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NASA Space Science

NASA Delays Discovery's Final Launch To February 62

Velcroman1 writes "NASA has postponed the launch of space shuttle Discovery's final mission to no earlier than early February — the latest in a long string of delays that have kept the spacecraft grounded for more than a month. Discovery is now slated to launch no earlier than Feb. 3, with the delay allowing NASA engineers more time to analyze why small cracks developed in the shuttle's huge external fuel tank. The cracks have since been repaired, but NASA wants to make sure similar issues don't pose a future concern."
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NASA Delays Discovery's Final Launch To February

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  • by jdastrup ( 1075795 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @03:38PM (#34435734)
    If it's fixed, launch it. Why worry about future concerns? There won't be anymore Space Shuttle.
    • They would like their last mission not to end in a horrible explosion.
      • Except February is the coldest month of the year here in Fl.... which has been known to cause an issue or two with critical parts on the shuttle...

        • by dbialac ( 320955 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @05:51PM (#34437864)

          Right, that way they can add an additional delay. The goal is to string along the salaries of the 800 people who lose their jobs as soon as the shuttle hits orbit as long as possible. And as somebody who works near Cape Canaveral, I fully support not having 800 more unemployed people here.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

            As someone who pays taxes, I fully support putting those 800 on unemployment. Far cheaper to just give them tax money then to give them tax money and pay their employer his cut.

      • That's NASA's problem: no sense of drama.

    • Presumably, they want to know if this is a symptom of a problem that could cause it to crack again during launch--a decidedly bad outcome even if there are no more shuttles.
    • I know right. Why are they being so caution, it's not like this is rocket science or something. Oh wait.
    • If it's fixed, launch it. Why worry about future concerns? There won't be anymore Space Shuttle.

      This is the last flight for the Discovery shuttle but there's still two other launches. One for each of the other shuttles. But I believe they use a new tank for each launch so I'm not sure where the future concerns are coming from.

    • A problem isn't fixed if you don't know what caused it. Until then it's just working around the symptoms.

  • allowing NASA engineers more time to analyze why small cracks developed in the shuttle's huge external fuel tank

    Might it have something to do with every component being built by the lowest bidder because funding keeps getting cut anytime someone at NASA blinks?

    • They switched to the lightweight tank some time (some years) ago. Although it's kind of late in the game... They are now concerned this may be related to the switch -- it would be bad, if you know what I mean, to find a design deficiency through loss of one of the last three scheduled flights.
    • I'm pretty sure that even if NASA had more funding it would still have been built by the lowest bidder.
      • Would it though?

        Anyone who understand budgets enough would understand that buying good stuff first, inspecting it, and getting your launch on time ends up with cost savings much higher than if you buy bad stuff, inspect it, repair it, inspect it again, and postpone the launch.

        Not only do you lose the cost savings on the component by having to implement repairs, but thats all extra time you need to have your various contractors on site.

        Stop for a moment and imagine what it would be like if the National Defen

        • Hmmm. Aren't military contracts also "lowest bidder" ?

          And don't military programs experience all those negative effects you mentioned?

          Nice idea, though - I once posited that if you switched Military and Education budgets for a year the effects could be pretty astounding....
          • Hmmm. Aren't military contracts also "lowest bidder" ?

            No silly, all the good ones are awarded with no bidding to the most politically connected company! Do your research.

          • Hmmm. Aren't military contracts also "lowest bidder" ?

            Many government contracts, including most major NASA and military contracts involving development of new technology, are not lowest bidder, they are best-value using a per-project scoring in which cost is one, but not the only, factor.

            I don't think straight lowest-bid is used for much of anything other than purchases of directly-substitutable, off-the-shelf commodities.

        • Lets see...

          I daresay that if NASA could have a budget like that, we'd have a Moon base, a Mars base, and manned operations in deep space, all in short order. But it's not going to happen

        • All those decisions are made as the result of trade studies (which are sometimes biased based on personal/political ideas). Ideally, what should happen is that the system integrators of the shuttle launch system should gather all the relevant data of the possible parts they want to use for their system. In the case of this tank, that would involve looking at data like money, time to build, dry and wet weight, and risk factors associated, etc. They would then compile all of this data into a very complex trad
        • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @05:54PM (#34437922)

          No, the correct methodology is to make the contractor pay for the inspections and any repairs, plus a fee for any delays to launches.

          • And that would simply triple the cost of the tank. Anytime you put the risk on a contractor the contractor will charge you the value of that risk (and more) even if it does not happen.

    • by kels ( 9845 )

      Might it have something to do with every component being built by the lowest bidder because funding keeps getting cut anytime someone at NASA blinks?

      Or the fact that major components have to be built in every state with a powerful Senator?

    • by arielCo ( 995647 )

      Source Selection Criteria (SSC)

      SSCs can be simple or complex depending on the subject of the acquisition. If FAR Part 15 is used, then a concept called best value can be used; best value simply is an idea that the lowest bidder is not necessarily the winner of a competition - rather, an evaluation of the overall offer based on specified SSCs is accomplished and a source selection decision is accomplished (see below) based on those specified SSCs using a fact based business judgement of the acquiring activity.


      Contractors must also be aware of whether or not price is more important than non-price factors. Where price is more important than non-price factors, then the lowest bidder who is technically acceptable in view of the source selection factors and work statement requirements will be selected. Where the solicitation indicates that the requirement is a best value acquisition, then a contractor must draft their proposal to emphasize how their proposed technical solution will meet each and every requirement and source selection factor.

      Government procurement in the United States [wikipedia.org]

    • by FleaPlus ( 6935 )

      Might it have something to do with every component being built by the lowest bidder because funding keeps getting cut anytime someone at NASA blinks?

      This statement doesn't match up with the actual numbers:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_Budget#Annual_budget.2C_1958-2010 [wikipedia.org]

      Also, the idea that NASA components are built by the lowest bidder is laughable. Saying that they're built by the most politically-connected bidders (e.g. ATK and the solid rocket boosters) is closer to the target.

  • ...to say "fuck it" and load everything onto Falcon 9? Seriously, if this keeps up, the Dragon capsule will be fully tested before the last shuttle goes up. It's like trying to eek your '78 Pinto up to 300,000 miles while a 2010 BMW is sitting in the driveway.
    • Stuff won't fit on the Falcon 9. Now the Falcon X heavy (up to 125mT to LEO) might do... Makes me wonder how serious they were about those.
    • Spoken like someone who's never taken a vehicle past 100k. Just last week I rolled over 200k in my 15yr old mitchubishi. Those who cant afford new toys use what they have 'till it breaks.
      • (Disclaimer: While I was in school I broke 100k on my parents' '96 Corolla, and then moved onto an '86 Volvo with close to 200k on it. Then I got a job and bought a new Corolla.)

        Actually, there were multiple levels to my car analogy--one being that it's a Pinto so it might burst into flames at any moment (yes, stereotype, but true of the shuttle), another being that after 32 years it's not even up to 300,000, and the third being that the new safer car is already paid for. But I should have picked somethi

        • And your 2010 Accord is analogous to.... what, exactly, in the manned space program? Certainly not the Soyuz spacecraft (don't get me wrong, the Soyuz is a proven and reliable design). And the private spacecraft being tested aren't even capable of doing the errands in your car analogy, let alone make it on this cross-country trip.

          • Ok, so maybe I'm being optimistic, but if going to the ISS is a cross-country trip, then the Falcon 9 launch of a test capsule into a perfect orbit (except reentry) should count as an errand. In less than a week, we'll see the first reentry attempt by a commercial spacecraft, another fine errand.

            I refuse to be skeptical about SpaceX's rockets until we see an actual failure. I have much more faith in their engineering-driven design--so far proved flawless--than any politicized, bloated creation of NASA.


  • Patience and Safety (Score:5, Interesting)

    by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Friday December 03, 2010 @03:48PM (#34435946)
    I hope their final voyage is a safe one, and one day we will have a manned mission back to the Moon and maybe to Mars.

    Here is a cool infographic I found on the Space Shuttle [space.com]
    • I hope their final voyage is a safe one, and one day we will have a manned mission back to the Moon...

      Been there, done that.

      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        It's now two generations (40 years) since people were on the moon. And NASA now spends more on senate-mandated bureaucracy every year than the entire moon program costs. In order to control the horrible government spending, the clueless politicians guaranteed that there would be a horrible spending -- on nothing productive.

        No, we won't go back to moon any time soon.

        Now sing with me, kids:
        ISS is falling down, falling down, falling down.

  • On the on hand, this sucks. On the other hand, its more time that I have to get enough money together to go see a launch in person.
  • by chemicaldave ( 1776600 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @04:06PM (#34436256)
    You can't end the shuttle era if you keep delaying the last shuttle mission.
  • Shuttle vs. Everyone (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @04:19PM (#34436462) Homepage Journal
    Meanwhile [spaceflightnow.com], various [spaceflightnow.com] other [spaceflightnow.com] launch [spaceflightnow.com] systems [spaceflightnow.com], that aren't pork-bloated, politically-designed flying bricks, just keep chugging along with their launches and schedules successfully. I suppose this is what happens when politicians and business majors decide they can be engineers. Go figure
    • If you think the Shuttle is the only booster ever built or even flying that had political and business decisions embedded in it's design - I have some nice waterfront property and a nice bridge to sell you. Doubly so since or the 'launchers' you link to - one (the X37B) is a payload, and another (the Minotaur) is a Peacekeeper missile... (and neither are commercially available.)

    • I think this is a function of manned vs unmanned more than anything else. The acceptable margin of error is orders of magnitude less when there are people on board, so any little concern becomes the object of great scrutiny.

  • by Dcnjoe60 ( 682885 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @04:45PM (#34436868)

    I heard the real reason was that the crew refused to let the TSA agents do the new pat down procedure.

  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot&worf,net> on Friday December 03, 2010 @05:08PM (#34437266)

    I don't know who or why they would push the launch to Dec 17. First of all, the Shuttle is not tested across a year boundary, and the last flight is not the time to be testing to see if this works. (Dates are complex enough, and handling all possible date transitions is even harder. Thus it's easier to not fly the Shuttle across a New Year transition rather than have to test everything to ensure it can handle it).

    I believe it was supposed to be a 10 day mission, so if it launches Dec 17, it means it returns Dec 27. Which gives you 4 days before you're in test-pilot mode (the missions may get extended unexpectedly due to launch delays or weather on return). While I doubt the shuttle would just explode when the clock ticks over, 4 days doesn't seem like a lot of leeway.

    All they had to do was push it another couple of weeks and they'd have a whole year to schedule and launch. At least it seems saner heads have prevailed.

    • I hate to admit it... but I'm not really sure if that post is a joke or not.

      • by SmilingBoy ( 686281 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @06:24PM (#34438380)
        No, it is true - they normally don't fly over new year's eve. In a press conference they mentioned that they could reconfigure the computer systems on a quiet day in orbit to deal with it but that it still entails some risk.
        • Well thank you for that interesting fact, I had never heard such a thing before. I'm very glad that I posed the sincere question now instead of jumping the gun.

          At first I thought they might have been condescending, and then I thought they were naive and paranoid... but then I thought maybe they knew something I didn't know.

          Apparently I was the naive one. Is there a +/-1 Humbled mod? ;-)

May all your PUSHes be POPped.