Saturday, May 03, 2008

Shuttles, tanks, and telescopes

The next Space Shuttle mission is on track for a May 31 launch. (I asked them to speed it up a day so it would celebrate my daughter's 12th birthday, but you know how the government is.) This mission will take the Japanese Kibo lab to the ISS.
After that, the schedule gets fuzzier. The last mission which will service and upgrade the Hubble telescope, set for August 28, will have to be postponed 4-5 weeks due to the need to process two External Tanks for the shuttle and a standby rescue mission, required on this flight because the shuttle can't reach the ISS as a "safe haven" from the Hubble orbit.

COMMENT: There's something here I'm missing. We've been flying shuttles for over a quarter of a century. NASA should know by now how long it takes to do everything and how much "fudge time" needs to be built into schedules. The need for a major postponement because of ET preparation baffles me. Has NASA still not learned the art of realistic scheduling?


Matt Bille said...

Brian Thorn on responded:

- They're still not at 100% from Hurricane Katrina at Michoud.
- These are the first ETs built from the bottom up with the
post-Columbia safety upgrades. The previous flights were on ETs
already built at the time of 107 and modified thereafter.
- They had to pull resources off ET production to solve the ECO sensor

Matt Bille said...

I appreciate the insight. All these are logical contributors, but still, none of these just popped out of thin air in the last month or so. They've known about Hurricane
Katrina's effects, the redesigned ET, and the ECO thing for months to
years. It still makes me wonder if NASA publicly held to a date someone knew was unrealistic for a long time, and whether that indicates there's wishful thinking in the heavy slate of missions planned from now
until Shuttle retirement.