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.

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