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NASA Science

Weather Delays Two NASA Launches 33

RocketAcademy writes "Weather has delayed two NASA launches which were scheduled for today: an Atlas launch from Cape Canaveral carrying two Radiation Belt Storm Probe satellites and a Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding-rocket launch from Wallops Island, Virginia carrying four student experiments. The susceptibility to weather delays is a problem for current launch systems."
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Weather Delays Two NASA Launches

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 25, 2012 @05:35PM (#41125021)

    That's no way to talk about Freshmen.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Slow news day?

  • For those who care, the Electric and Magnetic Field Instrument Suite and Integrated Science (EMFISIS) ( is running the free real-time OS RTEMS.

  • by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Saturday August 25, 2012 @05:54PM (#41125157)

    "Susceptibility to weather delays" is a problem for many things, like high school baseball games, outdoor weddings, parades, the morning run, fastidious hair styles. That's especially true when, you know, a hurricane is in the neighborhood.

    Here's the thing: Real space travel needs to begin and end in space. Low Earth orbit is the equivalent of tooling around the harbor.

    • I thought that comment was a bit off as well. There are usually multiple launch windows to reach whatever orbit / planetary alignment the payload requires, and on rare occasions things do come down to the wire, but usually there is ample cushion to work around the weather. The only other issue is if a launch area had so many launches lined up that they would get backed up, but I really don't think that's a problem. Actually there are lots of facilities vying for launches, especially since NASA is using m

    • "Low Earth orbit is the equivalent of tooling around the harbor." Funny thing. None of the people who say that have even made it out into the harbor.
  • by dtmos ( 447842 ) * on Saturday August 25, 2012 @06:29PM (#41125373)

    There are lots of reasons for weather delays of rocket launches, but one of them is wind. I've been told (by actual rocket scientists, with only a few Green Martians* in them at the time) that there are two critical factors related to wind -- the wind speed itself and its variability, i.e., gusts -- and that the reasons both trace back to the limitations of the directional-control system of the engines (i.e., the gimbals) and the guidance system of the rocket.

    The limitation on maximum wind speed is related to the range of control of the engines (i.e., how many degrees off the axis of the rocket the engines can point), since that eventually works back to how large a wind-compensating vector is available to the guidance system. The gust limitation is related to the response speed (slew rate) of the engine gimbals, since that eventually works back to how fast the guidance system can respond to changes in wind speed and/or direction.
    *Equal parts vodka, Midori, sour mix, ginger ale, 7-Up, and soda, in case you're curious. Once a favorite of that crowd, back in the day.

  • > and a Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding-rocket launch

    Can someone parse this sentence?

    A dog-improved dog that sounds like a barking dog rocket, wut? I gave up after going about 4 clicks deep.

    • Silly answer: It's a Terrier Malemute with an improve Malemute upper stage.

      Serious answer: it's a sounding rocket [] based on the US Navy RIM-2 Terrier surface-to-air missile from the 1950s as the first stage, with a Thiokol Malemute upper stage. The Terrier is used as a first stage for a variety of small rockets.

      A recent launch of note that used Terrier-Malemute variants was ATREX [].

  • Is there an actual problem with the weather, or are we just being wimpy? When is the last time weather destroyed a rocket in flight? We're being too careful if this isn't a decent portion (perhaps 10%) of the failures.

    You're going to lose a few rockets anyway. If you don't even up the causes of failure, you're being pointlessly reckless in some areas while being pointlessly fearful in others.

    • The cost of waiting a week to launch RBSP after a hurricaine has passed is waaaaaaay less than the cost of letting RBSP crash because of weather. RBSP's development costs - I don't know for sure, but on the order of 7 or 8 hundred million dollars(?) It's not the same as "hey, let's go for it on fourth-and-long". This isn't football. Nobody's going to think its a "ballsy" decision to launch a rocket in an oncoming hurricaine (unless that what it was designed to do.) What they'll think it is, is "stu

      • by r00t ( 33219 )

        Development costs don't get wasted unless you never succeed. Construction costs get wasted for every device that gets built but crashes or is never launched.

        These delays are not free. You have the cost of an aborted launch, and you have the cost of not performing the mission for a period of time. You also create delays for other launches from the same location, causing costs that are externalized to some other program.

        • The launch rate from Wallops Island is not so high as to be a concern. NASA only conducted 13 sounding-rocket launches in 2011, not all from Wallops.

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein