Columbia rescue - save the space shuttle !

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Archibald, Feb 12, 2013.

  1. Archibald space jockey ! Banned

    Jan 22, 2008
    Atlantis best launch date was February 10.
    Columbia crew would asphyxiate on February 15.
    At first glance it seems, well they have a small launch window of five days.
    Except that some knowledgeable engineer on a forum explained things didn't worked that way at all.
    A single day lost in Atlantis flight readiness didn't meant it would lift off on February 11.
    It rather translated into a much bigger slippage, something like two or three days lost, meaning the 5 days theorical margin was essentially non-exisiting.
    There were case in Shuttle history when a glitch happened only 3 seconds before liftoff pushed the flight by two months !
  2. Archibald space jockey ! Banned

    Jan 22, 2008
    [FONT=Times, Times, serif]Flight day 15 [/FONT] [FONT=Times, Times, serif]January 30 2003 [/FONT]

    [FONT=Times, Times, serif]Bremen, Germany [/FONT]

    "I never thought that thing would fly into space again. It has been ten years - a decade of frustrating efforts spent battling governments. I can't guarantee it will work. That thing has been build to fly on a space shuttle payload bay, not under an Ariane fairing. By the way it is slightly too big for that fairing."
    Ulf Merbold was sceptic.
    "But it is the son of the Shuttle Pallet Satellite, and SPAS was modular, isn't it ? And it may fly with a single solar array. It won't spent eleven months into space, this time. Man, how ugly is that thing.
    "It may be ugly, but it gets you there." Ulf Merbold smiled at the reference to the famous Volkswagen advert featuring a Lunar Module, all those years before, in 1969...


    "To think it flew only once" the Daimler engineer sighed. "There were two more missions planned at the time, but Columbus ate everything else - this thing, more Spacelab flights, Hermes, the Man-tended-Free-Flyer and the polar platform. That's how Europe manned spaceflight went down the drain. Daimler was so frustrated that in January 1996 they took over the platform from ESA and sought private investors for further flights."
    "At some point we nearly had the Arab Emirates on board, but they backed down when NASA gently told us they had no shuttle flight to carry this baby into orbit again. Which is hardly surprising: any mission unrelated to Hubble or the ISS stands little chance. Do you realize STS-107 was proposed as early as 1998, and was to be flown two years ago, in February... 2001 ? it says a lot. As for this thing it's a big baby, you know - not the kind of secondary payload that can hitch a ride on a corner of a shuttle payload bay or on a little vacant space under a fairing..."
    "Whatever, you at Daimler refused to let that platform die" Merbold said.
    "Indeed. Four years ago we proposed it to ESA again. The plan was to fly it as a free flyer to complement Columbus. Since the death of the MTFF Europe space laboratories are to be kept attached to the station, and delicate microgravity experiments hate that. Our platform would have been launched by an Ariane, it would have flown itself to the ISS and latched on Columbus for the crew to swap or recover experiments if needed. After what it would have detached for a year long flight flight far from the space station vibration and dirty environment - before returning to Columbus. Perhaps once it would hitched an Earth return ride on a passing shuttle, but we didn't have much hopes, so we did away with the shuttle."
    "How far did you went ?"
    "Farther than one may think. We modified our baby to fly an Ariane; we made limited changes to the payload section so that some elements could be swapped in space and not on the ground. Heck, we even have an engagement from Arianespace and ESA for an Ariane 4, perhaps the very last to roll out of the production line, made of the many spares they had accumulated over the years."
    "And then nothing happened."
    "Indeed. After 1999 NASA and the space station endured one crisis after another - Mars probes crashed, the ISS was hit by one big huge cost overrun, and administrator Dan Goldin was sacked after a record ten years at the head of the space agency. With Columbus postponed once again our plan fell by the wayside, and the platform you see returned into storage. In fact at the end of last year my management was seriously considering turning it to some Swiss museum."
    "And now that ungainly spaceship may be the unsung hero..."

    Ulf Merbold smiled. He had no doubt the European Retrievable Carrier - Eureca – would do a good job.

  3. Bahamut-255 Space Lover

    Jul 28, 2010
    So that's what you were referring to back then. Eureca. What I didn't know was pretty much all of this. Though at just 4,500 Kg, it's easily within the LEO Payload range of the Ariane 44L, even if Ariane was never optimised for LEO until Ariane 5 ES with the ATV IIRC.

    So would these guesses be correct:

    1) That it's been adapted to carry supplies such as food, water, CO2 scrubbers?

    2) That it's remaining Solar Panel could provide at least a little extra power for Columbia to stretch out what time they have left?
  4. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

    Apr 13, 2007
    Syracuse, Haudenosaunee, Vinland
    Eureka! (Oh, Eureca...)
  5. RazeByFire Well-Known Member

    May 3, 2009
    Again I ask, would paint make a difference?
  6. Orville_third Banned

    Mar 3, 2009
    Piedmont Socialist Republic
    Not sure. I heard that they removed the paint to give the shuttle an extra 600 pounds of payload.
    I wish I knew where a copy of Reader's Digest I saw was, which had a USAF ad on the last page, featuring a shuttle launch with the old, painted ET.
    Would the shuttle's tires be able to be used for insulation? (I've actually gotten to handle one or two used ones- Michelin donated one to our school district's science center, and I saw another on display at an aviation conference.) Of course, they may have to ditch the shuttle...

    I also need to see if I can find our copy of the Space Shuttle Operator's Manual. It might be a good reference.
  7. Archibald space jockey ! Banned

    Jan 22, 2008
    and isn't it ironic... don't you think ?

    [FONT=Times, Times, serif]Flight day 16 [/FONT]
    [FONT=Times, Times, serif]January 31 2003 [/FONT]
    [FONT=Times, Times, serif]Kourou, French Guyana [/FONT]
    [FONT=Times, Times, serif](music: Alanis Morissette, Ironic)

    Ariane looked like a beheaded monster.
    The booster was being transferred to the launch pad without the fairing nor the payload. Intelsat 907 had been gently tossed aside and the ground teams were now frantically working on old Eureca. Intelsat had no interest in obstructing such an historic mission and anyway the company had backup launchers and even a backup satellite.


    James Oberg had imagined 1-ton unguided packages launched (with a certain attrition rate) to Columbia orbit. When compared to them Eureca had some built-in advantages. It had powerful propulsion and power systems, it was able to navigate alone for months of time. Most importantly it was 3-axis stabilized and designed, from its inception, to fit in a shuttle environment.
    Yet Eureca had not been designed to be launched by an Ariane - there was no existing interface between the two. Per lack of time such interface was being created in a very crude, minimalistic way. Eureca would essentially fly as some heavy ballast precariously attached to Ariane satellite dispenser.
    Truth be told, the platform was even slightly too wide (by 25 inch) to fit into that rocket fairing.

    To solve that issue American and European engineers dug out Eureca mother out of mothball. Dubbed SPAS (for Shuttle Pallet Satellite) it had flown a decade earlier and was cruder - unlike Eureca it was unable to detach from its shuttle carrier. Yet SPAS remained useful in the sense its structure was essentially half of an Eureca. If the latter had to be cut or shortened to fit into Ariane fairing, it would be SPAS that would tell the engineers where and what to cut.
    As such, old Shuttle Pallet Satellite had literally been butchered, some of its structural elements eventually finding their way into Eureca. The resulting hybrid spaceship was rather ungainly, yet it would deliver 1 ton of survival gear to the stranded astronauts.

    Meanwhile other ESA teams in Kourou were assessing the present and future weather, with mixed feelings. There would be soon strong altitude wings, and Ariane hated that. Launch was planned, well, as soon as possible - probably around February 8 or so.

    Whatever would happen, that flight of Ariane would stay in history as epic.

    The last Ariane of its kind would help in the rescue of the first shuttle - and it would have to sacrifice an Intelsat satellite for that.

    There was some bitter irony in all this.

    Three decades before Ariane had essentially ruined the shuttle career as a satellite launcher by sweeping away many Intelsat V and VI launch contracts. Not only had the shuttle be affected; the shuttle was supposed to kill the Delta and Atlas-Centaur that at the time launched early generations of Intelsats.
    With perfect hindsight, in 1977 Atlas-Centaur could have strangled Ariane in infancy had it not been for the shuttle !

    A decade later Challenger and its crew were lost in a pretty horrific disaster that marked the end of an era. On August 15 1986 President Reagan had a decree passed that forever banned the shuttle of commercial satellite launches. Unfortunately for a decade now the shuttle had literally wiped out the Atlas and Delta, whose production lines were being shut down. When they finally re-opened it was too late. As of 1988 the early Arianes had been refined into the formidable Ariane 4 that swept the satellite launch business like never before.

    Ariane success was bitterly felt on the other side of the Atlantic, and from 2002 onwards mounting tensions over Iraq did not helped at all.

    In such a toxic context Ariane immediate availability to a rescue mission had been a bonanza. There were rumours of very high-level political involvement in the Ariane / Eureca mission, with De Villepin, Chirac and Schröder talking to President Bush as early as January 20, the day NASA had disclosed the gravity of Columbia situation to the world.

    February 15, 2003 promised to be a day for history books.

    If both Atlantis and Ariane failed to reach Columbia before that day then the crew would die by asphyxia.

    Ariane would have probably launched Intelsat that day on a routine mission, three day late since strong altitude winds were predicted.

    Lastly, that February 15 the flamboyant (and much maligned) French PM Dominique de Villepin was to give a speech at the ONU tribune on the subject of Iraq. Without any surprise it would re-affirm his country intangible opposition to the war - although obviously that wouldn't prevent it from happening.
  8. Bahamut-255 Space Lover

    Jul 28, 2010
    Now that is some Irony! :eek: The very Launch Vehicle that killed off the US Commercial Satellite Business in the 1990's - STS having done that in the 1980's - is now the very thing that could save the lives of Columbia. And now, the Ariane 4 gets the chance to finish its Operational Life in a manner that nobody is going to forget for a very long time.
  9. Orville_third Banned

    Mar 3, 2009
    Piedmont Socialist Republic
    Could the Columbia crisis cause attention to be diverted away from military intervention in Iraq? Could the US be more willing to let the inspections continue?
  10. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

    Jun 8, 2011
    If anything, I think it would just increase support for the administration. "Rally round the flag."

    But I can't see how it would affect the timetable for the war.
  11. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

    Jun 8, 2011
    Hello Archibald

    Ariane looked like a beheaded monster.
    The booster was being transferred to the launch pad without the fairing nor the payload. Intelsat 907 had been gently tossed aside and the ground teams were now frantically working on old Eureca. Intelsat had no interest in obstructing such an historic mission and anyway the company had backup launchers and even a backup satellite.

    So they plan to mate up the (modified) Eureca on the launch pad?

    Jury-rigged as this is, I'm wondering how feasible it is to finish mating it up to the launcher in time.
  12. ANTIcarrot Well-Known Member

    Jul 1, 2011
    Well here's a video of Russians mating hardware to a Soyuz rocket in real time. Apparently it doesn't take much time at all. As long as all the holes match up.
  13. mattep74 Well-Known Member

    Jan 24, 2004
    Maybe someone from the Democrats contact Bush and say "If you hold the war for a year we will support you, but dont do anything about Iraq as long as we have the worlds sympathy for our crew"
  14. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    I thought the Ariane 4, launching from Kourou, could deliver considerably more than a tonne to Columbia's orbit.

    According to this table at Wikipedia various versions can get somewhere between 6 to 7 tonnes to "Low Earth Orbit;" using the Silverbird Launch Calculator and assuming we are talking about an Ariane AR44P w/H10 upper stage & medium fairing (that's 4 boosters from the picture, I assume solids because that is more pessimistic and seems most likely to have been what was available, and I guessed the standard H10 upper stage, and "medium" fairing is called "long" as opposed to extra long in the Ariane 4 dropdown) the calculator gives
    Estimated Payload: 6437 kg
    95% Confidence Interval: 5706 - 7250 kg

    for a 307 km altitude circular orbit at 39 degrees inclination--assuming launch from Kourou of course.

    Now the "payload" is everything--the Eureca bus and its fuel included.

    does all that really mass nearly 5 tonnes or more?

    I'd think we'd be delivering considerably more than a tonne.

    I tried to look up information about the Orbiter life support system, notably the mass of an LiOH canister and the number of person-days such a canister is good for, but have had little luck so far. I've gathered that the Orbiter used two canisters at any given time, with them "...changed alternately every 12 hours through an access door in the floor. For a flight crew of seven, the lithium hydroxide canisters are changed alternately every 11 hours...." but it isn't clear to me whether one canister lasts 12 (or 11) hours and there are four changes in 24 (or 22) hours, or whether "alternately" also implies that the total lifetime of one canister is 24/22 hours.

    Either way I have no clue what the mass of a canister is. Clearly at least two, and possibly four, are needed for every day we hope to extend the lifetimes of Columbia crew in orbit. And of course LiOH canisters are just the most critical supply item--given an unlimited supply of them, other shortages would soon become urgent. Oxygen, food, power (that's by hydrogen/oxygen fuel cells, which provide water as well)--other items are also running out. There's no point in providing plenty of LiOH canisters for another month if the oxygen is going to run out sooner, or the power will fail long before then.

    The ultimate limit is, when will they run out of something they can't refill in orbit; I'm guessing there's no provision allowing them to top off the tanks of liquid hydrogen and oxygen supplying the fuel cells.

    Is it then that the Eureca will not only carry supplies, but docked in the by but with solar panels extended, supply power to the Orbiter as well, so that the hydrogen and oxygen in the fuel cell tanks can be considered mainly to be life support supplies and not the sole power source? That would explain why the mass of actual supplies is so low!

    Anyway as I say I don't know if a single standard LiOH canister masses a kilogram, ten kilograms or a hundred--I doubt both the first and the last as far too low and far too high, but even 10 kg, which means a tonne of them could extend their stay (as far as CO2 scrubbing goes) by a month or two, is probably too optimistic.

    A single tonne of nothing but LiOH canisters could buy them a week or three then I guess. I don't know when they run out of oxygen to breathe though.

    It seems obvious to me that if the Ariane can launch the Eureca, and the Eureca can carry more than 1 tonne of supplies to Columbia, it should. I don't think that using it as a power generator can work well enough--but without some supplemental power source, the oxygen will run out on schedule. Unless Eureca's solar panels generate essentially as much power as the orbiter fuel cells (this seems highly unlikely to me) it probably isn't worth sacrificing any consumables whatsoever.

    Especially if there can be some way to send more oxygen and hydrogen, and use that in the fuel cells. Being without power would kill them too.

    I wonder how much e of pi or truth is life know about things like the canister masses, and just how much margin beyond 30 days was in the fuel cells and extra oxygen for breathing.

    As long as the fuel cells last, there's plenty of water--3 gallons per crew member per day. And that tells us the mass of reactants used to generate the power--about 80 kg a day. So in 30 days they'd use at least 2 and a half tonnes--maybe more since this is at the low power rate adopted for the emergency, they probably were drawing a lot more power before the emergency powerdown.

    At that rate, Atlantis had better not be much delayed past the 15th, even if Eureca actually delivers more than a tonne of stuff. There's no point in Eureca bringing more hydrogen unless it can be fed into the fuel cells, or they send up an auxiliary fuel cell that can be plugged in to the power bus--but that would cost more mass. There might be a point in bringing oxygen, if breathing oxygen is their next limit, but I suspect the fuel cells consume oxygen at a considerably greater rate than the 7 humans aboard do. Food won't be a problem for a while, and if it runs out--humans can operate without food for weeks, if they have water.

    This is why I was looking on the chart for really heavy launchers, like the big Titan or Atlas options, that might deliver 20 tonnes or more. But they aren't options, we have to make the best we can of the Ariane.

    If, God forbid, but as seems all too likely He won't, Atlantis is delayed.

    And on time or late, Atlantis should be loaded to the gunwales with all the extra canisters, oxygen and hydrogen for fuel cells (and some kind of extension cord to power Columbia emergency systems!) and possibly food too, in case Atlantis is also stranded. They can eject it after reentry burn (or if possible, before) if all goes well. The more they have, the more time that buys not only for Endeavour but also for putting together a big Titan or the like with serious quantities of extended rations.
  15. Archibald space jockey ! Banned

    Jan 22, 2008
    To paraphrase The Godfather " [history] made me an offer I couldn't refuse"
    That offer was the last Ariane rescueing the first shuttle and losing an Intelsat in the process.
    Another irony was related to February 15 2003 - that day being heavily loaded with an explosive mixture of Iraq and space program.
    On the Iraq side
    - De Villepin memorable speech at the United Nations
    - million of people protesting against the war
    On the space side
    - Ariane last flight happened that day OTL
    - Columbia crew would have suffocated that day OTL

    Put together it made for a bizarre American-French love-hate relationship :) happening (on top of that) the day after Valentine Day.

    It just occurred to me it's a space Romeo and Juliet. Figure Ariane as Romeo, Columbia as Juliet, the Capulet vs Montaigu being France vs the United States over the Iraq war.

    A quick google search told me LIOH canisters weight a mere 5 kg or so. So Eureca may carry a sh*tload of them, together with oxygen.

    Oxygen and Co2 scrubbing were the main threats the CAIB singled out. The two issues were closely related and as such the deadlines were similar.
    CO2 would have killed Columbia crew after 30 days.
    Lack of oxygen would have happened after 33 days, 34 at best.

    By contrast I couldn't find anything behind these deadlines in the CAIB report. Water, food, shuttle systems - looks like there were reasonnable margins there.
    Of course that suppose Columbia is literally bleeding itself to death to keep the crew alive. I can't imagine the shape of the undercarriage tires, or the fuel cells, or even the ceramic tiles, after five or six weeks in space.
    For the record, as mentionned in an earlier post the shuttle endurance record is 18 days - STS-80, November / December 1996 by Columbia herself.
    The extended duration orbiter was originally targeted for 28 days, but this morning I stumbled on a 1977 document mentionning 60 or even 90 days :eek:.

    I kept the Eureca numbers as they were (mass 4500 kg, payload 1000 kg) because it was already difficult to jury-rigg that thing into Ariane. The rocket itself could eventually jettison its liquid-fuelled booster (the PAL - Propulseur d'Appoint Liquide) and become an Ariane 40 with a payload matching closely Eureca (4500 kg to low Earth orbit).
    I don't know however how much time it takes to unload PAL propellants and remove these things out of the first stage.
    So let's keep good old Ariane 44L as it is.

    Next update soon...
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2013
  16. AndyC Shadow Secretary of State for Infrastructure Donor

    Apr 9, 2011
    Barmy ideas from Blue Team, redux:

    Dear Administrator,

    Given that there have been concerns expressed over one specific possibility of a negative outcome of Plan A; specifically that if the damage that occurred to Columbia on launch were to recur and affect the Atlantis launch, we may have two Shuttles stranded in orbit together with 11 crewmembers.

    We therefore have been investigating alternative contingency return options given the successful launch of Atlantis but in the circumstances where the Orbiter can also not return safely. We note that the option of Soyuz return for even a proportion of the stranded crew has been discounted for the entirely correct reasons that the Soyuz launchers at Baikonur cannot feasibly reach Columbia's orbit and that the issues of either transporting an entire Soyuz launcher to an appropriate launch site from which the orbital window may be reached, or of mating Soyuz to any launcher currently at an alternative site have been proven implausible in the given timescales.

    However, one of our members suggested that as part of Atlantis's payload to orbit, two complete Soyuz capsules could be carried in the payload bay, leaving plenty of room and mass for support payload to permit transport of large quantities of Lithium hydroxide canisters, water, food, oxygen, space suits, etc. This would permit the retrieval of 6 of the 11 astronauts that would be stranded in orbit in that contingency, further ekeing out the emergency supplies. This would permit further options to be explored on a longer-term basis, and at least we would successfully retrieve more than half of the crews that would be, in such circumstances, otherwise stranded in orbit.

    This is, of course, contingent on our Russian friends having 2 SOyuz capsules available, transporting such to KSC in time, and being able to start them up in orbit; our team does not have detailed information on such facts and we urge you to find out more on this.

    Best Regards,
    Dr Wile E Coyote.

    P.S. Tests of the MOOSE designs have been highly encouraging and boilerplate versions have been constructed for windtunnel and high heat testing.
  17. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

    Jun 8, 2011
    I can't say I've looked into vacuum/radiation effects on these systems, but I'd be surprised if there was any notable deterioration on them. I thought the margins were more robust than that on materials.

    Aside, that is, from the fuel cells, which would be pretty well depleted by that point.
  18. Bahamut-255 Space Lover

    Jul 28, 2010
    Exactly. The Fuel Cells on Columbia would be rather depleted by the time Atlantis reaches it, through consuming LOX and LH2 to provide power for Columbia and Boil-Off Losses. So I wouldn't be surprised if Eureca had also been jury-rigged with a means of using it's remaining Solar Panel to provide at least a little bit of extra power for Columbia.
  19. Glenn239 Well-Known Member

    Oct 25, 2012

    It says the average astronaut is 5kg of supply daily, all in. 5kg*7 crew&*30 days = 1 ton supply required per month.
  20. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    At 5 kg per canister, a full metric tonne is equal to 200; using 2 canisters per day that's 100 days, or using 4 that's 50 days.

    5 kg per astronaut per day of all supplies, implying a tonne a month for Columbia as Glenn239 figures, means that the Eureca can only bring them a month's extra time.

    Well, in 30 days they will use at least 60 LiOH canisters, so that's 300 kg right there, and about 200 kg of oxygen. That's half Eureca's payload.

    Bearing in mind the astronauts are admonished to minimize activity to slow down the rate of CO2 production (and oxygen consumption) they are also probably on small rations of food. (Also, the galley is powered down, so whatever they eat they can't actually cook:eek:). So they will consume somewhat less food than the 5 kg a day figure includes.

    As for water--as long as the fuel cells last, the amount of pure water they produce is in excess of what the crew needs to drink by a fair margin.

    It looks like it's the fuel cells we need to worry about next. I'm still not hearing whether there is any feasible means of either refilling the main reactant tanks from other tanks shipped up, or swapping them out for new tanks. I'm assuming neither of these is feasible. There might be a way of jury-rigging a shunt of some kind to feed the cells from other tanks; it would depend on just where the fuel cells are in the ship and how close the new tanks can be moved to the cells.

    The next two alternatives are--send up not just oxygen and hydrogen but a full new fuel cell kit, cell and tanks together, and plug in the power and sip off the water.

    Or send up something with a big solar panel and run Columbia's essential electric supply that way--and even if that could work, all of a sudden the crew is going to need its water supply too. I guess they could have saved up a lot of surplus water over the past month or more and that can get them by for a while.

    With the power and oxygen constraints being so severe I don't think we have to worry about feeding them; by the time they face serious hunger they will have choked or frozen to death anyway--or more realistically, thrown all excess mass overboard and attempted reentry and pray the patch job worked.

    I'm still troubled by Eureca only being able to deliver one tonne. If it is that hard to remove unnecessary mass from it, why not fall back on the earlier idea of just jury-rigging an appropriate frame with minimal guidance and propulsion and let Columbia chase it down?

    Now, if one reason Eureca can only haul about a quarter of its whole mass as cargo is that it is very maneuverable itself, so that if Eureca's orbit is as far off Columbia's as e of pi warned us it might be (miles off in altitude, up to half a degree in inclination misalignment) then Eureca itself, suitably coached from the ground, can fly itself right up to the open cargo bay and ease itself in (or anyway to within 10 meters or so and the 2 spacewalkers can finish the job--then I guess I'd withdraw my objection, since then Columbia would not have used any of her propellant to retrieve it, so from their point of view it's all free. So--half a tonne buys them another month, the other half tonne being a backup fuel cell with tanks, that buys them--some time. I'm not sure how much the cell itself and tankage would mass you see.

    Then, if Atlantis launch slips a long time, NASA can meanwhile be looking for other rockets and more mass-efficient delivery systems to send up more of the same, this time probably with some food included. They could have designed the Eureca fuel cell system to have tanks that easily come off so later loads can more efficiently supply just the necessary reactants, buying more time.

    Or the second payload might, instead of yet more supplies, be the MOOSE shipment.

    I like MOOSE better than the idea of flying Columbia down!