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Is a saboteur loose at NASA?

I find it difficult to believe but there are those out there floating the possibility:

Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) and NASA had a bad day late last week. A $424 million satellite named Glory, designed to monitor aerosols and solar irradiance that contribute to changes in climate, failed to be properly delivered to space, when the fairing of the company's Taurus launch system failed to separate from the payload. The extra mass of the dangling nose cone meant that the propulsion system of the upper stage didn't have enough oomph (to use the technical term) to get it into orbit, delivering it and its valuable payload instead to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean near Antarctica.

While launch systems have become more reliable over the years, launch failures still happen, and failure to separate critical parts at staging is one of the most common cause of them. Because the Taurus is a four-stage system, it has more opportunities to encounter this failure mode than most vehicles. What is very strange, however, is that this is the second such failure in a row for OSC.


Billions of dollars in continuing research grants and vast amounts of political power lie in ensuring that concern over global warming be kept at a boil. So if there were a person or persons concerned that the satellites might come up with the "wrong" answer, they might be highly motivated to make sure that they never got an opportunity to perform their respective missions. Of course, if so, it would behoove them to do so in such a way as to make it look like an accident.

And interestingly, this is exactly the kind of failure that could easily be dressed up for that kind of show. All it takes to prevent a separation is to go up on the gantry after launch processing has been completed and add something to bind the fairing to the stage. Depending on what kind of separation mechanisms are used (mechanical, such as springs, versus explosive), duct tape might even do the job. Of course, it would also take extremely lax security at the launch site, which is inside the boundaries of Vandenberg Air Force Base on the central coast of California.

Intriguing to say the least.  The question at the heart of it all is which side would benefit most by hiding the truth.

That seems obvious to me.


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Comments (21)

One would certainly be unde... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

One would certainly be undertaking a huge risk - a saboteur of a project costing nearly half a trillion dollars would be dealt with harshly.

Hanlon's Razor cautions us to "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence."

I have a model of the type ... (Below threshold)
Mark L:

I have a model of the type of Taurus used for the OCO and Glory. The payload fairing is not as large as that used on the (successful)ROCSAT-2 launch in 2004.

My bet is not malice. It is that someone who is working on the latches is installing some piece wrong. Same type of thing cause the failures of two PAMs back in the 1980s -- someone screwed up assembly of the thrust absorbers allowing the engines to gimble.

A saboteur in NASA? You're... (Below threshold)
jim m:

A saboteur in NASA? You're meaning someone other than Charles Bolden?

I'll wager the launch failed because he hasn't spent enough time encouraging the muslim world to feel good about themselves.

No doubt the liberal global... (Below threshold)

No doubt the liberal global warming lobby were hoping to get data that they could manipulate to "prove" that global warming is happening and if we don't do just what they want we are all going to DIE!!!

Personally I think God has a sense of humor. Kind of like all those snow storms and sub sub normal temperatures that they always have whenever there is a global warming conference.

God is showing them who is the real God and who are the false gods, otherwise known as idols.

(Only partially tongue in cheek.) :}

Malice? Incompetence? Both ... (Below threshold)

Malice? Incompetence? Both are as common among those that draw the feral gummint's checks as are corruption and haplessness.

Matter of fact the most prevalent kind of corruption at every level of the public service is the corruption of incompetence.

Jim A and I obviously think... (Below threshold)

Jim A and I obviously think alike. That quote is the first thought that crossed my mind while reading the post.

It's an amusing thought, bu... (Below threshold)

It's an amusing thought, but by and large I think notions like this are best left to the gauche-o-sphere, at least until actual evidence surfaces.

Thinking seriously for a mo... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Thinking seriously for a moment...I would attribute this to the incompetence which has been building unchecked within NASA for years. They are more interested in the political games and covering their ass than actually doing a good job.

Never attribute to conspira... (Below threshold)
Pile of Pooh:

Never attribute to conspiracy what can be most easily explained by incompetence.

These are not the men who put Neil Armstrong on the moon; they are public sector employees whose fat pensions figure prominently in every decision they make, and NASA is a bloated government agency which has been suckling at the public teat for decades. As is the case with all long-lived public entities, incompetence has been written into doctrine and laziness has become ethos.

Reduce NASA to a purely regulatory agency with minimal funding, at the same time privatizing orbital space and the Terra-Lunar Lagrange points. Only then will we see both competence and vigor in space exploration again. Until such actions are taken, NASA will continue losing probes, crashing satellites, and blowing up space buses. It's the Law of Bureaucracy at work.

New NASA Headline....... (Below threshold)

New NASA Headline....

"NASA Launch System Pyrotecnically Celebrates the Many Scientific Contributions of Islam"

I agree along the line of j... (Below threshold)

I agree along the line of jim m. They probably were too busy promoting Muslims or manipulating data in order to prove global warming. They didn’t have time to deal with meaningless things like science or taking care of equipment.

But remember Clark's Law (<... (Below threshold)

But remember Clark's Law (not Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law):

Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

What if G*d was one of us, ... (Below threshold)
Constitution First:

What if G*d was one of us,

frowning down upon misguided ideology...

or is that just my irrational exuberance?

I bet they put Obama's birt... (Below threshold)

I bet they put Obama's birth certificate and his naked pictures of William Ayers on the rocket, then blew it up so no one would find then.

I love posts like this that show how "serious" the right is.

I don't know about NASA bu... (Below threshold)

I don't know about NASA but there sure as hell is one in the White House.

The saboteur of NASA is non... (Below threshold)

The saboteur of NASA is none other that BHO! I thought everyone knew that. (Sorry if someone else pointed that out already.)

This is the I... (Below threshold)
gaius piconius:

This is the Islamic element of Barackula's new NASA.

Klingons. It is the only l... (Below threshold)
Commander Spock:

Klingons. It is the only logical answer.

"I love posts like this tha... (Below threshold)

"I love posts like this that show how "serious" the right is."

Been to the Kos or Huffpo lately????

"I bet they put Obama's bir... (Below threshold)

"I bet they put Obama's birth certificate and his naked pictures of William Ayers on the rocket, then blew it up so no one would find then."

Why? Wouldn't see them either way. Still waiting for Kerrys military records.

It's probably as simple an ... (Below threshold)

It's probably as simple an explanation as a part that has a sticker that says, "Made in China."






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