Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Space EU Science

A Brief History of the ESA ( 27

An anonymous reader writes: Ars Technica takes a look at the history and development of the European Space agency. Getting things done at the ESA has an extra layer of difficulty compared to most other space programs because they rely on cooperation between many governments with different goals and budgets. "The first talks regarding the ESA took place against the backdrop of the growing space rivalry between the United States and Soviet Union, which had burst onto the world's stage with the successful Sputnik mission in October 1957. ... By 1959, the effort took on a sense of urgency.

Auger and Amaldi were concerned that the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Science Committee was thinking of developing a satellite to put Europe in space. Krige's book states that both scientists '[balked] at the prospect of having European space research located in an [organization] essentially dedicated to military goals, an [organization] which would impose layers of bureaucracy and secrecy on any space science effort.'" This led to the formation of the European Space Research Organization and the European Launcher Development Organization, which became precursors to the ESA. Today, the ESA's mission pipeline is packed with interesting probes set to do fascinating science.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

A Brief History of the ESA

Comments Filter:
  • The whole reason for both Shuttle accidents is because hardware had to be but in different states and shipped to another state to launch it. O-rings were needed so the SRB's could be segmented for transport and the foam on the ET's couldn't be done completely because of close outs that needed to be done after shipping.

    • by Brett Buck ( 811747 ) on Saturday January 02, 2016 @01:50AM (#51225421)

      No it wasn't. The SRBs were always going to be segmented because otherwise, they would be nearly impossible to refurbish as one-piece items. It had nothing to do with shipping it. Morevoer, the proximal cause of the accident was a compound of two issues - a design flaw that had been "normalized away" by repeated success, and launching outside the qualified temperature range.

            The ET foam was always an issue (as it was on the S-II stage from the Saturn V) and the area of the bipod ramp was just a worst-case example. Arguably this was also a design flaw, also "normalized away" by time and lackadaisical attitude towards damage. The specifications on the tolerance of the TPS to damage was *zero*, none whatsoever. They got away with it time after time, until luck caught up with them.

      • As for the SRB's I guess you haven't heard of this facility. []

        • Of course I have heard of it. Those 260" motors were never intended to be re-usable, therefore there was no need for them to be segmented for refurbishment (which is heavy and, as clear, introduces more failure modes). If you are going to make a 22' diameter engine in one piece, you had better make it in situ.

    • The Challenger disaster was to trying to rush a launch in conditions that weren't suited for it. The rush if I remember as for the presidential speech and the failure was the o-rings failing in sub-zero temperatures. Then the investigation was marred by cover up and lack of transparency. It took an outsider, who wasn't afraid to upset, in the form of Richard Feynman to make the point on the rubber issue, based on a tip-off.

      One of the main issues that has impacted NASA in the past in complacency, when it com

    • by ebvwfbw ( 864834 )

      They still don't admit the truth about the second orbiter. It failed because the environmentalists made them stop using CFCs for the foam. It wasn't tested properly, just like the hubble mirrors and it caused a catastrophic failure. No mention it was because of the environmentalists. The mirrors was really stupid. Instead of checking on the ground, they let it fly. Saving about $30,000 is memory serves me. The money to test them on the ground. Well it cost us billions to save that $30,000.

  • by sugar and acid ( 88555 ) on Saturday January 02, 2016 @09:38AM (#51226279)

    "ESRO enjoyed its first big success in 1968 with the launch of ESRO 2B, an astronomy survey orbiter that was delivered to orbit utilizing a Scout rocket from the Western Test Range in California. But the establishment of a European launch vehicle, which was eventually named Europa, didn't progress as hoped. Several nations collaborated on the vehicle, with the United Kingdom developing the first stage (based on the “Blue Streak” ballistic missile), France the second stage, and Germany the third. Europa experienced many growing pains, cost overruns, and a lack of focus. Successive rocket stage failures eventually doomed the program."

    What isn't mentioned is that there were 2 countries that had developed space programs with a launch capability by 1971 in the same time period as they were trying to develop Europa. The French had the Diamant launch system, and in the same period the UK developed the same Blue Streak missile technology, used on the Europa first stage, into the Black Arrow rocket. Both countries had successfully launched satellites by 1971. The Europa launch system was your obvious european politically driven mixture of technology from UK, France and West Germany with the divisions causing confusion and poor communication between the engineering teams. Result was it failed, got scrapped and the Ariane launch system was developed and put together by the French, which makes sense as they had the most experience and success with their own launch vehicle. The UK dropped their space launch capability and decided to focus on what would become ESA, making them the only country to have developed a national satellite launch capability and then to have dropped it.

    • "The UK dropped their space launch capability and decided to focus on what would become ESA, making them the only country to have developed a national satellite launch capability and then to have dropped it." Unfortunately this has been a common trend in the UK. Look at the Comet airliner that was ahead of the times that got shelved after issues.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel