Monthly Archives: November 2004

NASA Does New Thing the Old Way

NASA’s recent flight test of an experimental vehicle capable of hypersonic flight was an engineering triumph, but it also could turn out to be another in a long list of the agency’s bureaucratic failures.

Last Tuesday, the X-43 test program made its third and last flight — the first had failed when the Pegasus launch rocket went out of control while the second reached Mach 6.8 — using a scramjet engine to achieve a record-breaking speed of Mach 9.6. It was a breathtaking success, which — in a stark demonstration of NASA’s standard operating procedure — immediately resulted in the program’s shutdown.
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Big or Small NASA Space Vision?

The decision by Boeing and Northrup Grumman to join forces in their bid to build NASA’s next generation manned spacecraft, dubbed the crew exploration vehicle or CEV, significantly reduces the number of major aerospace players available to the agency.

This also forces NASA to make its choice from only two camps, neither of which is ideal: the oversized and experienced vs. the undersized and innovative.
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Shuttle’s Safe Return Illusory

The latest postponement of the space shuttle’s return to flight has left many wondering whether NASA’s launch window in late May 2005 is realistic. It may be, but with more risk than anticipated.

One reason is the lingering questions: Will NASA have sufficiently fixed the shuttle by then to complete a safe launch? Are the problems uncovered by the loss of Columbia solved? Are there any issues unresolved that might cause the launch date to slip further?
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