Jimbobq11

What if the Space Shuttle Program had done its job?

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Unfortunately, absolutely nobody has a single clue what we're even developing SLS for at the moment. The goal keeps jumping back and forth between LEO, Mars, Moon, or an asteroid, and there doesn't appear to be a definitive "Kennedy moment" coming any time soon where we firmly decide on something and stick to it.

It was no "Kennedy moment", it was a "Sputnik moment", and there are no "Sputniks" for over 20 years so it's evident we don't know where to go when we don't have a direct threat.

Edited by nothke

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well, that's of course always the case. Had an Apollo capsule developed a flaw that made it impossible to reenter safely, they'd have had the same 3 options.

In fact they came very close with Apollo 13 and I think at least once more of having to make the decision to either abandon or send up a rescue mission (it was considered more than plausible that Apollo 13 would burn up during reentry).

Apollo 12 was struck by lightning during the launch. It was feared that this might have damaged the mechanism that deployed the parachutes on the landing capsule. Mission Control made the decision to go to the moon (and not tell the astronauts about the potential parachute problem) because they figured the astronauts would be just be dead earlier if they aborted the mission while still in LEO. There was no chance of sending a rescue mission.

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No, we could not have reasonably launched a rescue mission - there was no Shuttle even close to ready. Nor could it have gone to ISS.

You seem to be arguing against the official government findings of the investigation.

Accelerating the processing of Atlantis for early launch and rendezvous with Columbia was by far the most complex task in the rescue scenario. On Columbiaʼs Flight Day Four, Atlantis was in the Orbiter Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center with its main engines installed and only 41 days from its scheduled March 1 launch. The Solid Rocket Boosters were already mated with the External Tank in the Vehicle Assembly Building. By working three around-the-clock shifts seven days a week, Atlantis could be readied for launch, with no necessary testing skipped, by February 10.

If launch processing and countdown proceeded smoothly, this would provide a five-day window, from February 10 to February 15, in which Atlantis could rendezvous with Columbia before Columbiaʼs consumables ran out. According to records, the weather on these days allowed a launch. Atlantis would be launched with a crew of four: a commander, pilot, and two astronauts trained for spacewalks. In January, seven commanders, seven pilots, and nine spacewalk trained astronauts were available. During the rendezvous on Atlantisʼs first day in orbit, the two Orbiters would maneuver to face each other with their payload bay doors open (see Figure 6.4-2). Suited Columbia crew members would then be transferred to Atlantis via spacewalks. Atlantis would return with four crew members on the flight deck and seven in the mid-deck. Mission Control would then configure Columbia for a de-orbit burn that would ditch the Orbiter in the Pacific Ocean, or would have the Columbia crew take it to a higher orbit for a possible subsequent repair mission if more thorough repairs could be developed.

http://anon.nasa-global.speedera.net/anon.nasa-global/CAIB/CAIB_lowres_chapter6.pdf and http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:FR1z_z8gmp0J:www.nasa.gov/columbia/caib/PDFS/VOL2/D13.PDF+&cd=4&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

Read the report sometime, it's quite chilling, DOD emailed and asked about using spy satellites to image the damage, members of nasa emailed about "has anything decided or are we going with the cross our fingers approach."

But in the end the answer was simply put our collective heads in the sand and hope it all worked out, and it didn't.

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Also, if they had the option of launching something like a Progress vehicle, they should easily be able to resupply the Columbia to further their stay in orbit, and get more time for a rescue proper.

I don´t know the standby status of Pegasus, but even a small container with a few hundred kilos of supplies should be able to extend their stay by several weeks. A rescue missions from LEO doesn´t have to be crew return or nothing.

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Apollo 12 was struck by lightning during the launch. It was feared that this might have damaged the mechanism that deployed the parachutes on the landing capsule. Mission Control made the decision to go to the moon (and not tell the astronauts about the potential parachute problem) because they figured the astronauts would be just be dead earlier if they aborted the mission while still in LEO. There was no chance of sending a rescue mission.

yes, rescue missions were envisioned but the hardware never built and put on standby so none was available.

Several scenarios involved sending empty Gemini capsules into LEO (or even to the moon) and have the astronauts EVA over.

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My point is it effectively does fly uncrewed. The input from crew is routine flight is minimal. They're effectively cargo, not pilots.

Which is not the same thing as being able to fly unmanned.

Also, if they had the option of launching something like a Progress vehicle, they should easily be able to resupply the Columbia to further their stay in orbit, and get more time for a rescue proper.

No, they couldn't - the limiting factor was the supply of reactants for the fuel cells, and there's no way to replenish those on orbit. The big problem was the OMS pods, their heaters had to kept powered on to prevent the fuel from freezing in order to maintain RCS capability (for rescue rendezvous).

You seem to be arguing against the official government findings of the investigation.

When you actually read the report (as I have), rather than selectively quoting the parts that agree with you... here wasn't a Shuttle close to ready. There was a shuttle that with great effort and exceptional luck might have been able to be made ready. You'll also find that rescue options required very early detection of the extent of the damage and virtually no problems, interruptions, or issues in the launch preparations, countdown, and flight. I.E., as has been the case all along, you're oversimplifying to the point of absolute absurdity. ("F6.4-2 If Program managers were able to unequivocally determine before Flight Day Seven that there was potentially catastrophic damage to the left wing, accelerated processing of Atlantis might have provided a window in which Atlantis could rendezvous with Columbia before Columbiaʼs limited consumables ran out." - right on the next page of the report.) Nobody knowledgeable takes the paragraph you quote without the grain of salt encapsulated in that "might".

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How does even a 99.9999% chance of it not being ready in time change the fact that we didn't even try, that we didn't even look to see if the damage was bad?

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IF you can call the shuttle re-usable.. It had a long turn around time, and a-lot of parts needed replacement no?

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Who cares there wasn't a Space Shuttle ready to be launched? I doubt it would go over well with the public if you strand 7 people in space with a damage vehicle.

Even more so if you say "Hey we can't safe them, we don't have a vehicle read".

I my opinion there wouldn't be an Apollo 14 or even a NASA(like we know it) if they didn't do anything to save Apollo 13.

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You seem to be arguing against the official government findings of the investigation.

http://anon.nasa-global.speedera.net/anon.nasa-global/CAIB/CAIB_lowres_chapter6.pdf and http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:FR1z_z8gmp0J:www.nasa.gov/columbia/caib/PDFS/VOL2/D13.PDF+&cd=4&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

Read the report sometime, it's quite chilling, DOD emailed and asked about using spy satellites to image the damage, members of nasa emailed about "has anything decided or are we going with the cross our fingers approach."

But in the end the answer was simply put our collective heads in the sand and hope it all worked out, and it didn't.

One of the key lessons of caving that has saved my skin on more than one occasion is redundancy. Always have a spare of critical equipment.

Had the policy been: we do not launch a vehicle unless there is a sister vehicle and crew ready to carry out a rescue mission . . . well obviously it might have ended as a story of the heroism and genius of NASA instead of a boneheaded tragedy.

The same applies to many high-dollar engineering and industrial enterprises. For example, the Deepwater Horizon's Oil Spill. I am no engineer so forgive me if my understanding is simplistic. But it seems to me that, if there had been two of these rigs, deployed within a couple of miles of one another, one operating at normal capacity, the other 'backup rig' operating at nominal capacity but ready to be cranked up to full power within a few hours notice, that the majority of that terrible ecological disaster could've been mitigated.

After the explosion that sank the rig and started the leak, the primary reason the leak was so bad and so difficult to plug (as I understand it) was the tremendous pressure. Had a second rig tapped into the same deposits been available to come on line shortly after the disaster, that pressure could have been reduced, allowing the leak in the destroyed well to be plugged more readily.

This is to say nothing of the shortcuts and cost-savings that led to the explosions that killed the crew and caused the rig to sink in the first place.

IMO, crews shouldn't be sent into orbit if there are not sound and reasonable contingency plans to rescue them.

Whether a rescue could or couldn't have actually been martialled, it seems quite clear that NASA was malfeasant from this standpoint. There really shouldn't be anything like a 'half-ass' space program, but a failure to have a rescue vehicle on standby seems to me to be quite a clear example of that.

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While buying two of everything might be a good idea for caving, the space shuttle and the deep water horizons rig are different things.

Couple of extra ropes? $20.

duplicating the most expensive oil rig and most expensive space launch vehicle in history for the sake of redundancy? Yeah.

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Well, something closer to a simple apollo-like capsule with higher capacity and some maneuverability and docking-ability would suffice. Something like that could also have been kept as a design for decades with no other developement than improvement/modernisation when needed realy. If they had done something like that back when they designed the spaceshuttle, designed and built a capsule large enough to carry a crew of 6-7 astronauts safely down to earth, and stacked on top of something like a Titan with boosters.

A capsule like that needn´t be reusable, and the rocket itself could be liquid, and waiting empty. But prepared before every shuttle launch. Sure, it wouldn´t be free, but it would be a lot cheaper than having twice as many shuttles.

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Which was actually one scenario considered originally, keeping some Apollo or Gemini capsules on standby... Scrapped because that would "give the impression we don't trust the orbiter" or some such nonsense (and of course beancounters were no doubt balking at the cost of having a climate controlled storage facility solely for keeping a few things you hope to never need).

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You can't just keep outdated space flight hardware "on standby". Maintaining flight readiness means that you maintain 90% of the cost of the program. You need to maintain the outdated infrastructure, tooling, buildings, and ground equipment, keep the personnel trained and busy. Keep procurement lines open for spare parts and consumables or maintain stocks. Keep maintaining and updating procedures, tests, simulations.

The actual missions and flight hardware are not the bulk of the cost of manned spaceflight. The most expensive costs are fixed and you have to pay for them whether you fly or not. This is why the STS could actually have been economical if the flight rate was at 50 flights per year as planned. The fixed costs would have been shared over more flights and the cost per flight would have been economical.

This is also why the SLS program, with one flight every 1 or 2 years, will be so expensive, and is bound to be cancelled.

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Wich is precisely why a standby vehicle, atleast it´s booster, should be of a design that is currently in use, to keep cost down. It could also be done by allways have the next launch´s vehicle ready and assembled, before launching anything manned. That way, the only thing that realy have to be "extra" is the capsule itself, wich if custom made for the purpose, should be kept as simple and minimalistic as possible. Safety will allways cost extra anyway, but there´s allways some things that can be done atleast keep it sane.

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It could also be done by allways have the next launch´s vehicle ready and assembled, before launching anything manned.

That has a huge cost, because it requires two vehicles to be processed in parallel, which means that you need structures twice as large, and twice the amount of manpower. The requirement for supporting two vehicles in orbit means that you need two mission control centers, double communication channels, etc... It also doubles the risk of delays and the failure rates. You can't launch if your backup vehicle has a faulty valve for example.

This also doesn't help you if you find a fault in the first vehicle that is also in the backup vehicle.

Full redundancy by using an identical backup vehicle is not usually considered a good option. It's much better to design redundant systems and backups into your main vehicle, where there is always a secondary system that can be used if the primary system fails or primary systems that can be used as a backup for another primary system in contingency modes. For example, if the hatch of the Apollo CM jammed, there was always the option of transferring to the LM by EVA through the side hatch, or the way Orion can be used as airlock when docked to a DSH or space station if the main airlock is unusable for some reason.

When redundancy isn't possible, instead of designing adding safety features into the design it is sometimes preferable to make the design as simple as possible to minimize the number of components that can fail.

Edited by Nibb31

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That has a huge cost, because it requires two vehicles to be processed in parallel, which means that you need structures twice as large, and twice the amount of manpower. The requirement for supporting two vehicles in orbit means that you need two mission control centers, double communication channels, etc... It also doubles the risk of delays and the failure rates. You can't launch if your backup vehicle has a faulty valve for example.

No, no, no, and I think, no.

First, you don´t need two sets of people to setup one rocket, just because you allready have one rocket ready. It would go like this. Rocket A is assembled and made ready from parts produced at another site/factory site. When it´s ready, the groundcrew starts putting together rocket number B. When that is ready and assembled, but yet not with any cargo, the first one is launched. So, if something happens that requires a rescue, they put a capsule onto rocket B, and fill it with fuel. All they realy need is to allways have a capsule standing by, or atleast in such a state that a couple of days of preparation will make it ready. Same with the rockets themself, the one on on the ground is prepared only to the point where cargo and fuel is missing.

This setup would ofcourse mean that at any time, there is one "dry" booster assembled. If for some reason there are months to the next launch, then they have a lot of time to prepare the next one. There´s allways something to do anyway.

I think the biggest obstacle for this is that the prepared stacks won´t necesarily be of the needed size or configuration to what one mission might need. So at the cost of having a standard setup, where atleast the core (say a 2 stage pluss optional capsule with SM)

is the default setup, and any extra capacity of significance would require strapons and/or extra stages, wich might have been simpler to add while in the process of building the rockets in the firstplace.

But if the rocket in mind is on the smaller size of things, and intended mainly for launching crew and transfer vehicles, then the limits shouldn´t be a problem.

So, what happens if there is no need for a rescue? The rocket they have assembled is prepared for the next trip, while it´s backup is being assembled.

Sure, it´ll require some extra crew, but not twice as many, and not two sets. That would be silly.

And two mission control centers.... Why? Once upon a time, they managed to keep two Gemini capsules in space at the same time, I´ve never heard they had two control centers for that. And besides, while a fullblown scientific mission of some sort might require a lot of support, a resucemission that intends to launch and dock with another craft as quickly as possible, and with a minimum of systems and cargo loaded, with quite possibly a simple as possible flightplan, won´t need that much attention, except maybe for when they actualy launch and enters orbit. On the other hand, there are so many control centers related to spacevehicles these days, one more won´t make a dent in the budget anyway.

Edited by Thaniel

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Simply "attaching a capsule to a spare booster that is lying around" is called "integration" and typically takes months. Rockets are not legos.

The STS program had a procedure similar to what you are describing, which was called Launch On Need (LON or STS-300 and STS-400 missions) which became a requirement after Columbia.

The STS-300 missions were rescue missions for Shuttle missions that went to the ISS where the crew could wait for 80 days for the STS-300 mission to be launched. The STS-400 mission was only implemented for the final Hubble repair mission, STS-125, where the ISS could not be used as a safe haven and the rescue mission would have to be launched under less than a week (the Shuttle could only survive on orbit for 20 days).

These plans put a lot of pressure on the ground and flight crews, which obviously translates into extra cost. Also, any delays in the STS-400 preparation would have delayed (or maybe cancelled) STS-125. And there was always the risk that a problem that occured on STS-125 might also occur on the STS-400 rescue mission, in which case they would have lost 2 orbiters and 2 crews, because the timeframes for the rescue mission would not allow any proper root cause analysis or corrective measures.

All of this can be prevented if you properly design your spacecraft to not have the fundamental flaws that the Shuttle had, and if redundant systems are already in place. Orion will not need LON missions because it has different failure modes and contingency plans.

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Simply "attaching a capsule to a spare booster that is lying around" is called "integration" and typically takes months. Rockets are not legos.

It seems like you´re not fully grasping the concept "built with the intention of" here.

For example, the space shuttle was built with the intention of being used with the ET and the SRB´s we all know.

The Apollo capsule was built with the intention of mating it with the Saturn family of rockets.

Dragon is being developed and built for use with the Falcon rockets, and so forth and so on.

So having a booster with LEO capability, and a matching capsule, designed and fitted with the intent of being able to do the final preparations within days or a couple of weeks can be called whatever you want, it will still not take months of work, since it´s not intended to. Or it would be identified as a failure before it could be used.

Yeah, I´ve heard of those possible shuttle rescue missions, but price and logistics kinda made it hard to do like that.

In retrospect though, such a backup would only have saved the one crew, and possibly orbiter. It´s allways a question of "is it worth the price?"

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It seems like you´re not fully grasping the concept "built with the intention of" here.

For example, the space shuttle was built with the intention of being used with the ET and the SRB´s we all know.

The Apollo capsule was built with the intention of mating it with the Saturn family of rockets.

Dragon is being developed and built for use with the Falcon rockets, and so forth and so on.

So having a booster with LEO capability, and a matching capsule, designed and fitted with the intent of being able to do the final preparations within days or a couple of weeks can be called whatever you want, it will still not take months of work, since it´s not intended to. Or it would be identified as a failure before it could be used.

Yeah, I´ve heard of those possible shuttle rescue missions, but price and logistics kinda made it hard to do like that.

In retrospect though, such a backup would only have saved the one crew, and possibly orbiter. It´s allways a question of "is it worth the price?"

And all your examples take months to build and prepare. The quickest turn around for a Space shuttle is something like 55 days! That still is a lot for a vehicle designed to have a quick turn around time. Having a spare vehicle ready to launch is impossible for now and only works when you're in LEO. There is no possible way that NASA could have saved the astronauts from Apollo 13 with a secondary vehicle. You try to rendezvous with a vehicle on it's way to the Mun in KSP.

From a spectator point of view we often forget that manned space missions are still a very difficult job. Even if a Apollo Saturn V launch had a 99% success rate it would still mean more than a thousand parts had failed. I love the live streams, Big blast, huge flames and lots of fire. And 10 minutes later the craft is in freaking space! And then we go recreate the launch in KSP, we open up the editor, slap some parts together like it is LEGO and we do the same.

but the real world ain't LEGO, engines can fail for no apparent reason and solar arrays can refuse to deploy. If you want to launch people into space about a million things have to go right. If you want to launch a rescue craft 2 million (minus a few defective parts) need to go right!

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And all your examples take months to build and prepare. The quickest turn around for a Space shuttle is something like 55 days! That still is a lot for a vehicle designed to have a quick turn around time. Having a spare vehicle ready to launch is impossible for now and only works when you're in LEO. There is no possible way that NASA could have saved the astronauts from Apollo 13 with a secondary vehicle. You try to rendezvous with a vehicle on it's way to the Mun in KSP.

From a spectator point of view we often forget that manned space missions are still a very difficult job. Even if a Apollo Saturn V launch had a 99% success rate it would still mean more than a thousand parts had failed. I love the live streams, Big blast, huge flames and lots of fire. And 10 minutes later the craft is in freaking space! And then we go recreate the launch in KSP, we open up the editor, slap some parts together like it is LEGO and we do the same.

but the real world ain't LEGO, engines can fail for no apparent reason and solar arrays can refuse to deploy. If you want to launch people into space about a million things have to go right. If you want to launch a rescue craft 2 million (minus a few defective parts) need to go right!

It seems like a lot of people here doesn't realy understand that RL spacetravel isn't like building things in LEGO. And the same people seems to think everybody else think it's like that too.

In this case, it seems that people think that redundant systems with possible rescue vehicles are impossible, not because of magic, but becuase it's never realy been attempted before. Remember, the lack of evidence is by no means evidence in itself.

There is no reason why a dedicated booster and capsule could not be designed and constructed so that it could be mated within a few days, if needed. For such a case, the simples possible setup could be prepared, wich would NOT include a lot of bells and whistles proper flights would have.

And bringing in Apollo 13 in this is just useless argumentation I'm not even going to consider.

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It seems like a lot of people here doesn't realy understand that RL spacetravel isn't like building things in LEGO. And the same people seems to think everybody else think it's like that too.

In this case, it seems that people think that redundant systems with possible rescue vehicles are impossible, not because of magic, but becuase it's never realy been attempted before. Remember, the lack of evidence is by no means evidence in itself.

There is no reason why a dedicated booster and capsule could not be designed and constructed so that it could be mated within a few days, if needed. For such a case, the simples possible setup could be prepared, wich would NOT include a lot of bells and whistles proper flights would have.

And bringing in Apollo 13 in this is just useless argumentation I'm not even going to consider.

Off course it is not impossible. During Gemini NASA showed it could manage two manned flights at the same time, but that is just pure down to the technicians and engineers. NASA had a way bigger budget back then. To prepare a craft that might not even launch and has no scientific (or commercial) work to do is to expensive. We can land on the Moon, we can cure people of cancer, we can make deaf people hear again! Off course it is not impossible to make a craft capable of saving a stranded crew. and there are certain contingency protocols for space travel. The ISS astronauts got their Soyuz crafts. The Salyuts (at least Salyut 6) had a empty Soyuz attached to save a stranded crew from doom. And NASA even had the STS 300 and 400 missions to save a stranded crew. But these missions where only put in place in very special missions. (like STS 125 the last Hubble repair mission) The reason the Shuttle missions had no backup vessels was because of money. It is an investment that will never generate profit.

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It´s allways a question of "is it worth the price?"

It is an investment that will never generate profit.

Obviously. If we (the puny humans) thought safety in space travel the same way Kerbals do, it would be a lot cheaper, and quite a lot more dangerous.

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On August 11, 2013 at 9:42 PM, B787_300 said:

nah it was considered way to expensive to build a second copy of the infrastructure out at Vandenburg

Actually, they built the infrastructure at Vandenburg, as I recall. I mean, they must of, because the first launch from Vandenburg was scheduled for later in 1986 or 1987, but then Challenger :(

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