Delays Likely for Final Two Shuttle Missions


The final scheduled space shuttle flight of Endeavour that has been targeted for late November 2010 is now likely to move to January or even February of 2011 because the primary payload, the $1.5 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, won’t be delivered to KSC in time to support the earlier date. Additionally, the penultimate scheduled mission, STS-133 Discovery, currently slated for September 16, could be delayed until October. As we reported yesterday, the first hint of Endeavour’s delay came from the announcement of a new opportunity for students to send experiments to space on Endeavour, and now Florida Today reports Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana said it could even be February until the AMS is ready to go.

The White House and Congress are considering adding a third and final shuttle mission that could be flown next June. Each additional month of shuttle operations costs $100 million to $200 million. While the funding for shuttle missions technically only goes until the end of 2010, mission managers have said there is currently enough money in the shuttle budget for about two months of operations in 2011.

After that and possibly one more mission next summer, if funding is approved, Cabana, speaking at a National Space Club Florida Committee meeting, hopes to see KSC transition be able to support commercial space ventures and be less reliant on a single NASA program like Apollo, the shuttle or even Constellation.

“What we don’t want to be in the future is tied to any one large program,” Cabana said.

The delay for the AMS involves switching out to magnets that will last longer in space, since operations of the ISS have been extended to 2020. Liquid helium would have been used cool the superconducting magnet’s temperature to near absolute zero. But tests showed the helium would dissipate withing 2-3 years, leaving the seven-ton experiment useless.

Source: Florida Today

10 Replies to “Delays Likely for Final Two Shuttle Missions”

  1. Nice to see that Cabana, at least, appreciates a more robust enterprise on behalf of his operations.

    First on list of commercial space exploitation:
    – Fuel supply. (Technical notes: NEO water dissociation? Atmospheric “dip” collection? Must ask Ted on feasibility of later…)
    – Liquid helium supply. (Solar wind collection? Solar powered liquidizers, of course. Maybe Sastra knows some on that…)
    – …

    @ Aqua:

    Liquid helium equipment is “standard fare” on many space experiments, say the Planck probe.

    Today superconducting generators are tried commercially in hydropower stations. The 2nd gen superconductor ceramic filaments are embedded in a ductile silver matrix.

    In accelerators such as LHC the more powerful fields allowed makes for more problems, such as fields punching through isolation volumes. In that respect the technology is often more sensitive.

    @ tonyorlando:

    You pose some fallacies here.

    The first is called “a false dilemma”. Space exploration and military exploitation can be done in parallel.

    The second is called “conspiracy theories”. They are always the least likely explanation for a phenomena, by construction. According to theology it is “profound understanding” that gods and conspiracy theories alike are constructed to be as little testable as possible. Others calls it “simplistic BS”.

    The third is that cell phones use satellites.

    The fourth is that scientists wants this specifically; they usually go for less expensive automatic probes; and that they are “proud” over manned space applications. Maybe they are, but they have much more technology to be proud of that research allowed. Cell phones, for example.

  2. It seems odd that the original AMS configuration did not have recharging capability built in to it? Aren’t the superconducting magnets more sensitive?

  3. I find all this disturbing. We make rocket ships to send to the Moon, but what we are really doing is testing rockets for war. Then we use NASA to send satellites in the sky mainly also for war, and also create garbage in the sky forever with this space junk. yet we all pretend that we are scientists for space exploration, or that NASA gives us cell phones. And even if we just lean on the idea of all this is worth it for cell phones; then we have welcomed further irresponsible behavior here on earth with dangerous drivers not watching where they are going. So exactly why are so proud to learn how to send a rocket in the sky, or be the scientists who;s proud egos allow them such. Have we not learned anything from Einstein? When will our endevors be about our neighbor, and not just ourselves?

  4. @aqua

    seems there is a law that states your comment about another tells more of yourself than anything. There is also a law that states the simplest explanation is usually the best one. Conspiracy, man, you are not in the loop of information. I guess you think george Bush is a good guy. Back on topic now. yes, believe it is people and their egos and nothing more. That this affection is self serving and at the same time causing damage. There is also a law that states that behind every so called improvement that there is a hidden thing taken away.

    What I have learned from being around just a few people who are smart about the stars; is that they are humble. Not know it alls. I do do suggest questions for thought, do know know who uses your discoveries. That its not civilian for the most part. That you are considered to be an enabler.

    Just because you study science, does not mean that you are smart. I bet I know about people than you do because I listen and welcome different thoughts. That not knowing, you learn more. Yes, I am a political activists, one who care about a future “on this planet”, stands up to bullies, and asks questions. Better be glad there are people like me on this planet. You must be alien.

  5. @tonyorlando – Huh? What’s so strange about making cryogenic enabled experiments rechargeable? Of course that means we’d have to have the capability to do that. Space borne cryogenic detectors have that limitation presently…liquid hydrogen or helium is very difficult to contain. My suggestion is that it is a shame we don’t have a way to extend the life of such instruments and missions. Noted here might be the Kepler mission – estimated to be a 3 year project..

    George Bush is simply a ‘supply and demand’ kind of guy as far as I’m concerned. His actions while in office demonstrate that principle. Where are the visionaries?

  6. There is also a law that states the simplest explanation is usually the best one.

    Oh, for the love of … science! If I were a conspirationist I would say that you do this to set me off again, considering that I gave a long rant on the subject recently. In any case, now I have to make a follow up.

    To summarize that thread for you, there is no such “law” that has been formulated and tested. What can be observed is that:

    1) Theories tend to be “parsimonious” in a less well defined way. For models, it is the number of parameters (which goes as the number of entities used).

    2) It makes good research strategy, from 1) and other considerations, to look for parsimony first.

    But even so, predictivity is _always_ the overriding concern, because that is what makes a theory (explanation) and because parsimony only works as a “beauty” measure to distinguish between equally predictive theories.

    For example, in biology where contingency is king, phylogeny use parsimony (as bayesian methods) to choose between predictive trees that has been made _very much topologically complex_ by contingency. (Here complexity can be measured as Kolmogorov complexity, for example, the compressibility of a tree description.) First complexity by predictivity, then parsimony by likelihood.

    As regards conspiracy ideas there is, as I said, neither predictivity nor likelihood.

    That is, as conspirationists doesn’t actually want predictive explanation but a non-removable comfort blanket to hide actual life complexities behind, they purposefully make their ideas as hard to test as possible by the usual ‘trick’ of moving goalposts (removing predictivity).

    “- No records of Moon landing faking stages or whistle-blowers; well then, of course the NASA would say/go after that!”

    Further, as such goalpost moving takes us from the most likely scenario towards the least likely (by stacking ever more factors on top, and unlikely ones at that), it is against the very concept of parsimony you want to hide behind. See for example the biology example, where parsimony means high likelihood.

    Sorry dude, no comfy blankets here. Life is really complex. Because it is real, not a conspiracy.

  7. @tonyorlando

    The law that states that the simplest explanation is usually the best one is mere wishful thinking.
    Sometimes you are lucky and the simplest explanation is the best one. Sometimes, however, the simplest explanation turns out to be utterly wrong.

    You cannot refill superconducting magnets with liquid helium in space. Liquid helium will start boiling at -268°C. If the temperature rises above this value during transportation and handling, desaster pops up.

  8. 1) Theories tend to be “parsimonious” in a less well defined way. For models, it is the number of parameters (which goes as the number of entities used).

    Also, since it is so pertinent here, “parsimony” is _never_ the number of assumptions.

    As I explained on the thread, that conflates predictivity with parsimony. In a testability sense the theory’s assumptions are testable implications of using it in the first place, or in other word predictions as much as the usual sense of predictions. If “an assumption” fails in test, the theory fails. No mass, no gravity, for example.

    Axiomatizing a theory to distinguish between its assumptions and its predictions isn’t meaningful as regards testability, it only makes sense within an axiomatic theory. Call it “local parsimony”, if you want.

    [And there are other kinds, every much as testable. Algorithmic theories like QFT which even today isn’t fully axiomatized AFAIU, 2nd quantization remains to axiomatize. In fact, the number of possible algorithmic theories far outnumber the smaller set of axiomatic, see for example computer science complexity classes.]

    So when you imply that conspirationism is simple, interpreted by me to mean “it is just one assumption”, you make another fully false claim! That idea can never be realized by an eventual testable theory of parsimony as used to distinguish theories. In fact, we can already reject it by considering testability as per above.

    And as I noted, in reality conspirationism is nothing like simple, as goalpost moving adds layers and detracts likelihoods. Invisible to the faithful but so painfully obvious for the sane observation maker.

  9. @GBendt – “You cannot refill superconducting magnets with liquid helium in space.” No, personally I can’t do that. But never say never…. cuz yah just never know!

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