A dark day for the space industry

NASA hasn’t had a good year for PR so far. Following on from the embarrassing media circus over the exploits of an ex-astronaut earlier this year, now they’re having to go public with the news that not only were some astronauts drunk in charge of their launch vehicles, but that they also discovered an act of sabotage on a computer module destined for the ISS.

Even the private sector hasn’t escaped the black cloud; an explosion at the test facility of Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites, the company that is to supply Virgin Galactic with its sub-orbital vehicles, has killed three and injured as many again.

Stories like the above make me think that, as much as good as they look on paper, we probably shouldn’t be building nuclear powered rockets just yet – the cost of mistakes and mismanagement could be far higher.

3 thoughts on “A dark day for the space industry”

  1. I am of course saddened by the deaths at Scaled Composites.

    In regards to the nuclear rocket which I detailed from nuclearspace.com. I have added more about how it is has triple safety aborts (preventing explosions). I indicate how the fuel tank area can be armored to contain any radiation. I also indicate how the launch site can be chosen so that even if all the radiation did leak it would not cause any injury or death.

    If people wanted to feel safer about it this can be unmanned. We can keep launching people via chemical rocket.

    Why is it more scary for anyone to risk dieing from a nuclear rocket than from a car accident (1.2 million deaths per year), air pollution (3 million deaths per year), chemical rocket (300+ deaths total mostly civilians and ground crew) ?

  2. I am extremely suspicious, and I get more prone to conspiracy notions every year. If I am to see this in the light of current geopolitical balances I think it plausible that some people up there do NOT want a rabbit to pop from the hat in the current situation – and that rabbit might very well be in the form of a sudden and highly destabilizing development in spacetravel.

    After all, some people might actually try and escape. You wouldn’t want people to hope for an escape route, now would you?

  3. Thanks, Brian; in my case, it’s less about the fear of the rocket’s ‘nuclear-ness’, if you see what I mean, as a fear that the organisations currently operating space launch platforms can’t seem to manage the considerably less complex technologies that they are already using – as in, it may be pretty safe if built properly and according to plan, but you’ve got to get every single subcontractor pulling their weight … and make sure none are snipping the cables for whatever reason, as happened with the NASA computer. I guess I’m saying we should make sure we can walk properly before trying to run; I think nuclear rocketry is probably quite a viable method in the long run.

    And Dagon, I see your point, and sometimes find myself drawn to conspiracy theories too. But I always try to remind myself of the quote (which I will paraphrase here, because I can’t remember the original nor who said it) that goes “it’s pointless to assume conspiracy in any situation where plain old fashioned human stupidity could achieve the same end.” Sort of like an Occam’s Razor. 😉

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