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Last ever space shuttle mission.


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Jun 11, 2011, 2:25pm Top

I remember, as a schoolboy, waiting for what seemed like hours to watch the first space shuttle launch on television. Will anyone be watching the last one?

Jun 11, 2011, 2:56pm Top

I will! (With tissues handy, no doubt.)

Edited: Jun 12, 2011, 11:20pm Top

If I am near a TV I will watch the launch I guess. I usually do. The mishaps with the shuttle make me cringe whenever they "engage" and I keep remembering the quote I heard somewhere that they are "the most complex machines on earth". It has also piqued my curiosity about the Russian space program - how hard do those capsules hit the earth?

"This still from a NASA TV broadcast shows the Soyuz TMA-20 space capsule that landed safely on the steppes of Kazakhstan in central Asia on May 23, 2011 to end the Expedition 27 mission to the International Space Station. The Soyuz landed with Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev, NASA astronaut Cady Coleman and Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli aboard. "

Here is a video from about 25 September 2010 of another Soyuz landing. This one explained the big cloud of dust at touchdown as "soft landing rockets". The videos I had seen before has no such explanation and I thought the dust was the capsule smacking down- job security for Russian dentists I erroneously concluded!


USA plan for a new, much larger, Orion capsule utilizing the more tried & true technology for return landings will bring a larger margin of safety to the space program I hope.

Jun 24, 2011, 1:59pm Top

Here is a nice graphic from space.com of another capsule in the works.

Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

Jun 24, 2011, 2:56pm Top

Interesting that, unlike the Apollo capsules, there's no escape rocket at the top - no way to get away from the booster in case of a problem.

Jun 24, 2011, 5:04pm Top

It does say that is an illustration of a "cargo" capsule but with the docking hatch on the top could you still put an escape rocket there?

Jun 25, 2011, 10:07am Top

I suppose some sort of framework could come down from the rocket and attach at the perimeter of the capsule. Apollo had a docking connector at the top for the LEM.

Jun 26, 2011, 12:02pm Top

Actually, there is crew escape system. Apollo used a solid rocket motor at the top for separating the capsule from the launch vehicle in an emergency. Dragon uses a separation system between the capsule and the trunk section plus hypergolic thrusters built into the capsule itself for emergency control.

I got a chance to tour the SpaceX facility a months ago and saw the Dragon cargo capsule - it was pretty neat! Also got to see some of the Falcon 9 rocket as well. If things gobwell for them, I'm hoping to use them to launch a deep space mission on the Falcon Heavy in 2018!

Edited: Jun 28, 2011, 7:17pm Top

#8 "I'm hoping to use them to launch a deep space mission on
the Falcon Heavy in 2018!"

That sounds interesting, is this the
asteroid rendezvous I have read about?  Do you consider the new Dragon's
launch/recovery systems safer than the shuttle?

Jun 28, 2011, 9:24pm Top

I'm the Mission System Engineer for Solar Probe Plus, so visited SpaceX as part of our launch vehicle assessment. Unfortunately, I don't know details of the Dragon design, but they did give us a pretty good briefing on it and we got to see the existing hardware.

Edited: Jul 2, 2011, 11:47pm Top

I took a look at the Solar Probe Plus site and find it difficult to believe we would even attempt such an expedition. I did not know the technology existed to consider such a mission.

I wondered if exotic components would be used, like plasma created diamond semi conductors and circuit boards - with inlaid carbon fullerene tubes used as conductors but then I noticed under "fun facts" at the site it says: 
"At closest approach to the Sun, while the front of Solar Probe Plus' solar shield faces temperatures approaching 2,600° Fahrenheit (or 2,000° Celsius), the spacecraft's payload will be at room temperature."

So maybe "off the shelf" stuff is being used in the equipment? Will the probe still be capable of telemetry at its closest approach to the sun even with all the magnetic fields?

I don't mean to bother you with nonsense but those were the first questions that popped into mind - that and the recent movie about approaching the sun "Sunshine". After a search I guess Sundiver by David Brin is required reading for members of the project? ;-)

Jul 2, 2011, 7:39pm Top

Funny you should mention David Brin. He's been asked to join one of our science teams. I'm hoping to get him to sign a copy of Sundiver someday. :)

The heat shield is a really light carbon-carbon foam with carbon composite shell and ceramic front surface. The heat gets radiated away through the sides of the shield, and everything behind the shield is roughly at room temperature. The exceptions are the ends of the solar arrays and a Faraday cup used to measure the solar wind plasma density, both of which see the Sun as well and are built to survive the exposure. Everything else is normal spacecraft components we'd fly in any other mission.

You're right about telecommunications. If the Earth, probe and Sun are lined up, the Sun's EM field prevents communication. But as long as the Sun-probe-Earth angle is more than a couple of degrees we can communicate on Ka-band.

I certainly don't mind question. Ask away!

Jul 3, 2011, 6:06am Top

>12 drneutron:

I know a man who'd love to build the battery for you.

Jul 3, 2011, 11:43am Top

Unfortunately, we've already picked a battery cell manufacturer and will build our own management circuitry. PM me with contact info, though, and we'll take a look for future missions.

Edited: Jul 9, 2011, 12:55pm Top

I saw the video of the last Shuttle take off after the fact {had to work} and watched several hours of astronaut interviews about the program. Glad the take off went well and I look forward to a happy landing.

BTW the USA military's Air Force's X-37B Space Plane is still viable evidently. Graphic below once again from space.com

Jul 9, 2011, 1:00pm Top

Space Shuttle tracker.

Note that it's not 'live' but based on calculations and updated once an hour.

Edited: Jul 9, 2011, 10:54pm Top

Great link Noisy! Maybe I can use the link to catch it or the ISS overhead at night and see them with binoculars?

Edit, I got off my bun & did my own search and found this site at NASA:


One method is very easy you just punch in your zip code or other information such as country & city if you are outside the usa.

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