Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Systems Engineering in the Matrix Mall

Are you ready to buy that new CEV yet? Did you go online to the virtual kiosk and research your purchase thoroughly? Or did you first run out to your local mall to look at that new capsule before deciding to buy? Perhaps you stopped by one of the mall's kiosks to get directions to the stores carrying your favorite brand of spacecraft? How'd that work out for you?

The minions have apparently been overwhelmed by the last 50 years of systems engineering experience and are turning to Gen-Y for help in making it through the Constellation review process. Rather than following a process that gave us ICBMs, Nuclear Subs, and Apollo, they have invented a new way of doing business loaded with buzz words and hub bub, and seemingly minimizing value-added steps, all the while bringing new meaning to "MySpace."

Never before in the history of large scale systems engineering have such dubious methods been employed to develop strategic components. Instead of standing up the ORION design team in front of a prestigious review board, diligently walking through the presentations, accepting review item questions, and then working them off as necessary, Orion's PDR is becoming a veritable shopping mall fiasco.

Approach the kiosk and step into the matrix with us.

Reviewers invited to the ORION System Baseline Review will also participate in the following Subsystem Design Reviews. "Virtual kiosks" are being created on-line and are supposed to facilitate the process by offering reviewers an early look at immature products. Can't decide to take the red pill or the blue pill? A PDR "hotline" is also available. Daily PDR activities are managed by a "Pre-Board." The Pre-Board also answers that PDR batphone. And if you don't like the real thing, they maintain a Virtual Pre-Board as well.

Physical kiosks will be available during the official eight day PDR focused on ORION modules. Those kiosks are supposed to facilitate coordination between reviewers, product owners, and leads. Picture bees swarming in the hive, doing their little dance to tell others where the honey is. Miss the dance, miss out on dinner.

The whole thing ends with a Board meeting. This "open, interactive forum" is designed to facilitate a complete end-to-end review of ORION. If you didn't get your action request into one of the kiosks, you have one last chance to request disposition here. Perhaps the Emperor will buzz in via hologram at that time?

Maybe a PDR conducted in this fashion works in Second Life where the consequences are minimal. Forgot that factor of safety? Reboot and start over. Does anyone remember "Human Spaceflight Awareness?" Out here in the real world, real people flying in real machines will some day be putting their real lives on the line again.

The minions who have constructed this PDR video game will soon find out that "there is no spoon."

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