The Latest Salvo Against Innovation

The usual suspects want to end the learning period for commercial spaceflight.

As George points out, it is not obvious that making people wear pressure suits doesn’t add more hazards than it reduces. We don’t make everyone on an airliner wear a parachute. We minimize the possibility that they’ll need one. Just design to vehicle to have a low probability of unexpectedly depressurizing. We know how to do this much better today than we did in the sixties.

21 thoughts on “The Latest Salvo Against Innovation”

  1. What four US launches that have resulted in fatalites? Apollo I was not a launch, then the Columbia and Challenger…

      1. Had it made it to space?

        And with the two shuttles, that makes 3.

        Have we even attempted to launch 379 people into space?

        “There have been 379 human flights to space by the U.S. since the early 1960s, four of which ended in fatal accidents, according to George Nield,”

          1. Add Mike Adams’ X-15 fatal crash at the end of Flight 191. He had reached 266,000 feet, which made the cut for space flight back then.

          2. If you add Mike Adams… well wasn’t he wearing a high altitude pressure suit similar to post Challenge shuttle crews? Then again, the crew of Columbia had them too.

  2. The good news is, even if they have already started to write a new reg, (or update Part 460), it wouldn’t be issued for another five or so years. And they’re legally prohibited from even thinking about it until the end of the learning period.

  3. I can sort of understand having a spacesuit for New Shepard as it has a higher apogee and launches as one stage from the ground to space. You can test pressurization before flight, but it will be more dynamic throughout the profile. Whereas the SpaceshipTwo is staged and can test its pressurization to high altitudes up until it launches in an already near vacuum environment. From their, the pressure dynamics are not much of a problem, so long as no one manually commands a feathering during powered flight.

    The thing is, both commercial vehicles have abort modes that can end the flight at a much earlier point than the Space Shuttle. Further, the Space Shuttles fatal flaw wasn’t its shirt sleeve environment, but rather sitting side saddle next to a debris shedding and highly combustible External Tank. High Altitude suits were only mandated when analysis showed that crew members survived the Challenger blast and thus had a chance to bail out. It was more than a lack of a spacesuit that prevented their survival from a bail out.

    Nor did Spacesuits do anything to help Columbia, although they may have helped if you believe NASA ever would have launched a second orbiter to rescue them. Then again, NASA would have first had to have done a much simpler step of taking a photo of the stricken vehicle in space. That latter lesson is actually something that commercial space has used by highly instrumenting their aircraft and putting cameras in critical areas to help ground controllers identify dangers quickly.

    If spacesuits were so important to the advancement of spaceflight; it wouldn’t have been until SpaceX before any space fairing government decided to significantly advance the 1960’s designed pressure suits.

  4. Funny he should specifically refer to the U.S. history here. Assuming he was referring to the Mike Adams X-15 crash, the Spaceship Two crash, and the two Shuttles as seems likely, it seems to me that the presence or lack of pressure suits had zero bearing on the outcome of any of them. Indeed, the only fatal incident to date where pressure suits would likely have made a difference was the Soyuz 11 failure.

    1. Reminds me of Elon’s point in the recent interview by Everyday Astronaut: Of the things that went wrong with the Starship prototypes blowing up, *none* of them were on the list of pre-flight concerns.

  5. “Tommaso Sgobba, a former European Space Agency official who is executive director of the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety.”

    Aka “Euroweenie trying to nobble US spaceflight”

  6. This is somewhat related; NASA has expressed doubts that their moon ready spacesuits will be ready by the scheduled 2024 moon landing date. Elon Musk has suggested that if necessary SpaceX could make said suits itself.

    Dear Elon Musk, please save Artemis with this innovative spacesuit!
    The Angry Astronaut
    My first personal appeal to Elon Musk. I can think of nothing more crucial than going back to the Moon!

    Sure Musk must know who Dava Newman is; and probably is at least somewhat familiar with the revolutionary concept of mechanical counter-pressure suits.

    1. That counter pressure suit design looks like it lacks active thermal regulation.

      Can you get by without it on Mars? I doubt you can on the moon or orbit.

  7. “Mister we could use a man like Troy Hurtubise again.”

    Marshall T. Savage in his “The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps.” talked at length on the subject of mechanical counter pressure suits. The standard form fitting bodysuit could have body armor as needed overlayed on it essentially like wearing a bullet proof vest over your clothing. This outer layer would afford more protection against micro-meteorites, radiation, etc. while not sacrificing the enhanced mobility of the mechanical counter pressure suit. You would just “suit up” depending on the nature of EVA environment you were going into.

  8. While it’s true airliners don’t mandate parachutes, they do have those dropdown oxygen masks for depress incidents. Airliners crash and depressurize, it’s just too much trouble and cost to mandate a flight escape system to save the passengers. (Such systems exist for small planes and have been designed for airliners. They’re just too expensive for the beancounters to countenance. It’s only your life, not theirs.)

    As I noted at the time, New Shepard has a 0/0 LES, and is in “space” for a very short time. Too short for a leak to evacuate the capsule. A partial pressure oxygen mask would do in an emergency short of capsule breakup (a kiss your ass goodbye event). For SpaceShipTwo, a leak check prior to brennschluss doesn’t mean it won’t spring a leak 2 seconds later. And as this is a craft that’s demosntrated it can break up in flight, I’d probably want a pressure suit with a built in parachute. As it is, Branson & friends were wearing emergency chutes that probably couldn’t save them.

    Passengers on Dragon wear pressure suits. Probably a good idea.

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