Author Archives: roamingfirehydrant

About roamingfirehydrant

I get paid to break things.

SLS reaches milestone

The Space Launch System, the latest NASA rocket, reached what’s called KDP-C, or Key Decision Point-C. This means that the powers that be gave it the green light, which is a step farther than Ares or Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle or any of the rocket programs of the last 20 years have made. Components such as the core stage and the five-segment rocket booster have passed their critical design reviews, and Michoud has been producing barrel segments for the core stage.
sls barrels
So what’s next? ATK is getting ready for the first qualification motor test of the five-segment rocket booster. Sixteen R-25 engines are at Stennis, with one being readied for testing this fall. Orion’s first flight, Exploration Flight Test-1 is set to fly in December.

Onward and upward.

NASA press release here.

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Curiosity wheel damage: The problem and solutions | The Planetary Society

There are holes in Curiosity wheels. There have always been holes — the rover landed with twelve holes deliberately machined in each wheel to aid in rover navigation. But there are new holes now: punctures, fissures, and ghastly tears. The holes in Curiosity’s wheels have become a major concern to the mission, affecting every day of mission operations and the choice of path to Mount Sharp.

via Curiosity wheel damage: The problem and solutions | The Planetary Society.

One of the Saturn program greybeards would always talk about designing for the unknown unknowns. In this case, the Curiosity team designed the wheels to counteract some of the problems encountered by the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. What they didn’t know is how much damage would be done by fatigue and punctures. They didn’t know the rover would encounter ventifacts (wind-eroded pyramidal rocks) that are embedded in bedrock, so they don’t move as the wheels roll over them.

The good thing is that they’ve been checking the condition of the rover, they understand the cause, and they can adjust the drive path or drive backwards to minimize further damage. The designers for the next rover, Mars 2020 should take note.

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Innovative Hydrogen Leak Detection Tape Earns Prestigious Award | NASA

[Principal investigator Dr. Luke] Roberson explained that, from time to time, during the Space Shuttle Program tracking down the precise location of a hydrogen leak was a difficult challenge. Liquid hydrogen is a lightweight and extremely powerful rocket propellant used extensively by NASA. Its characteristics also make it highly flammable and explosive, requiring close attention to avoid leaks…NASA enlisted the assistance of University of Central Florida in developing a pigment that would change color when exposed to hydrogen. Chemochromic materials respond to the exposure to different chemicals with a change in color due to a chemical reaction within the substance.
“After two years of research, the team at UCF came up with a pigment that could be added to a silicon caulk,” Roberson said. “While it worked well, the caulk eventually dried out. We were then successful in adding the pigment to an air-tight Teflon tape.”
The end result was the development of the innovative “Color Changing Materials for Hydrogen Detection…One of the first applications took place as the space shuttle Endeavour was being prepared for the STS-118 mission in the summer of 2007.
“There was a hydrogen leak on the OMBUU and Launch Pad 39A,” said Roberson. “It proved to be elusive and we thought the tape could help.” The OMBUU was the Orbiter Midbody Umbilical Unit, a horizontal access arm for servicing the mid-fuselage portion of the space shuttle at the launch pad. It was used for loading liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen into the spacecraft’s fuel cells.
“Sensors were successful in identifying that there was a leak,” Roberson said. “The tape helped pinpoint the exact location.”The tape works by changing color from beige to high-contrast black in less than three minutes when concentrations as low as 0.1 percent are detected. This is well before reaching the explosive combustion threshold of about four percent. The pigment is completely passive requiring no power and is highly resistive to environmental factors including ultraviolet exposure, salt spray and humidity.

via Innovative Hydrogen Leak Detection Tape Earns Prestigious Award | NASA.

The article points out the potential uses for the chemical manufacturing and oil and gas industries. Nice to see more spinoffs from the Shuttle program.

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So what are you reading?

I just finished “The Weed Agency” by National Review’s Jim Geraghty. It’s the 30-year story of a fictional agency created by Jimmy Carter and the true attempts over the years to cut spending. Sure, the Democrats are tax-and-spend, but the Republicans are only too willing to blink first in the budget battles. While it’s a little frustrating to read, knowing there’s billions of dollars wasted in the federal gov’t, there’s enough funny bits to keep you turning the pages.

The part that hit home for me was the young go-get-‘em employees bogged down in red tape and “It’s not my idea, so I don’t like it” attitudes, especially the part about setting up a website. My group set up its own website in the 90’s to show off our unique capabilities and try to bring in outside business. This was soon followed by, “You can’t do that, we need all our websites to look the same.” Okay, uniform website coming up. This was followed by, “You can’t do that, it’s not 508 compliant.” Okay, we did that. Next was, “You can’t do that, it’s technical information, and that has to be cleared the same as papers and presentations.” Okay, we filled out the forms and sent them up the management chain. We have to do this every time before we can change the website? Okay. Finally, the spambots and hackers found us, so we said screw this and took it down. Somewhere in there, our secretary went through months of training to learn how to code HTML. She thought web designer skills would be the fast track for a raise. They contracted out the official webpage support.

Next in the reading queue is “The Girls of Atomic City” by Denise Kiernan. I picked this up when I was in Oak Ridge earlier this month.

So what are you reading?

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Teach your children well

Okay, I’m not really a fan of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, but if we are going to keep our Second Amendment rights, then we need to teach our kids what that means.

And for Mini-me, that means learning to shoot at summer camp. Do note the eye protection, hearing protection, and boogerhook off the trigger. I like giving liberals the vapors.
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I like the zombie target. Nice shootin’.
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I’m also proud of her, that when the other girls were screaming about a spider in the cabin, she asked someone to pass her a shoe and smushed it. (Sorry, XBrad, they weren’t allowed flamethrowers.)

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The Space Review: Big Black Bird

After five decades of secrecy, the details of the 1960s-era Manned Orbiting Laboratory MOL program are finally being revealed. MOL was started in late 1963 but did not get a formal approval from President Lyndon Johnson until 1965. Publicly, it was a two-person military space station program to conduct experiments to determine what military missions humans could accomplish in space.

via The Space Review: Big Black Bird.

Elements of the Manned Orbital Laboratory under construction in the 1960s. (credit: USAF)

My previous post about this laboratory here.

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Hometown memorial and a friend remembered

Huntsville has a significant military presence, and so it is fitting that the Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial is not just a stone on the courthouse square but a place to contemplate, to remember those who fought for us, those who held up their hands and swore the oath, those who gave everything.
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The waterfalls and fountain are soothing.  The three sections along the outside provide a chronicle of the wars fought, with black marble memorials to hometown heroes.  These sections are anchored by two sets of statues.

100_0640 cropand

100_0637 cropSome of the stones on the walkway have famous or appropriate sayings (click to embiggen).

100_0638Wonder if anyone in the current administration would take heed of this one.

100_0639The walkway behind this part of the memorial is paved with memorial bricks.  This one was placed just in time for Independence Day.

100_0632 cropAs Don would say, pull up some bench.

100_0633 cropDon’s ashes will be scattered during a parachute jump next month, so there will be no grave marker for him.  This I thought was appropriate, so that he will never be forgotten.

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