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  #1  
Old 04 March 2010, 11:36 PM
JillInApartment413
 
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Airplane Space Shuttle Self Destruct

A little-known component on the space shuttle that NASA doesn't like to talk about is the self-destruct mechanism or, as they like to call it, "Flight Termination."

In the event that the space shuttle flies out of a specific flight path over the Atlantic and it appears that it will impact a populated area, an Air Force officer would flip the switch which would detonate charges in the booster rocket, destroying the shuttle and crew.

If the shuttle manages to fly for two minutes, the booster rockets fall away taking the charges with them after which, if a problem arises, the crew can either ditch the ship into the Atlantic, evacuating via parachutes, or orbit the Earth once and land at Edwards Air Force Base.

After the destruction of Challenger, the charges were used to remotely detonate the booster rockets that continued to fly out of control after the explosion.

Is this real?



Note, I am asking is this a real picture, AND if this is actually true, even if it's not a real picture.

~Jill
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  #2  
Old 05 March 2010, 01:30 AM
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Weehawk Weehawk is offline
 
 
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According to Popular mechanics, the photo is real:

http://www.popularmechanics.com/scie...e/4262479.html

According to Wikipedia, the orbiter itself does not have a destruct device, but the solid rocket boosters do. They were utilized when the Challenger broke up in 1986.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Range_Safety_Officer

Info from NASA:

http://kscsma.ksc.nasa.gov/Range_Saf...quirements.htm
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  #3  
Old 05 March 2010, 04:37 AM
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From what I've read, it's definitely true, but I'm not sure as to the veracity of the picture.
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  #4  
Old 05 March 2010, 06:45 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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I doubt it. At most, it could be a device to emergency destruct the boosters after they are jettisoned, but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't want the bad publicity that blowing up their own people would mean. A deliberate self destruct (and, I use that term loosely, as it's not really a self destruct if it's operated remotely from the ground) could be bad enough from a PR view to bring down NASA.

My guess:

Someone has added the white paper with labels as a joke to a panel unrelated to the shuttle, made a photo and posted it out of context.
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  #5  
Old 05 March 2010, 07:41 AM
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Psihala Psihala is offline
 
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Every vehicle launched from Cape Canaveral since the earliest days of space flight have been equipped with shaped charges designed to destroy it in the event it loses control during flight or in the event of some other malfunction that would otherwise endanger people or property on the ground. This is true for both unmanned and manned launch systems, including Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and the Shuttle.

It is the responsibility of the Range Safety Officer to destroy an errant vehicle when there is no other recourse available to regain control. In the case of unmanned flights, this function was controlled from the blockhouse next to the launch complex being utilized. In the case of manned flight, this function was controlled either from the blockhouse or from the Mercury Mission Control Center located at the Cape, and then from the Mission Control Center at the Johnston Space Center in Houston, TX.

There have been a number of Range Safety aborts in unmanned flight through the years, but only two on vehicles that flew in what otherwise would be "manned" configurations. One you mentioned already, Challenger's SRB's were destroyed by Range Safety when they started veering uncontrolled after the breakup of the Shuttle and External Tank (which has its own shaped charges for the same purpose, if need be). The other was the unmanned flight of Mercury-Atlas 3, which was intentionally destroyed about 43 seconds into the flight when the Atlas booster failed to pitch over toward the horizon.

Incidentally, there are a few more abort modes than what you describe available to the Shuttle during the initial stages of flight. There are a couple of "downrange" emergency landing sites that can be used in the event an Abort to Orbit is not possible. One is the Shuttle Landing Facility itself. I believe there is also one in Madrid, Spain, and one in Australia.

The reason for this little history lesson is because a few historical control centers for various manned and unmanned flights still exist and are open to the public for close inspection - either as recreations at their original locations (ie, the blockhouse at Launch Complex 5/6, and one of the two Mission Control Rooms in Houston), or they have been recreated and relocated (ie, the Mercury Mission Control room, which was only just recently recreated). Without knowing where the picture of the control panel was taken, it may well be of one of these older panels that is on display.

~Psihala

Last edited by Psihala; 05 March 2010 at 07:53 AM.
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  #6  
Old 05 March 2010, 07:52 AM
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Eddylizard Eddylizard is offline
 
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Or in the case of the maiden flight of Ariane 5 AKA Europes most expensive firework show, the self destruct mechanism was triggered automatically.
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  #7  
Old 05 March 2010, 08:13 AM
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I'm not entirely certain about the details, but I believe that was also the case for the Delta II that failed just after launch on January 17, 1997 when one of its 9 solid rocket motor casings split open. The vehicle sensed the problem and essentially destroyed itself.

~Psihala
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  #8  
Old 05 March 2010, 08:13 AM
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Tarquin Farquart Tarquin Farquart is offline
 
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I was sure it would be a big red button.
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  #9  
Old 05 March 2010, 11:26 PM
jimmy101_again jimmy101_again is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tarquin Farquart View Post
I was sure it would be a big red button.
Above a speaker that would entone, in a womans voice of course,
"5 seconds until self destruct"
"4 seconds until self destruct"
"3 seconds until self destruct"
...

And of course, below the speaker would be the directions to the super secret "destruct over-ride button" that is only accessible after a dangerous and hair raising crawl through the orbiter's ventilation pipes and secret tunnels.
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  #10  
Old 06 March 2010, 12:20 AM
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E. Q. Taft E. Q. Taft is offline
 
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Richard Feynman, who served on the panel that investigated the Challenger disaster, confirmed that the shuttle does have destruct charges. (He described discussing the matter with the range safety officer.) True, the PR from blowing up a manned craft would be pretty bad -- but the PR from a mostly-fueled shuttle crashing into an inhabited area would be a lot worse.
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Old 06 March 2010, 02:11 AM
Alchemy Alchemy is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Psihala View Post
Challenger's SRB's were destroyed by Range Safety when they started veering uncontrolled after the breakup of the Shuttle and External Tank (which has its own shaped charges for the same purpose, if need be).
The External Tank Range Safety system was disabled starting with STS-79 (1996, long after Challenger) and completely removed starting with STS-88 (1998). AFAICT there's never been a Range Safety system on the orbiter.
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  #12  
Old 07 March 2010, 11:42 AM
Ulkomaalainen Ulkomaalainen is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E. Q. Taft View Post
True, the PR from blowing up a manned craft would be pretty bad -- but the PR from a mostly-fueled shuttle crashing into an inhabited area would be a lot worse.
Actually, I am not really sure about that. The one could be taken as a (very unlucky) accident, an act of chance/god/whatever, while the other could be seen as the unscrupulous killing of people, where "we don't know" whether it would have done any harm at all.

I am not arguing what would be sensible to do, and I am not sure that you're wrong, either, I'm just not convinced that the PR would necessarily be worse. But maybe that's a different matter on different sides of the pond as well, considering the discussion we had about the police sniping some criminal in Germany a few years ago.
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  #13  
Old 11 March 2010, 03:03 PM
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Is it possible it is a real photo with the wrong description? That is... "flight termination" doesn't mean destroying the craft - but rather, during a brief time during/immediately following take-off, if there is a major problem, the mission can be aborted and the shuttle returns to a designated landing area rather than continuing into orbit...
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  #14  
Old 12 March 2010, 06:52 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rumorbuster View Post
Is it possible it is a real photo with the wrong description? That is... "flight termination" doesn't mean destroying the craft - but rather, during a brief time during/immediately following take-off, if there is a major problem, the mission can be aborted and the shuttle returns to a designated landing area rather than continuing into orbit...
I agree, especially as the white labels seems to be rather ad hoc added.
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  #15  
Old 15 March 2010, 02:18 PM
Alchemy Alchemy is offline
 
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It looks like the labels are added but they repeat the information on the buttons themselves, probably to make them more visible to the operator.

The only thing that would lead me to think this not specifically the STS Range Safety System console is that a search for relevant meanings for CME (Command Mission Equipment) turns up a lot of USAF documents but no NASA documents. But at most that might mean this is a USAF RSS console, which NASA might or might not use.
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  #16  
Old 15 March 2010, 03:01 PM
FullMetal FullMetal is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmy101_again View Post
Above a speaker that would entone, in a womans voice of course,
"5 seconds until self destruct"
"4 seconds until self destruct"
"3 seconds until self destruct"
no
"10...9...8...6"

"6 what happened to 7!"

"Just kidding!"
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  #17  
Old 15 March 2010, 05:02 PM
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Eddylizard Eddylizard is offline
 
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Is this not the reason Cape Canaveral was chosen despite the weather not always being favourable?

I recall reading that if a spacecraft is launched in a slightly eastwards trajectory it gains a slight boost from the rotation of the earth. Not much but it helps. A slingshot effect if you will.

In the riskiest few minutes following launch there really isn't much east of Florida except the Atlantic ocean until you get over Europe of Africa. There are the Azores, the Canary Islands and Madeira, but the chances of an errant craft hitting one of those are miniscule compared with the amount of ocean surrounding them.
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  #18  
Old 15 March 2010, 05:04 PM
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AnglRdr AnglRdr is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
I agree, especially as the white labels seems to be rather ad hoc added.
Yeah, it's definitely not typical NASA-looking.

I highly recommend people go to the museum at Cape Canaveral, by they way. There are all sorts of craft you can get into, including a teeny-tiny little Gemini capsule.
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  #19  
Old 15 March 2010, 05:53 PM
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BoKu BoKu is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eddylizard View Post
...I recall reading that if a spacecraft is launched in a slightly eastwards trajectory it gains a slight boost from the rotation of the earth. Not much but it helps. A slingshot effect if you will...
Yup, for low earth orbit, you need about 17000 MPH. The way I understand it, the rotation of the earth is worth about 1000 MPH. If you launch to the east, you only need to add about 16000 MPH. Launching to the west, you need to add about 18000 MPH.
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  #20  
Old 15 March 2010, 05:53 PM
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Floater Floater is online now
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eddylizard View Post
I recall reading that if a spacecraft is launched in a slightly eastwards trajectory it gains a slight boost from the rotation of the earth. Not much but it helps. A slingshot effect if you will.
Not an expert on space flights but I don't think "slight" is the correct word. The closer to the equator the better. That's why ESA launch their rockets in French Guyana.
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