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posted by Fnord666 on Monday January 18 2021, @04:11AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the we-don't-know-what-we-don't-know dept.

After a decade, NASA's big rocket fails its first real test:

For a few moments, it seemed like the Space Launch System saga might have a happy ending. Beneath brilliant blue skies late on Saturday afternoon, NASA's huge rocket roared to life for the very first time. As its four engines lit, and thrummed, thunder rumbled across these Mississippi lowlands. A giant, beautiful plume of white exhaust billowed away from the test stand.

It was all pretty damn glorious until it stopped suddenly.

About 50 seconds into what was supposed to be an 8-minute test firing, the flight control center called out, "We did get an MCF on Engine 4." This means there was a "major component failure" with the fourth engine on the vehicle. After a total of about 67 seconds, the hot fire test ended.

During a post-flight news conference, held outside near the test stand, officials offered few details about what had gone wrong. "We don't know what we don't know," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "It's not everything we hoped it would be."

He and NASA's program manager for the SLS rocket, John Honeycutt, sought to put a positive spin on the day. They explained that this is why spaceflight hardware is tested. They expressed confidence that this was still the rocket that would launch the Orion spacecraft around the Moon.

And yet it is difficult to say what happened Saturday is anything but a bitter disappointment. This rocket core stage was moved to Stennis from its factory in nearby Louisiana more than one calendar year ago, with months of preparations for this critical test firing.

Honeycutt said before the test, and then again afterward, that NASA had been hoping to get 250 seconds worth of data, if not fire the rocket for the entire duration of its nominal ascent to space. Instead it got a quarter of that.


Original Submission

Related Stories

NASA’s Massive Artemis Moon Rocket Set for Second Hot Fire Test Today 1500 EDT (1900 UTC) 17 comments

NASA’s Massive Artemis Moon Rocket Set for Second Hot Fire Test – Watch Live Coverage Today:

NASA is targeting a two-hour test window that opens at 3 p.m. EDT Thursday, March 18, for the second hot fire test of the core stage for the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

The agency plans to begin live coverage on NASA Television, the agency’s website, and the NASA app approximately 30 minutes before the hot fire. The team will refine the timeline as it proceeds through operations. NASA will provide updates on the operations and the target hot fire time at @NASA and the Artemis blog.

[...] A post-test briefing will follow on NASA Television approximately two hours after the test.

Previously:
Green Run Update: NASA Proceeds with Plans for Second Hot Fire Test
After a Decade, NASA’s Big Rocket Fails its First Real Test
NASA TV to Air Hot Fire Test of Rocket Core Stage for Artemis Missions


Original Submission

NASA Wants to Buy SLS Rockets at Half Price, Fly Them Into the 2050s 27 comments

NASA wants to buy SLS rockets at half price, fly them into the 2050s

NASA has asked the US aerospace industry how it would go about "maximizing the long-term efficiency and sustainability" of the Space Launch System rocket and its associated ground systems.

[...] In its request NASA says it would like to fly the SLS rocket for "30 years or more" as a national capability. Moreover, the agency wants the rocket to become a "sustainable and affordable system for moving humans and large cargo payloads to cislunar and deep-space destinations."

[...] Among the rocket's chief architects was then-Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who steered billions of dollars to Kennedy Space Center in his home state for upgraded ground systems equipment to support the rocket. Back in 2011, he proudly said the rocket would be delivered on time and on budget.

"This rocket is coming in at the cost of... not only what we estimated in the NASA Authorization act, but less," Nelson said at the time. "The cost of the rocket over a five- to six-year period in the NASA authorization bill was to be no more than $11.5 billion. This costs $10 billion for the rocket." Later, he went further, saying, "If we can't do a rocket for $11.5 billion, we ought to close up shop."

After more than 10 years, and more than $30 billion spent on the rocket and its ground systems, NASA has not closed up shop. Rather, Nelson has ascended to become the space agency's administrator.

Previously:


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @02:01AM (8 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @02:01AM (#1101797)

    Someone didn't test the o-ring... again? [priceonomics.com]

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Monday January 18 2021, @03:04AM (3 children)

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 18 2021, @03:04AM (#1101825) Homepage Journal

      Remotely related.

      Starting up a moderately complex hydraulic system, well broken in, and well maintained, you can see hydraulic fluid seep in multiple locations. Not much. Maybe a teaspoon to a tablespoon of oil, in total. Let the machine warm up to operating temperature, 80 to 110 degrees F, and the seepage stops. You can wipe the oil away from all the wet spots, and none of them will seep again, until the next time you shut the machine down, and restart it cold.

      Who'da thunk it - rubber and rubber-like compounds experience thermal expansion and thermal stress.

      --
      There is a supply side shortage of pronouns. You will take whatever you are offered.
    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @07:05AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @07:05AM (#1101908)
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by driverless on Monday January 18 2021, @09:17AM (2 children)

      by driverless (4770) on Monday January 18 2021, @09:17AM (#1101933)

      Actually I think it performed perfectly... for Boeing. Now NASA will have to hand them several more billion dollars to keep fiddling with it for another decade or so, stretching the taxpayer-funded gravy train out to infinity and beyond.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @03:25PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @03:25PM (#1102008)

        Just think of how many golf carts the secret service could rent with that money...

      • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @10:54PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @10:54PM (#1102161)

        Not quite perfectly, not with SpaceX nipping at their heels. If Starship becomes operational first the SLS project will be well and truly boned. This is why people are concerned that Biden will screw with SpaceX, the 'extra special' campaign contributors don't want their gravy train to end.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by fustakrakich on Monday January 18 2021, @02:08AM (15 children)

    by fustakrakich (6150) on Monday January 18 2021, @02:08AM (#1101802) Journal

    The "Check Engine" light came on. That's all they will tell us.

    *sigh* Everything that is reported is being so dumbed down by shit like this.

    --
    Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @04:37AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @04:37AM (#1101855)

      How can this be offtopic? It's spot on.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @05:18AM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @05:18AM (#1101869)

        It's politically motivated modding, not content motivated.

        • (Score: 3, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @06:50AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @06:50AM (#1101903)

          What? Here on SN? Who would do such a thing? Certainly not the kind, tolerant, open-minded Democrats!

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Monday January 18 2021, @05:34AM (4 children)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Monday January 18 2021, @05:34AM (#1101878)

      You forget the number one rule of American news articles: it has to contain a comparison to football fields, libraries of congress or cars, lest American readers lose focus at the first hint of a complicated technical concept and go watch TV instead.

      • (Score: 2) by zeigerpuppy on Monday January 18 2021, @07:03AM (2 children)

        by zeigerpuppy (1298) on Monday January 18 2021, @07:03AM (#1101907)

        That's a bit unfair.
        Mass media is dumbded down everywhere...
        But there are some great US based commentators on this.
        Try Youtube channels: Everyday Astronaut and Scott Manley (ok he's a Scott, but based in US!)

        • (Score: 2) by Tokolosh on Monday January 18 2021, @02:41PM

          by Tokolosh (585) on Monday January 18 2021, @02:41PM (#1101986)

          Mr. Manley's review of the test is a gem. https://youtu.be/BG8Wv8-4xFM [youtu.be]

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @03:27PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @03:27PM (#1102009)

          Yeah the US sucks.

          Let's follow the UK's space program instead. Oh wait...

      • (Score: 2, Touché) by crafoo on Monday January 18 2021, @01:03PM

        by crafoo (6639) on Monday January 18 2021, @01:03PM (#1101964)

        Minorities and racism sell pretty well too.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @10:43AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @10:43AM (#1101943)

      The "Check Engine" light came on.

      It didn't go kaboom so you fix/change engine and try again. They will find out what went wrong. It's not like this is rock... nevermind.

    • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Monday January 18 2021, @01:50PM (4 children)

      by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 18 2021, @01:50PM (#1101974)

      To be fair, why would they say anything else? Do you really want them to give some detailed issue break down, when they likely need to do few weeks/months of analysis? Or give an incomplete/likely wrong picture of what went wrong and back track later on (to howls of derision from their detractors)?

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by slinches on Monday January 18 2021, @02:34PM (3 children)

        by slinches (5049) on Monday January 18 2021, @02:34PM (#1101982)

        For projects like this one where the basic design has been widely publicized, they could report what component failed or at least what system they detected a fault in. That would give a little more insight into how significant the problem might be without speculating on the cause before a root cause analysis has even begun.

        • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Monday January 18 2021, @02:55PM (1 child)

          by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 18 2021, @02:55PM (#1101995)

          I guess so. I guess it would make sense if they were trying to do outreach.

          • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Tuesday January 19 2021, @12:57AM

            by fustakrakich (6150) on Tuesday January 19 2021, @12:57AM (#1102198) Journal

            Mere transparency will suffice

            --
            Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
        • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday January 18 2021, @06:45PM

          by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 18 2021, @06:45PM (#1102079)

          I'd extend that remark with a lot depends on the location of the failure.

          If the failure mode was loss of fuel pressure on the input of the fuel pump causing a shutdown that's all on the test stand assuming they didn't use the onboard tanks and were using ground based tanks. If the ground based tanks failed that is probably not a long term program stopper.

          Historically there have been weird problems with running "free space" engines close to the ground WRT 140 dB sound waves bouncing off the ground and re-impacting the engine, also strange thermal effects from "rolling clouds of hot exhaust". Those problems should be well studied and merely historical, but thinking as positively as possible the end result is the engines may never be rated to operate more than a minute within 20 feet of the ground which would not be a major program problem.

          Historically there have been interesting problems with chunks of ice breaking off and impacting things.

          On the other hand if a pump blew apart then they got a major engine related problem.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @07:23PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @07:23PM (#1102092)

      I think it was a "Chuck Engine Light".

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @04:39AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @04:39AM (#1101857)

    This is a rocket designed by congress. SLS stands for "Senate Launch System". It might not be man-rated, but it is definitely senator-rated. Put senators in it. They can all ride together.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @03:10PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @03:10PM (#1102003)

      Weasel-rated?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @08:17PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @08:17PM (#1102114)

      Put senators in it. They can all ride together.

      They should put the entire idiotic MAGA train on it and ride it past max-Q

      Is it coincidence or a sign, back from the early days of rocket planted by the original Q?? One will never know, unless you ride to rocket to find out!

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Monday January 18 2021, @05:29AM (2 children)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Monday January 18 2021, @05:29AM (#1101873)

    "We don't know what we don't know," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine

    That's the sort of insight that turned the billions of dollars we poured into NASA projects over the decades into the leading space agency NASA is today: overtaken by Russia and China, and about to be outdone by social media moguls building rockets to relocate their billionaire friends to the Moon or to Mars to escape the plebs on Earth.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Socrastotle on Monday January 18 2021, @02:45PM (1 child)

      by Socrastotle (13446) on Monday January 18 2021, @02:45PM (#1101990) Journal

      Bridenstine was, for some time, the best administrator that NASA has had in decades. I think the problem is much more systemic. The reason other administrators like Bolden were not so great is because they simply were unable to deal with the political aspect of the job. And so he ended up little more than a tool. Bridenstine was able to stand firm against this for some time, but somehow they managed to get him to bend and now he has a spine of overdone spaghetti.

      The issue is that government agencies are driven by a desire to see their own growth and continuation. And that growth and continuation tends to lead directly to cronyism, corruption, and intentional inefficiencies. Think about the Arecibo Telescope. It was (until China recently developed an even larger telescope) the largest radio telescope on this planet - it was a very big deal, literally and figuratively. And we literally let it fall to pieces instead in lieu of the ~$10 million per year it'd take to sustain it. $10 million, for context in terms of government expenditures, would be 0.04% of NASA's budget. And about a millisecond of our "defense" spending. Why'd we let this happen? I suspect it was because it was a genuine scientific instrument and no bellies were getting buttered, so who cares? Certainly nobody in DC!

      If you want to succeed in DC, you butter bellies. If you gave NASA's budget to SpaceX, that'd fund literally hundreds of launches (per year) and leave billions of dollars still for actually having things to put on those flights, including humans. I mean seriously we'd be jumping, almost immediately, towards real progress on becoming a space faring civilization. But when NASA and congress are is in charge of NASA's budget? You get an occasional probe, an occasional rover, and a *whole lot* of butter. Ultimately I just don't think government is the proper vessel for space achievement anymore. SpaceX will live or die based on their progress and achievement in space. NASA's fate will live or die based on how many kickbacks congress can get from it. Our whole system is becoming deeply dysfunctional.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by takyon on Monday January 18 2021, @03:11PM

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Monday January 18 2021, @03:11PM (#1102005) Journal

        At the time of that quote, Bridenstine is about as much of a lame duck as you can get. He's already announced that he will step down and he has days or perhaps weeks left on the job.

        NASA and the Air Force are already giving a decent amount of money to SpaceX. SpaceX will probably be able to get a larger piece of the pie, but only after Starship is mostly proven to work.

        But when NASA and congress are is in charge of NASA's budget? You get an occasional probe, an occasional rover, and a *whole lot* of butter.

        This might be a blessing in disguise. A decade or so ago, NASA was planning a mission to Mars by around 2035. Now we have the Artemis program with a 2024 manned landing and Lunar Gateway construction, parts of which will certainly slip to around 2028.

        SLS is an unfortunate drain on science funding, but a $100 billion effort to go to Mars using old technology would be worse. Further delays will help put SpaceX in charge as a working Starship is simply impossible to ignore. There will still be plenty of butter, but at least the butter can be launched on fully reusable rockets. SpaceX itself is gaining a decent political backing, as it operates in California, Texas, Florida, Redmond, WA, Virginia, and D.C.

        Charlie Bolden says the quiet part out loud: SLS rocket will go away [arstechnica.com]

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Arik on Monday January 18 2021, @07:05AM (10 children)

    by Arik (4543) on Monday January 18 2021, @07:05AM (#1101909) Journal
    Honestly, I don't see the problem with that explanation. That is indeed exactly why we have tests. You test, you break things, you figure out what broke and why, then you figure out how to make a replacement that won't break (at least for the same reason.)

    Then you test again.
    --
    If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @07:10AM (9 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @07:10AM (#1101910)

      This isn't a developmental test campaign, this is a validation test campaign. This is a finished flight article. They don't want to be making major corrections to it. This wasn't the sort of test that was supposed to fail.

      Over the history of rocketry, most launch vehicles have been multi-engined. That's the norm. There are very few that only had a single engine and no boosters. Besides, this was an engine that was previously being used in a cluster of three, so bringing that count up to four shouldn't be a major undertaking. After all, that was the whole sales pitch of this program.

      • (Score: 2) by Arik on Monday January 18 2021, @07:21AM (4 children)

        by Arik (4543) on Monday January 18 2021, @07:21AM (#1101913) Journal
        "This wasn't the sort of test that was supposed to fail."

        Nonetheless, failure means a chance to learn something new and important.

        --
        If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
        • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @08:04AM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @08:04AM (#1101923)

          Failure is a chance for more billable hours for the executives while an underpaid worker duct tapes over whatever broke this time. SLS is a collection of Shuttle parts cobbled together in a vague parody of the Saturn V. There is no new technology, no new methodology, no ground being broken beyond new records in pork. The only lesson is that Congress aren't engineers, but we knew that already, too.

          • (Score: 2) by choose another one on Monday January 18 2021, @11:27AM

            by choose another one (515) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 18 2021, @11:27AM (#1101947)

            > Failure is a chance for more billable hours for the executives while an underpaid worker duct tapes over whatever broke this time.

            This.

            In fact, it's questionable if you can even call this a failure if it diverts further $Billions in pork to the contractors.

            Timing of test so close to a political changeover may also need to be considered, could be that the useful results (i.e. pork...) were already a known rather than an unknown... (to be clear, I have no idea where the incoming administrations attitude to SLS is).

        • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @09:21AM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @09:21AM (#1101934)

          Lesson #1: Don't give Boeing $40 billion to make a disposable rocket.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @02:55PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @02:55PM (#1101994)

            They did worse. They gave them an unlimited credit line.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @09:00AM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @09:00AM (#1101929)

        if it wasn't supposed to fail, they wouldn't call it a test.
        no test is supposed to fail. especially here, everything about this is very expensive and time-consuming.

        yes. sometimes you run a "test" when you're pretty sure failure is the result, because it's simpler to find out the big issues this way.
        but protocols that demand tests at various stages are put in place precisely to catch mistakes.
        all tests are there because it's conceivable that something will fail.

        the only sort of test that's not supposed to fail is something like the "guns are always loaded idea".
        if someone passes you a gun, you are supposed to check that it's not loaded, even if you've just seen the other person confirm that it's not loaded.
        if that test fails (i.e. you find that the gun is loaded), then you can say that the test was not supposed to fail --- the other person is an idiot, or lying, or something along those lines.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by unauthorized on Monday January 18 2021, @11:19AM (2 children)

          by unauthorized (3776) on Monday January 18 2021, @11:19AM (#1101946)

          You can absolutely expect failures from a test, such as for example when you're testing your failure recovery mechanisms result in a graceful failure instead of a catastrophic one. Validating how a machine performs under failure conditions can be just as important or even more important than validating it under nominal parameters depending on how high the cost of failure is.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @11:40AM (1 child)

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18 2021, @11:40AM (#1101949)

            I would count "graceful failure" as a success, from the designer's point of view.
            I guess in that sense you could say this was a graceful failure: they were able to see that something was going wrong, and they were able to stop it before catastrophic failure (explosion or whatever).

            • (Score: 2) by theluggage on Monday January 18 2021, @03:01PM

              by theluggage (1797) on Monday January 18 2021, @03:01PM (#1101999)

              I guess in that sense you could say this was a graceful failure: they were able to see that something was going wrong, and they were able to stop it before catastrophic failure (explosion or whatever).

              It was only "graceful" because it was a static fire and they had the luxury of responding to a singe engine failure by shutting the whole thing down, which would be problematic if it had already been ten thousand feet over the Atlantic...

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by bradley13 on Monday January 18 2021, @11:36AM

    by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 18 2021, @11:36AM (#1101948) Homepage Journal

    One says it as a joke, but last I looked it was really true: cost-plus contracts. I'm sure Boeing will pretend to be embarrassed, but - why would they want the gravy train to end? The SLS will never be a successful production program - even if it worked, it is too expensive. So they will drag out the development program as long as they possibly can, which is to say: as long as their bought-and-paid-for Congresscritters can justify the pork.

    --
    Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by ElizabethGreene on Monday January 18 2021, @04:58PM

    by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Monday January 18 2021, @04:58PM (#1102043)

    The SRB's have a 12 month use-by date once they've started stacking them. This is relevant because they started stacking them just before Thanksgiving.

    Non-authoritative sources indicate that the test was aborted with the "LOW BUDGET" warning light illuminated. <3

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