Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Show That Never Ends

If Leno and Letterman were rocket scientists instead of comedians, they would love this business. And if their opening monologues covered the Emperor's follies, the material would come to them so naturally that they have to comment, "no kidding, we're not making this up!"

You can already sense where these paragraphs are going to take you, don't you? Come inside the auditorium. Minions milling around until they find their seats. Lights come down. Then silence. Cue music. Enter Italian waiter, stage left...

"Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends
We're so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside
There behind a glass stands a real rocket ship
Be careful as you pass, move along, move along"

The ARES-1 Upper Stage PDR is in full swing. And, oh what a show it is.

Unlike the Titanic rolling through the field of icebergs, this PDR is going to keep plowing. Despite lack of evidence of any application of real design experience (just ask about the LOX/H2 drains and the associated vent creating unanticipated side loads on the vehicle, already at the edge of controllability) or of any margin (just ask about the supersonic injection of hot gasses into the exhaust to get an extra second and a half of ISP out of the brand spanking new design, not resembling anything like its heritage namesake, J2X engine) or actually of any real critical review of the design at all (just ask...more coming in a sentence or two), this PDR is pushing down the channel.

In fact, as the theatrical version of this review progresses, one begins to wonder if the stage is not set somewhere in an auditorium in Tehran. Dissent is not anticipated or encouraged. For as the day progressed, and issues were waived away as "forward work" to be dealt with in the natural progression of the design, the sham was brought home ultimately by the lack of a line on a piece of paper. With the chief engineer making cajoling "recommendations" before taking a poll of his board, in effect, guiding the jury, it fell upon one lone dissenter to call BS on the process.

Indeed, the very piece of paper which required the signatures of board members to approve PDR revelations lacked any line for dissenting signatures at all! Our hero, standing easy against the backdrop of the intimidated board who could not find their voices, found himself without a place on the form to record his informed opinion.

"Soon the Gypsy Queen in a glaze of Vaseline
Will perform on guillotine, what a scene, what a scene
Next upon the stand will you please extend a hand
To the Emperor's Ragtime Band..."

6 comments:

kT said...

As history clearly shows, house arrest is sometimes preferable to being burned at the stake, or losing your head. Ask W**** H***. He knows.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, the heritage J-2 engine also included injection of the turbine exhaust gases into the nozzle to gain back some of the losses inherent in a GG cycle. The choice to do this has nothing to do with trying to get extra performance from the engine to compensate for the US being overweight.

Anonymous said...

Betcha this hero winds up "reassigned" or given a "development opportunity" at a far-away Center, or perhaps another agency.

Bless you for your courage, whoever you are!

Anonymous said...

Hm. Isn't NASA supposed to be all ISO 9000 "management standards" compliant? Wonder what the auditors would say about this procedure.

Mr. X said...

My understanding of J-2X is that it's conceptually "Vulcain 2 on steroids" instead of a true J-2 derivative. Is this a fair assessment?

Anonymous said...

given NASA has been throwing the small business
subs under the bus for Orion, has this
occurred in Ares? Have the small biz partners
been tossed at the Ares Upper Stage PDR?