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Shuttle Atlantis Launched Without Incident 102

forkazoo writes "Space.com is reporting the successful launch of the space shuttle Atlantis. There were no major incidents or problems during the launch, except that there was some concern about the weather at the two European abort landing sites. The weather cleared up and the launch was pretty much perfect. 'Preliminary analysis of images taken by onboard cameras revealed expected "popcorning" foam loss during ascent but none that appeared to strike the orbiter. NASA has kept a close watch on the shedding of fuel tank foam insulation during shuttle launches since the 2003 Columbia accident, which claimed the lives of seven astronauts, and made modifications to reduce the amount of debris shed during liftoffs.' The launch was broadcast live NASA TV stream."
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Shuttle Atlantis Launched Without Incident

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  • Preliminary analysis of images taken by onboard cameras revealed expected "popcorning" foam loss during ascent[...]
    Cameras and popcorn! I believe that you can go to NASA's website and print off coupons for one free soft drink as well.
  • Wow (Score:3, Interesting)

    by locokamil ( 850008 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:01PM (#19447935) Homepage
    I've been watching NASA TV's feed of the mission for the last 15 minutes or so. It offers a real insight into what goes into making a shuttle flight.

    Definitely worth checking out.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ScottyKUtah ( 716120 )
      The best part of the NASA TV coverage is no idiotic commentary from the news stations. FOX, CNN, MSNBC, etc all figure that they have to talk over the NASA Public Affairs officials to explain what's going on. If they would just shut up, we could actually listen and figure it out for ourselves. It was a good launch, now I'm looking forward to the HD video.
    • I was out in Jetty Park and watched the launch live..

      Too bad it wasn't a couple of hours later, night launches are really spectacular. The thing that always impresses me, is the sound, first you see the engines start and the shuttle lifting off and then comes the sound, a rolling thunder that just won't let go..

      If you never have experienced a shuttle launch, take some vacation and come down to Central Florida for a shuttle launch. Comparing it to watching one on TV is not possible, it has to be experien
      • I would love to do that at some stage. The problem is that I have a job in New York that allows for very little free time. Being that shuttle launches are often delayed, planning an excursion to see one is a bit of a hit-or-miss proposal.

        Dammit, I'm missing out on too much...
        • Well, bad choice about work, I guess....

          I have never worked a single job in the last 25+ years that required me to work more than 8 hours per day. I work to live, not live to work. And I guess you have never heard of vacation either? I have over 4 weeks a year with paid vacation and I'm enjoying every single minute!
          • by 6 ( 22657 )
            are you sure you are an American? I thought the countries whole ethos was self destruction.
            • I'm not an American, but I have lived and worked here for a decade or so, and yes, totally legally.
  • Sad. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DAldredge ( 2353 ) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:01PM (#19447937) Journal
    It is sad that a Shuttle launching with no problems is major news.
    • Re:Sad. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ronadams ( 987516 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:36PM (#19448127) Homepage
      A shuttle launch is an amazing work of technology. So, no, it's really great that it's major news. [flamebait answer]What's wrong? Not enough carnage or NASCAR for you?[/flamebait answer]
      • Re:Sad. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DAldredge ( 2353 ) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:45PM (#19448171) Journal
        It is sad in that it is now June and this is the first launch of the year. Such lauches should be such a common occurance that they aren't great and/or amazing news. That is what is sad in all this.
        • Re:Sad. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by vought ( 160908 ) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @12:06AM (#19448289)
          When I was growing up - in 1978 or thereabouts, we were told that there'd be 100 launches per year within a decade.

          They didn't even get off the ground until 1981.

          It's the most complex machine ever made. It's not sad that we're only taking our first flight of the year, but I think we could have done better without the bureaucracy and lack of focus at NASA.

          How do we get that focus back? Things don't look good to this casual observer - we're pouring a half trillion dollars and an open-ended commitment into this stupid war to preserve a strategic hold on oil fields while NASA languishes and the country's imagination stagnates. We've financed our burgeoning national debt by mortgaging our manufacturing base to the far east, and practically the only heavy industries we still have leadership in are the very industries that NASA is charged with research in - aerospace.

          That's what is sad - as a country, we've let our politicians and corporations pursue their own interests for so long and to such bounds that we are in danger of losing some of the few jewels we still have left in our crown. As it is, this first flight of the year garnered so few eyeballs that it'll probably be known as the shuttle that launched the day they sent Paris Hilton back to jail.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by DerekLyons ( 302214 )

            It's the most complex machine ever made.

            That's NASA propaganda. A nuclear submarine or an aircraft carrier is complex - the Shuttle is a child's toy in comparison.
          • How do we get that focus back? Things don't look good to this casual observer - we're pouring a half trillion dollars and an open-ended commitment into this stupid war to preserve a strategic hold on oil fields while NASA languishes and the country's imagination stagnates.

            You're making the common mistake that NASA's focus comes from a lack of money. On the contrary, lack of money increases focus -- because it has to. NASA has an enormous amount of money by any reasonable standard. It's only when you com

          • I think the expectation of 100 launches a year was probably known at the time as being a fantasy. The shuttle was also expected to be cheap entry into space and at a cost of over half a billion per launch, it's probably the most expensive launch platform, short of Apollo's Saturn V, which was a lot more potent.

            It was claimed that they would launch a lot of satellites using the orbiter platform, but that was just dumb when unmanned rockets can do the same for a lot cheaper. The orbiter's only decent sellin
          • by 6 ( 22657 )
            > It's the most complex machine ever made.

            I keep reading this in different places and wonder what precisely the metric is.

            I can certainly believe it was the most complex manned space craft built in the 70s. Beyond that though I wonder.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by mh1997 ( 1065630 )

          Such lauches should be such a common occurance that they aren't great and/or amazing news. That is what is sad in all this.
          The launches may not be a very common occurrence, but they are common enough that while watching it with my daughter on HDnet, she was bored because according to her, it was "the same old thing."

          When the launches would bore me, we'll have made real progress in space flight.

          • Such lauches should be such a common occurance that they aren't great and/or amazing news. That is what is sad in all this.

            The launches may not be a very common occurrence, but they are common enough that while watching it with my daughter on HDnet, she was bored because according to her, it was "the same old thing."

            When the launches would bore me, we'll have made real progress in space flight.

            I get what you're saying there but I think I'd always remain interested. I know I still like watching jumbo-jets take off, especially if I can get close. Jetwash [youtube.com] is incredible. I still get a thrill when I'm right up at the crossing gate when a freight train comes rumbling through. It's the excitement of all that power tamed and put to use by man. Really stirs the blood.

      • A shuttle launch is an amazing work of technology. So, no, it's really great that it's major news. [flamebait answer]What's wrong? Not enough carnage or NASCAR for you?[/flamebait answer]
        I believe what he meant is that it's sad that things going right is the exception rather than the rule, not that the shuttle is a topic unworthy of slashdot.

      • by AJWM ( 19027 )
        A shuttle launch is an amazing work of 30-year old technology.

        Fixed that for you.

        What's amazing (well, more sad really) is that they didn't replace the thing twenty years ago, post-Challenger. Instead they just added another layer of kludges.
    • Why is is P modded offtopic? A suttle launch IS the topic at hand, and P is commenting on it.
    • People used to care about important moments.

      People would think and a grab dream and wish.

      Sometimes it worked.

      Dream and take.

    • The media has an irrational, entertainment based, algorithm at work when it comes to selection and promotion of news stories. Promotion of space flight stories is generally good, however it's clear judging from the number of comments posted here that it doesn't mean much to the slashdot crowd who correctly filter as not much in the way of new or interesting. The gee whiz factor works for CNN though.
    • And it is wryly amusing that launching them seems to be a piece of cake; getting all the way through the mission without blowing up, well, that's a whole other story!

      Seems to ME that the big media blitz should be along the lines of "Hey! They made it! Look! They're safe, having burgers in the spaceport lunchroom!"
    • Turns out that there's a problem anyway.

      http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/space/06/09/space.shu ttle.ap/index.html [cnn.com]

      Now, THAT is sad. And I hope that it really is 'no big deal'.. Even though my first reaction was "Oh S*&t".

      May the crew have a safe return.
  • by NevDull ( 170554 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:09PM (#19447971) Homepage Journal
    Is it only me wondering why the foam thing wasn't a problem in the 80s and 90s, and then after it came up as an issue, the people who pulled off some fantastic stuff with the Mars rovers are surprised when they don't have a problem with the foam, and everything is so tenuous?
    • I am going to guess that it has always been an issue, but a minor one. Say each liftoff there is a 1% chance of the foam causing a problem. After a few dozen flights of safely ignoring it... BOOM. Now that exact same 1% seems too high, so they try to reduce the danger.
      • Re:Foam problems (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        The problems all started when they changed the foam formula. The old foam (BX 250) didn't break off. However, it contained CFC 11 so was deemed bad for the environment by the EPA. NASA applied for an exemption, but was denied. In 1996, NASA switched to an HCFC 141b based foam. The new foam isn't as good an insulator, so it has to be thicker, and it isn't as strong. This means it tends to break off, and in large pieces. /Waiting for NASA to be forced to use lead free solder. And the fireworks that wou
    • The foam was technically always a risk, but it became a significantly greater one once it was determined that the old foam was environmentally unfriendly (damaged the ozone layer I think), and then it was replaced with a more "green" version that chipped apart much more readily.
      • by agengr ( 1098271 ) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @12:01AM (#19448269)
        The "old" foam wasn't any better. In fact, Columbia rode an old tank on her ill-fated STS 107. The fact is, Shuttles have been returning with TPS damage for the entire program. But much like the erosion in the SRB o-rings pre-Challenger, the threat was never perceived to be so great that action was necessary to prevent a loss of vehicle/crew. Now we know better, and now they take every ounce of foam loss very seriously.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          Shuttles have been returning with TPS damage for the entire program.

          It used to be you'd just file a TPS report on the damage and be done with it. But that was back when Y2K was the biggest concern.

          </OfficeSpace>

        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by elkto ( 558121 )
          I am sorry, this is not accurate. The foam was changed over to a new environmentally friendly one some time ago, even though the subcontractor was granted a waiver by the EPA to use the older/tested material. It is this new foam that is the problem. The decision to switch foam types was some what political as the controlling subcontractor was changed from Rockwell to Lockheed at that time. As I understand it, this is egg on the face of a particular colonel, and he seems to be very good at obfuscating his
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          What the hell are you talking about? Yes foam and ice has always fallen off and yes it was always a risk, and yes TPS tiles have been damaged on previous shuttle flights. The new non-Freon based foam however did significantly exacerbate these risks. And Columbia most assuredly did NOT fly with an "old" tank, as the contractor who makes the tank had switched to the new foam several years earlier and they don't keep these things stockpiled. They're built to order for the mission. Do you have some reference to
    • IT was an issue. Discover was seriously damaged in 98 or 99 and heated gasses seeped into the shuttle itself and burned alot of components and damaged the wing.
    • The foam problem started when the EPA banned freon. NASA used freon based foam as insulation prior to 1997. Freon based foam doesn't cause as much damage to tiles as non-freon based. Search Google for shuttle freon foam for plenty of references.
      • With the carbon footprint each shuttle launch represents, it's a wonder NASA is allowed to launch any of these 80's-style dinosars.

        • You are mistaken (Score:3, Informative)

          Carbon footprint? Are you trying to be funny? The shuttle burns liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The resulting exhaust is not carbon dioxide, it's water vapor. Get a life.
          • And it's launched off the back of a pedal-driven biplane??
            • And it's launched off the back of a pedal-driven biplane??

              The shuttle isn't launched off the back of anything. You're not thinking that there is a huge plane that gives the shuttle a piggy-back ride to a really high altitude and then the shuttle zooms away from there, are you? The videos that you've seen of the shuttle riding on top of a larger jet are when the shuttle is ferried from one site to another. It's like using a trailer to get your funny car to the track on race day. (How's that for a Slas
              • I can't believe I've seen THREE critical replies that totally miss the point of the original poster.

                The original poster made the claim that the Space Shuttle launch represents a huge carbon footprint, and he's absolutely right.

                Yes, the fuel powering the Shuttle is H and O, but the power required to produce liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen is NOT FREE. One of the cheapest and most common power sources in the world is dino power, and it is the largest source of power in the US.

                I would certainly call that a
                • I would certainly call that a huge carbon footprint, the carbon has simply been removed by the time it reaches the Shuttle. Sure, you can make the fuel in more environmentally-friendly ways, but that's not how we do things in this country. Pretending that the fuel in the Space Shuttle doesn't have dino roots is a fool's errand.

                  But even if that were the case, that's not something unique to the Shuttle's design, just part of doing business in general. So while I understood the OP's point, I think it's stupid,

          • by mfrank ( 649656 )
            You are aware that liquid hydrogen and oxygen are manufactured using, you guess it, techniques that have a substantial carbon footprint?
            • Except that the OP was referring to an "80's dinosaur", the shuttle itself, not the launch process. There is nothing inherent to electrolyzing water that produces carbon dioxide. It could be powered by nuclear reactors, wind farms, solar mirror arrays, etc. In fact every step of the process could be powered by nuclear reactors. So there's nothing inherent to the SHUTTLE that makes it dirty, just economics and people's irrational fear of anything with the word "nuclear".
    • The Mars Rover program was a smaller team, off to the side. It is a project which hadn't drawn the attention of the bureaucracy, so it wasn't loaded down the way the big 'meat and potatoes' projects are. Unencumbered, it was shockingly successful. Not unlike the way 'skunkworks' projects work every day in the real world.
    • Is it only me wondering why the foam thing wasn't a problem in the 80s and 90s, and then after it came up as an issue, the people who pulled off some fantastic stuff with the Mars rovers are surprised when they don't have a problem with the foam, and everything is so tenuous?

      It was a problem in the 80's and 80's - but it never caused significant damage, so NASA largely ignored it. Just as with Challenger and the O-rings.
  • NASA TV was just showing some minor thermal blanket damage...
  • Preliminary analysis of images taken by onboard cameras revealed expected "popcorning" foam loss during ascent but none that appeared to strike the orbiter.

    the fact that the shuttle *not* exploding/crashing etc. is big news should be a warning sign to NASA about this foam... I mean what the hell is it doing on the OUTSIDE of the tank in the first place? wouldn't it be safer/smarter to have it INSIDE the tank its self? I mean the whole purpose of the foam is to keep the fuel nice and cool, which keeps the

    • There is a simple answer to the problem of the tank foam peeling off if damaged during launch, which has
      • already
      been flight-tested! The first few launches had a external tank. Later launches discarded the paint coating to save a couple tons of payload weight. Reinstating this coating would have the effect of providing a tougher skin to the foam, making it more damage-resistant. Aren't the lives of the crew worth the small hit on payload capacity?
      • Don't worry. They're fixing the whole foam issue in the next space craft by simply redoing the whole design to go back to the Saturn V rocket of the late 60's/early 70's. I think the plans for the rocket coming after the new crew exploration vehicle involve some fireworks strapped to a chair.
      • that is like duct taping your coffee drink on top of the car because it would be "safer" than just leaving it out there- to continue the analogy [a bad one I know] wouldn't it make sense to just take the cup inside the car instead of duct taping it to the roof?
      • the paint might prevent the popcorning, which is no threat to the shuttle anyway since the pieces are too small and usually occur after the majority of the atmosphere has been exited. However, no amount of paint would have prevented the large chunks from falling off during STS 107 or 114. The forces from the air escaping the voids in the hand laid foam is too great, which is why removing most of the hand laid foam whenever possible has already been done.
    • Best I can think of at the moment is that you don't want foam breaking off in the fuel and clogging fuel lines.
      • ah but that can easily be solved by encasing the fuel outlet with a mesh of some sort- lets fuel past but not chunks of foam. besides, is it really that much better to have chunks fall off on the outside and shatter the heat shield? I imagine that if chunks somehow clogged the fuel line they would just eject the tank, use the shuttles remaining thrusters to keep a stable trajectory and glide back to Earth.
        • If all three SSMEs fail in the first 90 seconds, the aerodynamic drag of the orbiter might tear it away from the tank, where it would disintegrate from the high angle of attack and the backwash from the SRBs. You really don't want to interfere with the fuel flow. And that flow can drain a swimming pool in 25 seconds, so it can probably suck bits of foam through a mesh. Cryogenic tank design is one of those areas where it's pretty unlikely that people like us will have good ideas that the rocket scientist
        • by evanbd ( 210358 )

          If the turbines ingested much of anything at all, they would fail. And turbines don't fail gently. They fail by throwing bits of metal outward that were formerly rotating at 30-100,000 rpm. The Shuttle can survive an engine shutting down (and has), but likely not one exploding.

          There are glide-back abort modes, but they're very risky, and it's not clear things would survive turbine failures long enough to enact them.

          All that said, I don't think chunks of foam coming off inside the tank is normally con

    • by Harmonious Botch ( 921977 ) * on Saturday June 09, 2007 @12:13AM (#19448319) Homepage Journal

      ...wouldn't it be safer/smarter to have it INSIDE the tank its self?
      The problem is, I think, simply a decrease in volume for fuel. The tank has two separate sub-tanks ( H2 plus LOX, plus a third section for control stuff ). Each one would have to be lined. They would probably want to line the third compartment too to prevent stresses from unequal thermal expansion.
      Then there is also the problem of foam acting chemically with the fuel or oxidizer. It now needs a liner. That is a lot of volume, and now the shuttle does not have enough room for fuel and oxidizer.

      Anyway, that's my best guess.
      • that foam is a few inches thick, the tank its self is several feet thick, this isnt much fuel and to correct for this you would need to expand the tank a very small amount [6 inches?] to have the same fuel/weight ratio. as for the thermal expansion, the foam on the outside probably already has a similar problem but if it is really a bother, make the foam in an interlocking pattern with a tiny gap or something inbetween each brick, the interlocking layers can still freely expand and yet keep the fuel insula
        • by evanbd ( 210358 ) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @12:50AM (#19448469)

          You're insulating the hydrogen at -250C (~22K); the Lox is almost irrelevant, since it has such a higher heat of vaporization and density, and therefore low boiloff. Hydrogen insulation can be and has been done both inside and outside the tank -- the Saturn V upper stages put it inside. Inside the tank, the attachment between insulation and tank material is kept warm, which makes that problem easier. However, it's hard to make a lightweight insulation that the hydrogen doesn't soak through, and hydrogen has a very high thermal conductivity, so that destroys the insulating properties. The foam doesn't have to take pressure, but it has to be sufficiently sealed that you don't get conductive flow past eg your interlocking bricks.

          Insulating hydrogen tanks is a decidedly non-trivial task, especially when you want ultra light weight for a rocket. It's rather far from obvious what the best answer is.

          IMHO, the solution to the problem is very simple -- don't use hydrogen! Kerosene, propane, and methane are all better alternatives. They actually have higher performance by many relevant metrics, too. Hydrogen is *so* light weight (0.07 g/cc) that the tanks get big. The lower Isp of hydrocarbon fuels is more than compensated for by the better fuel / tank mass ratio in the vast majority of applications. And that's even before you count the high cost of handling hydrogen and designing engines to work with it -- it's enough colder than LOX to make a difference, and it has myriad other handling concerns that make the development programs expensive.

          And yes, I do build rockets for a living. No, I haven't ever worked with hydrogen, but there's a reason for that...

          • "Insulating hydrogen tanks is a decidedly non-trivial task, especially when you want ultra light weight for a rocket. It's rather far from obvious what the best answer is."

            Aerogel. Ultra-light weight, best thermal insulator known to mankind (other than a vacuum, which is another possibility). Nobody makes it in sufficient volume though, but that could change if NASA got behind it.
            • by evanbd ( 210358 ) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @01:07AM (#19448581)

              Not true on all counts. Aspen Aerogels makes a felted insulating blanket out of the stuff; I've worked with it for Lox insulation. It's not even all that pricey -- $4/sq ft, 1/4" thickness. It works *great* on the ouside of the tank, when it doesn't have to have any strength (I wouldn't want to expose it to any sort of aerodynamic loading, though). However, it's quite porous (aerogels are inherently open-cell structure) and soaks up liquids quite well. I've personally experimented with immersing it in LN2; it's obviously not the right choice on the inside of the tank.

              Oh, and vacuum isn't a possibility -- the structure required to hold vacuum is *far* heavier than that required to hold pressure. Vacuum is the insulator in standard cryo shipment (dewars), but there weight isn't a concern.

              • You're right, accelerating aerogel applied to the outside of a tank to mach 25 is a dicey proposition at best. It's a great insulator, but making sure it stays affixed to the side of the tank would be a definite obstacle to flight certifying it, not to mention the porosity. It would have to be protected from rain on the pad and air humidity prior to launch, or it could soak up so much water that the vehicle would be too heavy to lift off. This protection also adds to the weight of the vehicle. Besides,
                • by evanbd ( 210358 )
                  If you haven't tried it, you should check out the Aspen Aerogels stuff. It's *far* easier to work with than the blocks (though somewhat heavier), and surprisingly cheap. Even with the improved strength, and the fact that the Shuttle "only" sees about 500 knots indicated airspeed, I'd be reluctant to trust it on the outside. Let alone the environmental protection from humidity and such. Now, if we could just *stop* *using* *hydrogen*, this would all get so much simpler and cheaper...
              • True. For cryogenic production, perlite is used but for bulk LH2 storage it's an inner SS (I forget which grade) vessel surrounded by a carbon steel shell. In between the two is reflective material and vacuum. Aerogel is interesting but I don't work in cryo anymore, so I can't really comment about that.

                Neat cryo trivia: cold liquids will condense water vapour out of the air, but an exposed pipe that conveys liquid hydrogen will *liquefy the surrounding air*, leaving a mixed pool of liquid nitrogen and oxy
                • by evanbd ( 210358 )

                  Aerogel is far better than conventional foams, including high performance CFC-filled foams. It is far worse than a good vacuum dewar, though.

                  The extra fun part about the LH2 plumbing is that the condensing liquid is oxygen-enriched, which makes it even more hazardous. As if the 4%-75% explosive range in air wasn't wide enough...

                  And people wonder why working with LH2 is hard ;)

                  • Yeah, no asphalt near LOX, eh? Facilities I've seen had SS angle iron suspended underneath the piping so as to drain the condensed air to a "safe" location. Sparking clothing is also a no-no.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Odo ( 109839 )
        > The problem is, I think, simply a decrease in volume for fuel.
        [...]
        > Then there is also the problem of foam acting chemically with the fuel or oxidizer.
        [...]
        > Anyway, that's my best guess.

        Good guesses. Reality is stranger.

        The tank is made of aluminum alloy. Very thin metal. At supersonic speeds, the tank would heat up. The increased temperature would cause the walls to become weaker, and the tank would buckle and rupture. By putting the insulation on the outside, they keep the metal of the t
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by evanbd ( 210358 )

      See my other comment for why it's not an easy task to decide whether to put the foam inside or outside. It's been done inside on eg the Saturn upper stages, and there are sound reasons both ways.

      The alloys in question (one of the Aluminum/Lithium alloys, I don't remember which off hand) are just fine at deep cryo temperatures. Mostly it's steels that have trouble with cryos, most aluminums are ok. Many of them actually get stronger as the temperature drops, and I believe the Shuttle tank counts on this

    • Re:foam of doom (Score:5, Informative)

      by NOLAChief ( 646613 ) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @01:29AM (#19448685)
      OK, let's do some rocket science.

      1. Materials. The alloys used to make the tank are designed for cryogenic service. they will not exhibit metal fatigue or stresses. They are also designed not to react with they hydrogen or the oxygen. many materials start acting funny (funny boom, not funny haha) when exposed to pure environments of either propellant. thermal cycling on an ET is very limited anyway, perhaps a handful of tankings ahead of a launch depending on the number of scrubs, so the shrinking and reexpansion of the tank when cryo temperatures are applied or removed does not occur enough to cause metal fatigue. they have people keeping track of such things.

      2. Manufacturing complexity. Most of the ET foam is applied with a robotic sprayer once the tank is completely built. Retooling the assembly line to spray the inside of the tank would be an expensive proposition in and of itself, not to mention requiring the tanks to not be completely assembled when the foam is applied. the tank seams would thus not be as well insulated, causing ice to form. The spray on insulation isn't what killed Columbia anyway. the robotic process allows the foam to be sprayed uniformly with few voids in the foam. the CAIB concluded that hand applied foam applied to reduce aerodynamic loading at the orbiter attach points as well as prevent orbiter killing ice formation at those same points is what brought down Columbia. the hand applied foam cannot be applied with nearly the same uniformity as the spray on foam. The tanks were redesigned to eliminate most of the need for hand applied foam. This doesn't prevent mission managers from being paranoid about anything coming off the tank and causing a problem.

      3. Foreign object debris. the popcorning seen on liftoff is due to aerodynamic stress and vibration that the vehicle experiences during the climb. there is no reason to believe this won't happen if the foam is inside the tank. (an additional cause of foam shedding in this case is mentioned in 1 above)

      The turbopumps on a shuttle engine are very powerful and built to tight tolerances. Even a very small piece of debris entering these pumps can tear an engine apart when it is operating at full capacity. Filters are placed in the fuel lines ahead of the pumps to help prevent such things from happening, but they're meant to catch the odd piece or two. You can see from the launch video how much popcorning can occur during a flight, so placing the foam inside the tank where it can access the fuel line creates one of two scenarios. 1. the filter clogs, starving the engine of fuel, shutting it down and creating at best an abort scenario, which, depending on the point of the climb at which it happens increases the risk to the crew and at best forcing NASA to spend extra money from its dwindling budget to retrieve the shuttle from Africa. 2. the filter fails, allowing FOD into the engine, blowing the back end of the orbiter off and creating a very bad day for everybody.

      In order to prevent this FOD, a liner, perhaps made of a metal alloy would be needed. This 1. increases manufacturing complexity even more. 2. to borrow your argument, increases risk due to metal fatigue and stresses. and 3. adds a gigantic amount of mass to the vehicle, reducing the payload capacity. when you're getting to orbit, payload is king. the more payload you can get to orbit the better. the success of many programs, manned or otherwise, can hinge on tens of pounds in the mass budget either way. that's the nature of the game. the first few flights of the shuttle, the tank was painted white. This created a nice, pretty, uniformly white vehicle. Then someone pointed out that the paint served no engineering purpose and was costing 500 pounds. The paint requirement was then deleted and 500 pounds more payload could be sent to orbit.

      I can probably think of more engineering arguments, but it's late and Iv'e had to retype this once already.

      • by smoker2 ( 750216 )

        the first few flights of the shuttle, the tank was painted white. This created a nice, pretty, uniformly white vehicle. Then someone pointed out that the paint served no engineering purpose and was costing 500 pounds. The paint requirement was then deleted and 500 pounds more payload could be sent to orbit.

        Question - How much foam came off when the exterior surface was painted ?
        If the coated surface helped reduce the occurrence of FoD then maybe those 500 pounds were well spent. And then maybe they could wo

    • by Yev000 ( 985549 )
      The problem is that there is water in the air... And when water touches the cold metal tank it turns into ice... So the foam is not for keeping the fuel warm, its for keeping the air outside the rocket warm and thus not condencing and forming into ice on the said rocket, then falling off and hitting the shuttle.

      The problem is the "shuttle consept of doom", not the foam... Something has to cover that rocket, foam is better than ice. If the shuttle didnt "ride" a rocket then there would be no need for foam

  • by lazy genes ( 741633 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:12PM (#19447993)
    It was a perfect viewing night in northern Minesota .I saw the shuttle pass directly overhead followed by the station 45 minutes later.It was on its second orbit.
    • by stox ( 131684 )
      Go ahead, rub it in. The beautiful dark skies of Northern Minnesota. The light pollution is so bad around Chicago, we're lucky we can see a full moon. ( I exaggerate, but not by much. )
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by daeg ( 828071 )
        I didn't see the last one but I've seen some spectacularly bright ones even as far away as Tampa/St. Pete (on the opposite coast of Florida).

        The night launches are always better, but during the summer it can be hard to see due to the general cloudiness and rain patterns of the Florida summer.
    • Lucky me. I was in Orlando this Friday. First time I ever saw a shuttle launch up close. With the naked eye, I could see the tank separation. Even cooler was watching the shuttle follow the curvature of the earth as it ascended. Speed? From just a huge plume to a barely visible dot on the horizon, it probably lasted no more than a minute. Now that's hauling ass. The whole experience was like sitting in some NHRA bleachers, but turned 90 degrees skyward.
    • Which Northern Minnesota was that? Evidently not the one I'm in, 'cuz it was cloudy and raining :-(
  • by fishthegeek ( 943099 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:22PM (#19448043) Journal
    and along with it were other entertaining geek oriented articles such as:

    "iPhone battery will last .023% longer than equivalent Nokia N95 battery"
    "Vista successfully installed printer driver"
    "Scientists in Norway discover that the sun rises each and every Tuesday."
    "iPhone cures herpes."
    "$company is forming a patent pact with Microsoft"
    "iPhone violates 221 Microsoft patents"
    "In Soviet Russia iPhone orders Calamari FOR you"
    "1337 H4XZ0R creates a beowulf cluster of iPhones running Ubuntu using his Wii Wifi"

    Slow news night.
    • "iPhone battery will last .023% longer than equivalent Nokia N95 battery"
      "Vista successfully installed printer driver"
      "Scientists in Norway discover that the sun rises each and every Tuesday."
      "iPhone cures herpes."
      "$company is forming a patent pact with Microsoft"
      "iPhone violates 221 Microsoft patents"
      "In Soviet Russia iPhone orders Calamari FOR you"
      "1337 H4XZ0R creates a beowulf cluster of iPhones running Ubuntu using his Wii Wifi"

      Slow news night.

      Seriously, why would slashdotters care about the iPhone curi

    • "Scientists in Norway discover that the sun rises each and every Tuesday."

      Not in the northernmost parts of Norway it doesn't... ;)

  • i being in my 20's in my life time space shuttles blow up or launch without incident, in my parents lifetime nasa landed on the moon why do we not care/assume the worst that is what we have experienced
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      We weren't always the pathetically-risk-averse society you know as a young person.

      In my great-grandparents' lifetime, they probably saw seven people die of dysentery on the boat over to America, and you know what? They got over it. (My great-grandparents, not the dysentery victims.) Losing a space shuttle now and again wouldn't have distracted Grandpa Joe from his craps game.

      If we lose that tolerance for risk altogether, we're done as a species.
  • for the browncoats among us, this flight also marks the maiden voyage of Firefly [breakingatmo.com] into the black, courtesy Mission Specialist Steve Swanson. Hopefully the mission planners on the ground are scheduling a full day off while the DVDs get watched.... :)
  • "Shuttle Atlantis launched without incident" ... I mean its nice and all .. but did we have to emphasize the "without incident" part of it - should it be news worthy that it launched without incident? Are we getting that cynical? :(
    • by RPoet ( 20693 )
      I don't think it's cynicism. Launching a space shuttle is an enormously complicated operation affected by many factors outside of the control of current human expertise. The shuttle personnel go into this knowing full well about the dangers, which is why they are so rightfully considered heroic. How a launch went is news material. It's unfortunate, but it's how it is today. Hopefully there is funding for researching safer methods of going into space (and, not to forget, of going further).
  • by SirBruce ( 679714 ) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @07:12AM (#19449803) Homepage

    Post-launch in-orbit inspection has revealed a potential problem. There is a small four-inch tear or bunching of a thermal blanket on the OMS pod near the tail. It's not clear at this time if this will be an issue on re-entry. This area of the orbiter receives less heating on re-entry, but thermal protection is still important. NASA will probably release more details later today.

    Article: http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/content/?cid=5127 [nasaspaceflight.com]

    Image: http://www.cfnews13.com/uploadedImages/Media/Video /0037(4).jpg [cfnews13.com]

    • FOX made a big deal abuot this and then dropped it all of the sudden. They said that NASA said it probably wasn't going to be a problem.
  • http://www.pbase.com/rking401/shuttle_launch_june_ 8_2007 [pbase.com] These were taken from 9 miles away

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