[ExI] next satellite, was: RE: next county

spike at rainier66.com spike at rainier66.com
Wed Aug 5 17:22:27 UTC 2020

-----Original Message-----
From: spike at rainier66.com <spike at rainier66.com> 

>...... you mighta seen that epic fail that happened at Lockheed:


>...Yes it really happened...spike

There was a fun aside to that whole premature de-orbit episode, also known
by the acronym RUDE (Rapid Unplanned Disassembly Event) that occurred at
Lockheed Sunnyvale in 2003.

Some of it wasn't fun: four guys lost the hell outta their jobs: the bay
supervisor, the project manager, at least two inspectors, all bad stuff,
perhaps their worst day at work ever, worse than the time they lost 100
bucks in the March Madness basketball pool, but there was an educational
aside to all of it.

This was a weather satellite.  I was not on that project (other than to
design the interface bolts between the satellite and the ground-handling
platform (kidding, bygones (I wasn't involved it NOAA at all (but I have
friends who were (we space cases talk to each other a lot (dumping the
satellite on the floor was what Orwell would say is double plus ungood (or
the Ghost Busters would call "bad."))))))  

Here's the kicker to all that.  A normal prole would look at that photo and
say we just lost a 290 million dollar satellite, but... we didn't.  As crazy
as it sounds, an abnormal prole such as a rocket scientist from Lockheed
would point out there was surprisingly little damage.  Not kidding this
time.  Read on please, space fans.

When a satellite is in the bay, it has operational accelerometers all over
it to witness everything that happens (the inspectors hafta view the data
after it is buttoned up in the ride, then sign off that nothing scary
happened to the bird during manufacture, transportation and loading onto the
rocket.)  So... the engineers knew how much shock the components saw during
the RUDE.  Then, they compared to the specification for each of the
electronic boxes and discovered that nearly all of them were still qualified
for launch!  

So... they took the electroncis off that wrecked bus, did a few functional
tests, everything passed (because electronic boxes on a satellite are
already deigned for high-G high shock launch environment) mounted them onto
a spare bus we already had, did a few more functional tests, the program
went right on, with only a schedule delay.  One can imagine it was quite a
shock to the dozen bunny-suited proles in the assembly bay at the time of
the RUDE, but apparently that shock event was within spec, for no one
perished from it as far as we know.

Another fun aside: this accident coulda been a hell of a lot worse.  It
coulda fallen on some hapless prole.  Well sure, but I mean even assuming no
injury to the meat in the assembly bay, it still coulda been a lot worse.
Reason: the solar panels and the control moment gyros were not installed at
the time, as you can see from that forlorn image, none of which would have
survived that RUDE.  The gyros go on near the end of the assembly for that
reason: those babies are relatively delicate, and they go underneath the
solar panels on this particular bus.  You just don't want those out where
any yahoo can drop the satellite on the floor.


Weird outcome: we lost the bus obviously, but we had a spare, in accordance
with the well-known space-case philosophy: never buy one when you can buy
two for only twice the price.

We had a spare, the really expensive assemblies were salvaged and moved
over, a coupla smaller black boxes were damaged beyond salvage (but we had
spares for those too.)   We took the nearly uninjured team off that bus and
loaded em onto another, some of the biggest stars were not even aboard the
bus when it crashed anyway, off they went to arrive at the game only
slightly late.

After this event, the NOAA N' was considered perfectly safe: we already knew
it couldn't suffer a similar fate again, just by the law of averages: the
chances of the same satellite being dumped on the floor twice are so small
as to be negligible.

Happy ending kinda: the program ran into unexpected costs because of the
accident (space projects do that) but it was repaired eventually launched in
2009, not all that far behind schedule.  NOAA N' had a design-life of 2
years, but if you are a hurricane tracker on the US east coast today, the
data you are getting is being partly supplied by this pre-disastered bird.
NOAA N' is still flying and still fully operational, handing down
life-saving data to this day, more than 11 yrs later, and 18 yrs after that
embarrassing RUDE.  


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