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Constant launch delays

Posted by: Andy Hill - Thu Mar 12, 2009 8:53 am
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Constant launch delays 
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Post Constant launch delays   Posted on: Thu Mar 12, 2009 8:53 am
Is it just me or are other people bewildered how something like the shuttle takes months to prepare for a launch and then a couple of hours before its due to lift off they find another problem?

I know some will say that the shuttle is so complicated you would almost be surprised if it launched without a delay but with the army of personnel working to make it ready and the time they have that seems to be a pretty poor excuse to me.

Another point is if a delay is a function of how complex a vehicle is, why havent NASA taken steps to simplify it in the decades it has been flying? I have heard engineers say they are learning all the time with every flight and as an engineer myself I would agree that generally that is the case, so why not use that learning to make components/systems simpler?

I find it strange that the launch industry appears to be one of the few industries (if not the only one) where such delays are tolerated or even expected. If this constantly happened anywhere else the company responsible would soon be out of business. And while NASA is not a business it is a measure of how poor everyone else's track record is in that they havent been able to take the task of manned launches on, their craft being nearly as unreliable as the shuttle.

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Post    Posted on: Thu Mar 12, 2009 3:14 pm
Well Andy, it really IS that hard. Cryogenic hydrogen is stupidly hard to deal with, the Shuttle is that complicated because it needs to be in order to meet its design requirements. And they are taking steps to simplify the manned launch system - they're going back to what works well - namely capsules instead of winged vehicles.
And not all rocket launches are delayed, not even the shuttle. They've launched the shuttle in the first launch window many times.
But space is HARD. PERIOD. And I'd definately rather it be right than spread across the ocean (or like OCO, in the ocean).


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Post    Posted on: Thu Mar 12, 2009 4:19 pm
I would agree that its hard, and yes H2/O2 cryogenics is probably the hardest of all, but I would have expected the shuttle to have an improvement program associated with it that constantly reviews components and systems to make them more reliable/simpler.

Such programs exist for other types of vehicles such as cars, trucks and planes which often result in mid-life updates to take advantage of improvements. This is especially true in the military where developement programs exist as a matter of course for nearly all vehicles with either a long service life or high price tag. Why hasn't this happened with the shuttle, or at least appeared to happen?

Simplifying a craft by returning to 40 year old technology does not seem to be making advances to me.

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Post    Posted on: Sat May 16, 2009 8:44 pm
A lot of the STS is system critical, so if something fails, it's likely to be system critical. And yes it is hard, nobody denies that. They've designed the most complicated machine ever most likely, and it hasn't done them any good.

What's wrong with going back to '40 year old technology' if it was imply better in every respect? NASA has taken the worst road since Apollo, perhaps now they've seen the light and going in the logical direction.


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Post    Posted on: Sat May 16, 2009 9:57 pm
Well yes it is hard, and that is probably the reason why NASA and the shuttle aren't the only ones affected:

the last ariane 5 launch with herschel & planck got delayed
falcon 1 flight 5 - delayed
falcon 9 maiden flight - delaaaayyyyeeeed
and the list goes on and on

btw: to other things:
1) The shuttle is very complicated, but the most complicated? Hardly. At least the LHC at CERN is far more complicated (and btw delayed) and I'm sure we could find other examples as well.

2) There is at least one other industry were delays occur more often than not: the video game industry (some companies there have even made some kind of "art" out of being late with a product ;)).

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