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Discovery roll back, Orbital and Virgin move forward - SpacePod 2010.12.14

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Two steps forward. One giant step backwards. I'm Benjamin Higginbatham and this your SpacePod for December 14, 2010 It's now official. NASA will be rolling back the Space Shuttle to the Vehicle Assembly Building. But before NASA does that engineers will conduct tanking tests at the pad, no earlier than this Friday. During the tanking tests, half a million pounds of super cooled liquid hydrogen and oxygen will be loaded into the iconic, orange, external tank. NASA will not only be filling the tanks but also keeping the fuel there in a faux countdown designed to simulate launch day. Much like an actual shuttle countdown, there will be a series of holds giving the NASA crew time to check the tank as well as full pressurization as the clock nears T-0. When the tanking is done, engineers will then roll Discovery back to the VAB for additional x-ray inspections on the back of the external tank. If no additional problems are found then Discovery will re-roll back to the launch pad around January 14th for the next launch window of February 3rd thru the 10th. Now since it's first flight in 1984, Space Shuttle Discovery has been rolled back to the VAB five times. The first being after a pad abort on STS-41D in 1984. Then again after cracks were found on lug hinges for STS-39 in 1991. Again after woodpeckers drilled around 195 holes in the external tank foam for STS-70 in 1995. Once more for foam insulation problems in 1999 for STS-96 and again in 2005 for STS-114 in order to get a new external tank in preparation for return to flight. This will be the 6th and potentially final time Discovery has to roll back in what will be its 27 year history. Once Discovery is ready for launch there will be hundreds of cameras capturing ascent. Recently the 45 minute long video, aptly named 'Ascent', has been made available on YouTube, created and narrated by NASA engineer Matt Melis and Kevin Burke. This is some of the most amazing space imagery and geekery you're going to see for a long while! Here's just a small sample, but you really should check out the full 45 minute clip! Matt Melis: And so the purpose of this one is to check to make sure that ignition is going off ok, which is what you're seeing here. Main engine start is just happening and you can see the engines are starting one at a time. Ah, this particular camera looks at engines number one and three right? Is that what this is? Kevin Burke: Yup. Matt: And so you can see them, they're starting to fire up. Those sparkers that you see are there to make sure that any unburned hydrogen gets ignited before it floats around and collects in some place where it can ignite later and cause problems. Again, you're seeing the engines sort of turn on here. And so, we're roughly coming into five seconds before liftoff. The computers are checking and validating that everything is A-OK. And there's a little bit of a pitch-over that the whole vehicle does as a consequence of these engines thrusting off the center of gravity. And when the whole vehicle snaps back and is straight up in the air, the boosters ignite and the whole thing takes off. Great, great photography here. You can see all this flow phenomena going on inside the engines. Now the space shuttle main engines are burning hydrogen and oxygen and I'll talk about about some of the fun facts about that later on in some of the other clips you're going to see, but here you can see engines have stabilized and everything is A-OK and in just a few moments you'll see the boosters fire off... Benjamin: On the lighter side, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne has completed assembly of the oxidizer turbopump on the all new J-2X rocket engine. The turbopump is one of the most important and difficult parts to make in a rocket engine, so this is a great step forward for J-2X. This new rocket engine will be used in upper stage of NASA's upcoming... Lets end this SpacePod on some New Space News, shall we? It sounds like Orbital Sciences and Virgin Galactic may be teaming up! Orbital is looking to put 4 humans into orbit around the year 2015 or so, in a bid to win NASAs Commercial Crew Development 2 contract. Orbital's new spacecraft would launch atop the time tested Atlas 5 rocket carrying 3 astronauts and one paying space tourist to the International Space Station. So where does Virgin Galactic fit in all this? Well, Virgin would market the commercial rides, conduct drop tests using their WhiteKnight 2 vehicle and offer transport services for the craft should there be an in-flight abort. Interesting bed fellows as Virgin is also expected to announce their intentions to go after the exact same NASA contract later this week. No official word on that yet, but with all this competition it sounds like the chances of you going to space keep getting better and better and better!

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 10 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 79
Posted by: spacevidcast on Dec 14, 2010

Two steps forward, one giant step backwards. I'm Benjamin Higginbotham and this is your SpacePod for December 14th, 2010.
It's now official. NASA will be rolling back Space Shuttle Discovery to the Vehicle Assembly Building. But before NASA does that, engineers will conduct taking tests at the pad no earlier than this Friday.
During the tanking tests, half a million pounds of super cooled liquid hydrogen and oxygen will be loaded in to the iconic orange external tank. NASA will not only be filling the tanks, but also keeping the fuel there in a faux countdown designed to simulate launch day. Much like an actual shuttle countdown there will be a series of holds giving NASA crew time to check the tank, as well as full pressurization as the clock nears T-0.
When the tanking is done engineers will roll Discovery back to the VAB for additional X-Ray inspections on the back of the external tank. If no additional problems are found then Discovery will re-roll back to the launch pad around January 14th for the next launch window of February 3rd through the 10th.
Since its first flight in 1984, Space Shuttle Discovery has been rolled back to the VAB 5 times. The first being after a pad abort on STS-41D in 1984, then again after cracks were found on lug hinges for STS-39 in 1991. Again after woodpeckers drilled around 195 holes in the external tank foam for STS-70 in 1995. Once more for foam insulation problem in 1999 for STS-96 and again in 2005 for STS-114 in order to get a new external tank in preparation to return to flight. This will be the 6th time and potentially final time Discovery has had to roll back in what will be it's 27 year history.
Once Discovery is ready for launch there will be hundreds of cameras capturing ascent. Recently the 45 minute long video 'Ascent' has been made available on YouTube, created and narrated by NASA engineer Matt Melles and Kevin Burke. This is some of the most amazing space imagery and geekery you're going to see for a long while! Here's just a small sample, but you really should check out the entire 45 minute clip!
On the lighter side, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne has completed assembly of the oxidizer turbopump on the all new J-2X rocket engine. The turbopump is one of the most important and difficult parts to make in a rocket engine, so this is a great step forward for J-2X. This new rocket engine will be used in upper stage of NASA's upcoming...
Lets end this SpacePod on some New Space News, shall we? It sounds like Orbital Sciences and Virgin Galactic may be teaming up! Orbital is looking to put 4 humans in to orbit around the year 2015 or so, in a bid to win NASAs Commercial Crew Development 2 contract. Orbitals new spacecraft would launch atop the time tested Atlas 5 rocket carrying 3 astronauts and one paying space tourist to the International Space Station. So where does Virgin Galactic fit in all this? Virgin would market the commercial rides, conduct drop tests using their WhiteKnight 2 vehicle and offer transport services for the craft should there be an in-flight abort. Interesting bed fellows as Virgin is also expected to announce their intentions to go after the NASA contract later this week. No official word on that yet, but with all this competition it sounds like your chances of going to space keep getting better and better and better!

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