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Space Science

Dennis Threatens Discovery Launch Date 186

BitFluid writes "According to, hurricane Dennis is casting doubt on the shuttle's July 13th launch date. From the article: 'NASA has until the end of July to send Discovery on a flight to the international space station, otherwise it must wait until September to ensure a daylight launch.' Shuttle managers decided Thursday evening to begin initial preparations to move Discovery from the pad, as the hurricane increased in intensity and headed toward the Gulf of Mexico and Florida's southern tip. NASA spokesman George Diller said, 'We're going to keep our options open. We're still trying to protect the 13th.'"
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Dennis Threatens Discovery Launch Date

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  • Some more info... (Score:5, Informative)

    by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:26PM (#13014843)

    Here's a tracking map of Hurricane Dennis [], courtesy of the good folks over at Weather Underground.

    Looks fairly safe (since Cape Canaveral [] is off the east coast of Florida), but I'm sure the boys over at NASA don't want to take any chances...
  • OOPS! Nevermind! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gleep ( 1840 ) * on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:28PM (#13014863) Homepage Journal
    CNN is reporting now that they have decided to leave it out on the pad and the launch date is not threatened. I tried to notify the /. editor when I saw this posting but I was too late!

    I feel bad for all those people in FL having to deal with this. I lived there a long time and never had to put up with so much hurricane activity.
  • Re:Poor Location (Score:5, Informative)

    by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:31PM (#13014890)
    That's where the infrastructure is. It would very well cost many billions of dollars, if not up into the trillions, to duplicate the Florida establishments in Texas or New Mexico. Not to mention the cost of relocating all of the support staff.
  • No Delays (Score:5, Informative)

    by UMhydrogen ( 761047 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:33PM (#13014912) Homepage
    According to SpaceFlightNow [] there will be NO delays with the launch.

    "NASA managers Thursday evening decided to begin preparing the shuttle Discovery for a possible roll back to the protection of the Vehicle Assembly Building should Hurricane Dennis take a turn to the east and threaten the Space Coast. At a midnight meeting, however, officials put those preparations on hold. And this morning the decision was made to cancel any rollback.

    Technicians at launch pad 39B have disconnected explosive ordnance as part of early rollback preparations. At a midnight senior management meeting, however, officials decided not to continue with the list of chores to unhook Discovery from its seaside complex given a more optimistic weather outlook that keeps Dennis well away from Kennedy Space Center. Proceeding with more rollback activities overnight would have prevented an on-time launch Wednesday.

    Rollback to the VAB would have to be completed before the wind reaches 40 knots (46 MPH). [It would take] about 48 hours from the time the decision is made to the time we are in the VAB. We had a weather briefing and at this point we are fairly confident we will not have to fuss with the storm, at least this one this time. It's a long hurricane season."

  • Reply to own post (Score:0, Informative)

    by darth_MALL ( 657218 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:36PM (#13014937)
    "Cape Canaveral was chosen for rocket launches to take advantage of the earth's rotation. At the equator, the centrifugal force of earth's rotation is the maximum. The direction of earth's rotation is such that to take advantage of the rotation, rockets should be launched eastward. It is also highly desirable to have the downrange area sparsely populated, ideally an ocean, in case of accidents. Thus rockets should be launched from a continent's east coast as close to the equator as possible. For the United States, Florida is the most southerly east coast location."
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:36PM (#13014940)
    Every two years Mars is in the right position for a launch window of three weeks. That happens to August for a new imaging orbiter. There is one week per month suitable for the space station, and these two collide in August.
  • old news? (Score:4, Informative)

    by skydude_20 ( 307538 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:36PM (#13014947) Journal
    latest launch news says they're not worried:

    NASA still aiming for Wednesday shuttle launch
    Hurricane Dennis isn't threatening the liftoff of the space shuttle Discovery, and NASA officials are still aiming for a liftoff next week. CE=1 []
  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:36PM (#13014948) Homepage
    High velocity, turbulent winds + precise trajectories required = Very Bad

    High-speed flying debris + extremely lightweight airframe components = Very Bad

    Lightning + tall metal structure full of exceedingly combustable materials = Very Bad

    If craft is launching: Rain + moving at thousands of meters per second, turning each drop into an impactor = Very Bad

    Especially if craft is launching: Wind shear + very tall, weak object = Very Bad

    Even if there is no damage to the craft, inspection time = Very Expensive, Bad.

    Need I go on? Inclement weather is horrible to rockets. Even having to move the craft off its pad and back into the assembly building alone, then move it back, is a very big, expensive, time consuming task. If there's any damage to the building, and especially if there's damage to the vehicle, it could be a huge issue. Even if the storm doesn't hit Florida, slight bad weather from the fringes of the storm can be very bad for rockets during launch, for reasons described above and more.
  • Re:so what (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:52PM (#13015082) Homepage
    Are you kidding or serious? I'll pretend serious.

    The shuttle has several options in the event of damage. First off, they've spent the past several years, in addition to many, many other things, developing RCC and tile repair methods. While limited, they have the ability to fix small holes. Secondly, most debris falloff (which, by the way, was not a "shuttle" problem, but a problem with almost every rocket in the world, especially LOX/LH ones, but also for LOX/Kerosene ones) has been largely reduced (near eliminated) due to using heaters instead of insulation on the bipod and developing better foam application techniques (with other large rockets are likely to copy). If there is damage, and they don't feel safe reentering, the crew is to stay housed on ISS until a rescue mission can be launched. Even still, with a Why can the X-prize competitors do what they do

    I tired of having to explain this every time, so I wrote Why SpaceShipOne Never Did, Never Will, And None Of Its Direct Descendants Ever Will, Orbit The Earth. []. Read it first, and *then* we can discuss orbital spaceflight. If your hope is "private spaceflight", you're looking at the wrong spot. You need to look at companies actually going to orbit, like SpaceX.
  • Re:Poor Location (Score:2, Informative)

    by krswan ( 465308 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:52PM (#13015089)
    Let's not forget how many failed launches ended up in the Atlantic between the Cape and Africa in the 50's and 60's. Look at a map. Only Florida is south enough for the inertial assist to orbit from the Earth, and has several thousand miles of Ocean east of it.
  • Re:Poor Location (Score:2, Informative)

    by Nopal ( 219112 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @02:21PM (#13015317)
    Mexico has very significant oil reserves around the Yucatan peninsula and the Gulf of Mexico. It's of a slightly lower grade than the mideastern oil, but it's quite a bit of oil nonetheless.
  • by brontus3927 ( 865730 ) <edwardra3&gmail,com> on Friday July 08, 2005 @02:31PM (#13015399) Homepage Journal
    the ISS isn't in geosynchronous orbit, but in low-earth orbit. As such, it is constantly changing it's position WRT the ground. Once the shuttle reaches orbit, it has to "catch-up" with the ISS, or let the ISS catch-up with it. If ISS is hovering over China when the shuttle is over Florida, then that's a lot of energy it has to use (or a long wait) to reach the ISS. But if the ISS is near by during launch time, then it takes less fuel and time to reach. So yeah, it is that hard to meet up with the ISS
  • Re:Poor Location (Score:3, Informative)

    by Eternally optimistic ( 822953 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @02:41PM (#13015481)
    Actually, the USA imports about 13% of it's imported oil (they have a lot themselves) from Mexico. Mexico is the 3rd largest source after Canada and Saudi Arabia.
  • Re:Apollo 12 (Score:2, Informative)

    by cashman73 ( 855518 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @03:00PM (#13015633) Journal
    Apollo 12 was launched in a storm and was hit by lightning, . . .

    There was also a hurricane near the prime recovery zone of Apollo 13 as well. That flight was loaded with lots of luck, apparently,. . . ;-)

  • Re:so what (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 08, 2005 @04:22PM (#13016328)
    I like your posts, but you are sort of rude. you know what you are talking about, but you talk down to people. Some of us post to get information and ask questions- so you should be polite.
    Gee "Are you being serious?" - Sarcasm is rage's ugly cousin.
    So while I thank you ofr your knowledge, I wish you would be more polite about sharing it. Anyway, have a good weekend bud.

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."