[FPSPACE] Spaceflight is a dangerous business

David Portree dsfportree at hotmail.com
Mon Nov 3 18:44:57 EST 2014


I didn't say that spaceflight should remain the domain of governments. The fact is, it is, however, because no one else has pockets deep enough to do it. "Private" space is heavily subsidized by government and always has been. If not for NASA and DOD to pay their bills, how likely is it that any company would ever have spent enough to develop rockets capable of launching anything useful into space? The answer is, not very. And, in fact, no company ever has and remained a company for any length of time.
 
But perhaps I have missed the intent of your first line.

David S. F. Portree
author and stuff
 
Email:
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dportree at usgs.gov
 
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From: cpgorski at gmail.com
Date: Sat, 1 Nov 2014 16:16:23 -0400
Subject: Re: [FPSPACE] Spaceflight is a dangerous business
To: dsfportree at hotmail.com
CC: pjp961 at svol.net; fpspace at friends-partners.org

David,  
Please don't make this one about furthering your idea that spaceflight should really be the domain of governments.  Thanks. 

Space is hard; space is expensive.  But we can't do anything meaningful by re-inventing Apollo every time, and we can't sweep the problems all under the rug by claiming that the way we pay for launches is going to change that.   Commercial and governmental are subject to the same physical realities.  As soon as you're less than vigilant, you get a failure...  whether you're flying ORB3, the "VSS Enterprise", the Challenger, the Columbia, the carbon observatory that rode a failed Taurus rocket, or the Intelsat on a Long March, or whether you're flying a test-flight of the N-1 before you put cosmonauts on it, or the Ariane V that already had a scientific payload before they realized they'd ported over a software bug from Ariane IV, or whether you're trying to launch for the very first time like Vanguard, or even whether you're already operating in space like DART crashing into its target satellite or the Mars Climate Orbiter encountering Mars a little TOO closely...  
We can go on as long as you like, but the point is, until we know the root cause of EITHER of this week's catastrophes, just blaming the private sector for negligence or cost-cutting isn't any more useful or intellectually honest than the folks that blame "government" for a NASA launch failure.


Let's let them finish the preliminary investigation--or at least let them bury the pilot!--before we turn it into a political sparring match over preferred funding models.

Cheers, 
--me



On Sat, Nov 1, 2014 at 1:24 AM, David Portree <dsfportree at hotmail.com> wrote:



Absolutely, but spaceflight can be made safer through good design. The more boring a design is, the safer it tends to be. Novel concepts invite catastrophe. SpaceShip Two is pretty, but its design and operational characteristics are complex. 
The Space Shuttle was also a novel design. We hyped it & spun it and eventually Challenger forced us to face the bald fact that it was so complex and contained so many design compromises that flying it could never be routine. 
Some people have developed the peculiar notion that, because inexperienced private entities are developing spacecraft, often with novel features, the hard facts of spaceflight do not and will not apply. My hope is that this week's twin accidents will serve as a wake-up call. 
It's not enough to say "spaceflight is dangerous." What we need to say is "spaceflight is dangerous - so are our designs and schemes realistic?"

David S. F. Portree
author and stuff
 
Email:
dsfportree at hotmail.com
dportree at usgs.gov
 
Profile:
http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/people/david-portree
 
Blogs:
http://www.wired.com/category/beyondapollo/
http://theportreelibrary.blogspot.com/


From: pjp961 at svol.net
To: fpspace at friends-partners.org
Date: Fri, 31 Oct 2014 15:32:54 -0400
Subject: [FPSPACE] Spaceflight is a dangerous business














Spaceflight is a dangerous business.


 


All vehicles, payloads are experimental.  


 


There is this concept of “assured access to space,”
but overall this phrasing doesn’t cover up the fact that spaceflight is a
dangerous business.


 


People die.  Vehicles blow up.


 


What amazes me (if I am recollecting correctly) is that in
actual launch and mission operations, from 1961 to 1971, we suffered four
casualties (deaths); from 1971 to 1981, none; from 1981 to 1991, six more; from
1991 to 2001, none; from 2001 to 2011, six more.  All of these in
near-Earth orbit.


 


In training, my number recollections are a bit more murky. 
Maybe someone else can provide all training exercise deaths (ground/flight
training/etc.) over each ten year period.








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