Musk's Coup to Thwart
SpaceX may just
be stirring the
pot in order to
better their economic forecast,
but Musk has
up some potential issues.
Phantom Boat Flies Above
has introduced its
next generation of
foiling catamarans, the
Photos of the Day:
Tackling the Sonic Boom
The level of concern over sonic boom
annoyance became so significant that
the Federal Aviation Administration
land in 1973.
quiet the skies and reduce potential
impacts on the environment.
protects our launch platform from damage,"
The process begins with a three day
countdown to launch, and takes place on
the Odyssey’s counterpart, the Sea Launch
The Commander serves as the assembly
and command ship (ACS), and is approximately 221 meters long, 32 meters wide, and
has a displacement of more than 34,000 tons.
Communicating with the launch platform via
line-of-sight radio links, the launch platform
is evacuated 24 hours before launch.
“The Sea Launch Commander has to be
at least 5 kilometers away from the launch
platform for safety reasons,” says Riedman.
Although failure is something the system has
“We never use the word sink in our industry,” says Riedman, and to make sure they
never have to, the launch platform uses multiple systems to maintain its stability, even
during periods of significant mass movements.
The first of these systems is the use of ballast water (water a ship takes on in order to
keep its balance). Taking on this water shifts
the platform’s weight from 30,000 tons to
50,000 tons, allowing the launch vehicle to
account for a mere one percent of the total
mass of the launch platform.
A series of pumps then shifts the water
between the platform’s tanks to help maintain the static angle of the launch deck.
Additionally, the platform has a positioning
system, the same type of systems used in
the North Sea for drilling platforms to hold
the station over the drill head.
“It’s floating and maintaining its location
using a dynamic positioning system which
is a series of thrusters in each pontoon that
help it hold station,” explains Riedman. “It
can also use the main propellers if it needs
additional thrust to fight any currents.”
A global positioning feed from a satellite
provides additional support, allowing the
platform to hold within ±50 meters of a sin-
gle location. “It’s surprising how stable it is.
You can barely tell that you are on the sea,”
All of these systems work in conjunction
to keep the Launch pad stable, but getting
them to work together was not an easy task.
the effects of
the motion on
both the load
and on the
as it was lifting off the pad,
was a major engineering
“We had to work with a
lot of analytical data and
try to convert the effects
of wave height, wind, and
other expected motions
on the launch platform,”
explains Riedman. “A lot of
integration work was done
in the development stage
to create and validate those
models to ensure that we
were going to have mission
The Sea Launch System
has now been a part of
35 missions, and with the
benefit of experience, the
team has determined that
many conservatisms went
into the analytical models
of the past.
“Today we can calculate
loads based on the actual
information in real time,” says Riedman.
Now deep into the operational stage, most
glitches have been worked out, but the biggest challenge remains.
“Anytime we have an integrated issue,
that’s our biggest challenge,” says Riedman.
“Developing the processes and language
so that you can fully understand the issue,
bring together the right specialists, develop
the resolution plan, verify it, and then deter-
mine that you are okay for launch. That is
probably the biggest engineering challenge
With multiple engineering cultures, and
languages, the integration of a Western,
Russian, and mariner mentality has been
difficult, and adding to that pressure are
government concerns about transferring
technologies between the organizations.
Yet Riedman explains that while the integration of cultures is their biggest challenge
– it also provides one of biggest benefits.
“By bringing together the technical marine,
rocket, and systems integration cultures, as
well as the Norwegian, Russian, Ukrainian,
and U.S. cultures, the teams come up with
innovated solutions and approaches that
focus on mission success.” PDD