A Tough Job

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CalliArcale

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<p>Wayne Hale's blog is awesome.&nbsp; The latest entry is about one of the sobering realities of American manned spaceflight -- the "flight termination system" installed on all launch vehicles, including the ones with people on board.&nbsp; It's worth reading his perspective, as a former flight director, on the terrible responsibility of the Flight Control Officer, who is in charge of range safety.</p><p>Deputy of the Range </p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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3488

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<p><font size="2"><strong>Yes of course Calli,</strong></font></p><p><font size="2"><strong>I'd hate to be the range safety officer who would have to initiate the destruct sequence of a crewed launch. It's bad enough with unmanned payloads, particularly special scientific ones, but a crew, that's even worse.</strong></font></p><p><font size="2"><strong>Andrew Brown.&nbsp;</strong></font></p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080">"I suddenly noticed an anomaly to the left of Io, just off the rim of that world. It was extremely large with respect to the overall size of Io and crescent shaped. It seemed unbelievable that something that big had not been visible before".</font> <em><strong><font color="#000000">Linda Morabito </font></strong><font color="#800000">on discovering that the Jupiter moon Io was volcanically active. Friday 9th March 1979.</font></em></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://www.launchphotography.com/</font><br /><br /><font size="1" color="#000080">http://anthmartian.googlepages.com/thisislandearth</font></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://web.me.com/meridianijournal</font></p> </div>
 
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Testing

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>Wayne Hale's blog is awesome.&nbsp; The latest entry is about one of the sobering realities of American manned spaceflight -- the "flight termination system" installed on all launch vehicles, including the ones with people on board.&nbsp; It's worth reading his perspective, as a former flight director, on the terrible responsibility of the Flight Control Officer, who is in charge of range safety.Deputy of the Range <br />Posted by CalliArcale</DIV></p><p>Caught that this morning. Stumbled on his blog about three weeks after he started. Always a good read.</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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trailrider

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>Wayne Hale's blog is awesome.&nbsp; The latest entry is about one of the sobering realities of American manned spaceflight -- the "flight termination system" installed on all launch vehicles, including the ones with people on board.&nbsp; It's worth reading his perspective, as a former flight director, on the terrible responsibility of the Flight Control Officer, who is in charge of range safety.Deputy of the Range <br />Posted by CalliArcale</DIV></p><p>Yes, an awesome responsibility.&nbsp; I suspect that the&nbsp;FCO is specially screened and probably comes under AFR-35-99 Human Reliability or whatever passes for what it used to be. So far as the crew is concerned, I also suspect that they have the same attitude toward DOR responsibilities that many pilots and Aircraft Commanders (AC's) have taken on their own when they stayed with a crippled aircraft to stear it away from a school or housing development when it would have been better for themselves to eject!</p><p>I tried to ask if Wayne could elaborate on where the "black zone" comes in with regard to the flight profile calls we hear, such as "Negative Return" (outside the Return To Landing Site...RTLS envelope); "single engine TAL" (Trans-Atlantic Landing abort); "ATO" (Abort To Orbit), etc.&nbsp; But something was not working right with my comment on his blog.</p><p>Godspeed to all those who ride the rockets! May we never see a decision having to be made on such a situation as these!</p><p>Ad LEO! Ad Luna! Ad Ares! Ad Astra!<br /></p>
 
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CalliArcale

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<p>I suppose it is worth mentioning that the ordnance was used on one manned flight -- STS-51L.&nbsp; However, the decision was probably made easier for the FCO by the fact that the Orbiter had already pretty much disintegrated; all that was left was to keep the still-lit but totally uncontrolled SRBs from going somewhere bad.&nbsp; A horrible thing to have to do, but I take comfort in the fact that, contrary to what some like to say, NASA and the USAF (which operates the range) actually do care a great deal about the safety of civilians, so much so that they will consider making the final sacrifice if neccesary to protect the lives of others.&nbsp; The Chinese rocket accident mentioned in the blog post is chilling.</p><p>And last Friday was the anniversary of the Nedelin Catastrophe.&nbsp; This post is quite timely indeed.</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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vulture4

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>I suppose it is worth mentioning that the ordnance was used on one manned flight -- STS-51L.&nbsp; However, the decision was probably made easier for the FCO by the fact that the Orbiter had already pretty much disintegrated; all that was left was to keep the still-lit but totally uncontrolled SRBs from going somewhere bad.</DIV></p><p> Had the shuttle not been visible (i.e. due to cloud cover) the range safety officer would have had a much more difficult job.&nbsp; I would expect a man-rated launch vehicle to be reliable enough not to require a self-destruct system. We obviously don't have them on aircraft although they occasionally crash into the ground and kill people. The inability of a solid fuel rocket to shut down (Challenger) and the potential for sudden and catastrophic failure (1997 Delta II explosion) are two factors that lead me to question its appropriateness in human spaceflight.&nbsp; </p>
 
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CalliArcale

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'> Had the shuttle not been visible (i.e. due to cloud cover) the range safety officer would have had a much more difficult job.&nbsp; I would expect a man-rated launch vehicle to be reliable enough not to require a self-destruct system. We obviously don't have them on aircraft although they occasionally crash into the ground and kill people. The inability of a solid fuel rocket to shut down (Challenger) and the potential for sudden and catastrophic failure (1997 Delta II explosion) are two factors that lead me to question its appropriateness in human spaceflight.&nbsp; <br /> Posted by vulture4</DIV></p><p>Well, they are pretty reliable -- more so than aircraft, which as you point out, lack range-safety features.&nbsp; So far, there have only been a handful of launches gone horribly wrong on a manned launch.</p><p>Soyuz 18A (officially, no designation, but it would have been Soyuz 18) -- the second and third stage failed to separate properly, seriously altering the rocket's trajectory.&nbsp; The escape system recognized the situation was not correct and separated the spacecraft in time.&nbsp; Because the rocket was pointing slightly downwards at the time, the net acceleration was a punishing 21 Gs.&nbsp; The crew survived, though one cosmonaut was so seriously injured that he was never able to return to spaceflight.</p><p>Soyuz T-10A (again, would've been Soyuz T-10; the designations only went out to flights which made orbit) -- launch vehicle did not actually leave the pad, but exploded moments after the launch escape system fired and pulled the capsule to safety.&nbsp; The explosion severely damaged the pad.</p><p>STS-51L: Challenger.&nbsp; We all know that one, far too well.</p><p>So, with only three catastrophic launch vehicle accidents, and the rest being basically nominal as far as the booster goes, the reliability seems to be very good for manned launch vehicles worldwide.&nbsp; In the case of Soyuz T-10A, range safety would not have been af actor; the vehicle had not even left the ground, and in any case, destroyed itself quite efficiently as it is.&nbsp; In the case of Challenger, range safety systems were used to destroy the wayward SRBs.&nbsp; Soyuz 18A is a bit more of a mystery, as far as I can tell; what became of that still-thrusting third stage when the Soyuz separated?&nbsp; Did the Russians destroy it before it could crash into some inhabited area, and/or give technological secrets to the Chinese?&nbsp; Or did they let it go?&nbsp; If so, where did it end up?&nbsp; Does anybody know?</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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Testing

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<br />Return to his blog and check the latest entry. Request for constructive comments on what NASA should be doing. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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earth_bound_misfit

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Very interesting, thanks for bringing that to my attention. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p> </p><p>----------------------------------------------------------------- </p><p>Wanna see this site looking like the old SDC uplink?</p><p>Go here to see how: <strong>SDC Eye saver </strong>  </p> </div>
 
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neuvik

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<p>Not a job I'd envy.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Definitely a good read on the lesser known faces of NASA and space exploration.</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><strong><font color="#ff0000">I don't think I'm alone when I say, "I hope more planets fall under the ruthless domination of Earth!"</font></strong></p><p><font color="#0000ff">SDC Boards: Power by PLuck - Ph**king Luck</font></p> </div>
 
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shuttle_guy

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>Wayne Hale's blog is awesome.&nbsp; The latest entry is about one of the sobering realities of American manned spaceflight -- the "flight termination system" installed on all launch vehicles, including the ones with people on board.&nbsp; It's worth reading his perspective, as a former flight director, on the terrible responsibility of the Flight Control Officer, who is in charge of range safety.Deputy of the Range <br />Posted by CalliArcale</DIV></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>I have never heard of a FCO. At KSC our contact for that function id the RSO (Range Safet Officer). That call sign is what you will heard on the command channel during our countdowns.</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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shuttle_guy

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>......I ried to ask if Wayne could elaborate on where the "black zone" comes in with regard to the flight profile calls we hear, such as "Negative Return" (outside the Return To Landing Site...RTLS envelope); "single engine TAL" (Trans-Atlantic Landing abort); "ATO" (Abort To Orbit), etc......... <br />Posted by trailrider</DIV></p><p>The mode calls such as "Negative Return" define the end of the times when certain abort cases are vaild. The "Black Zone" is a time in the flight <strong>AFTER</strong> an abort has been commanded&nbsp;when the intact recovery of the vehicle is not possible.</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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shuttle_guy

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'> Had the shuttle not been visible (i.e. due to cloud cover) the range safety officer would have had a much more difficult job.&nbsp; I would expect a man-rated launch vehicle to be reliable enough not to require a self-destruct system. We obviously don't have them on aircraft although they occasionally crash into the ground and kill people. The inability of a solid fuel rocket to shut down (Challenger) and the potential for sudden and catastrophic failure (1997 Delta II explosion) are two factors that lead me to question its appropriateness in human spaceflight.&nbsp; <br />Posted by vulture4</DIV></p><p>We can not launch if the weather conditions do not allow the RSO to visually track the vehicle early in the ascent. The RSO team does have radar which would be used in the event that weather conditions suddenly prevent visual tracking.</p><p>Aircraft are very reliable, rockets are not. The chance of a loss of the Shuttle during ascent is 1 time in 78.&nbsp;</p><p><br /><br />&nbsp;</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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CalliArcale

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>&nbsp;I have never heard of a FCO. At KSC our contact for that function id the RSO (Range Safet Officer). That call sign is what you will heard on the command channel during our countdowns. <br /> Posted by shuttle_guy</DIV></p><p>Interesting.&nbsp; I'd heard of the RSO before, but assumed since Hale called it an FCO, that that was actually the current terminology.&nbsp; Sounds like there are different terms in different contexts.&nbsp; Hale would of course have been on the command channel in MCC. </p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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shuttle_guy

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>Interesting.&nbsp; I'd heard of the RSO before, but assumed since Hale called it an FCO, that that was actually the current terminology.&nbsp; Sounds like there are different terms in different contexts.&nbsp; Hale would of course have been on the command channel in MCC. <br />Posted by CalliArcale</DIV></p><p>&nbsp;</p><span style="font-size:8.5pt;font-family:Verdana">Yes. In our (KSC)&nbsp;case the RSO communicates to us for countdown holds and system tests. We can not request that the RSO issue destruct commands. He just informs us when he has done so.</span> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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JonClarke

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>The chance of a loss of the Shuttle during ascent is 1 time in 78.&nbsp;&nbsp; <br />Posted by shuttle_guy</DIV></p><p>That high?</p><p>Jon<br /></p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><em>Whether we become a multi-planet species with unlimited horizons, or are forever confined to Earth will be decided in the twenty-first century amid the vast plains, rugged canyons and lofty mountains of Mars</em>  Arthur Clarke</p> </div>
 
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trailrider

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>The mode calls such as "Negative Return" define the end of the times when certain abort cases are vaild. The "Black Zone" is a time in the flight AFTER an abort has been commanded&nbsp;when the intact recovery of the vehicle is not possible. <br />Posted by shuttle_guy</DIV></p><p>In which case the astronauts must perform the KYAGB maneuver...if there is even time! :(&nbsp;</p><p>I, too, never heard the blue suiter called anything but RSO.</p><p>Godspeed to those who "trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space".&nbsp; And can we change the subject?</p>
 
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3488

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'><font color="#ff0000">That high?Jon <br /> Posted by jonclarke</font></DIV></p><p><font size="2"><strong>That figure jumped out at me also Jon.</strong></font></p><p><font size="2"><strong>1.28% chance of launch failure per launch? That does seem very high.</strong></font></p><p><font size="2"><strong>Challenger 51L was tragically lost on the 25th Space Shuttle launch, but all 96 Space Shuttle launches since (think I've got my numbers right) have been successful. The tragic Columbia STS 107 loss of course was not a launch failure, rather a re-entry one.&nbsp;</strong></font></p><p><font size="2"><strong>Mind you shuttle_guy will know more than we probably do on the chances.</strong></font></p><p><font size="2"><strong>Andrew Brown.&nbsp;</strong></font></p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080">"I suddenly noticed an anomaly to the left of Io, just off the rim of that world. It was extremely large with respect to the overall size of Io and crescent shaped. It seemed unbelievable that something that big had not been visible before".</font> <em><strong><font color="#000000">Linda Morabito </font></strong><font color="#800000">on discovering that the Jupiter moon Io was volcanically active. Friday 9th March 1979.</font></em></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://www.launchphotography.com/</font><br /><br /><font size="1" color="#000080">http://anthmartian.googlepages.com/thisislandearth</font></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://web.me.com/meridianijournal</font></p> </div>
 
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Testing

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>In which case the astronauts must perform the KYAGB maneuver...if there is even time! :(&nbsp;I, too, never heard the blue suiter called anything but RSO.Godspeed to those who "trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space".&nbsp; And can we change the subject? <br />Posted by trailrider</DIV></p><p>Perhaps if everyone would go and read ALL of W. Hale's blogs we could relegate this subject to one of many and concentrate on his request for constructive commentary. Sorry Calli, but the commentary is more important than the Tough Job in my opinion. If someone wants it separated, fine. It's all Mr. Hale's blog, not ours. Respond to his request!<br /></p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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vulture4

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<p>>> The chance of a loss of the Shuttle during ascent is 1 time in 78.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>A mechanical system can have a predictable failure rate only if a significant number of failures have actually ocurred with an unchanged design. A sample of an individual component like a spark plug can be tested to estimate its failure rate, but this isn't feasible with a complete launch vehicle, and most actual losses are due to failure modes which were unpredicted. Virtually all launch vehicle failures, even for ELVs, are traced to design or procedural problems that are corrected on subsequent launches, so it's not suprising that failures become progressively less frequent as a launch vehicle accumulates missions. This is reflected in insurance rates; a first launch of a new type is virtually uninsurable. </p><p>We can of course give the historical failure rate of any launch vehicle. However the current failure rate, i.e. the probability of the next launch failing, cannot be accurately determined. Still, as long as the problems have been corrected, it is almost certain to be less than the historical failure rate. </p><p>Of course, new failures may be introduced by errors in assembly as well as errors in design. The poor adhesion beween the foam block tha caused the Columbia disaster and the bipod strut is an example. Aircraft typically make thousands of flights without major disassembly, so most manufacturing problems can be detected on an initial test flight and corrected. Consequently a fully reusable launch vehicle would also be more reliable. </p>
 
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shuttle_guy

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>That high?Jon <br />Posted by jonclarke</DIV></p><p>Yes, that high based on the analysis. Based on actual practice it is more like 1 in 62.<br /></p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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shuttle_guy

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>That figure jumped out at me also Jon.1.28% chance of launch failure per launch? That does seem very high.Challenger 51L was tragically lost on the 25th Space Shuttle launch, but all 96 Space Shuttle launches since (think I've got my numbers right) have been successful. The tragic Columbia STS 107 loss of course was not a launch failure, rather a re-entry one.&nbsp;Mind you shuttle_guy will know more than we probably do on the chances.Andrew Brown.&nbsp; <br />Posted by 3488</DIV></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The 1 in 78 is often quoted by Dr Griffin. </p><p>That is the probability for a loss of vehicle during ascent. Some loss of vehicle problems do not equuate to loss of crew.</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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shuttle_guy

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>>> The chance of a loss of the Shuttle during ascent is 1 time in 78.&nbsp;&nbsp; A mechanical system can have a predictable failure rate only if a significant number of failures have actually ocurred with an unchanged design. A sample of an individual component like a spark plug can be tested to estimate its failure rate, but this isn't feasible with a complete launch vehicle, and most actual losses are due to failure modes which were unpredicted. Virtually all launch vehicle failures, even for ELVs, are traced to design or procedural problems that are corrected on subsequent launches, so it's not suprising that failures become progressively less frequent as a launch vehicle accumulates missions. This is reflected in insurance rates; a first launch of a new type is virtually uninsurable. We can of course give the historical failure rate of any launch vehicle. However the current failure rate, i.e. the probability of the next launch failing, cannot be accurately determined. Still, as long as the problems have been corrected, it is almost certain to be less than the historical failure rate. Of course, new failures may be introduced by errors in assembly as well as errors in design. The poor adhesion beween the foam block tha caused the Columbia disaster and the bipod strut is an example. Aircraft typically make thousands of flights without major disassembly, so most manufacturing problems can be detected on an initial test flight and corrected. Consequently a fully reusable launch vehicle would also be more reliable. <br />Posted by vulture4</DIV></p><p>Well put Vulture4.</p><p>Of course your post is correct however in the launch vehicle business we have to depend on the analysis of the individula&nbsp;failure modes to design the vehicle and to give us an idea of the potential over all failure rate of the operational vehicle.</p><p>The bottom line: spaceflight is much more dangerious than people think it is (unless they work in the business or fly on the vehicles )&nbsp;</p><p><br /><br />&nbsp;</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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CalliArcale

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>>> The chance of a loss of the Shuttle during ascent is 1 time in 78.&nbsp;&nbsp; A mechanical system can have a predictable failure rate only if a significant number of failures have actually ocurred with an unchanged design. A sample of an individual component like a spark plug can be tested to estimate its failure rate, but this isn't feasible with a complete launch vehicle, and most actual losses are due to failure modes which were unpredicted. Virtually all launch vehicle failures, even for ELVs, are traced to design or procedural problems that are corrected on subsequent launches, so it's not suprising that failures become progressively less frequent as a launch vehicle accumulates missions. This is reflected in insurance rates; a first launch of a new type is virtually uninsurable. We can of course give the historical failure rate of any launch vehicle. However the current failure rate, i.e. the probability of the next launch failing, cannot be accurately determined. Still, as long as the problems have been corrected, it is almost certain to be less than the historical failure rate. Of course, new failures may be introduced by errors in assembly as well as errors in design. The poor adhesion beween the foam block tha caused the Columbia disaster and the bipod strut is an example. Aircraft typically make thousands of flights without major disassembly, so most manufacturing problems can be detected on an initial test flight and corrected. Consequently a fully reusable launch vehicle would also be more reliable. <br /> Posted by vulture4</DIV></p><p>&nbsp;This may be part of your point and I'm just missing it, but it's worth mentioning that the Space Shuttle is not an unchanged design.&nbsp; On a large scale, it's pretty much the same as it was in 1981, but so many bits and bobs are changed or modified on each flight that it does make risk analysis a bit trickier to compute.</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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shuttle_guy

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>&nbsp;This may be part of your point and I'm just missing it, but it's worth mentioning that the Space Shuttle is not an unchanged design.&nbsp; On a large scale, it's pretty much the same as it was in 1981, but so many bits and bobs are changed or modified on each flight that it does make risk analysis a bit trickier to compute. <br />Posted by CalliArcale</DIV></p><p>As part of the process, every mod is analysed for it's own risk. That assessment is then used to update the over all vehicle risk prior to the approval of the modification.</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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