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  John Glenn: Keep the shuttles flying

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Author Topic:   John Glenn: Keep the shuttles flying
E2M Lem Man
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posted 05-07-2008 11:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Florida Today reports that astronaut and former U.S. Senator John H. Glenn, Jr. says that the space shuttle should be kept flying and that the space station should be kept alive after 2015:
quote:
"The shuttles may be old, but they’re still the most complex vehicles ever put together by people, and they're still working very well," he said [May 6] after a Capitol Hill ceremony marking NASA's 50th anniversary.

Glenn acknowledged that adding more launches to the current schedule would be expensive.

"But it's also going to be expensive to contract with the Russians to put our people up in space in Russian vehicles to our space station and bring us back. Is that the kind of economy the American people want? I hardly think so," he said.


Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-08-2008 12:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Glenn acknowledged that adding more launches to the current schedule would be expensive.
At a dinner I attended this evening, I heard a variation on Glenn's theme (from a different speaker), calling for the current manifest to be stretched to 2015 by restricting shuttle launches to two per year. The proposal went further to suggest grounding two of the three orbiters and completing the remaining flights with the remaining vehicle (therefore reducing the needed workforce while freeing up funds to accelerate work on Constellation).

Mr Meek
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posted 05-08-2008 09:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mr Meek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think it will be a hard sell. What's the estimated operating life of a Space Shuttle? Many systems have been replaced/upgraded over the years, but the airframes are getting old. I know initial estimates of useful life during the 70's were too optimistic, does anyone know if NASA ever re-evaluated just how long the Orbiters themselves could remain in service?

Moving beyond the Orbiter, there are all sorts of infrastructure and production problems to be addressed if NASA is going to essentially operate Constellation and Shuttle in tandem. Robert, did the speaker present any detailed plans with numbers, or was it more of a conceptual discussion?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-08-2008 10:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Mr Meek:
...does anyone know if NASA ever re-evaluated just how long the Orbiters themselves could remain in service?
In the weeks preceding the loss of Columbia, NASA held an orbiter life-extension media workshop during which the plan was to continue to fly the vehicles beyond 2020 (while making improvements to the infrastructure, including a flyback solid rocket booster).

The 2010 date is rather arbitrary; it was chosen by the CAIB because of then existing schedule for orbiter recertification. But a lot of that work was done during the return to flight process and what remains could be done over time, rather than grounding the fleet.

At this point, the decision to stop flying is a budgetary one, followed closely by logistics: NASA is not allocated enough money to continue supporting the current flight rate and develop the needed hardware for Constellation, in part because of the need to reuse and modify existing infrastructure systems.

quote:
Robert, did the speaker present any detailed plans with numbers, or was it more of a conceptual discussion?
Simply conceptual, though I got the feeling there were numbers behind what he was saying.

In any case, I don't think any of it will happen -- we're just too far down the road to shutting down the shuttle.

Jay Chladek
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posted 05-08-2008 06:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The contractors have already done studies and shown that they could extend shuttle ops to 2012 pretty easily.

Only way shuttle and Constellation will happen at the same time is if Congress gives NASA enough money to pursue both. Otherwise it will be one OR the other (not both). I was at the press site during STS-121 and sat in on one press conference where Mike Griffin pretty much said a flat out "no" to shuttle ops after 2010 and gave a good reason for it. The reason is that Shuttle operational funding eats up a lot of budget and around 2010, Orion will apparently be at a point in development where funding will have to switch over to Orion to get the hardware built ready to fly by the (then) proposed date of 2014. Even if Orion has slipped, there is still going to be a need to do fabrication pretty soon as during Apollo, it took about two and a half years to fully manufacture an Apollo spacecraft (hence the Block 1 design was frozen in late 1963 to get the first craft ready for test flights in 1966 while work progressed on the Block 2 design). I don't see Orion fabrication time being any less then what it was for Apollo as something as complicated as a shuttle orbiter takes 5 years to build.

I like shuttle myself. I also think it has something more to contribute and would love to see it fly past 2010. The idea that the airframes are "old" and aging is not a very valid one since these things are regularly inspected and kept in good shape with the current checks and balances put into place in the wake of the events of STS-51L and 107. Plus, Endeavour has only flown for 16 years and Atlantis is also pretty young as well (even if it doesn't have the last OMDP workup that Discovery had, hence the talk of Atlantis retiring early). Both the fatal events that have occurred with shuttle to date have not been due to any direct main failure of the orbiter, but rather something caused by another part of the STS system (SRB for Challenger and ET tank foam for Columbia, although the RCC is what broke when it got hit by the foam chunk) and a breakdown at the management level in terms of not being able to read the warning signs until it was too late.

But I also realize that it is going to take a small miracle in terms of a richer budget from Congress before this can happen. As much as I do want to see shuttle continue, part of me has this fear that if the budget isn't increased to allow both, then Orion could be in even more jeopardy if shuttle does fly past 2010. For all its flaws, I don't want to see Orion become another scrapped program like so many in NASA's history (X-30, Venturestar etc.).

These are the things that keep me up at night sometimes with my stomach turning over in knots.

mjanovec
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posted 05-08-2008 06:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jay Chladek:
As much as I do want to see shuttle continue, part of me has this fear that if the budget isn't increased to allow both, then Orion could be in even more jeopardy if shuttle does fly past 2010.

I agree. I think there will be greater support (and greater urgency) for Orion once the shuttle stops flying.

Unless there is a great increase in the budget, the first thing an extended shuttle program would do is to push back the date we return to the moon.

Mr Meek
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posted 05-09-2008 12:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mr Meek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jay Chladek:
The idea that the airframes are "old" and aging is not a very valid one since these things are regularly inspected

I didn't mean to suggest that Discovery is about to lose a wing or anything of that nature. However, the simple fact is just about everything but the airframe can be replaced on these Orbiters. They've undergone a lot of stress over their lifetimes, and any object under stress will at some point break. It may take decades upon decades to happen, but entropy is unavoidable.

So, the shuttles could theoretically fly well beyond 2010, but even these resilient and wonderful machines will wear out. In some ways, it's too bad that they will be retired before their time. Doing so will allow greater opportunity for exploration, however.

jimsz
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posted 05-09-2008 05:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jimsz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What would be the point of extending the shuttle program?

In theory the ISS will be completed, so there will be no trucker missions to space.

Other than keeping the US manned space program running in the gap between building the ISS and Orion, why spend the money on the Shuttle?

I say retire the Shuttle asap and use the funds to get Orion up and running asap.

capoetc
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posted 05-09-2008 07:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for capoetc   Click Here to Email capoetc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by jimsz:
What would be the point of extending the shuttle program?

I think we should stop flying the shuttle as scheduled and move on with Constellation.

That having been said, there would be benefits (perhaps not outweighed by the costs) to keeping the shuttle flying. Like in the late 70's, there may/will be a bit of a "brain drain" at NASA, with engineers, flight directors, etc, moving on to other things rather than waiting around for the new program to start. Many of them won't get a choice -- they will likely be released, so the "team" will likely have to be somewhat rebuilt when we start flying again.

A tough call, but the fiscal realities are what they are.

------------------
John Capobianco
Camden DE

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 05-09-2008 12:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, how much more after 2010 will they add on or bring to ISS? If it's something that can't be carried on Progress, then keep Shuttle flying. If the main purpose is to bring crews to and from ISS - then Shuttle would be underutilized for that purpose.

IMHO, they should keep at least one Shuttle flight ready for when ISS operations end, to help take it apart and possibly land modules, rather than let the thing break apart upon re-entry.

tegwilym
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posted 05-09-2008 01:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I still think the Orion is a step backwards. Sure, it will work but I still think some kind of next generation of Shuttle would have been the next step FORWARD.

Tom

Delta7
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posted 05-09-2008 01:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I kind of like the idea of using one Orbiter for one flight every 6 months until Orion is ready, to rotate ISS crewmembers. I'm primarily concerned about relying on the Russians for doing so for several years. If things turn sour(er) between the 2 countries (such as a showdown with Iran placing the 2 countries on opposite sides), we could find ourselves shut out from the ISS for a while.

E2M Lem Man
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posted 05-09-2008 03:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Shuttle is the only thing we have NOW to get crews and equipment up there - besides the Russians, of course.

But - hasn't anybody noticed that we may (in a few years of course) have to get a new solar array up there as one is already shedding and grinding? Do we have any other heavy lift U.S. rocket to put payloads up there and dock? How about replacement modules?

I am working with one of the guys that did the 2020 report for Boeing here in Downey - now retired. Yes - it can fly till then - do we want it to? No - but we NEED the orbiter and it's capabilities until Ares V is nearly online.

Don't we need to fix the pads and equipment after 2010 to support Ares-1? No - we have two pads. We need to fix the second - LATER after Ares 1 is online and Ares V is in construction and production.

Remember Skylab? We flew manned Saturn 1B's just months after we launched Apollo 17 from an adjoining pad. It can be done.

J.M. Busby

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-09-2008 03:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by E2M Lem Man:
But - hasn't anybody noticed that we may (in a few years of course) have to get a new solar array up there as one is already shedding and grinding?
The solar arrays are just fine; you are thinking of their starboard rotary joint, which cannot be replaced, shuttle or no shuttle. If it cannot be fixed (and NASA is optimistic that it can) the remaining power capabilities will need to be managed accordingly.

Shuttle, or no shuttle, all hardware to be added to the ISS is now built (with the possible exception of a Russian module, which is likely not to fly due to their budget constraints). When the last shuttle flies, all ISS hardware will be installed. The ISS was not designed to accommodate replacement modules or other major components. It will have a finite life.

OV-105
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posted 05-09-2008 09:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for OV-105   Click Here to Email OV-105     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by jimsz:
What would be the point of extending the shuttle program?
There would still be a mission for the shuttle. The MPLM's can take up and back more than a Soyuz or Progress. I don't think that Progess or ATV can bring up any new racks for the labs so when the last shuttle mission flys that will be it what is there will be it, no change outs. The sad thing is we have never been able to run two programs at once. It always has to be one or the other.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-09-2008 09:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by jimsz:
What would be the point of extending the shuttle program?
One primary use for a post-2010 space shuttle would be to carry down-mass from the ISS. Neither the Soyuz or Progress, nor the ATV or HTV, can bring any large payloads back to Earth.

U.S. spacesuits, for example, will be deorbited and destroyed when no longer serviceable on orbit rather than returned to Earth for repair and re-flight. Crew members personal items will be greatly limited, as will samples from experiments.

cspg
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posted 05-10-2008 12:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
When the last shuttle flies, all ISS hardware will be installed.

Except for the $1.5 billion AMS...

Chris.

Blackarrow
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posted 05-10-2008 12:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
AMS??

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-10-2008 12:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
AMS??
See: ISS: Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer

E2M Lem Man
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posted 05-12-2008 04:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert was quick to reply that the rotary joint could not be repaired - shuttle or not.

But, it could be done with a shuttle and a solar array rig. It got up there by shuttle, didn't it?

And most of us know that NASA has been turning down some payloads because of the orbiters retirement.

J.M. Busby

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-12-2008 05:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by E2M Lem Man:
But, it could be done with a shuttle and a solar array rig. It got up there by shuttle, didn't it?
I didn't say that the solar array joint couldn't be fixed (in fact, I wrote that NASA was optimistic that a fix was in sight), but rather it cannot be replaced. The station's truss was simply not designed to be taken apart after being assembled in orbit and the SARJ is now sandwiched between several truss segments. Thus launching a new one on the shuttle wouldn't be a viable solution, as NASA's station managers have said on several occasions.

STS-124 will conduct a cleaning test of the race ring that, if successful, may offer the fix needed. The materials for that procedure, essentially a cloth and some lubricant, could be launched on a Soyuz, Progress or ATV if the shuttle was not available.

328KF
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posted 05-13-2008 11:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Mr Meek:
I didn't mean to suggest that Discovery is about to lose a wing or anything of that nature. However, the simple fact is just about everything but the airframe can be replaced on these Orbiters. They've undergone a lot of stress over their lifetimes, and any object under stress will at some point break. It may take decades upon decades to happen, but entropy is unavoidable.

One has to consider how much "stress" an orbiter is under during flight. The airline industry typically uses number of cycles (takeoffs and landings) as the benchmark for fatigue analysis. A passenger jet may experience tens of thousands of cylces before it is scrapped, while the orbiters are still in the double digits.

Airliners continuously flex in flight with turbulence, pressurizing and depressurizing, and on the ground while taxiing. They undergo heavy maintenance once every five years or so, as opposed to after every flight for the orbiters.

The shuttles encounter a concentration of stress at launch and during entry and landing, but spend the rest of their flight time in a benign, stable state for the most part. On the downside, they do spend almost their entire lives on the ground in a salty sea side environment, particularly inviting to corrosion.

But with the rigorous inspection and maintenance performed on them, I would think that structurally, these ships are practically as new as they were a decade or so ago.

Mr Meek
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posted 05-13-2008 01:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mr Meek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Again, I'm not saying that they're going to start breaking soon, or that NASA is flying unsafe machines. The Shuttles have a finite life, plain and simple.

Incidentally, you left out the ferry flights atop the SCA. While not as much stress as a launch or entry/landing, it's another trip.

quote:
Originally posted by 328KF:
I would think that structurally, these ships are practically as new as they were a decade or so ago.

Subtracting a decade would still make Discovery 14, Atlantis 13, and Endeavour 6. Again, they're not going to fall apart any time soon, but they've long lost that "new spacecraft smell".

328KF
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posted 05-13-2008 05:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Mr Meek:
Incidentally, you left out the ferry flights atop the SCA. While not as much stress as a launch or entry/landing, it's another trip.

Ah...excellent point well taken!

E2M Lem Man
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posted 05-27-2008 01:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Space Review today talks about the needs for saving our Shuttle and ISS options.

I hope Rob that you are right about cleaning that ring on ISS. But remember what Gene Kranz said after others said that there was no way that the Columbia could have been saved, don't underestimate what people can do!

J.M. Busby

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