14 thoughts on “The Latest NASA Safety Panel Report”

  1. Shades of Ares I-X anyone?

    SpaceX should just launch a private customer with the Dragon V2 capsule to shut these people up. Heck, if I was Elon, I would even do it with my own people on board. It is not like they couldn’t find a Falcon 9 first stage they could reuse for something like that.

  2. The phrase “Faustian bargain” come to mind when I read articles like this.

    But it appears SpaceX has moved on from capsules. The Dragon V2 is NASA’s toy. SpaceX seems uninterested in it for their own purposes now that they are advancing Starship. And maybe because the Dragon is on too tight a leash?

    Oh would have NASA pursued Red Dragon and Falcon Heavy. Zubrin’s Mars Direct. And pushed Blue Origin in a similar direction. Boeing and ULA should have been in this picture, but they are too old school.

    There is an entire alternative future history SF series therein.
    Ah, the paths not taken….

    1. Actually ULA did propose EELV growth options for manned flights to the Moon. It was based on Delta IV and Atlas V Heavy or enlarged tank versions of both together with an enlarged ACES second stage.
      The problem was the prices they quoted were outrageous.

      1. It’s that 2nd ‘E’ in EELV that’s the issue. Old school and by implication too expensive.

        ACES is promising, but as a 2nd stage heavily reliant on government funding, since many of its utility features are perhaps too expensive to justify use for comsat and “most” milsat purposes?

        It’s now looking like SLS will go bottom’s up sometime within the Starship proof flights time frame. Maybe just in time, but with billions and billions of US taxpayer dollars wasted.

        That lost money will spell the end of NASA (as we know it) when the socialistas come to power. We’d better hope Starship is a success and some are already off world before doing so is outlawed as a crime against nature.

      2. And yet, the prices could not have been as outrageous as SLS and Orion have proved to be ($30 billion through 2018 and counting!).

      3. Around 2010 ULA proposed an Atlas variant capable of roughly 70 metric tons to LEO for single-digit billions of dollars. A bargain compared to SLS. Possibly outrageous compared to SpaceX’s offer about the same time to build a super-heavy lifter for, IIRC, about $3 billion, but then reasonable people might have doubted SpaceX’s credibility at the time.

        The biggest issue, though, is that NASA has never shown that it needs heavy lift.

  3. ” NASA has apparently decided that should an avionics box fail once the rocket has reached the launchpad, they will not roll things back to the assembly building to replace it because that will involve too much delay. Instead, they will do the launch without, even though this will prevent them from gathering data on the success or failure of the newly designed heat shield.”

    Is this a reasonable concern, that the “avionics box” might fail?

    1. Rick C, I was thinking the same thing.

      My take is that they would not be bothering with the avionics box issue unless they had concerns over its reliability.

      However, the avionics box is (if they use the term correctly) not merely a data recorder; it’s the guidance and control system (flight computer) too.

      Were it just a data recorder, there is a supremely easy workaround; put a second one in, and record with both. Therefor, I strongly suspect what they are on about is the flight computer for operation of Orion. (you don’t need to roll back the stack to change out a data recorder box). And they seem very worried it will fail on the pad. I suspect they have good reason for those concerns.

      But, hey, it’s really no big deal. All this means is, if it happens, they’ll be flying the first manned crew with an untested heat shield, and untested avionics system, and an untested life support system. (they’re already planning to do the latter) And doing so to the moon. What could possibly go wrong?

    2. I think you are slightly missing the point. The point Bob is making is that if NASA knows the avionics box has failed during check out on the pad; NASA has decided to go ahead and launch anyway; despite the purpose of the mission being to collect data from said box.

      I think Bob is referencing the statement about minimum equipment needed on EM-1 to allow for qualified operation on EM-2. Lots of equipment will be on EM-1, but some of it may not work. NASA should know which of it not working means they cannot fly. This isn’t a Minimum Equipment List for launch, because that might just be a functioning engine and flight control system. This is a minimum test equipment list needed for mission success.

      I can tell you from personal experience that NASA doesn’t often think this way. We cleared Atlantis for STS-125 with Endeavor on the pad as a backup. Clearing meant making sure all known previous anomalies were worked to root cause failure and remedied, or were no immediate concern to safety of flight. Every mission has anomalies, and every time we would not clear the next flight until we knew what went wrong on the previous flight.

      But here’s the thing, Endeavor is sitting there ready to launch as a backup. How would we clear it for flight? Obviously it would only launch if something bad happened on Atlantis. it was not considered that we may not know what caused the Atlantis failure, and thus may not be able to clear that issue nominally. There were no off-nominal procedures for clearing for the emergency launch of Endeavor. There should have been such procedures. None of this was thought through, technically ever, certainly before STS-125 was already cleared for flight. That’s way too late to be considering these things.

    3. I can’t swear over there but here? Just maybe a little one…

      WTF too long of a delay?

      After decades of work and tens of billions spent, NASA is now worried about a delay in fixing something as critical as this box?

      Shut them down. They don’t deserve to exist. None of the good things NASA does matter when compared to their recent monumental failures.

      1. Maybe instead of shutting them down completely, the recommendations of the Augustine report should be implemented. I’m thinking specifically about the recommendation to turn all of the NASA centers into Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (as only JPL is currently); that would go a long way to streamlining agency.

          1. FFRDCs like JPL operate under different rules than the other NASA centers, in particular rules about hiring and firing. There’s a very good reason that JPL is by far the most successful of the NASA centers.

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