Tag Archives: spaceflight

Shades of foam and failed o-rings?

A fourth crack has been found on Discovery’s external tank. How this will affect Discovery’s November 30 launch remains unknown. There will a briefing on Monday to discuss the status of the schedule. This quote however gives me the willies:

External tank crack repairs are not unusual. Some 29 stringer cracks were found in 18 previous tanks, according to an official familiar with their history. Four have now been found in Discovery’s tank, ET-137, and three were found in a tank scheduled for use by the shuttle Atlantis next summer, ET-138. Doublers were used in 23 repairs.

There is a saying that we always fight the last war. After the Challenger accident NASA made great effort to prevent another o-ring failure in the solid rocket boosters, and ignored the foam falling from the external tank. After the Columbia accident, NASA then made great effort to prevent another piece of foam from hitting an orbiter.

Unfortunately, it appears that NASA may now be ignoring this crack problem. Even though they have been able to repair past cracks, for this many cracks to occur this often should cause alarm bells to ring throughout the agency, forcing a look at the problem in toto. Instead, it appears management has been making catch-as-catch-can repairs.

What makes this situation even more difficult is the factory that makes the external tanks has shut down. No new tanks are available. Thus, there are not many options for flying these last few shuttle missions except by using the already existing tanks, and repairing them as needed.

Like I said, this is beginning to give me the willies.

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The coming train wreck for Commercial Human Spaceflight

This post by retired NASA engineer Wayne Hale explains why it probably is a good idea if Congress cuts the subsidies for new commercial space: The coming train wreck for commercial human spaceflight. This is the key quote, where Hale describes the regulations NASA is requiring these new companies to meet:

The document runs a mind-numbing 260 pages of densely spaced requirements. Most disappointing, on pages 7 to 11 is a table of 74 additional requirements documents which must be followed, in whole or in part. Taken all together, there are thousands of requirement statements referenced in this document. And for every one NASA will require a potential commercial space flight provider to document, prove, and verify with massive amounts of paperwork and/or electronic forms.

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Mystery missile an optical illusion?

At least one expert claims that the mystery missile launch off the California coast on was merely an optical illusion. Key quote:

John Pike of the security analyst group globalsecurity.org said the video shot by a news helicopter owned by KCBS is an optical illusion. Pike said the video is of an airplane heading toward the camera and the contrail is illuminated by the setting sun. He said the object can’t be a rocket because it appeared to alter its course.

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The first images of Deep Impact’s flyby of Comet Hartley 2

Here are the first images of Deep Impact’s flyby of Comet Hartley 2. The first is a montage, the sequence in time going clockwise. The second is a close-up of the second image.

montage of Hartley 2

close-up

The feature that I find most intriguing is the narrow smooth waist of the comet’s dogbone shape. The whole thing looks almost like a piece of taffy that’s being pulled apart.

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Watching the Deep Impact flyby of Hartley 2

Watch the Deep Impact flyby of Hartley 2 this instant (11:06 AM eastern)! The images are incredible. Update: The fly-by is over, but the live stream is still available (as of 11:30 am Eastern), showing some of the images taken. The comet itself is a peanut-shaped object about two miles long, with a jet of water coming out one end.

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Overhaul of NASA’s Deep Space communication system completed

NASA has completed a significant upgrade of its Deep Space communication system. These unheralded antennas and the engineers who maintain them make it possible for scientists to communicate with the far flung planetary probes in orbit around Venus, Mars, and Saturn, as well as the spacecraft visiting comets or traveling beyond the edge of the solar system.

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