back to article Ariane 5 primed for second launch of year after trajectory cockup

French fingers will be crossed this evening as Arianespace attempts to loft the Superbird-8 and the less imaginatively named DSN-1 dual-use satellite atop the second Ariane 5 launch of 2018 from French Guiana. The previous launch, on 25 January, did not go entirely to plan with telemetry lost from the heavy-lift rocket nine …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Better get it right

    >found that an incorrect value had been entered into both of the rockets' inertial guidance systems

    They better check those numbers dozens of times by different people on the JWST. In some ways screwing up that launch would be as bad as killing astronauts. Its that important for science. If that launch goes sideways careers need to end.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Better get it right

      Wow didn't realize its been delayed to 2020 now and has funding issues. Friggin NASA. Way things are going it will be a Ariane 6 launching it.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Better get it right

      The fact that the satellites are still able to reach their desired orbits is a tribute to Ariane's enviable launch record.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Better get it right

        Am the OP of this thread and I do agree. Elon Musk is great and all but this mission absolutely can't fail and Ariane is the best bet.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Better get it right

        The fact that the satellites are still able to reach their desired orbits is a tribute to Ariane's enviable launch record.

        That'd be just as true as any launcher, good or bad, that burned all its fuel without exploding whilst pointing more or less straight upwards. That is, it's bound to have got to some kind of orbit with about the right speed!

        But yes, Ariane has been excellent for decades now. I'm glad this was a simple human cock up; better that than some design flaw.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Better get it right

          Straight upwards?? Not really. If it's going to orbit it'd better be going pretty much horizontal by the time it reaches 70 to 80 km altitude. Being in orbit doesn't mean going far enough ^^ that way. It means going fast enough ---> that way. (Or <----) Doing it high enough to be out of atmosphere just means you keep going around instead of slowing down again.

  2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Reusable?

    costs less to launch but sadly without SpaceX-style reusability

    While it makes for great PR, I think the jury's still out on how worthwhile the reusability really is.

    1. Dwarf Silver badge

      Re: Reusable?

      Not at all, bringing your transport back to where you started is very common, it happens on most cars, bikes, planes. Why should rockets be any different ?

      Additionally, less junk left flying around in space for the next mission to crash into.

      1. Captain TickTock
        Boffin

        Re: Reusable?

        "Additionally, less junk left flying around in space for the next mission to crash into."

        The bits they're reusing would otherwise have ended up in the ocean, no?

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Reusable?

          "The bits they're reusing would otherwise have ended up in the ocean, no?"

          Until relatively recently, no.

          Skylab's launch bits took more than 18 months to come down.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Reusable?

            Cost of material parts of a first stage compared to the cost of fuel, staff. hire of launch facility, lost second thrust stage etc, when the first stage and engines will have to go through a thorough process of reconditioning and testing and have used an amount of fuel to recover themselves anyway. Hmm, SpaceX have already implied that not a great deal of money is saved, but it's at least a step in the right direction.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Reusable?

              Having successfully put in place a system for recovering and reusing large chunks of a launch system when no one else can complete at this time, do you really think SpaceX is going to reveal the true savings they are making?

              I certainly wouldn't, I would be prevaricating and implying the savings weren't that great so that I could undercut everybody else while maximizing profit.

              1. werdsmith Silver badge

                Re: Reusable?

                I certainly wouldn't, I would be prevaricating and implying the savings weren't that great so that I could undercut everybody else while maximizing profit.

                You wouldn't, as you say. But that's not Musk's style.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Reusable?

                  Thought we were talking about SpaceX? With its board of directors who's purpose is to return value to it's investors.

                  In SpaceX's case these include Google, Fidelity, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Founders Fund, Valor Equity Partners, Capricorn and oh yes, the billionare businessman Elon Musk.

                  Maybe I have misunderstood the purpose of a private company, perhaps it's all really about philanthropy.

      2. mr.K

        Re: Reusable?

        As far as I know, as of yet, they only land the first stage and that is never left in orbit anyway. Less junk in the ocean though. And I think second stages are often turned around and gets a retro burn to deorbit and those burn up at reentry.

        And we do not know how much money they spend getting a Falcon 9 ready for another flight. Personally I believe they have cracked it and will bring costs down. We'll see.

        1. bazza Silver badge

          Re: Reusable?

          @mr.k,

          And we do not know how much money they spend getting a Falcon 9 ready for another flight. Personally I believe they have cracked it and will bring costs down. We'll see.

          There's also the overhead of maintaining the ability to manufacture new ones, regardless of how many they can reuse. Retaining that manufacturing capability whilst it's sat idle is almost as expensive as just building new ones all the time. If they were to close the production line to make savings, it might take a decade to reconstitute it. So they'd have to have a big stock of launchers that lasted that long, and it would end up being a marginal saving.

          SpaceX have hinted at that by saying that a second hand launcher isn't half price...

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Reusable?

            "There's also the overhead of maintaining the ability to manufacture new ones, regardless of how many they can reuse. Retaining that manufacturing capability whilst it's sat idle is almost as expensive as just building new ones all the time. "

            You have to balance production capacity with launch capacity and the relevant economics. And then there's the refurbishment, which will probably done in the same production facility. If you can get enough orders for launches at 2/3rds market rates then you need to be producing replacements at about 1/3rd the launch rate (assuming you only use each 1st stage 3 times) These are numbers I'm sure SpaceX have crunched in various ways.; I think Musk has stated the target it is least 2, maybe 3 launches by pretty much just refuelling a landed 1st stage. After that, not sure if it's cheaper to scrap and replace or to refurbish.

    2. Killing Time

      Re: Reusable?

      'While it makes for great PR, I think the jury's still out on how worthwhile the reusability really is.'

      Sadly this kind of statement adds nothing to the subject and just demonstrates a complete lack of understanding regarding the state and commercial space launch business.

      America, through NASA, pursued a reusable space system from 1972 through to 2011 via the Shuttle program and Russia pursued their own program while they still had the political will and the funds.

      So, for the majority of the period man has reached space, the pursuit has been equipment reusability.

      Even though it actually is rocket science, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand the formula, Reusability = Reduced Cost.

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        @Killing Time

        The Space Shuttle is not widely regarded as an example of economic reusability...

        But it's true, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand how much of a black hole the Space Shuttle program budget turned out to be. It cost approximately US$240bn, or $1.8bn per landing (2018 dollars).

        1. Killing Time

          Re: @Killing Time

          'The Space Shuttle is not widely regarded as an example of economic reusability...'

          I was quite specific in not referring to the economics of the shuttle program because there are specific reasons why costs escalated on that program. Equally, quoting overall program costs without a yardstick of alternate 'disposable' launch costs including environmental impact is pretty meaningless also.

          The fact is, reusability reduces cost, all the current programs are persueing it, including the Arianne program, within the bounds of the development direction they already have in place.

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: @Killing Time

            The fact is, reusability reduces cost, all the current programs are persueing it, including the Arianne program

            Your logic is as bad as your spelling… The economics have to be considered and these can vary significantly. For example, replacing plastic carrier bags with reusable cotton ones is generally considered to be uneconomical, but they does have other advantages.

            Reusability is a worthwhile aim but not always what's required — when it comes to high spec machinery you need to be 100% sure that nothing has got warped or weakened — and the shuttle is the textbook example of a good idea gone wrong. Moden manufacturing techniques, particularly 3D printing make some of the arguments particularly moot. Harvesting and recycling whatever falls to earth could prove optimal.

            I think there's plenty to admire in SpaceX's approach but that doesn't mean it should be appraised critically. Kudos to Musk for creating at atmosphere that has journalists writing sniping articles like this about Ariane, despite its enviable success and safety record.

            1. Killing Time

              Re: @Killing Time

              'Your logic is as bad as your spelling'

              The problem with calling someone out over spelling is you look an even bigger chump when you don't proof read your own post.

              Regarding the shuttle program, it's well documented the costs escalated due the contract award and management burden of the old NASA contract model, as opposed to its reusability.

              I am familiar with the inspection techniques on hi spec machinery, they are the same as are used during manufacturing yet you have the potential to save material and fabrication costs.

              All the major players are going down this road, I find it fascinating that you hang on to the belief that it's still debatable that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.

        2. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: @Killing Time

          But, I've heard, every $ spent on NASA adds $18 to the US economy. I'd bet the space shuttle kept the US afloat in more ways than one!

          1. Killing Time

            Re: @Killing Time

            I haven't heard those figures before but I can't really see how they work out, NASA doesn't create an enormous amount with intrinsic value to add to the economy.

            It created jobs, by way of it's old subcontracting model but that was funded by taxpayers money.

      2. Potemkine! Silver badge

        Re: Reusable?

        "Even though it actually is rocket science, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand the formula, Reusability = Reduced Cost."

        https://gillette.com/en-us/products/razors-trimmers-and-blades/disposable-razors

        http://www.globalsources.com/manufacturers/Disposable-Lighter.html

        https://www.indiamart.com/aimwritinginstruments/disposable-pens.html

        There are a lot of examples of things being less expensive when being disposable rather than reusable

        1. MyffyW Silver badge

          Re: Reusable?

          Agree if you use up more resources refurbishing something than would go into creating it in the first place then it's right to consider the disposable route.

          The Space Shuttle Main Engines were an engineering masterpiece but had to be pretty much rebuilt between each flight at immense cost.

          BUT.... What Musk et al are trying to do is entirely in line with every other major form of transport - be it Roman Chariot, Viking Long Boat, Ship of the Line, Pacific A4, VW Beetle or Boeing 747 - if you've gone to the trouble of making something so intricate it seems a damned shame to throw it away after the first use.

      3. toffer99

        Re: Reusable?

        The Shuttle was designed to be reusable, but took a heap of expensive resuscitation between flights. The SpaceX first stage seems to require little more than a rubdown with a half-brick before it's ready to fly again.

    3. toffer99

      Re: Reusable?

      I heard that part of the rocket launched this week (the second stage) was on its 5th outing. That must save a few bob.

  3. Stuart Halliday

    Nice to know that we can still Cock things up big style.

  4. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Daily Commuting

    Used to travel in with one guy to Dartford by train (He seemed normal enough sober, if I found him in The Lads Of The Village pub he would go weird), apparently his job was programming rocket launches in one of his weirder states burbled to me that his days computer "simulation" had basically crashed horribly into the ocean.

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Ariane 5 vehicle has proven.a.. reliable workhorse,..92 launches out of 97 attempts.

    By rocket standards 94% is a phenomenal record.

    Versus (for example) the 51 of 53 F9's at the pad (yes I do count Amos 6 since the customer lost the payload).

    That's 96%. but on a much smaller total.

    Now if that holds at 97 launches that also would be impressive.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ariane 5 vehicle has proven.a.. reliable workhorse,..92 launches out of 97 attempts.

      Ariane 5's career spans.. around 21 years

      Falcon 9's career: almost 8 years

      (Although isn't Ariane 5 closer to a Falcon Heavy ? )

    2. Deckard_C

      Re: Ariane 5 vehicle has proven.a.. reliable workhorse,..92 launches out of 97 attempts.

      Since I only remembered 2 failures I had to check

      Out of those 5 those launches:

      2 were explosives failures and total loss, total of 3 payloads (I think both were destroyed before they got a chance to destroy themselves)

      1 was early first stage shutdown, not intended orbit howecer payloads met their objectives

      1 was second stage early shutdown, 1 payload reached intended orbit using own engines. 2nd payload total loss

      1 was wrong transfer orbit for 2 payloads as mentioned here, both will reach intended orbit

      F9 has lost another payload which was a secondary on a NASA resupply flight to ISS due to early engine shutoff. It may of been able to get the secondary to the intended orbit but there was a risk to the resupply mission if they tried.

      The first Ariane 5 launch and failure would of been a Reg story since it was due to a float conversion to an 16bit Integer causing an overflow error. The code was reused from the Ariane 4 and when it was designed for the Ariane 4 it was determined the overflow would never happen which was true for the Ariane 4.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Ariane 5 vehicle has proven.a.. reliable workhorse,..92 launches out of 97 attempts.

        "The first Ariane 5 launch and failure would of been a Reg story "

        Bits of it are sitting less than 20 metres from where I am. They make a good illustration of why everything needs triplechecking and why assumption is the mother of all fuckups.

        Oh - and why hydrazine is so fucking dangerous.

    3. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Re: Ariane 5 vehicle has proven.a.. reliable workhorse,..92 launches out of 97 attempts.

      'Vega': 11 launches, 0 failure - 100% successful

  6. sean.fr

    unless you in the rocket

    Losing 5% may be acceptable if the launcher is not called Challenger/Apollo.

    I hope SpaceX do better.

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: unless you in the rocket

      The launcher for the Apollo missions was called Saturn (the missions to the moon used a Saturn V rocket, but some test missions used a smaller Saturn IB). As far as I know there was no launcher called Challenger, unless you mean the Shuttle called Challenger? In that case the launcher in NASA parlance is called the Space Transportation System, which is why all Shuttle missions had a mission number starting STS.

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