Friday, August 4, 2017

SpaceX Falcon failure

SpaceX Falcon ready for takeoff
I have written many posts about spacecraft launches; they're interesting topics for my students and they provide a lot of material for language used in technical subjects. A recent event - although an interesting technical topic - has, however, ended in failure.

SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation) is a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transport service company. In June it successfully launched two space missions. But the third planned launch on 3 July, the Falcon 9 rocket, was cancelled moments before the engines were to be fired up.

There are, of course, many articles relating to this event. The two I will mention here come from the website "interesting engineering." The first article "SpaceX Scrubs Falcon Launch Due to Computer Issues" includes a webcast of the launch as it happened.

The Link:

The webcast is noted to be 22 minutes long, but it doesn't actually start until the 4:26 mark. During the webcast, commentary is provided by John Insprucker, Principal Integration Engineer, who speaks clearly (and seems to have a mid-western American accent).

It includes a bit of waiting at certain points, since it was filmed live. For example, at about the 15 minute mark, the launch is halted. It isn't until the 19 minute mark that some explanation is given, but merely that it was a "GNC-abort," which is described as an automatic computer abort. Further information will have to be used (students can gather this information as homework) to find out exactly what happened.

Since the mission was aborted, there is a lot of vocabulary referring to aspects of this situation, including dfferent ways to indicate that the mission was halted. For example:
  • scrubs the launch
  • due to computer issues
  • looked to continue its streak
  • got scrubbed
  • it was an issue with
  • computers halted the countdown
  • the mission was forced into a 24-hour scrub
  • plans to attempt it again
  • there won't be enough propellant left
  • losing a rocket for the sake of the payload
  • the frustrating scrubbed launch

There are also many different vocabulary items to indicate times and timing:
  • in just nine days
  • at the last minute
  • just moments before
  • at that point
  • attempt it again tomorrow around 7:37
  • ever put into orbit
  • after this launch
  • neither location is set to have launches until
  • scheduled to
  • in a little over a week
  • is planned for August 10
  • when SpaceX will make a supply run
  • tomorrow's launch
  • after takeoff
  • this isn't the company's first time
  • around the 15-minute mark

The second article, "SpaceX Will Try to Launch the Intelsat 35e Satellite Again Today," gives more specific information about the mission and its payload, and has useful collocations.

The link:

Some examples of vocabulary that relates well to the first article:
  • abort its mission
  • a technical glitch
  • set to deliver
  • attempt to land
  • ensure it reaches
  • a stabilized landing
  • stripped of its landing hardware
  • maximize its performance
  • reduce the overall weight
  • be launched from
  • be deployed

And vocabulary related to the description of the satellite's payload:
  • deliver high-performance services
  • serve customers
  • placed into service
  • be redeployed to another ... location
  • conditioned to work
  • enables higher efficiency
  • improved throughput
  • composed of
  • manufactured by
  • take ... to the next level

The vocabulary describing aspects of the payload is simply "business" vocabulary, which connects well to this aspect of technology and engineering. It can be useful to recycle such vocabulary when reading or discussing any type of engineering business.

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