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Shuttle Launch Delayed

Zonk posted about 8 years ago | from the it's-raining-in-space dept.

146

fizzix writes "Weather has delayed the launch of Discovery to tomorrow (Sunday the 2nd), but not everyone thinks it is ready to go. CNN reports both the chief engineer and the chief safety officer gave it a 'no go' for launch. Despite their reservations, barring inclement weather the shuttle is planned to liftoff at 3:26 ET." Update: 07/02 05:00 GMT by Z : I said launch not lauch. Fixed headline.

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146 comments

SpaceFlightNow (as usual) has great coverage (5, Informative)

xmas2003 (739875) | about 8 years ago | (#15644393)

STS-121 Mission Status Center [spaceflightnow.com] - 'nuff said.

End the damn program already (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15644407)

25 years of this program and with nothing to show for it. It's getting damned embarrassing and is really starting to reflect America as the stagnant dying empire it is.

Re:End the damn program already (4, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about 8 years ago | (#15644528)

25 years of this program and with nothing to show for it. It's getting damned embarrassing and is really starting to reflect America as the stagnant dying empire it is.

Really. And has anyone else on the planet done any better? Going into space is hard, if you haven't noticed.
The Russians? Ok, they can launch Soyuz. Literally, a taxi. 3 people and not much else.
The Chinese? Recreating a 40 year old, 1 man orbital flight.
Commercial efforts so far? Almost, but not quite, recreating a 57 year old X-15 flight, courtesy of a couple of very rich angels. Commercial efforts will get there, but not anytime soon. Gotta satisfy those shareholders.

...dying empire...

You got anything better?

Re:End the damn program already (4, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | about 8 years ago | (#15644851)

Commercial efforts so far? Almost, but not quite, recreating a 57 year old X-15 flight, courtesy of a couple of very rich angels. Commercial efforts will get there, but not anytime soon. Gotta satisfy those shareholders.

Don't sell SpaceX quite so short -- they've attempted one *orbital* launch, and will be trying again in a couple months. There's good reason to believe it will work -- the failure was a procedural one, not a design one, and they've added multiple checks to prevent it and similar problems. The current rocket (Falcon 1) is a small TSTO semi-expendable launcher; they have a larger Falcon 9 and some variants also already in production, and a much larger rocket (codename: BFR) and manned (!) capsule in development. I'd lay better than even money they repeat the Sputnik flight (with a useful payload) this year, and even money they do a manned launch in 5.

Commercial will get there, it's just a matter of putting enough investment in to get to the point that there's a market, and SpaceX has already sold 10 launches -- strongly suggesting that there is in fact a market for better, cheaper, more reliable vehicles.

Re:End the damn program already (2, Interesting)

plastic.person (776892) | about 8 years ago | (#15644627)

I have to agree. Immediately after Discovery crashed and burned, or rather burned and crashed, someone on the space.com messageboards posted: "That's what happens when you try and bring 20 year old cracked garbage into space."

And that's the way it is. They'll have to destroy another shuttle and kill more of our best scientists before someone finally says enough and terminates this program.

Re:End the damn program already (3, Informative)

ryanov (193048) | about 8 years ago | (#15644769)

I assume you're actually speaking about Columbia, not the Discovery that's going to launch this week?

I was there ... (5, Interesting)

oostevo (736441) | about 8 years ago | (#15644408)

I was there this afternoon.

I'm almost surprised they even decided to proceed to the point that they did today (the hold with T-9 minutes to go). Standing on the ground at Kennedy, if you looked West, the sky was almost black with storm clouds over the runway at the Shuttle landing faciliity. You know, the one that needs to be clear for the Shuttle to land if there's an emergency? Seems like a bit of a waste.

Just my two cents.

Re:I was there ... (4, Insightful)

mwoliver (688853) | about 8 years ago | (#15644581)

If you have lived in Florida for any length of time you would realize that weather can, and often does, change in the span of minutes. With the hours needed to prepare for a launch, they could have GUESSED but not KNOWN that the weather was going to be bad exactly when their window was going to close. The paranoid should appreciate the opportunity to test all of the systems in preparation for a launch, but maybe I am guilty of a 'glass is half full' attitude.

Sometimes, folks who think they know a whole lot need to just sit back and trust the folks who REALLY DO KNOW A LOT.

Re:I was there ... (1)

MurphyZero (717692) | about 8 years ago | (#15645560)

Having worked a number of launches (though not in the weather office), weather criteria can go from red (no-go) to green fairly quickly. Just as often it works in the other direction. The Eastern Range also has the experience of launching a rocket into bad weather and triggered lightning destroying the vehicle. The weather folks at Cape Canaveral have pieces of the rocket to remind them of the importance of what they do. There are a lot of rules in place to avoid a repeat. The Shuttle has a short window of opportunity for the ISS missions. The weather folks are pretty good, but even they don't know for sure what the weather will be like at a specific time of the day. They knew that during the day, storms would be in the general area. But storms don't cover the entire sky (except during the hurricanes) This is why the odds of a green weather were 40-60%.

Re:I was there ... (2, Informative)

LinuxHam (52232) | about 8 years ago | (#15644681)

I'm almost surprised they even decided to proceed to the point that they did today

I was about 35 miles to the northwest, flipping back and forth between CNN and NASA TV being fed from my laptop. I was under darker clouds, and was afraid that the clouds were going to block my normally spectacular view. Then they scrubbed it, and I packed up and went over to the track for the race. True Florida vacation, this one.

Re:I was there ... (1)

RedWizzard (192002) | about 8 years ago | (#15644786)

I'm almost surprised they even decided to proceed to the point that they did today (the hold with T-9 minutes to go). Standing on the ground at Kennedy, if you looked West, the sky was almost black with storm clouds over the runway at the Shuttle landing faciliity. You know, the one that needs to be clear for the Shuttle to land if there's an emergency? Seems like a bit of a waste.
Weather reports indicated that today was the most likely launch date weather-wise for the next few days. Tomorrow is only rated a 40% chance to have clear weather (today was 60%). They really need to get this shuttle launched so they are taking every potential opportunity.

Re:I was there ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15644805)

"Weather reports indicated that today was the most likely launch date weather-wise for the next few days. Tomorrow is only rated a 40% chance to have clear weather (today was 60%). They really need to get this shuttle launched so they are taking every potential opportunity." ...sure you dont mean potential risk? im sure these guys arent the kind to put a 'no-go' stamp on a tiny risk... why disregard what they have to say?

Re:I was there ... (2, Informative)

RedWizzard (192002) | about 8 years ago | (#15644853)

"Weather reports indicated that today was the most likely launch date weather-wise for the next few days. Tomorrow is only rated a 40% chance to have clear weather (today was 60%). They really need to get this shuttle launched so they are taking every potential opportunity."
...sure you dont mean potential risk? im sure these guys arent the kind to put a 'no-go' stamp on a tiny risk... why disregard what they have to say?
The parent was talking about weather specifically. But to address your argument, the advice of Scolese and O'Conner was certainly not disregarded, however their concerns are not the only factor. NASA needs to complete 16 missions before the shuttles are retired in 2010, and the problem in question has no apparent medium term fix. Waiting now will increase pressure on the schedule and could result in more serious risk taking later. Additionally consider that the risk is not to the crew - they can wait for rescue on the ISS. For those reasons (and others) the NASA Administrator has decided to proceed. The two advisors who voted no-go agree that the crew is not endangered and do not object to the flight proceeding, they simply wanted it noted that problems remain with the vehicle.

Holiday Shot? (2, Insightful)

pipingguy (566974) | about 8 years ago | (#15644409)


If it eventually goes up successfully July 4 it'll either be a triumph or a complete PR disaster. I'm sure the engineers and administrators are taking this into account.

Re:Holiday Shot? (4, Funny)

dr_dank (472072) | about 8 years ago | (#15644444)

No pr disaster if things go wrong; they can simply say that it was an elaborate fireworks display!

Re:Holiday Shot? (1)

glassjaw rocks (793596) | about 8 years ago | (#15644547)

You're my hero.

Re:Holiday Shot? (1)

identity0 (77976) | about 8 years ago | (#15644579)

In that vein, I wonder if they have prepared a speech for the president in case something goes horribly wrong. Apparently they had such a speech for the Apollo 11 mission, just in case [space.com] .

I would imagine Karl Rove is careful enough not to make the president wing it if he has to address the nation after such an event. God help us if that happens.

Re:Holiday Shot? (2, Funny)

gkhan1 (886823) | about 8 years ago | (#15644776)

I would imagine that such a speach is relatively easy to write: "Great tradgedy....yada yada....American heroes....yada yada....hold hands in prayer....etc". It's a fairly standard general eulogy. If you have the talent to write, a short, 5-10 minute adress shouldn't take a good speechwriter more than an hour or so to compose. I don't imagine the speech part would be a big issue in case such a tradgedy strikes.

PS. I'm gonna feel awful if something does happen, and I've just been making sarcastic comments about the presidents speech. Please, mods, don't mod me funny, that would make my shame permanently engraved in the slashdot servers.

Re:Holiday Shot? (1)

igb (28052) | about 8 years ago | (#15645167)

How is it a triumph? A thirty year old technology, which has flown dozens of times before, with a tolerable but not stellar reliability and safety record, does have its launch scrubbed? Christ, are Americans that desperate for something to cheer? Remember, by Apollo 13 the moon missions didn't justify postponing the soap operas, and 18--20's cancellation hardly caused national outcry. What makes you think ``Shuttle takes off again, no-one killed'' is a bug story, on July 4th or any other time?

ian

Everybody says no-go... (2, Funny)

topham (32406) | about 8 years ago | (#15644413)

I hope the person responsible for the current 'go' decision can be held criminally responsible if things do go wrong.

Of course, the paranoid might think that this is somewhat intentional as a number of republicans would probably like to get in on private industry taking over NASA role in space exploration.

(Too bad there is no money in space right now.)

Re:Everybody says no-go... (4, Insightful)

db32 (862117) | about 8 years ago | (#15644443)

Uhm...might wanna recheck some things. Republicans are the ones that were responsible for that little lying punk NASA PR guy that demanded Big Bang info be removed from the NASA sites and replaced with right wing fundamentalist creationism stuff. If its intentional, its because they view space as having no value because god is coming back for us right here, and soon.

Personally...I think the greatest irony would be God, Jesus and friends standing on some remote place far on the other side of creation saying "Geeze dad, I woulda thought they could have made it here by now..."

Re:Everybody says no-go... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15644551)

You make the mistake of thinking all Republicans are on the same side. The fundies are the just boots-on-the-ground. They get tossed a bone once in a while, just enough to keep 'em voting, but they're mostly treated as suckers. Pay 'em lip service in election years, maybe one or two token political nods, but the rest of the time, fuck 'em. The ones who actually run the party are the crooked businessmen out to screw everyone. They're the ones who love canniba-- *ahem* excuse me, 'privatizing' things.
(Disclaimer: I vote Democrat -- you know, the party with all the academic types out to test their stupid pet theories on everyone. I guess I'd rather be a guinea pig than a mark. At least it's less predictable!)

Re:Everybody says no-go... (1)

db32 (862117) | about 8 years ago | (#15645507)

I don't vote unless there is a candidate worth voting for. I get so tired of the "you didn't vote you can't bitch" argument...I don't vote because I think the choice of who is running my country should be based more on merit than who stinks less. And while I realize that not all republicans are on the same side...Bush is a fundie...super kneejerk reactionary fundie. So its not about "throwing em a bone and fuck em" Its about "They finally got their position of power and now we must all suffer their stupidity".

Re:Everybody says no-go... (0, Offtopic)

mwoliver (688853) | about 8 years ago | (#15644608)

Yes, yes... Republicans are evil and want to take away your social security because they want everyone dead so that they can steal their money... blah blah blah. Maybe you didn't hear about the existing commercial efforts for space travel? Try Googling for VIRGIN GALACTIC.

Regarding the 'criminally responsible' comment, you can rest assured that there are plenty of ambulance-chasing attorneys in this great litigious country of ours to run with this rediculous angle. Unfortunately, the prosecution of real crimes will be delayed and our tax dollars will be wasted in the process. What do you think the astronauts are doing for a living? Making ham sandwiches? They know the dangers as do their families.

*yawn*

Re:Everybody says no-go... (2, Insightful)

topham (32406) | about 8 years ago | (#15644743)


When you have professionals assigned with the task of evaluating whether the conditions are safe or not and they are ignored by an administrator it should be a criminal liability issue.

If you think a couple of companies doing things like what Virgin Atlantic has proposed will keep the industry moving forward for the next 30 years you are sadly mistaken.

There is very little profit in the industry, even with launching communication satellites there is significant government funding because of profitability issues.

I don't get it. (5, Insightful)

Carnage Pants (801975) | about 8 years ago | (#15644416)

Two people who are obviously very high up on the pecking order around there say, "No-go," and and yet it's still decided the shuttle is going to launch. Is it just me, or are we asking for another disaster?

It's a very silly way to do things. (1)

r00t (33219) | about 8 years ago | (#15644439)

They say "no go" because a repeat of the foam damage appears reasonable.
The decision is overridden because the crew can camp out in the space station.
The "no go" people claim to accept this. (they damn well knew too)

So...

Why say "no go" in the first place? Why worry about foam damage if
you know that you ultimately won't care?

Re:It's a very silly way to do things. (2, Informative)

riker1384 (735780) | about 8 years ago | (#15644469)

The decision is overridden because the crew can camp out in the space station. The "no go" people claim to accept this. (they damn well knew too) So... Why say "no go" in the first place? Why worry about foam damage if you know that you ultimately won't care?

They said that there is little risk to the crew, but there is excessive risk to the orbiter itself.

Re:It's a very silly way to do things. (2, Insightful)

bsartist (550317) | about 8 years ago | (#15644572)

Why say "no go" in the first place? Why worry about foam damage if you know that you ultimately won't care?
Government bureaucrats invented and perfected it office politics. Imagine the nastiest most political back-stabbing corporate environment you've ever been in - that's kindergarten compared to even the most laid-back government office.

So I figure the "no go" was a combination of CYA and posturing for influence. The chance of a failure is miniscule, but if something does happen to go wrong, their asses are covered by being on the record as objecting to the launch. Also, if a failure does happen, there's a good chance that someone will need to fill the vacant offices of the folks who overruled them.

Re:It's a very silly way to do things. (1)

khallow (566160) | about 8 years ago | (#15644688)

So I figure the "no go" was a combination of CYA and posturing for influence. The chance of a failure is miniscule, but if something does happen to go wrong, their asses are covered by being on the record as objecting to the launch. Also, if a failure does happen, there's a good chance that someone will need to fill the vacant offices of the folks who overruled them.

There are a lot lower profile and safer ways to do that. Ie, strenuous object and then cease to make waves once you've acquired enough protection. The Chief Safety Officer apparently has protested for the past few months and still hasn't let up. I don't see a proper CYA strategy there. As you say, the chance of a failure (or even a scary event) is low. So being such an obstruction isn't good for your career unless the orbiter actually does suffer significant ice strikes.

Re:It's a very silly way to do things. (1)

bsartist (550317) | about 8 years ago | (#15644854)

There are a lot lower profile and safer ways to do that. Ie, strenuous object and then cease to make waves once you've acquired enough protection.
I was referring to the two engineers who recently did just that. They objected, they were overruled, then they issued a statement saying that their concern was potential loss of the shuttle if it had to be flown by remote on re-entry, and agreed with the boss that there very little risk to human lives. If it really hits the fan, it wouldn't surprise me all that much if those two produced evidence that the press release was something their boss pressured them into doing.

The Chief Safety Officer apparently has protested for the past few months and still hasn't let up.
I didn't know that.

Re:I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15644441)

What's more, who's the fuckhead that isn't listening to these guys and is saying go ahead and launch anyway? Why does he/she/it still have their job?

Re:I don't get it. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15644552)

If you read the article, they give the reasons why they are still launching, and IMHO they are reasonable reasons.


The safety guys are worried about the foam, but there is no risk until re-entry, and the problem occurs during launch. If the problem does occur (with very low probability, considering that it only happened once before and steps have been taken to make it less likely since), the astronauts can take refuge in the space station and send the shuttle down on autopilot. Waiting to launch now could actually force NASA to take more risk later as they cram in the 16 lauches necessary to finish the ISS before the shuttle program ends in 2010.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

Carnage Pants (801975) | about 8 years ago | (#15644848)

Reasonable or not, if it's not safe, I don't think we should be sending them up. Even if it's a low probability that foam will cause damage or put the shuttle at risk on re-entry, NASA is still taking risks with these astronauts' lives that I don't think they should be taking.

Re:I don't get it. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15644888)

>I don't think we should be sending them up.

Nobody cares what you think.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

vtcodger (957785) | about 8 years ago | (#15645483)

***Two people who are obviously very high up on the pecking order around there say, "No-go," and and yet it's still decided the shuttle is going to launch. Is it just me, or are we asking for another disaster?***

We signed on for a series of disasters when the Shuttle Program was started in 1970 more or less. See Richard Feynman-Personal Observations On The Reliability Of The Space Shuttle [fotuva.org] , The damn thing has never come close to meeting its cost, usability, and reliability goals and has no meaningful mission other than completion of the more or less worthless International Space Station. When last I looked, the Hubble service mission was still cancelled. It's the only thing on Shuttle agenda that seems to me to justify any risk at all to human life and what remains of space program support.

We either ought to admit that both the Shuttle and the ISS were mistakes and scrap both programs right now (my vote). Or accept the risk of launching a vehicle that will never be especially safe and get on with it. Odds are actually pretty good that it will make it back safely, and there seems to be next to nothing other than the obvious things like not launching during thunder storms that can be done to materially improve those odds.

From the article ... (5, Insightful)

Sonic McTails (700139) | about 8 years ago | (#15644418)

"Earlier Saturday mission managers decided a problem with a thermostat in one of Discovery's thrusters, which was showing a reading in the 80s when it should have been in the 60s, was not dangerous and it could be fixed once the shuttle was in orbit."

Given the fact that foam striking the side of the Columbia during takeoff wasn't considered dangerous, I'm suprised they didn't stop to recheck everything before hand. When it comes down to rechecking everything and delaying the mission for a little longer vs. the millions lost and the following PR hit, the answer pretty obvious. You could say "it could never happen", but try and tell that to the crews of the Changeller and the Columbia.

Re:From the article ... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15644500)

Huh. The CNN report differs from what NASA TV was broadcasting earlier today. Basically NASA had determined that it was the sensor, not the thruster, which was malfunctioning, and that NASA had ammended the mission plan to simply not use that thruster.

Basically you'll find that the mission plan includes the planned burns for rotation of the shuttle and maneuvering. By firing different thrusters for different amounts of time the same maneuver can be accomplished. Given that the shuttle isn't really flown "free stick" like an airplane but by precalculated burns and corrections having a thruster out changes nothing for the flight crew. Failure of a thruster was something NASA had planned for long long ago, and there are alternate burn plans in place for tons of combinations of failed thrusters. Having a failed sensor on a thruster that needn't be used is not a no-go.

Re:From the article ... (1)

LindseyJ (983603) | about 8 years ago | (#15644626)

I think you'll find that major news network stories often differ from what is actually happening :P

Re:From the article ... (1, Troll)

supabeast! (84658) | about 8 years ago | (#15644558)

"When it comes down to rechecking everything and delaying the mission for a little longer vs. the millions lost and the following PR hit, the answer pretty obvious."

The obvious answer here is that the president is really, really desperate for PR. There's no good reason for NASA to launch the shuttle over the July Fourth holiday weekend - but to a president who has sent over 2500 of his own troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis to their deaths, risking the lives of a handful of astronauts is nothing if there's a chance it will make people feel patriotic and boost the presidential approval ratings a little bit more.

Anyone who doesn't think that the Bush administration isn't pushing around NASA scientists for political gain needs only look at this launch to see what's really going on.

Re:From the article ... (2)

LindseyJ (983603) | about 8 years ago | (#15644637)

Anyone who doesn't think that the Bush administration isn't pushing around NASA scientists for political gain needs only look at this launch to see what's really going on.

Admittedly. But no more so, I think, than NASA has been 'pushed around' by any other high-ranking political figure throughout its history. NASA is a PR organization that happens to occasionally have the happy side-effect of scientific exploration.

Re:From the article ... (1)

ozbird (127571) | about 8 years ago | (#15644696)

The obvious answer here is that the president is really, really desperate for PR. There's no good reason for NASA to launch the shuttle over the July Fourth holiday weekend ...

I've got one - a kick-arse fireworks display (though preferably not of the Challenger variety.)

Re:From the article ... (4, Informative)

glitchvern (468940) | about 8 years ago | (#15644779)

There's no good reason for NASA to launch the shuttle over the July Fourth holiday weekend

Sure there is, the launch window is 10 minutes a day from June 30 to July 19. The two previous sets of launch windows were March 4 to 19 and May 3 to 22. Nasa missed both of those so now they are trying this one. I am not sure why a launch on June 30 was not tried, but that still would have been part of the 4th of July weekend. Generally speaking you want to try launching early in the set of launch windows so if you have a delay you might be able to launch in the next day's window. More info on launch windows here [spaceflightnow.com] , here [spaceflightnow.com] , and here [spaceflightnow.com] .

Re:From the article ... (1)

khallow (566160) | about 8 years ago | (#15644670)

Rechecking "everything" "by hand" on the launchpad? With cryogenic fuel in the tanks? I think that's unreasonable given the mildness of the problem. It would not be a little delay.

Also, I think people underestimate how much is lost while the shuttle isn't flying. As I understand it, the Shuttles currently suck up $5 billion or so a year whether or not they fly. So a month delay is on the order of $400 million. And little delays when combined with the vagaries of the weather and other problems can become big delays.

Given the long term failure rate of the shuttle is 1-2% roughly, I really don't see the need for this high level of safety concern (especially when it gets ignored because the vehicle can't achieve it). The Shuttle is inherently dangerous. Overly high safety standards merely means the Shuttle doesn't launch at all. That may be a good idea, but the US has decided to launch the Shuttle so they need to accept that it is very risky with (over as I recall 20-30 remaining launches) a high chance of a future loss of a Shuttle.

Re:From the article ... (3, Insightful)

tftp (111690) | about 8 years ago | (#15644747)

Rechecking "everything" "by hand" on the launchpad? With cryogenic fuel in the tanks? I think that's unreasonable given the mildness of the problem. It would not be a little delay.

There is another reason - if you get a week and decide to recheck everything, chances are good that you will find a lot of things out of calibration, if not outright defective. And even if you replace them all, by the time you are ready to check again something else will be broken, and so you do some more replacements... ad infinitum. That is because when a machine has 1,000,000 components, each component has to be exceptionally, impossibly reliable.

This particular machine flew to the orbit and back many times already, and many parts may be approaching their failure points. But you can't know that - modern science can't see a future crack in a turbine's blade, and once the crack develops you have about 0.001 seconds before a major destructive event.

That's why many airplane parts are tested on the ground until they start failing, and then a service life is set for them that is way lower than what was seen during the tests. And these parts are replaced after certain number of hours not because they are faulty, but because they might be faulty, and we can't check if they still have some life left in them or not.

But in case of STS there is only very limited knowledge about many parts, as technicians keep discovering totally unexpected wear-related failures all over the orbiter, whenever they get to service it. So we don't really know how long this cryogenic pump or that high pressure pipe or that O-ring can last, since Shuttles are the test article in itself. That's why two missions were lost - because there was no good understanding, beyond a few guesses, of what the materials and the parts are capable of. There -still- is no understanding of many parts, aside from the tiles and RCC panels who were tested exhaustively and hopefully well enough by now.

So, for example, when they say "this thermostat in that thruster does not matter..." they likely only evaluate some expected fault scenario, assuming things that they don't know for sure. For example, if a sensor is misreading the fuel temperature it's one issue. But if it does that because there is an intermittent short, and it may ignite the fuel, that's a very different issue.

This way if they don't check everything they at least can launch, and we already know that the chance of failure should not be higher than 2% - likely less, since the previous problems had been fixed. But if they check for everything they will never fly, and if they ever do then something else will break just after they finished checking. It's just statistics, and game of chance.

Check that radar. (2, Informative)

Chatmag (646500) | about 8 years ago | (#15644420)

Here is the link to the radar image for Melbourne, Florida [weather.gov]

I'm close enough to see the space shots, and there were some storms west of the Cape this afternoon, a few more out to sea. Forecast for tomorrow is less of a chance of thunderstorms in the area and downrange.

I have my thermos of coffee ready. "I always have coffee when I view radar". (Dark Helmet, Spaceballs.)

Lauch? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15644422)

Whats "lauch"?

Seriously, Slashdot is read by millions of people and yet it lacks the basic courtesy and professionalism that any media outlet should have. How can this thing be taken seriously?

Re:Lauch? (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about 8 years ago | (#15644473)

I think it came from the same dictionary that "incliment" came from.

Re:Lauch? (-1, Troll)

Amouth (879122) | about 8 years ago | (#15644487)

you posed as an AC and want to be "taken seriously" - your funny..

Re:Lauch? (1)

sharkey (16670) | about 8 years ago | (#15644549)

How do you know he posed while posting?

Re:Lauch? (1)

grolschie (610666) | about 8 years ago | (#15644559)

"your funny"? You miss an apostrophe [purdue.edu] and an "e" in "you're" (which is short for "you are") and you want to be taken seriously? :-)

Re:Lauch? (1)

deltacephei (842219) | about 8 years ago | (#15644497)

It was probably a quickly typed title; the other typo is in the spelling of the word inclement. This is not a question of courtesy or professionalism. Slashdot posts are not reviewed by an editor prior to submission, if they were the entire forum would take on a different, achingly slow and most likely much more boring tone.

Re:Lauch? (2, Insightful)

fizzix (893004) | about 8 years ago | (#15644534)

Sorry, I didn't see the typo until it was pointed out. (j/k: Engineers don't need to spell) But as for inclement that one isn't mine, that line was added.

Re:Lauch? (3, Insightful)

Bodrius (191265) | about 8 years ago | (#15644923)

They aren't? Then why are they posted by 'editors', who are free to reject them?

I think "editorial oversight" normally has a function that is a bit different than detecting typos, and it has more to do with what Slashdot Editors (gasp!) are doing in a binary fashion: reviewing content for quality, style and fact-checking, to decide what gets published.

Spelling, or even a basic respect of grammar, IS a question of professionalism, in and out of media publications.

I agree that the function of the Slashdot editor is not to convert every post into a masterpiece of wit and literary style, but a run on the spell-checker wouldn't hurt anywhere near what you describe.
I'd expect it would take less time than a dup-check, which is badly needed as well.

Re:Lauch? (1)

aonifer (64619) | about 8 years ago | (#15644518)

I said "lunch", not "launch"!

Re:Lauch? (1)

ptbarnett (159784) | about 8 years ago | (#15644638)

i objected to the misuse of "discreet" in place of "discrete" in a headline yesterday, and got modded as both off-topic AND troll.

Re:Lauch? (1)

jinxidoru (743428) | about 8 years ago | (#15644657)

By the way, "Whats" should have an apostrophe.

Re:Lauch? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15645137)

"Lauch" is a vegetable in german: Lauch [wikipedia.org] . Hilarious! :-)

Chief Safety Officer (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15644429)

If the chief safety officer can't cancel a launch due to safety concerns, what's the point of having a chief safety officer?

Re:Chief Safety Officer (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 8 years ago | (#15644569)

"If the chief safety officer can't cancel a launch due to safety concerns, what's the point of having a chief safety officer?"

Becauase you can blame him for not really objecting to the launch if something goes wrong. "Sure, you said we shouldn't launch, but you didn't really mean it. If you had, you'd have stopped it."

How could he ever approve a launch? (3, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | about 8 years ago | (#15644631)

I'm not clear on the level of risk or the job requirements of the Chief Safety Officer, but it appears to me that a key problem is merely that the Shuttle cannot achieve the level of safety that the chief safety officer is supposed to uphold. It has somewhere around 1-2% failure rate and currently there has only been one launch since the changes after the Columbia launches. Given the advanced age of the remaining vehicles and the lack of progress in reducing tile damage from ice, it sounds like the Chief Safety Officer was in an untenable situation.

In other words, the CSO probably can only approve if an unreasonable (for what they have) level of safety is achieved. Hence, they are likely to be ignored because their requirements cannot be met.

Re:Chief Safety Officer (5, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | about 8 years ago | (#15644818)

Well, the CSO didn't choose to appeal the decision. Basically the CSO and chief engineer are worried about the loss of the vehicle, but not the crew. Everyone agrees the crew will be safe, since they plan to check out the tiles etc in orbit, and keep the crew in the ISS and land the shuttle remotely if it looks bad.

Griffin is taking a calculated risk -- he knows the shuttle might be lost, but has taken steps to make sure the crew isn't.

So basically, they object and think it's the wrong decision, but they believe that having gone on record as saying that is sufficient -- they don't think there's a need to override the person in charge of risk assessment since what's at risk is only the spacecraft and not the crew. Whether to risk the craft is legitimately a monetary / political decision, not a safety one, since the crew should be fine either way.

Probably be scrubbed tommorow, also... (1)

TheRealStyro (233246) | about 8 years ago | (#15644437)

Apparently NASA has failed to have a good weather analysis completed. I don't know of too many people who have lived in Florida for over five years that don't know about our semi-scheduled summer afternoon thunderstorms. Then, on top of that, there is a lot of weather coming in from the Gulf for the next few days. These next few days are not good for any important space launches.

Last Time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15644450)

Last time I Lauched I was sick for a week!

Slight confusion over the submital (5, Informative)

beebware (149208) | about 8 years ago | (#15644465)

The details in the Slashdot posting are slightly incorrect. Todays/yesterdays launch (the scheduled on on the 1st of July) was postponed at T-9minutes after a 40 minute scheduled hold (if it's scheduled, why didn't they add it into the count down?) and approximately 3 minutes of 5 into an "extended hold" (after they "polled" all the various sections of the launch team). Then the decision was made the "scrub" (abort) the launch due the weather being too unpredictable and there being storm clouds (anvil clouds) within 20 miles of the emergency landing strip (although they have got backup landing strips in France and Spain). They will retry the launch tomorrow, and can abort for any reason up to 31 seconds before main ignition.

At the moment, they are still "go" for the launch tomorrow.

BTW: You learn a lot from watching the live stream on nasa.gov [nasa.gov] !

Re:Slight confusion over the submital (4, Informative)

DarthBart (640519) | about 8 years ago | (#15644480)

can abort for any reason up to 31 seconds before main ignition.

The folks in the firing room can abort up to 31 seconds before T-0, but the onboard computers can abort anytime before the SRBs light. Once those puppies light, you're going whether you like it or not.

Re:Slight confusion over the submital (4, Informative)

LoveMuscle (42428) | about 8 years ago | (#15644583)

Just to be clear: T-0 is defined as SRB ignition.

Re:Slight confusion over the submital (1)

McBainLives (683602) | about 8 years ago | (#15644498)

I'm more curious as to why it took over eight hours for someone at /. to notice this. It ain't news anymore.

Re:Slight confusion over the submital (5, Informative)

endernet (656588) | about 8 years ago | (#15644501)

The 45 min hold at T-9:00 is standard. It's used for making up time if they take too long on some pre-flight procedures. I think there is a 10min scheduled hold in there at about T-20:00 as well. Why is it not included in the countdown? Because they can chose to use all the 45 min, or only some of it.

Re:Slight confusion over the submital (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 8 years ago | (#15645098)

I read somewhere that their actions are based on specific times on the countdown clock, so if they need more time for a particular step, they have to "hold" time there. Sounds exactly like classic BASIC with its line numbers!

Re:Slight confusion over the submital (1)

Apraxhren (964852) | about 8 years ago | (#15644517)

Todays/yesterdays launch (the scheduled on on the 1st of July) was postponed at T-9minutes after a 40 minute scheduled hold (if it's scheduled, why didn't they add it into the count down?)
Well from what I understand the T-9 minutes hold is scheduled but the duration is not scheduled. The official countdown clock seems to try to account for the several scheduled holds as it currently reads over 9 hours to launch while it is scheduled for around 3:30 EDT about 15 hours from now. Maybe someone who actually knows for sure can comment but that is my deduction.

Re:Slight confusion over the submital (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15644524)

storm clouds (anvil clouds) within 20 miles of the emergency landing strip (although they have got backup landing strips in France and Spain)

Just a small correction there; the strips in France and Spain aren't backup strips, the two locations serve different purposes. If there is a failure early in the launch sequence then they can in theory just ditch the attachments, turn around, and land at the emergency strip near the launch site. ("In theory" because this maneuver is so insanely difficult that it's been said to require about seven different miracles to be successful.) Past a certain point the shuttle can no longer make it back to Florida, so then the abort procedure changes to continue approximately on course and land on the far side of the Atlantic. This part is where the sites in France and Spain come into play. There are few, if any, scenarios where either side could be used, so you end up with a weird situation where bad weather in a place four thousand miles away can scrub the launch because you need to be able to abort there if something goes badly wrong.

Today was the opposite. The transatlantic sites were clear but the strip in Florida itself was too cloudy, so they couldn't go.

This is yet another advantage of simpler capsule systems. The abort modes for those are all extremely simple and reliable compared to the Shuttle's. You fire the escape tower, get away from the rockets, ride down and open the parachutes when you get to the right altitude. As long as the weather isn't so horrible that it sinks the capsule in the ocean, everything should be pretty much fine.

Apollo 12 got hit by lightning during launch and still landed on the Moon, but the Shuttle can't launch if there are storm clouds within 20 miles. The wonders of modern technology.

Re:Slight confusion over the submital (2, Informative)

FSWKU (551325) | about 8 years ago | (#15644537)

As the previous reply stated, the launch can be aborted (either by Launch Control at KSC, or by the computer) at any time up until the SRB's ignite. There can be (and have been) aborts between the ignition of the main engines and the ignition of the SRB's. A couple (although the exact missions escape me right now) have been aborted at almost literally the last second, around T-00:00:03 or so. But yeah, once the SRB's are lit, you're leaving the pad wether you like it or not.

You are right that they have emergency landing sites in Europe. However, in order to initiate an RTLS (Return To Landing Site) abort, they have to be beyond a certain point in their ascent, around the 4 minute mark. While they would have passed that point before the weather hit, it still takes time to get rid of altitude and airspeed. It then would take another 25-30 minutes to return to KSC, in which time the weather could already be causing unfavorable landing conditions.

Hold on (4, Insightful)

Umbral Blot (737704) | about 8 years ago | (#15644474)

So if the engineer says no, and the safety officer says no then who is saying yes? Whose opinion could be more important than these two people?

Re:Hold on (3, Funny)

Hiigara (649950) | about 8 years ago | (#15644529)

The politcal officer... duh

Re:Hold on (4, Informative)

RedWizzard (192002) | about 8 years ago | (#15644814)

So if the engineer says no, and the safety officer says no then who is saying yes? Whose opinion could be more important than these two people?
The chief engineer Chris Scolese and the associate administrator of Safety and Mission Assurance Bryan O'Conner are there to advise. That is what they do. The decision is made by the NASA Administrator Mike Griffin. His rationale [space.com] for proceeding include that there is no undue risk posed to the crew (the crew can wait for rescue at the ISS), no short or medium term fix has been identified, and continued delays may cause greater risk down the line as NASA scrambles to complete the 16 missions they need to before the fleet is grounded in 2010. There is also the feeling that since the external tank redesign they've just done is so significant (biggest change to the aerodynamics since the shuttle started flying), it would be wise to have a flight with that change alone rather than waiting for further redesigns.

Re:Hold on (1)

pittuck (811351) | about 8 years ago | (#15645113)

Erm, everyone knows the shuttle is unsafe. Hence the no-go's. BUT never before has there been as much study of the possible problem area. The danger is falling foam, so they can look at the underside, photo it in extremly small detail and then decide if there is a problem. The go was given because there is the analysis and 80+ days safety aboard the ISS.

I'd guess the delay makes things more dangerous (0)

Doug Coulter (754128) | about 8 years ago | (#15644475)

Because they put the nice cold fuel in there already, right? Now, in the humidity, all that water can condense and freeze, making any foam that falls off much more of a weapon to the rest of the craft. They shouldn't fuel until they know they're gonna go for sure. I'm sure there's some reason they think they can or must do it this way, but since I don't know it, I'll assume I'm as good an engineer as any other.

Re:I'd guess the delay makes things more dangerous (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about 8 years ago | (#15644709)

You need to do the following:

1) Research how much fuel the external fuel tank holds
2) How fast liquiud hydrogen/oxygen can be pumped into the external tank

You'll then see why they can't wait until they know for sure. It takes hours to fill those tanks, and weather can change much faster then that.

-brandon

Free, OSS video stream? (0, Troll)

identity0 (77976) | about 8 years ago | (#15644505)

I was looking for a good streaming video of the launch in a F/OSS-friendly format, but I couldn't find one - NASA was Wmv/QT/Real, BBC was Real/Wmv. Does anyone know a good source of a shuttle launch stream that's in a free format like mpeg or theora?

Thankfully, Ubuntu made it easy to add a extra repository and install RealPlayer 10 in less than 10 minutes. Just in time to catch them scrub the launch.

Yahoo (1)

NevarMore (248971) | about 8 years ago | (#15645303)

Its on the web, java based maybe?

Shows just dandy in a browser window.

Lauch (2, Funny)

saboola (655522) | about 8 years ago | (#15644514)

Duncan McLauchlin "Lauch" Faircloth (born 14 January 1928), served as a Republican U.S. Senator from North Carolina.

Before his Senate service, Faircloth was a prominent and wealthy hog farmer. One impetus for his political activism was his disagreement with the increasing regulations targeting large hog farming operations such as his, fueled by an environmentalist and populist backlash.

Faircloth once joked that he wanted to be known as the conservative senator from North Carolina. Since the state's other seat was held by Jesse Helms, that may be seen as an indication of his ideological proclivities.

Shame. No goes - just to cover their ..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15644542)

I'm disappoited. Everyone is suddenly covering their asses. Where is the spirit of adventure? Where is the risk? All I see are a bunch of people covering thier ..... in case something goes wrong then they'll point and say always helpful "I told you so". Sit down and shut your yapper. Space missions are inherently unsafe. The shuttle came back about a hundred times with tiles missing - sometimes 100s. And no one thought anything about it. One shuttle goes down, and everyone (including the posts on slashdot) is pesimistic. Maybe the US doesn't even deserve to be in space. Let someone with some balls do it.

Hell, 2500 die in Iraq, makes the news. Thousands and thousands Iraquis (sp?) die, no one gives a crap. A few *volunteers* give their lives in persuit of science, and everyone wants to cancel everything that is dangerous. Just like a quote I once heard - something like "If millions die, it is just a number and you just keep sending in more. If one is in danger of death, no expence is spared to try to save him/her." Pretty fscked up set of priorities we have here.

Re:Shame. No goes - just to cover their ..... (1)

LindseyJ (983603) | about 8 years ago | (#15644598)

Reading your horrendous comparison between war and scientific exploration, I don't know whether you're being serious or not.

But suffice it to say that just because space travel is inherently unsafe, it doesn't meean NASA engineers have to invite disaster when they know conditions are more unsafe than usual. I guess it's a good thing NASA mostly hires people with brains and not know-it-alls from /. (politically motivated department heads aside).

Personally... (2, Insightful)

LindseyJ (983603) | about 8 years ago | (#15644571)

Personally, I believe that any delays, scrubs, cancelations and PR disasters at this point can only help space exploration as a whole. No, of course I don't want to see another shuttle go up in flames with the loss of anoter crew, but a PR disaster in the form of an indefinite launch hold is another story. Sadly, I think that political and budgetary pressures will force this shuttle up, ready or not.

With the hard date set for the retirement of the current shuttle fleet, I think NASA is wasting its efforts and budget on the dying program instead of trying develop alternate space vehicles faster. (Of course, I admittedly know very little about NASA budgetary constraints. For all I know, they may be forced by congress to use that part of their budget on the shuttle fleet or lose it. I've seen beurocracy do sillier things.) Doing so may be the only way to revitalize a space program that's been in decline since the end of the cold war.

However, like many, I believe that the real future of space travel lies in the private sector. With privately-funded quasi-space-progams like Virgin Galactic (is that what it's called?) which may someday fund private research and exploration (all in the name of commerce, of course, as opposed to pure science or strategic advantage), and state-funded programs failing to keep up, what other course could there be?

Of course, this is just be rambling, feel free to tell me I'm full of it. But this is the way I see it: private space progams will continue to make space travel more affordable and accessable, and that can only be a good thing in the long run.

Re:Personally... (3, Interesting)

Rakishi (759894) | about 8 years ago | (#15645103)

The difference between Virgin Galactic and a space program is akin to the difference between seeing Mount Everest from the bottom of the mountain and seeing it from the top of the peak. They barely go into space and are amusingly far from orbit or what NASA/The Russians do. Maybe in another decade or two they'll be closer but probably not. Going into orbit is expensive. Various commercial systems have reached $1-2k/lb but that involves using preexisting Russian infrastructure and humans need a lot of mass (all those pesky life support systems, seats and so on).

Things get even worse when it comes to actual research in space. That dinky little rocket you use to send two people into space on isn't going to get a large telescope or space station into orbit. The bigger the rocker the bigger the infrastructure costs, and that isn't linear. NASA pays up the wazoo for its infrastructure, much of it due to the Apollo program I believe (those Saturn V rockets were BIG).

Keep in mind that a government can deal with a 1% failure rate, a private company would be gone before a tenth of the lawyers even get there.

"Incliment"? (1)

loquacious d (635611) | about 8 years ago | (#15644574)

I hate to be that guy, but the word is inclement.

My Photo Op!! (1)

Zaphod2016 (971897) | about 8 years ago | (#15644606)

Damn it! I came all the way down to Melbourne for this photo op (see sig for explanation) and it gets delayed. Oh well- in the interest of protecting the safety of these American heros, so be it.

My 50 Kopek (1)

JimXugle (921609) | about 8 years ago | (#15644660)

I think the shuttle program should be scrapped, the ISS completed with Japanese and Russian spacecraft, and our engineers should spend some time around Baikonur, and the First re-launch (around 2015) of a US craft should be to set up basic life support for a manned mission to mars.

Captcha: blasted

Re:My 50 Kopek (2, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | about 8 years ago | (#15644755)

Why the Japanese? They don't have much of a space program and certainly no manned vehicle. The US and Russia are far ahead in that respect and currently only the Russians have a relatively high frequency manned vehicle (the Soyuz).

The Russians are a different story, but even there, I think the Soyuz and Proton aren't launched in sufficient volume and they have limited access to equator launch sites (Sea Launch [wikipedia.org] being a notable exception).

My take is that we really don't have proper access to space, mostly due to low launch frequency.

Re:My 50 Yen (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15645428)

Actually the Japanese have a kickass space program. No manned stuff, but they have quite a few space telescopes and other missions like asteroid rendevous do some great science. Hayabusa, Suzaku, Akari - some very cool stuff.

July 4th Reschedule - Bad Idea (2, Insightful)

Digitus1337 (671442) | about 8 years ago | (#15644667)

If the launch has to be cancelled Sunday because of weather, it will be pushed to Tuesday. This seems like a spectacularly bad idea. It would be a while before any forgot the billion dollar firework on independence day.

Re:July 4th Reschedule - Bad Idea (1)

SpanishArcher (974073) | about 8 years ago | (#15645465)

You've been modded as insightful.

I would have said funny, at most, because either it's a joke or you think the shuttle is going to explode on launch.

Now, speaking of the safety concern, it's all about foam coming off the tank, and even in case of a thermal insulation damage, that's a concern for reentry, not launch. That's why it's been said that the guys could be staying on the ISS.
The other concern that, right together with bad weather, popped off yesterday it's nothing that could trigger a "billion dollar fireworks" show.
I'm not an expert but I've been following the space program since the Columbia accident, and let me tell you people (with tv news inspiration) tend to speak a little too much about this things.

Just my 2*10^-2, nothing personal.

Morning Edition Report (2, Informative)

Senor Wences (242975) | about 8 years ago | (#15644707)

NPR's Morning Edition did an interesting articleon June 22 about the impending launch:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?story Id=5503182 [npr.org]

They interview the two senior officials who have reservations about the launch. What I found most interesting were the odds that one NASA employee mentions, which are definitely in favor of the launch and mission succeeding based upon the track record of the shuttles. Yes, it's a dangerous mission and NASA cannot guarantee that falling foam will not damage the shuttle, but in the hundred plus launches only two shuttles have been lost, which isn't a bad track record. However, from the sound of the article, NASA is ready to finish the planned missions and be done with the shuttles. Definitely worth a listen.

Re:Morning Edition Report (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 8 years ago | (#15644995)

Yes, it's a dangerous mission and NASA cannot guarantee that falling foam will not damage the shuttle, but in the hundred plus launches only two shuttles have been lost, which isn't a bad track record.
And only one of those losses was due to foam.

Not 3:26 ET , it's 15:26 EDT (2, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about 8 years ago | (#15644753)

No, they're not launching at 3AM; they slipped all the way to Sunday afternoon.

To be fair... (1)

jfcantu (983471) | about 8 years ago | (#15644878)

We had 17 years of disaster-free shuttle launches since Challenger, the odds of something going wrong with the next one are next to nil. That being said, I agree they should definitely hold back the launch if they think there's a good likelihood of a problem.

Real Time Updates vs. News Articles After the Fact (2, Informative)

GPHemsley (970273) | about 8 years ago | (#15645074)

Maybe I'm just naïve (I hardly think so), but I think if you're getting your information about the Shuttle launch and in-flight status solely from news media, you're most certainly not getting the whole story. Last year, there was a news conference after another chunk of foam came off the shuttle (after all the precautions that they went through to prevent it), with all the experts showing the evidence and explaining it. As usual, they opened it up to questions at the end. The question was along the lines of, "Are the remaining missions grounded until this is resolved?" The response was similar to, "Of course the remaining missions are delayed until we figure out what went wrong here again." Despite all of the content of the news conference (which I personally watched in its entirety), the headlines in the newspapers in the next day were, "Shuttle Fleet Grounded". All of the media made it into a much bigger deal than it actually was. Of course they're not going to send more shuttles into space after a reoccurance of what they thought they fixed without reanalyzing the situation (again).

Before you make any comments about the operations of NASA, I suggest you actually follow the status of the mission. NASA TV [nasa.gov] and Spaceflight Now [spaceflightnow.com] should be your primary sources. NASA has a multitude of experts, each focussing on a particular area of expertise. Each one gives their opinion on "go/no-go" at various stages of the mission. Today's scrub was based solely on the weather.

Holy Shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15645343)

Zonk actually did something of an editorial nature!

He corrected a spelling error and turns out actually used the correct spelling!

The world is coming to an end.

I'm happy to hear this (1)

Jugalator (259273) | about 8 years ago | (#15645404)

The least NASA wants right now is further Shuttle problems -- imagine what another severe shuttle problem would do to the entire NASA program and funding now. And if they are to be cautious I think it was surprising that given the doubts they had from staff (that happened to be related to their security as well), when they have already gone through all these months of preparations. It will likely add for some increased costs, sure, but I'm sure the public won't care and take it as a sign of weakness or something, but rather the opposite.
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