Alright, let's light this candle and head back into space
December 3, 2014 1:50 PM   Subscribe

NASA’s new Orion spacecraft will soon blast off on its maiden voyage into space. It’ll be a quick and unmanned flight to test the craft, particularly its innovative heat shield, which will protect Iron man, Captain Kirk, Slimey the Worm and a unnamed Tyrannosaurus Rex from the white hot temperatures as Orion returns to Earth. Watch the launch on NASA TV (Audio only stream) on Thursday, December 4th, at 7:05am EST (1205 GMT) i.e. tomorrow morning for most of the Western world.

If you're impatient, you can print out and build this paper model of Orion. Or if you're into Kerbal Space Program, you download replicas such as the SDHI Service Module System or Bobcat's American Pack, which uses an older design from when NASA was headed back to the Moon.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (160 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
i had not been following this and was disappointed that it's going up on a delta rocket. i guess i thought the new booster was ready too :(
posted by joeblough at 1:52 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


At long last, we know why t-rexes have such short forelimbs--to operate controls in cramped capsules.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 1:52 PM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


i had not been following this and was disappointed that it's going up on a delta rocket. i guess i thought the new booster was ready too

Yeah, they're just testing the capsule itself on this flight, called Exploration Flight Test 1.

In November of 218, they'll test the capsule again on Exploration Mission 1, along with the ESA built service module and Space Launch System rocket that's currently being designed, tested and built. Then they'll launch people on it in 2021 or '22. All this is subject to change, depending on how the tests go and how much funding NASA receives each year.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:59 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


thanks. 2018! talk about the slow boat to mars :)
posted by joeblough at 2:01 PM on December 3, 2014


The non-nuclear Orion, of course.

/sulks
posted by Artw at 2:08 PM on December 3, 2014 [15 favorites]


What? They're not also sending up an Inanimate Carbon Rod as well?! Shut it down! In rod we trust!
posted by tittergrrl at 2:10 PM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


The non-nuclear Orion, of course.

I too read this and thought: are they really using an orion engine?
posted by 256 at 2:16 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Clearly the world of memes has moved on from cube and cake based test scenarios.
posted by Artw at 2:16 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Going to watch this from my back yard. Assuming that I'm awake.
posted by Splunge at 2:17 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can't find any references that describe why the heat shield is "innovative", other than that it's very large. By all accounts, it uses AVCOAT, which is pretty much the same stuff used 60 years ago on Apollo, but updated to the latest environmental regs.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:18 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


2018! talk about the slow boat to mars :)

They just gotta hurry up if I'm going to be one of the first human geologists on Mars- I'm getting older every day and panic might set in soon that this ain't gonna happen. They've already destroyed my dream of being one of the first geologists by sending their little geo-robots. Replaced before we even got there! *sob* Pfft on you, NASA.

/I kid, I kid, I adore the first geology machines on Mars
posted by barchan at 2:27 PM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I can't find any references that describe why the heat shield is "innovative", other than that it's very large.
Not only is the Orion heat shield the largest ever made, it also has a new resin system that can withstand higher temperatures and landing impact.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:30 PM on December 3, 2014


I can't find any references that describe why the heat shield is "innovative"

Press Release
To protect the spacecraft and its crew from such severe conditions, the Orion Project Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston identified a team to develop the thermal protection system, or TPS, heat shield. For more than three years, NASA's Orion Thermal Protection System Advanced Development Project considered eight different candidate materials, including the two final candidates, Avcoat and Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator, or PICA, both of which have proven successful in previous space missions.

Avcoat was used for the Apollo capsule heat shield and on select regions of the space shuttle orbiter in its earliest flights. It was put back into production for the study. It is made of silica fibers with an epoxy-novalic resin filled in a fiberglass-phenolic honeycomb and is manufactured directly onto the heat shield substructure and attached as a unit to the crew module during spacecraft assembly. PICA, which is manufactured in blocks and attached to the vehicle after fabrication, was used on Stardust, NASA's first robotic space mission dedicated solely to exploring a comet, and the first sample return mission since Apollo.

"NASA made a significant technology development effort, conducted thousands of tests, and tapped into the facilities, talents and resources across the agency to understand how these materials would perform on Orion's five-meter wide heat shield," said James Reuther, the project manager of the study at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. "We manufactured full-scale demonstrations to prove they could be efficiently and reliably produced for Orion."

Ames led the study in cooperation with experts from across the agency. Engineers performed rigorous thermal, structural and environmental testing on both candidate materials. The team then compared the materials based on mass, thermal and structural performance, life cycle costs, manufacturability, reliability and certification challenges. NASA, working with Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin, recommended Avcoat as the more robust, reliable and mature system.

"The biggest challenge with Avcoat has been reviving the technology to manufacture the material such that its performance is similar to what was demonstrated during the Apollo missions," said John Kowal, Orion's thermal protection system manager at Johnson. "Once that had been accomplished, the system evaluations clearly indicated that Avcoat was the preferred system."
Today's innovation = yesterday's accomplishment. Shows how institutional knowledge can be lost (and re-gained with effort).
posted by stbalbach at 2:31 PM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


For those who missed it, this post on a short film about exploring the solar system offers a nice complement to the launch.
posted by audi alteram partem at 2:34 PM on December 3, 2014


Thermal Protection System Advanced Development Project considered eight different candidate materials, including the two final candidates, Avcoat and Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator, or PICA, both of which have proven successful in previous space missions.

I hope they remember we are using a new cover page when they send over the reports.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:37 PM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


and an unnamed tyrannosaurus rex

Uh oh. Any time you have a T-Rex in a spacecraft cockpit, you need to be ready for the sudden but inevitable betrayal.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:02 PM on December 3, 2014 [10 favorites]


I love that we live in a society that is launching a Back To The Future DeLorean model and a Captain Kirk (in environmental suit!) action figure into space as part of Serious Science Experimentation™.
posted by Servo5678 at 3:21 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


and an unnamed tyrannosaurus rex

They're sending a real dino bone to space. It's not fair. Dino bones have already been to space. Via A COMET LAUNCHER.

yes I know technically at that point it was no longer an asteroid and that it hit the ocean and that any organism or organism parts ejected into space would have burnt up, but it does make you wonder how far into the atmosphere organism parts got. This is kind of gross to contemplate but I bet there's a paper on it somewhere.
posted by barchan at 3:44 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm really disappointed by that heat shield video. The explanation of reentry heating isn't just wrong, it's one of those of those aerodynamic just-so stories that cause confusion for students trying to learn that subject.

I understand that the engineer who's speaking--who certainly understands the source of the problem she's solving--probably didn't write the script, and the public affairs person who did probably wants the simplest explanation possible. But wasn't anyone willing to make the case for "the reality is more complicated, but you can think of it as similar to..."?

There's nothing wrong with giving people simplified explanations of complex physics, in material for a general audience. But it's only fair to point out that that's what you're doing. Especially when the audience for an video like this is self-selected for people who are interested, and probably includes some young people who will go on to try and learn this stuff. They don't need to start their education with a head full of firmly-embedded misconceptions.
posted by CHoldredge at 4:06 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


IN THEORY, assuming everything goes as planned, I'll be at the launch tomorrow as part of the NASA Social group.

I am....pretty fucking excited, yeah.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 5:24 PM on December 3, 2014 [10 favorites]


The explanation of reentry heating isn't just wrong, it's one of those of those aerodynamic just-so stories that cause confusion for students trying to learn that subject.

Huh. I've always just been told this same story. I'd be fascinated to learn the actual explanation.
posted by Dreadnought at 6:27 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


As I understand it, most of the heat of re-entry comes from the pressurisation of the shock wave itself, not the friction of the air impacting on the capsule. Doesn't really matter - you've still got a blowtorch of ionised gas aimed at your underbits - but you might as well get these things right.
posted by Devonian at 6:50 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


As Devonian said, the heat comes from the air being compressed against the hull. When you compress a gas it gets hot. A fire piston uses this effect for starting fires. It needs a cylinder to contain the air but the Orion capsule is traveling so fast that the air just doesn't have enough time to get out of the way.
posted by TheJoven at 7:02 PM on December 3, 2014


The engineer showed up in the comments to mention that the explanation in the video is wrong (she kind of threw the videographer under the bus, though).
posted by dirigibleman at 7:39 PM on December 3, 2014


If ever a photo cried out, begged, pleaded, for a caption contest, it would be this one.
posted by fredludd at 7:46 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Compression" can be a misleading idea when there's a shock involved; that implies some similarity to the adiabatic case, and shocks are strongly not adiabatic.

In terms of energetics, the heating is more or less from ram pressure. You're striking a bunch of cold atoms with a blunt surface at a velocity much greater than their thermal velocity (~sound speed), they pick up some fraction of that speed, so those atoms are now hot. You can check this by plugging in a rough orbital velocity of a few km/s into the equation for the speed of sound; the temperature of a gas with those sorts of velocities is thousands of Kelvin (we're in order-of-magnitude land here, no need to be more precise). This picture mostly holds if the cold atmosphere atoms are hit by a buffer layer surrounding the capsule rather than the capsule itself, which leads us to the topic of shocks.

In a more traditional fluid dynamics perspective, you have a supersonic incoming flow (in the capsule frame of reference) that meets a much slower boundary layer surrounding the capsule; the result is that a shock forms slightly upstream of the capsule. This shock is the very narrow region where the atmosphere first encounters the supersonic flow of the reentry vehicle, causing an abrupt change in density, pressure, temperature, etc. (The shock has to be narrow because normal pressure waves can't propagate upstream in a supersonic flow). You can compute the resulting thermodynamic state variables for the post-shock region by just specifying the boundary conditions; the flow has to reach small-ish velocities relative to the capsule at the capsule surface (along the direction of travel), so that plus the density and speed of the incoming flow determines everything. The Rankine-Hugoniot equations will give you that solution. I've never found them to be particularly intuitive, but maybe an actual fluid dynamics person has a better way to look at them.
posted by kiltedtaco at 8:30 PM on December 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


The launch is on hold because of a fucking BOAT?
posted by Optamystic at 4:02 AM on December 4, 2014


Years of planning, designing and construction, with double and triple checks and the launch time is pushed back to 7:17am today, due to a boat being in the area.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:07 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I have an idea! Let's go watch the launch from my new boat!"
posted by dirigibleman at 4:08 AM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Holy crap. I haven't been this excited for a launch since I was a boy and the first shuttles were going up.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:15 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Another hold due a gust of wind.

I know why they're where they are, but sometimes "launch delayed due boats and wind" suggests a non-coastal launch site may have some merit...
posted by Devonian at 4:22 AM on December 4, 2014


Yeah, until something explodes and then you're really in trouble
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:24 AM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


The Russians use non-coastal launch sites, but they've got a little bit more space than the US does (pardon the pun).
posted by Optamystic at 4:28 AM on December 4, 2014


I don't think the Russians have much choice.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:31 AM on December 4, 2014


Well, you probably don't do it from downtown Chicago (oh, I dunno though). Or be an authoritarian state, where the people revel in glorious rain of fire and iron from the heavens.

I wasn't being serious. I know why these things are in general fired out over the sea, steppe or jungle. I'm actually really happy that the Cape is where it is, because it means I've managed to visit.

(I got to stand under a Saturn V. If you go, you'll get to stand underneath a Saturn V. I don't know what excuse you have for not having done that yet, but at the point I stood under the Saturn V, I realised that all my excuses up until that point were completely and utterly bogus.)
posted by Devonian at 4:35 AM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't think the Russians have much choice.

I hear they recently acquired some sea side property.
posted by Optamystic at 4:36 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


7:55 Eastern new launch time.
posted by TreeRooster at 4:47 AM on December 4, 2014


Hold at T-3 minutes and 6 seconds...
posted by Devonian at 4:53 AM on December 4, 2014


fer cryin' out loud...
posted by Optamystic at 4:54 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


While we're waiting...

Patrick AFB 45th Weather Squadron

Old Delta II payload planning guide
posted by mikelieman at 5:05 AM on December 4, 2014


There's a weather system overhead that's causing the gusts which trigger the scripts that shut down the rocket that annoys the MeFites...

It's due to clear in 30 minutes to an hour. There's about 40 minutes after that before the launch window closes (which itself is set by the need for daylight re-entry). Currently, there seems to be another issue that the abort happened while some transfer operation hadn't completed, so couldn't be reversed as it should, but there have been a few problems like that mentioned in the loop that the commentator hasn't talked about and they all seem to get sorted out in good order.

Some of my earliest memories are of watching in a mixture of frustration and excitement as very large rockets sat glued to the ground way past their (and my) bedtime.

So this is nice.

NOW GET THAT DARN THING UP THERE!
posted by Devonian at 5:07 AM on December 4, 2014


*sigh* I could have slept for another hour.
posted by dirigibleman at 5:07 AM on December 4, 2014


Space is hard, but sometimes just getting there is the hardest part.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:10 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Now the central core engine bearing temperature is too high.

As a taxpaying layman, I want to know why my tax dollars aren't being used to harness the ferocious wind to cool down the central core engine bearings!!!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:13 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


8:26am EST... here we go! Ten minutes and counting...
posted by ReeMonster at 5:16 AM on December 4, 2014


Ah, they used some sort of secondary measures to the temperatures within range, not sure exactly what. It *sounds* like they used different sensors in a different era of the rocket to get temperaturse within range. But I'm probably hearing that wrong.

Now it's just the wind. New launch time of 8:26am.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:16 AM on December 4, 2014


The check engine came on, but it was just a bad sensor.

Launch at 8:26.
posted by dirigibleman at 5:17 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, hoping that wasn't a case of "Go-itis"... and we don't see ka-boom.
posted by ReeMonster at 5:18 AM on December 4, 2014


The swing arm system is ready!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:22 AM on December 4, 2014


Another hold because a drain valve didn't close on something.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:24 AM on December 4, 2014


Fucking cryonics ....
posted by mikelieman at 5:26 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, I mean, it IS rocket science.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:28 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Actually it was two valves, one on the core rocket, the other on the port rocket. They're discussing what to do.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:28 AM on December 4, 2014


"Let's try opening and closing them..."
posted by mikelieman at 5:34 AM on December 4, 2014


They're jiggling the handles.
posted by dirigibleman at 5:34 AM on December 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Evidently this problem has occurred on previous Delta IV launches, so they're going to try recycling all the valves on the first stage of all three rockets five times and see if that fixes it.

Yes, they're kinda toggling the on and off switch to see if the problem goes away.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:34 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Over in Chat, trimble is wondering whether it'll go up before Gavlebocken.
posted by Devonian at 5:49 AM on December 4, 2014


Oh, I get it. When I tell people to reboot, I'm spouting an I.T. cliche...when THEY do it, it's bloody rocket science.
posted by Optamystic at 5:50 AM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Birds keep flying in front of the cameras, mocking us: "Oooh, my valves close just fine, ALL THE TIME."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:58 AM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


It's important that they can shut those valves when the time comes given the way mainsail engines are prone to overheating.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:02 AM on December 4, 2014


I guess those birds haven't heard about this incident.
posted by Optamystic at 6:03 AM on December 4, 2014


OK, @WaywardBoat is a delightful alternative to some flavor of "what kind of idiots!?!?!" rage porn.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:15 AM on December 4, 2014 [3 favorites]




NASA: fuck it, we're going to disable the wind monitors and just watch it manually. Still on hold with the Customer Service Rep from Lockheed about the valves.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:28 AM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Last chance at launch: 9:44 EST.
posted by TreeRooster at 6:29 AM on December 4, 2014


Interesting talk on the channel, basically it sounds like they're going to switch off the link between the sensors and the launch system, and eyeball the wind speeds.
posted by carter at 6:29 AM on December 4, 2014


What exactly causes a launch window to close when you're just doing an earth orbit? Is it just that looking for your space craft in the Pacific ocean with a flashlight kind of sucks, are they actually using lunar tidal forces to get an extra little boost, or is it something I'm not thinking of?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:32 AM on December 4, 2014


I think they want to have the re-entry occur in daylight.
posted by carter at 6:34 AM on December 4, 2014


I suspect it's a matter of putting the daylight landing in a particular spot where Orion can be recovered. If they launched at say 11 am, recovery ships couldn't get to it in time.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:34 AM on December 4, 2014


It's the whole flashlight thing.
posted by Optamystic at 6:34 AM on December 4, 2014


Aww, now I has a sad.
posted by Rallon at 6:35 AM on December 4, 2014


Scrubbed.
posted by Optamystic at 6:35 AM on December 4, 2014


scrub. See you tomorrow!
posted by TreeRooster at 6:36 AM on December 4, 2014


Try again tomorrow at 7:05 am!

And someone move that damn boat.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:36 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Dang, I have meetings tomorrow morning..crap
posted by dukes909 at 6:36 AM on December 4, 2014


Yes, they want the whole mission to occur during daylight hours, not just because it will be much easier to find the capsule after splashdown, but because this (hugely exciting! I was up at 6:45 this morning just to see the huge rocket go off!) launch and splashdown makes for fantastic press for NASA. The news channels are sure to over the lift-off and the recovery of the capsule when it splashes down around lunchtime, which it will if tomorrow's launch goes according to schedule.

I can step outside and watch launches from my front lawn, but we're thinking of driving over in the convertible tomorrow to view this one up close, as it should be a gorgeous day: sunny and a high of ~80 degrees.

My favorite quote from today's coverage: "We could have people on Mars as early as 2021." Yay!
posted by misha at 9:27 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've got a ticket to ride.
posted by merelyglib at 9:42 AM on December 4, 2014


> "We could have people on Mars as early as 2021."

And the second crew to launch will bury their corpses there as early as 2031!

(Sorry, cynical)
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 10:32 AM on December 4, 2014


My favorite quote from today's coverage: "We could have people on Mars as early as 2021."

I'm really uncomfortable with the way NASA has been trying to link this to humans going to Mars. There's no concrete plan to do that at all, let alone funding. They're setting themselves up to look like failures when it doesn't happen anytime soon.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:43 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I actually think I understand what they're doing. They're trying to frame the conversation as a matter of "When," while still emphasizing that the path is a series of many steps, and this is only one of them. I get the feeling that they're trying to inform the public that this IS actually all possible, and we're making progress, but that the programs have to be paid for and supported over a long period of time. They want Americans to ask their congresspeople what they're doing to make this happen. They want congresspeople to think that their constituents actually CARE whether or not human spaceflight is funded.

I hope it works.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:14 PM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Iron man, Captain Kirk, Slimey the Worm and a unnamed Tyrannosaurus Rex... and Bert's rubber ducky, and a crash-test dummy action figure.

I want the movie of the space disaster requiring them to put aside their differences and work together to save the day (with only Abed and the Dean as their support crew.)
posted by Zed at 10:12 PM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Things are looking good for a second attempt this morning, but I'm wary. That damn boat is out there, somewhere....
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:43 AM on December 5, 2014


Well good morning again everyone
posted by efalk at 3:47 AM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is going way smoother than yesterday.

I'm jinxing it, aren't I?
posted by dirigibleman at 4:02 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


The stream just died. ARE YOU KIDDIG ME?
posted by Optamystic at 4:05 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


AAAAnd my connection to nasa tv went down at t-14 seconds.
posted by efalk at 4:06 AM on December 5, 2014


Liftoff!
posted by dirigibleman at 4:07 AM on December 5, 2014


I think everyone's did. That does not fill me with confidence.
posted by Optamystic at 4:07 AM on December 5, 2014


I blame dirigibleman, obviously.
posted by efalk at 4:09 AM on December 5, 2014


My stream is fine (NASA.gov).

Main engine cutoff. Still good.
posted by dirigibleman at 4:09 AM on December 5, 2014


Yeah, my stream died too, had to switch to fucking CNN which showed the launch for all of minute.

But yay, LAUNCH!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:10 AM on December 5, 2014


Yup, lost the stream at t-15. I'm kinda heartbroken.
posted by Sokka shot first at 4:10 AM on December 5, 2014


Obviously.
posted by Optamystic at 4:10 AM on December 5, 2014


2nd stage ignition
posted by dirigibleman at 4:11 AM on December 5, 2014


It's up to 14k mph.
posted by dirigibleman at 4:14 AM on December 5, 2014


GO GO GO ORION!
posted by Happy Dave at 4:16 AM on December 5, 2014


My stream cut off at liftoff !!! Bah, missed the whole first minute of the launch :-(
posted by Pendragon at 4:17 AM on December 5, 2014


They're going to do a BBQ roll for even baking.
posted by dirigibleman at 4:19 AM on December 5, 2014


Upper stage cutoff. All Kerbals happy. About 100 nautical miles up.
posted by dirigibleman at 4:24 AM on December 5, 2014


They've moved to launch replays. I think I'm going back to bed.
posted by dirigibleman at 4:29 AM on December 5, 2014


Watched the moment of liftoff on local TV and then ran outside but the weather sucked-- no gorgeous day today after all!--and the misty rain and cloud coverage obscured the flame trail.

Still, came back in and saw the separation real time, which was very cool.
posted by misha at 4:29 AM on December 5, 2014


What happens to the service module and the actual rockets? Do they burn up or are they recovered?
posted by dukes909 at 4:43 AM on December 5, 2014


There is no actual service module on this flight, just structural mockup or something similar. They and everything else except the Orion capsule will burn up once they're jettisoned.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:53 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Fun fact about the Delta IV Heavy rocket that launched Orion this morning:
After the rocket is fuelled, the liquid hydrogen and oxygen is so cold that it constantly evaporates, spilling out clouds of vapour. A small flame to the side of the launch pad constantly burns off hydrogen to reduce the risk of detonation. Even so, enough hydrogen pools up that Delta IV rockets have an unnerving and absolutely badass habit of setting themselves on fire during a launch.
via io9, with a photo.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:06 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Liquid Hydrogen makes everything orders of magnitude more complicated. RP-1 is the way to go.
posted by mikelieman at 6:04 AM on December 5, 2014


y'know, if they would hook up the live telemetry stream to a KSP UI.... I keep wanting to hit "m" to see where the apoapsis and periapsis are ending up. C'mon, NASA!
posted by Kyol at 6:04 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Anyone know why they're landing in the pacific, as opposed to the Atlantic, near the Cape. WOuldn't doing the latter make it easier to return the vehicle for inspection?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:20 AM on December 5, 2014


They're trying to frame the conversation as a matter of "When," while still emphasizing that the path is a series of many steps, and this is only one of them. I get the feeling that they're trying to inform the public that this IS actually all possible, and we're making progress, but that the programs have to be paid for and supported over a long period of time.

Oh I hear you and agree that's what they're trying to do. But I'm seeing many stories where people are posting that this a trip to Mars or NASA has announced an Orion flight to Mars, etc, etc. Just don't want to see negative blowback from an unclear message.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:27 AM on December 5, 2014


Anyone know why they're landing in the pacific, as opposed to the Atlantic, near the Cape.

They probably just want to stop at the In-N-Out Burger. The one on Camrose. Near Radford.
posted by valkane at 6:36 AM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


NASA Tv is showing images from the cameras in/on Orion. Earth never looked so good!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:36 AM on December 5, 2014


Everything on Orion is working perfectly, according to NASA TV. It's passed through the Van Allen Belt with zero problems to its electronics.

Here's a view of Earth from Orion. NASA's also confirmed that they've received a video dump of the launch abort system activating. Orion's reaction thrusters, used for positioning the craft, have been turned on are operating just fine.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:50 AM on December 5, 2014


For those that know better than I - What is the point of this ship design? From cnn - "When it becomes fully operational, Orion's crew module will be able to carry four people on a 21-day mission into deep space or six astronauts for shorter missions. By comparison, the Apollo crew modules held three astronauts and were in space for six to 12 days. "

What can we do in 21 days that we can't do in 12?
posted by efalk at 6:54 AM on December 5, 2014


What can we do in 21 days that we can't do in 12?

Go beyond the Moon, essentially have longer missions, i.e. go to Mars or the asteroid belt.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:57 AM on December 5, 2014


We can get to mars and back in 21 days?
posted by efalk at 6:59 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, not even close. It would take at least 8 months and Orion would probably have a habitation type module attached to it, to give the crew more space to work in.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:03 AM on December 5, 2014


Nope.
posted by Pendragon at 7:04 AM on December 5, 2014


The 'staying in space for 21 days' threw me, sounded kinda pointless as it was stated. I was pretty damn sure Mars wasn't a 3 week round trip but then again I don't work for nasa.
posted by efalk at 7:09 AM on December 5, 2014


Remember, Orion isn't being designed for a specific single mission or goal, other than operating beyond low Earth orbit. So it makes sense to have the ability to operate for longer periods. In the early 2000s, when the plan was for NASA to return to the Moon, those missions would have involved 7-10 day stays on the surface, instead of the maximum of 3 that Apollo did. So naturally Orion would have to be capable of staying in space for longer periods. Being able to do that gives NASA more flexibility in the types of missions it can run.

And Orion has reached its peaked altitude of 3,600 miles and is heading back to Earth now.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:16 AM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Anyone know why they're landing in the pacific, as opposed to the Atlantic, near the Cape.

I expect that's just a matter of the Pacific being a bigger target in the event they don't nail the entry window.
posted by Kyol at 7:34 AM on December 5, 2014


Crew module separation confirmed, the Delta IV upper stage and Service Module structural representation have been jettisoned and will burn up over the Pacific Ocean. Hmm maybe that's why the flight is landing in the Pacific, to allow those parts to avoid hitting any populated areas.

Anyway, Orion is still operating just fine and splashdown will be within the hour, just a mile from the intended site, basically a bulls eye. Orion will hit the atmosphere at about 20,000 mph and the heat shield will reach temperatures of around 4,000 F. The shield itself is rated for 6,000F, but the lower temperatures on this flight are considered a good test for seeing how everything works.

When the Service Module does fly on later missions, it'll be one built by the ESA, based off their Automated Transfer Vehicle, which was successfully used to repeatedly supply the ISS.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:38 AM on December 5, 2014


If there's a problem with the craft, being able to hang out an extra 2 weeks while they strap a replacement to a Delta IV-Heavy would be a Good Thing(TM).
posted by mikelieman at 7:41 AM on December 5, 2014


Does anyone have a link to a graphic showing all the transformations the Orion module undergoes? i.e. It launches with the LES and fairing in place and those are ditched after they get out of the atmosphere, and I get the feeling there's more that happens when the service module is separated but it gets really fuzzy in my mind's eye.

I suspect I'm mostly getting confused by various artists' interpretations from various stages of development more than what actually happens, to be honest.
posted by Kyol at 7:42 AM on December 5, 2014


Here's an animation of the flght. It starts after the launch, but does visuals of how things jettison and the craft positions itself at various points.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:46 AM on December 5, 2014


Ah OK - I thought they'd kept a white outer layer (for thermal reasons, presumably) before going to the graphite reentry mode.
posted by Kyol at 7:53 AM on December 5, 2014


Orion was designed for extended lunar missions where it'd spend up to 21 days in transfer orbit and six months "loitering" in lunar orbit while the crew stayed on the service.

NASA had talked about an Asteroid Redirect Mission where they'd tow an asteroid to just outside of lunar orbit, then go there in (presumably) this thing. In theory it wouldn't take much more time than going to the moon.

There's really no point in taking a (Earth-compliant) heavy pressure vessel and heat shield to Mars, so I doubt we're going there in this thing.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:53 AM on December 5, 2014


Orion just completed a 10 second burn to fine tune its approach. Everything performing flawlessly and above expectations.

The parachute system on this thing is sick! Contains eleven 'chutes, which will be used to slow Orion to about 20mph (32kph) when it lands in the Pacific ocean.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:11 AM on December 5, 2014


There's really no point in taking a (Earth-compliant) heavy pressure vessel and heat shield to Mars, so I doubt we're going there in this thing.

Not all the way to Mars, no, but you would want it for the early part of the flight, as an abort option. So, if you've got a failure during your Mars transfer burn, you can still come home. Which reminds me a bit of the "eyeballs-out" configuration for the proposed, but never flown Apollo Venus Flyby.
posted by ddbeck at 8:17 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's pretty remarkable to be watching this live from the pov of looking out of the capsule window.
posted by carter at 8:20 AM on December 5, 2014


OK, the stream really sucks for me now.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:23 AM on December 5, 2014


Subsonic!
posted by Happy Dave at 8:24 AM on December 5, 2014


There was the usual communication blackout as plasma built up around Orion. Comms are back, its bout 60,000 feet up in the atmosphere, getting ready to deploy parachutes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:24 AM on December 5, 2014


Chutes away!
posted by Happy Dave at 8:25 AM on December 5, 2014


Christ, in the time it took me to type that sentence, Orion fell to 25,000 feet. splashdown in four minutes!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:25 AM on December 5, 2014




And there's video from an aerial drone of the 'chutes deploying!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:26 AM on December 5, 2014


and stream crash!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:26 AM on December 5, 2014


Yay, on main chutes. Much slower now.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:26 AM on December 5, 2014


Main chutes are good, nearly at splashdown.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:26 AM on December 5, 2014


1,000 feet!
posted by Happy Dave at 8:29 AM on December 5, 2014


100!
posted by Happy Dave at 8:29 AM on December 5, 2014


SPLASHDOWN!
posted by Happy Dave at 8:29 AM on December 5, 2014


Jesus NASA, buy some bandwidth!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:30 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


The earlier shot from the drone as it picked up Orion falling (plummeting? hurtling) pre-deployment was spectacular.
posted by carter at 8:32 AM on December 5, 2014


Ok, it's landed upright and in a stable position, nice. Sounds like they absolute killed it success wise on this mission!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:33 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Total elapsed distance is 60,000+ miles.

Video is still stuttering for me. NASA, we can't go Mars on a Comcast connection!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:34 AM on December 5, 2014


YESSSSSSSS!!!

I was lucky enough to be able to watch the launch from the causeway this morning. FAN. TASTIC. So relieved that after all of yesterday's frustrations, today things went off without a hitch. So proud of every single person involved with making this happen.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:35 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Five balloons are supposed to inflate after the craft is in the water, to help it stay upright. Seems only 3 did fully, 1 partially and 1 didn't. If that's the worst of things that didn't go as planned, that's a helluva success rate.

Orion is being left on as it bobs in the ocean, to collect more data about thermal properties.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:43 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Some of the drogue 'chutes and the parachute cover were not recovered, but the main chutes will be for. More analysis, more data!

Now feeling bummed that it'll be four years before another Orion flight, due to having to finishe designing, building and testing the SLS rocket and ESA Service Module. Here's hoping that can safely be sped up a bit! See ya in November of 2018!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:52 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there are times when I think about the Apollo program and just boggle at the rate of change and integration they accomplished.
posted by Kyol at 9:05 AM on December 5, 2014


Am I the only one getting an overwhelming Kerbal Space Program vibe from the CGI graphics in the NASA Orion launch video ?
posted by pharm at 9:05 AM on December 5, 2014


No Jeb, it's not just you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:52 AM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]






That was just the best. THE BEST. I'm still coming down from it all. What a day! I must have explained this to fifty people today—including plenty of complete strangers. I mean for some reason, today feels like the 21st century has finally kicked off. Thanks for the thread, Brandon Blatcher. Space sub-Mefi's (ha) are one of my favorite sub-Mefi's!
posted by Mike Mongo at 4:37 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Guardian's take…
posted by dukes909 at 6:00 PM on December 5, 2014


The Empire, of course, is Nasa, a once noble but now creaky agency that has devolved from moonshots to renting rides from the Russians, all in the span of Buzz Aldren’s adulthood

If you're being swarmy shit you should at least get the name of the second man on the Moon right.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:42 PM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's a Comment Is Free peice by an Elon Musk fan, not the editorial position of The Guardian, despite the evidence of the spelling error.
posted by Artw at 6:52 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was beginning to wonder whether George Lucas made an extra special edition in which the Empire grants billions in contracts to the Rebels to undermine itself. Bizarre.
posted by ddbeck at 6:59 PM on December 5, 2014


It's more like hiring Boba Fett to take care of your deliveries for a flat fee, no questions asked. You could go through the hassle of requisitioning another Star Destroyer and dealing with the attendant politics and bureaucracy, but that stopped being fun after Peter Cushing blew up.
posted by Seiten Taisei at 5:22 PM on December 6, 2014


Via Reddit: This week in space flight. (details)
posted by benito.strauss at 2:58 PM on December 7, 2014


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