Sunday, November 30, 2008

The 12 days of ESAS.

Drama, such is being afforded us by the Emperor and the minions, can touch not only our taxpayers pocketbooks, but can reach into our souls. Indeed, some day in the not too distant future this tragedy could be turned into a musical for the masses. Perhaps not for Broadway, but maybe for the Renaissance Theatre in Hunstville.

And since the Yuletide season is at hand, we envision a bittersweet ending revolving about an approaching wintry backdrop. Rehearsals are already taking place at the theater on E Street. Let’s drop in for a look.

The Italian Waiter, dressed as Santa, is on stage with his Chief Engineer, the lead elf. A table stands before them and drawings are visible on the table. Some rolled up, some laying flat. The Chief Engineer grabs his clipboard. A checklist is visible on it. Could it be Santa’s good and bad list? The orchestra begins to play and the Italian Waiter sings:

On the 1st day of ESAS, my Chief Engineer said to me:
I will build a brand new rocket for thee
On the 2nd day of ESAS, my Chief Engineer said to me:
We’ll build it from a shuttle SRB
On the 3rd day of ESAS, my Chief Engineer said to me:
But adding a fifth segment will be key
On the 4th day of ESAS, my Chief Engineer said to me:
And a new grain pattern will make it thrusty
On the 5th day of ESAS, my Chief Engineer said to me:
We’ll need new roll control to keep it pointed straight up like a bee
On the 6th day of ESAS, my Chief Engineer said to me:
Plus a new vibration attenuation system so that the astronauts can still go pee
On the 7th day of ESAS, my Chief Engineer said to me:
Add a new upper stage on top without giving contractor’s fee
On the 8th day of ESAS, my Chief Engineer said to me:
A new launch abort system of which to be wary
On the 9th day of ESAS, my Chief Engineer said to me:
We’ll use unqualified off-the-shelf electronics to send the first one free
On the 10th day of ESAS, my Chief Engineer said to me:
Let’s build a new launch pad configuration by the sea
On the 11th day of ESAS, my Chief Engineer said to me:
Made of band-aids, bailing wire, and duct tape it will be

By now the Waiter is grimacing at the result. But then the lights go out and the music stops. Instantly, the lights come back on and a tree is now standing center on the stage. One last verse to be sung…

On the 12th day of ESAS, my Chief Engineer said to me:
There’s a new rocket under the tree.
And its an EELV!


kT said...

And so soon after Thanksgiving.

Will we see the shameless commercialization of space transportation as well?

Anonymous said...

I hope the commercial guys can do it, shamelessly or otherwise. I'm all for their success.

But at the same time I don't want my tax dollars being used to subsidize them.

Commercial business is commercial business. Government assets are government assets.

You no longer qualify as a commercial operation if you rely upon a frakin' subsidy for all your income.

Anyway, the commercial guys would be better off not getting to closely involved with the government -- that's the quickest way to lose your edge and just become "Yet Another Corporation, Inc."

Antares said...

The "commercial guys" aren't that commercial because they initially split a gigadollar between them and their infrastructure including human capital is now being paid under FAR 15 not FAR 12. They aren't commercial because their LVs can't compete on the world market for price, though American rocket quality and reliability is still best. American rates are higher than Russia, Chinese and European, which are actually even more government subsidized than American EELV.

But EELV is undeniably cheaper, and that's the important thing. Free up NASA dollars to go do something that hasn't already been done.

Why the heck do you want your tax dollars subsidizing relatively inexperienced civil servant designers and their massively overstaffed contractor support? How can that possibly be better?

Anonymous said...

I'd make it even simpler.

I'd suggest the Air Force be given the
logistics and transport mission to the
ISS, just as the USAF provides transport
to the Antartic research stations.

NASA can design cargo, can designate
Passsengers (Astronauts) and USAF will
hump it all up the hill.

Anonymous said...

Christmas for ULA!!!

Thank you to all the NASA mangers at MSFC that have made this possible (well inevitable).
LB, JR, SC, VK, PH, JH DK we owe big time.

Anonymous said...

"...suggest the Air Force be given the logistics and transport mission to the ISS..."

Let's not stop there. Give MSFC to the AF as well to handle all LV activities. Get it off NASA's books while making the jobs issue a zero sum game. Now that would be real change.

Anonymous said...

Give MSFC to USAF? Years ago, I experienced something similar on a classified program that was in just as bad shape is Ares. I told management that the USAF would shut the thing down just as soon as they found out what the real status of the program was. I was told that I was crazy.

There were no specs, no specified performance criteria - just a huge number of PowerPoint presentations with no real guidance in them. It was a sham that had gone on for too long.

Within two months after the transfer from DARPA to USAF, the letter came and the program was cancelled. Of course, management would never admit that I was correct. The bottom line was that my family and a lot of others were soon out looking for jobs. The managers that had carefully guided the program into the dirt were reassigned within the company.

I would expect a similar sequence of events if USAF got involved.

Anonymous said...

You get ULA 4 cargo launches a year and 4 Orion lifts a year and there won't be any need for a subsidy. NASA would be able to get the best prices EVER for those vehicles. Make it a three year procurement and ULA would probably donate a kidney from each VP. Make a 50 vehicle commitment and you would get the next upperstage upgrade paid for and a huge increase in vehicle performance not to mention system capabilities like translunar operations.

The metal costs of these rockets are really quite excellent even given the low production rates. DIlution of overhead is the crux problem.

Now if NASA insists on redesigning every last system with some dream of improving reliability by adding crap then all bets are off.

Stevo Harrington said...

Now that there are four credible US based launch vehicle vendors, LockMart, Boeing, Orbital and Spacex, it seems a little silly for NASA to be the launch vehicle business. Its kind of like the Air Force building its own planes.
It would make more sense for the rocket scientists at Marshall to be working on solar power systems, or something else with a dual use. i.e. space and terrestrial power generation

Anonymous said...

Noticed that the incomming administration asked the powers that be what would happen if we just skipped Ares 1 and went on to Ares 5 but kept the shuttle until we had a reliable system in place.

Do you suppose they may have been reading this blog????

kT said...

if we just skipped Ares 1 and went on to Ares 5

That's just what you need, a large rocket that throws away large engines by the half dozen. That's gonna be an awfully big toaster, I'm not sure if Santa's gonna be able to get that thing down the chimney.

You'll shoot your eye out, kid.

Anonymous said...

Or maybe someone on the transition team is writing this stuff?

Anonymous said...

LockMart and Boeing aren't in the Launcher
business, they sold it all to ULA.

Basically you have ULA doing Big launchers
and Orbital doing small and SpaceX coming in.

But, if you had USAF managing the logistics
via ULA, Ares 1 would be toast.

As for the Ares 5, that is still in deep trouble.
It's way undersized for the moon too.
The SRB's won't giv eht epower they need
and they are poking at ground Infrastructure limits.

Personally, i'd kill Bush's moon mission, i'd
kill Ares and make NASA start using ISS
and building technology.