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The final week of my annual February birthday month fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black has begun. I continue to be overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, including numerous donations and a surge of new subscribers willing to commit to donating anywhere from $2 to $25 per month. Wow! The numbers are too many to send out individual thank you’s, so please forgive me for thanking you all with this one announcement.

 

The campaign however must go on, especially because I have added more regular features to my daily workload. In addition to my daily never-ending reporting on space exploration and science, my regular launch reports, my monthly sunspot updates, the regular cool images, and the evening pauses I post each evening, I have now added a daily weekday post I have entitled "Today's blacklisted American." Its goal is not to discuss policy or politics, but to note the endless examples occurring across the United States where some jack-booted thug or thugs think it is proper and acceptable to censor, blackball, cancel, and destroy an innocent American, merely because that American has expressed or holds an opinion or is of a race or religion that is no longer considered acceptable to the dominant leftist and bigoted culture. I want to make clear to every American that a large number of your fellow citizens no longer believe in the enlightened concept of freedom of speech or the idea of treating each person by the quality of their character.

 

Instead, they wish to shut you up, and oppress you if you happen to disagree with them or have the wrong skin color. This evil must be exposed.

 

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SLS core stage static fire test aborts after only one minute

During the crucial first static fire test of SLS’s core stage yesterday — meant to last a full eight minutes — the booster aborted the test after only one minute.

It’s still too early to know exactly what caused the early shutdown in Saturday’s engine test.

Flight controllers could be heard during the test referring to an “MCF” (a major component failure) apparently related to engine No. 4 on the SLS booster. John Honeycutt, NASA’s SLS program manager, added that at about the 60-second mark, cameras caught a flash in a protective thermal blanket on the engine, though its cause and significance remain to be determined.

Honeycutt said it’s too early to know if a second hot-fire test will be required at Stennis, or if it can be done later at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the SLS is scheduled to launch the uncrewed Artemis 1 mission around the moon by the end of this year. Similarly, it’s too early to know if Artemis 1 will still be able to launch this year. “I think it’s still too early to tell,” Bridenstine said of whether a 2021 launch for Artemis 1 is still in the cards. “As we figure out what went wrong, we’re going to know kind of what the future holds.” [emphasis mine]

If this engine abort had occurred during a launch, with the two strap-on solid rocket boosters still firing (and no way to turn them off), the entire rocket would have been lost. Thus, for NASA to even consider shipping this core stage to Florida before figuring out the problem and fixing it is downright insane.

They need to figure out what went wrong, fix it, and then test again, even if if means the first unmanned Artemis flight experiences a serious delay. If they don’t then this whole program is proved to be an idiotic sham (something I have believed for about a decade), and should be shut down by Congress and the new President, immediately.

I am reporting this late because this weekend I was out in the country on a caving trip, taking a very much needed break from the truly horrible news of modern America.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.


He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.
 

16 comments

  • Jeff Wright

    I wish them all the best

  • Doubting Thomas

    I feel sorry for all the hardware level engineers and technicians who, no doubt, busted their humps to make this all happen. Just can’t help notice that the Boeing name, again, is associated with this not failure…errr…not success. Fair to say that Aerojet -Rocketdyne are the guys most involved.

    Amazing that this whole thing was sold to Congress as the easiest way to accomplish the goals, as it was “just” reusing shuttle developed major systems.

    Not sure that I agree with Robert that our new President-not and Congress will shut this down, as it seems like the kind of pork they love. I hear that Joe isn’t very interested in the space program., maybe it will go away simply as part of the general retreat from exploration, innovation and freedom that Joe seems to be promising.

  • Doubting Thomas: Just to clarify, I didn’t say that Biden and Congress will shut SLS down if NASA attempts to launch without a full test, I said they should.

  • Ray Van Dune

    I do not think that KSC is capable of performing a full-duration, full-thrust firing of SLS. The test rig used Saturday can supply the enormous amount of fresh water required to prevent the support structure, flame.deflector and vehicle from being destroyed. It can also hold the rocket up high enough to allow the deflector to survive. It is built to captive-test big rockets, but KSC is only built to launch them.

  • Mitch S.

    Bob,
    Glad to see you were enjoying a getaway, not dealing with an ailment.
    Even without Space X launching SN9, it’s been a busy few days in the rocket world.
    The government rocket is going nowhere as usual but I wonder if Virgin will find a place in the launch market. Air launch seems like a good idea. Is it that advancements in reusability have eliminated it’s edge or is it just inefficient execution by it’s proponents?
    And how the tourist market will be divided between Blue Origin, Virgin and SpaceX will be fascinating to watch.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Robert – I understand and I was unclear and misspoke some in my post. Your concern with the SLS has been clear for a long time, as has your desired end point. I share that view. Nonetheless, combining our space flight future with the stunningly bad politics of today, it will be interesting to see how the Harris – Biden administration’s love of graft will play out in SLS.

    I REALLY want to see humans (I don’t care what internal / external plumbing they have or the color of their skin) back on the moon before I die.

    Come Onnnnn Elon!!!!!!!!!

    Hope you got a good break, we all need one.

  • LocalFluff

    SLS is giving the night hunting Moon goddess Artemis a bad name. Her father Zeus will not be unvindictive. This thing will never bring a mortal human to the Moon.

  • Mike a

    Welcome back Bob!

    I know you didn’t watch it live, but I could imagine you shaking your head and muttering something about “POOORK” when they shut down after a minute, hahaha.
    At least It was only MCF and not RUD.

    Certainly has tamped down the chorus of Elon-Haters for a couple days.

  • V-Man

    This is probably the best outcome the managers hoped for: vehicle not destroyed but more delays. Remember, it’s not a launch system, it’s a job program. Once the rocket is fired, it ceases to generate revenue.

  • Jay

    Watched the test and listened to the shutdown. Did anyone catch the three letter acronym in the chatter, the “…CP Violation” during the shutdown?

  • Jay: Read my post. It describes that acronym in detail.

  • Icepilot

    The most bizarre part was the ‘Press Girl” going on about how the test was a success, a milestone & on to the launch!
    At the debrief, 3 good guys were trying to put the best face possible on a disappointing day. Tough business. Watching Elon’s choreographed catastrophes at Boca Chica put up a replacement to solve the last problem before the smoke clears, with a half dozen more almost ready to go must seem like an impossible dream.
    It nearly is.

  • Edward

    Doubting Thomas wrote: “Amazing that this whole thing was sold to Congress as the easiest way to accomplish the goals, as it was ‘just’ reusing shuttle developed major systems.

    SLS was not so much sold to Congress as it was insisted upon by Congress. It was Congress that declared that as many Space Shuttle (STS) components as possible would be used on SLS. Many believe that Congress’s decisions were driven by a desire to protect as many of the then-existing Space Shuttle jobs as possible. My opinion is that it is shameful that Congress fails to use the talents, skills, and knowledge at NASA and the aerospace industry to advance our knowledge of space and to use it most effectively and efficiently. Fortunately, we now have a budding commercial space industry that seems eager to do just that.

    Ray Van Dune wrote: “I do not think that KSC is capable of performing a full-duration, full-thrust firing of SLS.

    Correct. NASA performed this test at its Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, which is set up for these kinds of tests.

  • Edward

    Icepilot wrote: “Watching Elon’s choreographed catastrophes at Boca Chica put up a replacement to solve the last problem before the smoke clears, with a half dozen more almost ready to go must seem like an impossible dream.

    In a way, comparing SLS testing to Starship testing is apples to oranges. One is in final testing of operational flight hardware and the other is in development testing. Boeing/NASA is verifying performance of flight hardware, and SpaceX is testing fundamental ideas for hardware construction and operation.

    In another way, the comparison is really about differences in philosophies and methodologies. SLS was supposed to use a large amount of existing hardware, so one would expect that they could develop SLS in a fairly short period of time. Starship proposes using new and untried materials as well as methods that deviate wildly from the usual accepted aerospace practices, so one would expect that a large amount of time would be necessary to get these new factors working correctly. For SpaceX, the philosophy is: failure is an option, one that allows for learning opportunities.

    SpaceX is brave enough to try new things, without knowing exactly how the changes will perform. For instance, their first attempt to “land” their Falcon 9 first stage on the ocean (before they tried landing on their drone ship) resulted in the stage spinning around its long axis so that the propellants created vortices in their tanks and starving the engine shortly before reaching the water. The fix: grid fins. They learn by doing.

    Reports are that their latest failure, on SN8, was due to a loss of pressure in their methane header tank. Although I do not know what went wrong, I am willing to speculate a possibility. In order to operate away from sources of helium, SpaceX wants to use the propellant material as the pressurant for their tanks, so they used methane gas to pressurize their header tank. One beautiful part of using helium as a pressuring is that when it is released from the high pressure tank to the propellant tank, it dies not condense as it expands and cools through the valve. Perhaps SpaceX pushed the physics a little too far, and the methane may have condensed as it entered the liquid methane fuel tank, failing to provide the high pressure that was necessary. If this is the case, then that was an important learning experience.

    Which brings us to another difference in philosophy. SpaceX is willing to perform their next test without incorporating all the lessons from the previous one. Rather than solve the problem before the next test, they are reverting to helium pressuring for at least one more test. SpaceX is willing to skip a test or two for lesson incorporation in order to continue learning as many lessons as possible as fast as possible.

    One might think that this method would be expensive, but since they are still learning lessons on construction and cost reduction using their new steel — as well as lessons about their launch pad — building a large number of test vehicles makes sense.

    But the best philosophy at SpaceX is short turnaround reusability. This helps drive the ability to do so many tests at such a rapid pace, because the rockets and pad operations require the capability for a rapid pace. Thus, a rapid test rate provides lessons for future rapid launch rates.

  • George C

    After watching the video of the control room I wonder how much of the problem is rooted in the loss due to retirement of people who knew how to operate these space shuttle era components? Think of the gap in operational experience and the need to make software changes driven by platform upgrades in a workplace where you can’t ask the questions needed to resolve ambiguities in what was written down.

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