The Unluckiest Satellites - Earthquakes, Rockets and Clogged Pipes

Vitenskap og teknologi

There's a series of failed rockets in 1990, 91 and 92 which were all linked together by their payloads, boosters and root causes. The Superbird B and BS-2X satellite ended up on the same booster due to bad luck, the booster was flawed due to a mechanic's error, which would have been caught if he hadn't fallen ill. The backup of BS-2X was also destroyed due to engine problems on Atlas-Centaur AC-70, but a rushed investigation meant the root cause was missed leading to a repeat on AC-71.
Footage of Viking Engine Internals
Atlas Centaur AC70 footage
Some other information in the Space Review


  • Hope4Today9 Now
    Hope4Today9 Now5 dager siden

    Welders often put rags in pipes to keep drops of fluid and/or steam from affecting their welds.

  • Robert Franklin
    Robert Franklin29 dager siden

    Scott, I cannot find the video on SN11 failure, but I have a clarifying question. Elon blames an engine hard start for the failure. What is a "Hard Start" and why would that have such a violent reaction?

  • Yiffster owo
    Yiffster owoMåned siden

    “Flight termination system” The *W H A T*

  • Kineth1
    Kineth1Måned siden

    8:12 Dad humor detected.

  • rustusandroid
    rustusandroidMåned siden

    If FORD build satellites, how come THEY never put a car into space...

  • RedSkysAreOnFire
    RedSkysAreOnFireMåned siden

    loose screw usually means they used the wrong screw, like that commercial jet plane that lost its windscreen because the person who took the windscreen off to reseal it used his eyes to put back replacement screws instead of the screws listed in the parts manual.

  • Vikki McDonough
    Vikki McDonoughMåned siden

    Wait, I thought flights from Kourou launched out over the ocean?

  • Brian Rigsby
    Brian RigsbyMåned siden

    Horrid luck

  • Matt
    MattMåned siden

    Did anyone else attend a school that banned the original version of Scott's shirt?

  • RWBHere
    RWBHereMåned siden

    He probably used the handkerchief because he was ill. The irony is that pressure from his employer might have been the reason why he was at work that day, instead of staying at home recovering. More haste, less speed.

  • Kineth1


    Måned siden

    Many welding operations start with "stuff every open hole" so that welding spatter and grinding dust don't go anywhere unexpected. You can count on having a very upset customer if their engine blows up because grinding dust or metal shavings got into the intake because someone DIDN'T stuff a rag in it first.

  • James Russell
    James RussellMåned siden

    I saw that Scott...shamelessly showing off your t-shirt with the words, "It's a rocket thing. You wouldn't understand". LOL!!!

  • Mark Eichin
    Mark EichinMåned siden

    This takes "Knowledge gained is proportional to value of equipment damaged" to a whole new level

  • Mario Di Stefano
    Mario Di StefanoMåned siden

    I'm always in awe seeing those *hystorical* videos and where you get them... ;-)

  • Starhopper
    StarhopperMåned siden

    Ah, I almost forgot how inelegant the ariane 4 looked (I'm not gonna say ugly because if I do, someone somewhere will get offended)

  • JT Lozano
    JT LozanoMåned siden

    I have to have that shirt

  • Graeme Brumfitt
    Graeme BrumfittMåned siden

    Touching cloth! No fly safe. TFS, GB :)

  • Frank Gulla
    Frank GullaMåned siden

    Wonderful, joyful delivery, sir. Yo u are the best.

  • Daniel Ungureanu
    Daniel UngureanuMåned siden

    nice job!

  • InSlay IonStorm
    InSlay IonStormMåned siden

    I’m Scott Manley, clog safe! =))

  • ibuildblasters
    ibuildblastersMåned siden

    built ford tough

  • jwfoise
    jwfoiseMåned siden

    Nice t-shirt

  • John Doepker
    John DoepkerMåned siden

    Another video that learns me stuff. Me's gonna flap safety. 🤣🤣🤣

  • Bryant LiPetri
    Bryant LiPetriMåned siden

    The diligent ceramic positionally spell because improvement acromegaly gaze via a bewildered dorothy. soggy, wanting cymbal

  • Márk Pozsonyi
    Márk PozsonyiMåned siden

    Rocket science is hard, who knew?

  • zapfanzapfan
    zapfanzapfanMåned siden

    Since things have been left inside patients after surgeries they also count everything now to make sure they didn't leave anything inside the patient.

  • Kineth1


    Måned siden

    I was impressed in the delivery room with my girlfriend. They had posted placards about sponge counting. Apparently in that facility, they only come in packs of 5 and they have a special rack and disposal bags that hang vertically to display 5 pockets in each column.

  • Ben Thilwind
    Ben ThilwindMåned siden

    Lovely bed time story thanks bro. Hopefully starship tmoz 🤞

  • Gustav Licht
    Gustav LichtMåned siden

    Why not use hydrazine directly to drive the turbines? That wouldn't require water to cool the gas generator exhaust.

  • Scott Manley

    Scott Manley

    Måned siden

    Because they use UDMH which is more stable so doesn’t decompose in the same way as regular hydrazine, UDMH however is more stable for regenerative cooling of the combustion chamber and nozzle.

  • SFS Eagle
    SFS EagleMåned siden

    I think I've sussed it out Scott Manley is Jim Browning, He just deepens the audio

  • twinturbostang
    twinturbostangMåned siden

    Scott Manley: "You better fly safe, or you'll end up on my youtube channel".

  • Elliott Hall
    Elliott HallMåned siden

    That ending has kept me awake the last two nights

  • Yes 160
    Yes 160Måned siden

    1.23 M subs, nice

  • RyanPhoenixAZ
    RyanPhoenixAZMåned siden

    Can you explain how comercial payloads work? I'm talking about in the sense of when there's a disaster who is responsible for the cost of the payload? For instance, SpaceX has the delivery vehicle and companies pay for payload space for their millions of dollars of hardware to get shipped to space. Does SpaceX have insurance? Is it just a loss for the companies with the hardware? Thank you!

  • GeoCalifornian Obregon
    GeoCalifornian ObregonMåned siden

    00:24 I built the Superbird com modules (communication modules) in the BLDG 3 Hibay with other technicians at Palo Alto’s Ford Aerospace and Communications Corporation... My unit supervisor was Sam Eveleth and my section supervisor was Marlin Schaefer, and later, Kathy Cotta. Best job I’ve ever had, bar none. /Silicon Valley Regards

  • Vinay Khandka
    Vinay KhandkaMåned siden

    No one spins a space story better than Scott!

  • jcoghill2
    jcoghill2Måned siden

    What are you drinking in the background? Surprised it's not Guinness which I like very much.

  • David Reddig
    David ReddigMåned siden

    Cloth of Doom. Is that a group of priests who started a heavy metal band?

  • Diego Miño
    Diego MiñoMåned siden

    Great story Scott ¡¡ 😆

  • jcoghill2
    jcoghill2Måned siden

    When I worked as an aircraft mechanic for the airlines shift change was always a concern for me because if there ever was a time to make a mistake that can threaten life and property it's at shift change. They make plastic plugs to keep stuff out of the pipes when the engine is being worked on. Rockets use them too. The minute the system becomes open enough to do it, those plugs are supposed to be screwed on. Sticking a rag in a pipe is something you might do on your car. Not a rocket. That technician needs to go because he doesn't know there is a difference.

  • Josh Harris
    Josh HarrisMåned siden

    "Ford used to build satellites" and Chrysler built the Redstone, Jupiter, and the Saturn I first stages.

  • Yoda63
    Yoda63Måned siden

    Turbines are like windmills?! Well at least those turbines will keep the engines cool!

  • Kineth1


    Måned siden

    That pun blows.

  • John Ehteshami
    John EhteshamiMåned siden

    Hi can you talk about the Russian use of Heptal in this rock fuel that leads to birth defects. Saw video on you tube in this. Is the area around US space areas really safe of toxic chemicals? Thx to space-x less salvage stages but what about the chemicals burned? Thx your the best!

  • NickolasBug
    NickolasBugMåned siden

    Nice t-shirt. Where can I get the same?

  • Scott Manley

    Scott Manley

    Måned siden

    There’s a teespring store with the shirt below the video

  • Alterate
    AlterateMåned siden

    I believe the cloth! FOD is bad!!

  • intel_8052
    intel_8052Måned siden

    Hurray FOD! It's funny the car guys and space guys overlap way too much. When I started my job working on space products I was bored as hell by the FOD training... If you build engines? You already know FOD protection even of its not officially documented/trained to aerospace standards. Now, since I'm quality, I just get to document every step of every piece of every product that went onto this part that would fit in the palm of your hand... And that might now sound too crazy, esp since it's a fairly simple part... But do you know where the a screw came from? Oh and then who supplied them? And who supplied the material to make the screw? And who cut the metal to size? And who melted it? I've quickly learned why aerospace parts cost what they do... When you hear a bolt costs big money and wonder why... Yeah I can tell ya. It's a lot of work.

  • Kineth1


    Måned siden

    Quality? Quality doesn't cost that much. Quality ASSURANCE? That'll cost ya.

  • skeelo69
    skeelo69Måned siden

    Scott....not many people are flying at all 😕

  • skeelo69
    skeelo69Måned siden


  • Daniel Agramonte
    Daniel AgramonteMåned siden

    Interesting thing of note: so my lab at the university of Georgia studies fluid-structural dynamics with our water tunnel (which has a mass flow rate of 1 ton/s). Some of the research which we've done in the past was actually applied by SpaceX in the design of turbo pumps, or, more specifically, in the design of the gap between the blades and the wall which you talk about in this video. If you're interested, I think I might be able to find that research paper.

  • Astronist
    AstronistMåned siden

    Yes, I read about that Ariane 4 incident, with the cloth gumming up one of the engine turbines, in German writer Eugen Reichl's entertaining book "Wir haben ein Problem". He adds the detail that the failure was even more embarrassing than normal because French President Mitterand, who was on a state visit to South America, had dropped by to observe the launch personally. Reichl's explanation of the handkerchief is as follows: the engine had earlier been test-fired in France. Afterwards the water tank had been drained and dried out by hand in order to keep it in perfect condition during the weeks while it was sitting in storage waiting to be used. The technician using the fatal handkerchief, he wrote, simply forgot to take it out when he had finished, and in Kourou the tank was refilled without anybody thinking to check it for foreign objects.

  • John Wythe
    John WytheMåned siden

    "Can be a real drag" Yep! A real drag, when real drag causes your rocket to explode!

  • tomjennings100
    tomjennings100Måned siden

    Oh, the winter and the blindin' ache Was ridin' high until the '89 quake Hit the Santa Cruz Garden Mall Like a wrecking ball

  • Mike Richards
    Mike RichardsMåned siden

    Given the complexities of engines, the unbelievable conditions inside and the precision needed for them to work, it's something of a miracle that any rocket has ever left the ground. Great video - more of these obscure failures if possible, if only to remind us of the awesomeness of rocket engineers.

  • Paul Bennett
    Paul BennettMåned siden

    Ah! 'The old Han-key in de pipe ploy. I know it well".

  • Cormac Quaid
    Cormac QuaidMåned siden

    Always blame the night shift. Always.

  • Dominik Janiec
    Dominik JaniecMåned siden

    great stories!

  • Lee Goldberg
    Lee GoldbergMåned siden

    Thanks for sharing your well-researched tale of woe - even if it brought back some painful memories. Having worked on the two ill-fated satellites you chronicled at RCA Astro, I watched the first launch that delivered the spacecraft to a "geo-static" orbit of -300 feet beneath the Atlantic Ocean and knew most of the facts behind failure. But you were able to dig up some details that eluded me and my team mates for years. Most notably, we knew about the rag in the water line but had no idea the Arianne had water lines, and could only speculate about what they were cooling. And since I never heard much about the Atlas failure, your revelations were also gratefully received. With no intent to diminish your excellent reporting. I'd also like to share a few additional tidbits related to that star-crossed pair of satellites. They were not originally Japanese TV satellites and both began life as high-powered direct broadcast satellites (DBS) our customer intended to use to cover the North American continent plus Alaska and Hawaii. It was just before the dawn of room-temperature low noise amplifiers (LNAs) so the only way to enable subscribers to use a small (0.75 - 1 meter) dish was to use very powerful transmitters, in this case, 200W/channel vs the 20-30W we use today. This forced us to include a 100V bus to power the transmitters in addition to the normal 35V feed that powered the rest of the spacecraft. It also set the stage for the first tragedy when an improperly configured test cable, poorly written test software, and an over-worked test crew converged one fateful late night to allow the 100V bus to be connected with the 35V bus. The resulting damage took (I think) four months and $10M (in 1987 dollars) to correct. Shortly afterwards, the customer discovered that the satellite had become a white elephant overnight because the room temperature LNAs I mentioned before had just made it possible to send up a DBS satellite with 30 or more channels, versus the 3 channels our bird had. After considerable legal wrangling, the customer paid close to the full contract price for the birds and got out of the DBS business. RCA bought them back at a fire sale price, and put them into cold storage while they looked for a customer. That customer turned out to be NHK who needed a quick replacement for one of their DBS satellites which was beginning to fail ahead of schedule. Around that time, I left that project to work on the Mars Observer probe while many of my friends refitted the two DPS birds with new transponders and a feed horn that sprayed their energy in a beam shaped like the island chain of Japan. Your reporting pretty much covers the events from here but there were a few details that might be of interest. It's my understanding that the hesitancy to terminate the Arianne was additionally complicated by the engineering team's desire to capture as much telemetry as they could in order to better understand the failure. I was watching the launch from New Jersey and there did indeed seem to be a dispute in progress when the Arianne settled it when it went transonic while flying at a very low angle and far deeper into the atmosphere than it had been designed to operate at that speed. Finally, a year or so after I joined Mars Observer, we managed to hire a hot-shot senior mechanical engineer away from Ford Aerospace. Shortly after Ged's arrival, I dropped by his desk and noticed a small irregular hunk of carbon honeycomb on his bookshelf, with little fragments of what appeared to be solar cells attached to it. It turns out he had worked on the Superbird that had shared a ride with our satellite in the Arianne's journey to oblivion. After the smoke cleared, the solar pane fragment washed up while he was walking on the beach.

  • Neo Anderson
    Neo AndersonMåned siden

    Can you change your profile picture it looks like tom scott with red shirt and i keep getting confused

  • Anna Fraley
    Anna FraleyMåned siden

    Very interesting stories...!!

  • Alain Martel
    Alain MartelMåned siden

    So, just another story of a few more rapid, unplanned disassembly... Yes. Fly safe... if you can.

  • mackiwawa
    mackiwawaMåned siden

    Please can you do a video about the new standard model discovery in physics from the LHC?

  • Rujholla H
    Rujholla HMåned siden

    So is his shirt today an answer to the question about his shirt from the last video?

  • Xafec X
    Xafec XMåned siden

    I'm Scott Manley, fly safe?! (odd nose twitch, I know what its like to have an itchy nose)

  • Andrei Neacsu
    Andrei NeacsuMåned siden

    Can someone help me with this question? "If a space company has a product with 0 (zero) launches and, thus, 0 (zero) failures, is the an infinite launch to fail ratio due to the division of a real number by zero, or is is zero due to zero being divided by a real number?" I can understand that the success is definitely zero, due to zero successful launches, but I wonder how they report failures to the shareholders.

  • howard baxter

    howard baxter

    Måned siden

    I don’t know. Maybe you should ask Siri. She can help you determine what 0/0 is.

  • Daniel Pankin
    Daniel PankinMåned siden

    Ah, the good ol' space failure story time from Scott! For some reason, I enjoy so much listening about how even the rocket scientists/engineers can screw up -- I guess it makes me feel a bit better about my own mistakes that are plenty :D

  • Mikael Lövqvist
    Mikael LövqvistMåned siden

    Seems rocket science and engineering is hard. Who could have known?

  • chricton J
    chricton JMåned siden

    They say bad things come in three's.

  • Mouzekiller83
    Mouzekiller83Måned siden

    ESA:"it worked in kerbal space program!"

  • Cby 0530
    Cby 0530Måned siden

    Now that's one massive series of unfortunate incidents...

  • Doom2pro
    Doom2proMåned siden

    *Lifts out of chair* - "Fly Safe!"

  • M G
    M GMåned siden

    When I was in college I was told a story similar to "rag in a pipe" by a professor. It seems a helicopter manufacturer (I don't remember which) in the 1960s was experiencing random catastrophic failures of rotor blades when take-off RPM was reached. The root cause was found (accidentally) to be due to a janitor who was cutting strips of masking tape to post "wet floor" signs using his pocket knife and a rotor blade as his cutting surface. The scratches were deep enough to act as stress raisers and cause the blades to break apart right at take-off. The cause was found when the investigation team was touring the manufacturing facility and the janitor just happened to be preparing to mop the floor after the visitors left. My professor was part of the investigation team.

  • Gary Teano
    Gary TeanoMåned siden

    A real drag!

  • Antonio Maglione
    Antonio MaglioneMåned siden

    Thank you for this wonderfully told story of bad luck and oversights of satellite launches. It is not only rocket science that is overwhelmingly complex; it is also the execution that require a flawless procedure. Rockets don't arrive late, or to a slightly different spot - like any other transport would, in case of "insignificant" problems like a piece of cloth or a loose screw. Rockets do uncerimonially come down if everything isn't perfect. Thanks for the nice and informative video!

  • AchievementDenied
    AchievementDeniedMåned siden

    "So thats where the screw labeled B-1074 from the manual was... I hope we didnt actually need that."

  • alvaroasi
    alvaroasiMåned siden

    10:48 Homo Sapiens-Sapiens: That was my error and that is my solution. Next time I'll do it better. Homo Stupid-Stupid: Why is this failing again, again, again and again? It's not fair!

  • alvaroasi
    alvaroasiMåned siden

    I can't read, then your t-shirt can't upset me.

  • sahi douco
    sahi doucoMåned siden

    Weren't quite as one way as expected :'-D

  • Conanswordman
    ConanswordmanMåned siden

    Did they ever find out what failed on the sxm7

  • TheOneWhoMightBe
    TheOneWhoMightBeMåned siden

    If the blades touch the housing at turbopump speeds you're likely to have extra parts, not extra friction.

  • Tim O' Callaghan
    Tim O' CallaghanMåned siden

    If at first you don't succeed, introduce a different problem with your careless tinkering

  • Matt Wybiral
    Matt WybiralMåned siden

    It's nice to see Scott took over for James Burke on Connections.

  • Bobcat665
    Bobcat665Måned siden

    I'm getting Lemony Snicket vibes here. 😂 * sips Martini *

  • Myndale
    MyndaleMåned siden

    To be fair, naming your satellite "BS2X" is kinda asking for it.

  • B Dunphy
    B DunphyMåned siden

    Yep, that's pretty cursed

  • matchesburn
    matchesburnMåned siden

    0:34 Ford Aerospace. Ford used to build... satellites? ...I... I did not see that one coming.

  • Stone Mason
    Stone MasonMåned siden

    Love your work Scotty, well done mate.

  • Peter Sellers
    Peter SellersMåned siden

    Note to self: take the non-rocket transportation option

  • J. Jason Wentworth

    J. Jason Wentworth

    Måned siden

    When space elevators and roto-tethers have been in operation for a century or so, people will marvel that we flew into space atop fires...

  • Lucy Tycho
    Lucy TychoMåned siden

    His "handkerchief." Some people are *really* attached to their work, I guess

  • SoulShark
    SoulSharkMåned siden


  • Edmund Wong
    Edmund WongMåned siden


  • Junho Lee
    Junho LeeMåned siden

    Rocket launch cancelled by cloth? TIL rocket industry also is a joke

  • dave robert
    dave robertMåned siden

    Can not wait for Earth point to point rockets. book me a seat....

  • Happy Fox
    Happy FoxMåned siden

    welcome to the most underdeveloped mode of transportation the rocket, where even the smallest problem could wither be negligible or catastrophic and you're not going to have a launch where nothing goes wrong

  • replica
    replicaMåned siden

    (rockets are eternal)

  • replica


    Måned siden

    when eternal manifest as rockets - rockets are totem

  • Landon Stabenow
    Landon StabenowMåned siden

    Honestly I watch the videos to learn about rockets, but I also watch it for the song at the end

  • N S
    N SMåned siden

    That was the most cheeky “fly safe” yet! 😂

  • S. Russel
    S. RusselMåned siden

    Murphy’s law :’)

  • ENetArch
    ENetArchMåned siden

    Until now, scott. Untill now. 🤦🤦🤦 You didn't knock on any wood. 🤣🤣🤣

  • Otrab
    OtrabMåned siden

    That satellite operator went through BS-2X with those launch failures.

  • Alpha Adhito
    Alpha AdhitoMåned siden

    Remind of that Palapa-D satellite that had a partial failure from its Long March 3B upper stage so they needed a replacement satellite the Nusantara Dua (Palapa-N1), which it self suffer from another Long March 3B upper stage failure

  • Bert Blankenstein
    Bert BlankensteinMåned siden

    Ahh, the old lose screw problem...

  • privateer177666
    privateer177666Måned siden

    Thanx, Mac...