by Jeff Cunningham
Jeff here, Take Back the Sky‘s resident rocket scientist. Those of you who were tuning in with us over the past week for the launch of the Falcon 9 and the SES-8 satellite but aren’t familiar with “the way of things” in the space business may feel a little put-out and running out of patience with the multiple false starts. Those of us who’ve always been space advocates and those of us who live in Florida understand, though, that, for rocket scientists and astronauts, re-scheduling launches, or “scrubbing,” is a fact of life. Having a rocket, whether it’s a Falcon or the space shuttle take off on the first try is actually kind of rare.
It brings me back to when the shuttle was still flying, and I tried to organize Browncoat shindigs around carpooling out to the Cape and watching an episode or two of Firefly and barbecuing while waiting for the launch. Perfect pairing, right? Even if it’s “scrubbed,” we still went out and had a shiny time.
Anyways, what we’re worried about is not so much whether you’ve lost patience with the whole affair, but that some of you may get the impression that “space is hard” or somehow impossible. That couldn’t be more wrong–and even if it were, that’d be more reason for us as Browncoats to “do the impossible.” The fact of the matter is, it’s easier for us as human beings when faced with something difficult to write it off as “impossible” rather than trying, and label those who pay the price for success as “lucky.”
Space is absolutely not easy, whether it’s training to become an astronaut, or designing a lunchbox-sized satellite as a student project, but it is doable if you pay the price. That price isn’t just measured in hours of work, but also in demanding accuracy and precision. It’s the thoroughness with which the crew goes through their checklist, it’s Wash’s attention to details while flying, and it’s in never settling for less or cutting corners while on the ground–as we’ve seen in SpaceX’s handling of this mission.
They’re saying that the launch was scrubbed because the computers found that the fuel pumps weren’t working properly. That sounds major because we associate that with expensive car repairs, but the likely explanation, believe it or not, is the computers being too “conservative,” like when certain operating systems and programs refuse to let you work with certain file types for the sake of “security”…
They’re “working the problem,” to use more space program parlance, and of this writing, will try again Monday. Yes, we will be “covering” it, and if it’s scrubbed again, we’ll be there the next time, and every time after that. We can’t promise you it will go off this time, but we can promise you it’ll be a heck of a show when it does–and, hey, if you’re looking for a way to pass the time, you could always write a letter to Elon Musk to tell him that first crewed Dragon should be named Serenity, or tell more friends to sign our online petition. Once the latter gets a couple more thousand names, we’ll deliver it to SpaceX ourselves.
So tune in to the live stream Monday night if you like, and hang on, travellers–we’ve got more big news coming your way in the near future. Hope you all had a great holiday.