Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
NASA Space Science

Endeavour Rolled Out As Rescue Ship 110

Posted by Soulskill
from the two-for-the-price-of-two dept.
stoolpigeon writes "The space shuttle Endeavour was rolled out to Launch Pad 39B yesterday. Space shuttle Atlantis is already at Launch Pad 39A, being made ready for the STS-125 mission to repair Hubble. We recently got a look at some behind-the-scenes photos for this mission. Endeavour is now in place to act as a rescue vehicle if there are any problems with Atlantis, once they are in space. This is the first time one shuttle has been prepared to act as a rescue vehicle for another. If all goes well for STS-125, Endeavour will move over to 39A to be used for STS-126."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Endeavour Rolled Out As Rescue Ship

Comments Filter:
  • I understand the reasoning and the chances are reduced with a double failure but there's something perverse about using the same inherently flawed vehicle as a rescue crasft should anything go wrong.

  • Direct link (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kagura (843695) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @08:19AM (#25084361)
    Direct link for the photos, since it's not actually in the article: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/09/preparing_to_rescue_hubble.html [boston.com]

    Also, karma whore.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Dude that's some of the best nerdporn ever. When I realized those two cylinders the size of the dude's torso were turbos, I nearly had to find a towel.

      Space Camp didn't have as good photos as the Globe dug up.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And here's the link to the NASA source [nasa.gov] which skips the "registration required" Boston Times. Sorry, New York Globe. No, wait, Boston Globe. I always get those two confused since they're (literally) the same damned paper.

      AC so as NOT to karma whore.

  • by josquint (193951) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @08:20AM (#25084369) Homepage

    in this [rocketracingleague.com]

  • Tow Truck? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by stevedmc (1065590)
    That is about as weird as a two truck towing a tow truck.
  • Hook up and pull them if they get stranded ?

    Collect the bits in case the original craft explodes ?

    This makes very little sense to me, admittedly I don't know very much about rocketry but the few times that things went wrong a rescue vehicle would have only compounded the problem, not mitigated it. If there still is enough of the original craft left to do something about the astronauts then sending up a similar craft sounds like a pretty dumb idea, first you'd need to figure out the cause of the problem befo

    • by rsmith-mac (639075) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @08:35AM (#25084439)

      Hook up and pull them if they get stranded ?

      Actually yes, that's the idea. The concern is that the ever so fragile titles may be greatly damaged ala Columbia, in which case someone needs to come pick up the astronauts stranded in Atlantis, because it can't be flown back in to the Earth's atmosphere and it can't be flown to the ISS. Since the Columbia incident all missions have been to the ISS or to a point in space where you can reach the ISS. This is not possible with the Hubble mission, it's too far away for the shuttle's limited fuel supply.

      • by Whiteox (919863)

        Where are you going to find an additional 7 seats?
        Even if you can pilot a rescue shuttle with 2, where's the standing room?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by imsabbel (611519)

          Put a crew module in the cargo area?
          The rescue mission doesnt have a payload to fill it anyways...

          • That would be a great idea if we had a man-rated crew module that fit in the cargo area.

            By the time we designed, built and qualified the crew module, it would be too late to help Hubble.

    • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Saturday September 20, 2008 @08:35AM (#25084441) Homepage Journal

      This is in case there is a problem on launch that allows Atlantis to make it to orbit, but it is too damaged to safely return. They would launch Endeavour to join Atlantis in orbit, they would use the robotic arms to pull the two vehicles together and then transfer crew from one to the other.
       
        This msnbc article on it [msn.com] has some more details. I'd have linked that article for the submission - but I didn't see it until later, and the NASA site didn't have a permalink for their page on it at the time.

    • by mikael_j (106439)

      I believe it is related to the recent problems with the shuttles where they've noticed problems that could (and did) result in disaster on re-entry. In such a situation it's probably nice to have a backup shuttle to be able to rescue the crew of the damaged shuttle.

      That said, I've always wondered why it isn't standard procedure to have a sort of "rescue capsule" ready for launch during shuttle missions. I suspect cost is one of the reasons...

      /Mikael

      • by jacquesm (154384)

        that makes some sense but because the two craft are equal in design the chances that the second shuttle would develop the same problem are actually higher than if the first one did not have a problem...

        I really don't get the logic behind this, but presumably nasa has some very smart people working for them and they know their stuff.

        • by neumayr (819083)
          I don't see an alternative. As far as I know, there is no other spaceship (something not Space Shuttle) available they could use as a rescue capsule.
          Actually, I hope I'm wrong. So please, tell me I am.
        • by v1 (525388) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @09:32AM (#25084769) Homepage Journal

          If the odds of a specific problem with a shuttle occurring are 1 in 100, the odds of it the same problem occurring on TWO shuttles at the same time is 1 in 10,000, not 1 in 100.

          You're taking for granted that once a problem occurs, the odds that "it could occur" are no longer 1 in 100, they are 1:1 because it HAS occurred. In other words, the odds of a double failure pre-launch is 1:10,000. The odds of a double failure, once you HAVE a single failure, is 1:100. Until the single failure occurs, the odds remain at 1:10,000.

          • by RedWizzard (192002) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @06:00PM (#25088465)

            If the odds of a specific problem with a shuttle occurring are 1 in 100, the odds of it the same problem occurring on TWO shuttles at the same time is 1 in 10,000, not 1 in 100.

            You're taking for granted that once a problem occurs, the odds that "it could occur" are no longer 1 in 100, they are 1:1 because it HAS occurred. In other words, the odds of a double failure pre-launch is 1:10,000. The odds of a double failure, once you HAVE a single failure, is 1:100. Until the single failure occurs, the odds remain at 1:10,000.

            The point the parent is making is that if a particular problem occurs then it might mean that the design has a previously unknown flaw that makes that problem more likely than original estimates. So pre-launch the chance is 1 in 100 for each shuttle, which makes 1 in 10,000 for both. But if the first shuttle develops the problem then it might mean that the 1 in 100 was wrong - maybe it's actually 1 in 20. Now you're looking at launching a rescue mission with a vehicle that might have a 1 in 20 chance of failing, and you've got no time to properly assess the risk.

            • by v1 (525388)

              If the initial odds are estimated at 1 in 100, and there is a failure, the appearance of the failure does not affect the odds of another one just like it failing. It's still a 1 in 100 event.

              You may find it necessary to re-evaluate the odds if experience is proving to be grossly different than predicted odds, but experiencing a single expression of an uncommon event should not immediately draw into question the odds of the next occurrence.

              If I'm shooting craps, and I know my odds of getting a seven is say,

              • If the initial odds are estimated at 1 in 100, and there is a failure, the appearance of the failure does not affect the odds of another one just like it failing. It's still a 1 in 100 event.

                You're missing the point. You think the initial odds are 1 in 100. You don't actually know that they are. The occurrence of the event may indicate that your original estimate of the odds was wrong and that the true odds were higher.

                If I'm shooting craps, and I know my odds of getting a seven is say, 1 in 4, and I shoot a seven, and then another, and then a third one, what are my odds of getting another seven on my fourth roll? Better than 1 in 4 now would you say? no. Still in 1 in 4 same as it always was. Changing the dice won't make any difference either.

                You don't know that the dice are fair. You think that the odds are 1 in 4. But then you roll 3 sevens in a row. Maybe the dice are fair and odds of getting another seven are 1 in 4. Or maybe the dice are loaded and the odds of getting another seven are much higher. The fact that

                • by jacquesm (154384)

                  exactly.

                  It's absolutely amazing that someone would think that a failure would not have any impact on the evaluation of the odds for the future as well.

                  Obviously if there is a 1:100 perceived chance for a problem to occur and it occurs in a relatively short series as opposed to somewhere in the middle of a series then it's high time to re-evaluate the model to make sure the original estimate was correct, since the evidence shows that there is a good chance that the original estimate was too optimistic. With

          • by jacquesm (154384)

            whoever modded you insightful should be banned from getting mod points for life, if a problem has already happened to the first shuttle then:

            - the next shuttle developing a problem is as likely as it was before, namely 1:100 (assuming the model is correct)
            - the model is likely incorrect, so the chance could be *MUCH* higher

            The problem has at least happened once so the model needs re-evaluation, and most likely the rescue shuttle is operating under a much higher chance of failure unless the cause of the orig

    • by slashmojo (818930) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @08:47AM (#25084491)

      I think the idea is that if on the way up a shuttle sustains the type of damage to the heat shield that ultimately destroyed the last one on the way down, they can send up the rescue craft.

      By careful examination of the craft after it gets up there (which they seem to do now) they can ascertain if it is in fit shape to make the journey home, other wise it stays up there and presumably the crew all get into the ISS and wait for the rescue craft to arrive.

      Of course if the rescue shuttle is also too badly damaged on the way up then they are screwed.. unless they bring a 'shuttle repair kit' with them.

      I was wondering though does the ISS have more than one place to dock a shuttle? Or do they have to somehow undock the damaged craft after the crew disembark and then dock the rescue craft? Or does the whole rescue process happen while both craft are undocked and the crew do a cool space dive between shuttles?

      • by cyclone96 (129449) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @10:11AM (#25084999)

        I was wondering though does the ISS have more than one place to dock a shuttle? Or do they have to somehow undock the damaged craft after the crew disembark and then dock the rescue craft? Or does the whole rescue process happen while both craft are undocked and the crew do a cool space dive between shuttles?

        The damaged orbiter is undocked first by remote control from the ground. The crew needs to install a cable to allow the command to open the docking system hooks (which is normally a push button the crew performs on the aft flight deck) to be sent from the ground.

        If you really want to see everything in excruciating detail, this NASA pdf has it...
        http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/153444main_CSCS_Resource_%20Book.pdf [nasa.gov]

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by RealGrouchy (943109)

        Sorry, I've already commented on this story, otherwise I'd mod you DOWN. In "regular" Shuttle missions, the destination is already to the ISS. If something goes wrong, they have time to wait at the ISS for another shuttle to be prepared and blasted up into space.

        The reason *this* mission requires them both to be on the launch pad is because they *can't* get to the ISS, which you erroneously imply that they could. This has been mentioned in many comments, in most news stories, etc., etc.

        - RG>

  • NASA are just making sure they're prepared just in case the Atlantis crew break down and call up claiming that they are a lone female with kids in the spacecraft. Don't forget it will be night time wherever they are.

  • Astronauts signing new life insurance policy agreements. Insurance company tricked into promising to deliver a rescue vehicle within 20 minutes of accident. ...in economy news... AIG shares fell by 89 percentages
  • Being a bit of a cynic, to me this looks like a bit of a political statement aimed at Russia. After the recent cooling of relations following the issues between Russia and Georgia, it was very quickly stated that the Shuttle may be used beyond its previously stated shelflife. Now putting out 2 Shuttles on the launchpads seems to be indicating that NASA is capable of operating without the aid of the Russians. A foolish ploy if this happens to be the case, as currently NASA just can't compete with either t
    • Or it could be that the only way to rescue a shuttle crew going to Hubble is another shuttle? The Soyuz does not have the room to bring back a 7 man Shuttle crew IIRC. So is it more logical that it is a political dog and pony show or that another shuttle is the only option should something go wrong.

      And remind me the track record of ESA doing manned missions again? When was the last time the Ariane rockets put a man into space again? Oh wait, I think all the ESA astronauts have gone into orbit either ato

  • Something about this stinks of... something. Corporate profit taking, perhaps.

    In any case, considering the small number of situations this could help in, NASA shouldn't be complaining about budget cuts if dropping the billion or more dollars to prep a second launch is considered frugal.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cyclone96 (129449)

      The cost is actually far less than you believe. The "rescue" shuttle is simply the vehicle for the next flight (minus payload). It's already going through the normal processing flow to ready it for its planned launch in November. The additional cost to protect for a rescue mission is in the low millions.

  • who will be the rescue ship for Endeavour?

  • by johndmartiniii (1213700) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @09:48AM (#25084877) Homepage
    I think that this might be a sign of increasing maturity in the process for making decisions about the space program. It seems, at least a little, a bit more reasonable to prepare a rescue option for missions like this rather than simply strapping on the cowboy boots and riding some crazy contraption out of the atmosphere with no viable hope of coming back, should something go wrong. Even if it is the same type of craft as the one that it would be rescuing, this decision shows some initiative to make the space program into a less willy-nilly operation than it might have been in the past. It is, as has been mentioned above, really the only option for some sort of fall-back plan, should something go wrong on the way up.

    Good job NASA.
    • by DerekLyons (302214) <(fairwater) (at) (gmail.com)> on Saturday September 20, 2008 @10:40AM (#25085211) Homepage

      I think that this might be a sign of increasing maturity in the process for making decisions about the space program. It seems, at least a little, a bit more reasonable to prepare a rescue option for missions like this rather than simply strapping on the cowboy boots and riding some crazy contraption out of the atmosphere with no viable hope of coming back, should something go wrong.

      More accurately, it's a sign of the hype and hysteria surround space flight and astronauts that such expensive precautions must be taken - when there are thousands of USN submariners at sea right now with no viable hope should something go seriously wrong. Not to mention the hundreds of people who winter over in Antarctica each year. Not to mention the hundred of scientists and crew at sea on USNS research vessels. (A friend of mine is in the middle of the Pacific right now - hundreds of miles from land and well off the shipping lanes. It would take over a day for a search aircraft to reach them - and most of a week for a rescue ship to do so.)
       
      The submariners have rescue vessels standing by, sorta - we were told to expect to wait a week or more back in the 1980's, and our capabilities have declined sharply since then. None of the others have dedicated rescue capability standing by.
       
      And that's just the government jobs...

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        But do those submarines have relatively obvious unfixed failure modes the way the Shuttle does? It's one thing to have no protection from unknown problems and rather different to know that there's a problem with a significant chance of killing you but taking no precautions against it.

        • But do those submarines have relatively obvious unfixed failure modes the way the Shuttle does? It's one thing to have no protection from unknown problems and rather different to know that there's a problem with a significant chance of killing you but taking no precautions against it.

          Since the Shuttle has no known problems with a significant chance of killing the crew... What's your point?

          • What's your definition of "significant"?

            Given the histories of the Shuttle and American submarines, the Shuttle's chances of a fatal ice/tile incident are much greater than anything that would happen to a submarine, and well into the realm of what I would call significant.

            • What you would call significant is hardly relevant. What matters is what constitutes significant from an engineering standpoint - and with the current probability vastly reduced from original low probability of an ice/tile event...

              The consider that across the life of the Shuttle, submarines have suffered one two loss-of-hull accidents (rammed the bottom of the Irish Sea hard enough to damage beyond repair, significant fire damage) and multiple significant damage incidents (ramming the ocean floor,

              • I don't think that "significant" has an official engineering definition. What an individual considers "significant" is certainly important to the discussion, as it is essentially a shortcut way of asking what risk level you consider high enough to make rescue preparations for to mitigate the chances of loss of human life.

                Your comparisons to submarine accidents make no sense to me. Unless I'm grossly misinformed about the US Navy's frequency of operations, there have been far more submarine missions than Shu

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hcdejong (561314)

        Apples and oranges. Surface vessels have lifeboats, for submarines there's the rescue vessels you mention, but until now, astronauts who stranded in space were SOL. NASA said in the past that should this happen, they'd take the next available shuttle and reassemble it as quickly as possible, but they recognized that this would probably be too late. With the Shuttle failure rate being what it is, having a second one on standby IMO isn't responding to hysteria, it's prudent. You'll notice submarines don't hav

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DerekLyons (302214)

          With the Shuttle failure rate being what it is, having a second one on standby IMO isn't responding to hysteria, it's prudent.

          With the failure rate so low, it's responding to hysteria.

          Also, it's not as if they're wasting resources. The standby shuttle will simply become the next mission.

          The standby Shuttle has been rolled out weeks before it would have been rolled out for it's next mission - which means it will be exposed to the elements for weeks longer than it would otherwise have been. B

          • With the failure rate so low, it's responding to hysteria.

            The fatal event rate for shuttle flights is about 2%. Half of those were caused by a known design problem for which there is no implemented solution.

            You can bet that if SSBNs were that unreliable, they would either be shadowed constantly by rescue craft, or never launched in the first place absent a national emergency.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Who will rescue the rescuers?

  • by rrohbeck (944847) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @12:03PM (#25085811)

    Will it be possible to dock a remote controlled craft to it? If yes, wouldn't it make sense to design one that can move the HST to an orbit with a different inclination so it can be serviced again in a couple of years? There was talk about de-orbiting Hubble safely at the end of its life, so why not "de-orbit" it to an orbit that's close to the ISS?

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <(fairwater) (at) (gmail.com)> on Saturday September 20, 2008 @03:42PM (#25087371) Homepage

      Will it be possible to dock a remote controlled craft to it? If yes, wouldn't it make sense to design one that can move the HST to an orbit with a different inclination so it can be serviced again in a couple of years? There was talk about de-orbiting Hubble safely at the end of its life, so why not "de-orbit" it to an orbit that's close to the ISS?

       

      1. That would take an enormous amount of fuel, about ten Shuttle flights worth.
      2. A craft to Shuttle between ISS and Hubble that can support a serving mission doesn't exist anyhow.
  • Move? Why Move? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Endeavour was rolled out to Launch Pad 39B ... If all goes well for STS-125, Endeavour will move over to 39A to be used for STS-126.

    Why are they moving it? Is there some reason they can't launch the non-rescue STS-126 from 39B?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by toddestan (632714)

      Launch Pad 39B was deactivated as a shuttle launch pad when the number of shuttle missions was slashed, and it currently being remodeled for the Ares rocket. They knew they were going to need 39B again for this shuttle mission, so they presumably left all the hardware in place so it could launch a shuttle if need be, but once 39A opens up again they are going to want to get the shuttle out of the way so they can continue with the remodeling.

  • by hazee (728152) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @12:46PM (#25086165)
    If Endeavour is all set to launch from pad 39B in the event of an emergency rescue mission, then why are they planning to move it across to 39A for the "regular" mission?
  • Sadly, no-one has ever released a high resolution photo of a double shuttle stack & probably never will.

  • http://mediaarchive.ksc.nasa.gov/detail.cfm?mediaid=37485 [nasa.gov]
    evokes the feeling that it's just a viewport into actual field with 100s of shuttles ready to launch, as a sign of civilian space travel gone mainstream:)
  • "Everything's good! Mission is a success!"
    "Crap, send up a shuttle to rescue us!"
    "Oh, double crap. We just lost 2/3rds of the shuttle fleet in one shot and crapped out the US Space Program!"
  • An artist's conception of a dual shuttle rescue mission is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MPTbSJH0lE [youtube.com]
  • The idea of having a 2nd spacecraft at the ready in case of an emergency should've been the norm since the very inception of manned space flight.

Invest in physics -- own a piece of Dirac!

Working...