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Space Science

Satellite Tip-Over Mishap Due to Missing Bolts 76

cradle writes "On September 6th, the $239 Million Dollar NOAA N-Prime Satellite toppled over and crashed to the floor of Lockheed Martin Space Systems' factory in Sunnyvale, CA, as it was being repositioned to replace an instrument. Today NASA released their report on the cause of the accident. It seems somebody forgot to check whether it was bolted down: '... during an operation that required repositioning (rotating) the TIROS NOAA N-PRIME spacecraft from a vertical to a horizontal position, the spacecraft slipped from the Turn-Over Cart (TOC) and fell to the floor. The spacecraft fell because the TIROS adapter plate to which it was mounted was not bolted to the TOC adapter plate with the required 24 bolts. The bolts were removed from the TOC by another project while the cart was in a common staging area, an activity which was not communicated to the NOAA project team.'"
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Satellite Tip-Over Mishap Due to Missing Bolts

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  • by CheshireCatCO ( 185193 ) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:44PM (#10443453) Homepage
    That's exactly what they said had happened right after the accident. A detailed study of the cause is always in order, but I'm surprised that it took a year to verify what they apparently knew at that outset.
  • Ouch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pinkoir ( 666130 ) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @04:25PM (#10443996)
    As somebody who has personally watched stuff fall off of test tables as they rotate to vertical I can definitively say that that the sinking feeling in your stomache as the equipment slowly topples off the stand is exceeded only by the sinking feeling in your bowels when it shatters on the ground.

    I can only imagine the multiplicative factor involved when it's a $240M satellite instead of a $20K prototype.

    As for why they took a year to report out on the cause...the thing cost 240 million frickin' dollars! I'm sure the managers wanted more of an answer as to why it's in pieces on the ground than "Uh...we dropped it". Maybe they wanted to know "why it was dropped" and "how it was dropped" and "what is the likelyhood that a thing will be dropped again" and "where does that tech who dropped it live?"

  • Re:Personally... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by boredMDer ( 640516 ) <> on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @04:28PM (#10444029)
    You say that now, but once you start working with that type of equipment every day, you get lazy.

    They had used the TOC a few days prior, and there was no documentation that the bolts had been removed, so they assumed that it was fine. If some that other project team hadn't forgotten the documentation this wouldnt've happened.
  • Re:Personally... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JVert ( 578547 ) <corganbilly@hotm ... m minus math_god> on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @05:27PM (#10444760) Journal
    At first I thought it was the CV joint but this car has like 30k miles! The car had a definate knock when we made a turn and had a slower knock as we drove straight. We looked under for any damage and everything look ok. While calling for a tow truck I stared at the car in disgust and noticed a few lug nuts missing... Curious I reached down and unscrewed another one with my fingers. Then I renember I did brakes a month ago... I thanked the operater for their time and said we wouldn't be needing any more help.

    The wife doesn't let me do brakes alone now.

    But no, I look out for tire pressure more then nuts. But thats another story...

There's no such thing as a free lunch. -- Milton Friendman