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NASA Space Transportation Science

Final Space Shuttle External Tank Ready For Its Closeup 106

Posted by timothy
from the shut-down-jobs-not-people dept.
tedlistens writes "The last Space Shuttle's external tank was recently lifted into a 'checkout cell' in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, one of the largest buildings in the world. The completion of the last tank meant the shut down of the assembly line – and the 800 remaining people who worked on it – at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The tank contains the liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen that, along with the solid rocket boosters, powers the Shuttle into orbit. Though they are not typically reused — ten seconds after the engines cut off, the tank falls away to break up over the Indian Ocean, away from known shipping lanes — one new plan imagines using old shuttle parts, including pieces of the tank, to build a new moon rocket. There's a beautiful video of the lifting of the tank at Motherboard."
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Final Space Shuttle External Tank Ready For Its Closeup

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  • Embedded Video (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Thursday October 07, 2010 @03:20PM (#33828312) Homepage Journal

    There's a beautiful video of the lifting of the tank at Motherboard.

    Or, if you're like me and tired of sites embedding a YouTube video and calling it "content", you can go directly to the video source [youtube.com].

    Besides, with embedded videos you miss out on the best part of YouTube -- all the great and insightful comments! :)

  • by ausoleil (322752) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @03:27PM (#33828392) Homepage

    While it may seem like a great idea to re-use and re-purpose old Shuttle designs for a new heavy-lift vehicle (HLV) on the surface, in fact, it's something that is not being done for its technical merit. Instead, this design is one that's mandated by Congress. The 535 meddlers instructed NASA not to design and implement the best design or the most practical and capable craft, instead, it told themk in it's latest funding bill that it must use 'elements of other programs "to the extent practicable."

    The congress-people of course want the jobs and prestige that comes from having the companies that build new spacecraft and their parts in their districts.

    Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama said in a prepared statement that:

    “The NASA Authorization bill rejects the Administration’s reckless cancellation of NASA’s human space flight program and provides a framework to continue NASA’s exploration program.

    “I am encouraged that the bill outlines a NASA-designed heavy lift rocket capability and continues Huntsville’s leadership role in NASA’s human exploration efforts. Given the ongoing struggles of up-and-coming space companies to keep their contracted schedules, the bill provides some level of accountability and a defined threshold for safety. With the passage of the NASA Authorization bill, it is clear Congress understands that bravado does not necessarily make a rocket company viable.

    It may come as a surprise to Shelby that SpaceX is preparing its second launch of the Falcon9 rocket, this time with its Dragon capsule on top. It is currently schedule for no earlier than 10/23 of this month. The test launch is to once again test the Falcon9's operations and give information they can use to further refine them, and it is to test the Dragon in orbit. Dragon will eventually be used to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, as well as deliver cargo to it in an unmanned configuration. In other words, Senator Shelby, human space flight atop American rockets is far from dead. Not only that, private concerns have orbited a test flight and is on the verge of another while NASA awaits the whims of Congress.

    With folks like Shelby around, protecting their interests rather than doing the right thing, it will be surprising if any NASA-designed craft orbits humans after the last shuttle lands next year.

  • Re:800 employees? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Tiger4 (840741) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @03:29PM (#33828426)

    Didn't SpaceX get fined for cutting too many corners [latimes.com]? Yep, you don't need many people if you don't intend to do the whole job.

    And considering they are only where NASA was 50 years ago, "The company plans next to launch a Falcon 9 to place a capsule into orbit." I wouldn't be comparing them to a fully developed operation just yet. NASA might be fat but they at least can get a fully mission capable shot off.

  • Re:800 employees? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheEyes (1686556) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @03:38PM (#33828524)

    And considering they are only where NASA was 50 years ago,

    To be fair, the Shuttle is where NASA was 30 years ago

  • Re:800 employees? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @03:43PM (#33828586) Homepage Journal

    Not so much graft by the contractors per say but graft by and for congress.
    Think about how spread out build projects are for anything in the government.
    KSC is where it is because of the law of physics and where land was available at the time. Very few people lived in that part of Florida in the 1940s so it was cheap to buy and it is far enough south to get a boost from the earth's spin and it is over the water.
    They built the tanks and the first stage of the Saturn V in Louisiana because....
    They have mission control and training in Houston TX because....
    Huntsville is there because that was where the Army started working on rockets after WWII.
    Why didn't they build the tanks at KSC and keep all the rest of NASA their?
    Simple if you spread the money around you get support.
    If you have a senator in North Dakota that just happens to have a factory that makes carpeting for the Space Shuttle you end up with a vote at budget time.
    Sad but true with just about every government project of any size. If you look at the hand outs the give congress they will show all the sub contractors and all the jobs for any big project.

  • TFA is idiotic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by peacefinder (469349) <alan@dewitt.gmail@com> on Thursday October 07, 2010 @03:57PM (#33828756) Journal

    While much of what TFA states is true, it deliberately avoids mention of a very important fact: NASA won't need to run its own launch program if it can buy flights from the private commercial sector. Which is, in fact, the plan.

    SpaceX, Boeing, and others are developing rockets and vehicles for just this market. They're very likely going to get these birds in the air well before any new NASA rocket system, and they're surely going to do it cheaper.

    NASA-designed rockets were necessary Back In The Day when launching was about national prestige more than anything else. There were no other options. But in today's world, a government-owned and -operated rocket program is a funding sink, a political football, and a jobs program. NASA is not better off sinking billions into rocket development, when it could be spending that development money for programs that will bring us new capabilities such as on-orbit refueling and assembly. (Which are absolutely necessary prerequisites to long-term missions beyond low Earth orbit.)

    Don't pine for NASA to look back to past glory. Instead, be glad they're being compelled to offload the relatively easy stuff and look forward. Ad astra, baby.

  • Re:800 employees? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @04:19PM (#33829054)

    The Shuttle hasn't been a static design for the last 30 years.

  • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @04:59PM (#33829600)
    The problem is there are some things that are under the category of 'betterment of mankind' that don't align well with the private sector. Flying up and down to a space station? Sure, that could probably be a private sector driven thing. Flying people to Mars for the first time? Probably not. It's like exploring the Mariana Trench - We should do that, because it helps us to understand our blue marble, but it's nothing the private sector is that interested in.

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