Previous in Forum: Wasted Weight in Space?   Next in Forum: Satellite Airplane
Close
Close
Close
21 comments
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Deepest Darkest Rutherford Oz
Posts: 951
Good Answers: 145

Retiring & Replacing the Space Shuttles

04/19/2011 11:39 PM

Now I know that the U.S is flat bust and that the U.S. "Administration" doesn't really want to know about "lighting any more candles".

It got me to wondering; If the NASA contractor USA, has a viable "plan" to refurbish 2 of the shuttle fleet to keep them airworthy for long enough to allow the other "contenders" to get off the ground. And that considering that the shuttles are a "mature" design with most of the engineering "issues" sorted.

Why can't they build replacement shuttles using the existing design? What is it that makes them too expensive to carry on with? Is there a "fatal flaw" in the design, more so than the ones responsible for the Columbia & Challenger incidents.

Now I know that airframes have a noted and limited lifespan, what I'm suggesting is to build new shuttles with all the certified updated engineering. Surely this would provide a nominally shorter time-frame to produce than some of the "scratch built" machines being proposed?

I realise we're not building dirt buggies out of clapped out VW beetles here, these things are very bespoke all things considered. Yes I realise that there was more than one manufacturer involved in building all the bits that made the vehicle and its launch components. These things are very achievable when you are working up to a goal rather than down to a budget. Which is what happens when governments do aspirational projects as against private industry doing commercial projects.

Lets face it, if Russia can (with it's busted arse and corrupted economy) build new soviet era designed rockets to carry on with their commitments to the ISS and other space projects, then surely there could be a consortium to take on the building of the existing shuttles design?

Just seems a shame to see the technology and know how, get mothballed as museum pieces.

__________________
There are two reasons for a man to do a thing, One that sounds good, and the real one...
Reply
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 42290
Good Answers: 1662
#1

Re: Retiring & replacing the Space Shuttles

04/19/2011 11:55 PM

"Why can't they build replacement shuttles using the existing design?"

The electronic technology doesn't exist any more. Leaded components and boards with holes for component leads are not available any more.

Materials technology has advanced far beyond the '70's.

The Shuttle is a dinosaur.

Reply
Guru
Engineering Fields - Electrical Engineering - New Member United States - Member - New Member

Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Wichita, Kansas USA
Posts: 650
Good Answers: 30
#2
In reply to #1

Re: Retiring & replacing the Space Shuttles

04/20/2011 2:41 PM

Being in the electronics industry, and building products for military (not aerospace at this point), I can say that this is not quite true:

Leaded components and boards with holes for component leads are not available any more.

Parts with leads are still available, and are still used extensively, especially for high-reliability applications, and PC Board houses will make anything you want, holes or not. Now, the parts that were used for the "original" shuttle design, those may not be readily available today (such as a particular microcontroller that was used). The life-cycle on semiconductor devices these is comparatively short these days, although military and aerospace designs do tend to use parts that do have a know extended life-cycle.

Some of the products we manufacture at my employer are over 30 years old, and we do have to deal with parts obsolescence all the time, but leaded part availability and boards with holes are not part of that problem.

Tom D.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: London England.
Posts: 583
Good Answers: 10
#8
In reply to #2

Re: Retiring & replacing the Space Shuttles

04/21/2011 5:01 AM

I've got over 1million obsolete electronic components so if you want to build a new shuttle send me your list.

__________________
When I die I'd like to go peacefully in my sleep like my dad,not shouting and screaming like his passengers.
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - DIY Welding - Don't Know What Made The Old Title Attractive... Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member United States - US - Statue of Liberty - 60 Year Member

Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Yellowstone Valley, in Big Sky Country
Posts: 6954
Good Answers: 282
#3
In reply to #1

Re: Retiring & replacing the Space Shuttles

04/20/2011 3:04 PM

Wow...

...is THAT ever a bucket of cold water.

I had not really considered it that way, but you are exactly right. The Shuttles have proven themselves and have been workhorses for the space program. But as you say, they are dinosaurs none the less.

__________________
When you come to a fork in the road, take it. (Yogiism)
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 42290
Good Answers: 1662
#4
In reply to #3

Re: Retiring & replacing the Space Shuttles

04/20/2011 6:01 PM

Although I defer to tdesmit regarding leaded component availability, etc. the fact still remains that it is ancient technology. Digital, what's that?

I know, I worked at Motorola when we were building the communications gear for the Shuttle program way back when.

They've done a great job, but there's better gear out there today.

Reply
Active Contributor

Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: TN
Posts: 23
#9
In reply to #3

Re: Retiring & replacing the Space Shuttles

04/21/2011 7:33 AM

"The Shuttles have proven themselves and have been workhorses for the space program. But as you say, they are dinosaurs none the less."

Agreed!!

But why get out of the business altogether instead of moving on to the next generation of shuttles and other space vehicles? Could the reason given by Tobugrynbak " that the U.S is flat bust and that the U.S. "Administration" doesn't really want to know about "lighting any more candles" be true? If so why are we spending gigatons of cash on wars?

__________________
Treat others like you want to be treated yourself
Reply
Guru
Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member Safety - ESD - New Member Hobbies - Fishing - New Member

Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Near Frankfurt am Main, Germany. 50.390866N, 8.884827E
Posts: 17996
Good Answers: 200
#13
In reply to #1

Re: Retiring & replacing the Space Shuttles

04/21/2011 3:21 PM

I would imagine that all the old -386 computer technology used in the shuttles could be replaced with modern, faster lighter systems.....that should not be a reason to NOT build new shuttles...

__________________
"What others say about you reveals more about them, than it does you." Anon.
Reply
Guru
United States - Member - Member Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member

Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Southeast US of A
Posts: 555
Good Answers: 50
#5

Re: Retiring & Replacing the Space Shuttles

04/20/2011 11:08 PM

The whole U.S. space program got off track a bit when the decision was made to go to "reusable" craft. The idea of what turned out to be high maintenance equipment with delicate systems (such as the thermal tiles) was somewhat suspect looking back.

Don't get me wrong; love the things. Always got a thrill watching operations, especially launch and landing. But the alternative, the "Big Dumb Booster" proposal might have been better. Simpler craft, with perhaps a reusable capability, with the astronauts sitting on top of the thing instead of strapped to the side of it, might have been more economical and safer. Use unmanned versions to launch cargo, manned for exploration.

When the government made the astronauts truck drivers and couriers instead of explorers and adventurers, we lost something special. With the current political climate, I have real concerns it may not come back, at least anytime soon.

Space travel is, of course, not routine, and is dangerous. I just think some of the movers and shakers at the time thought the shuttles would make it routine and safer. Nope.

__________________
Speak softly and carry a big stick.
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - Fishing -

Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Burnt Ranch, State of Jefferson
Posts: 688
Good Answers: 20
#6

Re: Retiring & Replacing the Space Shuttles

04/21/2011 1:08 AM

Tobugrynbak has a good point. The design of the shuttle is proven (with all its flaws) why not build new ones with updated technology? Rather than mothballing the whole thing and starting from scratch, especially when we have no substitute ready to go. Unless there is a substitute and we don't know about it... like outsourcing to China.

__________________
“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.” -Mark Twain
Reply
Guru
Australia - Member - New Member

Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Australia
Posts: 2131
Good Answers: 251
#7

Re: Retiring & Replacing the Space Shuttles

04/21/2011 2:32 AM

Standby to be amazed. There are private organisations out there (like VIRGIN) that are developing techniques for (rich) private individuals to experience space from rather conventional and less spectacular launch vehicles (Like 747 series).

These dreamers will reset the paradigm of vertical take off rockets with some other concepts. I suspect there will be the odd "spruce Goose" among the attempts, but the concept of a re-usable (horizontal take off) launch platform like a 747 with a re-usable "space capable" vehicle might be the way of the future.

As already hinted, it is possible the US has the kit already available, just not configured. (Like superbombers capable of modification to deploy craft that would only ever come down to levels for "in flight" refueling and passenger/cargo exchange, removing the need to continue to launch them from the ground on every occasion.)

In flight re-fueling is already established practice, flying the "old" shuttles around on top of jumbo's was no secret and launch of stratosphere "planes" were shown on public TV back in the '70's.

I think Mythbusters would say "PLAUSIBLE"!

Hopefully this doesn't raise the ire of "homeland security", I'm just dropping ideas into the wind, not saying that i've seen the kit.

__________________
Just an Engineer from the land down under.
Reply
Active Contributor

Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 22
#11
In reply to #7

Re: Retiring & Replacing the Space Shuttles

04/21/2011 9:29 AM

The original specs. for the Rockwell "Orbiters" (since dubbed "Space Shuttles", apparently by public relations experts who thought that we couldn't understand what it was if we didn't see the word "space" in the name) included capability for up to 100 missions each, allowing for refurbishment between flights. None of the Orbiters came close to that limit. There was a standby plan to keep one or two of them ready to fly "just in case" but it appears to have been scrapped. Egon Musk's "Space X" folks say they'll have a heavy lift booster before long to go with their "Falcon 9" satellite booster. The folks that build the "Dragon" resupply space craft say they'll have a man rated version ready for orbital missions soon, and design and prototype work for the "Orion" spacecraft is still continuing. More or less, you can have private, commercial space travel as soon as you can think of a mission and gather up the funds.

Reply
Guru
Engineering Fields - Aerospace Engineering - Member United States - Member - Army Vet in the aviation industry

Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Bridgewater, Va.
Posts: 2027
Good Answers: 112
#10

Re: Retiring & Replacing the Space Shuttles

04/21/2011 9:19 AM

Two points, if I may, from someone who had a minor role in the original Shuttle design and development effort.

First, the Shuttles have been involved in constant upgrade procedures, especially regarding electronics based systems. I doubt there is much, if any, of the original electronics left, except maybe in the Enterprise.

Secondly, I doubt that new Shuttles could be built (from an airframe aspect) as most of the tooling (and the paper drawings for the tooling) used to build the initial fleet is either retired, destroyed, modified for reuse or just plain lost. The cost to recoup the tooling and documentation would likely be so horrendous it would probably be more cost effective to design from scratch and use more up to date material and manufacturing processes, procedures, etc.

Hooker

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Deepest Darkest Rutherford Oz
Posts: 951
Good Answers: 145
#15
In reply to #10

Re: Retiring & Replacing the Space Shuttles

04/23/2011 9:57 AM

I would have thought with all the Government QA systems in place that there would be all the drawings accessible on file somewhere.

Yes Jigs and templates get "re purposed" or recycled all the time and I suppose the people with the skill sets involved are now long retired if not passed on..

Yes I would of expected the avionics to have undergone constant upgrading and would be markedly different to when the craft first flew.

Reverse engineering the Space Shuttle would be an onerous but not impossible task. If it were used as say an engineering/draughting training exercise for the next generation then like the million monkeys it could be done. With todays cad/ 3D modelling it wouldn't take a million years either.

As someone who has been through the cycle of design, development, production, maintenance, obsolescence and discarding of technological devices/systems I can appreciate the pride in your (Hooker) efforts however humble they may be on the grander scale..

When I started this topic, I wanted basically to engage in some bench racing. Some of the topics lately have been way off in la la land, but this I thought may have some merit. If not to actually build facsimiles of the retiring shuttles but to examine why a complete departure of a "proven" design was desirable. I'm not against change. I'm just against change for change sake. If the "replacements" will do the job quicker, "cheaper" or better in some way then that's cool too.

__________________
There are two reasons for a man to do a thing, One that sounds good, and the real one...
Reply
Participant

Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 3
#12

Re: Retiring & Replacing the Space Shuttles

04/21/2011 11:10 AM

It is truly sad and ironic that we can afford to build weapon systems while we allow our NASA shuttle fleet to flounder.

Reply
Participant

Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 3
#14

Re: Retiring & Replacing the Space Shuttles

04/21/2011 4:11 PM

It is wonderful to realize that the electronics would be new and much more compact. This would enable the same basic chassis to have a much larger living quarters. To replace the older components would be expected. Have we had major advances in the rocket technologies as well? Would the same physical systems with new electronics make the propulsion system better?

To look at an example of how modern electronics can be used in older, yet reliable, structures we need only look at the Hubble Telescope. Here is a platform that is now doing things that had only been dreamed about when it was first launched. To use older platforms with new electronics really can make for a less expensive package.

Reply
Guru
United States - Member - Hobbies - Fishing - New Member Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member Hobbies - RC Aircraft - New Member Engineering Fields - Aerospace Engineering - New Member

Join Date: May 2009
Location: Saint Helens, Oregon
Posts: 2215
Good Answers: 69
#16

Re: Retiring & Replacing the Space Shuttles

04/27/2011 9:35 PM

I truly think that someone at NASA has pissed off the Ways and Means Committee

__________________
Confucius once said, “ Ability will never catch up with the demand for it".
Reply
Active Contributor

Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 22
#17
In reply to #16

Re: Retiring & Replacing the Space Shuttles

04/28/2011 9:12 AM

dj95401, I think there's more than a grain of truth to your statement! NASA has employed public and congressional relations staffers for most of it's existance, and it appears that there's an institutional blind spot concerning performance in this department. Had it not been for the overwhelming popularity of the agency in the 1960's, the bad temper and poor work done by their press relations group would have sunk them (the press use to claim that NASA stood for "Never A Straight Answer", Heinlein once compared the long serving head PR man to Hank Ketchum's "Dennis the Menace" cartoon character). NASA's congressional relations staff is infamous for their ability to offend congressmen and their staffers with preceived arrogance and apparently deliberately misleading responses to direct questions.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Deepest Darkest Rutherford Oz
Posts: 951
Good Answers: 145
#18

Re: Retiring & Replacing the Space Shuttles

05/02/2011 3:52 PM
__________________
There are two reasons for a man to do a thing, One that sounds good, and the real one...
Reply
Guru
United States - Member - Hobbies - Fishing - New Member Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member Hobbies - RC Aircraft - New Member Engineering Fields - Aerospace Engineering - New Member

Join Date: May 2009
Location: Saint Helens, Oregon
Posts: 2215
Good Answers: 69
#19

Re: Retiring & Replacing the Space Shuttles

06/02/2011 6:16 PM

I thought I'd post this link to the FAA Commercial Space Transportation for anyone that might be interested. DJ

__________________
Confucius once said, “ Ability will never catch up with the demand for it".
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Deepest Darkest Rutherford Oz
Posts: 951
Good Answers: 145
#20
In reply to #19

Re: Retiring & Replacing the Space Shuttles

06/02/2011 7:10 PM

Sadly, this amused me...

Job Openings

There are no vacancies in the Office of Commercial Space Transportation at this time.

__________________
There are two reasons for a man to do a thing, One that sounds good, and the real one...
Reply
Guru
United States - Member - Hobbies - Fishing - New Member Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member Hobbies - RC Aircraft - New Member Engineering Fields - Aerospace Engineering - New Member

Join Date: May 2009
Location: Saint Helens, Oregon
Posts: 2215
Good Answers: 69
#21
In reply to #20

Re: Retiring & Replacing the Space Shuttles

06/02/2011 7:13 PM

It's a sad state of affairs we're in, isn't it?

__________________
Confucius once said, “ Ability will never catch up with the demand for it".
Reply
Reply to Forum Thread 21 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

Andy Germany (1); Bazzer Englander (1); dbaer52 (2); dj95401 (3); Doorman (1); Fred Kinzler (2); Hooker (1); Just an Engineer (1); kajibaba (1); lighthasmass (1); lyn (2); standarded (1); tdesmit (1); Tobugrynbak (3)

Previous in Forum: Wasted Weight in Space?   Next in Forum: Satellite Airplane

Advertisement