Re: Estimated STS-110 lift-off time for 2002 April 04 UTC

From: Marko Meyer (
Date: Wed Mar 20 2002 - 10:41:11 EST

  • Next message: Ted Molczan: "RE: Estimated STS-110 lift-off time for 2002 April 04 UTC"

    Hi, writes:
     > While the "securing" of the launch time is debatable and probably not
     > really worth while, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
     > Those saying that it is foolish to do this are not, as far as I'm aware,
     > knowledgeable of terrorist tactics. 
    Well, I don't believe that you gain anything with that. I don't even
    think that an attack to the shuttle is worthwile for terrorists. 
    How could you possibly attack a shuttle right after launch? 
    (1) Perhaps you could ram it with an airplane, just like the WTC
    attack. Problem here is: The shuttle is a moving target and the
    "attack window" is really short. Basically, even if you would know the
    exact time of launch far in advance, you would have to be
    loitering around with an airborne aircraft at the perimeter of the
    launch pad in order to hit within the few seconds you have until the
    shuttle is out of reach. With the current presence of military aircraft
    near the launchpad, it would be fairly easy to intercept any such
    (2) You could use a small missile fired with some system similar to
    MANPADS; but for that you don't need to know the exact time of launch
    so far in advance. (On the other hand I'm not quite sure if you would
    really be able to hit the shuttle with such a weapon; I remember a
    discussion on about this sometimes last year [long?
    before September 11]. As far as I remember, the speed of such a weapon
    would be too small for hitting the shuttle when fired at the time of
    At the moment I can't think of any other way besides hitting the
    shuttle still sitting on the pad; in which case you not even need to
    know anything about the launch time.
     > It seems easy enough to keep ones mouth/keyboard quiet. 
    That's right. What I see as a problem here is that NASA announces that
    this policy should heighten the security of the shuttle launch (with
    respect to terrorist attacks), but in reality this policy is not even
    at the most cursory view helpful in accomplishing that goal.
    It is like having to demonstrate your laptop at the security control
    before boarding a plane: Even if it boots up; what if I transport a
    package of semtex in one of multiple battery packs or in a fake
    CDROM/floppy device (especially in those large casings of some Dell or
    of older laptop models) -- perhaps even wired to some keyboard
    sequence? Of course, I understand that this measure is taken to
    prevent the most ridiculous cases of terrorism. And they are possibly
    good in catching them. But similar uses for the secret shuttle launch
    times escape me.
     > One could make a case that the reason for the launch uncertainty is to
     > prevent a hijacked aircraft from flying into the shuttle right at launch.
     > To accomplish this, the launch time needs to be known sometime in the
     > future to be able to know which aircraft to hijack so that it's not flying
     > for hours waiting for a launch to occur. 
    As I said before, I don't believe this could ever be done. The timing for
    this has to be exact up to the second, since the shuttle travels
    vertically about 30000 ft in the first 30 seconds alone. This would be
    about the maximum height at which the attack could occur with any
    current commercial aircraft. 
    The difference between hitting a tower and a launching shuttle is
    really a lot of orders of magnitudes. And, lets not forget that there
    are military craft maneuvering in the area in order to protect the
    airspace. (Which is a far better security measure than making the
    launch times secret.)
     > While there may be those terrorists capable of calculating the launch time
     > themselves, it is not a forgone conclusion and I do not wish to help them
     > out. I heard one report that they had a copy of an atomic bomb plan that
     > they thought was real but was from a parody web site.
    However, assuming that terrorists are dumb is not the best way
    of dealing with them. You could be surprised by their intelligence. In
    my opinion the better assumption is to believe that terrorists are
    incredible smart and trying to find intelligent measures of dealing
    with them and  their attacks. Making the shuttle launch times a secret
    information is certainly not really intelligent.
    The launch of STS-109 was the first one I
    visited "first hand" at the NASA Causeway site. Besides the sky being
    overcast a little, it was a really great experience which I would
    recommend to everyone being interested in these things, especially the
    sound part and not having to deal with failing connections to the
    webcast of NASA TV shortly before launch or completely erroneous
    comments from CNN ... 
    Since I spent nearly three weeks in the U.S., as a bonus I was able to
    see the reentry of Columbia from Houston. Here slightly overcast skies
    as well, but enough holes in the clouds to see the plasma trail and
    the glowing dot ...
    "Anyone who does nothing if there's no money in it 
     does not live a life of freedom."
     			-- David Sander in
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