Monday, November 19, 2007

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.

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