Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
NASA Space

Discovery Launch Delayed Due To Engine Issue 62

An anonymous reader writes "The launch of Space Shuttle Discovery was originally slated for February 12th, has now been postponed to February 19th — at the earliest. The change of launch dates were decided by NASA managers during a review of the shuttle's flow control valve in the main engine. The new date is pending further analysis of the flow control valve and everything checking out okay for pre-flight tests. Discovery's STS-119 14-day mission will deliver the station's fourth and final set of solar arrays, completing the orbiting laboratory's truss, or backbone. The arrays will provide the electricity to fully power science experiments and support the station's expanded crew of six in May."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Discovery Launch Delayed Due To Engine Issue

Comments Filter:
  • by dotancohen ( 1015143 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @11:41AM (#26726431) Homepage

    ... for 20 now? How many miles on it?

    • Yeah! Come on NASA, buy a new spaceship! Stop being selfish and stimulate the shrinking spaceship industry! Do you know how many workers you're hurting buy not buying new stuff?!
      • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @02:53PM (#26728887) Journal
        They are buying new stuff: The Ares I and V. Well, they are technically supposed to be based on the shuttle system, but for all intents and purposes they are completely new spacecraft. The Ares I is an oversized SRB, but with different fuel and different flight characteristics. The only thing they have salvaged is the ignitor. The Ares V uses different SRBs, a wider external tank, and different engines. It will be seven or more years before they start producing this rocket. With Ares as the launch platform, there will be a 5-7 year gap between end of shuttle and start of Ares. Too long to maintain people's jobs.

        Direct [wikipedia.org] on the other hand, will use standard "off the shelf" SRBs, will use current external tank manufacturing processes, will use much of the same systems as the shuttle. There will be huge numbers of jobs saved. Plus, the gap between end of shuttle and first Jupiter launch is only two years. Short enough on its own, but if NASA also delayed the shuttle retirement date, the gap could be reduced to zero.
        • NASA can design, test and man-rate a launch system in three years? You must be joking.

          Whatever the theoretical advantages of DIRECT, in practice Ares has years of design and testing already. They've already got real working hardware for many of the major components.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by camperdave ( 969942 )
            Whatever the theoretical advantages of DIRECT, in practice Ares has years of design and testing already. They've already got real working hardware for many of the major components.

            So does DIRECT. It's called the Space Transport System. DIRECT uses existing, proven hardware with large mass margins. It uses existing facilities and existing manpower. An argument could be made that DIRECT has more existing tested components ready than ARES. The SRBS are ready, the engines are ready for unmanned test flig
  • by Dyinobal ( 1427207 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @11:56AM (#26726631)
    I feel that manned space flight for the last thirty years or so has been more or less stagnant. I'm hoping the introduction of private sector space initiatives will change this. Only time will tell though.
    • by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @12:04PM (#26726729) Homepage

      Private investment in space flight seemed so likely in the 1990s. I remember science fiction author Michael Flynn's future history starting with Firestar [amazon.com] suggesting that FedEx would be a major force behind space flight because deliveries could be made anywhere on Earth in much less time than with airplanes. Nowadays, however, no company is going to want to spend that much money on courier services, and with the present economic crisis there's not much investment in anything.

      It's a real shame that companies presently developing private space vehicles are more concerned with just getting people far up enough to enjoy freefall (for dumb prices) instead of really looking towards space.

      • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @12:28PM (#26727021) Homepage Journal

        It's a real shame that companies presently developing private space vehicles are more concerned with just getting people far up enough to enjoy freefall (for dumb prices) instead of really looking towards space.

        I really don't care how the commercialization of space happens - in a capitalist society that's how you get things done. I just want it to happen and we can work out the details later.

        • by eln ( 21727 )

          Nice sentiment, but let's see how we feel about it in 50 years when the moon is covered with gigantic advertisements for Pepsi and Budweiser.

          Private investment in space has thus far been very disappointing. The only companies out there that are doing anything are the ones that are just looking to send people up in a parabolic arc without even reaching orbit for $200k a pop, and those looking to shoot dead people's ashes into space. None of these are particularly thrilling endeavors in my opinion.

          Developin

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Bearhouse ( 1034238 )

            Nice sentiment, but let's see how we feel about it in 50 years when the moon is covered with gigantic advertisements for Pepsi and Budweiser.

            Well, if they hire me as the tech to go up and reboot the servers & change the lights then I won't be complaining

          • The only companies out there that are doing anything are the ones that are just looking to send people up in a parabolic arc without even reaching orbit for $200k a pop, and those looking to shoot dead people's ashes into space. None of these are particularly thrilling endeavors in my opinion.
            Yeah, it would be so COOL if instead a company was working on developing giant ballon space ship that could serve as a section of a space station, a travel section to the moon/mars, and perhaps be put on the surface
          • Nice sentiment, but let's see how we feel about it in 50 years when the moon is covered with gigantic advertisements for Pepsi and Budweiser.

            Or with CHA

        • by SETIGuy ( 33768 )

          It's a real shame that companies presently developing private space vehicles are more concerned with just getting people far up enough to enjoy freefall (for dumb prices) instead of really looking towards space.

          I really don't care how the commercialization of space happens - in a capitalist society that's how you get things done. I just want it to happen and we can work out the details later.

          Yes, the libertarian dream. Open up space to commercial development and the next thing you know we'll have colonies on Mars.

          The details your didn't work out are that space travel is damn expensive, subject to sudden enormous losses, and provides no immediate return on investment. There's no comparison in complexity between the suborbital commercial programs and getting someone into and out of orbit.

          Getting government out of the space exploration business would mean the end of space exploration. The only

          • The problem with your analysis is that numerous companies are working on getting to orbit. That is really the hard part. If you can get to orbit cheaply then you can get to other planets cheaply. (Well, relatively. heh heh.) Private companies are also working on space habitats, which is applicable to any long-term stay in space, whether you're orbiting this planet, or going to another one. I'm not proposing that government get out of space exploration (please demonstrate where in my comment I did so, kthxby

          • The beloved market would quickly decide that human presence in space isn't worth the investment.

            In point of fact, for now at least, it probably isn't. There are more pressing priorities here on the ground for government relief spending, research, and development. We should wait until we have (a) somewhere interesting to go and (b) a propulsion technology capable of taking us there without insane fuel and trip duration requirements.

      • Private investment in space flight seemed so likely in the 1990s. I remember science fiction author Michael Flynn's future history starting with Firestar suggesting that FedEx would be a major force behind space flight because deliveries could be made anywhere on Earth in much less time than with airplanes.

        Knowledgeable observers knew even then that such a scenario was nonsense - the capital costs required were immense, and the likelihood of losing it all hovered around "near certainty".

        Now

      • It's a real shame that companies presently developing private space vehicles are more concerned with just getting people far up enough to enjoy freefall (for dumb prices) instead of really looking towards space.

        That's not true. The space company getting the most media attention is just getting people up to freefall. But don't forgot about the real, orbital, private space companies like SpaceX and Orbital, who were each just recently awarded ~$1.5 billion contracts for ISS resupply over the next 7 years.

      • It's a real shame that companies presently developing private space vehicles are more concerned with just getting people far up enough to enjoy freefall (for dumb prices) instead of really looking towards space.
        Yeah, it is a real shame that a product is developed for a REAL market. And the amazing thing is that nobody would really think to convert one of those launchers to holding a much smaller launcher than can take up small sats into LEO. Yup. Horrible thought that Scaled will almost certainly develop
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nametaken ( 610866 )

      I think it's probably a situation where it's cheaper, safer and more productive to send robots for most everything we're interested in right now.

      Disappointing, I know.

    • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @12:08PM (#26726783)

      I think the biggest thing is that NASA needs to come up with an actual number for acceptable risk, then make it clear that the public and the astronauts know and understand that number. I believe the current acceptable risk is something like 1% chance of failure and due to the non-replaceable nature of the spacecraft and astronauts that is probably a realistic target to shoot for (if we lose another shuttle it will be virtually impossible to continue our current commitments). If we move to disposable spacecraft, that number should probably be adjusted.

      I know it's harsh to say that 5% risk is acceptable when we're talking about human lives, but if they know and understand the risk it is their decision to sign up for a mission. Having a goal of perfect just adds unreasonable amounts of overhead and increases costs faster than savings. Far too much time and effort is wasted in the bureaucracy of NASA, especially considering that the causes of both shuttle losses were brought up by engineers before the accidents occurred but weren't responded to at the upper levels. They need to change the way things are done to identify true risks instead of filling out a mountain of paperwork to change a few bolts out if something is broken.

      • by sveard ( 1076275 )

        But who are we to say what risk is acceptable and what not? Let NASA and other space faring agencies/companies/industries calculate the risk and present it to the would be astronauts. Let them accept - or not - it

        • I'm not saying that politicians or the public should set an arbitrary number, I'm saying NASA should look at the cost/benefit analysis and pick a number that actually reflects what is achievable while being consistent with funding and our goals. Right now, the general consensus is that the goal is 'minimal' risk, which means spending enormous amounts of resources to minimize that risk.

          • What would happen when three blast-offs blew up in a row? I know that statistically, under this scenario, this would be highly improbable, but it could happen. What would NASA's answer be to a general public who generally might not understand statistical analysis? These things [yahoo.com] do happen. It seems like too big a gamble, and I would rather not treat astronauts like guinea pigs, at least not overtly.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chris Burke ( 6130 )

        Yeah, well, as reasonable as that is, I hate to say this but no matter what NASA says or does if another shuttle (or whatever manned NASA craft) blows up in the next 10 or even 20 years, that could be it for our manned space program. Our actual (in-)ability to continue operations without a shuttle won't be the reason. The willingness of the astronauts despite knowing and understanding the risks won't enter into it. Public outrage will.

        You mention NASA management paying attention to the true risks instead

        • You mention NASA management paying attention to the true risks instead of filling out mountains of paper work to change a bolt. What will actually happen is that they will do both, and blanket the real risks with their own mountains of paper work to make damn sure (complete with verifiable paper trail) that they paid attention to and mitigated those risks. When the Challenger blew up, the political situation pushed them towards launching in spite of the risks. Today, the political situation is pushing them towards making damn sure no more astronauts are lost, and doing everything they can to demonstrate that this is their overriding concern. So they will err on the side of caution.

          No, their overriding concern is completing mountains of paperwork to generate a paper trail indicating that mitigated any risks in changing one of the loose bolts holding the pilot's seat down.

      • by afidel ( 530433 )
        I know it's harsh to say that 5% risk is acceptable when we're talking about human lives, but if they know and understand the risk it is their decision to sign up for a mission.

        Of course 5% isn't too high, climbing Everest and K2 are about that dangerous and people do it all the time just to push themselves (there's no glory in doing it today but people still do it). The problem is that NASA's costs would go up by more than 5% with a 5% failure rate for launch vehicles due to the way mission payloads are
      • that qualifies as acceptable. I say this from the stand point of that there are more than enough Congressmen who look at the NASA budget as source of funds and would love to abscond with this money all under the cover of "protecting life". Someone will always eventually found to assign blame to but in the end it comes down to dollars. The amount spent on the shuttles outweighs the payoff. Throw in a few high profile accidents and the "reasonable side" will come out screaming how these billions could be

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        1% is a huge risk.
        If it was that high in the Airline indistry, 100's of Jumbo Jets would crash every year.At lest 1 a day.

        5% is absurd. one out of twenty launches result in failure?

      • They have those numbers. Its called PLOC (Probability:Loss of Crew). NASA's ESAS standard is a PLOC of 1 in 1000. One loss of crew out of a thousand launches. The ARES I craft that NASA is designing has a predicted PLOC of 1:1256. The Jupiter 120 launch vehicle has a predicted PLOC of 1:1465. Currently, however, the ARES I rocket cannot lift the Orion crew module into a proper orbit, and they are trimming safety features, increasing the PLOC numbers. Jupiter 120 has enough power to lift two Orion mod
      • Taking a military standpoint is a way to make progress.

        Every day thousands take much greater than 5% risks undertaking missions far less glamorized, and perhaps really far less important than space exploration.

        5% risk in a life-saving operation sounds ideal given the alternative. After all, in reality, isn't space exploration a life saving operation?

    • "I feel that manned space flight for the last thirty years or so has been more or less stagnant."

      Not only that, but it has been sucking down money that could have been used for MANY unmanned probes that would have been able to explore space for YEARS. Meat tourism is entertaining, but we need to learn more about space in order to exploit it.

      Unmanned systems can have much more rapid development because they can have much shorter equipment life cycles. Insects are more adaptable than humans, so send "insects"

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      There is nothing there to make any real money.
      The cost is astronomical.

      While some people would pay 1000 times the current price to get a package delivered with 24 hours anywhere on the planet, I doubt there is enough to fill a space hip. The the stuff that would be cost effective to be shipped this way is too big to be shipped this way.

      If there were forests on Mars, the private industry would have resorts there by now. Right now there is a lot of knowledge to be gained, and a lot of advances to be gained in

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      I feel that manned space flight for the last thirty years or so has been more or less stagnant. I'm hoping the introduction of private sector space initiatives will change this. Only time will tell though.

      At which point, we have to ask - what has the private sector been doing the past 30 years? Did it really take them 30 years to lobby the government to allow private space flight? And if so, why? Surely there are countries willing to let a private enterprise go into space if they wanted (especially smaller

  • Says who? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @12:03PM (#26726713)

    The ISS is having trouble with a 'mysterious' vibration that occurred last time they tried to fire the engines for an orbital adjustment.

    My guess is the Shuttle engine delay is just an excuse to postpone things while they try to find a way to move the ISS without it shaking itself to pieces.

    • Re:Says who? (Score:5, Informative)

      by rufey ( 683902 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @12:21PM (#26726927)
      The vibration problem appears to have been caused by the engines being "steerable" and having a hard time finding their "sweet spot", so they kept adjusting where they were pointing during the firing.

      More information here [msn.com].
      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        Don't add facts to his wild ass conspiracy. Clearly everything NASA does is to cover for something else.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Vectronic ( 1221470 )

      Nightmare at 20,000 Miles Per Hour?

      • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

        Nightmare at 20,000 Miles Per Hour?

        At least they know they can slow down 19,950 MPH before they have to worry about the ISS blowing up ;)

        • by Kagura ( 843695 )
          Actually, as I found out, the shuttle needs to quickly decrease their speed from 7.72km/sec to only 7.62km/sec in order to cause their orbit to intersect the earth's surface. That's even assuming no atmospheric play.
  • Gasp! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by esocid ( 946821 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @12:04PM (#26726731) Journal
    Managers actually making a smart decision about not pushing a shuttle out the door before it was ready?
    I suppose this can be attributed to the fact that this isn't a time sensitive flight, or a race against the reds or something. I really got tired of reading about the blunders of management in NASA during my engineering ethics class back in the day. Now I just read about it happening elsewhere in my spare time. At least now I'm only paying an exorbitant price for internet instead of tuition.
    • Managers actually making a smart decision about not pushing a shuttle out the door before it was ready?

      Which actually, post-Challenger has happened more often than not. Which is why, post-Columbia, knowledgeable observers debated intensely seeking the reasons why NASA had been soft on pushing the foam issues when in the decade previous they had shown little reluctance to delay flights, swap orbiters around on the schedule, perform specialized maintenance/repairs, and on two occasions - ground the fleet ent

    • I really got tired of reading about the blunders of management in NASA during my engineering ethics class back in the day.

      You get to read about NASA's blunders because NASA will:
      1. document them,
      2. admit to them,
      3. not sue you for publishing analysis about them.
      Contrast that with the occasions where a corporation has been dragged before a judicial or legislative body to explain themselves. There are plenty of other "blunders" being perpetrated on a daily basis. At least in the case of NASA, you can rule out the profit motive.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    but where do you put the ground wire?!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sohp ( 22984 )

      Actually a difficult question which NASA has produced a very large body of research on. The short answer is "grounded to the plasma that makes up the LEO environment" but obviously it's more complicated than that.

  • That means all the people that can't get a coupon to buy a digital TV converter won't be able to see it launch. Maybe they'll have to delay the analog TV shutdown.

  • You guys have been keeping count on the horsepower of the shuttle engines.

    The trouble now, I guess, is to get 500,000 horses and attach them to Discovery.

  • Did you know the Space Shuttle is comprised of 2.5 million parts making it the most complex machine ever built? Of these parts, steel valves are considered critical and of the highest order to resolve before launch. It's shameful that NASA has so technical snafu's that result in launch delays but one must be reminded the Shuttle program is nearing extinction and suffered severe underfunding and mismanagement since 2004. There is no story here, we're not dealing with "go fever" or lack of engineering ethic
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bitrex ( 859228 )

      Did you know the Space Shuttle is comprised of 2.5 million parts making it the most complex machine ever built? Of these parts, steel valves are considered critical and of the highest order to resolve before launch.

      Though the Shuttle has a huge amount of redundancy, there are an amazing number of parts which are "must work' devices, i.e. failure of the part would almost certainly lead to catastrophic loss of the vehicle. The main engine flow control valves are of course one of these, but there are many others which are not so obvious, such as the payload bay latching mechanism. If this doesn't work, you're stuck in orbit with an open payload bay and cannot re-enter. The explosive bolts that secure the payload are a

  • And tell me you wouldn't be shitting your drawers if the space station you were on was shaking like that. Even gentle turbulence on a plane will make some people sweat. A ratting space station is seriously panic time.
     

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:15PM (#26731691) Journal
    A decade ago, when the economy was awesome, we could expect several 100 response on this. Maybe more. Now, it is less than 100, while discussions about the global economy as well who is at fault garner 500-1000 responses.

"The one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception a neccessity." - Oscar Wilde

Working...