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Ares I Rocket Rumored To Be Too Heavy 165

Posted by Hemos
from the hard-time-getting-it-up dept.
eldavojohn writes "In an article entitled "Constellation Battles the Blogosphere," problems with the Ares I lift vehicle are dispelled by NASA. An e-mail containing the rumor that the payload was a metric ton too heavy spurred this post which caused a lot of sidelines speculation that NASA might be setting themselves up for failure and simply need to start over. From the article, '[M]any who carp from the sidelines do not seem to understand the systems engineering process. They instead want to sensationalize any issue to whatever end or preferred outcome they wish," wrote Jeff Hanley the NASA official leading the development of the rockets and spacecraft the United States is building to replace the space shuttle and to return to the Moon.' The article also mentions that NASA looked at 10,000 to 20,000 different iterations of designs in their "Exploration Systems Architecture Study." As armchair speculators of space exploration, do our posts & blogs create negative fallout for NASA or is public criticism like this healthy for keeping government agencies in line?"
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Ares I Rocket Rumored To Be Too Heavy

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  • by PreacherTom (1000306) * on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:30AM (#16916118)
    Personally, I leave rocket science to the rocket scientists. Von Braun, I'm not.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Jokes aside, it really isn't rocket science. TFA pointed it out: it's systems engineering. Which is not the same thing.

      -stormin
  • by thewiz (24994) * on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:32AM (#16916132)
    Why not ask questions of the people at NASA? They have been designing, building, and testing rockets for decades. Most arm-chair rocket scientists have no practical experience in doing things on the scale NASA does. Asking questions instead of making claims that NASA has screwed up would help us learn more about what NASA is doing and, perhaps, help them look at what they are doing from a different view-point.

    Sounds like we need to be open-source in our approach to communicating with NASA - ask questions, offer ideas, create a solution that all may benefit from rather than firing the cannons of FUD.
    • Why not ask questions of the people at Microsoft? They have been designing, building, and testing operating systems for decades. Most arm-chair Linux zealots have no practical experience in doing things on the scale Microsoft does. Asking questions instead of making claims that Microsoft has screwed up would help us learn more about what Microsoft is doing and, perhaps, help them look at what they are doing from a different view-point.

      Sounds like we need to be open-source in our approach to communicating wi
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Waffle Iron (339739)
      The very fact that they're planning to recycle designs from the astoundingly overpriced and underachieving shuttle program, which is one of the costliest technology boondoggles in the history of human civilization, is prima facie evidence that they're still operating in design-by-committee group-idiot mode.

      They're still making design decision based on issues like which defense contractors have sites in which key congressional districts. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that. What makes you t

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Moofie (22272)
        Well, if the Shuttle program (which was a design-by-committee charlie foxtrot extraordinaire) yielded one of the best rocket engines currently available (which it did), why not use that engine?

        NASA works the way NASA works because that's the way Congress likes it. Sometimes, you get Apollo. Sometimes, you get Shuttle. I hope that the Ares program yields results more like Apollo, although I think the moon is a waste of resources.

        Mars, baby. Whoever gets there first gets to name it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Waffle Iron (339739)
          why not use that engine?

          Well, it's an extremely high-performing rocket engine. A top-fuel dragster also has a an extremely high-performing engine. Neither engine is necessarily the "best" for any application other than performing stunts. For most applications, whether it's cars or rockets, you want a reliable, cost-effective engine that operates on an easy-to-use fuel.

          • Like a top fuel dragster a SRB is designed to perform really well for a very short period of time.

            If that is your mission profile, and it is, I can see no problem with that.
            • Like a top fuel dragster a SRB is designed to perform really well for a very short period of time.

              And like a dragster, the shuttle engines are overkill for the transportation job at hand, and they require prohibitively expensive maintenance after each use. In contrast to the shuttle, nobody is silly enough to use a money-pit such as a dragster for anything other than entertainment.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Archeopteryx (4648) *
                I think you fail to get it. A low performance engine cannot lift ANYTHING into space. No matter how cheap a reliable.

                I suggest you peruse "Thrust Into Space" by Maxwell W. Hunter III if you want to see why laid out in terms for the non-aerospace engineer.

                You need amazing thrust at a very high specific impulse.

                You need to keep the engine and airframe as light as possible consistent with safely containing the fuel, resisting gravity and aerodynamic loads and transmitting the thrust to the payload.

                These are
                • The shuttle's main engines have an Isp of around 450 seconds. There are plenty of viable launch systems that get by with not much more than half of that. They don't require things like liquid hydrogen fuel, whose difficulty of use was a direct contributor to the latest shuttle disaster. Those engines are total overkill for lifting a 25 ton payload into LEO.
                  • These are not SSMEs, these are SSSRBs. VERY different animal.
                • by FleaPlus (6935)
                  I think you fail to get it. A low performance engine cannot lift ANYTHING into space. No matter how cheap a reliable.

                  I think your dichotomy may need some adjusting. The proposition isn't cheap vs. expensive, but really expensive vs. absurdly expensive, or really high performance vs. absurdly high performance. As it is, the shuttle is optimized towards rather absurd performance margins, which is nice on paper, but doesn't really do much to try to reduce launch costs. If anything, launch costs are deliberatel
        • We already did Apollo! It's time for something different, but you're not going to get it out of NASA. Every program with a significant engineering advance eventually gets pidgeon-holed or cancled by various factions composed of scientists ("unmanned-probes are a better return on investment, spend the money on my pet project") or politicians ("foster interanational cooperation" or "send jobs to my district").

          Space is not for rocket scientists anymore than climbing Mt. Everest is only for explorers. Lots o
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Archeopteryx (4648) *
            I think you underestimate the size of the problem you propose.

            Space will never be cheap, except perhaps in terms of low-performance sub-orbital excursion rockets. Those will become cheap, but nothing that can reach orbit ever will.
    • by CriX (628429)
      This isn't FUD. There are real, well thought out alternative architectures which can provide major cost savings. Check out http://www.directlauncher.com/ [directlauncher.com]
    • by DerekLyons (302214) <(fairwater) (at) (gmail.com)> on Monday November 20, 2006 @02:52PM (#16919510) Homepage
      Why not ask questions of the people at NASA? They have been designing, building, and testing rockets for decades.

      Actually - they haven't. The last booster designed by NASA was the Shuttle, back in the 70's. What few efforts they've undertaken since then have been more to keep the teams busy and employed than actually producing useful hardware.
       
       
      Most arm-chair rocket scientists have no practical experience in doing things on the scale NASA does.

      As I state above - they real problem is that NASA doesn't have any practical experience at any scale. The guys who last handled these kinds of problems/systems were the guys who did Apollo - and they are all retired. The Shuttle guys have been all about operations, not R&D on a new[ish] booster system.
       
      The hard reality is that nobody has recent experience in designing new[ish] large boosters. Even the Russians have limited themselves to modest stretches of existing designs, or doing minor retooling on designs from the late 80's or early 90's. The Chinese are using a stretch of either the Long March II ICBM (vintage late 80's or early 90's in design, even earlier in technology) or modifications of the same Soyuz booster the Soviets rely so much on. Niether the Japanese, nor the Indians or the Brazilians have anything this size. Nor is anything better on the ESA side of the house - the Ariane V design also stretches back over fifteen years.
      • The hard reality is that nobody has recent experience in designing new[ish] large boosters.

        Not true. Rocketdyne, developer of the Space Shuttle Main Engines, begin development of the RS-68 in 1998, did the first successful testfire September 11, 2000, and had it's first successful launch on the Medium+(4,2) variant of Boeing's brand new Delta IV. Nasa has decided to use the RS-68 for the Ares V. I suppose you could argue the RS-68 is at least partially based on the SSME's, but the idea that the people

        • The hard reality is that nobody has recent experience in designing new[ish] large boosters.

          Not true. Rocketdyne, developer of the Space Shuttle Main Engines, begin development of the RS-68 in 1998

          Apples, oranges. Lightbulb, shopping mall. Engines, boosters.
          • Are SSME and RS-68 both booster engines on LOX/LH2 or not? They are both lit on launch to provide thrust. You put your foot in your mouth. Just suck it up.

            EADS Vulcain 2 and Mitsubishi LE-7 are not that old either. LE-7 is even a staged combustion engine.

      • by khallow (566160)
        Well, looks like someone is going to pick that experience up.
  • False (Score:5, Informative)

    by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768@@@comcast...net> on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:34AM (#16916168) Journal
    The "rumor" was started by a guy who is well known to post junk. This was the same guy who after Challenger said that the Shuttle fleet was going to be canned and that no more would ever be produced saying he heard "directly from Griffin."

    NASA has responded to this rumor over a week ago BTW.

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=22553 [spaceref.com]

    Its basically a bunch of bullshit, shame on Slashdot for posting about a story that was a non-issue weeks ago.

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:41AM (#16916280) Journal
      Its basically a bunch of bullshit, shame on Slashdot for posting about a story that was a non-issue weeks ago.
      And if you read the article that I linked to from Space.com, the topic was the fact that this is BS causing NASA problems. I posted this story to raise the discussion and awareness of misinformation causing problems for NASA despite their rigorous methodologies (which I also linked to).

      I apologize if you and anyone who feels like I propagated FUD, I only meant to draw attention to the fact that it was mere rumors causing a severe amount of fall out that should never have happened. Hence my final sentence in the submission.
      • by jd (1658)
        Having worked at NASA - albeit NASA Langley - I can say that I'd laugh at the notion of rigorous standards in their engineering. However, it is important to note that their standards are nonetheless considerably higher than the majority of their competitors in the space industry. However unimpressed I may be by some of their actions, I can think of no-one who (yet) comes even remotely close in either the level of technology available or the ability to make use of that technology.

        Now, others have caught up i

      • I considered submitting the same space.com article, but you beat me to it. I think you should've focused much more in your summary on the response to the accusations (particularly the fact that the current design estimates have the Orion 10-15% lighter than the max allowed, and that the max allowed is something like 15% less than what the Ares 1 can orbit.

        Really the original article could be much better summed up as "NASA engineer lays the smackdown on ignorant armchair critics" than "Constellation Battl
    • It will never work! (Score:5, Informative)

      by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday November 20, 2006 @12:08PM (#16916740) Homepage Journal
      Everybody knows that a Rocket must have something to push against to fly. A rocket will never work in space. I know because I read this in the New York Times!

      In other words nothing new. People that can write seem to think they always have something worth saying.
      BTW the New York Times did print a retraction of that statement on July 20th 1969.
      • by rthille (8526)
        Everybody knows that a Rocket must have something to push against to fly.

        Well, sure, but the rocket would push against the 'ether', that the electromagnetic radiation propagates thru...duh!

        </sarcasm>
    • by FleaPlus (6935)
      This was the same guy who after Challenger said that the Shuttle fleet was going to be canned and that no more would ever be produced saying he heard "directly from Griffin."

      I'm a little confused by your statement... Griffin wasn't administrator during the Challenger disaster. Also, there hasn't been a new shuttle produced since 1992, and official policy is that no more will be produced.
  • Question: "As armchair speculators of space exploration, do our posts & blogs create negative fallout for NASA or is public criticism like this healthy for keeping government agencies in line?" Answer: Yes
  • by haakondahl (893488) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:38AM (#16916236)
    Regarding the question posed at the end of the article lead, of course criticism, whether well-founded or not, is good for a bureaucracy. Not that they like it when they hear it. Naturally, an organization such as NASA has the mental horsepower available to sort out the wheat from the chaff. NASA has suffered in the past (to the tune of several dead astronauts) from inadequate criticism, internal and external. Now that they have this "culture of listening" or whatever it's called these days, it would be a pity of we had nothing to say.
    • How is criticizm that is not well-founded (unfounded?) good for anything, much less a bureaucracy? It seems to me that such criticizm only results in growth of said bureaucracy.

      On my planet, a growing bureaucracy is generally considered to be about as desireable as a growing fungal infection.

  • Not news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chairboy (88841) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:51AM (#16916458) Homepage
    First, this is just a rumor, second, every rocket program since Goddard fastbaked the first potato during his first liquid fueled rocket experiments has had weight problems. Phase I is to set the basic requirements of thrust and payload, phase II is to make it work. Things start heavy and get lightened. At one point during the Apollo program, the program managers were offering bounties to people who could cut an ounce so that they could meet the performance requirements needed for the missions.

    This is not news, this is sensationalism. The stick concept will probably work just fine. It grates on me because I've got real problems with the SRB as relates to the shuttle, but with an actual launch abort system that can pull the capsule away, I guess it's a good and cheap solution. It'll probably be quite a ride, too.

    C'mon folks, this isn't rocket sci- well... let me rephrase. C'mon folks, this isn't a new problem, and it's not even unexpected. It's a standard part of rocket development, just like debugging compile problems is a usual part of large software development projects.
  • Too heavy? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Andrewkov (140579) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:55AM (#16916526)
    Ares I Rocket Rumored to be Too Heavy

    So are most Slashdotters!

  • With the exception of the Mars rovers, most of NASA's recent history has been riddled with failures, mistakes and oversights. It seems to me they need to open up more projects to public scrutiny.
    "Go fever" seems to be at least partially in remision, but when you look at the stupid stuff that's gone on recently in the NASA failures you have to wonder if they could have been avoided if they'd just asked a non-involved person for their perspective. I know that I for one would never have said an SST could lift
    • by Rei (128717) on Monday November 20, 2006 @12:17PM (#16916868) Homepage
      I know that I for one would never have said an SST could lift off if large, hell... even small, chunks of foam were falling off the external tank and hitting the vehicle.

      Then you certainly would have called an abort if a spacecraft, on launch, was struck by lightning, right? You would have cancelled Apollo 12. Or does foam sound somehow worse than a bloody bolt of lightning?

      With all of the things that *can* go wrong in a vehicle like a rocket, cancelling when anything *does* go wrong means that you never launch, and you abort right away if you ever get off the ground.

      The issue with foam is that it doesn't have all that much energy even at high speeds, compared to how strong RCC is. The problem was with a property of foam that was unexpected: at high speeds, it impacts as a very rigid body.

      What if the entry plan for the Mars Climate Observer had been reviewed publicly?

      An English-Metric conversion error wasn't in the "entry plan". If you mean reviewing the code, I'm not sure how many lines of code MCO had, but Pathfinder had 160,000. Commercial code usually has 5-10 defects per line, and since most errors have the potential to cripple a craft, it's pretty darned impressive that they can get these things to work at all. When you look at their failsafe modes and the degree of testing they do, it becomes clear how prepared for fault they usually are. However, some faults aren't as easy to detect as others.

      A good example of these failsafe modes is visible in the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. Remember that flash memory error that they had? Spirit worked fine until it experienced a fault, and rebooted. The system automatically reboots itself on faults. Spirit's problem, however, was in the boot sequence, when it activated the flash memory. Well, they thought of this, and had the radio run on its own computer, and put a delay in between reboots. The radio also switched into a low bandwidth, wideband mode that would be easier to reach Earth if improperly pointed. So, Spirit rebooted every few minutes, but inbetween boots, there was time to briefly talk to it. Of course, normally, if you have a failed boot, you wouldn't be able to talk to it, but they thought of this, too, and had the radio's computer able to disable boot sequence elements on the main computer and to be able to order reboots. Thus, they were able to debug the boot sequence on a machine that they couldn't touch and had huge challenges in even communicating with.

      All thanks to the sort of preparation that they do. When was the last time that you designed a system with this kind of fault tolerance?

      The bigger question is does NASA have the ego to handle letting outsiders look at projects and can they accept the constructive criticism that results?

      I think the biggest question is why do armchair quarterbacks like you feel compelled to criticize the work of people with the benefit of hindsight on a system that only with the most incredible dilligence could even get that far? NASA has had a relatively impressive success rate with Mars; compare this to the awful Russian space program attempts to visit the Red Planet, and ESA's ill-fated Mars program.
      • by Rei (128717)
        Sorry, 5-10 defects per 100 lines.
        • by feepness (543479)
          Sorry, 5-10 defects per 100 lines.

          Man, you haven't seen any of the code around here, have you?
      • by mikerich (120257)
        I think the biggest question is why do armchair quarterbacks like you feel compelled to criticize the work of people with the benefit of hindsight on a system that only with the most incredible dilligence could even get that far?

        Can you imagine what NASA would have to wade through if this was tried? 'Please don't do it, the Face on Mars came to me in a dream and said it would hurt its healing Atlantean rays', 'Can you look for L Ron on the way down?', 'I'm writing to inform you that I purchased your pr
        • by Rei (128717)
          I wouldn't call 50% very good. Better than the Russians, for sure, but nothing to write home about. ;)
      • by gerardrj (207690)
        "Then you certainly would have called an abort if a spacecraft, on launch, was struck by lightning, right?"
        Yes I would have, and NASA now routinely does that also. Apollo 12 would have been just as successful had it taken off during the next launch window.

        "The problem was with a property of foam that was unexpected: at high speeds, it impacts as a very rigid body."
        Duh. Water isn't very damaging when you dive in to a swimming pool but hit that
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by 2short (466733)
          "I'm no rocket scientist... but that doesn't invalidate the questions."

          Of course it does. You don't know the basic background information, you're not going to produce useful questions.

          You keep referencing how it would have been obvious to you the foam was a problem. Well, why wasn't it? Are you trying to suggest you were desperately trying to ask someone before the fact "What happens when the foam insulation falls off the tank during launch?", but they just wouldn't listen? If not, then how can you clai
        • by Rei (128717)
          Yes I would have, and NASA now routinely does that also. Apollo 12 would have been just as successful had it taken off during the next launch window.

          Fascinating! Pray tell, given that the strike was on ascent, how would you have landed the lifting-off Saturn V to take off "during the next launch window"? :)
    • by 2short (466733) on Monday November 20, 2006 @12:24PM (#16916986)
      Help is great. Having to answer every unfounded criticism any uninformed person on the internet spent 30 seconds typing and zero time researching is not help. It's a collosal waste of time.

      Monday morning quarterbacks second-guessing your decisions after you've lost the game can be annoying. But that's not what's being complained about here. What's being complained about here are people wanting to stick their heads into the huddle during the game and demand the quaterback explain to them, while the clock is running, how he can possibly expect to score a home run with no bat.

      Not all criticism is constructive, or even meaningful.
      • by gerardrj (207690)
        You automatically dismiss the complainers as unknowledgeable, that's a mistake. One of NASA's biggest issues is a lack of budget. The Congress continually thinks it's more important to spend 1 million dollars on a missile to shoot down an aircraft than to send a probe to another planet.
        If there is a mechanism where NASA can get additional expertise/oversight with little to no increase in cost, then let's do it.

        One thing that all the "leave the experts alone" posters are forgetting is that NASA is spending
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by 2short (466733)
          Some of the complainers definitely are unknowledgeable, including the ones referenced in this article. Some may be knowledgeable, but sorting these out from the masses of unknoledgeable ones is not cost-free.

          "If there is a mechanism where NASA can get additional expertise/oversight with little to no increase in cost, then let's do it."

          Absolutely. Is taking the time to answer every crank who makes some noise on a blog in case one of them turns out to not be a crank a cost-effective way to get that? Seems
        • by SnowZero (92219)
          Would it be too much to ask to wait for the first design review?
    • With the exception of the Mars rovers, most of NASA's recent history has been riddled with failures, mistakes and oversights.

      The fact that you can't think of any recent NASA successes other than the Mars rovers proves that you have no idea what you're talking about. One huge recent success was Cassini, the mission to Saturn. Sadly, the news media doesn't report on most of NASA's smaller projects, but in the last ten years NASA has also launched several Earth-orbiting satellites to make new measurements of
    • "The bigger question is does NASA have the ego to handle letting outsiders look at projects and can they accept the constructive criticism that results? NASA is continually trying to do more with fewer dollars, perhaps its time they tried a more open source/distributed computing approach to some of the work."

      National security concerns restrict access to some of the technologies. I'm sure N. Korea and other unfriendly countries would love to get unfettered to man-rated launch systems to improve their balist
    • Inbreeding is rarely a good thing in in the long run

      Actually, since it will magnify harmful genes much faster, inbreeding is the best way to optimize a gene pool.

      Unless you're one of the culls, of course, then it kind of sucks.
    • What if the entry plan for the Mars Climate Observer had been reviewed publicly? Don't you think there's a chance someone would have noticed the metric conversion issue and saved the project?

      Honestly...no. Have you ever tried to calculate an interplanetary trajectory? It's not a 1 page exercise. It's big, calculus heavy project with a lot of parameters (masses, forces, velocities, previous actions, and even dates are all important) that involves a lot of number crunching. There's a reason that it took 11

  • by Sneakernets (1026296) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:57AM (#16916564) Journal
    I say nasa is suffering from... (wait for it)
    Projectile Dysfunction.
    Thank you, try the fish.
  • by cdrguru (88047) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:57AM (#16916576) Homepage
    1. Post utterly unfounded rumor and speculation.
    2. Have it widely read, by equally uninformed people, some of whom think there must be something to this or the Government wouldn't be hiding this important information.
    3. Have said government or government agency spend untold hours trying to get the truth out. Usually this operation fails.
    4. Have equally uninformed Congresscritters cut said agency's funding because obviously they do not know what they are doing.

    How much has NASA spent, in PR money and man-hours on trying to debunk the "faked moon landing"? How many Congresscritters believe there must be something to this?

    It isn't that criticism is wrong, it is that an important part of criticism called "critical thinking" is absent. At least the thinking part is. While this has existed since the beginning of time with people complaining about the pyramids going to fall over the first time it rained, this sort of nonsense has been made far, far more accessible to the average Joe now. Is the answer censorship? I doubt it. But what if someone wrote a long Wikipedia article about this sort of thing and a devoted group of followers kept any attempt at introducing reason, logic and common sense from being added?

    • For the most part you just described the last Congressional elections too.
    • by ScentCone (795499)
      3. Have said government or government agency spend untold hours trying to get the truth out. Usually this operation fails.

      At for this audience here, you must add:

      3(b). Complain that the government has propoganda machine set up to "get out the truth" and straighten out toxic spin-FUD spread by idiots, because obviously any office run by a government agency specifically to "correct" wrong-headed or outright BS notions circulating in the news or blogosphere is obviously Evil.

      At least, that always seem
  • by amightywind (691887) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:57AM (#16916578) Journal

    These are normal development issues. Here [nasaspaceflight.com] is a good summary. Also it is not the Ares I launch vehicle that is overweight, but the Orion CEV.

  • Yes... and yes. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by archatheist (316491)
    > As armchair speculators of space exploration, do our posts & blogs create negative fallout for NASA or is public criticism like this healthy for keeping government agencies in line?

    Yes. And yes.
    • by jfengel (409917)
      With the extra proviso that it's up to us to critique the critiques, hopefully canceling out the wrongest stuff before the government agency spends all of its time being kept in line rather than actually walking it.
  • by oni (41625) on Monday November 20, 2006 @12:22PM (#16916944) Homepage
    "An e-mail containing the rumor that the payload was a metric ton too heavy"

    So, people honestly think that actual engineers, with actual engineering degrees, and actual engineering experience - people who can calculate exactly how much compression force a load-bearnig wall is under, and exactly how much tension the cables on a bridge need to be able to withstand, and exactly where to point and how much thrust is needed to send Cassini inward to Mercury, then back out past Venus, then inward again, then past Earth, then past Jupiter, and go into orbit at SAturn - going right past Titan so that it can release a probe...

    *takes a breath* ... and yet these same engineers just randomly throw an engine onto a rocket while screaming "ye haw!!" and hope that it works??

    And then some random guy on the Internets looks over their work and says, "whoa guys, I may not have any education or experience and not even be able to balance my checkbook, but it looks to me that you're 1 metric ton too heavy."

    Is that how the world works?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      These are also the same people who forgot to standardize between metric and U.S. measurements for a Mars probe http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,31631, 00.html [wired.com] and installed an accelerometer backwards in the Genesis probe http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genesis_(spacecraft) [wikipedia.org]. Smart people make simple mistakes all of the time. Is that the case here? Probably not, but it is always worth taking a second look.
    • by roystgnr (4015)
      and yet these same engineers just randomly throw an engine onto a rocket while screaming "ye haw!!" and hope that it works??

      No, but those same engineers start out by throwing an engine choice and some loose structure weight estimates onto a PowerPoint slide. The choices are based more on calculations than on yelling and hoping, but the numbers still tend to change as the details come in. In their classes those engineers did learn how to predict "exactly how much compression force a load-bearnig wall is un
    • by RayBender (525745)
      and yet these same engineers just randomly throw an engine onto a rocket while screaming "ye haw!!" and hope that it works??

      Three problems with your comment: 1) they are most definitely not the same people. JPL is very different from MSFC, and I can tell you from personal experience that most MSFC guys have their heads pretty far up their asses. 2) Even those vaunted JPL engineers have been known to fsck up. Especially lately. 3) The "Orion Exploration archtecture" was not designed from the ground up. It wa

      • The story I heard is that the Stick comes out of the astronaut office with the idea of taking Shuttle components and turning them into something to get astronauts into low-Earth orbit without the hazards of the Shuttle. You take the SRB, the good old reliable SRB, yes it did in the Challenger, but you put it by itself instead of next to a liquid fuel tank, and if the O-rings leak hot gases, no one cares. Then you mate it with an LH2-LO2 upper stage, and stack on top of that an Apollo-style blunt-body reen
        • by RayBender (525745)
          Your story and mine agree completely. They really did screw this thing up. Sad, really. My only nit is that if you lose an O-ring the stick will probably tumble out of control, which would suck. But you at least have the abort capability - though they don't explicitly state that it's a full-envelope recovery system, so I could imagine that there is a time when they jettison the tower, but are still thrusting. That is of course one way to solve any mass-problems - move up the tower jettison time. And then y
    • by khallow (566160)

      How obviously bad do the engineering decisions have to be before we're allowed to comment on them?

      *takes a breath* ... and yet these same engineers just randomly throw an engine onto a rocket while screaming "ye haw!!" and hope that it works??

      You're operating on the mistaken assumption that the design choices behind the Ares I and V launchers were primarily engineering based. Instead, it appears they were intended to preserve Space Shuttle manufacturing and maintenance infrastructure. The bruhaha we'r

  • Blog oversight is healthy even when critical. The only real issue here is that in the specific case of NASA, oversight is both preposterous difficult and attracts an enormous number of unqualified individuals. You know, what with it being rocket science, and all.

    Should we allow it to go on? Yes: NASA has a thick skin, and in other industries and venues (notably politics) it's crucially important. Here, well, it's just sort of detritus. Fermat's theorem attracted this kind of noise too. The short version? When it's at the very edge of human capacity, and when it's popularized, then you just have to crank the bullshit filter up a ways.

    Now, the *best* would be if NASA left comments on these blogs explaining why these people were wrong, in a rude way, so that they'd shut up until they grokked. Unfortunately that'd be prohibitively time consuming, but it'd be great, wouldn't it?
    • Now, the *best* would be if NASA left comments on these blogs explaining why these people were wrong, in a rude way, so that they'd shut up until they grokked.

      Just as several decades of wasted effort has lessened the number Moon-landing-was-a-hoax wackos? Yes, it'd be moderately interesting, even humorous, but I'd prefer that the NASA engineers do what they they're there to do and not waste time and money trying to clue in the clueless.

  • The Launch Services Purchase Act [google.com] was intended to prevent this kind of development. I should know since I was intimately involved in the drafting and passage of that act [geocities.com]. The intent was to get NASA out of the launch services business and by implication they should not be doing design of launch service since to do so usurps the role of the private sector in risk management. Designing an entire launch vehicle is such a large part of designing a launch service that it simply isn't reasonable to allow NASA to
    • The intent was to get NASA out of the launch services business and by implication they should not be doing design of launch service since to do so usurps the role of the private sector in risk management. Designing an entire launch vehicle is such a large part of designing a launch service that it simply isn't reasonable to allow NASA to do so.

      If the rocket blows up and kills astronauts, it will be NASA's neck which gets chopped, not Lockmart's. Their optimal "risk management" strategy is to transfer risk
      • You're confusing contracting with purchasing.

        The contractors you are talking about don't get paid for mission success. Service providers do -- often including purchasing insurance for mission failure. Airlines do this and they handle many deaths per year -- a lot more than a few joy-stick jockies.

        You might not see the difference but it is so fundamental to risk management that your joke about Lockmart's "risk management" falls flat due to ignorance of the very principle.

  • That people are paying attention to what NASA does and have at least some interest in space. If it takes "carping" and armchair rocket science to get people involved, then I think the negative publicity of a few people is worth the additional attention NASA gets.

    If everyone ignored NASA, which has been the case in recent years, then why bother even having them. that's the line of thought I fear pervades the general populace and in congress.
  • "As armchair speculators of space exploration, do our posts & blogs create negative fallout for NASA or is public criticism like this healthy for keeping government agencies in line?"

    Yes.

    No, I really mean that. Naysayers and people playing devil's advocate ALWAYS create problems for those in power, and for groups working on giant projects. Investors don't like hearing about major problems in the projects they're investing in, even if they're governments, and, well... that sort of trouble just gets spre
  • Easy proof (Score:4, Informative)

    by heroine (1220) on Monday November 20, 2006 @02:15PM (#16918874) Homepage
    Download Orbiter. Track down and download the Aries 1 simulation. It can't reach orbit using the SRB and the J2 stages. It needs to burn the service module engine for a long time. The service module is part of the 50,000 - 60,000 lb payload that supposedly can be put into orbit by the first 2 stages but really requires the first 2 stages + part of the payload. Their payload target of course has a 20% margin of error.

    • by njchick (611256)
      I think it's OK to use the spacecraft engine to reach the orbit. Multi-stage rockets work better if there are more stages because it reduces overhead of acceleration the parts that will be later jettisoned. With a rocket segmented into "finer" pieces, parts that become unneeded can be shed faster. The limiting factor is the engines - they add weight and price. But the spacecraft engine is needed anyway for further maneuvers including the deorbit burn. Not using the spacecraft engine for descent would r
  • by J05H (5625) on Monday November 20, 2006 @02:28PM (#16919116) Homepage
    I'd like to point out that "systems engineering" regularly fails to produce rockets. Like every "X" vehicle of the past 2 decades. I'll trust actual rocket scientists over viewgraph-flying Systems Engineers any day. NASA hasn't designed a real rocket since the mid-70s, and they are following their typical Mafia-tactics in dealing with outside criticism.

    The Stick may or may not be over/underweight. The real issues, to me, are that it uses the most dangerous part of the Shuttle architecture (but rebuilds into an untested new stage) while promising to be as absolutely expensive as possible. All this while replicating current (Atlas, Delta, Soyuz, Ariane) capabilities. Just buy your flights to LEO and base-camp from there! Instead of waiting 15 years for crewed access to the moon, NASA could be building the deep space hardware they are actually good at and leave the Earth-LEO segment to the companies that already do it regularly.

    NASA, where having something, maybe in a couple decades, is more important than keeping today's capability.

    And yes, I'm a big supporter. Except when Hanley and the others act like 6th graders because someone criticized their wittle wocket.

    Josh - proud member of the peanut gallery
  • Anyone else read it as the Arse I Rocket?

It appears that PL/I (and its dialects) is, or will be, the most widely used higher level language for systems programming. -- J. Sammet

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