Saturday, October 25, 2008

Getting Specific

The Santa Ana winds are blowing harder now, reaching all the way to E Street. The flames are rising all around the fiddler as he furiously packs his bags in sight of those with torches and spears. The back door is open. Time to make way out of the city.

So you want specifics? Why ARES-1 will not work as designed? We have several problems to choose from, but let us remind you of one root problem, already mentioned here previously, that goes straight to the heart of your failures. Failure to lead, failure to gain credibility, failure to gain our trust.

The flight dynamics control problem for ARES-1 is complex. The rocket hammers its way into space plagued by a thrust oscillation problem brought on by vehicle scale (longer organ tubes make deeper tones). Yet another reason why steroids are bad for you. To keep our astronauts bladders intact, a counterpunch will be provided by oscillation cancelling thrusters at the base of the rocket.

But this multi-segmented, sort of, but not quite, leftover from the shuttle, solid rocket booster is also not very stiff when it is not attached to an external tank. So it will twist and bend like a piece of spaghetti being pushed from behind. To compensate for that another control system will fire rockets at the top of the first stage to keep it pointed uphill.

The Emperor claims these are all just problems to be encountered in the normal course of design. Thrust oscillation plagued the F1 rocket engine during its gestation period, he says. All true. But the von Braun team did not put their heads in the sand like the minions and forego physical testing to resolve the problem and verify the solution. Instead, they placed small bombs in the engine to induce instabilities and show that their eventual design solution would work under extreme conditions. Do we see any kind of in depth testing like that in the future on the ARES program? Of course not. It has all been removed from present day plans because of lack of budget to do what is needed and what is right.

But we digress. Back to the specific example of why ARES is presently doomed and why most of the smiling minions do not grasp the seriousness of the situation (The ones that are not smiling have only two more weeks to hunker down and hope for better days ahead). No integrated simulation has yet been performed in the digital domain of the ARES-1 configuration instantiating the real control loops with the capabilities of the selected 1553 bus. With a bandwidth of less than 50 Hz, phase margins in the mid to high 30 degrees, and only about 50 words of control data available to keep the rocket pointed skyward, this bladder busting, twisting and turning bronco will not be tamed. Imagine Flicka being reined in with a piece of twine. Good luck keeping it from colliding with the launch tower after ignition as it drifts with the lightest of winds. Come back to us with the detailed simulation results and show how this will work! The Kettle is now calling out the Pot.

There’s some specifics for you. Mr. Emperor, please have your discussion with Mr. Nyquist and leave us out of your finger pointing next time you feel a need to whine. Silence Dogood and her brothers and sisters in the blogosphere will continue to such raise issues for public awareness and discussion. Morale is not bad because you are on a righteous path, the problems are hard, and the naysayers are ignorant. No, morale is bad because the core competency knows the problems are pathological and they seek to shine the light of understanding on the plague that is staining the core values and integrity of the last 50 years.

While you are able to quote Lord Acton, and ramble on in detailed analysis of why others are responsible for your failures, you yourself fail to grasp why the world is burning down around you. If the charts were more green than red we would know that risks were being managed. You take pride in saving $5B in a $160B program when the alternative wasn’t even technically feasible? Pshaw! You still fight the ghosts of a previous time castigating EELVs instead of looking inside to find the error of your ways? You wonder what Seamans would have thought? He already told us, “I knew James Webb, and the Emperor is no James Webb.” Did you forget that already?

Trust, credibility, and leadership are the pieces missing from the whole cloth. Time to step aside and let someone who understands this lead us out of the dark alley you have left us in.


Anonymous said...

They need to get that upper stage down off that thing and into the ground started core where it belongs.

Putting a Falcon 1 upper stage on top of an Atlas V for LEO looks like a real good idea to me offhand as well.

We can begin to move forward on a broad front with numerous small launch vehicles right now.

Even the Athena III could work. Wither the Delta IV Medium?

C'mon, people, I'm counting five or six launch vehicles right out of the gate. It ain't that hard. Plus we have a lot of international partners with the same problems that we have, and they should be willing to help us, and thus themselves if rationality prevails.

Anonymous said...

Acton, not Action

Anonymous said...

The lament about the lack of leadership is right on the money. kt, for once, I find your comments enlightening!

I had to sit through a group meeting where events like passing PDR were highly touted. I started to suggest that it was hard to fail when the groundrules were no RIDs! Coworkers saved my hide with duct tape over the mouth and sitting on my chest until the meeting was over.

This week I watched in horror as a major board approved document after document, some with technical comments numbering into the hundreds and one with well over 1000, pass the board without so much as a single objection!

That's right, the only comment was, that was a lot of comments and the author responded, yes, we just rejected them all. Okay, the board approves!

Where do they get off acting like that?

Just because we happen to have some SRBs laying around doesn't mean that we are required to misapply them.

Perhaps if one were to seriously delve into the history of MT/ATK and NASA there would seem to be a questionable relationship in there somewhere. Remember, after Challenger, MT decided not to stay in the business. LMSC won the contract and just as soon as MT had their new design ready, the LMSC contract was cancelled. The smartest thing LMSC ever did was to make sure that there was a cancellation clause to cover the expenses of a cancellation.

So, it is time to scrap the current design, get some liquid engines involved and move out! A deal like that just might entice me to put off retirement a bit longer.

Anonymous said...

So, it is time to scrap the current design, get some liquid engines involved and move out!

Which brings up the RL-60.

With the Delta IV Heavy and a Delta V using the Ares I upper stage core reengined with SSMEs, I count SEVEN viable launch vehicle architectures either operational or in the queue, with numerous credible variants.

I also honestly have no problems with an Athena III standing ready to deliver critical repair parts.

I'm also not opposed to revisiting heavy lift again in the 2016 frame. I'm pretty sure that it will look a lot different than the Ares V.

Clearly Ares must go.

Anonymous said...

One has to eventually start wondering if people are just making this stuff up :

Anonymous said...


I've already said and EXPLAINED that MANY YEARS AGO here:

and here:


Anonymous said...

I see a troll death match in the making; kt (Thomas Lee Elifritz) vs. Gaetano Marano.

Anonymous said...

I see a troll death match

Everything is 'death' to you.

I see the death of your beloved space program, and indeed, the death of your idiocracy, if you anonymous blowhards don't grow up and start embracing science and technology as the foundation of your delusions.

Anonymous said...

What is stunning is NASA is sticking with
the 1553 Data bus a comm standard that
was obsolete in the 1980's.

The Constellation is using a Firewire 800
which is obsolete but at least better.
You would think that the NASA guys would
specify infiniband or USB or Firewire
to get to something a bit better.

I suspect there are a lot of electronics boxes that
the Shuttle have that use 1553, and they
are sticking with those, rather then
bother updating.


Anonymous said...

The thing people are missing is why we are building Ares 1 in house. It’s to allow NASA managers, engineer, and techs, etc.. to learn how to build a crewed rocket. 90% + of all our problems are relate to people (not technical issues alone) who have never done anything like this. It’s expensive, risky and bloody slow. Leadership is lacking and some corrupt. Not all of it by any means. We have excellent people some even in key positions. Without doing it this way NASA will never again be able to build or lead development of a launch vehicle. A good bit of weeding is going on. Harder to do at the top.

Its back to the 1950’s for the next few years.

Anonymous said...

Its back to the 1950’s for the next few years.

Another astonishing denial of the problem, from the anonymous armchair gallery. You are a seriously delusional enabler of failure.

Anonymous said...

anon is not quite right. 1394 was dumped because MOD didn't like the auto-reconfig and Dr. Mike did like time triggered gigabit ethernet.

Anonymous said...

And just why does NASA have to have this capability if it already exits in industry? The air force doesn't design aircraft. They produce specifications for the capability and compete the requirements to get the best that the country has to offer. NASA is an anachronism whos time has come and gone. This is 2008, not 1958!

Anonymous said...

One of the stated objectives of the program was to train up the next generation of rocket scientists. An admirable goal in view of what the agency had become. The execution leaves something to be desired.

I am watching, day by day, as they reach back to the ancient designs and pull that technology forward and integrate it into the Ares design, whether it makes sense or not. Some admit that they never analyzed that old technology to ensure that it is truly applicable to the Ares design. Yet, they keep doing it.

Also, what I have observed is that it is not NASA people doing the design but local body shops providing the personnel. They are occupying the spots where NASA people should have been.

This has revealed such a diversity of approaches that the products from one company do not even resemble those of another.

Let's speak plainly here - the evidence of real engineering is sadly lacking. BandAid upon BandAid seems to be the rule of the day. We did it that way because they did it that way is the phrase of the day.

1553 has it's place in the world but it is a mystery as to why it is being used here. We are already having to give up data because you can cram only so much info through the system. It has already negatively effected the overall control design of the vehicle.

Universally, the commentary on this site has been that the design is bad and needs to be replaced. The question is how to go about it. It is the only game in town. If you cross the boss the results are predictable. There isn't enough money in the budget to institute a complete redesign and if it were to happen the bulk of the people on the program would be shown the door for about five years while the program is restructured. There are limits as to what guerilla engineers can accomplish in this environment.

Personally, I am getting tired of pushing this rope.

Anonymous said...

There isn't enough money in the budget to institute a complete redesign

Don't worry, after January 20, 2009, there will be. It will become a national priority on economic stimulus principles alone.

Once Mr. Obama sweeps the VSE away with the stroke of a pen, it will be very easy to come up with a rational design for next generation equatorial manned space flight.

Redesigning failure doesn't work. This program has failed at EVERY level.

There is no saving it.

Anonymous said...

kT, you have a lot more confidence in the bureaucracy-sweeping powers of Mr Obama's pen than I, but I do hope you're right.

I personally believe that NASA in its present form is lost, but forms can change. A key element is the competition now arising from other countries' space agencies. NASA no longer has a monopoly; it will not take long before the results from other agencies - done better, faster, cheaper - will force radical change at NASA.

It's not the 1960s again yet, but when China and India announce dates for their moon landings, you can bet the clock will start spinning backwards within days ; )

I've said it before, I'll say it again. I love America, but it desperately needs competition. The same could go for NASA. Well, it'll get it soon enough.

It's not Obama who will save NASA, it's Hu Jintao. Funny how it all works, eh : )

Anonymous said...

Once again while everyone tries to talk technology, kt goes off on a lunatic rant.

Anonymous said...

There are some outstanding and inexpensive transport approaches to the exploration of the Moon and Mars that are being held in limbo pending the removal of the emperor. To expose them now is to dig their graves. Once the guard changes you will see the best that industry can deliver. The transport/propulsion elements can be completed, qualified and flying for years before the lunar hab, surface operations tools and infrastructure are ready for prime time.

The ONLY barrier for these solutions is the employment situation in Alabama. Some people just can't work on a new solid booster and useless upper stage engine. The same goes for mass dampers, oversized RCS systems and antiquated tank designs. They have to move on to new tasks. This may require some mental readjustment. This is really good for everyone.
There is a huge laundry list of technologies that must be developed before really effective crewed exploration of the moon is possible. By really effective I mean stay times measured in months and crew sizes in the dozens. Anything less is a total waste of time and is simply a replication of the flags and footprints Apollo efforts. We haven't the faintest clue how to keep such a team working effectively on the moon. We can't even do it in earth orbit.

NASA, if it wishes, has an enormous opportunity to produce things the world has never seen. Or it can compete directly with the commercial launch industry to their mutual destruction.

Anonymous said...

What is stunning is NASA is sticking with the 1553 Data bus a comm standard that was obsolete in the 1980's.

The Constellation is using a Firewire 800 which is obsolete but at least better. You would think that the NASA guys would specify infiniband or USB or Firewire to get to something a bit better.

Weird indeed.

If it can provide the desired bandwidth, the CAN bus might also be an option. As it has been designed for the automotive world, you should be able to get off-the-shelf components that are designed for unfriendly environments (especially EMV, because of the electric noise from the ignition system in an Otto engine)

Anonymous said...

kt goes off on a lunatic rant.

Thanks for sharing your technology solutions to the Ares I problem.

My first post on this thread pretty much covered it for me. My problem is getting the next administration to stop the nonsense and get the vehicle back on the road as quickly as possible, I've already clearly outlined and published my solution.

As indicated many many posts ago, I've moved on to the next steps. I'm sitting this out until after January 20 at the very least.

My position is that the Bush VSE Vision, Constellation, Orion and Ares can't be fixed. The minimum salvage operation involves using the upper stage technology, the means and methods NASA has developed and applied in its design, to develop a hydrogen core stage for a much smaller experimental reusable launch vehicle. As such the J2X is unsuitable propulsion for such a vehicle. Thus the SSMEs, until they are flown out or unrecoverable, and a suitable next generation engine is developed. The ESA is developing an engine in this class, clearly there is a need to for SSME class engines. That necessity has been utterly corrupted and smothered by the Bush administration and the incompetence of Michael Griffin.

I've got other goals with some of the external players, but Boeing already has thrown their towel in with ATK and the PlanetSpace crowd. They had their chance with the Delta IV, now it's up to ULA.

I'm directing this with poignant comments, you'll have to trust me people are actually reading this. If we spend the next eight years solving these fundamental Earth to LEO transportation problems, in 2016 we will be in a much better position than we would be, if we just continued with Ares I and V. That would be guaranteed failure.

Anything involving SRBs on a large scale is going to take decades, and cost billions, and ultimately fail in the marketplace. We've already had enough failure on that scale. In the real world, those kinds of failures are measured in trillions, not billions. I'm just proposing rational incremental advances in rocket science at the Tsiolkovsky and von Braun level, something like that can't possibly fail, and any small failures are simply learning experiences. Remember, the Delta V is my SMALLEST ROCKET design. I'm the black sheep outcast in my own design group, and I've done enough of this to know that your comments aren't helpful and easily ignored.

Anonymous said...

kt says "I'm the black sheep outcast in my own design group"

What "design group" would that be? A group of 1 perhaps. Or do you have multiple personalities?

Face it kt: you have zero hands on expertise in building anything that has flown. You just take other people's sentences, sprinkle in some acronyms, and try to sound like you have a clue.

Face it dude: you don't.

Anonymous said...

You just take other people's sentences, sprinkle in some acronyms, and try to sound like you have a clue.

Show us your napkin.

SDGuero said...

I had no idea rocket scientists were so aggressive. I like it!

Regardless, NASA needs to get their shit together and it seems obvious (to me, an outsider know nothing) the Bush push for a new launch vehicle is bound to fail.

Have you guys seen the PBS documentary on Columbia? It makes NASA looks so stupid! Why is the manager that screwed the pooch still employed??? He is obviously incompetent and the biggest single reason why those 7 astronauts died. Yet when the documentary was made this year he is still a manager. WTF ever happened to firing someone for gross incompetence???!!

I always wanted to work for NASA, and visiting Kennedy as a kid was huge for me. But after watching that documentary, I'm pretty sure I would quit after 6 months in that organization.

I feel for the good engineers that are toughing it out. Hopefully KT is right and Obama will step in a clean house. I'm doubtful but I think there is a better chance with him than McCain...

Anonymous said...

If Obama picks that Kathuria guy like AvWeek is saying, Lord help us. Neither him nor Neil DGT (planetarium guy) have ever built spaceflight hardware, have the required administrative skills, or have dealt with Congress in a meaningful way. If you want to hurry the retirement of the skilled people in the nasa workforce waiting for leadership, pick either of those two guys.

Anonymous said...

Lord help us.

Why are you constantly invoking imaginary deities and dead messiahs in order to solve real problems in the real world, when just speaking up usually suffices? I agree, Kathuria and deGrasse Tyson would be disasters for NASA, even more of a disaster than the current disaster. It would be nice if you posted an actual link.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea rocket scientists were so aggressive. I like it!

It's been an extraordinarily difficult last eight years living in America under a corrupt renegade administration, and the last three years have been exceptionally bad living with a corrupt renegade NASA administrator and the inevitable dysfunctional rocket designs which have come out of that phenomenon.

This is an entirely new skill set developed to cope with this period. Hopefully it will be a period in our history that will soon be over, but reading the comments here I am coming to doubt that it is over.

Anonymous said...


don't worry!

there are (at least) TWO cheap, simple and reliable ways to SOLVE the Ares-1 liftoff-drift issue, as explained in this ghostNASA article:


Anonymous said...

kt (Thomas Lee Elifritz) could learn a lot from Gaetano Marano. Maybe they could design a cartoon rocket together.

Anonymous said...

kt (Thomas Lee Elifritz)

Ares I is finished. The republican party is finished. You have spaghetti sauce all over your chin. And you don't even have a spare napkin. No amount of dry cleaning is going to remove those stains from the fabric of America. Fortunately, the emperor doesn't usually wear robes, so he's good to go.

For another eight years I fully expect you to be busy rewriting history.

It's what you do best.

Anonymous said...

Gaetano Marano is your only hope kt (Thomas Lee Elifritz) for he is wise in the ways of rockets and Photoshop.

Anonymous said...

kt (Thomas Lee Elifritz) for he is wise in the ways of rockets and Photoshop.

You are a one dimensional mind stuck in your own two dimensional world.

You're a flatlander.

Anonymous said...

But Gaetano Marano is so very smart, kt, and you are so very ignorant.

Anonymous said...

But Gaetano Marano is so very smart, kt, and you are so very ignorant.

But you can't actually say what is smart about Geronimo and his ideas, and you can't actually say what is ignorant about kT and his ideas.

Because you've never strung a complete paragraph together, let alone an entire page of HTML. All you can do is troll this blog.

Don't worry, you'll have eight years to get yourself an education on what it means to be an American. So put some clothes on and wipe that spaghetti sauce off your chin with my napkin, you're wasting our time and money with your non ideas.

Anonymous said...

Gaetano Marano is much smarter than you are kt. He is also much better at HTML - and his favorite color is yellow. Do you have a favorite color?

Rocket Man said...

kt, We mentioned before that we want to keep this blog's comments open to constructive and original thoughts. Quite frankly your repetitive diatribes are attenuating reasonable discussions. If you have a technical contribution to make that is great. But the baiting and defensive postures are no longer welcome.

Anonymous said...

I apologize for letting things get out of control, I was trying to keep it to a single snarky comment for every satirical post of yours. In the future I will make every attempt to restrain it to that level, and if I exceed your specified bounds of expression, by all means, delete it.

Carry on, gentleman.

Anonymous said...


The CAN bus or the F-35 infiniband
would beat 1553.

I suspect they are using 1553, because
the shuttle hardware speaks that.

The Ares is the most amazing combination
of the ridiculous with the stupid.