuttle. We should also use reusable boosters to launch the rest of the ISS components. NASA should stop throwing good money after bad. We may want to scale back the ISS and do what research we can with it until we replace it too.

That goddamn sensor (2, Informative)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 8 years ago | (#14925053)

If anyone is wondering what that sensor is, it's a sensor meant to sense when the gas tank is empty so the engines can be shut off. The space shuttle engines can't be run until the tank is empty because they might be damaged, or the turbopump might fly apart spraying pieces of hot metal around. It can easily cause a complete failure and death of the crew.

These sensors have been unreliable since the beginning of the program. Notice that the article said there were four sensors? They are redundant, because the unreliability is well known. Even mission rules call a sensor failure critical, and they can't fly if they all aren't working. The mission last year was delayed because one of these sensors wasn't working, so they had to check it out. It started working again - mysteriously.

This is a PRIME example of what's wrong with NASA's manned spaceflight safety. Instead of fixing a sensor design that is known to be problematic, they just put 4 in and let redundancy kick in. But since they all have to be working for the shuttle to launch, they can still endure costly delays when one is dead. And then, when a sensor is flakey such as in the last mission, they're not sufficiently alarmed when the thing starts working again. They reason that since they have 4 sensors anyway, it shouldn't be a problem if one is flakey. That's conveniently bending the mission rules, and if you're going to do that you may not have rules to begin with. Why not just change the rules all the time to require 3 working and reliable sensors, because that's what was effectively done. This is *exactly* the kind of thing that got Challenger destroyed, because although the mission rules said that you do not launch when temperatures were too low, they had gotten away with it before. Why shouldn't they get away with again? As Richard Feynman noted, you cannot fool Mother Nature.

It's not a new problem. They've had about 25 years to try to come up with a new fuel cutoff sensor design, but they haven't done it. The shuttle should be grounded until this problem is fixed permanently.

Outsource it to Norway (1)

heroine (1220) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926446)

These turkeys should get out of space and leave it to the pros. We would say they should outsource it to China, but given the standard of living ratings, Norway should be the one. Norways has oil, money, and brain power, things neither u.s. or China has.

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