Erika And SLS

The sea surface temperatures are higher than they were for Andrew. If that track shifts just a little the north, the Cape would be in the crosshairs.

The launch pads can probably handle a serious storm, but the VAB can’t handle more than a Category 2 or 3. It’s been dodging bullets for decades. A Category 5 storm would probably level it. No VAB, no SLS.

If that were to happen, it would almost be like a divine intervention to end the Apollo cargo cult, by destroying its temple.

[Update a while later]

I’d note that if it stays on that track, our house in Boca is currently in the crosshairs.

[Thursday-morning update]

Latest track shows it heading up the coast as a Cat 1. Of course, they’re not as good (or at least didn’t used to be) at predicting intensity as they are on tracks.

26 comments on this post.
  1. Leland:

    I don’t think divine intervention or karma is going against SLS with this storm.

    But I have been wondering, why did Danny disappear in about this same location and Erika get named, with the same track a day later?

  2. Rand Simberg:

    I don’t know what the rules are on what they consider a reforming. It may have been a separate low that was closely following Danny.

  3. Johnny B:

    Rand is right on this one; Erika is just following behind Danny, as most storms are wont to do.

    Danny shrank to a Tropical Storm and then was downgraded to a Tropical Depression/low pressure system around 11 AM EDT Monday, 24-Aug, near Antigua and Barbuda, around 16N, 62W. Erika didn’t reach that same point until early morning Thursday, 27-Aug.

    Erika became a named storm on Monday, 24-Aug, at 11 PM EDT, at 14.4N, 47.7W, which is more than a few city blocks away from where Danny petered out.

  4. wodun:

    We are Americans. When our stuff breaks we rebuild it.

  5. Edward Wright:

    Now you’re being silly. The VAB is not an irreplaceable temple. It’s just a big shed. Florida politicians would welcome the chance to build a new one.

  6. Arizona CJ:

    Rand, I hope your house in Boca comes through okay.

    As for the VAB, sorry, but I disagree as the the effect. If there’s a direct hit by a Cat4 or 5, or a strong 3, IMHO VAB would be rubble (If I remember right, it was built to take a Cat 3, but that’s before they understood about vortexes, so a strong Cat3 is probably more than it could take), but I don’t think that would have any effect on SLS other than further increasing the program budget. My guess is they’d just rebuild the VAB for a few billion.

    I’d be utterly delighted to be wrong.

  7. Larry J:

    IIRC, the VAB is built to withstand a Cat 3 hurricane. The man who engineered the doors back in the 1960s was my best friend’s father. It’s an impressive piece of work.

    If a hurricane took out the VAB, that wouldn’t stop the SLS. Congress would just gut the commercial space contracts to pump money into rebuilding the VAB. They’d have years to make the repairs before the SLS is close to flying. There’s plenty of time to protect their pork.

  8. Richard M:

    “If a hurricane took out the VAB, that wouldn’t stop the SLS. Congress would just gut the commercial space contracts to pump money into rebuilding the VAB.”

    That’s my fear as well.

  9. Mark R. Whittington:

    Then where will Elon Musk put the Mars Colonial Transport together once he convinces NASA to outsource the Mars program? I any case, Rand, wishing for death and destruction is not going to make your case.

  10. Rand Simberg:

    Who said anything about death? Anyone who died in a hurricane in the VAB would be eligible for a Darwin Award.

  11. Mark R. Whittington:

    Let’s have a thought experiment. How many people would a hurricane powerful enough to take down the VAB kill?

  12. Rand Simberg:

    Who knows? It would depend on a range of factors. But it’s likely the same number as one that missed the VAB. You just wouldn’t get the bonus of taking out the VAB.

  13. Mark R. Whittington:

    Hurricane Francis, which damaged the VAB in 2004, killed 49 people in the United States directly or indirectly. One suspects that the carnage caused by a hurricane big enough to take the building down entirely would be enormous. So, how many lives have to be lost to fulfill your dream of ending the SLS? That supposes we just don’t rebuild the thing.

  14. Rand Simberg:

    Mark, I’m not hoping for a hurricane to hit Florida. I’m merely hoping that if it does, it will take out the VAB. So the number of lives lost is irrelevant, since it would be the same either way.

  15. Eric Weder:

    Really if it’s going to be a big one, then it will kill some small percentage of those it affects … so wouldn’t it be better to to wish it to go through the Cape and do some housecleaning instead of downtown Miami?

  16. PeterH:

    I hear Texas has much nicer weather as a launch site. Just need a launcher that won’t bother all that activity in the Gulf.

  17. wodun:

    “Then where will Elon Musk put the Mars Colonial Transport together”

    At the launch facilities he is building in Texas.

  18. Casey:

    Hope you and the house come through fine.

  19. Rand Simberg:

    It’s very unlikely to directly affect me, unless it makes it all the way to southern California.

  20. Michael G.Gallagher:

    If it weren’t for your house I’d say go Erika, go!

  21. Rand Simberg:

    Well, it will be one or the other, very unlikely to be both. The house is 150 miles south of the Cape.

  22. MfK:

    I fervently hope that the VAB is spared destruction. I have plans to turn it into a disco. (Anyone who wants to invest, there are still a few opportunities left.)

  23. wodun:

    The bubble parties will be yuuuuuge.

  24. Edward Wright:

    This is like watching Bambi versus Godzilla. Rather than watch Mark suffer, let’s help him out a bit.

    Destroying the VAB may not cost any lives, but rebuilding it would cost a large sum of money: $2 billion is an estimate I saw several years ago. As a consequence, that $2 billion would not be available for other things, including life-saving programs such as public health, medical research, EMS, police protection, etc.

    The cost of saving one life varies widely depending on the program. It’s estimated that child-health programs in the third world cost about $4000 per life saved. In the US, automatic defibrillators cost $1500-15,000 per life saved. Trauma centers cost about $800,000 per life saved.

    So, spending $2 billion on rebuilding the VAB, instead of trauma centers or programs or programs of similar effectiveness, will cost 2500 lives. Or 50 times the number killed by Hurricane Francis. Spending $20 billion on SLS as a whole will cost 25,000 lives, or 500 times as many as Hurricane Francis.

  25. Edward Wright:

    So, what Mr. Whittington meant to say was obviously, “How many lives have to be lost to fulfill my dream of building the SLS?”

    You’re welcome, Mark. 🙂

  26. Jiminator:

    Where does “Black Lives Matter” fit into all of this?