Archive for the ‘Space Shuttle’ Category

As Blue Oyster Cult has taught us, seasons don’t fear the reaper.  Nor, it would appear, does the space shuttle or government programs in general.  Can a thing be undead?

I’m shocked, shocked to learn that the shuttle is being extended into Fy11.

Read all about it from the stud-muffins at Spaceflight Now.

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Groan.  Wasn’t the shuttle a reusable booster?  Didn’t EELV promise cost savings?

Here’s the link to the Aviation Week article…

When I read about savings of over 50%, I think about EELV and the cost savings it was asserted to create.  EELV was a massive ‘cost avoidance’ program, that is, by creating and using new families of launch vehicles, the USAF could get away from brutally expensive ‘heritage’ systems like the Titan IV.

Of course, the savings–the cost avoidance–never materialized.  Paper rockets are cheap and things cost more and more as they move further away from Powerpoint.

EELV’s cost problem was rooted in the bogus assumption there would be lots of EELV launches and ergo, plenty of cost sharing and a low per-unit expense. These were, of course, all wrong.  Its advocates didn’t see that foreign launch competitors, with advantageous labor rates, subsidization, and greatly reduced regulatory entanglements, would end up as the  way for commercial users to go.

Give the SpaceX and Microcosms of the world a chance to compete.  Reusable if it makes sense, expendable if it doesn’t.

The slip will move the last shuttle into a new fiscal year.  Looking like somewhere between the end of November 2010 and perhaps January 2011 for launch.

Charge the payload, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, with the delay.  The flux capacitor was not available for comment.

Space: all it takes is time and money.

Yes, the USAF X-37 space mission has launched.  Go Atlas, go Centaur, go X-37.

Is this all supposed to coincide with Earth Day?  After all, the X-37 is a reusable vehicle…of course, in theory, so is the shuttle.

Speaking of the shuttle, lost in the noise is the fact that the space shuttle Atlantis has been rolled out for its last scheduled mission.

Lotsa link action and much of it is focused on the fact no one in the Air Force is talking about the payload itself.  If it had been a NASA mission to track algae blooms in the south China sea, interest would be nil.  As for me, I can neither confirm nor deny the presence of large red algae blooms in the south China sea.

From the mighty Spaceflight Now.

From the always interesting In From the Cold.

From the Daily Mail (checkout the unretouched photo of Kate Moss while you’re there).

For some program background, how about Aviation Week?

The bottom line: the shuttle won’t retire on time and its replacement won’t be ready on time. Those are some preliminary findings of the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, led by Norm Augustine and briefed by former astronaut Sally Ride.

In total, the delays could add another year without a U.S. provided ride to the ISS. That gap could be mitigated by adding one or more shuttle missions. Man-rating the Delta IV EELV won’t change the timelines appreciably.

The ISS may be a beneficiary of this review. The ISS is planned for deorbit in 2016, but the panel seems poised to advocate it stay on orbit longer. Why? Because the planned deorbit might hurt NASA partners and “U.S. leadership in space.”

I cringe at that type of attitude. Rather, what should be considered is how (or if) our partners are helping us achieve the ISS’s objectives and what could be done if we didn’t have to support the money-sucking ISS.

The Air Force thinks the crew escape capsule for the shuttle replacement, known as the Ares I, will not allow the crew to escape if a low-altitude disaster were to occur. Given the capsule’s nylon parachutes might well have to fly through a massive debris-field of flaming chunks of solid rocket motor, that seems reasonable.

Historically, the crew escape module is analogous to a very expensive good luck charm–it really is not up to getting the job done and is rather a kind of tool to ease the astronaut’s cognitive dissonance about a near-ground (in this scenario, about 30 to 60 seconds into the flight profile) mishap. What does the shuttle have, you ask? Nothing. Remember? It was engineered to fail only once every 10,000 missions.

NASA says the Air Force’s sample size in coming to this conclusion–one mishap involving a Titan IV in 1998–is too small.

A lesson is when you man-rate anything, the costs go through the roof. Likewise, there is no reasonable way to plan for every contingency.