[ExI] Meat v. Machine

spike spike66 at att.net
Fri Dec 31 17:14:34 UTC 2010

>>> Current access to space is good enough, if your payload has a lot of
>>> The longer you wait, the more magic it gets....--Eugen* Leitl
>> ... this comment is really right on, the conclusion I eventually reached
>> much kicking and screaming over 20 yrs ago...

In the space biz, many payloads are one-of-a-kind, but ordinarily one
actually builds at least two, with one being a full scale fully functional
test bird called an engineering unit, made from flight-qualified spares.
They use the engineering unit for thermal response tests, vacuum
environment, launch shock and vibration tests, that kind of stuff.  In most
cases, they could actually launch the engineering unit, if absolutely
necessary.  After launch of the prime unit, the program office can use the
engineering unit to resolve anomalies and such, then after the payload
eventually perishes or splashes or the program ends, they might display it
in a payload museum, or if no one wants it, they pack it into a crate and
stow it forever in a warehouse somewhere.

I was one who argued for keeping those things on display somewhere for the
younger engineers to study.  It also serves a purpose of demonstrating how
much progress is being made in payloads, even if nothing much is happening
in the launcher department.  Modern payloads are waaay more capable than
those launched 20 yrs ago.  Communications, telemetry capability and onboard
navigation, guidance and control is way advanced past where it was.  When I
look at payloads from the mid 80s, I am appalled they would launch such a
big dumb rock.

In particular, we have made great progress in figuring out how to do a lot
of calculation on-board that was once done by sending data down, calculating
everything on the deck, then sending the results back up.  We can do some
really sexy Kalman filtering right there on orbit now, high level fourier
analysis, all the quaternion analysis on orbit, do a lot of control stuff
right there on the spot in real time.  Hell these modern birds don't need us
any more.  {8-[  It used to take an army of guys to feed and care for their
data needs.  Now not so much.  {8-[

So even way before we get nanotech, if ever, we are still making good
progress in smarter smaller payloads.  Launchers, not so much.


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