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Bill Roberts
2003-Feb-09, 05:01 PM
I was wondering if anyone knows more about this than I do and can possibly explain. . .

When Ron Dittemore discussed NASA's awareness of possible damage to the left wing of the shuttle, he said 1) that they did not believe the damage was threatening, and 2) that there was nothing that could be done anyway.

Yesterday, in my local newspaper (of all places) I read an Associated Press article explaining how a couple of years ago, when somewhat similar damage was suspected to have occurred to the right wing of Atlantis, the re-entry angle was modified. In short, the suttle was angled slightly to the right so the drag on the damaged wing was reduced (as the article said, imagine a football player turning away from a tackler so his injured knee isn't hit). I believe the process is called "thermal conditioning."

Here is the URL to the story: http://archive.columbiatribune.com/2003/Feb/20030208News019.asp

Unfortunately, the diagrams are not included, but the article contains a more detailed description of the maneuver. I've tried to find other stories on this, but my local paper is the only place that I have found anything more than a passing reference to this story.

I'm not attempting to be a conspiracy nut or point the finger at anyone, but does anyone know why this wasn't considered in Columbia's situtation, given the possiblity of damage to the left wing? Perhaps it was too risky or deemed ineffective?

David Hall
2003-Feb-09, 05:59 PM
I wouldn't be surprised if there were some minor alterations that could be made to alleviate some of the stress on a specific area, but I doubt there's a lot that would have made a huge difference overall.

As for what was said during the interview, that was an off-the-cuff remark, so I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't aware of all the possibilities.

Kizarvexis
2003-Feb-09, 10:55 PM
There is the possiblity that after inspecting Atlantis on the ground that the 'favoring' of one wing over the other didn't make much of a difference. I would like an official explanation of why it wasn't used on Columbia though.

Kizarvexis

David Hall
2003-Feb-09, 11:11 PM
Also, taking the load off of one area would mean increasing the load on others. Maybe the trade-off just wasn't safe in this case.

Donnie B.
2003-Feb-10, 01:49 AM
Keep in mind that NASA's review of the foam incident concluded that there was no chance of significant damage. Therefore there was no need for special measures on reentry.

It's still uncertain whether that conclusion was or was not correct.

Bill Roberts
2003-Feb-10, 05:19 AM
You all make very good points, it's very possible that given what they knew at the time, it didn't seem like the risk was warranted.

My real concern is that NASA is making an effort to be more open about what happened here than they were with Challenger, which is good, but they have created an appearance in this case of not being forthcoming. I wish that they had been more open about the fact that this possibility (favoring the left side on re-entry) existed, but was ruled out; rather than simply saying that even if there was something wrong there was nothing they could do.

I think they HAVE to be totally forthcoming in order to prevent the investigation from becoming more of a political football than an actual problem solving effort.

Argos
2003-Feb-10, 02:04 PM
I think this accident shows that the safety of people on the ground must come into discussion.

To land on Florida the shuttle has to fly over thousands of miles of land. LA, Phoenix, New Orleans, and even Dallas and Houston, were at risk in the last Columbia flight.

I believe it would be a good idea to work on this problem. Spain, a place reserved for an emergency landing should be explored as a permanent site for landing of shuttle missions, at least for those ones connected to ISS, an international project. To land in Spain, the shuttle would approach in the final leg flying over the sea. At the critical phase of reentry it would be over the Atlantic. The risk of casualties on the ground due to accidents on reentry maneuvers would be reduced to a minimum. The downside is the extra amount of fuel required to alter the orbit inclination by some degrees, and the costs of transporting the shuttle back to the US.

Anyway, Florida has shown to be the worst place for a shuttle landing.

kucharek
2003-Feb-10, 02:13 PM
If you don't want the re-entry and approach over country, just always land at Edwards. Then most of the critical stuff happens over the pacific ocean.
But then, in case of an accident, not very much evidence would be salvaged. And, as the current accident proofed, the chances to be hit on the ground are pretty small, even in denser populated area.
Some ten years ago, two Canadian F-18 fighters crashed into each other over Karlsruhe, the 270000 inhabitants city where I live. Debris rained down all over the city (some impact sites within view of my flat). Roofs and cars were damaged, but no one was directly hit by the debris. There are also plane crashes from time to time, but rarely people on the ground are affected.

Harald

Irishman
2003-Feb-10, 02:55 PM
One possible difference is alluded to in that article. The location of tile damage on Atlantis was described as the top of the wing just in front of the elevon. The damage on Columbia was suspected along the bottom of the leading edge.


"You can yaw the vehicle to the side, you can roll the vehicle a little bit," said Steven Schneider, an associate professor at Purdue University’s Aerospace Sciences Laboratory. He said some shuttle surfaces, such as near the fuselage or the back edges of the wings, could be better shielded during such maneuvers than others. "You can’t change the trajectory too much."

Bolding mine.

Kaptain K
2003-Feb-10, 03:06 PM
If Columbia had been headed for Edwards, we would have even less evedence than we do now (Scant and inconclusive as it is.).

Argos
2003-Feb-10, 04:31 PM
Of all the landing sites currently availble, Iberic peninsula is the one with lesser area of dry land to fly over.

I would prefer a single tax-payer protected from falling debris, than a neat investigation.

DaveC
2003-Feb-10, 04:41 PM
On 2003-02-10 11:31, Argos wrote:
Of all the landing sites currently availble, Iberic peninsula is the one with lesser area of dry land to fly over.

I would prefer a single tax-payer protected from falling debris, than a neat investigation.


Ah - taxpayers are a dime a dozen! If the investigation is compromised by inaccessibility of the wreckage, how would it be possible to ensure that future astronauts (and taxpayers) aren't at risk because of a failure that wasn't identified?

Argos
2003-Feb-10, 04:54 PM
On 2003-02-10 11:41, DaveC wrote:


On 2003-02-10 11:31, Argos wrote:
Of all the landing sites currently availble, Iberic peninsula is the one with lesser area of dry land to fly over.

I would prefer a single tax-payer protected from falling debris, than a neat investigation.


Ah - taxpayers are a dime a dozen! If the investigation is compromised by inaccessibility of the wreckage, how would it be possible to ensure that future astronauts (and taxpayers) aren't at risk because of a failure that wasn't identified?




It is a false dilemma. Astronauts know the riks of the enterprise (no pun).

The responsibility of NASA (as anyone else) is to operate without threatening civilians. If thereīs room for cutting the overall risk for the external public, NASA (as any other entity) must act accordingly.

logicboy
2003-Feb-10, 04:57 PM
Here is an IDEA!!

What about using one of our ground based telescopes to inspect the shuttle before re-entry.
They could make the tiles reflect light therefore making them easier to see.

Maybe even go as far as putting small transmitters on each of the tiles. I realize it might be $$$ but to save lives?

Doodler
2003-Feb-10, 04:59 PM
On 2003-02-10 11:31, Argos wrote:
Of all the landing sites currently availble, Iberic peninsula is the one with lesser area of dry land to fly over.

I would prefer a single tax-payer protected from falling debris, than a neat investigation.




*sigh* I was wondering when a NIMBYist would show up. God forbid a taxpayer in another country suffers, eh? Better yet, who cares what really happened, we can just dump the wreckage in the ocean and wash our hands of it. Very selfish... The shuttle is an American bird, she has every right to land here. Any crash in another country opens the doors to all kind of political crap, and fights over salvage of debris, think of the looting happening now in Texas being fought in the international courts. If it has to go down, better it go down on the home field, at least then we retain control of the situation from launch to landing.

DaveC
2003-Feb-10, 05:18 PM
On 2003-02-10 11:54, Argos wrote:
[The responsibility of NASA (as anyone else) is to operate without threatening civilians. If thereīs room for cutting the overall risk for the external public, NASA (as any other entity) must act accordingly.


There will always be some risk to innocent bystanders. For this one incident, using Spain as a landing site would have dropped virtually all the wreckage in the Atlantic Ocean. But if the loss of integrity of the spacecraft had happened at a different point in its landing approach, or indeed while it was still in orbit, the choice of planned landing site may have made no difference to where the wreckage came to Earth. Overshooting the mark in the Iberian Peninsula could drop the shuttle on some pretty populated parts of southern Europe. That may be just as much of an issue as coming up short depending on the type of failure. There just isn't a zero risk option for the Earthbound, although the risk is obviously much less than it is for the astronauts.

nebularain
2003-Feb-10, 05:34 PM
On 2003-02-10 11:57, logicboy wrote:
What about using one of our ground based telescopes to inspect the shuttle before re-entry.

I'm not sure this would have made a difference. From what I heard (and I could be wrong), it sounds as if it was the underside that was possibly damaged. When the shuttle is in orbit, it travels upside-down; therefore, the the underside would have been facing away from the Earth. Once the shuttle flips over for re-entry, I do not think there would be enough time for an inspection.

logicboy
2003-Feb-10, 06:01 PM
I'm not sure this would have made a difference. From what I heard (and I could be wrong), it sounds as if it was the underside that was possibly damaged. When the shuttle is in orbit, it travels upside-down; therefore, the the underside would have been facing away from the Earth. Once the shuttle flips over for re-entry, I do not think there would be enough time for an inspection.




You are probably right about the not enough time issue. I think it would be justifiable to make time for a pre re-entry inspection.

The only thing they would need would be a high resolution image of the underside.

There are many things NASA could do but I feel a change needs to be made to their re-entry procedures.

Argos
2003-Feb-10, 08:10 PM
On 2003-02-10 11:59, Doodler wrote:

*sigh* I was wondering when a NIMBYist would show up.



NIMBYist. What is it? Do I look like one? /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif. Sighing is a common reaction of who encounters a silly argument. Do you regard my concern for (American) civilians as silly, or futile? Well, maybe Iīm too heart-bleeding...



God forbid a taxpayer in another country suffers, eh? Better yet, who cares what really happened, we can just dump the wreckage in the ocean and wash our hands of it. Very selfish...


Iīm not a selfish. Iīm talking from a universal point of vantage. I think iīm expressing a very reasonable concern. As you know, ISS is an international project(*) suject to an international agreement. The spanish "tax-payer" is part of the process. The burden should be equally distributed. And no matter where the "tax-payer" or human being lives. The risks must be reduced at any cost. Spain should be less risky for everyone.



The shuttle is an American bird, she has every right to land here.


NO discussion, sir. I hope the worst case scenario I consider never turns into fact.

(*) I just donīt know if Spain is part of the deal.



<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Argos on 2003-02-10 15:12 ]</font>

Bill Roberts
2003-Feb-10, 09:31 PM
Regarding the risk of falling debris. We're overflown by all manner of aircraft all of the time, craft flying at much lower altitudes with much less time for debris to disperse and break into smaller pieces. Remember, when Pan-Am 103 was bombed, people on the ground were killed too, as with the crash in NYC shortly after the WTC attacks.

Compare the prevalence of jumbo commercial jets and other civilian flights to the relative rarity of shuttle overflights. Even though the Shuttle is more likely to have a problem than other aircraft (unless Courtney Love is on board the other aircraft), the sparsity of overflights adds little to what people have going on over their heads everyday.

Doodler
2003-Feb-10, 09:49 PM
On 2003-02-10 15:10, Argos wrote:


On 2003-02-10 11:59, Doodler wrote:

*sigh* I was wondering when a NIMBYist would show up.



NIMBYist. What is it? Do I look like one? /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif. Sighing is a common reaction of who encounters a silly argument. Do you regard my concern for (American) civilians as silly, or futile? Well, maybe Iīm too heart-bleeding...



God forbid a taxpayer in another country suffers, eh? Better yet, who cares what really happened, we can just dump the wreckage in the ocean and wash our hands of it. Very selfish...


Iīm not a selfish. Iīm talking from a universal point of vantage. I think iīm expressing a very reasonable concern. As you know, ISS is an international project(*) suject to an international agreement. The spanish "tax-payer" is part of the process. The burden should be equally distributed. And no matter where the "tax-payer" or human being lives. The risks must be reduced at any cost. Spain should be less risky for everyone.



The shuttle is an American bird, she has every right to land here.


NO discussion, sir. I hope the worst case scenario I consider never turns into fact.

(*) I just donīt know if Spain is part of the deal.



<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Argos on 2003-02-10 15:12 ]</font>


NIMBYism - Not In My Back Yard-ism. A form of protest that deems anything that may disrupt the normal flow of events at the home of a said individual should not be imposed at any cost, whether said disruption is beneficial or baneful. eg, anew shopping center in a region which will add a number of jobs and economic growth to an area is proposed and the knee jerk reaction of the community, while liking the idea, does not believe said development should occur anywhere it might impose on their particular patch of dirt. Whether by additional traffic or whatnot.

I was not sighing because I found your point silly, futile maybe, definitely frustrating, but not silly. The Station is international, and Spain's part is through ESA cooperation, if at all. I do not know specifics. The Shuttles, aside from the arm, are purely American in financing and construction (Not sure about components, some COULD be imports), so they are OUR responsibility. Not to say that we ought to fly them exclusively where they can drop debris all over us, better they not drop debris at all, but as we've seen the worst cases do tend to happen from time to time, and we ought to see to it we do our best not to make our shuttle's accidents a problem for others. Sorry if it seemed a personal attack, that was not the intent, its just frustration at the concept in general.


edited to add definition of NIMBYism.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Doodler on 2003-02-10 16:57 ]</font>

daver
2003-Feb-10, 09:49 PM
On 2003-02-10 11:57, logicboy wrote:
Here is an IDEA!!

What about using one of our ground based telescopes to inspect the shuttle before re-entry.



They've done something like that in the past (maybe even to Columbia). Maybe it should be made mandatory, although i'm not sure that that would do much good. Maybe the shuttles should be equipped with a flying camera that makes a once-around (although now you have to worry about the camera running into the shuttle and causing the damage it was supposed to detect. And if you bring the camera down with the shuttle, you're landing with several pounds of explosive fuel on board, unless you vent the camera's fuel before docking). Even if you detect damage, you still have the question of what to do about it. Maybe someone can come up with some space-going spackling compound that you can use to fill and cracks or voids. And a mobile platform to stand on while applying it. Maybe it can be done; maybe it could even be done within five years. The question is, is it worth it? How much of a fluke was Columbia?

Doodler
2003-Feb-10, 10:13 PM
There is some development going on with remote flying cameras using compressed nitrogen for propulsion, Space.com has a pretty good article on them at the moment.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Doodler on 2003-02-10 17:14 ]</font>

daver
2003-Feb-10, 10:45 PM
On 2003-02-10 17:13, Doodler wrote:
There is some development going on with remote flying cameras using compressed nitrogen for propulsion, Space.com has a pretty good article on them at the moment.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Doodler on 2003-02-10 17:14 ]</font>


Good idea; that solves the fuel problem for the camera. Still leaves the other issues.

Argos
2003-Feb-11, 12:14 AM
On 2003-02-10 11:59, Doodler wrote:

NIMBYism - Not In My Back Yard-ism.



Ok. Definitely funny. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif



The Shuttles, aside from the arm, are purely American in financing and construction (Not sure about components, some COULD be imports), so they are OUR responsibility. Not to say that we ought to fly them exclusively where they can drop debris all over us, better they not drop debris at all, but as we've seen the worst cases do tend to happen from time to time,


I see my reasoning has taken a path different than I wanted. I didnīt mean to hurt susceptibilities. I just put a legitimate thought on the discussion. I think itīs fairly legal.

Iīm not willing to argument for the "internationalization" of the shuttles. I really just wanted to post something about a matter that was hardly commented here: the safety on ground. Maybe Iīm over estimating the dangers (I come from a corporate safety culture), over acting my sensitivity or playing the devilīs advocate. But I think this board can withstand weird, sometimes rather foolish, arguments once in a while.

Regards. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

Kaptain K
2003-Feb-11, 01:17 PM
Here is an IDEA!!

What about using one of our ground based telescopes to inspect the shuttle before re-entry.
Have you seen the photo of Columbia taken with the Project Starfire camera? It was taken with a 3.5 meter (150 inch) scope equipped with adaptive optics. This is "state of the art" hi-res imaging by a system specifically designed to photograph satelites in orbit. There is very little detail visible. Astronomical scopes are not capable of "slewing" fast enough to keep up with the Shuttle.

logicboy
2003-Feb-11, 03:52 PM
On 2003-02-10 17:13, Doodler wrote:
There is some development going on with remote flying cameras using compressed nitrogen for propulsion, Space.com has a pretty good article on them at the moment.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Doodler on 2003-02-10 17:14 ]</font>


Using sensors on each of the tiles and a remote flying camera sounds like a redundant enough system.

But what if something were to break?

Doodler
2003-Feb-11, 04:03 PM
Honestly, we lose the shuttle. All the repair kits, cameras and robots cannot possibly cover every base. You can reengineer the spacecraft till your heart is content, you can fly every possible approach you can think of, and at some point, things are just going to happen. There was a CNN report that said the odds of a failed shuttle flight were 1/200 on paper; in practice, were about 1/60 give or take the next seven missions. After reading all the threads, reviewing the comments from people who know a LOT more than I ever will, the space shuttle as is, is the best system we can build in reusable spacecraft and its still a crapshoot. There will be incremental improvements in the system as new flaws are found and new materials made available, but the fact is, there is no perfect fix. We do not ask these people to take these risks, they volunteer for it, in VASTER numbers than NASA has slots for. All we can do is make these people fully aware (as if this and Challenger didn't make that CRYSTAL clear)and prepare them to handle the challenge. We're as good as we can get right now, realistically, what more can we do?

Doodler
2003-Feb-11, 04:06 PM
On 2003-02-10 19:14, Argos wrote:

I see my reasoning has taken a path different than I wanted. I didnīt mean to hurt susceptibilities. I just put a legitimate thought on the discussion. I think itīs fairly legal.

Iīm not willing to argument for the "internationalization" of the shuttles. I really just wanted to post something about a matter that was hardly commented here: the safety on ground. Maybe Iīm over estimating the dangers (I come from a corporate safety culture), over acting my sensitivity or playing the devilīs advocate. But I think this board can withstand weird, sometimes rather foolish, arguments once in a while.

Regards. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif


I understand, my thought is that she's our ship, she's our responsibility, for better or worse.

logicboy
2003-Feb-11, 04:14 PM
On 2003-02-11 11:03, Doodler wrote:
Honestly, we lose the shuttle. All the repair kits, cameras and robots cannot possibly cover every base. You can reengineer the spacecraft till your heart is content, you can fly every possible approach you can think of, and at some point, things are just going to happen. There was a CNN report that said the odds of a failed shuttle flight were 1/200 on paper; in practice, were about 1/60 give or take the next seven missions. After reading all the threads, reviewing the comments from people who know a LOT more than I ever will, the space shuttle as is, is the best system we can build in reusable spacecraft and its still a crapshoot. There will be incremental improvements in the system as new flaws are found and new materials made available, but the fact is, there is no perfect fix. We do not ask these people to take these risks, they volunteer for it, in VASTER numbers than NASA has slots for. All we can do is make these people fully aware (as if this and Challenger didn't make that CRYSTAL clear)and prepare them to handle the challenge. We're as good as we can get right now, realistically, what more can we do?


I agree with you but the purpose of this system would be to check the structure and the titles of the space shuttle so that this kind of accident has a lower chance of happening again. To improve the ratio from 1/200 to 1/201+ is worth the extra $$$ to me and it should be to be to NASA to.

Plus the remote camera system would be able to take some awesome shots and aid in work that has to be done up there.

Doodler
2003-Feb-11, 04:23 PM
I agree in principle, if the improvements do not seriously compromise vehicle function.


As to the robots, they CAN help, I agree, if in fact there is work that can be done to repair the damage. I was thinking about tile replacement on the fly. There is some spray fibrous stuff used in building construction for fire-rated columns and beams. Supposedly it can handle fires for a UL Lab tested 2 hours (1.5 hours real world) before the structure is compromised. COuld something like this be sprayed onto the shuttle and either trowled (there's an image) or maybe even injection molded into a form and allowed to set? Just a thought.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Doodler on 2003-02-11 11:25 ]</font>

logicboy
2003-Feb-11, 04:55 PM
RE-ENTRY Temperatures can reach up to 3000 degrees F or 1650 degrees C!! that would have to be some tough stuff

daver
2003-Feb-11, 06:42 PM
On 2003-02-11 11:14, logicboy wrote:


On 2003-02-11 11:03, Doodler wrote:
Honestly, we lose the shuttle. All the repair kits, cameras and robots cannot possibly cover every base. You can reengineer the spacecraft till your heart is content, you can fly every possible approach you can think of, and at some point, things are just going to happen. There was a CNN report that said the odds of a failed shuttle flight were 1/200 on paper; in practice, were about 1/60 give or take the next seven missions. After reading all the threads, reviewing the comments from people who know a LOT more than I ever will, the space shuttle as is, is the best system we can build in reusable spacecraft and its still a crapshoot. There will be incremental improvements in the system as new flaws are found and new materials made available, but the fact is, there is no perfect fix. We do not ask these people to take these risks, they volunteer for it, in VASTER numbers than NASA has slots for. All we can do is make these people fully aware (as if this and Challenger didn't make that CRYSTAL clear)and prepare them to handle the challenge. We're as good as we can get right now, realistically, what more can we do?


I agree with you but the purpose of this system would be to check the structure and the titles of the space shuttle so that this kind of accident has a lower chance of happening again. To improve the ratio from 1/200 to 1/201+ is worth the extra $$$ to me and it should be to be to NASA to.

Plus the remote camera system would be able to take some awesome shots and aid in work that has to be done up there.


Halting flights for five years to introduce equipment and procedures to reduce the accident rate from 1/200 to 1/201 is not a good bargain in my mind. Halting for two years to reduce it to 1/1000 might be (but i don't think a reduction to 1/1000 is believeable with the current shuttle design, NASA propaganda to the contrary). Continuing to fly while working on procedures to reduce the rate to 1/250 seems reasonable.

In my opinion, the loss of Columbia should set off major alarm bells in NASA--i don't believe the shuttles will continue to fly after the next one is lost. It's about time for NASA to either got off the stick and design a serious shuttle replacement or admit that they aren't serious about manned spaceflight. There's a bit too much resting on laurels going on here.

Doodler
2003-Feb-11, 07:29 PM
On 2003-02-11 11:55, logicboy wrote:
RE-ENTRY Temperatures can reach up to 3000 degrees F or 1650 degrees C!! that would have to be some tough stuff


The spray stuff they currently use to obtain a 2 hr fire rating is tested to 2000 F for 240 minutes according to Underwriter's Laboratories, Inc., almost but not quite.

Kizarvexis
2003-Feb-12, 12:04 AM
On 2003-02-11 14:29, Doodler wrote:


On 2003-02-11 11:55, logicboy wrote:
RE-ENTRY Temperatures can reach up to 3000 degrees F or 1650 degrees C!! that would have to be some tough stuff


The spray stuff they currently use to obtain a 2 hr fire rating is tested to 2000 F for 240 minutes according to Underwriter's Laboratories, Inc., almost but not quite.


Not to mention, can it be applied during free fall in a vacuum? These are not trivial problems to overcome. (If only the media would figure that out.)

Kizarvexis

Irishman
2003-Feb-12, 05:19 PM
Argos, one problem with landing in Spain vs at Kennedy (or even Edwards) is the expense and hassle of bringing the shuttle back to America. One reason the drag chutes were installed to allow the shuttles to stop in a smaller length of runway was to reduce cost of transport from Edwards to KSC.

Also, some of the payloads require time sensitive post-flight processing. That means quick removal and return. That becomes more difficult to do elsewhere.

Doodler, they originally tried something like that - the oft-mentioned tile repair kit. It consisted of a caulk-like goo injected into the gaps on the tiles. It was a resin like the resin used in the ablative heat shields on Apollo. It was found that it impeded the function of the remaining tiles. Also, there was concern it would not retain grip on the tiles as the shuttle encountered the high drag, and fall off in clumps. It made the kits rendered counter to safety.

daver said:

It's about time for NASA to either got off the stick and design a serious shuttle replacement or admit that they aren't serious about manned spaceflight. There's a bit too much resting on laurels going on here.

It's not as simple as that. NASA has been constrained on budget by Congress and the President. With agendas of building the ISS, they are limited on what can be spent. Getting approval for funding of next generation launch vehicle is not a cake-walk.

NASA tried developing an alternative, with Lockheed Martin - the Venturestar. Design difficulties lead to cost overruns, and that lead to cancelation of the development.

However, it was just pointed out that in the September 2002 budget plan, there was appropriations put forward for development of a comprehensive plan. One step of the plan is developing a crew servicing module. This module would launch on a booster rocket, but be used for crew transfer. The proposed schedule would be development for a technology demonstrator by 2006, with operational vehicle by 2010. There is also look at the long term strategy for replacement of shuttle. So they are planning ahead.

It's just the replacement is not a quick thing. Consider what happened in shifting from Apollo to the Shuttle. Expendables were cut off until the shuttle was built and in place. That cost us Skylab, that fell out of orbit because there was no capability to visit it and bump it up in orbit. That is the same type of issue facing NASA now. To stop Shuttle while developing the replacement means years of NO FLIGHT. That's not the position we want to be in.

daver
2003-Feb-12, 06:53 PM
It's not as simple as that. NASA has been constrained on budget by Congress and the President. With agendas of building the ISS, they are limited on what can be spent. Getting approval for funding of next generation launch vehicle is not a cake-walk.

NASA tried developing an alternative, with Lockheed Martin - the Venturestar. Design difficulties lead to cost overruns, and that lead to cancelation of the development.



Venturestar is a symptom of what i'm complaining about--they were going for three or four bleeding edge techniques on the same development program. As it happened, they all failed (some more so than others).

Bleeding edge research is fine for developing the next next generation of vehicle (Grandson of Shuttle); it's dumb for developing the next generation, particularly when the current generation is getting so creaky. And basing your hopes of a cheap, reliable, robust transportation system on three advanced technologies all coming together is foolish to the point of idiocy.

NASA should be engaged in research--research to develop new technologies to get us into space, research to develop new technologies (power, communications, propulsion) once we're in space. I'd like to see more such programs. Venturestar could be counted as one such. But Venturestar was not a realistic shuttle replacement program.




However, it was just pointed out that in the September 2002 budget plan, there was appropriations put forward for development of a comprehensive plan. One step of the plan is developing a crew servicing module. This module would launch on a booster rocket, but be used for crew transfer. The proposed schedule would be development for a technology demonstrator by 2006, with operational vehicle by 2010. There is also look at the long term strategy for replacement of shuttle. So they are planning ahead.

It's just the replacement is not a quick thing. Consider what happened in shifting from Apollo to the Shuttle. Expendables were cut off until the shuttle was built and in place. That cost us Skylab, that fell out of orbit because there was no capability to visit it and bump it up in orbit. That is the same type of issue facing NASA now. To stop Shuttle while developing the replacement means years of NO FLIGHT. That's not the position we want to be in.


Saturn V production was terminated in the late 60's (before man landed on the moon). The shuttle was known to be economical only if the shuttle was the only vehicle launching satellites into orbit; expendables were shut down after the shuttle came on line (the military dragged its feet on this, for what turned out in hindsight to be good reasons).

Because expendables were going to be banned, new development more or less stopped on them.

Skylab fell because (1) more solar activity than anticipated, which sped up its decay, and (2) the shuttle was later than anticipated. Skylab was not designed to be resupplied (although there were some plans for it); i don't know how serious NASA was at maintaining it even if they could have gotten a shuttle to it in time.

I don't know if it is possible to read anything into the failure of NASA to develop a next generation shuttle (or for that matter, anything resembling a next generation technology that could be used in a next generation shuttle). It might mean that NASA is technically incapable of developing new launch technologies. It might be a management problem. It might be a willpower problem (for instance, NASA has a hard time justifying a manned space flight program, and hence has a hard time devoting any resources to maintaining one). It might be a budget/political problem (however, this might be a management problem as well--NASA management being hopelessly optimistic about what can reasonably be developed in a given time period with a given budget).

It has been suggested in the past that the shuttle essentially killed the old NASA--that NASA now spends almost all its resources in maintaining and flying the shuttle (and now the ISS) and has next to nothing left over for research and development. It has been suggested that the shuttle be privatized, or a new organization spawned off to run it. I have no idea if this is a good idea; but obviously i'm not very happy with the way things are currently going.

Doodler
2003-Feb-12, 09:51 PM
The problem with privatizing is the ban dropped on commercial use of the shuttle after the Challenger. How can you privatize a system private companies can't even use? Even worse, if you think Congress has butched the shuttle's budget and operations staff, try putting a slew o' suits in oversight with one eye on the bottom line and their other one on their benefits package, one hand in the cookie jar lining their pockets and the other crossing its fingers how costs can be cut and safety maintained. NASA at least is willing to put up the red flag and say "WHOA!" If their staff cuts are going to cause problems, they take more time to get the job done right with the people they have, ever see that in a corporate operation? No thanks, NASA may be a government beauracracy, but at least it has openly demonstrated that it gives a damn about the people it puts on the line.

daver
2003-Feb-12, 10:52 PM
On 2003-02-12 16:51, Doodler wrote:
The problem with privatizing is the ban dropped on commercial use of the shuttle after the Challenger. How can you privatize a system private companies can't even use? Even worse, if you think Congress has butched the shuttle's budget and operations staff, try putting a slew o' suits in oversight with one eye on the bottom line and their other one on their benefits package, one hand in the cookie jar lining their pockets and the other crossing its fingers how costs can be cut and safety maintained. NASA at least is willing to put up the red flag and say "WHOA!" If their staff cuts are going to cause problems, they take more time to get the job done right with the people they have, ever see that in a corporate operation? No thanks, NASA may be a government beauracracy, but at least it has openly demonstrated that it gives a damn about the people it puts on the line.


Then perhaps a solution would be to let NASA have the shuttle and the ISS and restart NACA for research and probes.