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NASA Space Technology

Endeavour's Launch Once More Delayed 65

Posted by timothy
from the shh-they're-building-suspense dept.
schleprock63 writes "NASA has delayed the launch of Endeavour due to inclement weather, mostly lightning. According to NASA, 'Cumulus clouds and lightning violated rules for launching Endeavour because of weather near the Shuttle Landing Facility. The runway would be needed in the unlikely event that Endeavour would have to make an emergency landing back at Kennedy. Endeavour's next launch attempt is 6:51 p.m. EDT Monday. NASA TV coverage will begin at 1:30 p.m.'"
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Endeavour's Launch Once More Delayed

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  • News? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fm6 (162816) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @10:01PM (#28672115) Homepage Journal

    I think it's only news when a shuttle launch isn't delayed.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, it's only news when it doesn't crash... I kid! I kid! I love the shuttle. Try the tang...

      • by fishbowl (7759)

        >Try the tang...

        Tang is the Mandarin word for "sugar."

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Jerry Rivers (881171) *

          >Tang is the Mandarin word for "sugar."

          It's also the English word for "piss".

          • by RuBLed (995686)
            It is the Klingon word for "cake"...
      • Re:News? (Score:5, Funny)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @10:44PM (#28672353) Journal
        Since nobody will have to be flying tonight, I recommend tang with vodka: the "Buzzed Aldrin"...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sexybomber (740588)
      What's NASA's record for successful first tries? Does Mission Control have to buy the crew a beer when they get back if the shot goes up on the first attempt?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Abreu (173023)

      Well, considering that the Launchpad received multiple lightning strikes, I think it was wise to delay the launch...

      After all, anyone who's read Pratchett knows that that's the way gods like to ask you to pay attention

  • I've seen it before, the Endeavour can land even in an unused riverbed in LA! Just have to have the right pilots...
  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @10:38PM (#28672331)

    Whatever happened to the considerable R&D projects to replace the shuttle with a new model?

    your average laptop has considerably more computing power than the first shuttles had, and while the electronics have been updated, the engineering behind the overall superstructure, propulsion, etc are equally dated.

    When last I heard, the proposals being considered represented a potential 30% cost reduction, and they were looking for better.

    What happened to those?

    Building those would create jobs across the board across the entire income and skill spread of the american populace, and it would dramatically reduce the risk of mortality for those we send into space for research and save us money in the future which we will need to balance out the tremendous spending currently underway*

    *(yes.. yes.. feel free to giggle or outright guffaw at this last point, but there is still a very slim chance we'll have some fiscally responsible politician elected some time)

    • by hoarier (1545701)

      your average laptop has considerably more computing power than the first shuttles had

      Unless the talented Mr Cheney has yet again kept something from us, the shuttles aren't expected to run MS Office, Photoshop, World of Warcraft, Conficker, etc under Vista. So perhaps they have enough oomph as it is.

    • by camperdave (969942) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @11:06PM (#28672459) Journal
      When last I heard, the proposals being considered represented a potential 30% cost reduction, and they were looking for better.

      The DIRECT team has presented their Jupiter design before the Augustine panel and the Aerospace Corporation who are going to do an "apples to apples" comparison of the various launch vehicles. Hopefully these panels will choose the Jupiter launch vehicle as the most practical way forward.
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by cyn1c77 (928549)

      Whatever happened to the considerable R&D projects to replace the shuttle with a new model?

      I'm sorry, we're just fresh out of cash! First we gave a lot of our money to Iraq/Afganistan in the form of bombs and bullets. Then we gave the rest to our incompetent banks and car companies.

      Our government (both sides!) have decided it is better to pour money into losers instead of trying to innovate.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by dicobalt (1536225)
      Blowing people up into space is not spaceflight. It's hard to do and it's dangerous yea - that's my point. It is not by any means spaceflight. The vehicles always have some problem, they are incredibly delicate for something that gets mashed around with such vibrations and g forces. What if your car needed to be 80% gastank and you could only drive for a few minutes? The vehicles are so laughable in their usefulness. Now it's not like we have any alternatives, what I am saying is there needs to be som
    • by ChipMonk (711367) on Monday July 13, 2009 @12:00AM (#28672725) Journal
      The technology NASA uses for human-based space exploration is never the latest-and-greatest. The risk to the on-board human crew can be reduced by knowing the most likely failure modes of all the technology involved. Remember, it took some years before the effects of cosmic rays on dynamic RAM were proven. That's why NASA stuck with magnetic core memory for so long.

      The autonomous vehicles, like the Spirit and Opportunity probes on Mars, can use newer technology, and can even give us demonstrations of how the newer tech behaves when exposed to the harsh conditions of outer space. But when human lives are involved, the older, well-understood technology gives the best odds of a successful mission.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by confused one (671304)
      they were all cancelled. Until the Columbia accident, Congress didn't seem too interested in funding a program to replace the shuttles. Right now, it's still not clear, with the funding for the Constellation program being in question.
    • by FleaPlus (6935) on Monday July 13, 2009 @12:14AM (#28672769) Journal

      Whatever happened to the considerable R&D projects to replace the shuttle with a new model?

      Off the top of my head, here's a quick summary of the various serious efforts into creating new manned spacecraft over the past 10-15 years:

      • DC-X [wikipedia.org]: A low-cost VTVL prototype built under a $58 million contract, which is still regarded by many as an ideal approach to an orbital vehicle. Plans were to create incrementally larger versions of it which would eventually be able to attain orbit in a cost-effective fashion. Unfortunately, during one of its flight tests a field technician messed up the landing gear, so it fell over when it landed and was destroyed (1996). The company told NASA it'd need $50 million to build a new one, but NASA used the opportunity to cancel the project so it could instead give more funds to the billion-dollar X-33/Venturestar project. Its spiritual successors are John Carmack's Armadillo Aerospace and Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin. In fact, the secretive Blue Origin company has hired several of the former DC-X engineers. One of the Armadillo members has a great write-up of the DC-X here: http://media.armadilloaerospace.com/DCX/ [armadilloaerospace.com]
      • X-33 [wikipedia.org]: Interesting project which would have tested a bunch of fascinating technologies (e.g. composite cryogenic fuel tanks, metallic thermal protection, an aerospike engine, lifting body design). Unfortunately, NASA really should've tried testing those technologies individually first, instead of putting every single one of them in the critical path of a new vehicle design. Oops. I believe the main problem ended up being the composite fuel tank, and when that failed the entire project (which had used up a billion dollars thus far) had to be canceled in 2001.
      • Orbital Space Plane [wikipedia.org]: A low-cost vehicle intended to launch on already-existing EELVs, started in 2003 and expected to start carrying crew by 2010. In 2004, this project was transferred to the Crew Exploration Vehicle project.

      Now, the currently ongoing projects and contenders:

      • Crew Exploration Vehicle [astronautix.com]: This is a little complicated. Back in 2004, the Crew Exploration Vehicle was announced, and it was assumed it'd be similar to the Orbital Space Plane project it derived from: a low-cost capsule which could be launched on already-existing EELV rockets like the Delta IV Heavy or Atlas V. This went through a number of stages of design studies and competitive flight tests planned, with unmanned tests by 2008 and unmanned tests sometime in the 2010-2014 range. Unfortunately, in 2005 Michael Griffin came in, proclaimed that he had a superior design and tossed out all the prior work. Although he claimed his design was simpler and faster, and commissioned NASA studies to "prove this," history has pretty well proved that his design (now the Ares I) was nowhere near as simple and straightforward as he thought it would be. Instead of the plan to have low-cost CEV launching on existing vehicles it had before, NASA currently has the Ares I which has an ever-increasing cost, currently around $35 billion. The per-launch cost is also expected to be as much as or higher than the space shuttle. Oops.
      • DIRECT: A bunch of undercover NASA engineers who didn't believe Ares was the best solution but were afraid of retribution from Griffin, so they anonymously released a plan they thought was superior. Since it's Shuttle-derived it's certainly more expensive than an EELV-based design, but would have a larger payload.
      • EELVs [wikipedia.org]: These rockets are already used regularly to launch payloads for NASA and private industry, and most of the final proposals for the pre-Griffi
    • your average laptop has considerably more computing power than the first shuttles had

      Umm... So what? The computing horsepower available then was sufficient to perform the job needed. The Shuttle's systems and the equations behind orbital dynamics haven't changed greatly, so the Shuttle's software isn't going to behave like the typical marketplace driven software you are familiar with and suffer from feature creep and code bloat.

      Not to mention that commercial PC's (Windows, Mac, and Linux alike) ba

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      They used and still use older model CPU's because they are much easier to radiation harden. I'm sure you can appreciate that when you're traveling thousands of miles an hour you would prefer your flight controls to display correct alpha-numeric properties. Radiation hardening is much more important than processing power, it's not like they're playing Crysis up there or anything (that I know of anyway).
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by FLaSh SWT (233251)

        it's not like they're playing Crysis up there or anything (that I know of anyway).

        Crysis! They can't even watch DVDs up there, remember? [slashdot.org]

      • Conservatism about CPUs comes for a variety of reasons, all of which I like. First, it is much better to use an inherently rad-hard technology than to radiation harden an existing design. Rad-hard technology tends to lag commercial technology because it is much, much more expensive. Second, however, modern processor technology is in some ways the enemy of reliability. With things like out of order execution, multilevel cache and the release of cpus that have minor microcode bugs that are fixed with CPU driv
        • I think this is a case of over-thought and improper focus.

          rather than demanding inordinate precision out of the computer components, the abstraction layers over them should have greater flexibility and be able to account for occasional abberations.

          there's a reason everyone with a brain bigger than a chimp is taught to write error handlers into their code.

    • your average laptop has considerably more computing power than the first shuttles had, and while the electronics have been updated, the engineering behind the overall superstructure, propulsion, etc are equally dated.

      We were interviewing Buzz Aldrin on Friday and he brought up the fact that everyone mentions how his cell phone has more processing power than the computer they had on Apollo 11. He said something to the effect that he'd still take that Apollo computer over a newer off-the-shelf computer beca

    • by mdwh2 (535323)

      I agree with your other points, and I'm all in favour of improved space exploration, but:

      Building those would create jobs across the board across the entire income and skill spread of the american populace

      That's just the broken window fallacy. The money that would have been spent on improving the shuttles is still available to create jobs elsewhere.

      • I agree with your other points, and I'm all in favour of improved space exploration, but:

        Building those would create jobs across the board across the entire income and skill spread of the american populace

        That's just the broken window fallacy. The money that would have been spent on improving the shuttles is still available to create jobs elsewhere.

        because the private sector is just JUMPING at the chance to employ people right?

        It's not a fallacy when nobody else is willing to do it.

  • I bet that the delay flight switch is a lot more sensitive now after the Challenger explosion 73 seconds after launching. Remember back then we had learned that there was a lot of pressure on NASA staff to launch.

    Columbia breaking apart on re-entry in 2003 might also have raised the delay flight switch sensitivity a bit.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      All true, but I bet the astronauts wish they had a "just launch this fucker" button they could push to override the worry warts in mission control.
      Lightning at 20 miles, who cares! Lets get on with it!

      • All true, but I bet the astronauts wish they had a "just launch this fucker" button they could push to override the worry warts in mission control. Lightning at 20 miles, who cares! Lets get on with it!

        That would be suicidal. More often than not the operators of the Shuttle have been shown to be insufficiently conservative.

    • by homm2 (729109)
      The real reason NASA is so sensitive in calling off launches due to potential lightning strikes is more likely Apollo 12 [wikipedia.org], where a lightning strike almost caused the mission to fail.
      • that and the shitload of pyrotechnic bolts holding the thing together. It might be bad... if a number of those bolts "fired" early during the ascent.
        • by bitrex (859228)
          Another issue that I heard pointed out by a Shuttle engineer that I hadn't thought of - any incident that damages the payload bay door latching mechanism or the electronic control of said mechanism will doom the Shuttle. If the doors can't be latched, it's impossible to re-enter the atmosphere.
  • Really now... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Who's bright idea was it to put the main launch facility in *Florida*. Okay, virtually no snow to worry about, yeah, but in the summer months, it storms, especially on the coastal areas, almost *daily* in the evenings. I'm sure there's a reason why they can't launch it earlier or they would, but this is getting a little ridiculous...

    • Closest to Equator? (Score:4, Informative)

      by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@gm a i l.com> on Monday July 13, 2009 @02:07AM (#28673221) Homepage Journal

      Who's bright idea was it to put the main launch facility in *Florida*.

      I think the deal is that the closer to the equator you launch from, the cheaper it is. That's why the French launch Ariane from a complex in French Guyana.

      • by Megane (129182)

        Except that they launch from a latitude not far south of Houston. If LBJ could've moved it to Corpus Christi, I'm sure he would have.

        Still, the Cape is a nicely convenient bump, and all that water around the area probably had a lot to recommend it in terms of keeping the Ruskies out back in the '60s.

        • Except that they launch from a latitude not far south of Houston. If LBJ could've moved it to Corpus Christi, I'm sure he would have.

          Still, the Cape is a nicely convenient bump, and all that water around the area probably had a lot to recommend it in terms of keeping the Ruskies out back in the '60s.

          And there's another thing about all that water, and it's a factor that had a lot to do with the choice of Cape Canaveral: plenty of space to have a crash in without worrying about rockets and debris coming down on houses, schools, other sorts of buildings and ... well, anything with people, really.

          Shuttle bumped again tonight [space.com]. They're going right past Tuesday (weather down this way tomorrow is expected to be worse than it was today) and aim for a launch at 18:03:10 Eastern time on Wednesday (2203 GMT).

    • by Megane (129182)
      Launch windows dictate what time of the day you have to launch. The ISS has a rather eccentric orbit to make things easier for Russia, and it precesses [calgary.rasc.ca] relative to the ground, so you have to wait for it to cross the right longitude. And of course after Challenger, they really don't like to launch at night if they don't have to.
  • I am in Orlando next week and am sincerely hoping everyday they delay until late July - this would be my only chance in life to see a shuttle launch.
  • What's wrong in being exta-safe? We're talking here about human life and about the space exploration program's future. If something good came out of the Challenger and Columbia lessons is that you cannot hurry or cheat mother nature and hope everything will magically go fine somehow. The shuttles are not as young as they use to be and we have no replacement for them yet, thanks to latest years budget cuts.
    And they've chosen Florida for launch because being close to the Equator will help preserve fuel for

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