Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Hey, Bartender!

"Another round of mimosas! On the house!"

Perhaps Steve Cook was practicing his soon to be new job as bartender and that is why Dave King is a little loopy in Space News this week?

Or perhaps, Dave was in a chilly room, needed some liquid courage, and decided to step in front of the naked Emperor at the STA breakfast last week, urging "aerospace contractors to get on with the program and stop second guessing the decision to use space shuttle hardware."

The reason for the second guessing should be well-known to a rocket guy like King though. "Where there's smoke, there's fire," goes the old saying. But, having dug the hole, King also decided to go ahead and step into it. "If we change the approach in architecture of Constellation...we simply won't ever get off the ground," King said. So instead of using either the Atlas V or Delta IV rockets, both of which are flying and building statistics, one of which is being man-rated commercially, King claims ARES involves less development risk (ahhhh, we think Atlas and Delta are already developed, Dave), would be about a fifth cheaper (ahhhh, buy Atlas and Delta in quantity and see what happens to the price, Dave), and twice as safe for the astronauts on board (ahhhh, paper is always safer than the real thing, Dave, you know that).

No, the reason for the dissension is not coming from the contractors who lost as the Emperor theorized and King echoed. The reason for the debate is that ARES is no longer heritage hardware being employed as designed and King's own folks can't see how to make it work. From the casings, to the fuel mix, to the addition of segments, to the control systems, ARES is brand new from the inside out. The upcoming ARES 1-x test flight is a hoax designed to generate momentum, not to test as-designed hardware. King's premonition scare tactics ("If we continue to argue over how to accomplish this mission, we run the risk of losing the opportunity to do the work.") will come to pass, not because of the arguments, but because no one stopped long enough to have the arguments in the first place.

Pour us another round, Bartender. It's going to be a long night.


Zoe Brain said...

The basic problem is that the prime purpose of the US space program is not to do anything useful, it's to distribute the aerospace pork.

Under such circumstances, even the best creative genius fuelled by great scads of money will produce nothing but a large set of "almosts", projects 20-80% completed before cancellation, year after year, and always with cost overruns.

I'm not sure what the solution is. It seems an inherent flaw in the current US political process. I do know that if the flaw was remedied, the US wouldn't be facing serious competition from China et al, nations that have far less experience and/or resources devoted to the problem.

Still, I'm in the only country that has had two record-breaking successful space programs, with a 100% project success rate of bleeding-edge technology - and has abandoned them. Not abandoned projects, but whole space programs. *Sigh*

Maybe (pace Tom Lehrer) I should just start learning Mandarin.

kT said...

I guess that's what I'm after myself, the record breaking reusable rocket.

A so called minimal reusable rocket, with the caveats that it must reach orbit, and must be compatible with conventional EELV and COTS servicing.

Something as a worthy successor to both the Apollo and Space Shuttle, programs but also paying tribute.

According to your theory its a good thing I don't have unlimited funds.

I also don't have a lot of time.