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Added "Cultural issues and problematics" Spinoza1111 06:31, 4 July 2006 (UTC)

NPOV and with references, despite the fact that I'm pissed off. You engineers don't have to go up in that piece of junk, and it's quite immoral to knowingly endanger the astronauts, for the same reason it's immoral to ask men to die in Iraq when you punks were in graduate school during Vietnam.

Diane Vaughan was a serious scientist who was invited to serve NASA. Richard Feynman was a leading physicist. Their CRITICAL views belong in this article, and I have endeavored to adhere to wikipedia guidelines, which don't include "don't be angry".

Feedback is welcomed.

Although it is important to show criticisms of the space shuttle program, the reference to the cracked foam on the July 4th launch of STS-121 does not fall into this category (or at least not yet). The risk the foam presented to the shuttle was deemed to be low enough to launch, and indeed subsequent analysis of the orbiter has shown no large damage due to foam. As it appears now, NASA's administration made a good decision, and it is the administrators who run NASA (and not the engineers) who ultimately decide if the risk is acceptable. We do not hear about engineers who have opposed previous (successful) missions, so we shouldn't hear about it in this case either. 100DashSix 15:46, 14 July 2006 (UTC)

Article is too long, needs breaking up

It's nearly 60 KB, which is way over max suggested Wiki size of 30 KB. If no contrary suggestions, I'll break out the history and abort section to separate articles. That way those can be further fleshed out without making the main article any bigger. See article size suggestions, and Wikipedia:Summary style

Still too long after moving the decision and abort, how about separate the Orbital Vehicle info too? Astrowikizhang 31 January 2006
No, it's much better now. Not too long. Thanks for your help. Joema 01:15, 1 February 2006 (UTC)
A move I've toyed with before...
I see the reasoning for that, but I think article is OK right now. Joema 01:16, 1 February 2006 (UTC)
I think this article is reasonably OK too, although maybe there should be a new article Space Shuttles that covers/links the different space shuttles that have been proposed.WolfKeeper 03:16, 1 February 2006 (UTC)
As it is, the system we have is horribly confusing. Buran includes both the program and the general vehicle and the specific orbiter Buran (with individual stubs for the other orbiters), and Space Shuttle program includes both the program and the general vehicle. For the other two biggest space programs, Apollo and Soyuz, the spacecraft and programs are dealt with in seperate articles, and this really does seem to be the best way to go. Thoughts?
That's an interesting point. However I think the current configuration is OK. It's true for Project Apollo there are separate articles for the individual vehicles: Lunar Module (built by Grumman) Command/Service Module (built by Rockwell), Saturn V (1st stage built by Boeing), etc.
However the US Space Shuttle program article has separate articles for the two main sub-components: Solid Rocket Boosters (built by Morton Thiokol), and external tank (built by Martin Marietta, now Lockheed Martin). There are also separate articles for the main engines , abort modes , decision to build the shuttle, Space shuttle thermal protection system, etc.
The Apollo program was much larger and less tied to individual vehicles. The program and vehicles were somewhat decoupled, and the articles reflect that. Joema 01:15, 1 February 2006 (UTC)

Lunar Shuttle

Is it possible to use space shuttle for a lunar mission? Till the lunar orbiting phase of the lunar mission, the space shuttle may be used, then a lunar landing module, stored in the cargo bay will descent to the moon and then come back to orbiting shuttle and then shuttle come back to earth as usual...? Imaginary only..?

07:42, 31 January 2006 (UTC) Penguine_S 29 Jan 2006

First, in case someone is wondering, the shuttle cannot remotely reach the moon by itself, even if the entire payload bay was full of extra propellant. Just not enough delta-V capability.
It's conceivable the shuttle could place in low earth orbit a tiny, flyweight one-man lunar vehicle that might reach the moon, land and return. However it would be nothing like the Apollo Command/Service Module and Apollo Lunar Module. To get the weight low enough, it would be more like this: http://www.astronautix.com/craft/lmlhtest.htm
Also you wouldn't rendezvous with the shuttle on the return trip to reenter. The earth's gravity means you'd come blazing in from the moon at about 25,000 mph (11.2 km/sec). It would cost far more energy to brake and dock with the shuttle than to just carry a heat shield and reenter directly.
How do we know this? The shuttle's payload capacity to low earth orbit is roughly 50,000 lbs (22,700 kg). The Apollo command/service/lunar modules total about 103,000 lbs (46,720 kg). In addition you need enough propellant to boost the entire assembly to earth escape velocity. For Apollo that required the Saturn V S-IVB 3rd stage, which consumed about 173,000 lbs (78,471 kg) of propellant doing that. S-IVB dry mass was 25,200 lbs. So the total earth orbital mass needed for Apollo was at least 103,000 lbs + 173,000 lbs + 25,200 lbs = 301,200 lbs (136,622 kg).
To put all that in orbit would require about six shuttle launches. So a manned moon lander launched from a single 50,000 lb shuttle payload in low earth orbit must be very small -- one person, possibly open cockpit, maybe with a separate tiny reentry module. Joema 14:13, 30 January 2006 (UTC)
Joema, Thanks for your detailed explanation. Can you explain one more term used in the article "Apollo Mission" please? What is meant by 'Lunar Corridor'? I placed this question in the Apollo Mission Discussion, but I did not get an answer yet. 07:42, 31 January 2006 (UTC) Penguine_s 31 Jan 2006
Sorry, I don't see the term "lunar corridor" used in that article. However, in space flight "corridor" is sometimes used regarding the trajectory with respect to a target. E.g, reentry corridor. When Apollo returned from the moon it had to stay within a narrow 3-dimensional space in earth's atmosphere to avoid burning up or skipping into space. It's a corridor, not a 2-dimensional spot, because the X-Y dimensions fluctuate with distance. Less seldom used is "lunar corridor" which means a similar target for an outbound lunar trajectory. The moon-bound spacecraft must be within that corridor or it could crash into the moon, or slingshot around it out into space. Joema 11:33, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
Thanks again Joema. The term "Lunar Corridor" was actually found in "Apollo 10 Mission report" which is an external link given at the end of the article about Apollo 10. You have explained the answer of my question right. The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk • contribs) .

I suppose you could put the shuttle into LEO with the ET still attached, make several unmanned launches to refuel, and then go. You'd need a fuel outpost at the moon too. --GW_Simulations 20:08, 20 March 2006 (UTC)

Spam filter problems causing rejected edits

If anybody's edits have been rejected due to a Wikipedia spam filter error, I've fixed that. Somehow the spam filter logic was changed so a previously existing tinyurl ref caused edit attempts to be rejected. I removed the tinyurl reference. Joema 15:17, 6 February 2006 (UTC)

Moved lightning paragraph to trivia

Moved from ascent section to trivia, as it's not really part of ascent sequence. Paragraph was mostly correct, but I reworded slightly to clarify, fix spelling, improve grammar; also added internal links. Joema 15:18, 6 February 2006 (UTC)

ET construction material

Astrowikizhang, thanks for the close attention to the slightly incorrect ET tank volume. I revised the metric volume to be consistent with the correct gallons figure you provided. Although the press release you mentioned stated aluminum construction, that was either out of date or a simplification. All tanks since 1998 (excepting STS-107) have been the Super Light Weight Tank (SLWT), built mostly from Aluminum-Lithium alloy #2195. A few components are still aluminum, most most is from the new alloy. For details see http://pbma.nasa.gov/docs/public/pbma/casestudies/SLWT_Independent_Assessment_Report.pdf (warning, large PDF). Joema 20:46, 9 February 2006 (UTC)

Thanks again for your info, Joema. Astrowikizhang 06:06, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Pre-launch preparation questions

Hello, just come up with several questions about pre-launch preparation:

  • 1. Where is the Orbiter Maintenance Facility(OMF)? What is the use of it? If I am right, orbiters are resting in OMF before the moving to VAB.
The correct term is "Orbiter Processing Facility", located west of the Vehicle Assembly Building. I think "Orbiter Maintenance Facility" was the equivalent west coast building when shuttle launches were planned from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
  • 2. Is that propellant-loading test a routine test before count-down?
  • 3. When the propellant-loading test finished or the launch aborted, is that some way to unload the ET?
I'm positive the answer is yes, but don't know the details.
  • 4. Is that possible to launch two shuttles from 39A and 39B in a very short of time? How short can it be?
Yes, in this Wikipedia article STS-41 it shows two shuttles at the same, one on 39A and the other on 39B. Don't know how short the interval can be.
  • 5. How many Mobile Launch Platforms are made? Are they the ones used in Apollo program?
The correct term is " Crawler - Transporter", and there are two. They are essentially the same ones used for Apollo, with modifications:
I think the Crawler-Transporter and MLP are two separate facilities. Crawler-Transporter moves MLP and shuttle stack to launch complex and left them there when crawling back to a safe distance. Three MLPs are redesigned for shuttle.[2]--Astrowikizhang 17:04, 18 February 2006 (UTC)
Sorry I don't know answers to your other questions. Joema 23:24, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Maybe adding a "Pre-launch preparation" section to the article will be interesting.--Astrowikizhang 16:27, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Maximum landing weight seems wrong

The current maximum landing weight (104,000 kg) seems not correct. The orbiter can bring payloads of 14 515 kilograms (32 000 lb) back to Earth [3], about half of the max payload at lift-off. So the max landing weight should be much less than current number. Any acurrate number?--Astrowikizhang 17:33, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

The orbiter empty weight with no payload but prepared for flight (crew, OMS propellant, etc) is roughly 185,000 lbs (83,914 kg). The maximum payload weight is about 50,000 lbs (22,679 kg), for a total of 235,000 lbs (106,594 kg).
However there are two "landing weights": (1) The normal max landing weight, and (2) The emergency abort landing weight. This is similar to jet airliners. A fully-loaded jet airliner is typically above its max landing weight on takeoff. Even if it urgently needs to land (say passenger has heart attack), it may try to dump fuel before landing. Obviously this isn't always possible. There is an emergency or abort max landing weight, which is above the normal max landing weight. In this case the plane should survive but could be damaged, e.g, the wheels might catch on fire.
It's similar with the shuttle. If it can achieve orbit, it can try to lighten its weight (deploy payload, fire OMS engines). If it cannot reach orbit and must abort, the wheels/tires/brakes might be damaged but it should survive.
The shuttle orbiter max normal landing weight is 230,000 lbs (104,326 kg), and the max abort landing weight is 240,000 lbs (108,862 kg). See [4] Joema 23:44, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
Note that abort plans typically do try to burn off OMS fuel on the way... both to reduce landing weight and to control the location of the center of gravity. Mark Grant 13:55, 24 July 2006 (UTC)
28.5 deg 39.0 deg 51.6 deg 57.0 deg
RTLS 248k lbs 248k lbs 245k lbs 242k lbs
TAL 248k lbs 248k lbs 244k lbs 241k lbs
AOA/ATO 248k lbs 248k lbs 242k lbs 239k lbs
EOM 233k lbs 233k lbs 233k lbs 233k lbs
Cjosefy 20:10, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

Nasa to Sideline Atlantis Orbiter by 2008



Is there any reason to not consolidate measurements to a single system (i.e. eliminate knots for miles or vice versa)? If there are no objections, I will do so tomorrow.

Hopefully you are not proposing getting rid of metric or customary units. As to nautical miles to miles - nautical miles (not knots to miles). This is a matter of how the figures are normally reported. There is perhaps an argument for adding a third or fourth figure (knots, mph, km/hr, m/s) Wouldn't that make reading confusing. So I guess no opinion on the second matter. Rmhermen 17:10, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

Crew Compartment/Crew

Am I looking in the wrong article, or have we no information about crew life? Where's the nuts and bolts on sleeping, showering, and that other s-word? These are "peopled" flights - yet reading this article you'd guess that astronauts were cargo that required no special systems of their own. Rklawton 18:47, 9 April 2006 (UTC)

The article is mostly about the space shuttle, not life on board the shuttle. This is consistent with other similar articles. E.g, Apollo Command/Service Module and Lunar Module don't have paragraphs about crew life onboard those vehicles. However you have a good point, some info on the crew facilities would be good. Joema 16:43, 10 April 2006 (UTC)

SRB thrust percentage at takeoff

The 2 SRBs each provide 3300 thousand pounds of thrust. The 3 SSMEs each provide 330 thousand pounds.

(3300 * 2) / (330*3 + 3300*2) = 0.82 = 82%.

The Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster article gives 83%, so I'm going with that (presumably the figures are rounded.) 71% is too low; unless somebody has a cite? WolfKeeper 15:30, 10 April 2006 (UTC)

330×20/(330×23) = 20/23 ≈ 87%. How'd you get your number? Gene Nygaard 15:44, 10 April 2006 (UTC)

Ok try:

(3300 * 2) / (393*3 + 3300*2) = 0.85 = 85%.

Either way 71% is too low. I think the current article is assuming only one SRB (The figures come out at about 73%, but the 71% was probably calculated using older thrust figures.)

The performance figures should really be pegged at a particular flight- they do vary. STS107 only had 2.8 million pounds thrust at takeoff, peaking at 3.05 million pounds.WolfKeeper 15:57, 10 April 2006 (UTC)

SRB mostly works at thrusts far below its peak level before separation, so I think the number of 71% reflects the thrust portion from SRBs in the first stage of ascent, not just before clearing the tower. The number appears in many shuttle presskits, include this so I think it is plausible. Astrowikizhang 16:21, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
I investigated this extensively and the even included and SRB thrust/time graph in Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster. SRB sea level liftoff thrust is 2.8 million pounds force per engine. SSME sea level liftoff thrust (assuming nominal 104% thrust) is 393,000 pounds force per engine. There is some uncertainty about at what exact point the SSMEs ramp up to 104%, but I think it's sufficiently soon it can effectively be considered liftoff thrust. Joema 16:35, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
Forgot to add, using the above figures, SRBs provide 82.6% of liftoff thrust. Joema 16:38, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
Do you think 71% is out-of-date?Astrowikizhang 17:02, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
No. 2800/(2800+393*3) = 70.4% (probably if you use an older figure for the SSMEs thrust you would get 71%), but the shuttle has *two* SRBs and *has* to have more takeoff thrust than that.WolfKeeper 17:18, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
Liftoff weight is listed everywhere as about 4450 klb. The 3 SSMEs knock out jointly about 1180 klbs. If the SRBs together only produced about 3300 klbs then the thrust:weight ratio at takeoff is only barely over 1; in other words it wouldn't take off. Orbital launch vehicles have a takeoff g force of between 1.4 and 2 by and large. It looks like NASA fsked up the percentage (presumably using only one SRB in the calculation).WolfKeeper 16:57, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
3.3 million lb is the peak thrust of each SRB.Astrowikizhang 17:02, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
Then we're agreed I think. If the takeoff thrust of both the SRBs together was 2800 then we basically get the 71% figure, but the Shuttle would just sit there for a while until it had burnt off enough fuel till it could take off.WolfKeeper 17:18, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
Still not. The SRBS only work at the peak thrust for the first tens of seconds. Their thrust levels decrease a lot when the SSMEs throttled over 100%. To my knowledge, the job of the SRBs is not just to clear the tower but to help to send the vehicle to about 50 km above. So I think 71% has its reason for the first stage of ascent. Why NASA not update to 82% for so many years?Astrowikizhang 17:51, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
Of course it will vary over the flight, they throttle back the SSMEs around max Q and the SRBs are decaying too as you can see on the SRB page graph. But you would have to ask NASA why they kept this mistake on their webpage; as a takeoff and early flight percentage it makes no sense, the numbers don't remotely add up.WolfKeeper 18:04, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
Cannot dismiss the possibilty that NASA could make a mistake like that :( Will do more research on this problem. Maybe some thrust-to-time graph of SSMEs will be helpful.Astrowikizhang 18:31, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
SRB sea level liftoff thrust is 2.8 million lbf per engine. SRB peak sea level thrust is about 3.08 million lbf per engine at T+20 seconds. The other figures such as 3.3 million lbf are probably vacuum or peak thrust figures. Often references don't specify which, or even know the difference. Total sea level liftoff thrust is (2.8 million * 2) + (393,000 * 3) = 6.779 million lbf. Of this the SRB thrust constitutes (2.8 million * 2) / 6.779 million or 82.6%.
There are actually (at least) six possible thrust figures for an engine:
  • Sea level liftoff thrust
  • Sea level average thrust
  • Sea level peak thrust
  • Vacuum liftoff thrust
  • Vacuum average thrust
  • Vacuum peak thrust
The problem is most references don't qualify which one. It's not that they are wrong, just there are different ways to state thrust for the same engine. That is where the confusion comes from. Joema 18:37, 10 April 2006 (UTC)

Just wanted to reiterate: the best SRB sea level liftoff thrust number we have is 2.8 million lbf per engine -- see thrust/time graph in Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster. For SSME, the sea level liftoff thrust at 104% is 393,800 lbf per engine. See the thrust specs I added to SSME.

Using these numbers the math is simple. Vehicle mass doesn't matter when calculating SRB relative thrust contribution: (2.8 million * 2) / ((2.8 million * 2) + (393,800 * 3)) = 82.579%

The SRB thrust/time graph was from the CAIB report. The SSME thrust specs were from the : NASA Shuttle Press Kit SSME Reference (1.1 MB PDF) Joema 12:57, 12 April 2006 (UTC)

Changes to Ascent section first paragraph

I modified the wording in the Ascent section first paragraph, some of which was my wording and some Astrowikizhang and others. Reasons:

  • Saying only "three engines" doesn't immediately specify which ones (SSME?, SRB?, OMS?)
  • No such word as "staggeredly"
  • SSME stagger start and liftoff gimbal position are minute details not meaningful to the general audience.
  • Remove redundant internal link to abort modes and SSME articles
  • Streamline structure and word count, per Elements of Style: Omit Needless Words

Many multiengine launchers stagger start their engines, but this is rarely mentioned except in specialized technical literature. If anybody thinks the SSME stagger start is important, the simple change "the SSMEs are stagger started" might suffice.

If any problems with these changes, please discuss here. Joema 16:31, 10 April 2006 (UTC)

Yes, the stagger start seems to be too specialized. I think it is necessary to mention the Sound Suppression. Because some general audience may come up with the question of "why they spray water under the vehicle?"Astrowikizhang 17:57, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
Good idea; I agree. Joema 18:40, 10 April 2006 (UTC)


Does anyone think all the STS missions should be templated for ease of navigation, not just cat'ed? It would be a little large, so maybe with a hide option like:

? Staxringold 00:51, 18 February 2006 (UTC)

I have created a template which contains all missions in order of launch date. It definitely needs some work, because I wasn't sure how to portray it, so revisions and comments are requested! Here it is:

Space Shuttle

Please help get this new nav. temp functioning! J@red22:08, 29 April 2006 (UTC)
I went through and added mission years and breaks. It's not perfect, but it's far more understandable now, I feel.--Miguel Cervantes 15:19, 26 August 2006 (UTC)

This image useage?

Can someone put this picture in the Columbia & Space Shuttle articles? It shows the the new wing markings the orbiter got. http://www.vesmirweb.net/galerie/raketoplany/ig05_sts107_launch_02.jpg


I've archived old topics as a page size warning had appeared. --GW_SimulationsTalk | Contribs | E-mail 21:23, 16 May 2006 (UTC)


This picture is perfect for the Columbia individual launch photo. Can someone size it to the rest & put it in, please? It's absolutely perfect!!!!


Use of painted ET images vs. non-painted

The most prominent image of the Shuttle as well as a large secondary image show the painted ET. Although the caption on the first picture explains why the tank was painted, I don't think this image should be used as the primary image in the article. I believe it would be more accurate to have a current image with the non-painted ET to better represent the current shuttle. Since it is likely that many people come to this page to get information on the current state of the shuttle, the first image they see should not be of a shuttle configuration that hasn't been used in 25 years. 13:36, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

GA Failure

After some thought, I'm going to have to fail this article. It seems to be great in just about every other way except that overall it doesn't cite its sources and while lists of stats and facts might seem impressive in their comprehensiveness, without knowing where they came from, there's no telling if the authors just made them up or something. Without citations, statements like "The Orbiter resembles an airplane with double-delta wings, swept 81° at the inner leading edge and 45° at the outer leading edge. Its vertical stabilizer's leading edge is swept back at a 45° angle," sound as if there's just someone out there watching t.v. saying, "hey, you know what the orbiter reminds me of? An airplane with double-delta wings, swept 81° at the inner leading edge and 45° at the outer leading edge. Its vertical stabilizer's leading edge is swept back at a 45° angle." This is not acceptable.

This article must do better and it certainly can do better in citing its sources. Good luck, TonyJoe 19:06, 18 June 2006 (UTC)

NPOV of Retrospect section

There was recently a section on design errors added, and rather than revert it, I added the NPOV-section tag do to some questionable wording. I think the entire retrospect section needs some cleanup. Cjosefy 15:35, 20 June 2006 (UTC)

I removed an unsourced claim that this putting the heatshield where it could be hit by foam or ice wasn't a design error and that the heat shield couldn't have been placed elsewhere. Since it killed seven astronauts it clearly was a design error. Other vehicles don't have the reentry shield where it could be damaged by falling debris (Soyuz, Saturn V...) Now, those aren't reusable vehicles, but if the heat shield on a reusable vehicle really couldn't have been put elsewhere (which I flatly don't believe but that's the claim), then you've just argued that all reusable vehicles are guaranteed to kill people (I don't believe that either but that's the logical inference), in which case choosing to build the vehicle reusable was a design error. Basically dead astronauts == design error whichever way you cut it.WolfKeeper 16:14, 1 July 2006 (UTC)
According to your claim that dead astronauts mean there was a design error, you should head every single article relating to space flight with the title Design Error, as going to space is inherently dangerous, and can result in loss of life. If a certain design is dangerous, and has certain flaws, this is not necessarily a design error. In some cases, knowingly leaving in flaws is the best possible design decision, as fixing this one possibly fatal design may introduce two design factors which are almost guaranteed to be fatal. As the heat shield must cover an entire side of the orbiter, the only possible way to guarantee that the heat shield is safe from possible falling debris would be to place every part of the engine and fuel assembly below the orbiter, which was the design of the one time use rockets (such as Soyuz and Saturn V). This design, by nature of its cost and labor required, is inherently unusable for a reusable vehicle, as the shuttle was designed to be.Appellation
That's not true. The Lockheed Starclipper proposal for the shuttle design, for example, had a wrap-around tank on the upper surface of the shuttle, and one of the other designs planned to launch it on top of a Saturn SIC stage. The problem was that the shuttle as developed required too much fuel for a wrap-around tank and NASA wanted to re-use the SSMEs, so the shuttle couldn't be mounted on top.
There were plenty of ways to build a much safer shuttle, but the design we have was a result of compromise after compromise, where 'getting it flying' took precedence over having something that would be safe and reliable to fly. No-one would have built the shuttle we have if they'd been given a clean slate and plenty of money.
However, I would agree that that section probably shouldn't be in a Wikipedia article unless there are some external sources provided to justify the claims. Or perhaps an article on alternate proposed shuttle designs, if it doesn't already exist. MarkGrant 01:03, 10 July 2006 (UTC)
The question isn't whether a design is dangerous, the question is whether reasonable changes to the design could have resulted in one significantly less dangerous.WolfKeeper 20:46, 1 July 2006 (UTC)
Yes, that is the question. And I've yet to see any reasonable alternatives given to any of the "design flaws" listed in the article.Appellation 01:03, 2 July 2006 (UTC)
Not appropriate to do so in a retrospective section I think.WolfKeeper 01:48, 2 July 2006 (UTC)
My point was exactly that even a dangerous design may not be a flawed design.Appellation 01:03, 2 July 2006 (UTC)
Only if you can show that a particular danger is inherent in what the designed device is trying to do. I don't see that that is true with launch vehicles. Whilst a launch vehicle probably can't be made arbitrarily reliable, it can very probably be made much safer than the Shuttle seems to be. Soyuz has all aspect abort; the Shuttle lacks that. And anyone that argues that that's because the Shuttle is reusable is really arguing that reusability is a bad idea; and this is not a position I could agree with.WolfKeeper 01:48, 2 July 2006 (UTC)
A list of flaws such as this should do one of two things for each "flaw" listed. 1. Explain why the change was made, or when the change was made, such as in the flaw "originally it was thought that the SRBs could be safely switched off before burn out, this could not be achieved, greatly reducing safety." This wording leads the reader to believe that they had always planned on the SRBs being able to be switched off, and that they just failed,Appellation 01:03, 2 July 2006 (UTC)
My understanding is that that is indeed the case; they just failed.WolfKeeper 01:48, 2 July 2006 (UTC)
while in reality the design was changed during the design process.Appellation 01:03, 2 July 2006 (UTC)
Yes. Except the design change only reduced safety and operability. This was not something that was voluntarily changed by NASA. There were no compensating improvements in payload or performance or reductions in costs.WolfKeeper 01:48, 2 July 2006 (UTC)
2. At least give some inclination as to what a possible alternative design would be. The way the section is currently written, it just blindly claims certain things to be flaws.Appellation 01:03, 2 July 2006 (UTC)
I do not see how anyone that understands these points would not consider them flaws.WolfKeeper 01:48, 2 July 2006 (UTC)
However, a better explanation of how these design choices came about, and a list of possible alternatives to these design decisions, would let the reader decide for himself whether these are flaws.Appellation 01:03, 2 July 2006 (UTC)
That might be appropriate in a history section. This is a retrospective section.WolfKeeper 01:48, 2 July 2006 (UTC)
The article should be as objective as possible, and allow the reader to make as many decisions for himself as possible.Appellation 01:03, 2 July 2006 (UTC)

Errors: there are many error classifications in engineering. If we're going to list errors, then we should consider doing so by classification. We should also consider which classifications are worth reporting. Frankly, you could fill a library with lists of all errors made during this or any other large initiative - from design flaws to typos. The unique mistakes I see reported in this section could better be classified under the heading "trivia." Rklawton 16:11, 1 July 2006 (UTC)

Since two of these design errors killed 14 astronauts, dead astronauts are trivial to you?WolfKeeper 16:26, 1 July 2006 (UTC)

By "unique mistakes reported in this section..." I meant, mistakes not reported elsewhere. I think the two accidents you are referring to have been reported elsewhere, and they are not unique to this article. Rklawton 16:31, 1 July 2006 (UTC)

So, you're saying that not being able to turn off the SRBs before burnout is a trivial error also? Because the documents showed that they originally intended the system to be able to do this, and this particular design was chosen on that understanding.WolfKeeper 16:51, 1 July 2006 (UTC)
That doesn't even count as an error. Mid-developement, deliberate design changes are routine. Therefore they don't qualify as engineering errors. It's like going car shopping for a sports car with your spouse and having your spouse talk you into something more practical. You don't wake up the next day and say "WTF! I thought that was a sports car." Rklawton 16:57, 1 July 2006 (UTC)
Nonsense. It can be entirely deliberate, and still an error. Don't forget they decided to use solid boosters *before* they discovered that they couldn't do thrust termination without destroying the tank and the orbiter.WolfKeeper 17:04, 1 July 2006 (UTC)
That's a management issue - not an engineering error. Remember, the engineers also wanted a one-piece SRB - and they ended up with a segmented booster instead. That, too, was a management decision - as was the decision to launch outside of tested parameters. One-piece boosters don't need O-rings because they don't have segments to join. As noted above, we really need to classify the errors first.
There's no bright line between management and engineering: both influence the design. The O-rings are irrelevant to the lack of thrust termination anyway.WolfKeeper 17:37, 1 July 2006 (UTC)
I'm going to guess that you are not an engineer and are not familiar with any components of failure analysis. Please correct me if I'm mistaken. Rklawton 17:53, 1 July 2006 (UTC)
You are mistaken.WolfKeeper 18:45, 1 July 2006 (UTC)

The "Design Errors" section under Retrospect is judgemental, editorializing and not fitting for an encyclopedic reference. An encyclopedia doesn't make judgements or criticize -- it reports criticism (where appropriate) from credible sources. There are several problems with the added material:

  • Heat shield location is not a mistake -- it was an intentional design decision, and the problem of debris was carefully studied by the designers. They understood it was very sensitive to debris impact and even stated a spec -- 0.006 foot pounds -- as the maximum it was designed to sustain. This was all discussed in great detail during the CAIB hearings, the full text and video of which are available on line at: [5] the particular hearing where this was discussed was April 23, 2003, here: [6]. The problem is the heat shield was operated outside the specified design parameters, similar to the SRB O-ring issue. There is a difference between a design mistake which fails during the intended operational envelope, vs a failure from operating outside those conditions.
  • Design using ceramic tile heat shield was not a mistake -- it was a carefully chosen solution, indeed the only one available given the available weight and payload constraints. For details see Tom Kelly's book "Moon Lander". [7] Kelly was Grumman's head of the LEM project, who also was involved with Grumman's bid for the shuttle. He goes into detail about how any other heat shield solution would have been too heavy to achieve the other performance parameters.
  • O-ring joint poorly thought out and led to Challenger loss -- we don't make editorial, judgmental statements like that in an encyclopedia. This is an encyclopedia, not the editorial page of a newspaper. The initial SRB joint system could have been more robust, but so could have many other systems in many other launch vehicles. It was operated outside its specified design envelope, temperature-wise, and failed.
  • Lack of SRB thrust termination "greatly reducing safety". Again this is editorial, judgmental, and not fitting for an encyclopedia. Any such statement should not be made by the editor, but (if it exists from a credible, authoritative source) quoted with references, and only then if appropriate. I believe SRB thrust termination was rejected because studies showed the orbiter/ET would not have survived the resultant stresses. Joema 02:22, 3 July 2006 (UTC)

Spinoza1111 23:27, 5 July 2006 (UTC)"Kelly was Grumman's head of the LEM project": this means he was inherently biased. It also may mean that he is no longer a qualified engineer; the implication of the managerial statement "think like a manager and not an engineer" is that the sets are disjoint, and only continuous work as an engineer makes one a reliable engineer, not managerial activities.

Um. No. Think about it.WolfKeeper 00:59, 6 July 2006 (UTC)

Spinoza1111 23:27, 5 July 2006 (UTC)Diane Vaughan's opinion, which is that NASA in general and the space shuttle in particular have a "broken safety culture" because managers can at-will reverse and remand engineering decisions, can be reported NPOV based on her research.

Spinoza1111 23:27, 5 July 2006 (UTC)Space flight is inherently dangerous. However, this cannot be a cloture rule in engineering discussions. If it is, then we can send willing men, women, criminals, the insane and damned fools into space in a tin can. Knowing that there is a dangerous design flaw is murder.

Spinoza1111 23:41, 5 July 2006 (UTC)The laundry list of "design errors" at the beginning of the Retrospect section is non-NPOV! The design wasn't in error in the sense that the choices were optimal given costs and goals.

Actually, no. At the very least not for Challenger.WolfKeeper 00:59, 6 July 2006 (UTC)

What was broken was not the design, but the ability of the engineers to rectify their own goddamn mistakes. As Diane Vaughan and Feynman showed, the "error" was an institutional choice, made not at the level of hard-working engineers but at the level of the suits who ended the pre-1980 culture of pushback in which the concern of a "low level" engineer could delay a launch.

You're assuming that the engineers expected to be able to. Given that they were building reusable vehicles, that doesn't seem to be a good assumption.WolfKeeper 00:59, 6 July 2006 (UTC)

Spinoza1111 23:41, 5 July 2006 (UTC)The engineers found in the 1980s that they had been excluded from a previous iterative process that had been in effect in Apollo and Gemini because in the 1980s an arrogant technical class, technically educated (and thus deficient in general culture) but systematically out of date with regards to their technical class because their time was spent in administrative tasks, rose to power in the USA, and felt that the general public (the sort of slobs who sit and watch the launches from their trailer homes) would not understand the iterative admission of failure, and learning from failure, that constitutes engineering.

Spinoza1111 23:41, 5 July 2006 (UTC)It may appear to be merely paradoxical to say that the Design Errors list is non-NPOV while saying such horrible things about the Space Shithole, but "design errors" is managerese which blames working engineers for being shut out of pushback.

You seem to be assuming that only engineers are responsible for design. The legal world doesn't normally agree with you, except in the most clear cut situations.WolfKeeper 00:59, 6 July 2006 (UTC)

Helmet use.

"On the first four Shuttle missions, astronauts wore full-pressure Launch Entry Suit (LES) during ascent and descent. The pressured helmet was used from STS-5 until the loss of Challenger. The LES was reinstated when Shuttle flights resumed in 1988. The LES ended its service life in late 1995, replaced by the Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES)."

Does this mean that they didn't wear helmets for the first 4 flights? --Gbleem 03:13, 11 July 2006 (UTC)

No. It means that from STS-5 to 51-L, they only wore helmets. After Challenger broke up at an altitude too high for the astronauts' helmets to supply air to keep them conscious NASA decided that it was probably a good idea to wear full suits on all flights... had the Challenger astronauts had the current suits and parachutes some would probably have been able to get out alive. Mark Grant 13:02, 11 July 2006 (UTC)

roll and pitch

I undertand the roll and pitch program turns the craft so it flys shuttle side down however why is facing the wrong way to begin with?

Why not launch it with the dorsal side of the shuttle facing east? --Gbleem 03:18, 11 July 2006 (UTC)

The shuttle pads were the Saturn V pads, so they couldn't be rotated for the shuttle. Also, they need to roll so the shuttle is in line with the orbit they're aiming for, so rotating it would only have eliminate the roll on one particular orbit... given that they'd still need to roll for any other orbit, it would be pointless to go to all that trouble and expense.
For example, ISS flights go to an inclination of about 50 degrees whereas Spacelab flights generally went to about 28 degrees. They couldn't do both without a roll maneuver on at least one of them. Mark Grant 12:59, 11 July 2006 (UTC)
It always seemed like the roll was about 180 degrees when I watched it on TV but that may be just my imagination.
Which way does dorsal side of the shuttle point when on the pad? I'm assuming lots of mods were made to the pad for the shuttle. I'll assume it has something to do with the tower. I agree a roll is a roll regardless of degrees. --Gbleem 03:32, 12 July 2006 (UTC)
Well, the tower is on the north and the door is on the left side of the shuttle, so that's the only way it can go. As to why they chose that orientation, I'm not sure: from what I remember the Saturn V towers were on the mobile launchers so they could be put on either side, but for the shuttle they went to fixed towers, presumably because it's easier to provide weather cover and payload bay access to the pad that way.
There may also be some issues with the way the shuttle is assembled in the VAB: I don't think the crawler can turn around with a shuttle on board, so presumably the way it's assembled in the VAB would determine the orientation on the pad. Mark Grant 10:57, 12 July 2006 (UTC)

Center of pressure offset

Mary Shafer (a NASA engineer who co-authored at least one report on Shuttle aerodynamics) mentioned this in a Usenet thread about STS-1 autopilot errors:


They also maxed out the bodyflap because the predictions of the longitudinal aerodynamic center-of-pressure location were incorrect. This was because C_m_0, pitching moment bias, was mispredicted.

However, whether it's still a problem or just a miscalculation which screwed up the original autopilot software is an entirely different matter. Mark Grant 16:40, 14 July 2006 (UTC)

Blow the bolts

In a recent program on NASA TV, "Alligators and Rocket Ships," Jon Cowart, the presenter, made the statement "...we're SO sure the solid rocket motors are going to fire, we blow the bolts holding the shuttle down, THEN fire the solid rocket motors." In this article, it says the opposite. I don't know if this might have changed. Perhaps someone knows. Earl Kiosterud. Virginia Beach, Virginia. EarlKio 00:02, 16 July 2006 (UTC)

I've wondered that myself. I've never found a definitive answer, and can see reasons for doing either. If one of the SRBs doesn't ignite the crew are dead anyway, so I'd guess it's safe to fire the bolts just beforehand and assume both will ignite... from what I remember the ignitors are pretty simple and multiply redundant. Mark Grant 00:35, 16 July 2006 (UTC)
The bolts and the SRBs are fired simultaneously, by the same circuit. The bolts appear to blow a fraction of a second beforehand, since the thrust of the SRB takes a moment to come down the nozzle, but they're set off at the same time. Shimgray | talk | 20:22, 16 July 2006 (UTC)

Orbiter article

This article is pretty cool, anyway I see we have a separate article about the external tank, an article about the solid rocket boosters, some orbiter subsystems have their own (SSME, thermal protection system, canadarm...) but we have no Space Shuttle orbiter article, which is pretty bad since it would complete the series of STS-related articles. The article could describe how/where the crew sits in the orbiter, where they sleep, how the fuel cells provide electricity and water and for how long... to me, there's a lot that a orbiter article could cover... // Duccio (write me) 14:46, 17 July 2006 (UTC)

Yeah, that does sound like a good idea. I'll see if I can at least put a stub together when I have time to do some research on it. Mark Grant 00:37, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

other pov's

This article is far too hagiographic. There are plenty of people out there who have spilled plenty of ink arguing that the shuttle program is a failure, a waste of national resources, and a prime example of a government program completely out of control. we have phrases like "While the Shuttle has been a reasonably successful launch vehicle..." popping up, and no one is even thinking to ask if this is even remotely true! 2 out of 5 have crashed in just over 100 flights! that sounds to me like a piece of junk and waste of tax dollars. what if your car blew up every 50th or 60th time you drove it? or airplanes crashed after 50 or 60 flights? and what about public response to the shuttle? does anyone even care anymore? some viewership of launches/ public opinion numbers/ etc. should be included.

Two lost in a hundred flights is actually a decent record for a 70s-era launch vehicle, though not so good for a manned launch vehicle (I think Soyuz lost two, but that was early in the program... they haven't lost one for at least twenty-five years). With hindsight I'd agree that the shuttle was a mistake, but it has been a reasonably successful launch vehicle.... however, at over a billion dollars a flight, it better be! Mark Grant 22:15, 17 July 2006 (UTC)
what if your car blew up every 50th or 60th time you drove it? You have other cars to compare. How many reusable launch vehicles capable of building a space station and servicing it do you know to compare them to the STS? I think that this is a mayor point, maybe we can't really say if the Shuttle is a successful launch vehicle or not, and we can't do anything for that. This discussion will last forever unless we accept this. // Duccio (write me) 12:06, 18 July 2006 (UTC)
Losing two percent of flights is top of the range for launch vehicles; there isn't anything else out there with a significantly better probability. As far as manned launch vehicles go, both Soyuz and Shuttle have had two fatal accidents, but Shuttle's flown substantially more... within the constraints of "in its field", the Shuttle is indeed reasonably successful. Shimgray | talk | 22:36, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

I also think the negative issues with the shuttle should be presented, not just shuttle program cheerleading. Perhaps with a section listing objections to the Shuttle. We should remember that the Shuttle's only purpose was CHEAP and RELIABLE access to low earth orbit: A 'Space Truck'. By that standard, e.g. the cost per pound to orbit, the shuttle is a miserable failure (at over a billion $ per launch, over $20k per pound). It would have been much cheaper to use ULVs (like Saturn), and have avoided the entire Shuttle program.

. Capsules are inherently safer than the Shuttle, since the shuttle requires a perfect launch, reentry, and landing to avoid loss of vehicle/crew. Capsules have a launch escape tower, and a fool proof re-entry mode.

There's other dirty shuttle secrets/laundry:

. The Shuttle program cost has bled and hobbled the un-manned program, where true science and exploration is done.
. The Shuttle has delayed the improvement of ELVs, since for a period all space cargo was forced to use the Shuttle
. The Shuttle has accomplished little or no science that could have not been accomplished better and cheaper with unmanned vehicles.
. The Shuttle exists to service the Space Station, and the Space station exists to give the shuttle something to do. It's de-humanizing to risk people's lives unnecessarily for mundane tasks.
. After the glories of exploring the moon, the NASA manned program has not gotten 300 miles from earth in 30 years.
. Why can't the shuttle launch and land unmanned? Shouldn't the first shuttle test flights at least have been un-manned? The shuttle is completely automated for all of the precise launch, reentry, and approach phases too delicate and complicated for humans, and the shuttle is capable of auto-land. Is this a union-like attempt to perpetuate the astronaut core?
. What is the actual cost of a Shuttle cost today, in $/lb in orbit compared to a competing US or USSR ELV? $1 billion per launch, divided by the 50,000 pound 'theoretical' payload,is at least $20k per pound!
. Isn't NASA's return to the ELV concept a repudiation of the shuttle?
Those of us who love space exploration should expose and face the depths of NASA failures and mistakes with the shuttle program, and properly celebrate the successes of other programs.

At least a listing of shuttle program critic's points is appropriate. To do otherwise is “emperor’s new clothes”.--Wrwhiteal 21:16, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

Capsules are generally safer if properly designed, but not exactly 'fool-proof': at least as many capsule crews have been lost as space shuttle crews, and one Soyuz barely survived burning up when it re-entered backwards. Mark Grant 23:10, 8 August 2006 (UTC)
The above is a laundry list of things that someone thinks are wrong with the Shuttle, without any particular rhyme or reason other than "they're negative". Presenting a pro-capsule hatchet job, rooted mainly in fantasy, is unhelpful to making the article neutral - the flying unmanned business, for example, is a strawman; there is no plausible use in the real world for a Shuttle without crew to handle the cargo.
Adding "Capsules are inherently safer than the Shuttle..." is just nonsense; Soyuz is the only comparably long-lived system, and it had the same number of all-crew fatal accidents in fewer flights... Shimgray | talk | 08:02, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

Shimgray: Capsules are inherently safer because:

. The launch escape tower permits recovery from almost all launch failures. What happens to the shuttle if the booster structure or SSMEs fail at launch?
. The heatshield is so much smaller and more sheltered than the shuttle, and does not require active re-entry guidance

Why do you think NASA is returning to the Capsule model?Wrwhiteal 21:56, 12 August 2006 (UTC).

Manual re-entry

Someone just added a change claiming that the shuttle re-entry cannot be flown manually. However, Mary Shafer claims that it _was_ flown manually on STS-1 to STS-4:


Of course I suppose to be pedantic it would depend on your definition of 'manual': the shuttle can't be flown without computer assistance because there's no direct link from the control stick to the control surfaces and RCS. But it can be flown with the pilot using the stick to tell the computers what to do. Mark Grant 15:11, 19 July 2006 (UTC)

Not only can the shuttle re-entry be flown by the computer, it must be flown by the computer. Humans are not accurate enough to fly the complex patterns and tolerences required.Wrwhiteal 21:54, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

That's incorrect. I don't recall the exact terms, but basically there's three modes, fully automatic, semiautomatic with stabilisation, and manual. The shuttle has been landed on both the first two. As I understand it the second mode just helps the pilot keep it pointed in the indicated direction, but the pilot determines which direction it points in. It's theoretically possible to land on full manual, but the astronauts would be fighting the somewhat unstable vehicle over large portions of the reentry interface, and I don't know if anyone has managed to land it even on the simulator.WolfKeeper 23:07, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

The question is whether the shuttle can land without humans onboard. My understanding is that it can, but that Astronauts have never allowed this to happen, even when it was a mission goal. They always grab the stick, to avoid being 'spam in a can'.Wrwhiteal 21:54, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

It can't right now; although NASA recently hacked together a system that could be fitted whilst docked at the ISS which in theory could land it completely automatically. It involved cables snaking around the cockpit, and would only be used as a last ditch attempt to get a damaged Shuttle down. For it to work would require long periods of communications from the ground.WolfKeeper 23:07, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

Surely we can agree that the initial Shuttle mission, and those involving exceptional risk as engineering tests after substantial changes, should be flown unmanned? My understanding is that the shuttle has been purposely hobbled to require humans on board to perpetuate the astronaut corps.Wrwhiteal 21:54, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

Design Limitations

Instead of:

  • Placing the heat shield where it could be damaged by foam and ice falling off the external tank.


  • Underestimating the amount of foam loss and its effect on the vehicle

Also, this should be removed:

  • A design using the ceramic heat shield, as the tiles are susceptible to damage, and cost millions to replace.

This comment should be toned down (at least):

  • The O-ring/joint design on the SRB was originally quickly thought out and this in combination with operation at low temperatures led to the loss of Challenger.

While we're listing supposed "design limitations" perhaps we can add:

  • Vehicle can most likely not survive a water landing

Feel free to add anything you want to the list.Cjosefy 20:07, 19 July 2006 (UTC)

  • I don't think it can survive a wheels-up landing on a runway either: from what I remember the expectation is that it would snap at the front of the payload bay and the crew compartment would tumble down the runway. Mark Grant 17:56, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

Speculation in Flight Statistics section

Based on the latest manifest I've seen (13-July-06), the speculation on future flight numbers is correct. However, it is speculation and carries a huge number of caveats. It doesn't belong in a section called flight statistics. I suppose if the information were to be included, then we could also speculate the total flight days for each vehicle as well since, after all, we do have a manifest that predicts mission duration for at least the next 5 or 6 missions. There is a List of space shuttle missions that lists future launch dates. I would encourage contributions to that page if you want to add speculation. Cjosefy 14:01, 24 July 2006 (UTC)

math error

Early cost estimates of $118 per pound ($54/kg) ( of payload were based on marginal or incremental launch costs, and based on 1972 dollars and assuming a 65,000 pound (30,000 kg) payload capacity.

There is a math error here. If "$118 per pound" is correct, "$260/kg" should replace "$54/kg." If "$54/kg" is correct, "$25 per pound" should replace "$118 per pound."

$25 per pound would seem most likely to me, just because NASA likes 'round numbers'. A cite would be better though :). Mark Grant 18:53, 24 July 2006 (UTC)
From http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4221/ch9.htm:

An accompanying table compared costs for five options:

        Payload bay (ft.)

10 x 30

12 x 40

14 x 45

14 x 50

15 x 60

        Payload weight (lbs)






        Development cost ($billions)






        Operating cost






        Payload costs ($/pound)






It appears that this figure came from Case 4, which is what was built. Cjosefy 21:05, 24 July 2006 (UTC)

Outdated information

The entire series of shuttle articles seems to be based on old information. The "Reference Manual" linked at the bottom of the page is from 1988. Even the "updated" version of this manual found at KSC [[8]] and supposedly updated in 2002 is still horribly out of date, and may just be a "prettier" version of the 1988 manual.

There needs to be a concerted effort to really check the space shuttle articles for accurate information. Because most of them are cut and paste jobs from these outdated references, we have a high likelihood of error. Witness the page for the Space Shuttle External Tank which still included references to the RSS (which, granted, is in both of the NASA reference manuals) but was removed in 1996! Cjosefy 20:55, 24 July 2006 (UTC)

Maximum Payload

The 50,000 lb number mentioned at the start of the article seems wrong. I don't know where it came from, but the actual maximum payload is higher. Cjosefy 20:50, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

Number is correct. The heaviest payload the shuttle has ever lifted is around 50k lbs (55kb PDF): [9] You may be thinking about estimated payload capacities of 65k lbs, discussed back before the shuttle ever flew. This contrasts with its actual payload capability of about 50k lbs to a low-inclination orbit. Payload to ISS (all remaining missions except maybe one) is significantly lower than even that. Joema 13:24, 29 July 2006 (UTC)
I know the 65k number isn't attainable (even though it still remains as a mission profile). However, I'm pretty sure although they've only sent up slightly less than 50k, the actual max is a little more than that (probaby ~53-54k). It might be a good idea to clarify the wording. Also, I think there needs to be a distinction made between LEO and ISS flights. The 50k number is likely to confuse people, especially if word comes out that future flights such as 115 are going to have a hard time getting below max weight for ISS missions. In any event, later this week I can find he source for the greater than 50k actual max payload. Cjosefy 15:08, 29 July 2006 (UTC)


How is it that this article does not mention the X-20? That project obviously paved the way for the Shuttle. I would just insert some text about it but I think it would be more effective to describe the transition from one program to the other. —Joseph/N328KF (Talk) 17:39, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

If you can find sources for the connection between them, feel free to add them. Mark Grant 17:41, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

Separate article for criticisms

Perhaps it is time to have a separate article for the myriad criticism/retrospective content that is continually added and then reverted on this page. Of course there needs to be some of this information on this page, but it seems that there is a constant addition of POV pushers with almost all of the added content anti-Shuttle. The most recent additions are just an example of this. Right now the later part of this article reads like a diatribe against the shuttle. Imagine if they took the moon landing hoax article and just added it to the bottom of the Apollo 11 page! Certainly criticism of the program is valid, but instead of well-researched, legitimate criticism, we seem to get anti-shuttle rants. Cjosefy 13:46, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

Exactly right. The purpose of an encyclopedia is to describe the topic, not criticize it. An encyclopedia isn't the editorial page of a newspaper where editors can lambaste the topic. See Britannica or Encarta articles on the shuttle, space program, or virtually anything. Automobiles have killed more people than all 20th century wars combined and harmed the environment. Yet you don't see anti-automobile diatribes in the Wikipedia automobile article. You don't see a long criticism section in the Adolph Hitler article. In the machine gun article, you don't see a long section bemoaning how many people it has killed. Why? Because that's not an encyclopedia's purpose. An encyclopedia's main job is to describe what the topic is, the origin and how it works, not make social commentary and criticism on it (nor reprinting such commentary and criticism by others). Joema 02:28, 7 August 2006 (UTC)
I made Criticism of the Space Shuttle program and took a bunch of stuff out of this article and put it into there. There is now a criticism section in this article that point to the new article. Cjosefy 05:07, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
I'm more than a bit worried about this new page - you've just created a page that a) doesn't have nearly as many watchers as this page, to revert NPOV additions, b) basically invited NPOV additions with the title ("Criticism of ...'). Would it not have been better to have left the content on this page and gone through the criticism, trimming it down until it is encyclopaedic and well-referenced, and ensure that it stays that way? Mike Peel 08:11, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
I can understand that concern, but felt that trying to do that on this page was a losing battle since the amount of criticism was about 1/3 of the article and growing. It seems that the Space Shuttle program has attracted a devoted group of critics who seem to view the program with a fanatically biased perspective. The closest analogy to these people is the moon hoax people. There are legitimate criticisms of the program from highly respected individuals, and that is why I mentioned the Columbia and Challenger boards. Other than those high profile criticisms, almost all of what was on this page was from the core group of anti-shuttle "no matter what" people. Cjosefy 14:17, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
I see Cjosefy's point. Certain topics invite criticism, esp by editors who view Wikipedia as an editorial page to vent every negative thing they've heard about a topic. Unfortunately the NPOV wording can be interpreted to even encourage this, under the rubric of "including all viewpoints". This is a Wikipedia structural problem the foundation needs to address. It's hurting the quality and respectability of Wikipedia as an unbiased reference. As Mike Peel said, you could "stand your ground" and just hash it out within the main article. That is the ideal solution. However given determined opposition, that can become very time consuming and sometimes fruitless. I have spent hundreds of hours on such cases, and (sadly) it's often a losing battle. Until the foundation fixes the underlying problem, we'll sometimes have to take measures like this as a stop gap. Joema 15:26, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

I have closely watched NASA, the space program, and the Shuttle for 40 years. The basic Space Shuttle Program article contains many interesting and worthy facts and figures, but the overall evaluation of the program’s and the vehicle’s success is another matter. As I and others read it, the editorial part of article is NASA/Space Shuttle cheerleading and excuse making, is not objective or balanced, and glosses over the fundamental failure of the vehicle and program to achieve it’s objectives of advancing the national interests of cheap and reliable access to space, science research, technology development, inspiration, and space exploration. Obviously there are an increasing number of sincere critics of the program, and I think the attempts to portray them as biased, extremist nuts is unworthy and counterproductive. There are legitimate questions to ask and points to make. Readers of the article deserve to be served a balanced view, and those of us with a sincere desire for a robust, efficient and effective space program want a fair and objective analysis. Many of the criticisms are objective. E.g. what is the cost per pound of payload for the shuttle vs ELVs, has the launch rate of shuttles been reliable, were the NASA estimates of required shuttle launches accurate, etc. Others are bound to be judgmental, e.g. to what degree has the shuttle been inspirational as Apollo was, to what degree has Shuttle funding reduced funding for other worthy (e.g. un-manned) programs, to what degree are the Shuttle shortcomings due to NASA inefficiencies, lack of productively, and wasteful administration vs insufficient funding, how large have been the science contributions from the shuttle. Others are historical/political; to what degree has the shuttle program retarded the development of ELVs, is the shuttle mainly a jobs program, has the shuttle really advanced technology, has NASA efficiently administered the shuttle program, could private enterprise be more efficient than NASA. As necessary, the SS Program Criticism can be presented as ‘Many people think’ items, not as factual assertions.

I suggest that it will best serve the public interest to stop trying to defend and excuse the program, and instead, since it appears a Space Shuttle Criticism article is necessary, to work together to make it the best Space Shuttle Criticism article it can be, rather than just denying or rejecting all program criticism.Wrwhiteal 15:51, 13 August 2006 (UTC)

Great. Please start by finding some legitimate sources for the criticisms. I won't argue that what you added to the article may be valid, but it is completely without sources. When you add something such as "the primary criticisms of the shuttle are" that is YOUR opinion unless you find a source. Then by phrasing the criticisms in a manner such as "the degree to which it failed" is so POV as to border on ridiculousness. Perhaps there are some pro-Shuttle POV people pushing back at you in this article (although most of the article is simply a summary of how the machine works which is what it should be), but this looks to be necessary when it appears by your wording that you think the Shuttle failed at everything --> "fundamental failure of the vehicle and program to achieve it’s objectives of advancing the national interests of cheap and reliable access to space, science research, technology development, inspiration, and space exploration." Cjosefy 18:13, 13 August 2006 (UTC)

I have copied posts and text I consider relevant to Shuttle Criticisms to the new Criticism article, and added some outline notes on what I think the structure of the article should be. I will search for sources; I'm new at this and appreciate guidance and help. I think that perhaps the pro-shuttle spin comments (for example blaming shuttle problems on politicians and failures of funding, rather than NASA over selling, under analysis, and gross inefficiencies) should be removed from the base article.Wrwhiteal 17:31, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

I'd appreciate it if you could point to the pro-shuttle spin comments so we can discuss further. Joema 17:48, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

Sure Some of the spins are explicit, some are by omission.

. The Shuttle was conceived and sold to the government to provide cheap and reliable access to space, and reduce the cost per pound of low earth orbit access below what then ELVs achieved (Saturn, Atlas). I believe the introduction should stress and quantify that. Presently it is ignored. A simple statement that at the time it cost x per pound for ELVs, and the shuttle's stated goal was y per pound, then it achieved z per pound would suffice.
. In the Cost section, the $1.3 billion per flight should be presented as the actual cost. Instead, the theoretical 'incremental cost' is used to compare to NASA promised costs, to compute cost per payload pound to orbit, and I consider this misleading and unfair.
. The Shuttle was sold as a 'Space Truck', and NASA therefore cancelled and terminated all ELV production and development, to remove all competition. This is not mentioned.
. I believe the Shuttle fatal flaw was the NASA analysis that conceived and recommended the shuttle, perhaps not so much the design or operation themselves, however flawed. We should stress that despite the known huge costs to orbit, NASA created a 180k pound empty weight vehicle to deliver a possible 50k payload to space.

My main point is that the shuttle was designed to put things in space for x$ per pound ($100?) while it's actually cost much more than $28K per pound by any reasonable accounting ($1.3 billion per flight, and a payload averaging much less than 50k pounds), and that this most basic information is not presented.

The newly created Space Shuttle Criticisms article has additional questionable items:
. Cost section in which the Shuttle 'Development' costs are favorably compared to projected costs. Of course, the development costs are not the problem, the operational costs are, by over 2 orders of magnitude. Yet the reader would reasonably infer that actual total shuttle costs were comparable to what was promised by nasa to the government.
. Operations section states that the Shuttle was ‘essential to service the Space Station’. Why? The Russians did and do fine without one. NASA plans to do without the shuttle after 2010. I disagree with this statement.
. Operations section states that 'no other vehicle had the shuttle's payload capacity' (presumably to LEO). The shuttle has a max 50K lb payload, Saturn had a 260K lb earth orbit payload. To say nothing of the large Russian boosters.
. Operations section boasts of the shuttle's capability to return large loads from earth orbit, yet fails to mention when, how often, or why this was ever used? e.g. why wasn't the Hubble returned for fixing it? Weren't there safety reasons this was never done? How useful or necessary was this facility?
. In the 'Looking back and ahead section'
. it mentions that shuttle costs, flight rate, payload, reliability have been worse than anticipated'. How much worse? 10 times worse? These can be easily quantified and stated.
. Why does it not discuss the option of NASA using commercially available ELVs for manned flights, rather than NASA developing it's own? Why is NASA developing it's own? Surely not for cost reasons. ELVs have proved more reliable than the shuttle, what makes NASA think it can do it cheaper or better than Boeing, Lockheed, etc? Perhaps to justify keeping it's centers open? Is this right?
. In what specific ways did the shuttle 'Advance the state of the art'? It's 70's technology. No one will use the 'flying brickyard' tiles again, in that way. The Ares launch system using the shuttle booster tank is a transparent attempt to preserve the NASA Michoud facility. In what way are the Ares boosters superior to already or proposed commercial boosters? Isn't NASA just repeating it's shuttle mistakes?

If it has a role, NASA should be doing R&D, not falling back on proven technology. It should use and if possible help perfect commercially available boosters rather than building it's own.

BTW, Would this article qualify as a valid source of Shuttle Program Criticism? http://www.astronautix.com/lvfam/shuttle.htm If not, what would? I hope you don't want me to find an objective NASA report... ThanksWrwhiteal 19:12, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

Astronautix.com is a credible source of generally high quality. However given a conflict between this and a more credible source (such as CAIB testimony) the latter would take precedence.
Re shuttle operational costs, there's no single figure for that -- it depends on how you calculate it and how many missions are flown. See R.A.Pielke, "Space Shuttle Value open to Interpretation", Aviation Week Magazine, issue 26. July 1993, p.57 (PDF file): [10]. It's true NOW that we know the approx total flights remaining, it's possible to calculate a fully-burdened cost per flight (which is over $1 billion).
Re selling it to the gov. by claiming cheap and reliable access to space, that is misleading. According to the official 1972 GAO Report to Congress on the estimated shuttle operational cost, it was projected as only modestly cheaper than then-current expendables. There was no estimation of vastly decreased cost. See: Report to Congress: GAO Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Space Shuttle Program (PDF). [11]
Re development costs not the problem, there is frequent concern over this. A Google or Lexis search will show many references. That is why the article covers it.
Re shuttle essential to service the space station, that is covered in the CAIB testimony of April 23, 2003. Transcript: [12], downloadable video (271 MB .wmv): [13]
Re boasting of shuttle returning large payloads to earth, I agree that is poorly worded. I recollect previously changing that for the very point you raise, but I think my change was reverted.
Re why the article doesn't discuss NASA developing its own new ELVs vs purchasing commercial ones, that has nothing to do with the shuttle. The article is on the shuttle.
You above said you were new and asked for advice. Here it is. You have a lot of misconceptions about both the shuttle history and the purpose of an encyclopedia. An encyclopedia's main purpose is not to critique, analyze or push a point of view. The main goal is to simply describe the topic. Please examine the Wikipedia article on automobiles -- they've killed 20 million people and harmed the environment but you won't see long diatribes on this or how mass transit is better. The Adolph Hitler article doesn't spend paragraphs criticizing him. The Machine gun article doesn't lament at the millions killed by the invention. Why? Because an encyclopedia's main goal is just describe the topic. That doesn't mean no criticism, but that's not the emphasis. Just stating the facts according to conventional wisdom DOES NOT equate to a PRO or cheerleader position. The article on Evolution describes the topic, doesn't criticize it. Doing that doesn't equate to advocacy. Likewise with the article on Abortion. Examine similar articles in Encarta, Britannica, on almost any subject -- you'll see similar treatments. Now the article on Criticism of the Space Shuttle program is different -- the topic itself is about criticism so that is appropriate. Concerning the shuttle history, start by carefully reading the above linked documents. If possible download and watching the above ref'd CAIB video. That will give you a better perspective from which to add quality Wikipedia content. Joema 03:42, 16 August 2006 (UTC)

Cost section rewrite

I've just rewritten and tidied the cost section, taking it from being overly negative to NPOV (or so I hope) and trimming a lot of the repetition out. A few things to come out of that:

  • What were the original expected costs of the shuttle program, in today's dollars? This is important, and it isn't currently mentioned.
  • I've removed the reference for the cost of adding a flight, and replaced it with a citation needed. The reference ([14]) doesn't mention the cost of adding a flight - the closest it gets is "If the shuttle flight rate is already at its maximum, then it makes little sense to talk of adding flights". Unless I've missed something...?
  • I've removed "It takes about 20 pounds (9.1 kg) of fuel to lift 1 pound (.45 kg) of cargo into orbit [15]." Although interesting, what exactly does this have to do with cost?
  • Another reference that I removed was [16], as it links to a list of news articles rather than a single article. (Note to self: the article is actually at [17]. Must add back in.)
  • I've added the Template:update, as the figures in that section relate to 2005 numbers. Can someone please update them to 2006 numbers?
  • I've made judicial use of Template:fact throughout, to indicate where things need to be referenced.

--Mike Peel 15:52, 6 August 2006 (UTC)

Space Shuttle Explorer

I'm uncomfortable with the current classification of Space Shuttle Explorer. It appears on the shuttle infobox, in the list of orbiters, and even in the Orbiter Vehicle Designation article as OV-100, even though the article clearly explains that OV-100 means vehicle 0.

I realize that it is a full size mockup, but it was made as a tourist attraction, not for any meaningful purpose. I have some of the same reservations about Space Shuttle Pathfinder, but at least Pathfinder was used by NASA as a test article, and it is mated with other actual hardware.

I think Explorer should be removed from the shuttle infobox, and the list of orbiters. It needs to be clearly defined as a mockup, made for tourist purposes. In fact, I would support a sub-section of the actual orbiter section that lists signifigant mockups (for example, Space Center Houston's Space Shuttle Adventure), but as it stands I feel the Explorer and to some extent the Pathfinder are being misrepresented, when in fact they are not even close to the 5 flight ready vehicles and Enterprise. Cjosefy 01:57, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

I tend to agree with that myself. There's also Ambassador which was at KSC when I was there some years back (certainly it was there for the STS-39 launch, not sure how long after). I don't know whether that was renamed to Explorer or went somewhere else? Mark Grant 02:02, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
I made a table similar to those used in the Apollo program articles. Hopefully it is cleaner and easier to understand. Cjosefy 05:07, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for pointing that out - Explorer's out of the OV-x list now. The list states that OV-098 for Pathfinder is unofficial, but it does get used, so that ought to stay as a designation, but IMHO she shouldn't be on the list of Shuttles. Shimgray | talk | 09:28, 11 August 2006 (UTC)
Agreed. I'd like to see references to OV-098 as honorary rather than unofficial because I think that better conveys the sense in which it is used (and also since some NASA websites refer to it as OV-098). Explorer is definitely unofficial (and doesn't really make any sense; see the explanation of what OV-100 means in Orbiter Vehicle Designation). Cjosefy 14:10, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

Proposed Split

The following discussion is an archived debate of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the debate was I have proposed that this article is split, into seperate articles about the program (here) and the Spacecraft and technology, which should be located at Space Shuttle. This mirrors the format of articles about Apollo - Apollo program and Apollo spacecraft, and the cancelled Soviet Buran - Shuttle Buran program and Shuttle Buran. --GW_Simulations|User Page | Talk | Contribs | Chess | E-mail 19:09, 21 August 2006 (UTC)

AGREED Seperate pages for the Space Shuttle Program and the Space Shuttle (spacecraft). However if i may top you GW Simulations i think the should be a trrd page for the Space Shuttle, which would discuss general concepts and have links to all of the OTHER space shuttles. The Russian Space Shuttle, ESA'a Hermes, VentureStar, etc. What do you think?--aceslead 00:52, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

Isn't this covered by Spaceplane? --GW_Simulations|User Page | Talk | Contribs | Chess | E-mail 19:40, 24 August 2006 (UTC)

Support This is a logical thing to do. I would also suggest that when the move and split take place, that we also create an article for the orbiter, just as we have seperate articles for the other major components of the Space Shuttle. Cjosefy 01:02, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

Yes, a page for the Orbiter would be a good idea. --GW_Simulations|User Page | Talk | Contribs | Chess | E-mail 19:40, 24 August 2006 (UTC)

Mildly Disagree While it appears superficially logical, I disagree with the split for three reasons: (1) Poor cost/benefit ratio. It's a lot of work just to improve consistency with the other articles. (2) Apollo project was more logically separate from the implementing hardware. The program directive was a complex manned moon mission, not just build the vehicles. By contrast the shuttle program was focused more on building the vehicle, not going anywhere. In this sense the shuttle is more similar to Project Gemini and Project Mercury. Note those articles don't break out spacecraft vs program. (3) Shuttle article is already mostly broken out. There are already articles for each main system: SRBs, ET, SSMEs. There's not one for the orbiter, but the orbiter (from one point of view) IS the shuttle. However from a standpoint of symmetry I could see a separate article on the orbiter. But then we get back to the large effort required to pick through everything, tediously extract the orbiter-specific info, build the new article, patch up the holes in the old article, etc. But I only mildly disagree, if someone wants to tackle this and can commit to a high quality job, go ahead. Joema 21:40, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

Disagree with example but support split Shuttle Buran isn't actually about the vehichles of the Shuttle Buran program. On the contrary, Buran is the name of one of the vehichles, like Columbia or Atlantis. It would be a bit like if the US shuttle program was named Shuttle Challenger program.Becuase of the large amount of text about the orbiter, however, I wouldn't mind if the orbiter got its own article. --GunnarRene 21:04, 24 August 2006 (UTC)

Support split. The article as it stands is too long and tries to do too much. RandomCritic 04:35, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

Support split. This article is a wee bit too awkward. I made some quick cut-and-paste verions, Space Shuttle and Space Shuttle Program.--Miguel Cervantes 16:19, 27 August 2006 (UTC)

That looks good. I would put the "Orbiters produced" section on the Space Shuttle page rather than the program page though. --GW_SimulationsUser Page | Talk 16:39, 27 August 2006 (UTC)
I like User:Thomas Connor's way of implementing the split. I'd put my support behind that. SchuminWeb (Talk) 16:32, 27 August 2006 (UTC)

Split - I think the current article is too long and User:Thomas Connor's version looks OK to me as a starting point. Mark Grant 16:33, 27 August 2006 (UTC)

I'd say we have a consensus. If there are no more oppose votes, I would move to implement tomorrow. (1 week after nomination). --GW_SimulationsUser Page | Talk 16:39, 27 August 2006 (UTC)
Consensus 7-1 in favour of split --GW_SimulationsUser Page | Talk 22:00, 29 August 2006 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the debate. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.