Thursday, May 28, 2009

Not Much Left To Do

The names of the Democratic Party donors on the 475nm Ribbon Panel are now starting to leak out, weeks after the review was first put in motion. And almost a week after one of E Street's former finest was coerced into taking a job he does not really want, with a deputy not of his own choosing (that he does not really want), we can start to see where the road is taking us. Not that anyone connected to the White House really cares about any of this much ado about nothing anyway.

So what are the real objectives of the Panel, you may ask? Well, Norm said he wants to see that the stated program goals are achievable within the now decapitated budget. He will also want to see if the gap can be closed, either by a.) flying the shuttle longer or b.) speeding up the replacement.

We can help with that one. Take b.) and replace some Viceroys. Watch 2016 (65% confidence) become 2013 (99.999% confidence).

But let's look at the Panel closer before we go too much further. We have the first female astronaut, another former astronaut, an Air Force general, a commercial space dreamer, a couple of academics, a certified shuttle hugger, and a think tank CEO, among a couple others, led by a former aerospace CEO.

What? How come there are no real "architects" are on the prestigious list? Perhaps architecture is not on the table? More likely, there won't really be any budget for an architecture to be developed anyway.

Then there is the time element. With the late start and a fixed end point (driven by budget input requirements), just how much "deep thought" can go into such a study? Not much, we surmise.

And where is the data going to come from anyway? Why the nation's premier space agency, of course (think four segment SRB/SSME). And maybe a little side show from some Alabamians who work underground at night (think Direct) undermining the work they are doing for their day jobs (think Constellation). Talk about schizophrenia! Which side of the their mouths should we listen to?

The contractors will do nothing to jeopardize their existing relationships and contracts. When the Panel starts its hearings, start counting how many times the air is filled with, "Stay the course!"

EELVs? Fugetaboutit.

COTS-D? Ha! Ask Sen. StickMan about that!

To summarize, no architects, no time, no budget, no credible options. Time to place your bets.

Our chips are on Viceroy Gerst.


Anonymous said...

What architecture? There never was any. No functional, physical or operational analyses either. Remember, this new generation of junior engineers was supposed to leap straight into manned flight design capability by simply copying a design that is 50+ years old. They were born, endowed with sufficient genetics to enable this great leap forward.

You are right about the panel and the predicted outcome.

Since Norm said, 'open minds only' and will not entertain anybody with a concept to sell or an axe to grind so everybody with their own pet idea just sit in the lobby until September.

That leaves us with a non-executable program and nowhere to hide. Since the company execs have gone on record as saying that the minions are out of a job the instant the money dries up, we, not they, where do we go from here.

One thing for certain, it is the last of our manned space programs for the next 50 years. Nobody is going to pursue such a career knowing that there is no place to go but the basement or the second floor of a historic building with the scraped paint, rusty structure, leaking roof and contaminated drinking water. No wonder Obama spent more time getting a dog for his kids than in looking for a new administrator.

Anonymous said...

As much as the author dislikes Hanley and cooke and the pony tailed wonder, even the best managers cannot unF$%k Ares 1.

Ares is a fundamentally flawed idea. Think of ISS as NASA's vietnam, and Ares as NASA's Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Architects? You want architects bring back Mike Griffin. All the architecting was done in 1960 by chain-smoking Germans. They sketched out everything we need, but the people to build it live at Energia, Boeing, and LockMart not at NASA. Lay off all the CxP people they have no idea what they are doing. Use the money saved and offer B & LM each a contract to get 3 astronauts to the space station safely by whatever means they see fit. Then contract to get modules and men on the Moon if that's really where you want to go. Hell you might have enough money to contract the Russians to do it as well. I bet they could do a lot for a mere 3B. Nothing like a competition.

Anonymous said...


1) Ares V won't happen. Even if it ever did, the lunar outpost monies are apparently gone from the latest budget outlook. This isn't "Apollo on Steroids," it's Apollo Redux, and that dog won't hunt.

2) Direct won't happen, now that the ET tooling at Michoud is being destroyed. (Memo to NASA: when burning the bridges behind, make sure the ones ahead haven't been washed out!)

3) So in the end, NASA will either dump Ares I and go with an EELV solution for ISS access now, or will do so after another few years and $10B have been wasted. Either way, though, there will be no way out of LEO. Since ISS likely won't last much beyond 2020, that'll be the end of US human spaceflight.

I'm in gloomy mood this morning.

This end has been easily foreseeable for the last 2-3 years, and since NASA purposely, willfully, chose this path, I guess the agency gets what's coming to it. My sincere sympathies, though, go out to the hard-working engineers, whose fault this is not.

kT said...

I am an architect with an axe.

My AxeI am very content to sit in the lobby and laugh at the show. It will be interesting to see how it all ends.

Anonymous said...

Griffin was not an Honest Architect. He wanted to duplicate Apollo while using the Shuttle contractor workforce.

If he were honest, he would have selected EELV as a booster, put a small capsule on that, and done Shuttle-C.

Have Shuttle-C fly a Lander, a transfer stage, an inflatable hab up to ISS, rendevous there, with the capsule, transfer propellant at ISS.

What NASA was terrified of, was Shuttle-C getting cancelled, and leaving them dependent on USAF for EELV's.

Architectures are not done on fear.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2:59 - great idea!

Then watch as the NASA civil savants muscle their way in through that "safely" loophole, and expand that word's already nebulous definition to embrace every centers' and power-brokers' pet pig ideas.

Cringe as they start forcing their own unsupported decisions on the supposedly "independent" competing teams.

Marvel as they detour the competing teams into performing trade study after trade study on HQ's hairbrained ideas - with no extra resources provided and no end in sight.

Cry as they spend $2B of that $3B "prize" to fund a dozen simulators and mockups and test articles and National Mall dog-and-pony extravaganzas with no relation to the competing designs but lots of potential for padding center budgets and flattering VIPs and congresscritters and their staffers and making it look like NASA is hard at work.

Throw your hands up in futility as they hire ten more fresh-from-college civil savants for each of the contractors' engineers, to wet nurse the competition and rebaseline center personnel budgets.

And then finally sigh as they blame the lack of concrete progress and the eventual failure of the whole undertaking on the incompetance of the competing contractors

All this in the name of "safety", natch.

The point is, NASA couldn't ever allow a true competition like what you suggest to go on unmolested, they'd be meddling with the process at every step.

benrg said...

IMHO, "Stay the Course" = failure. Ares-V is already dead. At the last check, the core was up to 11m diameter and the budget increase meant to fund its development has not materialised.

Of course, one wonders if some people at an Agency not a million miles from here would prefer failure to being proved wrong. I'm hoping that I'm just being pessimistic but the attitude displayed by some people really does seem to translate as: "Success on my terms or failure with no middle ground."

To use the American idiom: It's a hell of a way to run a railroad.


Ben the Space Brit

Anonymous said...

Well, if it makes all you NASA folks feel better, delays have pushed construction of the moon rock lab in Beijing all the way out to 2011-2012...

gravityloss said...

We don't want firstly an architecture for a mission or a program: we want a sustainable and improvable spacefaring future for humanity.

Launchers that must be changeable, improvable and yes, even scrappable, remaining redundant and noncritical all the time.

Stop the Apollo reruns. NASA should not design rockets.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. My sources say your Shuttle hugger is a bit more even-handed, though apparently in his younger days he could give the Katrina trailer rocker a run for his money.

But if the molds on the rubber stamps aren't premature, it's time for us smart guys to go Galt on this project. Failure is the only option, with or without our help. Sooner is better.

Anonymous said...

Shuttle-C/EELV is just a trojan horse proposed deliberately to be too expensive to operate compared to EELV. Result: Shuttle-C is canceled within 10 years and EELV gets the whole stage.

Tony Verow, MD said...

Excellent discussion folks. Obviously we are in a big mess here with billions of dollars and thousands of skilled man-hours gone to waste chasing down the silly stick concept. The saddest thing about this whole debacle has been the loss of precious expertise gleaned thru hard won lessons from Apollo and the the Shuttle program. By the time the current mess gets turned around into a workable plan (IF the political will exists to do so !), the collective knowledge base and personnel will be gone, replaced by a much less experienced generation of engineers. Very sad !

Anonymous said...

I begin to wonder if we shouldn't close the whole operation down, pause and consider things for five years and then start again with a completely fresh slate. And this time hire managers to run the show who aren't bona-fide idiots.