NASA has announced it has resolved the problem with Discovery's external fuel tank and the shuttle is good to launch on its STS-133 mission to the International Space Station on 24 February. The vehicle was grounded on 5 November by a fuel leak caused by cracks in two of the tank's 108 U-shaped aluminium brackets, known as " …
Sums up the shuttle era
Discovery's final flight has some features that were common to its first flight back in 1984. That launch was delayed a couple of months, too. Due to technical difficulties. In fact it's hard to find a single shuttle mission that has gone off according to the ideal of the project for a fast-turnaround, reusable, reliable and versatile vehicle. Even now, the programme is still finding new problems that require novel solutions
While the goal of having spacecraft that can do the equivalent of Ryanair: land, turnaround quickly and be off again with the minimum of fuss, is laudable - the shuttle was a failure. After a quarter of a century of use, it never really got out of beta.
I'd LOVE to see you figure a way to put crew + cargo on a giant firecracker, shoot it miles up into space, without any kind of pre-existing implementation to work from, have it withstand the massive force it undergoes, pull off a 100% sucess rate and make it reusable and not have a few issues along the way, like fixing a couple of faulty brackets.
it's called Rocket Science for a reason.....
A long walk home.
I see your point but I'm not sure Ryanair is the right comparion. Given that a pretty short RA flight under a 1000 miles can end up 50 miles outside its advertised destination city how would Mr Kelly feel about being dropped 5% of several million miles from Florida? That's somewhere near the moon.
"In fact it's hard to find a single shuttle mission that has gone off according to the ideal of the project for a fast-turnaround, reusable, reliable and versatile vehicle."
In fact studies *do* exist of (AIAA-1995-3527) Shuttle launches. It's not *quite* as bad as you think (but it's not outstanding). During 1981-2000 of 204 launch attempts, 50 went off on schedule , 111 were "scrubbed", 17 were < 1 week late, 13 < 1 month late and 13 > 1 month late.
At a price of roughly $1m a day. Each scrub was costed at $616k.
Lowlights of this was the "Summer of Hydrogen" (5/30/90-10/6/90) roughly a 100 days due to a Hydrogen leak in the airtight engine compartment (so instead of a little flame you'd get a confined explosion, like the difference between a firecracker on your palm and wrapping your hand around it). It seems LN2 (BP roughly 4x that of LH2 and 10x LH2's viscosity) which is what the engine makers used to leak test it, makes a poor substitute for LH2.
That said it *could* have been a lot better either in design or during upgrades (especially given the money NASA spent on designing but not *installing* various upgrades). Even so it did manage on time take off c25% of the time and gave the US a new very high efficiency LH2 rocket engine of *known* performance. That's a *very* useful bit of hardware to have *provided* you want to build another LH2 fueled RLV, as they're just too dam expensive to expend.
"have it withstand the massive force it undergoes,"
The standard is 3g. If you want to know if you could take a Shuttle flight, take a modern roller coaster.
" pull off a 100% sucess rate"
That would exclude the 14 astronauts killed on 2 flights due to the STS failure modes being somewhat unforgiving.
It wasn't easy. It could have been better and could have been improved over time. But it kept all of the stakeholders in the aerospace business and Congress mostly happy (BTW that does not include the American public. No one expected them to *want* to go into space).
The feat of putting the shuttle into space with no pre-existing implementations to work from is laudable. That's a victory in itself. However, the shuttle and method is a failure. The costs to make, launch, and maintain the shuttle+supports is grossly expensive: as proven by "commercial" solutions.
The other sore spot is your comment "pull off a 100% sucess rate." I do not believe Challenger nor Columbia can qualify as "100% success rate." Granted, failures happen. It doesn't make them less tragic, but they can't be dismissed and have the project claimed 100% success rate either.
"an elegant fix to the problem"
Does that mean they used silver duct tape to save costs?
"...his wife Gabrielle Giffords..."
Hmm, I hope the hospital know that. Most people coming out of a coma after a serious head injury and telling the world they were married to a spaceman would be whisked back into surgery a bit sharpish.....
Mine's the one with the dog-eared copy of "101^H^H^H102 Tasteless Jokes" in the pocket.
I was hoping that the delays might finally push it in to a window where it'll be visible over here; for that to happen it needs to pass overhead in a short period after sunset, or before sunrise. I saw STS-128 in the early hours of Sept '09. Sadly, the new window for STS-133 puts it over Blightly just after 10pm, more than a few hours too late.
Somebody really screwed up the metallurgy *badly*
Take a look at http://spaceflightnow.com/shuttle/sts133/110111rootcause/ where they show test coupons of Al-Li that don't even look right, and have a mottled appearance. The tests show only 65% fracture strength. Now that's about as obvious to a metallurgist as the difference between a SATA and a USB connector.
Apparently they already laid off anybody with experience and now the janitor is approving test samples. How the hell did someone sign off on a 65% test result?
"Apparently they already laid off anybody with experience..."
Quality is not important.
A forever-increasing stock valuation is important. It allows to buy major stakes of the competition that is still focused on quality, and destroy them.
The invisible hand they says...
Possibly another reason for bumping STS-134
is the sheer number of jokes that just plain write themselves for an April 1st launch
"Engineers will now install supportive reinforcements"
By this they mean duct tape, right?