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View Full Version : What are the odds that the Shuttles will fly?


Darkstar
22-04-2004, 07:26:44
Well, Air Force program experienced members of NASA have been agitating for the Shuttle to fly, soonest, regardless of the CAIB. Why?

Because the longer the Shuttles sit on the ground, the easier it is to keep them grounded. The shuttles are aging prototypes... Conduct an inspection, and you'll find something "wrong". That's not to say the "Fly Now" camp are out to risk lives unnecessarily. However, the longer the Shuttles sit on the ground, the more likely the safety crew will continue saying "No go" until NASA decides to retire the shuttles now, rather then risk another major blunder like killing another 7 astronauts spectatularly, on the world stage, live.

Do you know what's keeping them grounded now? Some brakes in backward. The system was designed to take that... because back then, engineers over built everything *as they couldn't model the full vehicle/all systems integrated*. Indeed, there are some analysis that have been done now, after the CAIB has closed, that show the Columbia may have survived... if only NASA management hadn't killed the "non-event", been a little cautious, and changed the return flight path. It's a contentious analysis, but since it didn't happen, we cannot know. You can bet that NASA Management will never let any such analysis out publically NOW... the time for all things related to CAIB are over.

That might seem cruel, and maybe it is. But NASA does not want to seem to be suffering "Analysis Paralysis". Perhaps the Columbia couldn't be saved at all. At least, not at that time... they've had a lot longer to study the problem and parameters.

Anyways, so how does sitting on the ground continue to be a ticking clock to cancelation? The longer the shuttles sit at Kennedy, the faster they rust. There was ALREADY serious concern amoung NASA management that very corroded wing spars will snap on the remaining orbiters, especially on reentry. A wing comes off, and it won't matter if they got functionally heat tile protection or not. They are all just dead. There's no way any astronaut would ever be able to bail out under those circumstances, no matter the height. That's been known since before the first test pilot strapped on a shuttle.

Why would NASA cancel it? Money. Cancel the Shuttle, and they suddenly have funds to build a new capsule system (its definately a capsule). Heck, there's at least 50% chance that the NASA would then cancel the ISS if that happens. It's just not worth the cash to keep paying the Russians to ferry people up.

Right now, the former zoomies are already calling the orbiters hanger queens. Because there will always be multiple safety problems, and as the machines age in the hangar, more will develop.

What's that? What from the CAIB has been done? Well, there's been an audit of the external tank foam. I now work with some of the guys that did that analysis, as well as occasionally with the guys that oversee the foam being applied. Other then that? A study of "NASA" culture. The formation of a new Safety board whose real power is not defined.

Other then that? Nothing. Well, NASA is already planning to strap spare Apollo or China supplied Soyuz capsules to the shuttles SRB (Solid Rocket Booster), and fly them to the ISS. That's it. That's going to be the next American Starship. Eventually, NASA will get around to testing and updating some new Apollo designs. I hope they don't pull out the Apollo 1 designs by mistake and start there...

Odds Shuttle never fly a space mission again: 50% and rising.
Odds the ISS will be cancelled: 50% and rising.

Well, let's see... that leaves... GO CHINA!

chagarra
22-04-2004, 11:17:56
Looking at the billions of dollars sitting on the floor of the SSPF, shuttles would have to fly at least twice each, just to shift them.

And that is without the non performance repayment costs to the euros, japan, and russia.

Still think they will go up unmanned.

Darkstar
22-04-2004, 14:09:19
But not space missions, Chagarra.

I think the odds of seeing them blow off Russia is very high. At the momeny, NASA is tired of most of the money and equipment they give the Russions so that the Russians can operate Star City going to the Russian Mob. Drop Russian, and no more Russian NASA equipment being used to try and blackmail Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, Ikea, etc. etc etc.

They aren't going unmanned. The chiefs are too old school. The "Big" project that they are banding about is to make _new_, 2 seater only shuttles. Only enough room for the 2 pilots to pee in a hose... leaving them even more room and weight for their cargo pod. That way, they can carry bigger modules to the ISS and try and make it useful.

Not going to happen though. It would take them 7 years to do, because they have to remanufacture almost all the equipment/tools to make a shuttle.

And NASA wouldn't mind screwing Japan. Japanese pride is stinging too much about Flying Chinese and them flushing pee icicles down on the Japanese mainland. So, Japan is determined to put up their own astronauts. And that means being able to launch their own satellites. NASA wants them to try, and fail. Or see that just because Russia and China will sell them the plans for Soviet space equipment, that doesn't mean they've can just fly. It took the Chinese over 20 years with experienced Russian engineers doing most of the work for them.

Euros? They've been shopping around too much. NASA's boss is very unhappy with them, so they can go fuck themselves. Only the fine empire of Great Britian are still our buds. And those guys can fly and use all of our equipment already. So they won't be left in the cold.

Since NASA didn't get any budget increases to go with the Moon, Mars, and Beyond directive (Congress *reduced* NASA's budget), something has to give. There's only 2 big ticket items. Shuttle, and ISS. No shuttle, and ISS is effectively worthless. So do not be surprised that NASA just bows out of the whole thing... so they can afford to go to the Moon.

And NASA will just blame American Election Year Politics, and the need to fly safe. Not that the ISS is safe. They've already almost blown it up 18 times since they started letting astronauts on it, and it's always been the Russians that fucked it up. So there's a big, big, big vocal camp going "We should deorbit the death-trap, and build Space Station Freedom... with no PARTNERS, as they always screw us. The world can fucking kiss our ass, we are the people that have shown these mud covered cavemen the way of the future. If it wasn't for us, they'd still be eating their food uncooked. Ungrateful, unwashed, unenlighted, illiterate, ill-groomed bastards."

Nav
22-04-2004, 14:35:32
Very interesting. Thanks Darkstar.

Darkstar
22-04-2004, 14:59:04
You are welcome. A lot of old hands and old ideas in NASA. Hell, that's NASA's #3 problem on their Things to fix... #1 is the shuttle, #2 is the ISS, #3 is getting new, young people to agree to come work for the lowest pay in any industrialized world. NASA pays the Indian engineers more (when they outsource something) then they pay their own engineers.

Going to get interesting. I'm hoping to see the private space industry take over in the next 5 years myself. Seeing as they actually can and do everything faster (less bureaucracy), cheaper (they aren't locked into buying from federally approved sellers), and better (Newer science, and they can try "non-traditional" approaches as they have no real history of what works for them at this time).

We should see at least 4 teams manage to meet the requirements for the X-Prize this year. And another 4 next year. Of course, not all of those will turn out to be successful, but showing that a small group of crazy people can spend between 0.5 Million to 25 Million and reach low earth orbit reliably and cheaper then any standard launcher (Sea Launch, NASA, China, Russia, etc) will be very good for the space industry, I think.

Deacon
22-04-2004, 15:41:42
I knew the Shuttle was in trouble, but I didn't know it was in that much trouble. If fixing it isn't practical, then I think it should be retired. It would be unfortunate to lose ISS after what's been invested already, but if we develop a better space transportation system, maybe we can keep the next station up.

Switching to a capsule at this stage sounds icky. Although gliders are more of a technical risk, the benefits is a controlled landing. Even the Soviets built the Buran, which managed to land on computer power on its first flight at the end of the 80s.

Darkstar
22-04-2004, 17:02:06
The Shuttles have always been in trouble. They are the single most complicated, most expensive machines man has *ever* made. They are experimental prototypes. Even over designed, they were really only expect to fly 10 years, and then be retired for something more advanced, cheaper, and more practical.

NASA has already set up the "Cancellation" line. To meet the President's demand that ISS be completed by 2010, they have to fly the wings off the shuttles, and fly riskier then they've ever flown before. But they "cannot" do that. Ergo, designated failure already. So I think that NASA management is going to let the inertia of Hanger Queens run the clock down and cancel it.

Capsules do seem so low tech, but they are easier to make, and easier to service, and we know them well (there's more man-hours of study and testing in the Apollo capsule then the entire flight time in the Shuttles). That means cost savings. And since they are really talking about using the SRBs and _augmented_ SRBs and stacking the capsule on it, they can get some cludged together relatively easily to fly.

Of course, the safety risks from SRBs is more extreme then all other risks to the Orbiters, but that's beside the point. And _augmented_ virtually guarantees a few wild burns during launch. Better be one heck of a capsule rescue system on that thing...

No longer Trippin
22-04-2004, 18:24:46
I know they went over the foam like mad. Since most of it is applied at Michoud quite a bit of those details made it to the paper. Michoud has to redesign the tanks, and NASA keeps rejecting practically every design saying one thing or another needs changing, then saying something else does. I really don't think the top of NASA wants it to fly. It doesn't take that long to design a bloody bracket, no matter the tolerances and requirements. A friend's dad is an engineer at Michoud and he doesn't see them even getting back to making tanks anytime soon as NASA is being VERY picky about the bracket and foam. The foam can be fixed, give it an enviromental exemption. What, the foam application used fluorocarbons in the past and changing it was what screwed the foam up to drop suitcases of itself down unto the shuttle. I really don't think a that sight bit of fluorocarbons matter much into the equation when you factor in burning of thousands of pounds of propellants. :rolleyes:

It is more than gloomy here. Michoud execs have all but said outright they don't think NASA wants the shuttle to fly. They've more than just started initial preps with Lockheed for the next line of craft - and they couldn't do that without direction from Lockheed. So either they are hedging their bets or they know something we don't.

As for odds, not all that good. There is too much draining the budget at the moment as well as more than enough things to quitely keep her grounded and let the ISS drop to the point of no recovery. Sure, then the public will raise a fit possibly, but only for a short time and it'll be after the elections. I do think the system is antiquated and quite useless due to it's cost and I'm all for axing it, just there has to be some type of replacement, especially in heavy lift sitiations. Another fixed wing craft just seems to expensive to R&D even if it is around the same cost to fly, our budget needs something cheap to design as well at the moment, and a capsule is the only thing that fits the bill.

Darkstar
22-04-2004, 18:41:09
They are never making any more tanks. They made that announcement a while back. (I'm at Marshall. The center that manages Michoud in the NASA org) The only thing Michoud is to do, for the rest of the Shuttle lifetime, is refit its existing tanks. There is something like 35 to 50 good External tanks (extra extra lightweight, IIRC) already made, and that's *suppose* to be enough to finish out the required flights to finish the ISS.

If NASA would actually land their reusable space craft back at the processing center, it would shave a month or two from the time until it can be ready for flight again, and save them the cost of protecting, servicing, and ferrying back the vehicles. That's why they tried to land the Shuttles at Kennedy whenever possible. The cost savings was incredible. That's the only plus for having a aeronautic flying body reusable craft. But if they are just going to go with a capsule with replacable, strap on ablatives, then that's not going to matter. The cost saved on capsule design, servicing, and maintenence will make up for the difference in complexity. At least to some NASA minds.

No longer Trippin
22-04-2004, 19:02:06
I hadn't talked to him in awhile, but that explains the layoffs I've read about not too long ago when they said they might not be coming back. Already most of Michoud is either doing training stuff, on paid leave, or already doing a new job if they haven't been fired. So it makes since that no more tanks will be made come to think of it.

I had only thought NASA had a handful of the good lightweight enviromentally "friendly" tanks, not more than ten. If so, why keep building when you have about a decades worth of surplus. If the shuttle didn't blow up NASA would get grilled at the end of the shuttles lifetime for ordering 100 tanks more than needed.

Darkstar
22-04-2004, 19:24:51
Yeah, but they are always saying "We can reuse them with other thing". Yeah, right... like the 2 seater "heavy" hauler. Bahahahaha!

You know, the shuttle engines don't produce any serious toxins. They are burning hydrogen and oxygen. That main by-product is water. Now, what exactly is left over from the SRBs, that I would expect to be "environmentally challenging". But it's been too long since I read up on it.

And NASA gets grilled anyways. ;)

No longer Trippin
22-04-2004, 19:35:29
The SRB's were my main concern. I think they'd do a whole lot more damage in one launch overall to the enviroment (not that it's really harming anything) than spraying 50 extra fuel tanks using fluorocarbons. I couldn't care if Kennedy Space Center was a dead zone for 50 square miles because of propellants and what not long as it doesn't effect me - but the radical nature lovers don't see each launch that way. We can never make them happy unless we go back to sticks and stones, so why do we try? I see the CFC deal overall, but if there ever was a case for exemptions, this is one of them that isn't BS. I guess the lobbying bill was too high and the new aerosol agent was cheaper even if not as effective.

Lockheed wants it to be reused for heavy lift purposes as nothing can lift more than the shuttle, and if we remove it minus it's engines (else the SRB's will be carrying a tank of useless fuel it doesn't burn as well), it can lift even more. Though I don't see that happening, that is probably what is going to be said.

Deacon
23-04-2004, 05:52:42
I thought that we'd be using souped-up satellite boosters like the Titan, Atlas, and Delta instead of SRBs for capsule launches. I guess SRBs are cheaper.

No longer Trippin
23-04-2004, 07:14:50
No, they use both the SRB's and the fuel tank, the cargo pod has it's own jet engines feeding from the external tank just as the shuttle does. The shuttle lifts in the neighborhood of 16 to 18 tons depending on when it was "retrofitted" with the old Columbia being the heaviest lifting 16 tons, so the newer ones obviously would fare better I'd imagine. So add the weight loss from the shuttle (which I have no idea of the tonnage, DS?) to the 15 to 20 ton range and you have some really heavy lifting capability - and that is what Lockheed is selling.

Had time to sit down and read the paper today and saw the astronauts to fly the next mission toured the plant yesterday. They said they planned to fly, but if they didn't feel safe they would push it back. And it was said a couple of times in different ways. They don't seem optimistic. On the other hand, the NASA goon that was with him told Michoud it needs 20 to 30 more tanks soon. So that is pretty conflictory.

JM^3
23-04-2004, 08:46:08
this should be in the counterglow forum

I hate having to remember to stop by here more than once a bluemoon

JOn Miller

No longer Trippin
23-04-2004, 19:18:47
Well now the thread has been officially killed. :)

Darkstar
24-04-2004, 06:50:24
Well, no telling what they told the NASA guy. Or he may have been putting it out that Michoud has lots more work to go. No telling.

I'd have to look up the difference in weight between Orbitters, Trip. I don't recall offhand. Plus, that is changing based on the fact that all the remaining Orbiters are getting new equipment installed, anyways, if they are to meet the CAIB. How much a difference it is, I haven't a clue.

No longer Trippin
28-04-2004, 07:25:48
Michoud has 30 tanks to refit / build, I'd say they'd be busy. :) The difference btw orbiters is only a few tons IIRC from an article a bit after the disaster, but a few tons means a lot when your talking space flight. Columbia weighed 16 tons without the arm on the mission it was launched, again, IIRC.

I see two out of three at most making it through refit, the only reason for two is to keep a tighter launch schedule. But soon as they can take it out to the pasture and shoot it, they will. It's days seem to be numbered, I agree with you there.

Darkstar
28-04-2004, 20:32:30
Congress is continuing to make more noises about *cutting* NASA's funding even further. To meet the President's "plan" is now almost an 8% budget increase... and no programs outside DoD/Homeland Security are getting more money. Most are getting cut. Congress is outright refusing to allow them more money and is formerly complaining about wasting money on the broken birds and their overly guilded perch (ISS).

There tolls the bell for the ISS and Orbiters. Death by Congress.

No longer Trippin
28-04-2004, 21:14:09
Thank Colin Powell and Bush for the WMD's and the 9/11 links to Iraq respectively.

The Mad Monk
29-04-2004, 06:36:17
Alright if I repost this elsewhere? I want to ask some Russians if they knew they almost destroyed the station eighteen times. :D

Darkstar
29-04-2004, 20:15:31
Sure. Repost all you like.

Russians do things *very* different then the US. And the Russians presume some very *interesting* things. Most of the averted complete structural failures are because the US caught the Russians doing/directing things that, if completed, would have left a dead Expedition crew in LEO and coming down to a very fiery pyre in a few short years.

Of course, if the ISS was purely a Russian endevour, then most of what they presume would probably be right, and therefore not nearly as outright dangerous or stupid as it has been. Just 2 different ways of doing everything... NASA and Russian. From where you sit to drive to how you check to that the doors are shut on your airlock.

Cancelling ISS is expected to save the US from the embarassment of a dead US astronaut due to Russian "operational stupidity" in the near future. Of course, the Russians wonder how the Americans ever got off the ground since they are so "risk adverse" that they won't even allow the bathroom to be used without 3 enginereering studies and a presidential waiver.