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Space Science

How To Steal a Space Shuttle 130

An anonymous reader tips a piece by Jason Torchinsky at Jalopnik, who attended the California Science Center's press conference about moving Space Shuttle Endeavour through Los Angeles to its final resting place. While he was there, he noticed that security for the event was focused less on the shuttle than on keeping the city itself safe. So, after a helpful LAPD officer suggested it would be impossible for a supervillain to make off with OV-105, Torchinsky went ahead and made a plan to do just that. All he needs is a submarine, a score of Sikorsky CH-53E heavy-lift helicopters, a salvaged and disguised Buran spaceplane, and the assistance of Switzerland.
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How To Steal a Space Shuttle

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  • by poity ( 465672 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @03:48PM (#41562147)

    1. Acquire Buran
    2. Call off plan since you already have a shuttle

  • by LifesABeach ( 234436 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @05:42PM (#41563337) Homepage
    No. No, no, no, no. Why return anything? Name one super villan that returned an ocean liner. Super Villians leave their discarded toys all over the crime scene.

    "Anybody can kick a sleeping Tiger in the rear. But they had better have a plan for the claws, and teeth." - T.Clancy
  • A few problems (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @06:57PM (#41564185)

    When the chaos is at its climax, a fleet of 10 Sikorsky CH-53E heavy lift helicopters wearing NASA Emergency Rescue livery will show up, and heroically inform everyone that they're here to take the Shuttle to a more secure location, away from the fire, and all that, back at LAX.

    I don't think it would be possible for 10 choppers to coordinate to lift a load like that, the diameter of the rotors on the chopper is 80 feet, and the wingspan of the shuttle is 80 feet, so they would be pulling at an angle, which even if they could maintain the proper separation, would reduce their payload capacity. Worse, if one chopper loses or reduces power, the downward force would pull all of the choppers closer together, likely causing their rotors to collide. This coordination would be much harder to maintain when they fly into the smokescreen. To do this in real life, they'd need some kind of special bracket to allow the choppers to have enough horizontal separation to lift vertically.

    Meanwhile, the real Endeavour is being flown a few miles West, out to the Pacific. While in flight, a crack team of Swiss military aerialists will wrap the Shuttle in camouflaged and water-tight plastic wrap, like they use for boats and other heavy equipment when shipping.

    It seems highly unlikely that they'd be able to get a watertight seal around all of the tow ropes while airborne.... though they are a *crack* team, so maybe.

    Once wrapped, the tethers holding the Shuttle will be released, sending the plastic-coated orbiter plunging into the icy Pacific.

    This part is even harder - the picture in the article shows the shuttle sinking under the water to the special submarine, except that the shuttle wouldn't sink, it would float.

    The shuttle cargo bay alone is 18m x 4.5m x 2m (estimated), or 162 m^3, which would displace 162,000 kg or water, or around 178 US tons. Add in the rest of the volume of the shuttle, and it's probably closer to 250 tons of displacement. The sub would have to come snatch it from the surface. I assume that something like an 16,000 ton Ohio Class sub would be able to submerge even with a 200 ton buoyant chamber on it, but I don't know for sure - I don't know how close to neutrally buoyant a sub is.

    And of course, if the shuttle was submerged, it's unlikely that it could handle much pressure - it's designed to be under positive pressure in space, every 30 feet under water is one atmosphere of negative pressure, which the shuttle was never designed for.

    And then finally there's the problem of what to do with it once they get it, the article suggests:

    A country with a motive, like maybe a strange fixation on neutrality to the degree they've made their country a fortress and they may be interested in getting a spaceship for an off-world colony, fast.

    If they are building a space colony, they'd probably want to get higher than the 400 mile max orbit of the shuttle. And if they just want a launch vehicle, for the $600M they are spending on the 20 CH-53E's, they may as well pay the Russians to take them to space, since they Russians can launch them cheaper than the $450M/flight it costs for the shuttle. And, of course, the shuttles are no longer spaceworthy, and it's likely that no one (not even NASA) has the ability to take a mothballed shuttle that's been on an underwater journey and make it spaceworthy again.

    If I were a Mythbuster, I'd declare this myth "Busted", as I don't see any way it could work in real life.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.