Marc Boucher: May 2011 Archives

NASA Multi-Purpose Crew VehicleNASA Announces Key Decision For Next Deep Space Transportation System, NASA

"NASA has reached an important milestone for the next U.S. transportation system that will carry humans into deep space. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced today that the system will be based on designs originally planned for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle. Those plans now will be used to develop a new spacecraft known as the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV)."

"This selection does not indicate a business as usual mentality for NASA programs," said Douglas Cooke, associate administrator for the agency's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington. "The Orion government and industry team has shown exceptional creativity in finding ways to keep costs down through management techniques, technical solutions and innovation."

Marc's note: Considering the hype if you will of the pre-release title "NASA Announces Milestone For Future Human Spaceflight" you might think the announcement would have more substance to it. We already new Orion was morphing into the MPCV. But here's something interesting about the press release, the new MPCV will be able to do 21 day missions. I'm not sure how that equates to "Deep Space" though.

NASA will hold a telecon at 3:30 to brief the media. Sorry, the news didn't seem to warrant broadcasting on NASA TV.

Marc's update: For those longer missions NASA's Doug Cooke said on the telecon they would assume another attached spacecraft. I'm glad he assumed that because in reading the press release there's no mention of this. The release was poorly crafted.

Keith's note: So .. this spacecraft does everything Orion was going to do - why not call it "Orion"? MPCV = "Its not "Orion" I just love it when these acronyms serve obscure things. "MPLM" currently means "MultiPurpose Logistics Module". it used to mean "Mini-Pressurized Logistics Module" when we cut the original PLM in half during Space Station Freedom. But NASA would rather you not know that and think that this was the plan all along - hence the obscuring acronym. Indeed, the change from "Space Station Freedom" - to "International Space Station" is an object lesson. Space Station Freedom was, by definition an "international" Space Station from its very inception. Yet changing the name was done by NASA 9th floor types to somehow cite the addition of the Russians as making the space station more "international".

Hmm .. no easily discernible vowels in "MPCV". Maybe its pronounced "MipSiv" or "MeepSeev" or "Em Pee Cee Vee". Remember how NASA removed the "E" from "LEM (Lunar Excursion Module)" and called it the "LM" instead because they did not like the way people were saying "LEM"?. Everyone still said "LEM" - including Neil Armstrong on Apollo 11 ...

Oh well, "NASA" = Never A Straight Answer" and all that ...

Marc's update: Here's what Cook had to say when asked about costs: "The cost on it is going to depend on how long it takes to phase out these things to some degree, we have invested a little over $5 billion in it and so we would continue to work on it from here, the cost will be coming down from what it might have been because we are looking for efficiencies, we've actually begin to implement a number of efficiencies on this, we still have to do the integrated cost and schedule to understand the phasing of it and that will effect how much it ultimately costs."

Ultimately it's going to cost a lot of money and right now NASA can't answer this fundamental question. But the contract for Lockheed Martin goes forward.

Endeavour Launched

Endeavour on pad before launchSpace Shuttle Endeavour Launches on Her Last Mission, SpaceRef

"For the nearly 500,000 people watching the launch live in and around the Kennedy Space Centre the Space Shuttle Endeavour blasted off with on a plume of bright orange flame and quickly disappeared into the low clouds. With everyone holding their breath as low clouds surrounded the launch pad the countdown progressed with nary a glitch. When the countdown reached t-minus 31 seconds, at the point when the shuttle computer went internal, the gathered crowd at the countdown clock cheered."

Updates will be posted here and more frequently on the following Twitter accounts: NASA Watch, SpaceRef and Marc Boucher.

discovery_missions_2012_200x140.jpgJim Adams, Deputy Director for NASA's Planetary Science Division Presentation (PDF), NASA

Marc's note: The following presentation made by Jim Adams to the Planetary Protection Committee on May 10th includes the latest information on the three Discovery Mission candidates along with Decadal budget planning information .

SpaceX Nabs Top CFO

SpaceXSpaceX Names Bret Johnsen as Chief Financial Officer, SpaceX

"Johnsen spent nearly a decade at Broadcom Corporation, the world's largest manufacturer of semiconductors for wired and wireless communications. He played a key role in helping transform Broadcom into a leading Fortune 500 technology company. There he developed processes that drove operating efficiencies, saving Broadcom millions of dollars annually. "

NASA Invites Reporters To Second Annual Lunabotics Competition, NASA

"The student teams have designed and built remote controlled or autonomous robots that can excavate simulated lunar dirt. During the competition, the teams' designs, known as lunabots, will go head-to-head to determine which one can collect and deposit the most simulated lunar dirt within 15 minutes."

Marc's Note: Although the root cause has not been found, NASA managers have given the green light to proceed with a launch attempt next Monday at 8:56 a.m. EDT.

NASA Sets May 16 For Final Space Shuttle Endeavour Launch, NASA

"A short in the heater circuit associated with Endeavour's hydraulic system resulted in the launch postponement. Technicians determined the most likely failure was inside a switchbox in the shuttle's aft compartment and associated electrical wiring connecting the switchbox to the heaters. The heater circuits prevent freezing of the fuel lines providing hydraulic power to steer the vehicle during ascent and entry.

The faulty box was replaced May 4. Since Friday, Kennedy technicians installed and tested new wiring that bypasses the suspect electrical wiring and confirmed the heater system is working properly. They also are completing retests of other systems powered by the switchbox and are closing out Endeavour's aft compartment."

Space Shuttle Endeavour STS-134Endeavour's Launch Will Occur No Earlier Than May 10, NASA

"NASA space shuttle and International Space Station managers met Monday and determined that Tuesday, May 10 is the earliest Endeavour could be launched on the STS-134 mission. That date is success oriented based on preliminary schedules to replace a faulty Load Control Assembly (LCA) box in the orbiter's aft compartment."

STS-134NASA to Remove and Replace Faulty Switchbox, SpaceRef

"NASA managers have narrowed down the problem to the Aft Load Control Assembly #2 (LCA 2) and in particular they believe the problem is with failed Hybrid Load Drivers within the LCA. The LCA is located in Endeavour's aft avionics bay 5. They will pull out the LCA tomorrow and install a spare on Tuesday. It will take 2 days of testing before they can consider proceeding with a new countdown for a no earlier launch day of Sunday, May 8th, Mother's Day."

STS-134

Marc's Update: NASA will not launch Monday and will in fact need to remove the Load Control Assembly (LCA) box to continue to troubleshoot the problem.

NASA will also not announce until tomorrow when the next earliest launch attempt will be. However by removing the LCA, engineers will need time to test everything after it's put back. This most likely means at least a weeks delay in the launch. With an Atlas 5 scheduled for launch on May 6th the next earliest launch window would be May 8th. However NASA officials have said that they prefer the May 9th or 10th window. If a launch was to happen on May 9th it would be at 11:46:43 am EDT.

Update 9:55 am EDT: NASA will brief the media at 3:00 or 4:00 pm EDT this afternoon.

Update 10:15 am EDT: Endeavour's crew has already left the Kennedy Space Center for Houston where they will wait out the delay and continue preparations for the next launch attempt.

Update 10:45 am EDT: Media briefing now set for 2:00 pm EDT.

Update 11:25 am EDT: NASA is expected to announce at the media briefing that it will remove and replace the affected Load Control Assembly box with a spare. After replacing the box engineers will need two days to perform necessary tests.

Location of affected APU 1 in Endeavour

Endeavour_APU_450.jpg


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