Sunday, November 2, 2008

Things Are Not Always As They Appear

Waking out of their stupor, the IG's office folk finally had a look at the process the minions said they would follow in spending the taxpayers money to get us a new space vehicle in the Emperor's image. As you may have suspected, the minions have been shortcutting the process, to our mutual detriment.

So an older, immature design of the Orion capsule is brought up for review and passes muster, when it fact it lacks many of the features a flight worthy capsule would have (e.g., a weight that would be liftable, a means of landing that won't kill the occupants) along with several that a real vehicle wouldn't have (e.g., extra amounts of hot water for BroomHilda's cauldron).

That's not the way the process is supposed to work.

Unfortunately, the IG's office, not known for their brilliance or their ethics, took the ESMD Viceroy's non-concurrence with their findings and said, "ok, so sorry to have bothered you," and moved on.

So much for checks and balances.

Of course, the story doesn't end there. Since the IG and the Viceroy are, after all, part of the Empire, they both come down on the side of blaming the contractor for all ills and recommend a modification (i.e., reduction) of fee payments for the next period. But when you point a finger, there's always four pointing back at you and it's too bad that the minions responsible for changing their minds, and their requirements, on a daily basis will never see similar punishment and have their salaries docked.

Then again, it's only a matter of time until the door hits them where the good Lord split them.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes a PDR is done for a version behind
just because, it takes a long time to
schedule the board of review and
the period of time it takes to get a
configuration ready for PDR is fairly long,
but that said, you then FLAG all the issues
that are forcing the next configuration,
and you discuss in the FLAG reports
(RID's for NASA) that X or Y is deficient, and
that you believe that the following fix
will close that and why you have
margin to get there.

Now, then you need to have a DELTA PDR
or IDR and you have to close that item.

I worked a vehicle PDR where we had
aero-instability which was going to cause
some serious trajectory errors, we knew this,
and had a fix strategy, but it was going to take
3 months to run the monte carlo simulations
to prove that fix out.

We did PDR, we opened with the list of Flaws,
and then did the presentation, and discussed
the fix strategy and scheduled a Delta PDR
for 6 months away.

The review board hated our fix strategy, but
concurred we had a strategy and margin.
Turns out, we ended up with a totally different
fix, guess the board was right, but as we had
margin the board was very positive on the PDR.

Anonymous said...

Being a config behind, acknowledging threats and opportunities, etc. is certainly a valid approach to moving a design forward. if that was the only problem, no one would be raising the issue.

the problem here is that this is but one problem with management of the program and that the contractors are being blamed for poor performance, when in fact, it is NASA that is performing poorly and not handing over the information that the contractors need to do their jobs in timely fashion. the desire to keep the "design" work in house, performed by a less than competent team, is at the root of the issue.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (1) here:

I guess i should have been more clear.

It's okay to move a rev behind config to PDR,
but you have to be open and honest about it,
other wise the reviewers can't do their job.

Also you need Margin to allow the fixes to fit in.
Constellation has less then 2000 lbs of margin
left on Ares and Orion, which is way less
then they need if they are going to succeed.

now the NASA top down, no outside voices,
no dissent, model?

well that didn't work for the russians
when they did the N-1, it won't work now

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (2) here:


Anonymous said...

whats the means of landing that will kill the occupants?

Anonymous said...

Having done more than my share of PDR's I can tell you that if you don't have a solution that addresses each and every requirement in a concise and well defined way by PDR you simply don't have a design. You have a senior design project. If the minions believe that they will fix it later without making huge impacts to every system they are very sadly mistaken. This is the path to unbounded cost and schedule deterioration.

The lack of fully integrated solutions shows how absurdly overconstrained the solution set is. Due to the ARES I performance limits they drive useful mass out of the Orion so that its function is threatened. SInce they insist on solids they are driven to an overly complex and risk intensive LAS. The height of the VAB and poor ARES V performance drive the design of the Altair to the point of uselessness.

From what I've heard they have already spent more than Boeing and Lockheed Martin invested in the entire EELV program including the RS68 engine and two brand new launch pads. Is this true? And for this we have half-baked designs that really don't work and a lot of wishful thinking? What is wrong with this picture?

Someone should have looked NASA up on the Tom Martino list to see if they were reliable and not rip-off artists. As it is I think we in the clutches of either a fly-by-night aluminum siding or driveway sealing company. Perhaps a call to the troubleshooter would be useful- given that the IG was not much help.

Anonymous said...

Just so we're all clear - cause I know you want to talk about the "facts"...the review in question for Orion was the SDR, not the PDR. Which makes a HUGE difference on acceptible risk. Also, you'll note Orion hasn't made it to PDR yet...folks take the necessity of the design meeting the requirements seriously.

The vehicle was over mass, and did not meet some other requriements. I don't recall any issues with "killing" the crew...this is the point where the decision to down mode to water (vs. land landing) was made due to the weight impacts associated with water landing. Best I recall we landed in water in Apollo just fine.

Everyone was VERY clear - predeclaring what the issues of the SC were...