NASA has announced that the last space shuttle mission - Endeavour's STS-134 to the International Space Station - will now lift off on 26 February next year. Discovery's STS-133 mission, meanwhile, is scheduled for 1 November. NASA explains: "The target dates were adjusted because critical payload hardware for the STS-133 …
"scientists decided to change out the current magnet in the particle physics experiment module that will be attached to the International Space Station to a longer lasting one"
Really? That's how they attach kit to the ISS? By magnets?
So long Shuttle...
I am ambivalent about the final Shuttle flight. I was in high school when the contracts were ripped away from the designing East-coast technology companies and given to West-coast technology companies to build. I guess that the West-coast President had something to do with that. It was never pretty to hear all the bitching about the design after the East-coast designers were laid off, due to design-contract expiry.
It is time for them to stop. The reusable piece of the system weighs too much and it turned out that separately launching heavy workloads was much cheaper than taking them up with the people. The damn things weighs too much to just send up people in it. All of the 'patchwork' stuff that covers the obsolete tile-system-technology and launch-issues just added too much to keep it practical.
It was fun. It's a little stupid to rely on Russian launches until private-enterprise completes their near-alpha-test technology, but that is how it worked out.
Re So long Shuttle...
The Shuttle was multi-purpose and flexible though. With a payload bay and robot arm. Can you imagine Hubble being repaired and serviced, or the ISS being built without it?
Re So long Shuttle...
I don't think Beachrider is arguing with the flexibility of the Shuttle, just how the contracts were allocated. Several companies tendered for the key components of the Shuttle and the companies that eventually got the work were not those that were expected. North American Rockwell building the Orbiter was a real shock and there's always been suspicion that Nixon favoured a fellow Californian.
The choice of the SRB is also dubious; it was widely expected to have gone to Aerojet who had designed a monolithic booster design that would never have failed as happened with Challenger. Lockheed was second most likely. Instead it went to a segmented design from Morton Thiokol. Thiokol is based in Utah; at the time of the contract, NASA's head was James Fletcher who came from - Utah.
"It is time for them to stop."
True. But *every* previous attempt by NASA to design (and get built) a Shuttle replacement has resulted in some aerospace conglomerate trousering about a $Bn with nothing to show for it.
"The reusable piece of the system weighs too much"
Debatable, but I would expect more unified systems to cut the weight by quite a bit. Neither the SRB nor the SSME engines *ever* met their Isp targets. Those 2 or 3 secs made a *huge* difference between what they *should* have been able to carry (the weight the Shuttle was designed to) and the weight they *could* carry (which is what it had to be cut down to, by any means necessary).
" and it turned out that separately launching heavy workloads was much cheaper than taking them up with the people. "
It might have worked out that way but that is an empirical observation, not a *law* of physics and by now NASA should have a *lot* of information *why* that is and what to do about it.
The damn things weighs too much to just send up people in it.
I think you said that already.
"All of the 'patchwork' stuff that covers the obsolete tile-system-technology"
If you mean the blanket TPS used in some of the *cooler* parts of the Shuttle's structure they are used because they are *adequate* for large parts of the Shuttle (they're cheaper and can be installed in bigger pieces) but not others. The blankets and tiles *are* state of the art in flight *proven*, reusable TPS. Better is in *theory* available for flight testing, but NASA can't seem to manage the nerve to try them *even* on a small scale.
If you meant the emergency repair gunge for holes in the tiles or RCC that has *never* been used in reality and is highly unlikely to add much weight to enough of the airframe ( a couple of Sq. Ft. at most ) to have *any* serious effect on handling due to its weight (aerodynamic impacts are likely to be more severe).
" and launch-issues just added too much to keep it practical shoveled a billion or so dollars into "
They've *always* been there. Sticking 300 pyrotechnics into a 65 foot long vehicle while the front end is 65 ft in the air, ropey Hydrogen tank sensors, 1 flight usable waterproofing, RCS/OMS and aircon fluids with exposure limits like nerve gas, a landing gear that can't handle for than a gentle breeze and (one of my personal favorites) the fact that after spending $6-8 Bn on this it *cannot* land on instruments, requiring near perfect wheather conditions.
I think Obama doubts NASA can do better for transport to LEO and does not see why private enterprise cannot deliver people to ISS as safely as NASA.
I think his right.
Just one last chance
To field test NASA Ames permanent waterproofing.