50 Years Ago

apollo_1_patch-768x773last Friday, Apollo 1 burned on the pad at Cape Kennedy, lost with it were  Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom as Command Pilot, Edward H. White II as Senior Pilot, and Donn F. Eisele as Pilot. I was a disaster that all Americans, and in fact, the world shared with us. And as the details became known, it only became worse. From NASA

“Something about it just doesn’t ring right”:

One week prior to CM-012’s arrival at KSC, the crew and Apollo Spacecraft Program Office manager, Joseph F. Shea, participated in a meeting at which the crew expressed their concerns about the amount of flammable material in the CM.

Shea ultimately passed CM-012, over the crew’s specific concerns, through inspection.  In response, the crew sent him a photo of themselves in prayer over the CM, inscribed with the words: “It isn’t that we don’t trust you, Joe, but this time we’ve decided to go over your head.”

Shea subsequently ordered the manufacturer to remove all flammables from the CM, and CM-012 was moved to Kennedy with a “conditional Certificate of Flight Worthiness” – with 113 “significant, incomplete, planned engineering changes” needing to be addressed at KSC.

Subsequent to delivery, a further 623 engineering changes were ordered to CM-012 – significantly compromising simulator engineers’ ability to provide an accurate representation of the craft to the crew during training.

Nonetheless, the CM and SM were mated together in September, and the CSM underwent a series of altitude chamber tests, first unmanned, and then with both the prime and first (then second) backup crews between September and December 1966.

But technical issues with the CSM persisted.

An Environmental Control Unit in the CM had to be sent back to its manufacturer twice for design changes and operational leaks.

Moreover, the mated CSM had to be de-mated for inspection of the SM’s propellant tank after a tank on another SM ruptured during testing at its manufacturer.

In the latter part of 1966, Apollo 204’s backup crew was changed to Walter M. Schirra, Donn F. Eisele, and R. Walter Cunningham.

There’s lot’s of technical information in the article, and it’s fascinating. So is how it affected NASA, and provides a clue as to why it was so long until the next, the Challenger disaster.

Moreover, with all of these changes came new practices and manufacturing standards for Apollo and NASA.

But the culture change began far earlier.

On 30 January, just three days after the fire, Gene Kranz held a meeting with his staff in Mission Control.  Addressing his team, he said, “From this day forward, Flight Control will be known by two words: Tough and Competent.

“Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do.  We will never again compromise our responsibilities.

“Competent means we will never take anything for granted.

“Mission Control will be perfect.  When you leave this meeting today, you will go to your office and the first thing you will do there is to write “Tough” and “Competent” on your blackboards.  It will never be erased.

“Each day when you enter the room, these words will remind you of the price paid by Grissom, White, and Chaffee.  These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control.”

With this message, Kranz guided his team through numerous test flights, shakedowns of the lunar equipment, and successfully – and as safely as possible – landed the first two men on the moon on 20 July 1969, fulfilling President Kennedy’s goal.

Resonance with today:

Launches are exciting.  For many, they are the main event in spaceflight – the most visible aspect to missions that are otherwise unnoticed.

But a desire to launch – as Apollo 1 showed – should never be driven by schedule pressure from a company/agency or from the general public.

Nor should such a desire suppress a need to speak toward things that don’t seem, look, or feel right.

As SpaceX now prepares to return east coast launch capabilities via historic LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center, it’s easy to clamor for a launch – to be excited for it – and become verbal as the launch slips due to pad readiness.

But a desire to launch should never override a calm, measured return to launch capability – whether that launch is a crewed or uncrewed mission.

For as much as NASA learned the lesson of what can happen when schedule pressures override safety with Apollo 1, they learned that lesson again 19 years and one day later when schedule and mounting delays overcame judgement and the advice of engineers – for which the Challenger seven paid.

So too was this lesson painfully re-learned again 17 years and four days after Challenger, when an unspoken but building schedule desire to launch Node-2 Harmony to the ISS led – perhaps subconsciously – to a “dispensation” of the External Tank foam debris problem, to which the crew of Columbia was lost.

(Images: NASA)

via 50 years on, reminders of Apollo 1 beckon a safer future | NASASpaceFlight.com

While our failures are not as spectacular as Appolo 1, this catastrophe is a reminder to us all that we need to do it right, no matter the time it takes. Brave men’s (and women’s) lives may well depend on our decisions. I’ve had a long career in technical fields, and you know, one of my proudest boasts is this: Nobody ever died because of what I have done wrong or wrongly left undone. Part of that I learned from Apollo 1. So did many others, at NASA, and many other places as well. It crossed my mind often as I walked into Grissom Hall at Purdue. There are many lessons to take from the American space program. This may have been the hardest, losing brave men always is.

199548main_rs_image_feature_747_946x710-467x350

Ideology > Engineeering and Logic

A couple of reports mixed here, because they go to the same point. First, South Australia had a power outage last week. Ordinarily, that’s not news, but in this case, I gather nearly the whole state was off. Why? Here’s Andrew Bolt to tell you.

South Australia ran to Canberra for subsidies to protect Arium Steel – which has now been shut down in part because of the state’s ruinously juvenile obsession with green power. Terry McCrann and Nick Cater expose how green power is killing South Australia.

Terry McCrann:

Clements Gap wind plant in South Australia

Clements Gap wind plant in South Australia

ABSOLUTE unmitigated, undiluted bullcrap: the desperate, indeed seriously panicked claim that South Australia going ‘all North Korea black’ last week had nothing to do with its embrace of useless wind ‘power’ (sic).

Now for the facts. Yes, the proximate cause of SA’s power failure was transmission towers being blown down in last week’s storm.

We’ll put aside the rather important question of whether they were blown down because they weren’t built robustly enough, because the scattered nature of wind turbines requires so many of them that it would cost too much to ‘gold plate them.’

That said, despite the additional lies told by the global warming fanatics, the winds in SA last Wednesday were neither unprecedented nor particularly violent. They didn’t top 100kmh; they didn’t even reach the speeds of the lowest level of cyclone.

The key question, the question that utterly damns the SA reliance on wind turbines, is what happened next — when SA ‘lost’ its wind generation.

As AEMO — the Australian Energy Market Operator, — explained in a press statement last Thursday, the damaged transmission lines supported supply and generation north of Adelaide.

But “the reason why a cascading failure of the remainder of the South Australia network occurred is still to be identified and is subject to further investigation.”

Without stating so, AEMO then gave precisely the answer.

About 1900 megawatts (MW) was being consumed in South Australia at the time of the power failure, AEMO said; the SA generation — mostly, my words, wind from the north — was “being supported” by a total of 610MW from Victoria.

What AEMO didn’t say, but is blindingly obvious, when wind ‘generation’ dropped from around 900MW to zero literally in an instant, SA just as instantly ‘asked’ Victoria for that 900MW.

So suddenly the long extension cord from the coal-fired stations in the Latrobe Valley was being asked to increase its supply from around 500MW to around 1500MW.

In effect, the ‘wind-powered state’ wanted to ‘borrow’ almost the entire output of one of Victoria’s coal-fired stations. And it wanted to borrow it immediately, at 4.18pm last Wednesday. The cord just ‘shorted out.’ …

There are two damning, utterly undeniable points that prove it was ‘all about wind.’

If you are going to rely on the unreliable power ‘sources’ of wind or solar, when the wind don’t blow and/ or the sun don’t shine, you have to have back-up from a reliable power source, either gas or coal.

Further, you have to keep that back-up turning over, because when the wind don’t blow or the sun don’t shine, it can go from 1000MW to zip pretty quickly — even without dodgy towers falling over.

Which of course makes the whole exercise a farce. Why have wind at all to replace coal or gas if you still have to keep the coal/gas?

Unless, and this is the critical second point, you try to do it on the cheap — both the real cheap and the ‘environmental’ cheap: by using that long extension cord to ‘someone else’s dirty power.’ Except Wednesday showed us exactly what can happen when you do that.

Nick Cater:

It is barely two months since Weatherill demanded $100 million from Canberra to keep Arrium Steel working. Yet it was the blackout, a consequence of Labor’s renewables policy, that ­finally shut the Whyalla plant down. Enforced idleness is costing Arrium about $4m a day.

Green politics really is shutting down Whyalla, after all.

South Australia is also running to other states to supply it with the kind of power it deems too dirty to produce itself – yet needs to keep on the lights:

The state’s capacity to produce its own baseload power from fossil fuels has rapidly diminished. The state’s four largest power stations — two at Port Augusta, Pelican Point and Torrens Island A — will have closed or will be in mothballs by this time next year, made unviable by unpredictable deluges of cheap wind power.

The combined lost capacity of 1250MW represents a third of the state’s generating potential. What has filled the gap? You’ve guessed it: imported power from Victoria, generated mostly by the same brown coal deemed unacceptable in oh-so-clean South Australia.

Upgrading the national grid to give South Australians the comfort of a reliable energy supply will be expensive. The costs inevitably will push up power prices, passed on as another hidden cost of Labor’s carbon fetish.

via Renewable Power Australia – Green Power Works When There’s A Daddy To Pay | PA Pundits – International

And that’s the thing if the sun don’t shine, or the wind don’t blow (or blows too hard) your solar and wind power don’t work. And no, nobody has an efficient means to store power. A lot of taxpayer’s money has been squandered on it though, with very limited results. And what South Australia has done is exactly what California is doing, for the same political reason. Eventually, it will have similar results.

And it diffuses the grid, which has other problems, such as security. I have wondered for years when I would write this story, because, to me, it’s the obvious way to disrupt life in the west, disrupt the power grid. From Weaponsman.

In 2014, we asked, “What can a mere rifle do?” in reference to a standoff attack on a Pacific Gas and Electric power substation in Metcalf, California.

The answer, in that case, was to blow the transformers to hell and gone, and bug out. To date, there has been no arrest in the case; at one time, a DHS official suggested it was an inside job. There have been subsequent attacks, despite attempts to upgrade security; indeed, once, criminals cut through a fence and made off with equipment that was on site — for security upgrades.

Now, there’s been a new rifle attack on a station, in rural Utah. It appears to have been less sophisticated and less persistent than the California attack, but more effective — the attacker or attackers blew the station off the grid with as few as three rifle shots.

On Sunday, somebody went to the remote substation located between Kanab and Page, Arizona, and fired at least three rounds with a high-powered rifle into the main transformer, knocking out power to an estimated 13,000 customers in Kanab, Big Water, Orderville, Glendale, Hatch and surrounding towns in Garfield County.

“Just from the looks of it, it looked more criminal than vandalism because they knew exactly where to shoot it and they shot it multiple times in the same spot,” Brown said. “For somebody to know exactly where that substation is and how to hit it exactly like he did, (it) seems like he’d have to have knowledge of that.”

Countermeasures that can be used in cases like this are limited. In California, the power company deployed cameras, but they’re investigative, not preventive, technology; and constructed blinds that block sight of the most vulnerable transformers, but they’re concealment, not cover. In Utah, the power company has asked for tips, and done something even less practical than the Californians:

Now you go and combine those stories, well if the bad guys do, we’re likely to go back a (or a few) hundred years. Substations are really hard to secure, and a rifle is the bottom level threat. There are others, and they would be more catastrophic.

Not sure there is really an answer, there’s not in this article, but it’s something we should be thinking about – at all levels.

And then there is the EMP threat attack, by the NORKs and others.

Nebraska Repeals Strict Licensing Laws for Hair Braiders

160318_NebraskaHairBraiding_Johnson-1250x650Better late than never, I suppose.

A cosmetology license, required for hair braiding? Really?

Here: from the Daily Signal.

Just two weeks ago, Nebraskans who wanted to make money braiding hair had to undergo 2,100 hours of training to obtain a cosmetology license, which state officials say dedicates little time to natural hair braiding techniques.

But now Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, has signed legislation into law that will lift arduous occupational licensing requirements on the state’s hair braiders. […]

She said the government is often “too intrusive” and enacts restrictions that prevent people from earning an honest living. She hopes her bill, which Ricketts signed into law March 9, will empower female professionals to take risks, which she said will help build self-esteem.

“It’s the pursuing of the American Dream,” Fox said. “I think when you start taking risks and accomplishing things, it kind of makes you, the entrepreneur, set the bar higher and try to accomplish more.”

Yes, yes it does. That’s exactly what it does. The opportunity to accomplish something on your own. If you don’t know this 2100 hours is about 52 weeks at 40 hours per week, what we call full time, by the way, all that for hair braiding.

Furth said Nebraska’s legislature should continue to deregulate work in the state, where there is “no serious, proven risk” to public safety.

“One easy way to deregulate is to accept other states’ licenses: If you’re good enough to be a dentist in Iowa, you’re good enough to be a dentist in Nebraska,” he said. “That’s an easy way for a state to attract more skilled workers without being accused of risking public safety.”

via Nebraska Repeals Strict Licensing Laws for Hair Braiders

That I don’t completely agree with. While she’s right, as far as she goes, but she doesn’t go nearly far enough. As most of you know, I’m an electrician, and yes, I’m a pretty good one. And yes, bad electrical work can kill you, and do it quick, by electrocution, by fire, and by other things. But you know what, Nebraska’s licensing system, isn’t really about safety, maybe it was at one time, but now it functions as simply a medieval guild. It exists to prevent other equally good electricians from competing with the ones that have a license. If memory serves, neither Pennsylvania or Indiana have state licenses, although they likely have some sort of inspection regimen. By the way, here you need a state permit to change an outlet, which costs about $50 additional. Yeah, I know!

I’ve written about this before, here, and here, and this too is relevant. Yes, a lot of that has to do with codes, and inspections and such, but it’s still very relevant to the discussion.

Short form is this, having a bloody piece of paper, and having pushed a broom for four years, and having passed a test I could have passed when I was 14 just does not make you a competent electrician, neither does mandated continuing education, which requires that half of the courses you take each biennial period duplicate over and over again. Electrical theory hasn’t changed much in the last fifty years, but what has changed is the material we work with. I spent most of my time in the last few years with single board computers, programmable logic controllers, variable frequency drives, computer networks and sensors, and other things that didn’t exist in 1980. I did not learn that in bogus seminars for licensing requirements, I learned that mostly in the field, by reading, and by taking real seminars that allowed me to do the job.

The code has changed, it’s purpose now is, as near as I can tell to keep an unattended two year child, or a stupid drug addict safe, and like I said in one of the linked articles, it forces us to refuse to work on really hazardous installations, unless the client can afford the tariff.

Are there solutions? Sure, but we’re not looking for them, because the manufacturers want to sell higher priced material, and the authority having jurisdiction, who by the way, is not your local inspector, have a need to, at all costs, protect their jobs, for which, frankly, I don’t blame them at all.

And yes, all of this has much to do with why I retired or was that got too tired to deal with it.

Safety, and Personal Responsibility

I was taught from childhood on: There is no such thing as a no-fault accident, somebody always had a way to prevent it. Fault is a legal term and means something else, but all accidents are avoidable by taking (or not taking) some action, or list of actions. Let’s start here:

I’m sorry but such a list of blown safety rules, to me, makes this little less than suicide, and him a poor employer, and you know what, once he thought about it, I’ll bet his supervisor wasn’t surprised, although saddened. But that’s fine, he failed as well.

This is the overhead companion to that post the other day about fixing underground cables and is a pretty clear indication of why I like so many of my peers prefer overhead construction. Of, course it has it’s moments as well:

It shouldn’t happen, but it does, and frankly it is why you never see electrical utility crews leaning on our trucks, which we specifically do ground. The advice given here on what to do if this happens to you, is the same that I have been taught all my life.

One thing that causes us out here to lose afarmer every once in a while, is when the get something to close to a power line, note that you don’t have to touch it.

And finally, most American power companies have demonstration rigs like this that are available, and the skilled presenters that go with them. if you haven’t seen one (or even if you have) pay attention, this is the straight scoop from our side of the meter.

And yes, I have killed more than a few generators (and sometimes the tractors they were attached to, when I safed a line. DO IT RIGHT, or be prepared to kill a lineman, or trplace you generator

Find and Repair a 230kV 800Amp Oil-Filled Power Cable Fault

scattergood01Have you ever wondered what guys like I do, when we’re not telling you that you need to do some completely unaffordable thing to keep your house wiring safe? We’re telling the utilities the same thing.

I ran across this the other day, talking about fixing an underground cable from a powerplant in California. It also highlights one of the reasons why a fair number of us are not fond of underground, no matter how much prettier you think it makes the landscape. 🙂

How do you fix a shorted cable ? Not just any cable. An underground, 3-phase, 230kV, 800 amp per phase, 10 mile long one, carrying power from a power station to a distribution centre. It costs $13,000 per hour in downtime, counting 1989 money, and takes 8 months to fix. That’s almost $75 million. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power did this fix about 26 years ago on the cable going from the Scattergood Steam Plant in El Segundo to a distribution center near Bundy and S.M. Blvd. [Jamie Zawinski] posted details on his blog in 2002. [Jamie] a.k.a [jwz] may be familiar to many as one of the founders of Netscape and Mozilla.

To begin with, you need Liquid Nitrogen. Lots of it. As in truckloads. The cable is 16 inch diameter co-axial, filled with 100,000 gallons of oil dielectric pressurised to 200 psi. You can’t drain out all the oil for lots of very good reasons – time and cost being on top of the list. That’s where the LN2 comes in. They dig holes on both sides (20-30 feet each way) of the fault, wrap the pipe with giant blankets filled with all kind of tubes and wires, feed LN2through the tubes, and *freeze* the oil. With the frozen oil acting as a plug, the faulty section is cut open, drained, the bad stuff removed, replaced, welded back together, topped off, and the plugs are thawed. To make sure the frozen plugs don’t blow out, the oil pressure is reduced to 80 psi during the repair process. They can’t lower it any further, again due to several compelling reasons. The cable was laid in 1972 and was designed to have a MTBF of 60 years.

Finding out the location of the fault itself was quite a feat. It involved time-domain reflectometry (inconclusive), ultrasound, and radar (didn’t work) and then using an Impulse Generator-Tester (Thumper) which got them pretty close to the defective segment. What pinpointed the problem was a bunch of car batteries and some millivoltmeters. They hooked up car batteries to both ends, tapped the cable at several points and knowing the drops and resistance of the cable, got within a few feet of the fault. Finally, X-Ray equipment was brought in. Sure enough, they could see the cable shorting against the steel wall of the pipe. Cutting open, and closing it all up, required certified welders spending up to 8 hours on each section to avoid damage to the paper insulation. The welders placed their thumbs 3 inches away from the seams they were welding, and stopped when it got warm to touch, allowing it to cool off before starting again.

The failure was attributed to “TMB”, short for Thermal Mechanical Bending. TMB causes the cable to wiggle in place due to load surges. This eventually causes insulation failure due to abrasion against the pipe and separation of the many layers of paper tape. They repaired the short, put aluminum collars in most of the joints to hold the splices in place, and have added a load management scheme to reduce the current peaks. Apparently, the fix wasn’t good enough. According to this Wikipedia article, “the 315 megawatt capacity Scattergood Steam Plant (Unit 3) to West Los Angeles (Receiving Station K) 230 kV line is having to be replaced after only 45 years of operations, due to multiple failures within this rather long single-circuit, oil-filled, “pipe type” cable.”

Find and Repair a 230kV 800Amp Oil-Filled Power Cable Feels Like Mission Impossible | Hackaday.

TDR’s are one of the most useful diagnostic tools ever, they pay for themselves quite quickly but it’s nearly impossible to convince bean counters that think Radio Shack sells useful meters that a $2K plus tool, that doesn’t fix anything, and occasionally isn’t good enough is justified. Heck, I haven’t even quite convinced myself yet. Thumpers work (sometimes) on the principle of “letting all the smoke out”. It’s much easier to find a broken something than a cracked one, after all. For the rest, if you’re interested follow the links.

It’s part of the reason than the electrical trades are often so fascinating to be in.

And there’s this, from his comment stream, showing how sometimes we manage to get authorized to buy a new widget.

Having solved all other problems, Obama to fix your dishwasher

Seal of the United States Department of Energy.

Seal of the United States Department of Energy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, guys, Apparently, our appliances still aren’t efficient enough. Of, course you know, and so do I that every time the government mandates things for your own good, the aforesaid things get worse. How many times do you flush your new super efficient toilet? Yep, so do we all. How many time do we have to flush a low flow toilet before it uses more water than the old one? 2 maybe 3.

You know of course that washers and dryers made in the 60s and 70s will last forever, you probably also know that new ones won’t, a couple of years is it. Why? because they are efficient. Sounds counterintuitive, but really, it’s not. You make things efficient by making them just barely good enough. Very little margin involved, just enough water on average, just enough motor, don’t use 16 gauge metal when 22 gauge will work, and so on. You make long term dependability by over engineering things- making them better than they absolutely have to be. You can’t have both, and you can’t choose anymore either.

From Hot Air

I guess he really was multitasking out on the golf course. The President’s team has been hard at work behind the scenes, coming up with a strategy … well, maybe we should say plan, to address the nation’s many challenges.

Spurred by President Obama’s climate action plan, the Department of Energy is pumping out new standards for refrigerators, dishwashers, air conditioners, ceiling fans, furnaces, boilers, water heaters, lamps and many more appliances.

The administration says the standards will not only help the planet but also stimulate the economy by saving consumers money on their energy bills that they can spend elsewhere.

After what we’ve been through with energy regulations, you’d think the administration would be at least a little hesitant to leap in for another grab at that brass ring. I mean, won’t a sudden raft of new requirements for the products everyone has to purchase have some, er… unintended consequences? William Teach seems to have been thinking along the same lines.

While the rules may save a bit of energy (and there is nothing wrong with that, though it should be the consumer choice, not Government Mandate), it will also drive up the cost of the appliances/devices, which will harm the lower and middle classes.

Having solved all other problems, Obama to fix your dishwasher « Hot Air.

%d bloggers like this: