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Comment Re:A bit off topic (Score 1) 213

There are a few statements in your post that are misleading / incorrect.

While Vandenberg AFB did have runways extended to over 15000 feet to support Shuttle landings, the more important criteria for delta wings was that the Shuttle would have been *launched* from Vandenberg (from SLC-6) for *polar-orbit* missions.

A landing site at Vandenberg AFB in California or Edwards AFB (also California) being further *north* has little to do with the delta wing shape. It's the fact that the mission profile for a polar orbit is very different than what was flown from Kennedy.

Launching from Vandenberg would have the shuttle launching south (for polar orbit insertion) rather than launching east as it did for Florida launches. This was primarily for military missions, performing a satellite capture or deployment and then landing once-around the Earth.

Landing once-around after a polar orbit means that your launch/landing site has rotated with the Earth, 22.5 degrees east or roughly 1500 miles.

The straight-wing shape was unable to accommodate a translation west-to-east of that extent and so, a delta-wing was needed. A straight-wing shape, as proposed, mandated an extremely high angle-of-attack re-entry which necessarily lead to a dangerous flight transition: from stalling blunt-body re-entry to a subsonic flight. A stalling aircraft leads to increased risk of total loss-of-control and breakup of the vehicle.

Comment Re:well (Score 1) 200

Boeing's space division is mostly what was acquired in 1996 from Rockwell International's Space Division which earlier was North American Aviation.

Here's a brief stroll through history:

[North American Aviation]
Designs and Builds:
* the X-15 Rocket plane
* the entire second stage of the Saturn V
* the Apollo Service Module and Apollo Command module (aka Apollo CSM)

[Rocketdyne] (Established 1955 as a division of North American Aviation)
Designs and Builds:
* the F1 engines of the first stage of the Saturn V
* the J2 engines used on the second stage of the Saturn V, and on the Saturn IB and IVb rockets

In 1967, NAA merges with Rockwell Standard to become North American Rockwell
Rocketdyne also comes along with NAA / Rockwell merger

North American Rockwell acquires avionics company Collins Radio in 1973 among others and becomes Rockwell International

[Rockwell International - Space Division]
* Prime Contractor for Space Transportation System (aka STS / Shuttle)
Designs and Builds:
* the STS Orbiters (i.e. Enterprise, Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, Endeavour)

[Rockwell International - Avionics]
* Shuttle Orbiter avionics and communications

[Rocketdyne] (as part of Rockwell International - Space Division)
Designs and Builds:
* the RS-25 (aka Space Shuttle Main Engine / SSME)

1996 - Rockwell Space Division sold to Boeing

So, when they say "Boeing", it's the lineage of those teams that brought you such feature films as "Apollo - Man Walks on the Moon" and "The First Space Plane" :)

Comment Re:What has the ISS ever done for us? (Score 1) 97

Logic and Mathematics here:

The ISS orbits between 180-250 miles above the earth. The shuttle can reach 350-380 miles above the earth, as it did when deploying the Hubble Space Telescope.

Both the Hubble and the Unity Module (1st Shuttle-launched ISS Module carried up by STS-88) are equivalent mass ~25,000 lbs.

So, the ISS is at least 100 miles lower than the what the shuttle has on several occasions achieved, carrying a similar payload mass.

Thus, the reason for the ISS being in a low orbit is not because the shuttle could go no higher (as it obviously did on several occasions).

Most of the orbital concerns with the ISS (inclination especially) are due to the Russians needing to be able to reach it from a launch site in their country.

Furthermore, given the limited budget for the current space station, how do you propose not killing the crew by placing them in an even higher orbit (where they have less protection from cosmic radiation) ?

More shielding = More weight = Costs more money!

And NASA getting more money is not going to happen unless we get another JFK-like "the USA will lead the way in space" president.

Comment Re:Everything gave us civilization (Score 1) 325

Alright, let's drink our brew and sing about ol' Jayne:

Jayne, the man they call Jayne....

He... robbed from the rich and he...
Gave to the poor!
Stood... up to the man and he...
Gave him what for!

Our love for him now, ain't hard to explain!
the Hero of Canton, the man they call Jayne!

{Verse 1}
Now Jayne saw the mudders' back breakin'....
He saw the mudders' lament

He saw that magistrate takin'....
every dollar and leaving 5 cents

He said, "You can't do that to my people!
...You can't crush them under your heel!"

So Jayne...
Strapped on his hat and in 5 seconds flat...
Stole everything Boss Higgins had to steal!

[to Chorus]

{Verse 2}
So here is what separates Heros, from...
Common folk like... you and I

The man they call Jayne,
He turned around his plane and let...
That money hit sky!

He dropped it onto our houses...
He dropped it into our yards

And the man they call Jayne, He...
Turned 'round his plane and headed...
Out for the stars!

[to Chorus]

Comment What a perfect opportunity... (Score 1) 169

...to land on a passing asteroid. That is, if we still had a space program able to carry a person to it. Heck, I'd even settle for a quick-launch of an instrument/rover/lander to take some video and transmit it to Earth in near real-time.

You might even be able to use it as a one-way intra-solar-system ferry if the asteroid was going close to the same direction you wanted the probe to go.

Comment Re:Video? (Score 1) 275

You can go to NASA TV at http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

They typically will replay the launch highlights on the first evening when the crew goes to bed and repeat every hour until the start of the next flight day.

Tonight's flight day highlights will start at 8:00 PM Central Time. At 10PM tonight they will have a special video on the history of the program.

On subsequent days, they will replay 'Flight Day NN' highlights in the same manner (once per hour on either the hour or half-hour mark, after the crew goes to sleep).

Also, about 5-6 days into a mission, NASA will release a compilation video they put together that includes outstanding launch imagery and sounds, taken from ground-based cameras, the solid socket boosters (SRB), and from the External Tank (ET) looking at the underside of the shuttle orbiter towards the tail.

They even include pictures taken from the Shuttle Orbiter herself using a camera in the liquid oxygen umbilical well, taking pictures as the external tank falls away into the atmosphere, as well video taken by the crew at the ISS as the orbiter does the elegant Rendezvous-Pitch-Maneuver (aka the backflip) on approach to the international space station.

Google for "STS-nnn ASCENT IMAGERY HIGHLIGHTS" in a few days (where nnn is 135 for this mission, but those of 134 and 133 were also spectacular.)

Highly recommended!

Comment Re:One Era Ends To Make Way For Another (Score 1, Interesting) 365

The shuttle has an outstanding track record of success if measured as 'getting the job done'. And to those who want to call it a failure because of Challenger or Columbia, I have a few words to say:


Example 1: Challenger, 18 degrees Farenheit all night along and management is getting a lot of political heat to launch in the morning (which would barely be above 32 degrees F).

Solid rocket engineers: "Do not launch below 53 degrees!" You're asking a vehicle system with THIRTEEN TIMES the power output of Hoover Damn to function in an area it was not designed to! Yes the booster seals were later redesigned and augmented for safer operation, but failure became an option for Challenger because the managers jumped down a well with their fingers in their ears, "If I can't hear you, it must be safe!"

There are things the shuttle can do that the 'future' crafts (those currently in the works) will not have the ability to do. The shuttle orbiter can bring things back from space like the failed ammonia refrigerant pump on from the ISS (STS-135). The orbiter can repair things in space via use of the airlock and robotic arm (e.g. as done multiple times for Hubble -- one of the most useful scientific instruments of our time).

The US giving up the shuttle is like a construction contractor junking a working pickup truck because he might be buying a sports car and a shipping container.
++ Oh and the sports car may or may not work until we work out all the details
++ The shipping container can't bring anything back...one way only.
++ But that's okay because his buddy has a bicycle and has sorta agreed to letting him hop on every once in a while.

And while riding on the bike is only slightly cheaper (per man) than the truck, should the buddy decide not to let the construction contractor ride, there's no other way for him to perform his job.

Now, should we not also develop more modern vehicles at the same time? Of course we should! We should take the hundred billion from our useless foreign wars and put that into a new launch system, new shielding, new crew vehicles. But retiring the Shuttle ahead of having even a definitive timeline plus man-rated and proven equipment to replace it, means we are going backwards in our ability to work in and colonize space, not to mention the ability to research and improve our equipment that we've used in space by returning it and examining it back here on the ground.

Comment Re:Didn't work (Score 0) 41

Nope, the Itanium (Merced) is the better analogy. It could do the things it was designed to do, eventually, but for most purposes is not cost effective even thought it looks better on paper.

No, its really not like the Itanium, which required totally new applications to take advantage of it. Future multi-role craft will still be hauling cargo and humans. Cargo will still have mass and humans still breathe air, require food and water. The software that would be using the Merced was totally incompatible with CISC. That's like suggesting the people taking future craft will be 2 feet tall and breathing argon,and that the cargo will have negative mass. Future multi-role craft will have the same design considerations and will take advantages of the knowledge gained through the Shuttle program.

But the Shuttle didn't even look good on paper. You should go listen to the recent Science Friday archive with one of the original Shuttle designers. They *knew* that it was a BS design-by-committee craft and they spent lots of time before it got built trying to make up lies to justify it

"One of the original Shuttle designers" You say that as if there only 3 or 4. Do you even know how many people were responsible for designing the various parts of the shuttle? Propulsion engineers, Structural engineers, Avionics engineers, Thermal-Profile engineers, Electrical engineers. I'll require a citation of what parts didn't look good on paper. And furthermore, didn't look good as compared to what? Limitations are a part of any design.

How big is it? Will it fit on a Soyuz? If not, can you imagine human engineers could develop a larger version of the Soyuz?

A Soyuz is a late 1950's rocket design that was first flown in 1966 and was incrementally improved. The fact that you don't know how big an ammonia pump is, that you suggest it can be brought down in a crew capsule, and that you get modded +3 is quite funny.

So let's see, you want to bring down a module the size of a large commercial laundry drier, that is contaminated with poisonous substance now in a gaseous state, in the crew cabin of a cramped "3-man tent" style capsule? Can I recommend that you sit under the module during the decent? Oh, did I forget to mention, you wouldn't be able to get it through the door of the Soyuz?

As for a bigger version of the Soyuz? The capsule would need to be 4x bigger and the rocket would have to be exponentially bigger to lift it, costing exponentially more. Of course, this would go against your entire issue of cost, cost cost. And then the Soyuz cannot be guaranteed to return it without damage (see below about why runway landings are useful).

What good has that done?

A runway landing goes along with returning delicate cargo. A splashdown in the ocean or parachute to the ground has the potential to impart quite a bit of force on delicate equipment (aka satellites or something like hubble). A runway landing from a glider has barely any impact or potential for damage.

Furthermore, the shuttle can land at Kennedy and be replenished for its next mission with no transportation costs. Or were you planning on externalizing the cost of the transportation required to move an ocean-landed craft by using the US Navy? Aircraft carriers aren't free.

Right, so in a world where only the Shuttle got built, only the Shuttle is available for materials returns. That's simply begging the question [nizkor.org].

No. I'm not begging the question or in other words, assuming what I'm trying to prove. I'm showing that the shuttle is useful for the very nature of what it can do and for what no other vehicle can currently do. SHOULD THERE HAVE BEEN ANOTHER CRAFT DESIGNED AND BUILT that was able to do it better and for the same or equal cost then bravo to that other design/build. However, you are suggesting that because there "might have been" something better, that what we have in the Shuttle isn't useful. In a world where $5 flying carpets exist, I guess my $500 bicycle would be pretty damn limited and expensive. However, since flying carpets don't exist, I find my bicycle useful for getting around sometimes.

This doesn't even make sense. Sometimes car analogies just don't work.

Let me make the comparison more explicit:

Without a return vehicle:

Your engine stops working == The ammonia pump fails.
You cannot tear apart or inspect your engine or send it back to the manufacturer for analysis == You cannot open up the pump yourself and you cannot return the ammonia pump to earth
You can install a brand new engine == You can install a brand new ammonia pump (launched from a rocket)
It might fail again in the same manner == It might fail again the same manner

With a return vehicle

Your engine stops working == The ammonia pump fails
You take your car to a shop where they have specialized tools to examine it == You return the ammonia pump to earth where they have specialized tools to examine it
A failure is noted in a piston ring == Pump failure mode is found
Analysis shows heat induced cracking == Manufacturing defect found
Technical Service Bulletin is issued by the Manufacturer for other cars using the same engine == Manufacturer retrofits part to accommodate mode of failure.
All car owners can have this problem fixed and the engine becomes more reliable == Future human spaceflight opportunities are enhanced by knowledge of and the correction of the flaw.

The analogy works just fine.

I'm genuinely curious how you think the Shuttle program is responsible for artificial hearts and highway safety during rainstorms,

New ways of runway surfacing came from shuttle landings at KSC in florida after heavy rains. This was later applied to highways as a means of improving traction during rainy seasons.

but you ignore two obvious points: 1) without the Shuttle program, the US would have had more money for all of these kinds of space research and 2) we would have had a space station up at least a decade, probably two earlier, and much more science could have been done than on the short Shuttle missions.

True, and an alternate spaceflight program would also have yielded these kinds of results.

Care to explain #2 and also how you've seen an alternate future from the past? Is that you, Doc Brown?

That's like saying if you didn't go to to the University where you met your wife, you would have never met her. Care to explain how you can prove that? I can think of dozens of different ways that it still might have happened.

Good. They didn't work.

Again, the argument isn't that it's done no good, but that other systems would have done far better.

So from your first posting to your second you have changed your story? First you say they 'didn't work' with the assumption that 'working' == hitting the cost point. Now you say that they've 'not done no good' == done some good.

Thanks for agreeing with me, Doc. Remember to say 'Hi' to Marty the next time you go back to your alternate future where space exploration is cheap and politics never get in the way.

Comment Re:Why ISS? (Score 1) 40

I haven't read the engineering summary on the AMS-02, but off the top of my head, there are many benefits of having it on the ISS:

1) Crew access to it in case anything goes wrong (i.e. for repairs or modifications)
Crew continually rotate through the ISS and could potentially go on a spacewalk to investigate / repair anything mechanically wrong with the module. If it were on a different orbital plane, we won't have a crew vehicle (read: space shuttle) capable of getting to it now that the space shuttle is being retired. It makes sense to attach it to the ISS for this purpose, since the ISS is resupplied and re-crewed at regular intervals.

2) No need for independent transmission / control / power systems.
The AMS-02 module can link up to the proven communications systems on the ISS and this can reduce cost / weight and improve redundancy.

3) Falls into existing thermal / environmental protection procedures.
Beta angles and other interactions with the Sun (heating) and the environment (micrometeroid / debris) are already monitored and calculated for the ISS. This also reduces cost and improves lifetime of the expensive equipment.

Comment Re:Didn't work (Score 1) 41

Parent is an obvious troll but I'll respond anyways.

The Space Shuttle didn't work? You have to be kidding!

Someone who claims the space shuttle "didn't work" probably was saying in 2003, "I'm glad those 486's were retired. They weren't even multi-pipelined. Good thing we have these Pentium III / Athlon processors now to take us to new levels of productivity."

Do you think any system is going to hit all of its goals the first time around?

No, it comes from PRACTICAL experience from operating in an environment, and in this case operating in an intensely difficult environment... space.

Furthermore, their design goal was not to be $50M per launch. Their design goal was to send people and cargo to low-earth-orbit to increase our engineering and science knowledge in space and to return people and cargo safely to a runway touchdown. With two exceptions, both being OPERATIONAL / MANAGEMENT rolls-of-the-dice (when safety should have been paramount), it has accomplished these goals. A hope that they would achieve spaceflight at $50M per launch was merely a political fantasy, which is irrelevant.

From a long-term perspective, it doesn't matter if the shuttle cost 10x its initial estimate to operate. It gave us experience and knowledge from refining processes / technology / materials of the initial system. It has taught us what works, what is difficult to make work and what the practical tradeoffs are for a given spacecraft design. These are the benefits from simply being in the environment.

To quote Han Solo, "flyin' through [hyper]space ain't like dustin' crops, boy!"

Tell me: How you are going to do an analysis of a failed ammonia pump on the space station without the shuttle? You cannot open up a pump containing (or, even if vented, that previously contained) poisonous fluid on the space station. Thus, you need to bring it back to Earth. What is the only vehicle can do this? hmm? ... crickets... Yes, the space shuttle.

For those that want a car analogy, the ISS operating without the space shuttle would be like throwing out the entire contents of your car's engine bay in your car when something goes wrong, and ordering a new one for replacement (that may or may not develop the same exact problems since you have no means to investigate what went wrong with a given design.)

The technology improvements and quality of life improvements the Shuttle program has brought all of humanity: wild-fire detection, artificial hearts, artificial limbs and joints, food-safety, the hubble space telescope, highway safety during rainstorms, just to name a few, is ground-shaking.

It's been a Good Thing we have such a vehicle that can perform science / engineering / building / repair in any number of configurations. At least until the close of STS-135.

Comment Re:NASA constrained by funding & politics (Score 1) 141

When you say that NASA and STS is hindered by cost-contraints I fully agree. However:

But it wasn't canceled because it would look bad politically, and cost jobs. Now 14 astronauts are dead and there are still people in congress pushing for a shuttle derived launch system.

Seven astronauts died on Challenger because MANAGEMENT refused to listen to the ENGINEERS who designed it. It was not designed to be launched in such low temperatures. Operations decided to roll the dice with the Challenger and we see what happened.

Who with a rational mind complains that a high-performance sports car is junk because its Z-rated tires fail when you drive it through a lava field?

Seven astronauts died on Columbia because MANAGEMENT refused to listen to multiple ENGINEERS who requested orbital photography analysis of the foam-impact site. A rescue mission using Atlantis was possible.

Let's not forget the three Astronauts who died on Apollo 1. NASA management and bean-counters went against ENGINEERING best practices. North American (the contractor who designed the command and service modules for Apollo) engineers wanted the door to open outwards and a non-pure-O2 environment (requiring higher internal pressurization) even though that setup is harder to seal against vacuum. Government bean-counters mandated a command module door that swung inward for cost reasons. After the accident and loss of life, NASA conceded that North American's original best practice design for an outward-opening door and non-pure-O2 environment was worth the cost and the design was reverted.

Do we see a trend here? Flying a space vehicle outside of its design envelope or refusing to follow up on a request for analysis by engineers concerned for its safety are decisions that reflect poorly of the operations management or economic short-sightedness, NOT of the design of the vehicle.

The space shuttle is a flying swiss-army knife. What other vehicle has done construction in space? It is also the only vehicle capable of returning payloads FROM Space. I would like to see how STS nay-sayers would propose doing R&D on the failure-mode of the ammonia pump that recently failed on the space station, without the STS to bring it back to Earth for analysis.

I suppose the people pushing for single-purpose launch vehicles were the same people complaining that an original IBM PC was in the $2500 range, when a type-writer and calculator could be had for under $150.

Comment Re:Yeah right (Score 1) 323

Actually, the Gravis Ultrasound *did* support DMA to its on-board memory (up to 1 MB in 1992) and no other SB card had onboard memory or processing at the time.

I know this because I wrote a MOD player in assembly for a college course (independent study) could use either programmed i/o or DMA to load the sample-memory banks.

The GUS was WAY ahead of the SoundBlaster at the time. 14 channels mixed *in hardware* at 44100 Hz. 28 voices at 22050 Hz and max 32 channels at 19200 Hz. The on-board memory was great for music sample loading and sound effects loading. You had a hardware interrupt that would flag you as the processor was reaching the end of the sample buffer, at which point you would load in the next segment of sound. So streaming audio was actually quite easy for the GUS.

I also wouldn't say that the emulation under DOS was terrible. When running the Sound Blaster emulation software ('SBOS Installed!'), most games' music sounded cleaner because you were getting an actual piano / drums / whatever in place of the synthetic sounds coming from a SoundBlaster. And games that were written to take advantage of Ultrasound were amazing ( Star Control II for example ).

Gravis didn't release a driver for Windows NT 4.0 which was a shame. If I had more free time at the time and had I known they would never get to it, I would've written one for them.

Comment Re:Shuttle Action Plan - Solar System, here we com (Score 1) 193

Thanks! :)

I'm not a structural engineer or mechanical engineer by profession, but my father was an aeronautical engineer at North American Rockwell for about 33 years, working mostly out of the Downey facility. He was responsible for structural designs of the Orbiter crew section (flight deck / mid-deck -- structures forward of the cargo bay for those not familiar) and also the structural designs of the Apollo command / service modules going back to the 1960s. My older brother also worked at Rocketdyne for a while on the SSMEs, so I grew up with the Space Shuttle and Apollo being talked about quite often at the dinner table :)

I was thinking the same thing about using an existing heavy lift vehicle to get a tank to LEO. I agree a different breed of tank-design would be needed to keep the LOX and LH2 feeding properly in the microgravity. Maybe a sort of variable-volume fuel tank could be utilized.

I guess the next question is how to get these ideas in front of congress or those with some research dollars to fund a prototype before our grand vehicles are only museum pieces.

Comment Re:Rockwell? (Score 1) 193

Speaking of Rockwell, why not retrofit our favorite Space Shuttle Orbiter?

Well then I have a plan!


1) Figure out a way to get a 2ndary external tank (ET) still full of LOX + LH2 into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Keep it In the shade of something so the fuel components stay cryogenic.
2) Figure out a process to re-attach the shuttle to the 2ndary ET in orbit via spacewalk
3) Figure out a process and system enhancements to restart the Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) in vacuum
4) Seal the shuttle orbiter crew module better to support a long-duration trip (less Atmosphere loss)
5) Put additional H2 + O2 fuel cells in the cargo bay and plumb them into the existing fuel cells
6) Put small lander or environmental module in the other half of the cargo bay. This will provide shielding and habitat for Long Duration Trips
-- 2 & 3 are problems that would require some significant investigation but are not impossible
-- Shuttle can haul 56,000 lbs to LEO, so 5&6 shouldn't be an issue. Fuel cells can provide water, power and O2

Action Plan:
1) Get Shuttle to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) via normal launch
2) Attach 2ndary ET to Shuttle via a docking process.
3) Re-Fire the SSME's using the fuel in the newly attached 2ndary ET
4) Go study nearby celestial body of interest (moon, mars, asteroid)
5) Return to Earth and land like a champion space plane.

What do you get from all this:
1) A proven vehicle for launch, orbital maneuvering, and landing
2) Known system for life support for at least 30 days + extended duration from additional fuel cells.
3) Existing ground preparation facilities and processes to make this happen within 2-3 years after the prequesites are solved.

Otherwise we're probably looking at 15-20 years before a manned vehicle orbits Mars, given testing, rampup and other time constraints for an entirely new system.

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