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On a losing streak

作者:祁蒸燎    发布时间:2019-03-08 06:04:08    

By Charles Seife in Washington DC AN EMBARRASSING string of rocket launch failures in the US has left experts wondering what has gone wrong with an aerospace industry that was once the envy of the world. Some analysts speculate that cutbacks in the wake of corporate mergers are taking their toll. Last week, Boeing’s Delta 3 rocket extended a recent dismal run of form when it deposited a communications satellite into a useless orbit. At least this rocket did not explode spectacularly, as the Delta 3 had on its maiden flight last year (This Week, 5 September 1998, p 5). But 22 minutes after liftoff from Cape Canaveral in Florida, the rocket’s second stage failed to reignite for a planned second burn. This failure follows hard upon an Athena 2 launch on 27 April that lost an imaging satellite. In that case, the protective cover over the satellite didn’t separate properly, causing it to fall back to Earth and burn up in the atmosphere. Lockheed Martin, which built the Athena 2, has also lost satellites on its Titan 4B launchers: on 9 April a $682 million satellite to warn of ballistic missile launches and a $800 million military communications satellite on 30 April. Early indications are that some of the failures are due to breakdowns in quality control. The 30 April Titan failure, for instance, seems to have been caused by a software problem. “I’m wondering whether we’re seeing the effects of downsizing and corporate mergers,” says Jonathan McDowell,

 

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