Columbia Shuttle Military Weapon

Charles Jannuzi b_rieux at
Tue Feb 4 02:38:31 MST 2003

Like with many issues, I believe the controversy
here is a matter of interpretation, or at least
the degree of it.

I said earlier, the reason the space shuttle
program exits is military priorities.

However, after the first shuttle accident, it was
decided that the shuttles weren't really running
frequently enough--with questions about overall
safety--to be a workhorse for the military.
Especially if the military was going to proceed
apace with the militarization of space, such as
with the so-called Star Wars defense shield
(never mind the impracticality of all the other
things Star Wars entailed). It was also decided
that the shuttle wasn't really of much use for
the needs of launching commercial satellites,
simply too expensive and often unreliable.

So, in effect, the space shuttle found a reason
for continuing in the role of freight liner for
the space station (though note that the re-fitted
Columbia was designated for 'other' uses, not the
space station). This also proved a debacle for
NASA and its main contractors, with nothing
coming in on time or at estimated cost, with all
those old shuttle problems coming up, too
(couldn't fly enough missions, couldn't fly them
on time, repeated concerns about reliability and
safety, small size of payloads, need for all too
frequent expensive upgrades and re-fits, etc.).

All my reading of the past two days leads me to
conclude: what a freaking mess! Boeing and its
USA consoritium with Lockheed look to be shaping
up as the Microsoft or Time-Warner-AOL or Enron
of aerospace.

C. Jannuzi

Suggested reading (links and excerpts below):

The bi-coastal struggle within NASA

by Leona C. Bull
senior staff writer

The President's office of Management and Budget
has drawn the proverbial line in the sand this
week and demanded that NASA makes up for their
nearly $5 billion space station overruns within
its budget for the human spaceflight program.
This program includes the International Space
Station, space shuttle and astronaut programs.
NASA officials, who had seen this eventuality
coming down the pike, have already canceled the
space station's living module, crew escape
vehicle and a thrust module. These cutbacks
should reduce the need to launch as many of the
orbiters, which are estimated to cost
approximately $500 million each.
Another savings approach is to drawdown the
shuttle modification program, limit inspections
and move the work to Florida. This is an old
argument that has historically come up for
discussion every time a new orbiter is due to
arrive on the West Coast. And as the staff of
about 1,000 at this time last year, dwindles down
to 200 employees by Oct. 1 and the expected
arrival of the Enterprise is moved further and
further out, the Florida scenario seems more

"Palmdale [where Columbia was recently
upgraded-CJ] has been a concern of ASAP, NASA and
the contractors for a long time," said Blomberg.
"Lets face it, it's not the bricks and mortar
there that does the work and whenever you have
intermittent work in a job shop type environment,
you lose people. I think the attrition in
Palmdale has been running on the order of
anywhere from 10 to 25 percent for each OMM." To
date, there have been seven OMM's in Palmdale.

"In essence, every time a Shuttle leaves
Palmdale, America gets a new, safer, improved
Shuttle orbiter: one that is revitalized, more
operationally fit and outfitted with the latest
technologies," said Rick Stephens, Boeing RSS
vice president and general manager.

Operational enhancements include increasing
Columbia's load-carrying capability; upgrades to
thermal protection system tiles and blankets;
orbital maneuvering system/reaction control
system thruster performance improvements; and a
series of measures to reduce the orbiter's
weight. Most notable among the weight savings
will be the removal of approximately 1,000 pounds
of development flight instrumentation wiring
unique to Columbia that was used during the
fleet's first flights to monitor Shuttle
performance. Safety and reliability enhancements
include provisions to protect the orbiter's
cooling system and the leading edges of the wings
from space debris, a partial structural
fortification of the crew module floor to
increase the crew's probability of surviving a
hard landing and enhancements to the vehicle's
hydraulic system.


Boeing to cut jobs, close facilities around U.S.
SEATTLE - The Boeing Company announced plans
March 23 to streamline facilities, focus
manufacturing and assembly operations, and
eliminate redundant laboratories.

By the end of the year 2000, these phased
actions, along with other business initiatives,
are expected to result in a decrease in
facilities of approximately 18 million square
feet, or more than 15 percent.

The effect on Southern California is a net loss
of 6,200 jobs with closures at the electronic
manufacturing facility in Monrovia and Site 9 in

Work currently handled in Monrovia will be
transferred to El Paso, Texas, as well as another
Southern California facility, as yet

Also in Palmdale, Boeing will establish an
Assembly, Integration and Test center at Site 1.
This will handle space shuttle modification, the
Joint Strike Figther concept demonstration
vehicle, prototype vehicle assembly and test, and

Despite Columbia's problems, KSC spokesman Bruce
Buckingham said Friday that NASA's flight
schedule should not be affected.

The reasons: The agency has no plans to use
Columbia for station missions, and the other
three shuttles are in top shape, their wiring
problems corrected.

Columbia has been in Boeing's California shop
since September 1999, when it was flown there on
a modified Boeing 747 jet.

Columbia's overhaul had been scheduled long
before the wiring problems were discovered, and
the original work was to have finished in July.
But the new problems have set back work at least
several months, Williams said.

Boeing is NASA's prime contractor for shuttle
overhaul work; the original Columbia overhaul was
to cost NASA about $75 million, but it could cost
far more now.

The exposed wiring is blamed for computer
shutdowns during Columbia's July 1999 flight,
which caused backup computers to operate the main
engines seconds into liftoff.

Columbia reached orbit safely, but the problems
shook NASA, and a wiring inspection of the entire
fleet was ordered.

With more than 100 miles of wiring on each
shuttle, all the inspections were difficult to
carry out.

One of Columbia's problems has been the age of
the orbiter, which was built more than 20 years
ago, Williams said.

Although Palmdale has more room for a shuttle
examination, Buckingham said inspections
performed on the other shuttles at KSC indicated
that all wiring problems had been fixed.

Also, the other three shuttles have not been
flying for as many years as Columbia: Discovery
first was launched in 1984, Atlantis in 1985 and
Endeavour in 1992.

The wiring inspection on Columbia was not part of
the planned work until the problems were
discovered after the July flight.

The overhaul initially called for technicians to
remove about 1,000 pounds of instruments and
wiring that were used to measure Columbia's
performance during the shuttle's early days.

Once the work is done, Columbia is to make two
flights next year.

The first, tentatively scheduled for July, is a
research mission, and the next, in late 2001, is
to be the fourth maintenance mission to the
Hubble Space Telescope.

But Columbia's schedule is flexible, according to
Ron Dittemore, the shuttle's program manager.

Speaking recently from Houston, Dittemore said
Columbia will be used to fill in gaps between
station flights. If, for example, a major station
piece isn't ready to fly, Columbia could go off
on a mission while another shuttle waits for a
station flight.

The maintenance overhaul was the second for

It went in for its first overhaul in 1994. Other
major modifications had been made to the orbiter
before then, but NASA does not consider them

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