Pictures of a Space Shuttle Cockpit Trainer

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Pictures of a Space Shuttle Cockpit Trainer

Post by orbitingpluto » 2015-06-27 01:16am

Before NASA gets rid of an old familiarization tool for the Space Shuttle, they let Ars Tecnical get inside of it and take pictures. It might just be an old mockup, but it's pretty neat to see it.

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Re: Pictures of a Space Shuttle Cockpit Trainer

Post by Flagg » 2015-06-29 09:45am

I've been in a simulator at space camp (my class went for a day). I remember being impressed. Then the internet came along and I read how the entire shuttle program was a debacle based on wholesale fraud. Now if we only hadn't wasted over 30 years on that piece of shit imagine how much farther along in spaceflight and low to 0 G engineering we'd be. It's a fucking depressing mess. We could have a colony on the moon, or actually be able to set a reasonable date for a Mars expedition that wasn't pulled out of a politicians ass.

Of course now we're (US spaceflight, at least non-military spaceflight) diving headlong into the next debacle that might actually put us behind fucking China in human spaceflight, namely private manned spaceflight. Which given how well things are going, especially over the last few days, has me wondering if the first human footsteps on Mars will be put there by an Iranian.

Sorry if that last bit is off topic, I'm just wanting to illustrate what a fucking abject failure the Space Shuttle, NASA, and US human spaceflight has become. I mean we're sanctioning the Russian Federation and calling Putin a very bad man at the same time we're paying him tens of millions of dollars a seat for them to send "our" Cosmonauts Astronauts to the ISS.
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Re: Pictures of a Space Shuttle Cockpit Trainer

Post by phongn » 2015-06-29 02:53pm

Someone wrote a pretty extensive alt-history where Nixon chooses the Station option over Shuttle. Budget levels pretty much remain where they were in real life. It's neat, but we really don't get all that much further. We'd need consistent Apollo-level funding to go far, which Congress would've never approved.

Shuttle might've worked if it had 2-4X the budget and maybe some relaxed payload requirements. As it was, STS was the pretty much the best that we could've done.
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Re: Pictures of a Space Shuttle Cockpit Trainer

Post by Flagg » 2015-06-29 07:04pm

phongn wrote:Someone wrote a pretty extensive alt-history where Nixon chooses the Station option over Shuttle. Budget levels pretty much remain where they were in real life. It's neat, but we really don't get all that much further. We'd need consistent Apollo-level funding to go far, which Congress would've never approved.

Shuttle might've worked if it had 2-4X the budget and maybe some relaxed payload requirements. As it was, STS was the pretty much the best that we could've done.
The problem is that the Space Shuttle was supposed to have a 2 week turnaround. They had more like an 18 month to 2 year turnaround and were essentially taken apart and put back together after each mission. It was sold as a quickly relaunchable Space Shuttle that could easily send cargo and personnel to a station it was to help construct. Well, eventually we got a scaled back ISS and when launch after launch wasn't scrubbed or the damned thing didn't explode on launch or re entry it very expensively put cargo into orbit and eventually delivered personnel to the ISS not long before being retired without any replacement human launch system of our own in place.

Really, we should have just stuck with a 3 man capsule system for delivering humans into orbit and a heavy launch system for cargo as opposed to going with something sold on fraud and that was obsolete on delivery (though systems were constantly being updated and improved upon to be fair, as much as I don't wanna :wink: :lol: ) plus it was approved by Richard Nixon.

Plus Hitler, Stalin, and Palin! :angelic:
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Re: Pictures of a Space Shuttle Cockpit Trainer

Post by SpottedKitty » 2015-06-29 11:49pm

phongn wrote:Shuttle might've worked if it had 2-4X the budget and maybe some relaxed payload requirements. As it was, STS was the pretty much the best that we could've done.
Part of the Shuttle's problems was the military demanding that it be able to launch one of their looking-over-Breznev's-shoulder spy sats (they mostly went with conventional rockets), launching into near-polar orbit (it never did) from Vandenberg (which was never used for the Shuttle), and launch circumpolar then land after one orbit (which is why the wings were so big). If it hadn't been for these requirements, the Shuttle would have been half the size and twice as reuseable. The politics involved in handing out the sweeties construction contracts didn't help, and it could be argued contributed to the loss of Challenger.
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Re: Pictures of a Space Shuttle Cockpit Trainer

Post by TimothyC » 2015-06-30 01:00am

Flagg, I know I've mentioned this before, but any serious discussions of the shuttle program in the 1970s have to come back to the evil that was Senator Proxmire (D-Dairy Farmers). Proxmire repeatedly moved to gut NASA funding for manned and unmanned spaceflight, and was more or less the man responsible for the Shuttle not getting the funding needed to hit the turn around goals. While there were problems with the shuttle design, at least take the time to blame someone actually responsible for screwing things up.

orbitingpluto, Thanks for the link. The other trainer (CCT-1) is on display with TEAL RUBY at the Air Force Museum.
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Re: Pictures of a Space Shuttle Cockpit Trainer

Post by phongn » 2015-06-30 02:51pm

Flagg wrote:The problem is that the Space Shuttle was supposed to have a 2 week turnaround. They had more like an 18 month to 2 year turnaround and were essentially taken apart and put back together after each mission. It was sold as a quickly relaunchable Space Shuttle that could easily send cargo and personnel to a station it was to help construct. Well, eventually we got a scaled back ISS and when launch after launch wasn't scrubbed or the damned thing didn't explode on launch or re entry it very expensively put cargo into orbit and eventually delivered personnel to the ISS not long before being retired without any replacement human launch system of our own in place.
Two weeks? Try one week! But the problem, again, were low budgets and high requirements: as a result, most of the quadruple-redundant systems were removed to save weight (save for avionics). The tiles ended up far more delicate than expected, too. It didn't help that SSME's specification was beyond what both the USAF and NASA believed was feasible at the time. That meant that it would need an extensive refurbishment after each flight.
SpottedKitty wrote:Part of the Shuttle's problems was the military demanding that it be able to launch one of their looking-over-Breznev's-shoulder spy sats (they mostly went with conventional rockets), launching into near-polar orbit (it never did) from Vandenberg (which was never used for the Shuttle), and launch circumpolar then land after one orbit (which is why the wings were so big). If it hadn't been for these requirements, the Shuttle would have been half the size and twice as reuseable. The politics involved in handing out the sweeties construction contracts didn't help, and it could be argued contributed to the loss of Challenger.
That was because of deep budget cuts to the Shuttle program, forcing NASA to go to the Air Force hat in hand. With other pressures to make STS the only US launch system, that meant that it would have to carry anything and everything. Also, the USAF was leery of the low cross-range design for reasons other than once-around orbit. It's not just DOD's fault the Shuttle was such a pig!

SLC-6 was cancelled after the Challenger incident; the USAF was very close to gaining operational control over Discovery and doing routine operations out of VAFB. It was the Challenger disaster (and some change in leadership) that led to the USAF pulling out of the STS program.

As for the SRMs ... frankly, had they just waited a day or two the flight would've been fine. They launched that flight out of specification. That said, NASA tends to get into habits where they normalized deviance and were far too overconfident with the system. Challenger was a big wake-up call (have you seen the abort modes for pre-Challenger mission? STS was a disaster waiting to happen).
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Re: Pictures of a Space Shuttle Cockpit Trainer

Post by SpottedKitty » 2015-06-30 07:08pm

phongn wrote:That said, NASA tends to get into habits where they normalized deviance and were far too overconfident with the system. Challenger was a big wake-up call (have you seen the abort modes for pre-Challenger mission? STS was a disaster waiting to happen).
<nod> I've read Richard Feynman's account of the investigation, I have the "first 100 missions" edition of Dennis Jenkins' book, and I came across a lot of the discussion in the sci.space.shuttle newsgroup. A lot of wishful thinking going on there.
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Re: Pictures of a Space Shuttle Cockpit Trainer

Post by Flagg » 2015-06-30 11:16pm

TimothyC wrote:Flagg, I know I've mentioned this before, but any serious discussions of the shuttle program in the 1970s have to come back to the evil that was Senator Proxmire (D-Dairy Farmers). Proxmire repeatedly moved to gut NASA funding for manned and unmanned spaceflight, and was more or less the man responsible for the Shuttle not getting the funding needed to hit the turn around goals. While there were problems with the shuttle design, at least take the time to blame someone actually responsible for screwing things up.

orbitingpluto, Thanks for the link. The other trainer (CCT-1) is on display with TEAL RUBY at the Air Force Museum.
I didn't blame anyone. It was pretty clear by the final line in my last post that my reference to Dick Nixon was a joke. ;) :lol:

I honestly don't care if it was the fault of her Grace, Danerys Stormborn Targeryan, Khaleesi of the Dothraki, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Chainbreaker, and Mother of Dragons: The Space Shuttle sucked. :P
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Re: Pictures of a Space Shuttle Cockpit Trainer

Post by orbitingpluto » 2015-07-01 02:42am

I'm rather conflicted about the Shuttle- it had flaws, dangerous flaws, but it was magnificent and glorious. I want to curse at it and the people behind it for not being good enough, and celebrate them both for achieving what they did. The only thing I'm really not conflicted about, is that this 'stuck' in LEO and lost Moon base stuff is just a pile of revisionist BS. The money wasn't there, not for the Saturn V or anymore Moon missions. They could made a better plan to adjust to the post-Apollo world, but having more funds was pretty much out of the question. Apollo, had it continued with in some form, would have been 'stuck' in LEO as well.

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Re: Pictures of a Space Shuttle Cockpit Trainer

Post by Flagg » 2015-07-01 05:40am

orbitingpluto wrote:I'm rather conflicted about the Shuttle- it had flaws, dangerous flaws, but it was magnificent and glorious. I want to curse at it and the people behind it for not being good enough, and celebrate them both for achieving what they did. The only thing I'm really not conflicted about, is that this 'stuck' in LEO and lost Moon base stuff is just a pile of revisionist BS. The money wasn't there, not for the Saturn V or anymore Moon missions. They could made a better plan to adjust to the post-Apollo world, but having more funds was pretty much out of the question. Apollo, had it continued with in some form, would have been 'stuck' in LEO as well.
The fact is that shuttle launches were $300 million a pop, not including the constant scrubs. I imagine the cost went up when they realized the styrofoam (hyperbole, I've held the stuff it's cool but feels fragile as all hell, but not like styrofoam, more like a super light glass) heat shielding was strong enough to rip holes in itself on launch.

Yeah, the moon and Mars stuff may be hyperbole and maybe we still would have been limited to low Earth orbit, but it's inconceivable to me that some form of cheaper capsule launch system along with a heavy lift cargo launcher wouldn't have been able to do quite a bit more than we have now. And we wouldn't have had to scrap an extremely costly death machine (14, by my count, and clearly NASA no longer trusted it anymore or I think it would likely still be in use until a replacement was developed, unless it was a cost issue, which also wouldn't shock me since it was a money pit, but likely it was a combination of both) while developing a modern replacement that (SHOCK!!!) is set to use a capsule system to put Astronauts into orbit as well as a heavy cargo launcher as opposed to counting on the biggest (figurative I have no idea on diameter nor do I want to) asshole in Europe to send our brave American Cosmonauts to the International Space Station. :lol: :wink:
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Re: Pictures of a Space Shuttle Cockpit Trainer

Post by orbitingpluto » 2015-07-02 02:59am

Flagg wrote: The fact is that shuttle launches were $300 million a pop, not including the constant scrubs. I imagine the cost went up when they realized the styrofoam (hyperbole, I've held the stuff it's cool but feels fragile as all hell, but not like styrofoam, more like a super light glass) heat shielding was strong enough to rip holes in itself on launch.

Yeah, the moon and Mars stuff may be hyperbole and maybe we still would have been limited to low Earth orbit, but it's inconceivable to me that some form of cheaper capsule launch system along with a heavy lift cargo launcher wouldn't have been able to do quite a bit more than we have now. And we wouldn't have had to scrap an extremely costly death machine (14, by my count, and clearly NASA no longer trusted it anymore or I think it would likely still be in use until a replacement was developed, unless it was a cost issue, which also wouldn't shock me since it was a money pit, but likely it was a combination of both) while developing a modern replacement that (SHOCK!!!) is set to use a capsule system to put Astronauts into orbit as well as a heavy cargo launcher as opposed to counting on the biggest (figurative I have no idea on diameter nor do I want to) asshole in Europe to send our brave American Cosmonauts to the International Space Station. :lol: :wink:

The Shuttle's TPS as a whole was one weak point, but it wasn't a death trap just because of that. There were flights(more than one) where multiple silica tiles were lost due to whatever reason(damage, ripped away aerodynamically, or whatever) and the locally high heating was enough to cause damage like melting parts of the airframe behind it, but those flights came home, and those tiles were made to stay on better in later flights. The TPS failed on Columbia's fatal last flight, but that wasn't a failure of those fragile silica tiles. It was a hole in 'strong' Reinforced Carbon-Carbon(RCC) TPS along the leading edge of the wings, that wasn't strong after all.

The Shuttle was a complex vehicle, and made it hard to figure out how it would fail in flight. Nobody thought about what would happen if foam from the External Tank hit the RCC, and it never got tested on the ground. It didn't happen in flight until Columbia, and at that point nobody could say for sure what might have happened, because there simply wasn't any hard data for RCC strikes, except for tests, simulations, and flight results about damage to the tiles. That data was not nearly useful enough to make a judgement on, and neither was the opinion that the RCC was strong enough to survive a foam strike.

On stuff that was predicted to be a problem, like a SSME getting unhealthy, the Shuttle had some decent safety, like a pretty advanced for the 1970's engine monitoring system, that only got better over the years. At the same time, nobody really predicted that shit would fall off the tank. During development, it was discovered during tanking tests that ice would form on the ET; not a problem before, since from Mercury on the expensive manned vehicle was up top, away from failing ice. So to solve that problem, they changed the specs and covered the tank in foam, cutting into performance, and exchanging the certain outcome of failing ice hitting the Shuttle for the possibility of falling foam. With study the foam was reduced to the point where it wasn't considered too much of a problem, but it was still there, occasionally damaging tiles. But that was good enough to keep flying, until the foam hit somewhere other than the tiles.

And that the fucking thing- not only did the Shuttle have problems, but it was extremely vulnerable to escalating problems. The TPS is exposed, all of the propellent sits right next to manned parts of the vehicle, and should one of the SSMEs blow(almost impossible due to the engine monitoring, but still could happen), they are inside the manned vehicle, and right next to the primary flight controls, both atmospheric(the body flaps and elevons) and in space(OMS+Rear RCS), and the TPS as well. When things go poorly for the Shuttle, they go poorly for the crew, unlike human-carrying spacecraft designed before or after, loss of the launch vehicle is loss of crew for the Shuttle. Combined with the unparallelled amount of crew carried on each Shuttle, that's why of the 18(or 21, if you count Apollo 1) people killed in a orbital spacecraft, 14 died on a Shuttle. There was no "fuck it, let's get out of here' button like the crew of Soyuz 18a had, or every other crewed spacecraft had(minus Buran). There was no compartmentalization, where all the important 'survive reentry and keep the crew alive' stuff was in one module, with separation from all the stuff likely to explode or otherwise damage it.

And despite knowing all this, I can't help but admire the damn thing and the people who worked on it for only causing 14 deaths. There was a remarkable amount of work put into making it as safe as could be; it probably wasn't worth all that struggle, but they did manage to make flying the Shuttle, vulnerable and flawed as it was, almost routine. While that sounds like a backhanded compliment, I'm serious. It wasn't a conspiracy that kept the Shuttle going, it was mountains of hard work that people did before and after each flight to make as sure as they could that the Shuttle was safe; they had big, unsolvable faults they couldn't fix, but they work they did keeping the house of cards going went a long way towards making it as safe as it was. It should have been closed down after Challenger, but the stuff the safety people did went a long way towards making it look like it could work.

That's a bit of a tangent off the subject of the TPS, but getting back to what your asking, why the hell didn't we end up with the vastly more sane and safe capsule atop a rocket combo, rather than the inherently unsafe Shuttle? Politics and money is the easy answer, but I'll take a stab at outlining the real answer.


NASA's development centers, Marshall in Huntsville, Alabama and Johnson(or JSC) in Houston, Texas both had the same problem in the looking forward in the late 1960s, work. As early as 1967, Marshall was laying off people, because their part of the Apollo work, the Saturn rockets, was winding down development. The JSC still had to test out their spacecraft, but looking ahead they knew they would feel the cut as well in a few years. Both started looking for was to apply Apollo to new things, but Marshall was in more of a pickle than the folks in Houston, as nobody in Congress was being sold on a new Saturn, and they also were losing people right then. This is why Marshall could strike out of their niche in propulsion and got involved in Skylab- Houston could bitch on how manned spaceflight was theirs, but the argument that Marshall otherwise be wasting away, along with fact Skylab used a S-IVb stage as it's main structure, was enough to get the heavies at NASA HQ to support it and why Congress signed on. Two important things pop up with Skylab: one is that it was sold as being cheap, cheap compared to other space station plans at least, and two was that otherwise, Marshall would be all that closer to going out of business.

Skylab was only a interim thing though, since further Apollo stuff looked unlikely, both because Congress wanted something cheaper and the centers wanted something other than surviving on Apollo's bits and pieces if they could get it. The concept of what became the Shuttle owes a lot to the Max Hunter's Star Clipper spacecraft, which promised both something new, and something cheaper than expendable rocket. While both development centers could have developed Apollo equipment into something workable, Star Clipper was sexy stuff(still is), and they(plus research centers like Langley, Ames, and Glenn) wanted to at least investigate doing it, Congress, the OMB, and NASA HQ were all intrigued in lowering the cost of doing business in space. But Star Clipper would cost a lot to develop as is- so they had to drop the Star Clipper design and build something like it, but cheaper. Meeting NASA requirements, like how JSC wanted it always manned, or having a 15 foot diameter for the payload bay so parts for a future space station would be big enough, made making the thing cheap enough difficult, but it came close. Then the OMB wanted it still cheaper- maybe just to see if it could be done. Enter plans like commercial service for satellites, or launching things for the Air Force, things the new Shuttle probably shouldn't have been up to, but might have made flying it cheaper still. That brought new requirements, a new schedule, and now the possibility of replacing not just what NASA used, but everyone else, military and commercial. It was too good to be true, but this was NASA coming in with estimates, they might have killed three guys back in 1967, but since then they flew to the fucking Moon, trust these slide rule wielding bastards, they know their stuff.

Even if some for some these guys, they either sell you on this new Shuttle, or they potentially lose their jobs, better trust their numbers. :banghead:

Didn't fucking help that as a cost saving measure, Congress only got serious about Shuttle after they managed to force Apollo to wind down to the point of do-or-die, where is was either restart some Apollo production(capsules at least, maybe whole Saturn 1b rockets or possibly just S-IVb stages atop a new lower stage, if not abandoning Saturn for the Titan 3) or put up the cash for a new venture. That was largely the situation Congress imposed when Constellation became a thing in the 2000s, saying that NASA could plan now but had to wait until Shuttle finished and use the money that got 'freed up', leaving NASA with next to no real hardware to use after the Shuttle did retire, because that's how 'affording' works, at least as far as Congress thinks it does.


I'm sorry for going on and on, but goddammit, how we got to this point is hard to explain properly. I probably missed a few things, and certainly didn't address everything Flagg brought up, but I'm done for now.

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Re: Pictures of a Space Shuttle Cockpit Trainer

Post by SpottedKitty » 2015-07-02 06:50am

orbitingpluto wrote:On stuff that was predicted to be a problem, like a SSME getting unhealthy, the Shuttle had some decent safety, like a pretty advanced for the 1970's engine monitoring system, that only got better over the years.
FWIW, this is one part that actually worked pretty nearly perfectly. There were a few pad aborts, where the SSMEs were actually started but immediately shut down before the SRBs lit up because a problem was detected, and one Abort To Orbit, where an engine was shut down in-flight and the Shuttle had to go into a lower than planned orbit. And in the Challenger incident, some of the last data received was of the three engines neatly and safely shutting down one after another as the fuel supply was interrupted.
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