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/u/danielravennest on I am Jeff Hoffman, MIT Professor of Aerospace Engineering and former NASA Astronaut. Ask Me Anything!

19 Feb 2015, 20:54 UTC
/u/danielravennest on I am Jeff Hoffman, MIT Professor of Aerospace Engineering and former NASA Astronaut. Ask Me Anything!
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As someone who has worked on launch vehicle projects at Boeing, I can say the idea of using your vehicle hardware multiple times was a sensible one. NASA's first try at it with the Space Shuttle showed they lacked the experience to "run an airline", and missed the ground turnaround by a factor of 6.

In more detail, how often you could fly the Shuttle depended on how long it took between landing and being ready for the next launch. It was supposed to be 2 weeks, but ended up being more like 12 weeks. That's because nobody had experience with ground turnaround (something airlines do in about an hour). NASA had experience with tracking weights, because everything that flies has to worry about getting too heavy. So they had tracking reports, weight estimates, weights engineers who specialized in it. They always knew where they stood on the weight of the vehicle.

They didn't do a similar thing for tracking ground processing time, due to lack of experience. Since nobody was responsible, it didn't get done, and it ended up being too long by a factor of 6. So the Shuttle never flew as often as intended. It had a ...

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