Friday, April 25, 2008

When Abnormal is Normal

For you late arrivals, perhaps its time to recount where we are at today.

When a guy in the launch systems group loses his job and his SES for "procurement abnormalities" at MSFC. We lit a candle that this extends all the way back to Steve Cook eventually. In the mean time, Steve is campaigning hard for Dave King's job when he retires. We guess if you can't find a job befitting your skills, you might as well float to the top like a snickers bar in the pool.

ORION is 1500 lbs overweight and doesn't know where to land yet. First crewed flight now confidently placed in 2016. Yet the schedules everyone is working to still say 2013? Yet no more money is available to work off the menacing stack of risks building up on the side, the result of trying to turn 30 days of pony-tailed engineering on napkins into a real flight vehicle.

ARES 1 is shaking itself to bits, but if you tweak the unanchored models in the right direction you can begin to see how the leaf springs on your '57 Ford truck might keep an astronaut's bladder from shredding. Garry Lyles, allow us to introduce you to GIGO!

The Roger Clemmons memorial ARES V is too small. Can't support the lunar outpost logistics train at two flights a year as envisioned. Needs more Wheaties.

Soyuz has yet another failure that makes for a very rough ride and close call for the returning ISS crew. At least we know ballistic re-entries work, having tested them three times now. Nothing like 10 g in the seat after zero-g for six months. Jellow shots or not.

So now Soyuz has become unreliable, right up there with the space shuttle on some level. Could that also be why the Emperor decided to inform Congressfolk that he would not seek funds for more Soyuz rides to fill his self-imposed gap after 2011? At least we won't be held hostage to the Russians for transportation to ISS. We'll just handcuff ourselves instead. Does anyone really believe that COTS is going to fill that gap (and, oh by the way, SpaceX just renegotiated their plans to the right by another nine months)? Imagine the embarrassment to the Emperor and the minions if THAT happened. With less money, less time, and less experience, someone is going to produce an ISS crew carrying vehicle five years in advance of the Emperor's wet dream? Want to put odds on that?

Of course not!

Is it possible that the Chief Engineer of the Universe does not have some grand game plan, is really that inept, to let our strategic access to space become nothing less than a big gamble? We think not. So what is going on here? We'll give you a hint: ISS is done in 2016.

More tomorrow....


kT said...

I agree, if George W. Bush's job was to kill American manned civilian space flight once and forever, he has done a superior job of it. I just can't think of a better way to do it.

Anonymous said...

"Could that also be why the Emperor decided to inform Congressfolk that he would not seek funds for more Soyuz rides to fill his self-imposed gap after 2011? At least we won't be held hostage to the Russians for transportation to ISS."

I believe they're still seeking funds and a pass on the Iran Nonproliferation Act for Soyuz/crew transportation ... but not for ISS cargo. From AvWeek:

"NASA will not ask Congress for permission to continue buying cargo space on Russian Progress resupply vehicles for the International Space Station (ISS) after 2011, opting instead for an all-commercial approach under its nascent Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.

Administrator Michael Griffin has sent a letter to Capitol Hill specifically excluding Progress from a request to continue using Russian Soyuz capsules to deliver crew to the ISS after the shuttle retires in 2010. Griffin had no immediate comment, but William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for space operations, said April 16 that NASA believes one of the commercial vehicles in development under the COTS program will be able to meet its ISS-supply needs."

On the bad side, Dr. Griffin recently testified something to the effect that commercial crew vehicles can't be ready by 2012, so we need to fund Ares 1 more. Maybe he should have said we need the INA pass in 2012, but nothing about Ares 1.

I suspect a couple billion NASA dollars invested in COTS-style "commercial skin in the game" ISS crew transportation, allowing EELVs in the competition, and combinations of U.S. and existing foreign hardware if needed, and allowing compatibility and mutual support from Bigelow launch incentives, would be a better investment in terms of risk, schedule, development cost, operations cost, and safety than risking the funds on Ares 1.