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tsumrall
2009-Jun-02, 05:55 PM
Given the current configuration can a shuttle be launched autonomously?

Hornblower
2009-Jun-02, 05:58 PM
Given the current configuration can a shuttle be launched autonomously?

What do you mean by autonomously?

tsumrall
2009-Jun-02, 06:16 PM
No pilots.

PraedSt
2009-Jun-02, 07:00 PM
Don't know about launch, but maybe landing. Have a look at this post (http://www.bautforum.com/space-exploration/75496-sts-125-shuttle-mission-hubble-servicing-mission-4-a-18.html#post1492706). We had a small discussion on it recently.

JustAFriend
2009-Jun-02, 08:13 PM
Everything's done by computer anyway.

Even carrier fighters launch and land mostly hands off these days.

But if you're thinking of using the remaining Shuttles as unmanned cargo carriers, forget it.
They're already pegged to go to museums in just a few years.

nauthiz
2009-Jun-02, 08:23 PM
At least according to the original design (there have been upgrades since 1981), there must have been zero capability for an autonomous flight. The very first launch ever, STS-1, was manned. That makes it unique among space vehicles, every other maiden flight of a new launch vehicle has been autonomous.

slang
2009-Jun-02, 08:42 PM
No pilots.

I hear you. Just let a software guy sit there. I'll do it. :)

Why do you ask? There's a difference between "sending it up", and "sending it up with an acceptable amount of risk to (non-pilot) astronauts on board". Is it expected to land again?

tsumrall
2009-Jun-02, 09:01 PM
Thanks PraedSt, I've been watching it.

JustAFriend: No cargo and just one and just once and I try not to forget anything.

I don't remember voting on pegging anything. Must have been a glitch in my email that day. ;)

mugaliens
2009-Jun-05, 07:35 PM
No pilots.

No. While the actuation of the controls under various flight modes is automated, those flight modes must be selected by the pilot, and involved flipping various manual switches to enable some systems and disable others, throughout the various phases of flights.

These could be automated to be done either via an onboard program, or remote (ground), but doing so would mean losing the very valuable on-board flex capability we have in the form of pilots. For much simpler systems, this have been done since the 1960s. The Space Shuttle isn't very simple, though... It's arguably one of the most complex vehicles we send into space.

JustAFriend
2009-Jun-06, 03:07 PM
So what it boils down to is you want to spend a half-a-billion dollars for the launch
(and risk a $2billion orbiter) just to do something once just for the sheer:
"Coool! Lets see if we can do it...."

Yeahhhhhhhh..... let us come over and tie M-80s to YOUR toys sometime.....

joema
2009-Jun-07, 11:27 PM
A complete unmanned landing is now possible, under certain circumstances. This capability was developed following the Columbia disaster. It's called "Remote Controlled Orbiter" (RCO), or more formally Autonomous Orbiter Rapid Prototype (AORP). It consists mainly of cables and switches that can be installed into the orbiterís flight deck, plus software changes.

The purpose is for this scenario: shuttle sustains damage during ascent, but crew takes safe haven on board ISS. Orbiter cannot be repaired with sufficient confidence to allow manned reentry, but there's a chance it might survive.

To avoid writing off the vehicle a capability was developed to allow unmanned reentry and landing. The vehicle was already capable of mostly autonomous reentry and landing with a few exceptions: lowering landing gear, deploying air data probes, etc. The modifications enable those.

Despite the "remote" nomenclature, the vehicle wouldn't be remote controlled in real time from a flight control standpoint. Rather a few systems would be remotely started/stopped. Reentry and landing would be autonomous, as is already possible.

See http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2006/08/nasa-enhancing-unmanned-orbiter-capability/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STS-3xx#Remote_Control_Orbiter

An unmanned launch is probably possible. However opening the payload bay doors cannot be done remotely or automatically (currently). Obviously those are minor things which could be automated if the need existed.

So in the current state the vehicle could probably be launched and orbited unmanned. If the RCO cable was installed pre-launch it might do an immediate reentry and landing. However there's only one cable, currently on board ISS.

slang
2009-Jun-07, 11:39 PM
So what it boils down to is you want to spend a half-a-billion dollars for the launch
(and risk a $2billion orbiter) just to do something once just for the sheer:
"Coool! Lets see if we can do it...."

In fairness, OP did not state his reason for asking this question. One reason for doing this might be to launch a shuttle and add it to ISS as a free extra module Well, free if it was going to be discarded.

Thanks Joema, guess we still need Adam and Jamie to construct an "Open the pod bay doors, Discovery!" rig.

Jens
2009-Jun-08, 02:44 AM
In fairness, OP did not state his reason for asking this question. One reason for doing this might be to launch a shuttle and add it to ISS as a free extra module Well, free if it was going to be discarded.


I don't think you'd want an extra module there, just to use up electricity. I think a more likely reason for asking the question would be, the shuttles will be retired largely because of the risk to astronauts of flying them. If they were unmanned, would it make further flights acceptable? The problem is, I don't think that the missions themselves, like fixing the Hubble telescope, could be automated. But maybe bringing things up to the ISS could be done.

mugaliens
2009-Jun-08, 06:06 AM
ISS resupply could certainly be done via automation. As mentioned elsewhere, the Shuttle is a horribly inefficient resupply ship as it hauls up tons of dead weight who's sole purpose is to support the retrieval of tons of weight retrieved from orbit back to Earth.

Dead weight both ways - not good!