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Boeing Successfully Launches Mammoth Delta-4 Heavy 327

Posted by timothy
from the yeah-it's-got-a-hemi dept.
nick-bts writes "CNN, the BBC and Space.com are reporting the first successful launch of the new Boeing Delta-4 Heavy, capable of lifting 23 tonnes into a low-Earth orbit (similar to the space shuttle). Personally I think the Ariane 5 and 'Satan' are way sexier..."
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Boeing Successfully Launches Mammoth Delta-4 Heavy

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  • Hungry crew (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SIGALRM (784769) * on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:03AM (#11159039) Journal
    The Delta IV family blends new and mature technology to launch virtually any size medium or heavy payload into space
    Probably wouldn't be a bad idea to send one of these bad boys up to the ISS [boeing.com] loaded with some serious good eats [space.com] :)

    Seriously though, it appears the Delta 4 Heavy will primarily service military--rather than commercial or scientific--interests.
  • Who cares how much weight a rocket can lift into space? If it isn't sexy, it ain't getting my business.

    I'll just take my satellites to russia.
    • by kippy (416183) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:09AM (#11159115)
      if your goal is lifting a manned habitat to a Mars intersecting trajectory it's pretty damn sexy.

      Or if you want to put up some crazy, ineffective missile shield, it looks pretty good too.

      I don't think that people in the market for rockets of this scale are swayed by a name.

      Yeah, I know. I should get a sense of humor.
      • Not true, one of the main conditions on most planes built is that they have to look cool. If a design will you give you X amounts more lift, but makes the plane look terrible, the "sexy" looking design will win out. The stealth fighter had to be black, even though that is not the most condusive colour for stealth activities. Also, Boeings design for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) was ripped on because it wasn't as sexy as Lockheed's. This isn't the only reason Lockheed won out, but it was a contributing
    • by DoraLives (622001) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:21PM (#11159996)
      If it isn't sexy, it ain't getting my business.

      Well then, it must all be related to your point of view. From here on the beach this one was extremely sexy.

      Absolutely gorgeous day with crystal clear weather and a light breeze coming in off the Atlantic.

      Pad 37 is way back up north past the end of ICBM Row and the tip of the cape, so the bottom half of the vehicle was obscured by intervening vegatation as it sat on the pad, but as soon as they ignited the engines, the flash of orange light and the discharge of smoke from the flame deflector made things abundantly obvious as to what was going on.

      This particular bird rose at an excruciatingly lethargic pace, and even well after it had cleared the tower, it was still taking its sweet old time. Probably the slowest liftoff I've ever watched, and I've watched a bunch going all the way back to the 50's.

      The alignment of the CBC's placed them 'face on' from my point of view, and all three of them looked quite spectacular, front lit by a late afternoon sun, each core producing a beautiful orange pillar of flame.

      Finally, it really got going and started to move out like you would expect. As it did so, it reached an altitude where the LH2/Lox exhaust produced a pure white contrail that stood out in stark relief against the deep blue sky. At about the same time, the rumble arrived and it was a fine, deep-throated one that bespoke of the power being released quite well.

      For those of us used to things like The Shuttle or any of the large Titan's, outboard CBC separation seemed to take forever to finally occur. The vehicle was well downrange when this happened, but with optical aid the sudden plume as they separated was easily visible, as well as the CBC's themselves, slowly tumbling end over end as the core continued to accelerate on away from them.

      All in all, quite the sexy launch, if you ask me.

    • It is very sexy!

      I saw the launch from my yard yesterday at 4:50pm EDT. I have a perfect view due east to the Cape. To bad it was not a night launch, it would have been spectacular.
  • Delta-9 (Score:4, Funny)

    by thmclean (590355) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:05AM (#11159056)
    I'm waiting for the Delta-9. That would be waaay more heavy, dude.
  • NOT successful (Score:5, Informative)

    by mOoZik (698544) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:05AM (#11159058) Homepage
    It was not completely successful. The two dummy satellites did not make it to orbit due to a problem with the first stage. You can read about it here: Boeing Rocket Launch [newscientist.com]

    • Re:NOT successful (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Squareball (523165) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:12AM (#11159145)
      You beat me to it. Funny thing though, even though it wasn't a success, Boeing was on the radio saying that they consider it a success. WTF? Failure is a success now days? Sure it wasn't complete failure but had there been a real satellite on board it would be pretty much a loss now. "F = Fantastic" oh brother.
      • Re:NOT successful (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mOoZik (698544)
        Yeah, another example of the government spinning an almost failure into a success. Had it exploded on the pad, they would have said, "Despite the absense of take-off, we believe the launch was a success. We are ready to commit billions of tax dollars on this rocket. I think they are so optimistic because Boeing had trouble finding commercial customers for the maiden flight, so the govt. had to finance almost the whole thing. As a result, they don't want to admit that it was a partial failure.

        • Because simply getting off the pad with a new rocket is quite an accomplishment. For the government a first launch that makes it's 90% of the way is a success because they have learned to expect failures, and this one was a minor one compared to blowing up on the pad.

          As for the guberment being the customers, Boeing had a rocket that fills a void that they needed, and the DoD decided to finance it.

        • Re:NOT successful (Score:2, Insightful)

          by whynotme (628513)
          Think of this launch as a release candidate that uncovered a serious bug that could only be found in a live production environment. The "production environment" in this case includes the effects of operating three of these core boosters side-by-side, as well as the throttling that is done by the central booster -- it runs at relatively low thrust while in the triplet, then runs up to maximum power after the two side boosters drop off. It's a whole new thing, and the only way to test what happens is to lau
        • Re:NOT successful (Score:3, Interesting)

          by smc13 (762065)
          It was more successful then the first launch of arianne 5 which blew up. It got off the ground and it delivered its payload. Pretty successful to me.

          Btw, Boeing is not part of the Government. How can you call boeing's spin another example of government spinning?
      • Re:NOT successful (Score:3, Informative)

        by boodaman (791877)
        I'd say a test launch of a rocket this size that actually made it off the launch pad for the first time ever qualifies as a success.

        If you read the back story of the project, Boeing built the first new launch facilities in the last 35 years in order to launch this series of rockets. Getting off the pad on the first try with this configuration seems like a success to me.
      • Re:NOT successful (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Zerbey (15536) * on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:42AM (#11159513) Homepage Journal
        It didn't explode on the launch pad, and it did make it into orbit. That's a remarkable achievment in itself. This is new hardware and there's bound to be teething problems.

        The term you're looking for is "successful failure" :)
      • Re:NOT successful (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JimBobJoe (2758)
        Failure is a success now days?

        How about the Alamo? Texans cite and use it as a rallying point so often that it's easy to forget that it was a huge military disaster.

        In that light the "Don't mess with Texas" always made me chuckle a bit.

        (I incidentally proposed that Ohio coopt the line and make it "Don't mess with Ohio or we'll burn Atlanta down again" because while Texas lost the Alamo, we burned the south.)

      • Re:NOT successful (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Feanturi (99866)
        had there been a real satellite on board it would be pretty much a loss now

        Well, doesn't that make it a success? They have an opportunity to fix a problem now, and it didn't cost them as much as it could have to expose that problem.

        I don't understand why people still insist on everything working 100% the first time, even though it has never ever worked that way. How did we somehow start expecting it?
    • from that article:

      "Air Force instead paid to launch a dummy payload and a pair of small research satellites."

      Our tax dollars at work.
      • Re:NOT successful (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Waffle Iron (339739)
        > "Air Force instead paid to launch a dummy payload and a pair of small research satellites."

        Our tax dollars at work.

        Would you rather that they had put another $Billion of our tax dollars into a spy satellite that would be uselessly drifting in space right now because of the partial failure of this untested rocket?

        • Why not allow more non-profit organizations to test new satelites technology? And not some nano-satellites with 30 minutes life-time. But something like highly-experimental device... It should be 23 ton payload - that's LOT of experiments ;-)
      • Re:NOT successful (Score:2, Interesting)

        by grimarr (223895)
        Here's an idea -- they should have launched a big mass of bulk, generic supplies: liquid oxygen, water, giant erector set beams, solar electric panels, etc. Something cheap enough that if it's lost or never used nobody minds, but someday could come in handy when building something in orbit.
  • by kippy (416183) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:05AM (#11159069)
    So what reason is there for the space shuttle now? all the heavy lifting can be done by these things and the personnel can get up in a Soyuz. These things seem "cheap" and from what I've read, this paradigm can be used to just strap on a few more rockets to get to the Moon or Mars.

    Can anyone cite a reason for continued shuttle lifetime that isn't political?
    • For one thing, the Space Shuttle is the only American man-rated launch system in service (well, nearly in service) today. The last one has not been used since the Apollo-Soyuz joint mission, and there is no tooling or production facilities to build an Apollo-style capsule or launch vehicle to carry it aloft.

      Secondly, there are still missions that require both heavy lifting and human beings. For example, if NASA were to choose to repair the HST using a non-robotic mission, it would be the Shuttle that car
      • For one thing, the Space Shuttle is the only American man-rated launch system in service (well, nearly in service) today. The last one has not been used since the Apollo-Soyuz joint mission, and there is no tooling or production facilities to build an Apollo-style capsule or launch vehicle to carry it aloft.

        Blah, blah, blah. And the Empire State Building is now the tallest skyscraper in Manhattan. Meaningless factoid. Guess what, eventually there will be another building which will be taller. The a

        • If we started to design a new capsule today, it would be at least eight years before it was man-rated and into regular service. But don't believe me, look at NASA's own studies. Even Burt Rutan says that designing and fabricating an orbital spacecraft is no simple task.

          So your assertation of "merely design[ing] a new capsule to put on top of the rocket" is specious at best. There is no "mere" when it comes to designing, testing and deploying space hardware. You could use the shuttle as an example of th
      • Secondly, there are still missions that require both heavy lifting and human beings. For example, if NASA were to choose to repair the HST using a non-robotic mission, it would be the Shuttle that carried the repairmen aloft.

        Why can't these missions be accomplished by sending the humans and the cargo aloft in separate rockets? That way everything stays safely specialized, and they can still meet up in orbit and do whatever it is they need to do.

        The only thing the Shuttle does that multiple launches can't
    • by scxw65d (50032)
      Because the space shuttle can also bring objects down from orbit. And sometimes your satellite will need repair, so you gotta get it down somehow.

      Or maybe I'm just talking out my ass. I blame Jack Daniel's.

      • You're talking out of your ass. There hasn't ever been a shuttle mission which required taking a satellite out of orbit and landing it on earth.

        There isn't any utility in doing so either. Its cheaper to send up a new satellite.

        Shuttle was an engineering marvel, but a white elephant failure. Disposable rockets are cheaper, and it sucked out all that money that could have been used for a manned Mars mission, or a "useful" space station.
        • by DoctorPepper (92269) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:44AM (#11159537)
          Actually he isn't. STS-87:

          "Early in the mission, the crew deployed Spartan, a freeflying solar instrument package that was supposed to make independent observations of the sun's outer atmosphere and the solar wind. However, the equipment failed upon deployment and was unable to complete its mission. During their first spacewalk Winston Scott and Takao Doi grabbed the spacecraft by hand and berthed it in the payload bay for its return to Earth. Since landing, the Spartan satellite has been impounded for study to determine the cause of the failure."

          Granted, the mission wasn't to go up and retrieve a broken satellite, but they did, in fact, retrieve the satellite and bring it back to Earth.
        • by DoraLives (622001) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:57AM (#11159694)
          You're talking out of your ass.

          Concur.

          There hasn't ever been a shuttle mission which required taking a satellite out of orbit and landing it on earth.

          Incorrect. Mission 51-A [nasa.gov] and mission STS-32 [nasa.gov] both did exactly that.

          There isn't any utility in doing so either.

          While I have to wonder about the cost effectivness of bringing a pair of comsats back down for refurbishment and relaunch, the LDEF experiment absolutely REQUIRED that it be brought back down.

          Next time, check your facts a little closer, eh?

        • I can't find the page offhand, but I once ran into a page that had statistics on shuttle deorbiting. The shuttle has deorbited 30-some satellites in its history, along with tons of trash from the ISS (the lack of the shuttle has led to severe trash accumulation on the station).

          The shuttle was an engineering marvel and a failure, correct. I disagree, however, that disposable is the answer. The shuttle helped us learn what works and what is problematic with reusables. It also stressed the importance of a
      • And sometimes your satellite will need repair, so you gotta get it down somehow.

        NASA says [reston.com] the shuttle costs $2.2 billion/year to have around and $85 million per flight. Since NASA had only been making half a dozen flights a year, this equates to $500 million per flight average mission costs.

        That'd better be one important satellite you're trying to repair. We could have replaced even the Hubble Space Telescope for the price of the shuttle missions we've done to service it.

    • So what reason is there for the space shuttle now? all the heavy lifting can be done by these things and the personnel can get up in a Soyuz. These things seem "cheap" and from what I've read, this paradigm can be used to just strap on a few more rockets to get to the Moon or Mars. Can anyone cite a reason for continued shuttle lifetime that isn't political?

      Because ferrying people to and from the stupid ISS isn't the Alpha and Omega of the US manned space program.

      • exactly. and aside from that, what does the shuttle do?

        HST? You've got to ask yourself if it's really worth the billions to get the shuttle back up there and possibly the lives of the crew.

    • There has never been any reason for the space shuttle, at least not as it was ultimately realized. The requirements for crewed flight and cargo are so radically different that there has never been much engineering justification for combining the two.

      A sensible launch system would have at least two components: a small, crewed vehicle type with six nines reliability, and one or more larger vehicle types for lifting cargo and blowing up.

      There are some economic factors that mitigate against this mix a bit,
      • by fname (199759) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:47AM (#11159570) Journal
        Six nines reliability sounds nice, but that works out to one failure in a million attempts. Realistically, until you've had 1 million succesful launched with only 1 failure, you could not claim six 9s reliability. That may be a good goal for an operational vehicle, but it's unrealistic for a development vehicle. We just don't know enough about what could go wrong to assign probabilities with that degree of certitude.
    • For one thing:
      The additional modules for the ISS are built and reinforced to mount into the Shuttle's payload bay. It not a standard coupling structure that can be easily replaced.

    • by MarkLR (236125)
      It's needed to build the ISS. A number of the pieces of the ISS are designed to fit into the shuttle's cargo bay and to be supported by brackets within the bay during lanuch. No current expendable rocket has the same configuration. Plus the spacearm is needed for some assembly tasks.
      • fair point but now I'd ask this:

        is it more expensive to modify the cargo portion of a heavy lift rocket like this to hold onto the ISS components, or to get the shuttles back up.

        Since this demo launch cost $145 million, I'll take a wild guess that the former is cheaper. Shuttle launches are something like half a billion a pop.
  • Sexier??? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:07AM (#11159086)
    Personally I think the Ariane 5 and 'Satan' are way sexier...

    Man, you have a wierd phallic fetish going on there.
    • I suppose that someone called Arianne could be sexier than a Mammoth (not checked pictures, but with that name she deserves a calendar at least), and about Satan, well, maybe some women can have a better clue if is sexy or not.
  • by 10sball (80009) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:07AM (#11159093) Homepage
    The bit I read this morning wasn't as positive as the story posted above...

    http://www.spacetoday.net/Summary/2713 [spacetoday.net]

    Delta 4 Heavy launch comes up short
    Posted: Wed, Dec 22, 2004, 9:30 AM ET (1430 GMT)
    The first Delta 4 Heavy launch vehicle lifted off Tuesday afternoon but a problem with the vehicle's first stage has apparently kept the vehicle from deploying its payload in the proper orbit. The vehicle lifted off from pad 37B at Cape Canaveral at 4:50 pm EST (2150 GMT), more than two hours into a three-hour launch window because of minor problems during pre-launch preparations, and initially the launch appeared to be normal. However, the Delta 4's first stage -- three identical core boosters -- shut down eight seconds earlier than expected. To compensate, the upper stage fired longer than planned during the second of three burns needed to place the primary payload, a demonstration satellite, into geosynchronous orbit, and as a result ran out of propellant during the final burn. Contact has also not been established with two nanosatellites that were deployed from the booster 16 minutes after launch. Despite the underperformance of the first stage, Boeing officials said they, as well as the Air Force, who paid for the flight, were pleased with the launch.

  • by stubear (130454) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:08AM (#11159095)
    "Personally I think the Ariane 5 and 'Satan' are way sexier..."

    I think the nick-bts needs to get out more.
  • by StateOfTheUnion (762194) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:10AM (#11159127) Homepage
    After 25 years of sleeping at the wheel as the Russians built new rocket motors, the US finally comes out with a new one . . .

    The RS-68's [boeing.com]on the Delta IV Heavy are the first new big rocket motor to be designed and built in the US in a long time (The space shuttle uses motors designed in the late sixties or very early seventies).

    And for the record, I think a new rocket motor qualifies as sexy . . .

    • American rocket technology of the late sixties is still ahead of current Russian designs. As of matter of fact its ahead of current American designs. Read some books on a little something called the Saturn 5. There isn't anyone around today that could rebuild one very easily.
      • IF thats true, then why did US companies purchase a farily substantial quantity of the RD-180 engines for US rockets? The Russian rocket engine tech is actually on par, and exceeds in some cases, US and ESA tech. Oh, and the reason noone can build a Saturn5 is that the plans nolonger exist. There have been several rockets designed and flown that equal or outperform the S5, the Energia for example.

        Source 1 [space.com]
        Source 2 [fas.org]
      • Read some books on a little something called Energia. It has flown in configurations which can lift 25% more than the Saturn V, and if you're willing to pay to restart the production line, there's a configuration which can lift twice as much.

        The saturn 5 was as powerful as it was because money was no object, not because the technology was better.

    • Keep in mind that many of Boeing's current heavy-lifter projects are joint efforts where Boeing builds the chassis/bodies and Russian companies provide engine technology. So this is more of an opportunity for appreciation, not gloating. I for one am glad that at least in this instance the better technologies are chosen in preference to politics.
  • by MufasaZX (790614) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:13AM (#11159152) Homepage
    To answer the obvious predictable question, no, the Delta IV Heavy doesn't even come close to the Saturn V. The Sat5 could heave 118,000kg into LEO, while the 3 booster D4H can only lift 22,000kg. There is talk of strapping on even more big candles to the D4, going up to as many as 7 main engines (the core and then 6 around it), but rough extrapolation would take that only to 51,333kg, far better than the shuttle but still a far cry from the awesome power of the Saturn V [wikipedia.org].
    • by ausoleil (322752) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:23AM (#11159304) Homepage
      Good points. Unfortuntely, there are no launchable S-Vs, no infrastructure, and not even many engineers familiar with the system left to build or launch one. In short, Nixon, Ford and Carter were fools for throwing away the best launch system the world has ever seen.

      Think of what may have been if Von Braun had been allowed to proceed with Nova. It made the Saturn V look like a bottle rocket.

    • by NardofDoom (821951) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:25AM (#11159328)
      The shuttle orbiter weighs in at 99,318 kg fully loaded. [astronautix.com] I'm not sure how much of that is the engines, but if we weren't busy launching bricks-and-wings into space we'd be able to lift more than 50 metric tons to LEO. For crew return we can use a capsule with an ablative heat shield, and the crew wouldn't have to worry about finding their way out of an exploding craft moving supersonically to eject, just put an escape rocket on the capsule like with early spacecraft.

      Something tells me that would be cheaper than the shuttle, and get more done, and be more adaptable.

      • You're forgetting the fighter jock factor.

        Who cares about what makes more sense. Astronauts are mostly fighter jocks. Thse jocks have a massive lobbying power in Congress and in NASA (like a certain geriatric senator who got sent into space). Jocks want a shuttle to pilot. You can't underline your masculinity at Mach 5 by wrestling a control lever in a capsule.
  • Delta IV is composed of 5 vehicle configurations.
    First stage powered by the RS-68 engine.
    Delta IV second stages are derived from the Delta III second stage.

    Confused yet? :)
  • by KE1LR (206175) <ken...hoover@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:14AM (#11159179) Homepage
    Anyone who's spent time listening to air traffic control radio near a major airport has certainly heard large aircraft identify themselves as " heavy" so my first thought was that "Delta 4 Heavy" sounded like a 747 instead of a rocket.
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:16AM (#11159199)
    So I read the headline:

    "Boeing Successfully Launches Mammoth Delta-4 Heavy"

    Of course, for every stupid, bizarre, or just plain wonky idea, there already exists at least a semi-serious proponent. Proof is left as an exercise for Google [google.com]

    From the second Google hit on "mammoth wooly rocket", I quote:

    Flight at mach 3.0 from rocket booster in the rump, electric beams from tusks, missiles come from the two nostrils of the trunk

    It gets weird after that.

  • by _PimpDaddy7_ (415866) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:17AM (#11159215)
    who'd love these rockets [boeing.com] :)
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:21AM (#11159284)
    "Satan is sexier..."

    Yeah...good luck getting funding for your "Satan" rocket from the current crop of "values" politicians in Congress.

    Tell the marketing guys to try "Sword of Jesus" instead; you'll be in like Ron Jeremy.

  • Which units? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rich Klein (699591) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:23AM (#11159296) Homepage Journal
    ...capable of lifting 23 tonnes...

    Boeing [boeing.com] is a US company, but Nick [mailto] (and the BBC [bbc.co.uk]) used the British spelling of tonnes. What kind of tonnes are we talking about?

    The space.com story [space.com] provides some more useful numbers:
    The added engines allow the rocket to launch 50,800 pounds (23.040 kilograms) of payload into low Earth orbit and 28,950 pounds (13,130 kilograms) to geosynchronous orbits...

    That would seem to be (roughly) metric ton(ne)s; there are 2,204.623 pounds per metric ton.

    For comparison:
    1 ton, gross or long (same as a British ton) = 2,240 pounds
    1 ton, metric = 2,204.623 pounds
    1 ton, net or short = 2,000 pounds
  • Seems like they're a bit behind schedule.

    "First launch of the Boeing Delta IV is scheduled for 2001 and support projects are well under way."
    http://www.boeing.com/news/releases/1998/news_rele ase_981016a.html [boeing.com]
  • Still a few problems (Score:4, Informative)

    by Fiz Ocelot (642698) <baelzharonNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:31AM (#11159389)
    There were a few glitches:

    "We had a shorter than expected first stage burn. That was compensated for by longer first and second burns in the second stage," said Dan Collins, Boeing vice president for Expendable Launch Systems,

    And: [decaturdaily.com] "The delay at five minutes was due to a loss of communication between launch control and the vehicle destruct system. Boeing spokeswoman Monty Vest described this."

  • It was interesting to hear that the rockets on the Delta 4's have a throttle (similar to the Space Shuttle's main engines).

    Is this a common feature of modern expendable rockets or something unique to the Delta series?

    • Re:Throttles (Score:3, Informative)

      by ckaminski (82854)
      It's common to liquid rockets, particularly when you want to throttle up after achieving maximum dynamic pressure so you don't destroy your rocket against a ceiling of high-speed high-pressure atmosphere.

    • Re:Throttles (Score:3, Interesting)

      by deltacephei (842219)
      I can't comment on the design attributes of the Delta series. For the shuttle, throttling allows the reduction of the SSME's down to 2/3 of their normal thrust during the region of high Q - i.e. when you're still in enough air to create high loads on the vehicle - presumably this might be part of the Delta 4 design.
    • Re:Throttles (Score:4, Informative)

      by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n ... minus physicist> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @01:34PM (#11160850) Homepage Journal
      The purpose of a throttle is to control the amount of thrust that is expended during the flight. Keep in mind that when a rocket goes up, it is throwing out the bottom a considerable amount of mass.

      The point here is that by the end of a stage, the acceleration of one of these rockets (solid or liquid fueled... it doesn't matter) can be quite high, and on ICBM's it can be as high as 20 G's or more. Sometimes a payload simply can't handle that sort of acceleration (like people, but some sattelites as well), so you need to drop the amount of thurst to lower the accleration rate.

      This is a mission requirement, and when you design a space payload you also specify what the maximum acceleration will be (usually in m/s^2 but sometimes in different units). When the flight profile is calculated, the rocket will have pre-programmed intervals to scale back the thrust requirements. This makes life fun and interesting, and why rocket scientists get the big $$$.

      The Space Shuttle's Main Engines have this feature, and it is even more important because of the human cargo, as well as bio research materials. I believe the flight profile of the shuttle is to maintain a maximum rate of about 4-5 G's. The Saturn V, by comparison, hit about 8-9 G's at the end of the 1st and 2nd stages.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I was in charge of one of the groundstations for the two student satellites that were on the Delta IV Heavy. The Delta IV Heavy had poor performance on the initial burn causing the second stage to try and compensate for the poor performance of the first stage. The two student satellites were let off at 100km instead of 188km, and DemoSat did not make it to geosynchronous orbit. More information can be found at http://www.spaceflightnow.com.
  • bad pun (Score:2, Funny)

    by cube_slave (765396)
    From the CNN article:
    "America has a lot riding on this," [Col. Mark Owen] said.

    So to speak...

  • by n9mdh (800649) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:18PM (#11159962)
    Calling an RS-18 missile "Satan" was a (basically US) military thing-- sorry to burst the "cool name" bubble. They (then Soviets) referred to the RS-18 as the "Voyevoda," a noun that refers to a leader-- a leader whose power is achieved by being the toughest kid on the block. It's like the west calling a tank "Patton," etc. The US/NATO used "SS" instead of "RS" to refer to Soviet missiles, so the RS-18 becomes the SS-18 in NATOspeak. Here's where the fun starts.

    OK, say it with me: s-s-eighteen... ss-eighteen... s-eighteen... s-eight-en... satan. In an era when you refer to the other side as the evil empire, cool names that emphasize the whole evil thing tend to stick.

    Just thought you might want to know...
  • First Time Gitters (Score:3, Informative)

    by gcpeart (788373) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:34PM (#11160149) Homepage
    Hey Boeing isn't the only one who can screw up a first launch, the 'sexier' Ariane 5 self destructed on its first launch do to a software glitch in the primary and redundent guidance systems. Of course on their site the launch log only marks the occasion with a * with no corrosponding note(see flight 88) [arianespace.com], and the milestones for the Ariane 5 [arianespace.com] makes the brief a very brief note, "The Ariane 5 501 test flight fails."
  • by Baldrson (78598) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @01:46PM (#11160969) Homepage Journal
    Figures from space.com [space.com], $140 million and 50,000 lbs, allow one to estimate the cost/lb to LEO of the Delta IV at $2800/lb when the payload bay is packed to the gills.
  • Space Double-Speak (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PingXao (153057) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @02:40PM (#11161545)
    It's disturbing to me that the government descends into double-speak whenever it suits their purpose when it comes to space programs. Space flight is a very unforgiving discipline, and it sets a very bad example, IMO, when the government terms things "successful" when it's fairly obvious they are NOT successful.

    Billions have been spent on the stillborn missile defense program. IMO it's a collosal waste of money and resources. Many tests have outright failed but a launch vehicle practically has to blow up on the pad before the governemtn will even begin to think about the word "failure".

    Now a new rocket - and the Delta IV is a cool rocket - fails to put its primary payload into the proper orbit and the government terms the flight a "success". WTF is wrong with these people? While there are successful aspects of the flight, you can't call it a "trmendous success" when the primary payload is left in a useless orbit! You just can't. If this were a test, it might have scored a 75 or maybe an 85. To qualify as a "tremendous success" it needs to get at least a 95 IMO.

    What is it with this double-speak lately? It's downright scary when truth begins to matter not.
  • by i41Overlord (829913) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @02:59PM (#11161737)
    While reading this thread, I found myself wondering what some of the other well known rockets could lift. So I quickly dug up some results and decided to share for reference:

    Rocket, payload to low earth orbit, payload to geosynchronous orbit

    SS-18 "Satan" 8,000 lbs LEO

    Atlas Centaur 10,000 lbs LEO, 4,500 lbs Geo

    Ariane 5 39,000 lbs LEO, 12,000 lbs Geo

    Titan IV 47,000 lbs leo, 12,760 lbs geo

    Delta IV heavy 48,000 lbs LEO, 28,124 geo

    Space Shuttle 63,000 lbs leo (230,000 lbs including the shuttle itself)

    Space Shuttle C (doesn't exist yet) 180,000 lbs leo

    Energia 190,000 lbs leo, 48,500 lbs Geo

    Saturn V 285,000 lbs LEO, 107,000 lbs to the Moon
  • by serutan (259622) <(moc.nozakeeg) (ta) (guodpoons)> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:10PM (#11165412) Homepage
    On the subject of powerful boosters, here's a long but interesting article [nuclearspace.com] about nuclear powered rockets. It describes a non-polluting, 100% reusable rocket powered by seven Gas Core Nuclear Reactor engines, which could lift 1000 TONS into orbit and return to a powered landing.

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