Monday, December 31, 2007
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
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
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
Monday, December 24, 2007
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
THE TWELVE STEPS OF ARCHITECTURES ANONYMOUS
- We admitted we were powerless after ESAS — that our architecture had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that an Emperor greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of the Emperor as we understood him.
- Made a searching and fearless technical inventory of our work..
- Admitted to the Emperor, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have the Emperor remove all these defects from ESAS.
- Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all the Constellation elements that don't work, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such elements wherever possible, except when to do so would injure others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- 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.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, discovered that the Emperor was the problem, and began to make amends:
ANALYSIS OF ARES I THRUST OSCILLATION ISSUES
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
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
Name: C. Lynn Jenkins
Title: Contract Specialist/Contracting Officer
Monday, December 17, 2007
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.”