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.

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SLS oxygen tank dome dropped and damaged

You can’t make this stuff up. The dome for the oxygen tank for NASA’s SLS rocket has been accidently dropped and has been damaged beyond repair.

No details yet. It appears they can build another dome from available parts, but this will likely cause additional delays to the SLS launch schedule.

Update: More information here.

The damage was limited to the one dome section of the tank, which was not yet welded to the rest of the tank. “Assessments are ongoing to determine the extent of the damage,” she said. Henry said that the incident was classified as a “Type B” mishap. Such a mishap, according to NASA documents, covers incidents that cause between $500,000 and $2 million in damage. No one was injured, she said.

The liquid oxygen tank involved in the incident was a qualification model, intended for testing, and not flight hardware. Henry said it wasn’t immediately clear how long the investigation would take.


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  • PeterF

    Will they screw up the welding on this one too? hahahahahahahaha

  • Juan

    For the love!!!!! Somebody just put this thing out of its misery!

  • geoffc

    $43 billion and counting…

  • air_and_space92

    Few delays are going to come from this since it was a qual article and not for flight. Ergo the rest of the vehicle assembly for Green Run can continue without pause while a new dome is welded for shipment to MSFC.

  • LocalFluff

    Yeah, sure this costs less than $0.002 billion! That’s according to SLS’ corrupt accounting system. The NASA culture obviously doesn’t care about monies at all, but when what they do fails, I think it hurts them in their hearts, doctor Evil’s henchmen.

  • LocalFluff

    Wasn’t tank welding the bottleneck already, because that also doesn’t work?
    So there are two destroyed tanks now, one miswelded and one dropped. How is SpaceX doing with their Mars Colonial Spaceship tank? The one that is built out of untested composite carbon materials and will hold super cooled methane? Oh, it seems to progress with its tests. While NASA is struggling to get a LOX/O2 tank ready, of which dozens are flown every year since half a century.

  • pzatchok

    And exactly why couldn’t we have just used the old style tanks and welding style from the shuttle system, since we are already using everything else off of the shuttle?

  • LocalFluff

    Because it is taller and has four instead of three main engines and they are right under it instead of attached on the side like the Shuttle and Ares V. The SLS main stage is a pretty new thing, although the tanks maybe aren’t necessarily very different. That’s why they have to redesign the launch pad, the launch tower, the assembly building, the unique tank welding equipment, having a special plant for the old launch escape tower, the land transporter and the barge transporter as they are redesigning the main engine to not be reusable and adding a fifth segment to the solid booster.

    Imagine they are getting ALL the engines for free! They’ve flown on the Shuttle already, both the main engines and most of the solid booster segments. Developing and testing the engines is about half the work of developing a launcher. SLS got that from free, right out of the storage. Still it is the by far most expensive launcher ever developed (if it ever develops)

    For hours I’ve been listening in my background to the “Humans To Mars 2017” conference online with its last day today Thursday. Representatives of the largest space industry corporations mumbling their PC phrases about how SLS and NASA will get humans to Mars in ways which are obviously unrealistic and uncompetitive. I think a Lockheed guy motivated the Orion, without anyone challenging him, by “the technologies we will have to develop. The officially acknowledge that they’ve achieved nothing and that all yet remains to be done for them. And they make up “stepping stones”, a PC term which the ministry for propaganda now has exchanged for “gateways” to Mars. I suggest to them that a Jupiter gravity assist should be used for going to Mars, adding stumbling stones to Mars even beyond Mars!

    Best part is 1:54:00 into this clip where Buzz Aldrin, having listened through the old space industry “leaders” on stage mumbling without making any sense. The moderator cannot interrupt a Moonwalker. Even though Buzz has taken huge steps towards compromising with the “Gateway” architecture kind of concept, even Harley Thronson cannot take his point. It is too “politically correct” that the old space’s SLS/Orion stumbling stone way is beyond criticism. Sad! :-D

  • pzatchok

    For the solid rocket boosters all they did was add another section. They could have done the very same thing to the fuel tanks.
    When they made like they did for the shuttle they could have just added in the needed length.
    All the old tech worked fine. Why did they have to come up with a new tech and that stupid vertical construction system?

  • Gealon

    This just get’s more ridiculous with every piece of news that comes out.

  • geoffc

    @pzatchok: re: Extending SRBs. You would think that is easy right? Was 4 segments, add a 5th and mostly done, right?

    Alas, the way a solid works is that it burns from the inside to the outside, so the shape of the cavity is critical. You basically have to pre-plan the thrust profile, and cast it into the shape of the grain. As the surface area gets bigger, the thrust increases.

    So adding a 5th segment required an almost redesign of the shape of the propellant.

    Someone else noted free SSME’s except that they re-validation process has no doubt been expensive. And they are getting new digital engine controllers, no doubt cheaply (NOT!).

    Ah well, the cost goes on and on…

  • LocalFluff

    The “advanced” solid boosters won’t fly until 2028 (defining Block II), according to plan. So it doesn’t seem to be easy for NASA.

    Moving the main engines from the shuttle to the main tank must’ve sounded like a great idea when they wanted to get rid of the shuttle. The Russians had already successfully done that with the Energia/Buran. A quick cheap fix. And here we are without any kind of human space flight program because of the tens of billions that is draining NASA’s budget decade after decade.

  • LocalFluff

    The shuttle orbiter dominated the costs of the STS. Without it SLS must be at least 80% cheaper to operate. And since going from STS to SLS is just a small adjustment to hardware known since the 1970s, and Soviet already did it and flew in the 1980s, the development cost and time must be at least 80% cheaper than developing a new launcher from scratch. The difference between SLS and STS is far smaller than that Falcon 9 has experience going from 300 to 500 tons on the launch pad.

    SLS is an extremely low aim, a temporary stop gap measure. Nothing new is implemented, it isn’t designed for any particular purpose, it is simply an assembly of everything that happens to be already made. To compensate for its conceptual shortcomings, the advantages of SLS is that it is so very cheap and can be flying so very soon…

  • Edward

    LocalFluff wrote: “The shuttle orbiter dominated the costs of the STS. Without it SLS must be at least 80% cheaper to operate.

    Quite a bit of the cost to operate STS was in the training, facilities maintenance and use, and experiments. Similar costs would be ongoing for SLS or any manned space program or project. The refurbishment costs are the ones to be saved over the Space Shuttle costs, but those are likely more than offset by the manufacture of new, non-reusable hardware for each mission.

    It is a shame that the Space Shuttle could not fly as often as predicted in the beginning, because that would have reduced the cost of each flight and made the Shuttle project much more affordable per flight and more successful overall.

    That the SLS has such a low flight rate makes it even less affordable and will make it even less successful than the Shuttle. That SLS has no mission makes it a shame that all that money is being spent on a rocket that is coming before its time, before the space community (including NASA) is ready to use it. That money could have been spent on more immediately useful projects, such as NASA’s commercial crew project, which could have been flying over a year ago and for less overall development costs had it been fully funded. We still have to wait more than a year for the first commercial crew flight.

    Such poor use of NASA funds result in lost opportunities for spending those funds on more productive projects or in more productive ways.

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