Space weenies are scratching their heads trying to figure out why NASA spent a bundle this week on a test of a new solid-rocket motor that is part of a program that will likely be canceled.
Is the space agency trying to keep alive its canceled Constellation moon-rocket program? Or perhaps it staged the high-profile static test in Utah so that at least parts of the Constellation program will be salvaged and used in a new U.S. heavy-lift rocket?
All NASA managers and motor builder Alliant Techsystems Inc. are saying is that the approximately 6-minute test that generated 3.6 million pounds of thrust and a helluva lot of toxic gases was a success.
Proponents of solid-rocket motor technology correctly argue that they are reliable. But it's an old, expensive technology. The U.S. needs to be looking a new concepts for leaving Earth orbit, not tweaking existing technologies.
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I love the idea of lets light er up! I am also hopeful that the test provided good data on the design and operation of the rocket. It would seem to be a waste to not have tested it, perhaps more was spent on the test but was it a lot more or just a little more (that yielded solid test data)? The bigger question should be: What are the long term plans for all the programs; What is the long term direction for NASA? If their mission is changed too often it is hard to see what good they could accomplish. I say give it shot!
Our understanding is that this was a test of a larger, new-generation solid rocket. It reminded me of the Constellation launch test late last year that appeared designed at least in part to generate public support for a moon-rocket program that some in NASA must have know was on the chopping block.
"...was the most heavily instrumented solid rocket motor test in NASA history. More than 760 instruments measured 53 test objectives."
It doesn't say what the test cost. If that was a solid booster that was already fabricated for the canceled program, and the sensors and electronics were done, then perhaps the science and engineer captured from the tests were worth the money.
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