Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Bridging the Gap

The stock boys are back in the warehouse doing inventory this week. With new life instilled in the shuttle huggers by the Number One former shuttle hater, one wonders just how far into the gap can one go?

External tanks are the obvious question mark. There is sufficient inventory of raw materials in the pipeline, thanks Wayne, to fly at about a twice per year rate until 2014 or so.

SSMEs also have something to add to discussion. Twelve flight sets could be fielded with what's on the shelf. Let's see, two flights a year, that's six years....2014 again.

So the numbers are starting to come up in the ballpark. All but that $3B number, course. But let's not get silly over that.

However, people are also required to make this student body right work. (Un)fortunately, the writing has been on the wall for four years, and many of the engineers at Michoud actually started believing it. Any new assignment is grabbed as fast as the ejector seat handle can be found. The tank contractor has also signalled that D-Day will come sometime in September as the need for tanks beyond 2010 appears to peter out. If the aging shuttle is to be provided an opportunity to take itself out of work via natural causes, instead of the previously proposed rational plan, then something is going to have to change in the next 90 days or so.

What's an Emperor to do?


kT said...

Hopefully resign. Since that seems unlikely, he needs to be issued a pink slip on November 4th. Even that seems rather unlikely now.

Just out of curiosity, what do you mean by SSME 'flight sets'. My understanding, which is not necessarily related to shuttle flight continuation, is that it all adds up to 14 engines. Has this number been whittled down to 12?

Are you talking flights, engines or sets of three? These engines seem pretty robust, eh, considering they aren't much of an issue with this.

Anonymous said...


I thought there was also a tooling issue at Michoud. They were planning to take the ET tooling apart to make Ares 1 tank tools, and therefore at some point you could no longer assemble the Shuttle-diameter ETs.

Inquiring Minds

kT said...

I guess I just answered my own question. So that's 36 equivalent SSME flights, including rebuild spares. One would think we could either build a starship or go to Ceres with that kind of horsepower.

Specific Imp said...

Given the present state of the ESAS hardware I say we just keep on flying Shuttle until the wheels fall off. In fact I say we push launch rate sky high. More ant farm science to keep the astronauts busy- that is apparently what they like. This will erase the ESAS architecture from our minds like a hard night's drinking. We will forget about all the bad decisions and horrible designs. Then when we kill another crew the machine will be immediately grounded. We get another memorial and another commission. Do three strikes apply here? Then maybe, just maybe, we can start over on a proper command module that can be easily flown on the smallest, cheapest, most reliable EELV. We could even devise (by looking it up in old documents) an exploration architecture worthy of the name and some industry designed flight hardware that will actually work reliably.

But it's just a dream....

Anonymous said...

Having seen comments in the open press, backed up by comments in the hall, the Gap appears a lot wider than one might expect.

The mention of a set of rockets that would fire upward to counteract the natural harmonics of the stretched SRB brought a tightening to my gut that I haven't experienced since I ate a buschel of green apples.

The word from management was "keep rowing". When I hear "ramming speed" I will start looking for the nearest exit.

Just how did it get this bad?

kT said...

I'm sure at this point Michael Griffin must fully understand that his post-NASA career will be better off is doesn't admit failure and just lets the next incoming administration cancel it. It's all about ego now.

People like that will never admit failure. They are a dime a dozen in this administration. The problem is the sheer magnitude of their failure.