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Space Shuttle One Step Closer To July Launch 92

Posted by timothy
from the how-to-launch-public-money-into-space dept.
Mictian writes "The risk to the space shuttle from launch debris, mainly ice falling off the external tank, has been reduced and is now low enough to be considered 'an acceptable risk,' NASA's shuttle engineers and managers concluded in the debris verification meeting held Saturday at Kennedy Space Center. The board recommended a green light for a July launch, which Shuttle Program Manager Bill Parsons accepted. The independent Return to Flight Task Group will hold its final meeting on June 27th to determine if the remaining 3 (out of 15) hurdles to launch are cleared, as mentioned in previous Slashdot coverage."
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Space Shuttle One Step Closer To July Launch

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  • So, what's going to happen after the shuttle fleet retires?
    • The Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crew_Exploration_Vehi cle [wikipedia.org]
    • US scraps space program turning over leadership of technology and science to China/Europe...

      At least hopefully that isn't what happens.

      Someone else already posted about the CEV, so there is at least a planned successor.
      • by m50d (797211) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @04:50PM (#12915903) Homepage Journal
        The shuttle has had one planned successor or another for about 15 years, one should have come in about 3 times over by now. Don't hold your breath.
        • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday June 26, 2005 @09:25PM (#12917239) Homepage Journal
          THe primary difference is that the CEV program is based on today's technology. The previous shuttle replacement plans (NASP, X-33, Delta Clipper, etc.) were all experimental craft that needed several unproven, expensive, and risky key technologies developed before they could be built. This was exasperated by the fact that those craft were being built on relatively low budgets. In the case of the X-33, nearly every component of the craft was one of those undeveloped technologies with no room for error or redesign.

          In the case of the CEV, life is simple. Spiral One will only require that we build a technology similar to what was created in the 1960s. i.e. A capsule. Reusability isn't even specified, but most competitors have taken that route because they can. (The shuttle technologies are not completely going to waste here.)

          Since the capsule will be designed for only carrying (relatively light) humans as opposed to the 28 tonnes of cargo + 104 tonnes of spacecraft the shuttle carried around, the engines will be nothing more than a commercial booster. In the case of the CEV, the booster will only need to manage a mere 20 tonnes to LEO. Which means that the CEV can pull a Delta IV or Atlas V off the shelf for launch operations. (The CEV program does have bugetting for a new rocket, but the point is that any rocket can be used.)

          In short, the CEV is completely the correct idea. Use technology we have today to develop a targetted launch vehicle for humans, and worry about developing other vehicles through regular development programs. For cargo, just use a cargo specific vehicle. The very definition of KISS. :-)
    • MARS OR BUST! However, what kind of vehicle and who pays for it has not been decided. (Don't you just love unfunded government mandates!) I'm sure the Russians will throw in a few bottles of Vodka and a grandstand for the launching ceremony.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 26, 2005 @05:21PM (#12916060)
      Been reading a good book called 'new moon rising'. It illustrates some recent history regarding shuttle replacement attempts:

      X-33: Al Gore/Dan Goldin/Lockeed Martin 1996. A reusable space vehicle. Like the shuttle New engine, thermal systems, internal structure, ground processing, guidance, navigation and control. First flight March 1999. X-33 had a liquid hydrogen tank failure in 1999. Forced heavy tank redesign. In 2003 the program was 5 years behind schedule. Funding was stopped and put towards the Space Launch Initiative. (SLI) NASA and Lockheed spent 1 billion + on the project.

      X-34: Suborbital technology demonstrator to go 50 miles up at mach 8. Test bed for hight tech/low cost. Reusable fast-rack engine. Fast track engineering failed. Flight test in 1999 failed to happen. By late 2000 it was in a 2 year delay. Eventually program was scrapped.

      SLI(space launch initiative): 4.8B thought 2006. Work with industry to develop a privately owned reusable launch vehicle. Basically keep using first generation shuttle while developing second generation craft.

      X-37: Reusable technology demonstrator. Test variety of space flight concepts. 2 vehicles would be built. An atmospheric test vehicle and one to be tested in space released from shuttle. Weight requirement failures caused air-force to abandon program. Too heavy now needs atlas V or delta IV. X-37 has wings but NASA now taking capsule approach.

      X-43: Scram-jet test. This was successful. Though, capsule approach likely to be used now. One of the few X projects to actually succeed.

      X-38: AACRV -- assured crew return vehicle. Basically a lifeboat for ISS. Only goes on way...down to earth. This project did not depend on new technology like many other x projects. Successful drop test of craft in 2000. Many other tests successful. One of the few successful x projects. Not deployed because it was dependent on ISS and could only go one way...down. So, cancelled in 2002.

      OSP: Orbital Space Plane. 2003. Carry 4 crew to and from ISS. Shuttle blows up again. NASA mission changed for vehicle that would goto ISS and *beyond* earth orbit.

      CEV: being designed. But uses current technology. Designed to goto ISS and to moon. Capsule design ... Apollo program influences. Still be worked out right now.

      So, there has been much research to a shuttle replacement. Looks like they are going to use existing technologies and get away from 'space/plane' type of designs with questionable technologies.

      • X-33 VentureStar (Score:2, Informative)

        by mnemonic_ (164550)
        The linear aerospike nozzle tests of the X-33 were quite successful though the composite fuel tanks failed. The experience gained by the propulsion engineers should be very valuable for any next-gen rocket stuff.
      • If you "really" want to go wayyyyyyyyyy back to before the shuttle, the X-15 flew into and out of space, then the X20, X24 series of lifting bodies were done. They had planned on using ELV's to haul the stuff up, and use the X20 or X24 to haul the people up and back, but, they thought the shuttle would be cheaper. On a side note, the "original" design of the shuttle was a piggyback design. They would equip a Scram jet style carrying plane, similar to the way they piggyback the shuttle on a 747, then once
    • They switch to a Balsa vehicle and VLRB (Very Large Rubber Band) launcher.
  • "Acceptable Risk"? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gardyloo (512791) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @04:29PM (#12915771)
    Of course it is. It always has been. Yay for admin-speak.
    • by pcmanjon (735165)
      I don't see why it has taken THIS long for them to do anything about it. For the longest time (half year) they just sat around saying "what are we going to do about it guys?" without any sense of direction or determination to get it fixed.

      They were in no particular hurry (don't get me wrong, hurrying is a bad thing) nor was there any urgency to find a solution. It was pretty much, "find a solution at your own convienence"

      NASA has done some great stuff; but they just seem too slow and insignificant these d
    • by s20451 (410424) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @04:42PM (#12915860) Journal
      How about "The risk is not unusually large for a situation in which you strap yourself to several hundred tons of explosives and light them."
    • I someone will give me 12-1 I'll put £100 on it not coming back in one piece.

      Seriously, this is one mother of a complicated thing, it can never be 'safe enough'
    • by demachina (71715)
      Here is a dose of bad attitude for a Sunday afternoon. I was thinking about going back and finding all the Slashdot articles about the space shuttle returning to flight over the last 2+ years. If you recall after the crash NASA was saying they would be flying again in a year. Well its going to basicly be 2 and half years IF they launch in July and that is a big IF. I hate to break it to you but the Shuttle really isn't any closer to launch today after this new finding, than its been for most of this yea
  • More info (Score:4, Informative)

    by Robotron23 (832528) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @04:37PM (#12915826) Homepage
    The BBC article goes into more detail, including the scrutiny over the decision over the July launch. In particular over ice impacts to the shuttle's heat shielding. Heres the article;

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4622243.stm/ [bbc.co.uk]

    The only major problem NASA faces with regards to the shuttle is its planned retirement date. Put simply, if weather,mechanical and indeed financial conditions permitted the maximum amount of Shuttle launchs the International Space Station would still not be completed.
    • The shuttle isn't the only way to get to the ISS. The Russians regularly send at least two different craft to the ISS.

      In addition China, India, and Japan are all known to be in various stages of constructing their own craft. I wouldn't be surprised if at least one failed due to politics, but I'm not making any bets against their engineers if the governments wants them to succeed. (They will of course have failures along the way, that is part of engineering) I haven't heard of any ESA plans, but I w

      • No existing vehicle can complete the job other than the shuttle. 'Don't use it' is easy enough to say, but someone (the US or others) needs to field a replacement if we want to finish the ISS.

        Now, the debate as to whether the ISS is much more than a political excercise and a publicity stunt or not is another topic for another day ;)
        • Did you read what I wrote? True nothing current can do the job, but things to not stand still. The US cannot come even close to putting a man on mars without something bigger than the shuttle. Seems like a no-brainer to me that you would test it before the first missions. Once you are sure it will work, just throw some docking on it, and send the rest of.

          Because ISS has needs, they can easily design a test that involves putting a "small" load to ISS. Considering the power needed for a Mas mission

          • True nothing current can do the job, but things to not stand still. You'd be surprised by how old the rockets are. The Delta and Atlas boosters date back to the 50s, the Soyuz and Proton to the 60s, and the Shuttle to the 70s. Also, no one has built a booster that can meet or exceed the ~40 year old saturn V. (With the possible exception of the STS, if you include the shuttle itself as part of the payload)
  • Don't rush it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by m50d (797211) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @04:41PM (#12915852) Homepage Journal
    I want to get back into space as much as anyone - heck, if there was a chance it would work I'd strap a booster to my back and be launching myself. But cutting corners for PR deadlines was what caused the disaster in the first place. Take as long as you need, NASA.
    • I like NASA. I really do. I mean, they got men to the moon and Voyager passed the damn heliosphere. However, they've grown too big for their own damn good. People expect too much from them. back in the days of the Mercury missions an astronaut would die and we'd be launching again ASAP. These days it takes 3 damn years to even consider getting something back into orbit. What happened to the days of NASA innovation and guts? I'm sure innovations come, but we certainly aren't doing anything cool like going to
    • No, they shouldn't rush it. NASA is mounting the most noble effort to return to the 80's since Marty McFly. God forbid they screw even this task up.

      I mean, if they can't even do this much, how do they hope to ever return to the 1960's and put a man on the moon?

      -Eric

  • Do you think the fact that according to separate [noaa.gov] sources [weather.com] it is mid-summer right now in Florida, has anything to do with the risk factor being reduced?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah because a humid day in Florida will definitely take care of thousands upon thousands of gallons of cryogenic fuel forming ice on the tank.
    • by NOLAChief (646613) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @04:59PM (#12915965)
      Not a damn bit. These tanks are being filled with cryogenic propellants, one at about -290 F, the other even colder. Ice is going to form on the tanks. The whole idea of the insulation is to reduce, not eliminate, the amount of ice that forms. Basically, the tank is so cold it doesn't care if it's 0 F outside or 100 F outside. The ice will form and it won't melt.
      • The whole idea of the insulation is to reduce, not eliminate, the amount of ice that forms.

        Insulation has its place, but why don't they cover the whole think with a hydrophobic coating, pork lard, or something more esoteric?

        And I'll just pre-empt the PIIIIGGGGS INNN SPAAAACCEE comments right here.
        • That's a good question, and I'll be honest. I have no idea. To take a wild guess or two, I'd say 1. Weight. Pork lard does weigh something, and even a thin coating over the entire surface area of an ET puts you in the order of hundreds of pounds (Case study: Look at the first couple of flights. The tank is white. Later flights it's orange. They decided the white paint wasn't doing them any real benefit, but was costing them ~500 pounds in weight, so they left the orange insulation exposed.) 2. Coati
  • Now they can launch, but the ISS won't complete itself, ant that is why i wonder what the hell happened thet made them shut down all the projects they ever stared with to replace the shuttle.

    They could at least have shut the projects down BEFORE dropping sacs of money down the drain(if that is what they thougt they were doing - i didn't think so)
    The dead X33 and X34 projects :
    http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/missions/x33_ cancel_010301.html [space.com]
  • anyone else read this as "SpaceShuttleOne"?
    • Yeah, you're not the only one.
      Had a brief glorious image of Rutan pulling another Cool Piece Of Tech(tm) from underneath his hat.

      Anyone know what they're doing after SSO, btw, aside from Branson's stuff? They seem to have gone into stealth mode again.
  • by StarWynd (751816) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @05:28PM (#12916088)

    I grew up in the era when all the shuttle launches were televised and it seemed that every other kid wanted to be an astronaut when they grew up. I was one of those kids and I believed that all the cool science and break-throughs were made by astronauts up in orbit.

    However, during college, I realized that the shuttle program is about 95% politics and 5% science. I got an internship within the space program, but in the unmanned satellite area. After college, I continued to work in the area of space sciences and now I have several missions under my belt. Having seen how things work from the inside, the majority of good science comes from our unmanned satellites that don't make the news and the majority of the public don't even know about. While there are certain scientific benefits that the shuttle program has brought, the majority of the shuttle program has been a public relations campaign and politics.

    While I already believed that every precaution should be taken before sending the shuttle back up, I want NASA to make extra sure that every precaution really has been made because we are risking people's lives in the name of politics and public relations. Don't get me wrong, I don't want people to risk their lives in the name of science or exploration either, but there will always be some risk in exploration. There shouldn't be any risk (with respect to people's lives) just to play politics and get nice photos of Americans and Russians together in orbit.

    I don't want to see the manned program disappear. But I do want to see NASA be as responsible as they can be. I don't know where the "acceptable risk" falls, but I sure hope it's really low.

    • "The majority of the shuttle program has been a public relations campaign and politics."

      You left out, giant welfare/jobs program. They are cool high paying tech jobs for the most part ... well ... and lots of people pushing giant piles of paper from point A to point B, but it is still basicly just a jobs program. The jobs program includes:

      - All the NASA civil servants in the manned space program, civil servants being hard to fire once you hire them you pretty much have to make work for them and their nu
      • I appreciate your comment and yes, some of what you wrote is what I meant by saying it was "political" in nature. I can't say that all of what you wrote was what I meant because a couple of your points were things I hadn't even thought of. But I do not disagree with what you said.

        Don't get me wrong, I do have faith in aerospace. I work with those people every day and they have to be some of the best, smartest people I have ever been around. All of us are extremely happy to see the work going on with S

  • In the Sixties... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by feloneous cat (564318) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @05:40PM (#12916143)
    I grew up reading everything about NASA. I was fascinated by it as it was a CIVILIAN space agency (in contrast to the military). This is all but forgotten today, but it is important because that is the charter.

    Unfortunately, it went from "the best and brightest" to "how do we do with less". Now NASA is going with "eh, it seems like an acceptable risk" but you know the folks that say that are thinking "as long as I'm not the one on that shuttle".

    It is attitudes like this that has allowed other countries to catch up (and even surpass) the U.S. While we are arguing over whether evolution should be taught in schools, other countries are pulling ahead of the U.S. (and why not, as American corporations apparently feel that Americans are not worth hiring).

    Apollo 17 was the last mission to the moon. It only got noticed because it was the last mission to the moon. Shuttle missions are hardly even noticed now by the general public. As far the the public is concerned NASA barely exists.

    Sadly, I fear that in my lifetime NASA will either be absorbed by the DoD or close its doors altogether. That will be a sad day for this country and for science.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      American corporations apparently feel that Americans are not worth hiring

      There is a reason for that. Americans don't want to go into engineering, they go to business management and medicine and law. That's where the real money is. Can't blame anyone for that.

      An american engineer, if you can hire one, will cost you more, and will come with a certain set of expectations (work week, benefits, etc.) which his foreign competitors are not burdened with. In a capitalist society a business purchases generic la

    • Re:In the Sixties... (Score:5, Informative)

      by cyclone96 (129449) on Sunday June 26, 2005 @06:21PM (#12916342)
      Disclaimer: I work for NASA JSC in Houston. On the Shuttle and Station programs.

      Now NASA is going with "eh, it seems like an acceptable risk" but you know the folks that say that are thinking "as long as I'm not the one on that shuttle".

      I'd like to let everyone know that nobody has this attitude at NASA. The astronauts are not some faceless people we are packing into the orbiter, they are our coworkers, friends, and families.

      We eat lunch with these people, we share late nights at labs and in Mission Control with them, we have parties with them, they live next door to us, our kids go to school together. Several of my friends or their spouses are astronauts.

      I make decisions at my job that can affect their safety everyday, and I never take it lightly. Just like you would not put your buddy at work into a hazardous situation if you could avoid it (well, spaceflight by definition is hazardous, so let's just say we try to keep the risk as low as humanly possible).

      Many years ago I was conducting a training session for a crew member I knew pretty well. During a break, he waved me over to talk with his wife (who just popped in) and a guy in a nice suit, he needed me for something.

      It was a NASA attorney. The flight was 4 weeks away, and they needed a witness for his will. It was a very somber moment to hear that being read aloud with his wife there, knowing that he was about to strap himself onto a flying bomb. Of course, the risk to him was just something that was part of the job, just like when he was in the military.

      These folks know the risk they are taking (and boy, do they hate it when the press implies that flying is "too dangerous"), willingly accept it, and we all knock ourselves out making sure we do everything we can to keep them safe.
    • You can blame a wide-spectrum group of people, but mostly those on the left, sad to say, who've totally lost touch with what it means to be "human" despite constantly harping on words like "humanitarian".

      Discovery and the thrill it brings are part and parcel of who we are as a species, but so to is survival at all costs and these go hand in hand.

      We have the knee-jerk anti-corporatists who fight tooth and nail any business involvement, yet basically, humans always work on the basis of self-interest and
    • Nobody notices transatlantic flight either. After a certain point things just stop being news. Now, the next shuttle launch will be news, but for all the wrong reasons as we know. Prior to the accidents however, the shuttles weren't doing revolutionary work. They are basically poorly designed trucks (in spaaaace!).
    • Unfortunately, it went from "the best and brightest" to "how do we do with less".

      Ummm.... That is NASA's philosophy with the robotics program. I seriously doubt that It's actually one of the smartest ideas they have ever had. I always cringe whenever I hear the story about how close NASA was to sending in one huge nuclear powered robot instead of the miniture ones.

      It is attitudes like this that has allowed other countries to catch up (and even surpass) the U.S. While we are arguing over whether

    • Unfortunately, it went from "the best and brightest" to "how do we do with less".

      Had a talk with your Congressman lately? They determine what NASA is and isn't.

      Now NASA is going with "eh, it seems like an acceptable risk"

      NASA has always gone with X risk is acceptable to accomplish Y mission. Always.

      Shuttle missions are hardly even noticed now by the general public.

      Thats what happens when operations become routine. (Happened during most of the Moon missions after 11 and during Skylab was well

      • Had a talk with your Congressman lately? They determine what NASA is and isn't. Had a look at NASA's charter? That determines what it is and isn't. Congress determines the funding after that. NASA is underfunded. It has been for years. As a left winger who believes that believes knowledge is important, I feel that we are ruining this country by taking a short-sighted approach. Do with less. Get rid of Hubble. Trash good programs for market based ones (and do NOT go on about how the market is better, I hav
  • Defense spending is roughly one half trillion dollars. Things could get worse and more expensive very quickly. Oil at close to $100 a barrel will cripple the economy for some time. Economics, politics, and volatile global relations doesn't bide well for NASA funding.
  • There is no doubt the astronauts who fly the Shuttle and International Space Station, and before them the earlier crews, know the dangers they face. Do we? It should have come as no surprise that astronauts died with Columbia and earlier Challenger. Leaving our atmosphere is inherently dangerous. There are thousands of critical components and systems, any one of which could shape the same outcome. NASA has had plenty of close calls before. It has been my opinion, and it seems to be born out by what I've r
  • Thanks for the update. We've got a product scheduled to be included on the next flight, so we're watching it closely and hoping it goes. Just from our perspective, the amount of work from the call to us, and getting it on the flight, is enormous.
  • I am I the only one who read this "Space Shuttle One Closer to Launch" and immediatly though that I'd missed out on Rutan's most recent hijinks?
  • That when I saw the title of this the 1st thing that popped into my head was Linkin Park's "One Step Closer"?
  • My Engrish speaking friend is anxiousry araiting the Space Shutter's Return To Fright.
  • In a nutshell, concerning NASA, the only stats that matter:

    Two destroyed Space Suttles, 14 dead astronauts

    versus

    One destroyed space capsule, 3 dead astronauts
    (woulda been 6 if Apollo 13 truly got 'lost in space')

    Simple is better (though not reliable without complicated redundant backups).

    I'm not trying to be a troll by 'reopening' old wounds, I'm just trying to cut to the very heart of the matter.

    The only other alternative is to keep sending out 'cute little bots' -- a far cry from the Viking/Voyager

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