Saturday, December 18

You’ve never seen it this way

Here all three engines are going full blast. See any smoke?

Our friend in Sweden, David, blogged about a friend who was with the Space Shuttle program for over 25 years. He included a link to a YouTube video that commemorates the program by showing the close-up technical details of a launch, taken with dozens of high-speed film cameras at the launch site. Imagine what it must feel like, perched atop a multi-million-pound-thrust rocket when it ignites and slams the whole assembly several feet off-kilter before it is freed from its eight explosive anchor bolts holding it to the launch pad. Every second the entire array is blowing off 23,000 pounds of mass until it reaches orbit eight minutes later at a speed of five miles per second.

The shuttle engines are fueled by hydrogen and oxygen so their exhaust is nice clean water vapor. The booster rockets are the real stinkers, spewing out the equivalent of the biggest tire fire in the biggest landfill imaginable. Oh well, at least they’re simple and reliable. And re-usable after they’re fished out of the ocean.

The video is over 45 minutes long. I sacrificed about a third of my daily Internet allotment via satellite, but it was well worth it! To see what I mean about the rocket assembly being tossed forward when the shuttle engines ignite, go to a place where you can see the entire assembly. When the shuttle engines start and before the boosters fire up, click on the progress button along the timeline and scrub it back and forth. That speeds up the action so you can see the amount of movement of the whole assembly. That must explain why the bottoms of the solid boosters are made of so many segments—they’re the only anchor to the earth right before takeoff and have to absorb that tremendous torque without breaking. Fascinating!

Right now I’m going to watch the whole thing again for the third time.

1 comment:

Agneta and David said...

It is incredible engineering.