January 31, 2012

How NASA Solved a $100 Million Problem for Five Bucks Gizmodo

Posted by tourdemars to Budget at January 31, 2012 12:58 PM

A few years ago, back when the Constellation Program was still alive, NASA engineers discovered that the Ares I rocket had a crucial flaw, one that could have jeopardized the entire project. They panicked. They plotted. They steeled themselves for the hundreds of millions of dollars it was going to take to make things right. And then they found out how to fix it for the cost of an extra value meal. The problem facing Ares 1 wasn't a booster malfunction or a computer glitch. It was simple cause-and-effect physics. During the final stages of a launch, as the solid booster rocket burns down it makes the entire vehicle oscillate rapidly. Add that oscillation to the resonant frequency of the large tube that separates the booster and the crew cabin, and you get a crew capsule that vibrates like crazy. When humans are vibrating to that extent, it's impossible for them to read a digital display. If the astronauts can't read, they can't do their jobs. If they can't do their jobs, no more mission.
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