I wrote here about the problems that NASA engineers had concerns about with excessive vibrations during launch of the Ares. No, none of the shuttle replacement vehicles have been launched yet, or even built for that matter. This was a potential problem caught in the design phase.
New Scientist’s Elise Kleeman reports this now.
On the heels of a grim congressional report about problems with the development of the space shuttle’s successor, NASA says it has everything under control with at least one potentially fatal issue – a violent shaking of the craft during lift-off.
The Ares vehicle is due for launch in 2015.
But during a design review for Ares I in October 2007, engineers calculated that the rocket might vibrate so severely in the first few minutes of launch that the shaking could actually kill the crew and destroy the spacecraft.
The problem was made public in January, after the independent website NASA Watch and the Associated Press questioned NASA and filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the agency.
But at a media teleconference on Thursday, NASA officials said a panel of experts had since found that the shaking was milder than first thought, and had developed a number of possible mitigation measures.
“What we have found as we go along the way is that this is a very manageable issue,” said Steve Cook, manager of Ares Projects for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, US. “It is not a show stopper.”
It would be amazing if there had been no problems discovered during design, and maybe even criminally incompetent. More should be uncovered during integration (when the individual parts are put together and tested in tandum). But like the reports that dog political candidates, you should “question the timing” when reading these reports. The news from NASA, both good and bad, is released to inform and influence a very tiny readership – Congressional Committees. For instance, last week the congressional space committee held hearings on “NASA’s Exploration Initiative: Status and Issues”, and the research and education subcommittee held hearings on “International Science and Technology Cooperation”.
Hat tip to Space Politics for the links.