10
$\begingroup$

I'm sure that for every good idea that made it into a spaceship design, there had to be plenty of bad ideas. There's most likely a bunch of old designs (or practices) that passed previously, but would be scoffed at today by our new standards. I'm mostly interested in the older designs that were used in space exploration that would be immediately declined today due to any number of reasons. Anything that was implemented/used in previous space exploration that would be absolutely banned by standards today would be a fit for an answer to this question.


For instance, lets assume we were in the 1980's attempting a new chemical composition of solid rocket fuel that ended up releasing 2-3 times the amount of acoustic vibrations than was expected.

Answering the following: "Why would we never have let this happen today, and why did we let this happen then?" Would be a great answer. I would like explanation of the incident to be in detail explaining:

Why it failed. What new regulations were put in place because of it. How we would do it now.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Generally, we only allow these types of list questions if there is a reasonable limit to the number of examples people might provide. I'm not so sure there is a good limit here. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Aug 9 '18 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ If you restricted it to a particular era, it might be ok. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Aug 9 '18 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ A bit open-ended but I love the question. $\endgroup$ – Alex Hajnal Dec 26 '18 at 13:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Perhaps this question would be a good candidate for a Community Wiki, since it essentially solicits a list of answers instead of a canonical one. $\endgroup$ – Paul Dec 26 '18 at 15:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This page has a pretty good overview. In essence (nearly) everyone can edit a community answer and noöne gains/loses reputation on it. IOW, the answer has been given to the entire community to improve or expand upon. I'm unclear as to whether/how this applies at the question level though. $\endgroup$ – Alex Hajnal Dec 26 '18 at 17:51
11
$\begingroup$

One prominent example are the original Apollo hatches which opened towards the inside of the capsule and took a minimum of five minutes to open. During a ground training mission, a fire broke out inside the capsule. The pressure increased and the astronauts inside couldn't open the hatches to escape. Had the hatches opened towards the outside and had a quick-release been provided1, the astronauts might have survived.

The result was three dead astronauts and a redesign of the capsule leading to outwards-opening, quick-to-open hatches.

1 Ironically, the difficult-to-open Apollo 1 hatch design was a well-intentioned but poorly thought-out safety feature instituted in the wake of the Mercury-Redstone 4 hatch incident.

$\endgroup$
6
$\begingroup$

Not wearing pressure suits during critical phases of flight (eg. ascent or reentry) would not be accepted today (as a lesson learned from Soyuz 11).

$\endgroup$
6
$\begingroup$

The first liquid fueled rocket was constructed by Robert Goddard in 1926. Its design placed the engine at the top and the fuel at the bottom. He thought that this would provide natural stability but in fact it had no effect on stability whatsoever and only served to complicate the design. The engine-at-top layout was quickly discarded and is seldom revisited except in niche applications (launch escape systems come to mind).

Robert Goddard stands by the world's first liquid-fueled rocket

Esther C. Goddard via NASA and Wikipedia, Public domain

A replica of this rocket is currently on view at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. An original rocket, likely containing parts of the one used for the first liquid-fueled flight, can be seen at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.

This rocket and its design has been asked about of few times before (the first two are the most apropos in this context):

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ This would also be a great fit for the question "Why don't we put engines at the top of the rocket?" I don't think this man was mentioned, and I cant seem to find that question. Nobody mentioned that someone had actually done it, only that it should not be done. $\endgroup$ – Magic Octopus Urn Dec 26 '18 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ @MagicOctopusUrn This question is probably the one you're thinking of. This one and this one also touch on the topic. $\endgroup$ – Alex Hajnal Dec 26 '18 at 18:38
3
$\begingroup$

Approval of a manned system that does not offer a launch abort options through out launch profile. The space shuttle combination of widely spaced solid rockets and a side ways stacked design made for a large number of failure modes that were not survivable, increasing both engineering cost and risk.

Though having said this, launch abort for BFR may be a complex process and inherently risky process given need to have almost but not quite empty tanks for touch down, and that touch down needing to be at some form of prepared pad.

Launching satellites with live nuclear reactors also comes to mind, though would guess that pretty much any sensible manned mission will probably need one or more.

Improvements to reactor design and robotics would make it more possible to launch fuel elements separately in capsules designed for maximum safety (including only flying sub critical amounts) and only combine as a critical mass inside a reactor once in orbit.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

ESA description of a booster exploding
Source: ESA; Image: Explosions of satellites & rocket bodies, ESA Standard License

In the last 60 years, there have been over "4800 launches [that] have placed some 6000 satellites into orbit. Today, less than a thousand of them are still operational."

Source: Space Debris Mitigation, Space Safety Magazine

One aspect that has changed has been Space Debris Mitigation.

In 1995, NASA issued a comprehensive set of orbital debris mitigation guidelines.
...
The space debris mitigation guidelines provide a framework for what needs to be done [to declutter Low Earth Orbit to hopefully lessen collisions and other problems such as exploding boosters which add to the space junk problem]. The international debris mitigation standards have been developed in the ISO-24113:2011 which defines the primary space debris mitigation requirements applicable to all elements of unmanned systems launched into, or passing through, near-Earth space, including launch vehicle orbital stages, operating spacecraft and any objects released as part of normal operations or disposal actions.

Source: Space Debris Mitigation, Space Safety Magazine

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Can't put my finger on it but this answer seems a bit awkward to me. Maybe you could add a specific example? e.g. "In the past A was done not realizing that it would cause B. This led to C being done instead leaving A unthinkable today." The design of Soviet orbital nuclear reactors and how they were decommissioned comes to mind but there may well be better examples. $\endgroup$ – Alex Hajnal Dec 26 '18 at 21:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Always attribute quotes. Not doing so is plagiarism, and can lead to the post being downvoted or deleted. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Tuggy Dec 26 '18 at 22:54
  • $\begingroup$ Same for images. WRT the quote I hadn't realized that most of the answer was copied and pasted from elsewhere (I thought you'd written it - maybe that's why it sounded awkward to me?). @NathanTuggy Man I wish I could upvote your comment more than once. $\endgroup$ – Alex Hajnal Dec 26 '18 at 23:02

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.