Monday, December 31, 2007

Slowest News Day of the Year.

Maybe the Emperor's publicists have finally learned how to do their job? How else do you explain the partial release on New Year's Eve of the federal air safety study overseen by the minions? With Congress sipping egg nog at home, and everyone else struggling with Dick Clark's diction (or lack thereof), we doubt many will notice or read about near misses, poor piloting, or equipment failures plaguing our our airways. Mind you, we still haven't seen the entire data set that was promised during the Congressional hearings last fall. We'll likely have to wait for another slow news day for that.

And on this last day of the year, we don't believe we've seen the last of the deceptions, obfuscations, and sheer incompetence exhibited this past year by the Emperor and his henchmen. Like Jerry Lewis and his telethon, we here at RocketsAndSuch are waiting for the day when we can close up shop knowing a steady hand is on the rudder. Unfortunately, we suspect we'll be still here this time next year with high hopes.

Happy New Year from the staff at RandS!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Chewing on the New Year.

"Space Party Will be Booze-free," reads the headline.

Yeah, right.

The story continues,"Father Frost has sent his New Year wishes to the crew of the International Space Station. He was able to communicate with the 16th ISS mission team from the Flight Control Centre in Korolyov city in the Moscow region. Father Frost wished all the best to Russian cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko, and NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Daniel Tani. “With all my heart, I congratulate you on the New Year and wish you happiness, mutual understanding, love, health and success in your work,” Father Frost said. It’s planned the ISS crew will see in the New Year in orbit thrice: Moscow time, GMT and Huston time. The astronauts have already prepared small gifts for each other, Malenchenko said. There will be a festive menu with fresh fruit and vegetables. However, Champagne will not be served, as there's an alcohol ban at the ISS."

We don't think that is going to be a problem on ISS this expedition. Pehaps someone forgot to tell the queen of the jello shots, Commander Whitson, about that ban?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Failure Chicken

We're all familiar with launch chicken. The payload tries to out wait the launcher to declare a schedule slip. Usually the less experienced program manager blinks first. Inevitably, someone always blinks.

Shuttle Viceroy Wayne Hale must have glass eyes. Watch him on TV. He's stopped blinking. But he can't hold out forever. In fact, we think he'll be tearing up pretty soon now.

The shuttle folks have decided that they are still unable to set a launch date for Atlantis and the European Columbus ISS module. For a program bent on completion by 2010 (despite Sen Nelson's reminders that there is no such deadline and the schedule pressure is entirely the making of the Emperor) this lack of even a target launch date is highly unusual. Previously, dates have at least been declared as goals to keep the team marching forward. Why has Viceroy Hale adopted such an open-ended posture now?

We think the ECO sensor problem is now being used as an excuse and shield for the much more difficult issues ISS is facing but for which there are still no answers. The SARJ and the Beta joint have crippled the station, power-wise, to the point where Columbus can only get keep-alive power once it is attached, no way Kibo can even get that far, and six crew is out of the question. So by hiding behind this "safety of flight" issue, Hale is playing chicken, hoping to avoid the hard questions that will be coming his and ISS Viceroy Suffredini's way and to buy time for finding solutions for the other critical issues facing ISS.

So look for a roll-back to the VAB, a couple of more space-walks on ISS to localize the SARJ problem, and a slip of the Hubble repair mission into late Fall. But don't look for Hale to blink and launch Atlantis anytime in January.

Its probably a good thing that February has 29 days this year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays!

We here at RocketsandSuch appreciate our readers and hope you have a great holiday.

As for the Emperor, we heard that he received nothing but polybutadiene acrylonitrile in his stocking this morning...and a gift certificate to the Burlington Coat factory.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Mars will have to wait.

Boy, times have changed. About 42 to 43 years ago the saying used to be, "Mar's can't wait!" Planetary missions provided hard dates to shoot for, as orbital mechanics limited the number of opportunities we had to send things "economically" out into the solar system. Mars opportunities came every two years during favorable alignments of the earth and Mars. The orbital mechanics have not changed and the same is true for today. So what changed?

Last week NASA announced that the next mission in the Mars Scout program, originally planned for launch in 2011, is now targeted for launch in 2013. Is there a problem with an instrument running late? Ahhhh, no. Is the bus suffering from an integration problem. Ahhhh, no. Will the asteroid headed for Mars knock it out of its orbit around the sun? No, NASA will wait two years longer than planned and spend another $40 million to launch a half-billion-dollar probe to Mars because of an unspecified conflict of interest in the purchasing process.

And you know what? We're not surprised. And you shouldn't be either. After all, Doc H still works for the Emperor and will be watching the snow fall from behind a window in his home in Utah this winter, instead of sitting behind bars in a jail cell. What is surprising is that somebody called foul and held up the procurement. Could this be another sign that the Emperor is losing his touch?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

12 Steps.


  1. We admitted we were powerless after ESAS — that our architecture had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that an Emperor greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of the Emperor as we understood him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless technical inventory of our work..
  5. Admitted to the Emperor, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have the Emperor remove all these defects from ESAS.
  7. Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all the Constellation elements that don't work, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such elements wherever possible, except when to do so would injure others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through analysis and trades to improve our conscious contact with the Emperor, as we understood him, asking only for his knowledge and direction and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, discovered that the Emperor was the problem, and began to make amends:


General Information

Solicitation Number: N/A
Reference Number: NNL08ThrustoscillationQ NAIS Posted Date: Dec 20,
2007 FedBizOpps Posted Date: Dec 20, 2007 Response Date: Jan 10, 2008
Classification Code: A -- Research and Development
NAICS Code: 541690 - Other Scientific and Technical Consulting
Set-Aside Code: Total Small Business
Internet Address:

Office Address

NASA/Langley Research Center, Mail Stop 144, Industry Assistance Office,
Hampton, VA 23681-0001


NASA/LaRC has a requirement for Use of the proprietary Universal Combustion Device Stability (UCDS) process developed and owned by the Gloyer-Taylor Laboratories LLC. The Government must assess thrust oscillation issues with the Constellation Program's ARES five-segment solid rocket booster. The Gloyer-Taylor Labs UCDS is a breakthrough modeling and analysis process, which provides detailed physical insight into the stability characteristics of complex combustion devices. Using calculations that are based entirely on known or measurable parameters, the UCDS makes it possible to predict for a given initial state the actual wave geometry, time history of the wave amplitude, limit amplitude reached by the wave system, and accompanying changes in the combustion chamber state properties. Design of corrective procedures can be accomplished with full physical understanding of the action of damping mechanisms.

NASA/LaRC intends to purchase the items from Gloyer-Taylor Laboratories is the only organization that can offer the expertise and unique, proprietary software and processes necessary to complete the required analysis.

The Government intends to acquire a commercial item using FAR Part 12.

Interested organizations may submit their capabilities and qualifications to perform the effort in writing to the identified point of contact not later than 4:30 p.m. local time on January 10, 2008. Such capabilities/qualifications will be evaluated solely for the purpose of determining whether or not to conduct this procurement on a competitive basis. A determination by the Government not to compete this proposed effort on a full and open competition basis, based upon responses to this notice, is solely within the discretion of the government.

Oral communications are not acceptable in response to this notice.

All responsible sources may submit an offer which shall be considered by the agency.

An Ombudsman has been appointed. See NASA Specific Note "B".

Any referenced notes may be viewed at the following URLs linked below.

Point of Contact

Name: Teresa M Hass
Title: Contract Specialist/Contracting Officer
Phone: 757-864-8496
Fax: 757-864-7709

Name: C. Lynn Jenkins
Title: Contract Specialist/Contracting Officer
Phone: 757-864-3284
Fax: 757-864-7709

Monday, December 17, 2007

They're Baaaaack!

To re-use some words from the late great Dean Martin's holiday album, "Baby it's cold outside."

After being let go from his last job for, shall we say, "reusing some words," Bill Readdy resurrects himself and becomes the chairman of the board of the Challenger Center (now we can say that Joe Allen wasn't the smallest guy to have the job after all). And, despite global warming and Al Gore, it seems to be getting pretty cold out side. Lots of frost. Lots of snow. Lots of ice. Warm places are freezing over.

Yep, the shuttle huggers are back and they have their snow tires on.

We've all heard the news of Rep. Weldon's misguided intentions. His new legislation to "ensure our future in space" seeks to inject $2B extra a year into the Emperor's grubby hands to keep the space shuttle flying twice a year and accelerate the development of its less capable replacement. And just what will these shuttle flights accomplish? Not much, unless even more funding is made available to carry stuff on those flights. Heck, that patriot, Sam Ting, just might just get his giant kitchen magnet flown to the ISS after all. That alone would account for about a year and half worth of those flights.

But after AMS is taking care of, then what? What's worse than flying crew with cargo? Fly crew as cargo? Or maybe flying crew as cargo past 2010? How about what is becoming known within the Agency as "Plan B."

Last week the rest of the minions had to come to grips with the fact that Wayne Hale is, deep deep down, a hugger. We told you about the contention for test facilities to test the new flow sensors for the SSMEs. These sensors will allow the shuttle to get around flaky ECO sensors in the external tank that sometimes, maybe, might signal when the LOX and LH2 tanks in it are empty. The shuttle Viceroy had called for a meeting to assess the impact to the J2X test program, which was first in line to use the test stand at Stennis Space Center. When it was clear that the Constellation folks were better prepared to make their case, Viceroy Hale cancelled the meeting.

Responding with a whimper to that action, Constellation Viceroy Jeff Hanley let fly a memo acknowledging the existence, within the Agency, of a "Plan B." The plan (along with variations A, C, D, E, F, and G) describes how the huggers intend to keep just enough pieces and parts and processes available, under the Emperor's radar, to allow the shuttle to fly past 2010. Already enough metal has been procured quietly to build two new tanks beyond those needed for the Emperor's current game plan. And the unmanned orbiter play book is being dusted off again, this time with Gerst's blessing. In acknowledging Plan B in public, Hanley is, in effect, saying, "Hey guys, when the Emperor leaves, don't forget I tried to help y'all out. Please save a spot for me!"

While all of this is interesting, the implications for the Emperor are more intriguing. For all of its heresy, Plan B is one of the first very strong signals that the minions recognize that the end is near. The sad part is that, unless the Emperor makes a mad dash for the holiday sale at Men's Warehouse, we still have 18 months to wait. Eighteen more months for the huggers to gather strength. Paraphrasing John Young, it will only get harder to go back to the moon.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sacrificing at the Altair

The eagle with the olive branch on the patch is familiar. Evenly brown with the recognizable white head and tail. But this bird is not representative of his mission. No, this bird should have been speckled with white, the sign of an immature bird facing much risk in its young life.

Altair is a vertex in the Summer Triangle in the Aquila constellation. It is most notable for its extreme rapid rotation. How fitting! In astrology, Altair is ill-omened, portending danger from reptiles (named Marsha?).

And so the Lunar Surface Access Module now has a new name. And that, unfortunately, is about all of significance revealed at yesterday's Lunar Lander Industry Day at JSC.

Lauri Hansen and her speckled brown team showed a design that does not close. A "minimum functionality lander." After spending six months with 50 minions from all of the field centers she was only able to offer a product that was less descriptive than an aerospace design class in Neil Armstrong's new building at Purdue would have produced. The professor would have handed out a D- on this one. Stack up this lander next to the original Grumman LEM, adjust for scale differences, and this lander has less capability than its 40 year old parent. By Hansen's own admission, the lander has no redundancy, meets none of the space program's latter day safety requirements, and will now be open to investment, errr, we mean review, by four industry teams, each receiving $350K to tell NASA what a crummy job they did.

But, is there a bigger message lurking behind Hansen's cartoons? We think so. In fact, Hansen may succeed where Skip Hatfield failed. If she is successful, the Emperor will have been told that he has no clothes, and even if he did cover up, no one is missing much. How will she do this?

We think Hansen and her team figured out that the ESAS architecture is broke and this pitiful lander design was her way of telling the world while saving her job. You could hear that message coming through loud in clear in their voices as they walked down the list of "closed trades," items that could not be changed by mandate from the Emperor. Each one of the closed trades are giant levers in the pony-tailed architecture. First and foremost, having the lander perform the lunar injection burn, and then carrying the now mostly empty parasitic tank mass to the surface, is one of those big levers. We can't think of a less efficient way of performing the job of landing humans on the surface of the moon once again. Want to bet the "usually eager to copy" Chinese don't follow this path?

We hope we are right about Hansen. We won't remember this particular lander design, but we may just remember her name in 2020 if our optimistic point of view is correct.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Take A Number.

Just when you thought that brand spanking new J2x engine was going to start getting a work out on that brand spanking new test stand at Stennis Space Center, along comes the ECO sensor problem on the shuttle to move those tests to the right. How, you ask, is that possible?

Well, if the ECO sensor problem is not solved, than a back-up to sensing fuel empty conditions in the shuttle fuel tanks is to sense how much LH2 and LOX you are using and to shut down the engines when nothing more comes through the pipe. That sensor has seen limited production and has been placed on some, but not all of the SSMEs. Because the program is winding down (unless you ask Rep Weldon), a decision was made awhile back to terminate further production of those flow sensors and fly with what is in the inventory. After all, the ECO system was "understood" and would make it to the end.

Of course, we all know now that the ECO system is not understood and will probably glitch a fair percentage of shuttle missions in the remaining queue. Each glitch results in one or more retankings of the External Tank, further stressing the touchy foam sprayed onto its exterior. Not a real good thing to do. So minion Hale is in the process of deciding to re-open the flow sensor production line and see to it that every SSME, from here to 2015, oh sorry, we meant 2010, has a means of watching the fuel coming into its chambers....or not.

And that's where the space shuttle program will help to further delay the testing of the J2x. Because every one of those sensors needs to be "green fired" to see if it operates properly, the only place those tests can readily be done these days would be on the J2X test stand at Stennis.

Just repeat after Hanley..."1-in-3 by 2013!" Uh-huh.

To the Showers.

With Skip Hatfield out of the way, we'd like to offer some speculation about the next three people to be joining him in the penalty box in the near future. To wit:

1. ALAS Managers (the current one and the next one). Despite having spent two years designing and analyzing the launch abort system, some $100M on wind tunnel testing, and some $10M on vibroacoustic testing, the ALS will fall victim to the Emperor's napkin. MLAS will be called in from the dugout and the program will take a one year slip to incorporate the whimsical alternate launch abort system. Then after spending a similar amount of time and money, the minions will figure out that the napkin sketch won't work and revert to the working ALAS.

2. Command Module Manager. When the first CEV and LSAM are docked on top of the ESAS and propelled towards the moon, two technical problems that are being deliberately ignored by the Chief Engineer of the Universe will get blamed on you know who. The docking adapter carrying the loads between the two vehicles will come apart at the seams, just like every outside review board has suggested. And then, once that big LSAM engine fires to slow the stack into lunar orbit, the astronauts will be trying to put their eyes back in after the eyeballs out maneuver is completed. Of course, the pony-tailed ESAS leader who promoted that idea and the idea of carrying all of that parasitic propulsive weight to the lunar surface will be nowhere to be found.

As PDR races away from us to the right, we're sure we'll be adding to this list in the very near future.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Rep. Weldon Needs New Staffers.

And you thought the Emperor was the only one sending our space program down a dusty trail? Read the Conference Amendment Text below and see how ignorant our Congressfolk and/or their staffers can be:

SEC. ____ . (a) The National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall take all actions necessary in fiscal year 2008, including renegotiating necessary prime contracts and subcontracts and ensuring that they do not expire, in order to ensure the option of operating the Space Shuttle beyond the currently planned Shuttle end-of-operations date in 2010. These actions shall be accomplished using existing funds made available by this or any other Act, and shall include --

(1) permitting no contracts necessary for such operation to expire;
(2) keeping all necessary production facilities active, or readily available; and
(3) conditioning any turnover of Shuttle facilities to programs other than the Shuttle program so as to ensure that such turnover will not affect the option to operate the Space Shuttle after 2010.

(b) Actions taken by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under this section shall not negatively affect Constellation program development, schedule, or delivery.

(c) Not later than March 1, 2008, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall report to Congress on how it intends to implement actions under this section within existing funds. Such report shall include a description of the proposed disposition of facilities and how the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will keep all Shuttle operations operating while still maintaining the schedule for the development of the Constellation program.

Keep flying Shuttle past 2010 and maintain the schedule for Constellation? Putting the technical issues associated with flying almost 30 year old spaceships aside, just where does Weldon think the budget will come from in this zero sum game to do all of that? We would like to suggest that Weldon buy a couple of gift cards tomorrow and throw a going away party for his space staffers, least he embarrass himself further by pursuing this unenlightened path.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Top 10 Holiday List

A list of the top ten things we're asking Santa for at RocketsAndSuch (please add your own wish lists in the comments!):

10. All of our troops, friends, and families stay safe.

9. All of the astronauts fly safely and avoid harm (including mental illness).

8. Alan Lindenmoyer gets a lot of toys and stays home to play with them for a very long time.

7. Shana Dale gets soft toilet paper for her executive rest room.

6. Sen. Shelby gets to make snowmen in his backyard and finds them jobs at MSFC.

5. Jeff Hanley takes a load off, gets on a shiny motorcycle, and heads anywhere west.

4. Doc Horowitz's jail cell is appropriately decorated.

3. Steve Cook's new employer lets him design the menus and table settings in powerpoint.

2. The Emperor gets a wardrobe gift card at his retirement party.

1. Marsha Ivins gets to fly on the very very first ARES/Orion.

"I Don't Know."

The Space News Profile was so suggestive. "Take a Load Off, Hanley," it said. Man, oh, man we wish he would.

As Marsha's boy continues to be played like Nero's fiddle, your space program continues to lose ground. Much like Pinocchio dancing at the end of the Emperor's strings, his nose grew a couple of more inches as he talked for the profile. The former flight director who almost hosed Hubble (he was saved by his back room support on that one), wouldn't know how to paint by numbers, let alone build a strategic program like Constellation from scratch.

But we digress.

Hanley says the team has settled on water landing off the California coast. But, no, wait, we also need a land landing contingency. Ooops? Didn't Skip Hatfield just get fired for sticking to that direction?

Then, for all of the world to see just how inept a manager he is, Brian Berger manhandles Hanley with a couple of seemingly innocuous questions. Why is Congress being led to believe Orion won't fly before 2015 when Hanley is pushing his team to 2013 with admittedly low confidence? Hanley's answer: He has to set the bar higher, so high, in fact, that his chances are less than 1 in 3 of making 2013. Now there's some inspiration for his team. "I want you working long hours and weekends and holidays, but we only have a 1 in 3 chance of achieving our goal. The beatings will continue until morale improves!"

But Berger presses on. If Orion had an extra $1B could it do better? Hanley doesn't know. Doesn't know? Wait a minute! Didn't the Emperor say he could make 2013 with $2B. Shouldn't Hanley be able to say he could close half the gap with $1B? Answer: yes. What did he say: "I don't know."

Finally, Berger takes the money shot. What will be the cost of Orion and Ares per flight? Hanley's answer, " I don't know." You could almost hear the Congressfolk pushing their chairs back from the bench in awe. Here for all to see in print, the Constellation Program Manager demonstrating his command of the facts of his program.

So when exactly do we think we'll see Constellation bear fruit? We know.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Code Blue.

Skip Hatfield is in the hospital and we don't mean figuratively speaking either. The Emperor put him there.

The minion Jeff Hanley held an all-hands videocon yesterday and said without saying that the Emperor told him to fire Skip. Leading up to this inevitable event, you'll recall that the Integrated Stack Technical Information Meeting was held a few weeks ago in Houston. After that, Skip and his team provided an outbrief for the Emperor. You'll also recall that the results were described as "overwhelming" and that the Emperor was quite pleased with the efforts of the CEV team.

Well, there's a little more to the story.

The Emperor was not hearing all that he wanted to hear in the outbrief. Ahead of the brief, Marsha told him a lot of what he should have been hearing but wasn't going to see presented. As you might guess, the result was a number of warm, and we don't mean friendly, exchanges between the Chief Engineer of the Universe and his then project manager.

As any good program manager would tend to do, Skip was watching his budget and maintaining his schedule on Orion. Seeing as he was headed towards a PDR, he was making decisions and making system selections so that he could take a myriad of options off the table and get after a real design. Consequently, he did not fund the Emperor's pet abort system, MLAS, and after seeing the weight numbers for the competing systems, he selected water landings over land landings.

The Emperor was furious. Having never really built anything of this complexity himself, he felt that the project could keep all the balls in the air, never make a decision before PDR, spending freely on would-be dead-ends. If the Skipwhacking hadn't taken place now, it certainly would have by PDR as the project would have blown through its budget and the Emperor would have had his head for that reason instead.

As Emperor's are wont to do, he signaled for his minion Jeff to hand Skip and his immediate staff their heads. That lead to the videocon...preceded by a letter to staff. The letter to the Constellation minions was certainly of a different flavor than Hanley let on in the videocon. If you read the letter, you'd swear Skip was asked to be let go.

And maybe he should have. Because of all things, one's own health and life is too important to be put at risk for someone, dare we say it, as incompetent as the Emperor has turned out to be.

Here's hoping Skip has a speedy recovery and lands on his feet somewhere worthy of his talents.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Rethinking Retirement.

Sometimes it just takes awhile. But the good guys always win in the end. After complaints from Congress over the U.K.'s Surrey Labs (who have helped the Chinese in the past) contract (awarded in a noncompetitive manner) to teach spacecraft design (something a lot of small companies in the U.S. knows how to do) to Mississippi State, the Emperor relented (something he'll have to do more of soon) and pulled the plug on further funding of the effort (after the current $2M is used up).

We guess TC will just have to find another place to retire...or next time land an earmark in a less visible part of the country.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Yikes, indeed!

A couple of days ago the GAO report on ARES was released. At first glance it looked pretty sugar coated. After all, even Congress would like the space program to succeed, they just don't know how to help.

We promised to offer a more in-depth look at the report, but when someone else volunteers to do promised work, we usually take them up on the offer. So, today, we are re-posting a comment from one of dear readers, in case you missed it. It pretty much makes the point forthwith....

Our reader, "space" said,

After you peel back the fair-and-balanced boilerplate that GAO always bookends these reports with, the panoply of crippling problems is pretty devastating:

“NASA has not yet established firm requirements or developed mature technologies, a preliminary design, or realistic cost estimates, or determined the ultimate time and money needed to complete the program [Ares I] and so is not in a position to make informed investment decisions.”

“While NASA still has 10 months to close [the aforementioned] gaps in knowledge, it will be challenged to do so.”

“For the Ares I program, 14 of the project’s self-identified risk factors are tied to unstable requirements—many of which are interrelated between Ares I and Orion projects.”

“Both the Orion and Ares I vehicles have a history of weight and mass growth, and NASA is still defining the mass, loads, and weight requirements for both vehicles.”

“a design analysis cycle completed in May 2007 revealed an unexpected increase in ascent loads (the physical strain on the spacecraft during launch) that could result in increases to the weight of the Orion vehicle and both stages of the Ares I.”

“Requirements instability is also increasing risk for the individual elements of the Ares I.”

“NASA has not yet matured guidance, navigation, and control requirements for the upper stage subsystems. According to an agency official, these requirements cannot be finalized until mass, loads and weight requirements are finalized. Since these requirements are not expected to be provided until just 2 ½ months prior to the upper stage preliminary design review process start, there is a possibility that the system requirements review design concepts will be highly affected once requirements are received.”

“Requirements instability also contributed to NASA’s inability to definitize design, development, and test and evaluation contracts for both the first stage and upper stage engine until August and July 2007 respectively—more than a year after the contracts were awarded.”

“Adding the fifth segment and the frustum has increased the length and flexibility of the reusable solid rocket booster. It is currently unclear how the modification will affect the flight characteristics of the reusable solid rocket booster. Failure to completely understand the flight characteristic of the modified booster could create a risk of hardware failure and loss of vehicle control.”

“there is also a possibility that the reusable solid rocket booster heritage hardware may not meet qualification requirements given the new ascent and re-entry loads and vibration and acoustic environments associated with the Ares I. This could result in cost and schedule impacts due to redesign and requalification efforts.”

“the added weight of the fifth segment to the boosters is forcing the contractor to push the state of the art in developing a parachute recovery system.”

“In January 2007, an independent review of the first stage development questioned the cost-effectiveness of continuing with a reusable booster design… NASA may need to consider expendable first stage options given the weight issues associated with both the Ares I and Orion vehicles. If NASA opts to pursue an expendable solution for the first stage, the overall Ares I design and requirements could change dramatically.”

“NASA’s development effort for the Ares I upper stage has resulted in the redesign of its propellant tanks from two completely separate tanks to two tanks with one shared, or common, bulkhead. While the prior two-tank configuration was a simpler design with a lower manufacturing cost, it did not meet mass requirements. The current common bulkhead design involves a complex and problematic manufacturing process that plagued earlier development efforts on the Apollo program. In fact, IRMA indicates that one of the lessons learned from the Apollo program was to not use common bulkheads because they are complex and difficult to manufacture.”

“there is a possibility that upper stage subsystems will not meet the Constellation program’s requirements for human rating unless the Constellation program grants waivers to failure tolerance requirements. NASA’s human rating directive generally requires that human spaceflight hardware be “two-failure tolerant,” that is, the system should be designed to tolerate two component failures or inadvertent actions without resulting in permanent disability or loss of life. According to Ares I project officials, NASA’s directive allows the use of ascent abort in response to a second failure during launch; however, Constellation program requirements do not allow abort and require Ares I to reach orbit even if there are two failures.”

“Although the J-2X is based on the J-2 and J-2S engines used on the Saturn V, and leverages knowledge from the X-33 and RS-68, the extent of planned changes is such that both the ESAS and Ares I standing review boards reported that the effort essentially represents a new engine development. The scope of required changes is so broad, the contractor estimates that it will need nearly 5 million hours to complete design, development, test, and evaluation activities for the J-2X upper stage engine… According to Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne representatives, these design changes will result in the replacement and/or modification of virtually every part derived from the J-2 or J-2S designs.”

“Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne is also redesigning turbo-pumps from the X-33 program that feed fuel and oxidizer into a newly configured main combustion chamber, to increase engine thrust to 294,000 pounds—the J-2S had 265,000 pounds of thrust. The element also faces significant schedule risks in developing and manufacturing a carbon composite nozzle extension in order to satisfy these thrust requirements. According to contractor officials, the extension is more than 2 feet—i.e., about one-third—wider in diameter than existing nozzles.”

“the J-2X development effort is accorded less than 7 years from development start to first flight. In comparison, the Space Shuttle main engine, the only other human-rated liquid-fuel engine NASA has successfully flown since the Apollo program, development required 9 years… If the engine does not complete development as scheduled, subsequent flight testing might be delayed. The J-2X development effort represents a critical path for the Ares I project. Subsequently, delays in the J-2X schedule for design, development, test, and evaluation would have a ripple effect throughout the entire Ares I project.”


THANKS, space!

Friday, November 30, 2007


It seems that the Emperor finally found the second letter in his desk. Or maybe he has his own naughty and nice list. Or it could just be that after reading the GAO report he has finally started to rearrange the desk chairs on his Titanic staff. One of his minions, Skip Hatfield, the Orion Program Manager, was last seen driving down NASA 1 away towards happier pastures. That'll learn him to say no to Marsha. The sacrificial lamb named to replace him is none other than Mark Geyer, Jeff Hanley's deputy.

Hopefully, this is not the end, but only the beginning. And maybe the Emperor himself will see the folly of his ways. But for now, we can only hope that next week finds us being served at our favorite Italian restaurant in Huntsville by a new waiter. Steve Cook, al dente, per favore!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Noreaster a blowin'.

There's a cold wind blowing down E street tonight. And maybe in zip code 35812. Read the GAO report on Ares and form your own opinion before we give you ours.

We'll discuss it tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Good To Go?

That's the headline Av Week used (minus the question mark, of course) to call attention to the fact that the minions have told their trusty contractor to start working on detailed design of the Orion CEV. All 22,000 requirements worth of it, that is. We guess that makes Orion roughly 1000 times more complex than a fighter jet, if requirements are any indication of complexity. Or maybe the minions don't trust their trusty contractor? Hence the specificity?

Of course, that number of requirements really isn't an indication of complexity (or trustworthiness for that matter). No, its really an indication of just how a big a debacle that Orion has come to be. An inexperienced team, driven by the self-proclaimed "Chief Engineer of the Universe," long ago lost sight of the systems engineering process that has been developed over the over the last 60 years or so.

Yet even with such specificity, several key items are not yet pinned down. Cockpit designs, water or dry land landings, and launch abort system details are still hanging in the breeze. But that's minor compared to life cycle cost details. Even with all that input from above, no one really understands the concept of operations well enough to determine how much the care and feeding of this elephant will cost future generations. Instead of specifying the desired capabilities, then developing a concept of operations, then deriving lower level requirements and detailed design, the Emperor inverted the standard way of doing business.

Good to go? We think not. The case study will be required reading for students of design 20, no, make that five years from now.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Foaming at the Mouth

Remember back around Oct 20, we expressed some concern here about the pedigree of the STS-120 tank. The "Frankentank" had been pulled from STS-114, and was refurbed to address a number of problems, including:

- The Liquid Hydrogen Ice/Frost Ramps were modified at 14 locations.
- The Liquid Oxygen Ice/Frost Ramps were modified at four locations.
- The Liquid Oxygen Feedline Brackets were modified, as an interim measure, with a different foam configuration.
- Liquid Oxygen and Liquid Hydrogen PAL Ramps were removed.
- Bipod Harness Modifications including wire harness sealing/bonding was performed to preclude a debris event similar to the one observed on STS-114.
- Intertank Acreage Machining/Venting increased the area of vented intertank thermal protection system foam to reduce the potential for foam loss due to "popcorning," caused by air bubbles becoming trapped in foam and flaking off and falling away during heating and expansion during launch.

So, how did that all work out? Not too well it seems. In fact, more foam in bigger pieces came off the tank than any launch in recent memory. Fortunately, none of it hit the orbiter with enough dynamic pressure to do much damage.

And what did the minions do with this aberration? Why they "normalized the deviation," of course.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

From all of us at RocketsAndSuch, have a happy and delightful holiday.

P.S. We hope all of you are enjoying your turkey tonight, unlike the Emperor, who will likely keep up his diet of eating crow for some time to come.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Border Operations

Doc Horowitz, noted for his command of space shuttles and the former head of the Emperor's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, must keep a lawyer close to him at all times. Come along as we take a ride with Doc on the Revolving Door Express!

Way back in 2003, still working out of the astronaut office, Doc served as an advisor for the development of requirements for Ares/Orion. Then, one day he decided to leave the agency and followed some of his buddies out to ATK in Utah. But he must have been there only long enough to get a badge, because the very next day he was back in NASA HQ handing out models of the ARES-1 "stick," courtesy of the proposed first stage supplier, and his new employer, ATK.

How that worked out is a mystery to many. Government employees who help write requirements for new procurements are usually subject to the "revolving door law" which prohibits them from marketing their former government cohorts after leaving government for some period of time, usually a year or two. Just ask the former Air Force requirements official who went to work for one of the other major defense contractors. First he specified the requirements for a missile, then he helped to market one. The government said he should have waited a year to do so. He didn't. Law prevailed.

But there was Doc, a day later, selling his wares.

Now fast forward to 2005. Doc is recalled from ATK to become the Emperor's ESMD chief. Guess who gets the contract for the Ares-1 first stage? ATK, of course.

And now, lets catch up to two months ago. For still unclear reasons, Doc resigns from NASA and rumors abound as to where he will end up. Come to find out he is now employed by the Aerospace Corporation, albeit a not-for-profit outfit. And there he was last month, back at a NASA review for an alternate abort system at LaRC, being paid by our tax money, to pass judgement on a concept he originally sketched on the back of a napkin.

We're guessing his lawyer must have worked for Hunter S. Thompson at some time. How else would anyone have learned to be so clever and keep people with such track records out of jail?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Reinventing the Wheel

The Space Telescope Science Institute recently hosted astronomers to discuss projects in the pipeline for 2020 onward. Jon Morse, the director of NASA's astrophysics tried to keep the enthusiasm under control, "I would encourage folks to think about the future optimistically, but we do have to live within realistic funding levels."

Just as the space shuttle sucks up budget until its retirement from Constellation, the Hubble Space Telescope is sucking up budget from its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). In turn, JWST is sucking up budget from other potential new starts. JWST alone now is expected to cost $4.5 billion by the time it completes its five-year mission in 2018. Of course, NASA will tell you that the reason other programs are having to wait on the drawing board is that the number has grown considerably since the program started. Or has it?

In fact, one only has to go back to the original estimates for JWST, and the numbers the NAR/ICE team considered when it independently reviewed the program at its start. Suffice to say, the NAR/ICE estimate is much closer to today's cost than the estimate ultimately used by NASA to kick the program off. You see, the problem isn't cost growth. No, the problem is budget planners putting their heads in the sand, ignoring the independent estimates, accepting the project's starry-eyed projections, having only to follow up years later with budget raids to fix cost overruns.

Getting back to Mr. Morse, he said that he doesn't want to repeat the mistakes of the past, so NASA is planning to undertake more rigorous cost estimating procedures for the next decadal survey. And NASA is also planning to foot the bill for independent assessments. Where have we heard that before?

Monday, November 19, 2007

What's My Line?

And now, live from Washington, D.C, for the 876th time, let's meet our "What's My Line?" panel. Mr. William H. Gerstenmaier Associate Administrator for Space Operations National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Dr. Richard Gilbrech Associate Administrator, Exploration Systems Mission Directorate...AND (you can almost hear Jimmy Olson teeing it up), herrrrreeeee's the Emperor himself.

Only it wasn't a game show we were watching last week. It was the Space, Aeronautics, and Related Sciences Senate Subcommittee meeting on "Issues Facing the U.S. Space Program after Retirement of the Space Shuttle." And it wasn't John Daly as host. It was Senator Bill Nelson who led off the questioning.

"You’re stating that the policy of Nasa now is to have a hard date of September 30th of 2010 to shut off the space shuttle. What happens if you haven’t completed the remaining 13 flights on the manifest by that point?" the Senator asked.

Throwing himself in front of the oncoming dagger, aimed squarely at the Emperor, Bill Gerstenmaier talked about being able to complete the station and even working in two "contingency" flights before the cut-off date. If they can't make it, then they will come back to Congress and talk about options. But the plan is good enough that they shouldn't have to do that.

Seeing an opening to reinforce the answer, the Emperor points out that the last space shuttle flight is actually scheduled for Apr 2010, leaving 5 months of margin in the plan to complete the space station.

But the Good Senator presses on. "Looking at flight rate of four per year, what makes you think you can maintain that rate in 2009 and 2010 with only two orbiters?"

Gerst says we’ve been able to maintain fairly regularly. Options for flying Atlantis a couple of more times are available if needed.

And then, like on the old game show, its time to trip up the panel. “So what I’m hearing you saying is that you don’t have an absolute hard cut off date on Sept 30, 2010 in what you have just stated to me," says Senator Nelson. "And I would remind you that when Senator Hutchinson was the chairman of this subcommittee and we passed under her leadership the Nasa Authorization Act and in it in 'The Vision for Space Exploration' there is no mention of a hard cut off date there. So am I correct, I’m hearing you say 'no hard cut off date?'”

The Emperor doesn't see the twist coming. “No sir, we are...the President has directed that the space shuttle be retired by the end of 2010. And our budgetary planning does show that we will finish our last space station flight in fiscal 2010 and we have at this point five months of margin to do that. I believe we have a very solid plan to get there…”

Now its time for Senator Nelson to show why he's been in Congress for so long. Time to unmask the Imposter. "I want to challenge that, Dr. Griffin, because I’m reading from the President’s Vision for Space Exploration and it says quote, 'retire the space shuttle as soon as assembly of the international space station is completed, planned for the end of this decade.' End of quote. So where do you see that the President has required (a hard cut-off), is the word that you use?"

Its lonely at the top, standing naked in front of the world. For the Emperor now has no where to go. No one to turn to. Not even his most trusted minions can save him now.

“I stand corrected, sir.”

Unfortunately, that feeble response was not reported directly in the media. The fact that the Emperor didn't understand his boss's directions, or even the applicable law, is telling. That he is driving the space shuttle to an end date that has not been directed, but was in fact misinterpreted, shows that Nasa has not changed its ways since the days of the CAIB. Indeed, the schedule pressure to complete the station and retire the shuttle by 2010 is occurring under false pretenses.

"Normalization of deviation" is once again part of the Nasa culture, practiced by none other than the Emperor himself.

Remember the A-12?

Given the notable technical issues from last week's integrated stack review mentioned here previously, we have to wonder if the Head Constellation Minion, Jeff Hanley, is suffering from early dementia. In his staff meeting, he told his troops that the review was a resounding success and that the senior leadership of NASA was "overwhelmed and pleased" with the progress that has been made on the program to date.

Maybe dementia is too harsh. Perhaps, he's just hard of hearing?

Despite having a rocket that breaks itself apart and a capsule that needs some SlimFast, he said Constellation is now "out of formulation" and embarking on an approach to PDR.

Why an "approach" to PDR? Probably because at the rate its sliding to the right, no one will ever actually be able to catch up to it.

Double Bagger

Alas, Ms. Ivins romance with Italy was far too short for the objects of her "affections" back home. Last week, she was back at it again, using the Emperor's name in design reviews and spreading turmoil wherever her gaze landed.

Orion officials have all but signed the papers declaring that Orion will land in the ocean, bobbing like a cork waiting for recovery like Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo did over 40 years ago. Putting aside the fact that our technology for accessing space is going backwards and that the life cycle costs just went up (need a navy now for recovery), deploying air bags on Orion to touchdown softly on dry land adds weight that the Ares launch vehicle can ill afford to lift. But should a bad day happen, and the launch abort system is activated on the pad, there is a vanishing small possibility that the capsule, now without airbags, could land on land. In that event, an astronaut might get a bruise, but would survive the ordeal.

Engineers reared in the concept of risk know that the right answer is to design the launch abort system to pull the capsule out over the ocean in highly reliable fashion. Let the probabilities speak for themselves...and leave the airbags behind. But our favorite cookie (or is that cooky?) engineer is not satisfied with the analysis and, speaking with the power of the throne, sends the engineers packing.

Add to that the hundreds of new level 2 requirements added to the mix last week to account for design features mandated, not derived from higher level requirements, previously. Why are level 2 officials telling the designers how switch panels are to be configured? There is appears to be no end of the tunnel for these poor folks, lighted or otherwise.

This is the time to be refining and reducing requirements. No wonder PDRs are slipping to the right. That always happens when you design from the inside out.

'Tis the Season.

No, we're not talking about Xmas. We're talking about the end of an administration's term. That is the time when you start to see the feathering of the nests that will later support former civil servants as they leave the government.

And we don't have to look have to look any farther than Mississippi State today. Without competition, the UK's Surrey Labs recently landed a contract to teach students there how to build small spacecraft. We guess we really don't know how to do that any more? Perhaps because NASA's budget is going completely towards fixing the decrepit Ares rocket and the plump Orion the capability to build small sats has been lost? Who wants to tell that to Ball, Orbital, and AeroAstro?

The real question is which of the Emperor's minions is going to benefit most when he leaves government? Mark your calendars for just after the election and see which Constellation official lands in the Magnolia State.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Minority Report

Remember the CAIB report? Remember the paragraphs about schedule pressure leading to disaster? Now read the following paragraph from the Emperor:

"Retirement of the Space Shuttle is on schedule for 2010 and critical to future Exploration plans. As we approach this date, we are hopeful that we can complete the ten remaining Space Station assembly flights, the servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, and the two contingency Shuttle missions to the ISS within this time frame. If it becomes clear that we will not complete the flight manifest by 2010, NASA will evaluate options and make adjustments consistent with not flying any flights beyond 2010. Continuing to fly the Shuttle beyond 2010 does not enhance U.S. human spaceflight capability, but rather delays the time until a new capability exists and increases the total life cycle cost to bring the new capability on line."

That statement is an indictment in the making. The situation is akin to that of a threatening criminal before he has made his inevitable move. He taunts his prey from a distance, but never steps over the line until the appointed time. The police can not act, because no crime has yet been committed. And then the crime is fait acompli. Forensics are not needed to determine the perpetrator.

We, too, see it coming. The Emperor has now firmly, and irresponsibly, placed himself between a rock and a hard place.

Let's parse what he just said. The ISS needs to receive ten more Shuttle flights to upload the hardware required to complete its agreed to configuration. Two more flights are needed to upload spares to keep the ISS going until the Japanese HTV arrives with the large stuff only it can carry. It would be irresponsible to not complete these flights and therefore put the ISS at risk.

But it is also irresponsible to now say that all the remaining Shuttle flights must be completed by 2010 and not a day later. That double pressure whammy, complete the 12 flights or ISS is at risk, and those flights have to be completed by 2010 or else, is just what the CAIB warned about times two.

Sure, every dollar spent after 2o1o on Shuttle is a dollar that is not spent on the technically, programmatically, and now financially bankrupt Ares/Orion. As the Emperor points out, that does not enhance human spaceflight capability. But it just might save seven lives.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blame Game.

Would you like to play a game? You would? Great! Let's play the Blame Game!

Perhaps you feel guilty or uncomfortable about something. The quickest way to feel better about the mess you are in is to blame someone else for the predicament. In doing so you might be excused from taking any responsibility for the problem. That gives you the leeway to continue to do the wrong thing you are currently doing, because you are doing it because the last person in charge didn't do the right thing. Having thrown everyone off guard with your bold criticisms, you continue to persecute all available parties, and you'll probably feel pretty good doing it. Heck, if you manage to pull the wool over everyone's eyes you also reinforce your own feelings of manic power.

The Emperor, testifying in front of Congress today, said his purview now was a victim of poor foresight by previous NASA leaders and Congress. "I do not want to leave this hearing or this committee with the impression that we are in a good position," he said. "We are not. The failure to plan for a successor to the space shuttle, and to bring it online in a timely way, was a failure of U.S. strategic planning. We are not in the position I would wish the United States to be in. We are, I think, doing the best that can be done."

If you want to know how to fix the problem, read the previous posts here at RocketAndSuch. Its pretty clear that Nasawatch has. Nevertheless, we had no idea that the Emperor was just now opening the three letters in his desk. We thought for sure he'd be writing his own three by now.

Integrating Disaster

Simultaneous with Lori Garver's campaign stop, the Constellation minions are carrying out an integrated stack review of the Orion and Ares programs. Talk about long faces.

Let's start with the documentation. It was hoped that the TBDs would now be knocked down to single digits by now. Unfortunately, the number is still in the hundreds.

Problems? We got problems. Thrust oscillations, flight dynamics, and overweight systems for starters. One of the reasons that the number of TBDs is so high is that as the team unfolds the faulty concepts handed them by ESAS, they have to search around for band-aids to hold the program together. That has kept them from firming up the design and getting on with the program.

The Emperor, fresh back from his golfing vacation, will get his overview today and tomorrow. That will only preface the upcoming grilling he, in turn, will get from Congress in January. Those hearings are shaping up to be the beginning of the end.

Days of Futures Passed

If you were in attendance at yesterday's highly politicized AAS annual meeting luncheon, you may have seen a view into future under Hillary. Normally at such luncheons you might hear about the exploits of our Mars Rovers, or the Cassini probe at Saturn, or even the generation of new trajectories for getting to the nearest star quicker. But not yesterday.

Lori Garver, Hillary's advisor on things over her head, started her presentation with a video about Hillary. Suffice to say most of the folks in the room squirmed at the blatant misuse of the venue. Following the video we learned how Hillary will focus on taking the earth's temperature, robotic exploits in the solar system, and use of the 470 mile high national lab.

What we didn't see was pictures of spacesuits hanging off rovers on the moon.

Draw your own conclusions, but as the former first lady appears headed back into the White House, our Vision appears to be getting a case of macular degeneration.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Caution: F(r)iction Ahead.

When: Thursday, November 15, 2007 10:00 AM EST

What: The Subcommittee hearing will address issues related to the retirement of the Space Shuttle, its remaining missions, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) plans to compensate should they not fulfill all mission requirements on schedule, and other issues facing NASA when the Space Shuttle is retired.

Who: The Emperor and his Minions

Looking Ahead.

"I don't think that the Vision (for Space Exploration) as written today is likely to survive the election, even if a Republican is elected," Robert Zubrin, the president of the Mars Society, told Popular Science recently.

Even the Emperor must be happy to hear Zubrin's comments. We're on the way to Vegas with that prognostication. $100 on first landing by 2020. If Zubrin says it, it can't be true.

Time For Policing COTS?

Did you hear about the "small" fire last week down at SLC-40 at the Cape? The pad where COTS provider SpaceX is setting up shop. If you read their press briefing, you'd think it was no big deal. “This kind of thing is not unheard of during large scale demolition. That’s why we have procedures in place. Everyone acted professionally and by the book, and fortunately no one was hurt,” said Norman Bobczynski, SpaceX’s launch site director.

Only problem is that there was a space shuttle in the air at the time. A shuttle headed for a landing at KSC, not far from the location of the fire. Truth be told, the shuttle was almost waved off when a dozen firefighters from the KSC landing party had to be detoured to SLC-40 to help get the raging fire under control. Fortunately, when the professionals took over, the fire was snuffed and the landing proceeded as planned.

But what if they hadn't been so lucky that day? What if the result was closer to the event that killed three people out in Mojave working on the Spaceship 2 propulsion system earlier this year? What if?

Isn't it about time that some safety regs be put in place at airports and at the Cape where this dangerous work is being undertaken? Shouldn't a sufficient and professional level of review be provided before more innocent "billionaires' helpers" are killed? Of course, the COTS folks will complain that the government is trying to get in the way of their success. But, do we really have to wait until they kill someone in space before action is taken?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Party On!

CBS News is finally catching up with a well known tradition that goes back many years. Rightfully, they are bringing it to the attention of the folks that pay for the tradition, the taxpayer.

You see this spaceflight stuff is risky business. So for all the contractor folks getting paid by the government on their cost plus award fee contracts, its important to also keep their spirits up. Come Dec 6, after the next shuttle launch, 300 honorees and their guests will spend five days and four nights at a luxury Florida hotel, attending receptions and of course, getting front-row tickets for the shuttle launch itself. These folks work for Boeing, USA, and other subcontractors who safely see each flight off the ground.

The cost? Reception ($64,000), dinner ($35,000), awards ($28,000), ground transportation (tour: $7,700; launch: $20,200), airfare ($105,000), hotel and food ($135,000 together), and meeting the Emperor: PRICELESS. Three launches this year, three parties, $4M. Sure wish we had that for our Christmas fund.

Good thing that $4M was in last year's budget, too, so that it shows up in the CR operating plan this year as well. Oh, don't you just wish you could bring back the rest of the traditions as well? Those days of drinking scotch and smoking cigars with Gen K. and Bill R. and the rest of the boys telling stories around the Radisson pool? Ahhhh, the good old days!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Not Enough Time to Get It Right...

Marshall Space Flight Center's Ares I First Stage Element Manager Alex Priskos doesn't like hypothetical questions. Nor does he like history much, unless it's of the revisionist kind. When asked by if the assumptions that formed the basis for the ESAS conclusions changed enough that they might no longer be completely valid, he responded like a pro wrestler, using 33 words where seven would have made the point. "ESAS was a study conducted in 60 days, representing a summary of years of exploration architectural studies. Since that study was concluded, over two years ago, the Constellation Program has evolved the architecture."

In spite of having access to that summary of years of studies, he could have just said, "We rushed it and got it wrong."

We also hear he may be planning on growing a goatee for the holidays.

Flat Pennies

"Penny-pinching at NASA could mean end of world," reads the headline in the Edmonton Journal this week. "NASA penny-pinching risks exposing humanity to a planetary catastrophe if a big asteroid evades detection and slams into Earth, U.S. lawmakers warn. Top NASA scientist Scott Pace said the agency could not do more to detect NEOs -- near-earth objects 'given the constrained resources and the strategic objectives NASA' has already."

Can't do more to detect NEOs? We don't think that's quite right. The minion should have said, "Can't afford more, because we are draining the bank on the Ares-1 rocket." A rocket that is falling prey to many a technical issue these days. A rocket already six months behind schedule and not even off the paper yet. A rocket we certainly won't need at all if the planet is slammed by a wayward rock.

Of course, the lawmakers should have asked Pace for one of those fancy Steve Cook viewgraphs. You know the type. We're sure it would have convincingly showed how to launch a mission, Rube Goldberg style, about as convincing as the case for Ares, to defeat such a pesky critter.

Of course, a better approach would have been to look at those "strategic objectives" again. Perhaps, "save the planet" should rank in front of "build new toys for the Emperor?"

Emperor Snubbed By The Boss

Guess who showed up at Ellington Field this week for the triumphant return of the Discovery astronauts? Why, President Bush! No, not Barbara's husband, 41. He visited the Johnson Space Center and talked to the astronauts in orbit last week. No, this time it was 43 himself. Even Governor Perry and the Texas Secretary of State made it.

And guess who wasn't there to show the boss around? The Emperor was no where in sight (except for the view of the 18th tee in Florida). Not invited. Nada.

What's that tell ya?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Shareholders...Its Time For Questions!

OOOPPS! Ares-1 first stage PDR slips six far. Hmmmmm. "There are significant threats to the performance to be worked as the project works towards [PDR]," the memo reads. Remember AIAA-99-2797? That's just one of the "significant threats."

And let's not forget the aviation safety report is more than six months late and still nowhere in sight.

Boeing's 787 slipped six months and they fired the VP responsible for the program. Shareholders would have it no other way. So how is it, then, that Steve Cook gets to keep his job? As shareholders in the good old US of A, we would like to see our tax dollars go towards a more productive end, not a dead end. As stewards of our tax dollars, Congressfolk should start asking the hard questions now before good money chases bad. Why do we have to wait for the Emperor to leave office to get the facts? Answers that include, "this sort of thing is normal in a development program" are unacceptable.

Why isn't the Emperor taking control and saving his program from landing in the water (the mostly likely spot to find an Ares-1 after ignition)? Maybe he's still looking in his closet for something to wear to his next speech perpetuating the 50 year old NASA spin-off myth.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Add another reason to the long list of why the Emperor's, Doc Horowitz's, and Steve Cook's wonder stick is so badly broken. Get yourself a copy of the paper whose catalog number is this column's title. We'll save you the effort and give you the title: "Automated 3-D Solid Rocket Combustion Stability Analysis." Yep, seems that all three failed rocket science 101. Put another way, Ares-1 seems to be shaking itself apart.

Fortunately, some of the minions have read the paper and are doing their homework now. Take one four segment shuttle SRB, unstrap it from the damping effect of being attached to the large ET and Orbiter, add a fifth segment, stir well with fire and viola'. Watch it fly apart at the seams. Recent analysis of the five segment booster revealed that it is susceptible to combustion instabilities not easily overcome.

No, let's put that another way, too. Ares-1 problems will be easily overcome when it flies on an Atlas booster.

Tonight's Top 10 List

The Emperor spoke in the windy city this week to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of NASA. We'd like to share some thoughts on his comments. But we have to warn you. This will be like shooting wombats on Tatooine.

1. "In my usual clueless fashion, I had failed to notice - until receiving a question from a member of the media - that this is the first time we have had women commanding both the Space Station and the Space Shuttle." The Emperor is out of touch, now admittedly so. No wonder he had no clue that his minions were messing up the aviation safety survey, right under his nose. Someone who is so out of touch with such important facts as these, is not paying attention to briefings, not in control of his organization, and potentially oblivious to even more important facts involving safety.

2. "It is my goal to get these critics to recognize that the development of space is a strategic capability for our nation, a view completely in keeping with the founding principles of the American nation - pushing back the frontier." No kidding? Why is it then, that the Emperor, the Chief Engineer of the Universe himself, is unable to propose a solution that would be ready to field when the space shuttle is retired. If he were so intent on getting his critics to recognize this strategic importance, you'd think he'd put his innovative minions and his six degrees to work coming up with something to fill the gap.

3. "For about a half-cent of every federal dollar, our nation's investment in exploring that frontier and, one day, colonizing other worlds, also ignites the development of technologies that benefit us here on Earth. It produces space-based capabilities like communications, weather monitoring, remote sensing, and GPS navigation that have been estimated to contribute $220 billion/year to our economy. " Living on borrowed, ancient history once again. ESAS made the argument that you didn't need new technologies to go to the moon. Upon ascending to the throne, the Emperor cancelled a billion dollars in investments targeted at new technologies. So either he's talking about what happened 50 years ago, or he's lying about today. Can't have it both ways. Show us the link between NASA's investments today and GDP tomorrow! Show us the money!

4. "More importantly, this investment in NASA inspires millions of people to pursue careers in science and technology, enormously benefiting our nation's broader economy. " Talk about hyperbole! Inspires millions? We graduate about 70,000 engineers every year from college. Certainly only a small fraction of them end up working with NASA. Maybe we are misunderstanding his point? Is NASA inspiring the Chinese now?

5. "NASA is in the inspiration business, and the resulting technological innovation drives our nation's growth. If America is to remain a leader in the burgeoning global competition, I contend that we must continue to be a nation known for our innovation, and we must continue our work on the New Frontier of space.' Hubble is inspiring. The Mars Rovers are inspiring. Cassini is inspiring. Tell us how an overweight, 50 year old capsule riding 30 year old rocket technology is inspiring?

6. "Our children and grandchildren are not as inspired by space exploration as they once were." Wait a minute. See 4. We thought we were inspiring millions. Don't believe that? See 5.

7. "As Admiral Hal Gehman noted in his report of the Space Shuttle Columbia Accident Investigation Board a few years ago, 'previous attempts to develop a replacement vehicle for the aging Shuttle represent a failure of national leadership.'" Let's examine the history. SEI. We think the Emperor had his hand in that proposal. X-33. How many ways can we violate basic physics? OSP. Big thing with wings on 50 year old rocket. Gehman was right. Our past attempts have been a failure of national TECHNICAL leadership. That is also why young engineers avoid NASA like the plague today. Kids can smell a stinker from miles away.

8. "China could easily execute such a [Apollo-8 like] mission with their planned Long March V rocket, currently under development and reportedly rivaling any expendable rocket in the world today. I have no doubt that they will have it in use, as they plan, by around 2012." Follow us on this logic thread. The Long March V is a 25 MT rocket. It will be comparable to our Atlas 5 Heavy and Delta 4 Heavy. The Chinese will be able to reach the moon in 2012. Yet the Long March 5 does not yet exist and our Atlas and Delta do. Shouldn't we have been able to use such technology to get back to the moon before 2012, especially if we don't have to invent new rockets? Indeed, the gap exists because of the Emperor's own choosing.

9. " Quite frankly, I do not have all the answers for everything NASA must do, or everything each of us must do collectively and individually to counter the alarming trends of which I spoke earlier. The first step, though, is to recognize the problem and to realize that we are in this together." Finally, truth.

10. "On October 29, 1960, exactly 47 years ago, the junior senator from Massachusetts spoke..." We'll save you the speech. The important thing is the invocation, once again of words from 50 years ago. And therein lies the Emperor's biggest problem. Not one original thought has found its way out of his head into our program of exploration. Instead, he is regurgitating ancient ideas, pumping them with steroids, and leaving them for the next generation to recognize as failure.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Leave the Crying to Us.

Good grief! Alan Shepherd must be rolling over in his grave right about now, if he was watching the departure of the Discovery crew from the ISS yesterday. Whatever happened to our steely-eyed rocket men (or women for that matter)? Why, there were enough tears to float an external tank yesterday during the farewell. We guess its a sign of the times, and not a very good one.

Back in the early days of flight, our astronauts controlled their emotions. Do you think Neil Armstrong could have landed on the moon if he got all misty-eyed with the thoughts of what he was about to do? Heck, even Buzz Aldrin managed to hold it together. Why then, are we suddenly seeing all of this emotion bantered about?

Some of you are saying, "wait a minute!" Our astronauts are only human representatives of ourselves. Ambassadors of Orbit. Its good to see that they are human after all. Lets see all of that, diapers and everything.

No thanks.

It's time to reconsider the criteria for selecting astronauts. Entrusting rare, several billion dollar assets to crybabies does not seem to us to be a wise decision. And the folks that lead on the ground should come under some scrutiny as well. Reading prosey letters from Wayne Hale to his team is enough to make us gag. If our rear-ends are strapped to a couple of million pounds of explosives, we would want someone with exceptional military training watching over us. Someone who is comfortable with a firearm. Someone who knows the meaning of life and death. Someone who will focus on the task at hand without images of flowers and teddy bears entering into their thoughts.

Maybe it's one page of the Emperor's playbook that our astronauts should follow. Leave the emotion behind on earth. Your life, our future, indeed exploration depends on it.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Kudos and Some Questions.

Whether a daring-do or a hyped up exercise in obfuscating the Emperor's week of misfortune, today's spacewalking team deserves our praise. The positives are that the flight and ground team was able to prepare an unscripted spacewalk of major complexity (astronauts, tools, robotics, anomaly responses, etc.) in just a few days time. They executed flawlessly and restored the damaged solar panel to nearly full operating capacity. Now on to the flawed joint on the other side.

The success of today's efforts, however, continues to beg a few questions. First, if such a task could be choreographed in such a short period of time with acceptable risk, why do we spend so much time, and therefore taxpayer dollars, preparing for the more mundane tasks? Perhaps we are being just a little too conservative?

The second question is the big one. If such operations can be undertaken in short order with great success, why are our astronauts so afraid of doing more operations like that in space? If we did, we could actually launch smaller packages on existing rockets, putting the investment into the vehicles that will open access to the solar system. Instead of buying Ares-1 and Ares-5, we could fly on Atlas and Delta, continuously improving their reliability in the meantime, assemble our merchant fleet on orbit, and get on with exploration today, instead of 2020.

Of course, we all know the answer to that. Sen. Shelby is more immediately interested in keeping his own job than he is in seeing this country reassume a leadership position in space. Maybe he already goes out often for Chinese food?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Nothing up my sleeve...

The Emperor's minions made smoke and fire in the Utah desert yesterday. What they did do was successfully fire a four segment reusable solid rocket motor. The two-minute test provided important information for continued launches of the shuttle. What they claimed, but what the test did not do, was provide realistic data for the development of the Ares-1 rocket.

The four segment solid differs from its Ares successor in several key ways. First and foremost, Ares-1 is a five segment booster. Because it is loaded with more propellant, but has the same nozzle size as its four segment cousin, engineers must change the way the propellant is burned so as to keep the same flow of stuff coming out of the tailpipe. You can only push so much water through a hose of a fixed diameter, after all. The additional segment and change in propellant configuration, in its grain and interior layout, will make the Ares-1 booster a brand new rocket.

Soon you'll be hearing about the upcoming Ares-1x test flight. Its a shuttle four segment SRB past its shelf life date with an inert fifth segment added on top. Bolted on top is an inert, metallic second stage and CEV boilerplate. No fifth segment, no test of the real Ares-1 first stage. No fuel-filled second stage sloshing around on top, no test of the flight dynamics. Since this in no way physically or dynamically resembles a real Ares-1, what is the point of this test?

The only thing it will validate is that the ground system can light up an Ares-1-like rocket on the pad. Everything that happens downrange from that is, dare we say it, fraud.

Smoke and fire. Always good for a diversion when reality is too tough to deal with.

Sporty EVA

John Young, that age-wisened all-knowing mentor of spaceflight, said it best when he characterized tomorrow's EVA to fix a rip in the ISS solar panel as "sporty." Now the media is picking up on the threat of electrocution and spacewalker Parazynski being over an hour from the safe confines of an airlock should something go radically wrong. But can it?

One has to wonder, as we do here at RocketsAndSuch, if the stirring of the media isn't a deliberate attempt to heighten the drama associated with this spacewalk and once again position the Emperor's minions as heroes. A little positive press, perhaps, after the Emperor's terrible performance on airline safety studies on Capitol Hill this week? That would go a little way to repairing the damage done in that fiasco.

For if it is not premeditated spin, consider the alternative. Is it possible this spacewalk is as dangerous as it sounds? Is it also possible that "schedule pressure" is once again at fault in causing the spacewalk to happen this weekend, rather than waiting until all of the kinks are worked out in ground simulations? Without a successful repair, the ISS will not be able to support six crew and accept the International Partner modules next up on the launch pad (and let's not forget the disabled rotating solar panel joint that could turn out to be just as heinous).

2010. Let's hope that date is not causing rash decisions to be made back here in late 2007.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat?

That age old question always pops out around Halloween. And, most appropriately, the Emperor announced yesterday how he will spread the treats of the lunar program around to make 10 healthy centers. Or is it a trick?

Like spreading butter on toast, the Emperor is spreading the work around the centers in what appears, on the surface, to be in equitable fashion. But, we all know that when you break up programs and spread them around wildly, the project you wanted to see succeed just becomes one more jobs program appeasing Congressfolk. Kind of like getting a fish hook in ye olde popcorn ball.

The Emperor also tipped his hand on how he is going to approach the development of the lunar lander in his hand out of treats. Specifying that the lander will be assembled at KSC, in lieu of any competition or trade studies to properly determine its assembly location, means that NASA will develop the lander in house, contracting for pieces and parts from the aerospace industry, which by then will have whithered to a small semblance of its former self. So much for being a good steward of our strategic requirements.

Tonight, when you go out trick or treating, look up. That Halloween Moon sure looks a lot further away than it did the day before yesterday.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Detailed Out

What do you do when the heat gets too hot in the kitchen? When everyone complains about your performance? When your incompetence catches up with you?

What do you do?

For starters you might try to get as far out of town as possible, change jobs, maybe visit with folks who don't know anything about you. If you're an astronaut, perhaps get a detail on the other side of the world?

Marsha Ivins was in Turin, Italy recently clearing dry cargo for launch to the ISS in January on the first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV).

Don't think we have to say much more about that, do we?

Delayed Reaction

With an additional space walk now planned to inspect the metal shaving filled rotating solar array joint on the ISS, a lot of attention is being brought to bear on the offending system. But, one has to ask, why did it take so long to act?

Just under two months ago it was noticed that the joint motor was experiencing unusual vibrations as it rotated. Greater-than-expected amounts of current were required to turn the motor. The motor on the left hand side of ISS operates at an average of about 0.1 amps. But the one on the right has been averaging 0.2 to 0.3 amps with peaks up to 0.9 amps. Did we mention unusual vibrations?

For almost two months!

We have been to this picture show before. Repeatedly. An anomaly appears. A major inconvenience, if its a real, perhaps systemic problem. Maybe it won't get worse? But over time, it continues to operate (and be operated), and soon it becomes routine. Sound familiar? The Emperor has repeatedly said this can't/won't happen on his watch. However, here we are, once again on the edge of disaster.

Soon the Emperor will offer a mea culpa and promise to do better in the future. Isn't it time for a break from this routine?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tumbling (Shaved) Dice

How is the space station like Notre Dame in Paris? We may soon find out.

Our astronauts working outside ISS found something they weren't looking for today. Metal shavings inside a joint that is needed to turn a set of solar power panels. The joint has experienced intermittent vibrations and power spikes for nearly two months. Unless the rubbing subsides soon, there is a good chance something will need to be done about the joint.

Only one problem. There is no way to take a new joint to the ISS with the small remaining number of shuttle flights before its retirement. Ooops, let's make that two problems. As it is, the space station is just one failure away from being able to provide enough power for all the pieces and parts that are on the way up to complete the station. You see the Emperor bet on the come when he decided how many shuttle flights would be required to finish the station. Instead of carrying all of the original power panels to the ISS as originally designed, he decided to only launch just enough to get the job done today. No margin is available in the event of a failure of one of the primary panels tomorrow. If that happens, something will have to be turned off. That will bring a whole new meaning to the term "power sharing."

Heads, U.S. wins. Tails, Russians, Europeans, or Japanese lose?

To answer our opening question, like Notre Dame, the ISS may soon not have any lights to illuminate its interior if all of its rotary joints fail early. So much for the Emperor's "cathedral building." Recall, this is the same Emperor who is the Chief Engineer of the Universe. Architect of Constellation. We're just glad he isn't our auto mechanic.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Back to the Garage

Armadillo Aerospace failed in its first attempt to win the X Prize Cup at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. On the return leg of its round trip in the desert, the toy rocket/lander hovered over its landing pad, just shy of $350,000, kicking up clouds of dust. When the dust cleared, the point made here a couple of days ago was provided with an exclaimation point. The craft had tipped over and missed the golden landing zone.

Tell us again the point of all this nonsense?

Our Favorite Sayings...Applied to ESAS

Haste makes waste --that's what you get when you do 60 day studies.
Birds of a feather flock together -- The Emperor, Steve Cook, Jeff Hanley, Marsha Ivins, etc.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall -- ARES V, say no more.
Don't count your chickens before they hatch -- Have you seen a real schedule lately?
Beauty is only skin deep -- Constellation doesn't look that good on the surface even.
Don't put all your eggs in one basket -- ARES V, say no more.
Half a loaf is better than none -- ESAS 1 1/2 launch scenario. They couldn't count to two!
The early bird gets the worm -- 'Cause if they had taken more time it would have been a butterfly.
Lightning never strikes the same place twice -- Apollo hit the sweet spot, Constellation hits the flat spot.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure -- If only...!
A picture is worth a thousand words -- If it looks ugly it will fly ugly. ARES and Orion are UGLY!

Ahhhh, we feel better now.