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  Never-needed shuttle aborts: RTLS, TAL, AOA

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Author Topic:   Never-needed shuttle aborts: RTLS, TAL, AOA
Henry Heatherbank
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Posts: 165
From: Adelaide, South Australia
Registered: Apr 2005

posted 07-09-2011 06:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I guess I am relieved, and a little surprised, that during the entire shuttle program, there was never a Return to Launch Site (RTLS), never a Trans-Atlantic (TAL) abort, never an Abort Once Around (AOA). Only one Abort to Orbit (ATO, 51-F, but does 93 count as two?)

So the propulsion personnel would have breathed a huge sigh of relief at main engine cutoff (MECO), at the point when the shuttle program's space shuttle main engines fell silent forever.

So much launch contingency planning never needed to be tested. Thankfully.

astro-nut
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Posts: 626
From: washington, Illinois USA
Registered: Jan 2006

posted 07-09-2011 08:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for astro-nut   Click Here to Email astro-nut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A very good point indeed!

ea757grrl
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Posts: 616
From: South Carolina
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 07-09-2011 08:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A thousand times over, amen!

APG85
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Posts: 269
From:
Registered: Jan 2008

posted 07-09-2011 09:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for APG85     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Beautiful engines! I hope they have the sense to preserve at least one intact...

dabolton
Member

Posts: 323
From: Minooka IL, US
Registered: Jan 2009

posted 07-09-2011 11:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dabolton   Click Here to Email dabolton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think they are pretty clear that the engines are remaining for future engineering and/or use on other vehicles. definitely not museum pieces at this point.

Michael Davis
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Posts: 412
From: Houston, Texas
Registered: Aug 2002

posted 07-09-2011 11:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Davis   Click Here to Email Michael Davis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As I remember, the main engines were the primary concern for mission failure at the beginning of the program. The story was always that they were truly at the cutting edge of performance and that failures were to be expected. I recall "experts" saying that there would certainly be LOVs down the line due to their over design. It just shows you that predictions are always difficult especially when they are about the future.

Fezman92
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Posts: 1030
From: New Jersey, USA
Registered: Mar 2010

posted 07-09-2011 01:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fezman92   Click Here to Email Fezman92     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've been tempted to go down to Atlantic City airport which is an hour from me during a shuttle launch and/or landing because the airport is one of the emergency landing area for the shuttle. Thankfully I never needed to drive down to see the shuttle. While it would have been very cool to see a shuttle that close, it would have not have been for the best of reasons.

Jay Chladek
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Posts: 2270
From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 07-09-2011 01:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Funny thing about a TAL is if it had been done, it could have been promoted as the FASTEST trans atlantic crossing ever done by a winged vehicle. It would have put Concorde and SR-71s records to shame.

Spaceguy5
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Posts: 424
From: Pampa, TX, US
Registered: May 2011

posted 07-09-2011 01:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spaceguy5   Click Here to Email Spaceguy5     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I remember in Mike Mullane's book, the engines exploding was a fear he mentioned a few times. Even if a few exploded in ground tests early in the program, they've definitely proved their reliability.

Cozmosis22
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Posts: 428
From: Texas * Earth
Registered: Apr 2011

posted 07-09-2011 02:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Cozmosis22     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The original maiden launch attempt of Discovery back on June 26, 1984 was aborted due to a main engine failure. At T-6 seconds, two of the engines fired up but the third did not. They were subsequently shut down at the T-3 second mark.

A little puff of steam appeared at the pad and then a loud spooky "growwwlllll" came screaming across the turning basin and up over the Press Site.

"We have main engine shutdown," came over the loudspeakers and then there was utter silence. The anxiety was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

That was perhaps the closest we came to a serious STS launchpad incident.

Whizzospace
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Posts: 106
From: San Antonio, TX
Registered: Jan 2006

posted 07-09-2011 04:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Whizzospace   Click Here to Email Whizzospace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When I worked at the Air Rescue Service detachment in Germany in the early 1990s, my Pararescue colleague was constantly on call for TAL duty. He would leave on short notice to sit in sunny Spain for a few days, just in case NASA needed his services. I think we were all ultimately glad it was just a long string of training exercises.

Bluebird Mike
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posted 07-09-2011 05:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bluebird Mike   Click Here to Email Bluebird Mike     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would never, ever have wished it on a crew, but an RTLS abort would have been one hell of a thing to witness.

Henry Heatherbank
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Posts: 165
From: Adelaide, South Australia
Registered: Apr 2005

posted 07-09-2011 07:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bluebird Mike, much like you a part of me always wanted to see an RTLS abort as well, provide (of course) it was successfully executed. That would have been the ultimate test of piloting the Shuttle.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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Posts: 2607
From: Toms River, NJ
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 07-09-2011 08:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When I worked in Burlington County, NJ for a newspaper, we used to also paste up our newspaper in Quark. I was reallll tempted to do a dummy front page with "Shuttle lands at McGuire AFB," complete with a photo of a shuttle landing. Never did it, for fear that it would go live and get published.

ASCAN1984
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Posts: 1026
From: County Down, Nothern Ireland
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 09-02-2014 12:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ASCAN1984   Click Here to Email ASCAN1984     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Found this very interesting article on RTLS abort:
Just about every aspect of spaceflight harbors dangers that are both obvious and concealed. Yet, it is launch and landing that create the most white knuckles and bated breaths. These concerns are well-founded. Getting into orbit requires harnessing unfathomable quantities of volatile energy with laser beam precision. Coming home necessitates somehow dissipating a similar volume of energy within comparably narrow margins of error. As risky as those two endeavors may seem, one NASA plan for the Space Shuttle combined launch and landing into a single 25-minute ride with presumed risks that far exceeded the sum of its parts: the Return To Launch Site (RTLS) abort.

Headshot
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Posts: 383
From: Streamwood, IL USA
Registered: Feb 2012

posted 09-02-2014 12:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
During the last one or two years before the shuttle program ended, Aviation Week & Space Technology did a fairly detailed piece about crews practicing various abort modes in the orbiter simulator. The article, which I cannot seem to locate, focused on, and gave a pretty good description of an RTLS abort.

Even in the safe confines of a simulator it sounded like something way beyond an E-ticket ride.

p51
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Posts: 1127
From: Olympia, WA, USA
Registered: Sep 2011

posted 09-02-2014 01:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Chuck Yaeger once described ejecting from an airplane to be, "Committing suicide to keep yourself from being killed."

A few astronauts have described the RTLS abort similarly.

I got to hang around with a TAL contingency crew once. It was amazing all the stuff they had just in case. I marvelled at the resources NASA had to duplicate those efforts at every contingency site during a launch.

garymilgrom
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Posts: 1802
From: Atlanta, GA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 09-02-2014 02:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for that interesting article linked by ASCAN. Here's a quote from it:
STS-1 was planned as an RTLS flight. Commander Young dissented rather poetically, "Let's not practice Russian roulette, because you may have a loaded gun there."

Ronpur
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Posts: 571
From: Brandon, Fl
Registered: May 2012

posted 09-02-2014 09:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ronpur   Click Here to Email Ronpur     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is a really amazing video of an RTLS simulation. Very scary actually.

David C
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Posts: 282
From: Pasadena
Registered: Apr 2012

posted 09-03-2014 02:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Very interesting, shame the resolution is so poor.

Ronpur
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Posts: 571
From: Brandon, Fl
Registered: May 2012

posted 09-03-2014 10:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ronpur   Click Here to Email Ronpur     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, but the audio is what I really enjoy, taken from a simulation before STS-26, or so it claims.

OWL
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Posts: 110
From: United Kingdom
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 11-01-2014 03:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for OWL   Click Here to Email OWL     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If a TAL was to take part on the Shuttle programme,what would the likely time frame be from launch to touchdown?

Fra Mauro
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Posts: 1151
From: Bethpage, N.Y.
Registered: Jul 2002

posted 11-02-2014 07:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
About 45 minutes.

All times are CT (US)

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