Monday, July 6, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Bears?

The minions are falling all over themselves these days, unleashing a zoo of alternative architectures on the 475nm ribbon panel. Shuttle derivatives, Direct, and depots.

As is the case for most of the minions' plans, they are a couple of animals short of a full ark.

First and foremost on the panel's mind is how the group that can't possibly launch the "soon, simple and safe" corn dog with humans before 2018 wants to tackle more complicated fare now. That's almost 14 years since the Vision for Space Exploration was announced in the E Street Theater. Some of the same bunch of Shelbyvillians that brought you NLS, SLI, X-33, X-34, Fastrac engine, and OSP (ooops, actually, they didn't bring you anything in these cases) now have a "better" plan to get the job done.

Really?

Uh-huh.

The billions of taxpayer dollars that have been sunk in the Alabama rocket quicksand are long gone. So are the dollars that have kept the Italian Waiter amply fed of late. And, so too, are the promised future dollars for the development of the current set of projects-soon-to-be-joining-the-aforementioned-list-of-incompleted-acronyms. All this leaves the panel also wondering how to pay for any of the less steroidally enhanced proposed menagerie?

Of course, there is one option that is slowly gaining favor...no new promises required to get it flying...and its already paid for...you know the one...the four letter one being screamed out loud in the halls of Huntsville.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Bill Gates, the road to the stars begins with Powerpoint.

Anonymous said...

You know, depots actually work very well with that four letter word...just so long as you don't have Shelbyvillans design it...

Anonymous said...

Of course, the problem is that EELV loses all those NASA jobs in the middle of a recession. Politicians don't like to make decisions that will be unpopular on their patch, and lean on others to favour them.

DIRECT is ultimately (and openly)motivated by the political equation to try and preserve as much of the status quo as possible. At the same time, they're throwing a bone to the EELV crowd by stating that their rocket will ultimately only be used for beyond-LEO excursions, and EELV will take over the ISS taxi runs (and perform propellant depot maintenance) in time.

Of course, one might presume that NASA engineers will make a meal of DIRECT just as they've made a meal of the Stick. However, at least DIRECT has some pretty conservative margins built-in (recently backed up by a Dr Steven Peitrobon who independently analysed DIRECT's controversial Lockheed-derived upper stage figures), and isn't a totally new concept like Ares I. That at least allows some reassurance that it can be done.

Whether DIRECT can actually appease enough people remains to be seen, but the "please-all" approach sits well with politicians.

PS: No I ain't a fanboy :P

Chuck said...

Four letter word:
Atlas? No. Delta? No. Saturn? Titan? Redstone? No. No. No. Soyuz? No. Zenit? No. Proton? Angara? No. No. Ariane? No. Long March? Half. Taepo Dong? Another half. Safir? No. Unha?

Unha!

Also: Juno, and Thor-Able.

Water landing man said...

Is the four letter word "ICON"?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of job loss during a recession, the younger minions are starting to look around in disbelief at what they are hearing. The Lazy B is getting ready to drop the hammer on a lot of them next week. The intention is to weed out the baddies from Ares and load it up with the keepers.

Funny but nobody seems to be waving the Ares banner any more! Wonder what happens when the panel renders their verdict? When NASA abandons it's own child in front of the world, cancellation cannot be far behind.

It does leave a bad taste in one's mouth to have tried to help the inexperienced achieve their goal only to be roundly castigated and then exiled for it. More precious years down the drain trying to deal with NASA.

Never Again!

Anonymous said...

Remove the GS-13's to 15's working in Bldgs 4200, 4201 and 4203 @ MSFC and you could be on Mars in 20 years. Keep them and it will be 200.

NOTHING will change until they change out the people.

Anonymous said...

One thing to keep in mind for those blogging along ... quite a few of the "minions" have work commercial, DoD, and NASA launch systems. Yes, all of them. Also know there is no perfect architecture without development issues / risks. But, we engineers will make it work. That is our jobs. So, choose the architecture or pick your favorite manager (I can't always tell what you bloggers are rooting for). We engineers will relocate, change badges, and get the job done as we have done for the last 40 years.

Anonymous said...

"Soyuz" is four letters in Cyrillic ;)

Anonymous said...

Direct has no more margin then Ares. They are using the same margins as the Ares/Constellation team are. That's foolish. Real Foolish.

It's a pity, because SD-HLV or Shuttle-C at least starts with a lot more stuff pinned. The only new stuff is the fairing and the internal payload structures.

If you can ramp up production at Canoga for SSME's you could build Shuttle-C now and keep it running.
That way EELV can do ISS now, and S-C can do lunar and beyond missions if you want to do some orbital rendezvous

BenRG said...

Hmmm...

A shot in the dark. Is the 'four-letter word' "SDLV"? Could Mr. Shannon's attempted water-muddying actually be emerging as a preferred 'plan-B'? Well, that would be deeply ironic, all things considered.

FWIW: My preferred solutions are:

1) Atlas-V Phase 2 for CLV and Phase 3 for CaLV;

2) DIRECT 3.0

3) SDLV-Sidemount CaLV and Ares-IB CLV (with a new 5.5m liquid fuel core, either RS-68A or SSME powered)


~


Ben the Space Brit

Anonymous said...

Ares? Anyone Remember Expectations Set?

Direct? Different Intention Easily Changed Thing.

EELV? Ensure Exploration & Lengthty Visits.

Anonymous said...

HLLV? NOTC?

kT said...

"But, we engineers will make it work."

As a scientist I can't help but notice that the evidence seems to directly contradict your claim.

We engineers will relocate, change badges, and get the job done as we have done for the last 40 years.

Dude, Ares I ain't working, and you ain't makin it work. I can only hypothesize that you are a liar.

Anonymous said...

"Direct has no more margin then Ares. They are using the same margins as the Ares/Constellation team are. That's foolish. Real Foolish."

That's not my impression! Where are you getting that info? Direct apparently exceeds CxP targets with oodles (technical term, sorry) to spare.

John said...

"Dude, Ares I ain't working"

Ok Science Boy. Let's put the old scientific method to work...as a minion not working on Ares I I'm interested in seeing you test your hypothesis, what proof do you have other than blogosphere grumblings?

If you read the Jeff Hanley presentation to the Augustine panel Ares I has positive margin to separation with Orion for ISS and Lunar missions and is getting ready for a stack test. Problems have been identified at PDR. But to say a system about to undergo a major systems test "ain't workin" seems like a stretch.

But then again, I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

kT ... No need for personal attacks. I attempted to say the field is limited in size and we don't produce new propulsion engineers at a rate to keep up with attrition. When all of the entities fight over the finite piece of the pie, the result is engineers move to where the work is. I know many of these engineers (both civil servant and contractors). I've worked both commercial and gov't sides. We can make any of the architectures work. No lie. I am sorry you have such a contrary view of the engineering profession.
I was around when many debated if the Delta IV RS-68 would get past it's development issues and meet thrust performance. We worked it ... and it is flying. The vaunted SSME was thought (at several instances in time) to be too complex and unsafe due to several critical issues in the high-pressure turbomachinery. Both government and contractor engineers took much brow beating in the press, but they kept up the effort. Now the 30+ year old SSME is still touted as the state-of-the-art in reliable, high power density, high performance rocket performance. (They ain't cheap, but they run like a champ.)

Anonymous said...

You can do an awesome lunar exploration program with the existing EELV boosters- but you will need a slightly larger in-space stage. Something around twice the size of a present Centaur- but no bigger. You don't need any fancy new deep throttling engines and you don't need to mess with Cx39- you augment 41 and 37. You don't need the Orion service module or an EDS or a new solid or an Altair descender. You DO need to have propellant depots- both at L2 and in LEO.

This problem is about using the PROPER tools. You can build a boat with an axe but I assure you that it is not an optimal tool despite being really impressive. The obsession with loud noises and tongues of fire as the only job worth doing at NASA is simply absurd. The hard work is the stuff on the moon which has hardly even been addressed in any serious way.

Anonymous said...

"CornDog"

That's the best description ever for the Ares 1

kT said...

But then again, I could be wrong.

You are wrong. Four years wrong.

If you haven't figured that out on your own by now, there is no sense me trying to explain it all to you beyond suggesting you get out more.

I was around when many debated if the Delta IV RS-68 would get past it's development issues and meet thrust performance. We worked it ... and it is flying.

Then what pray tell is the problem, keep flying it, on the already designed and paid for vehicle for which it is designed.

The vaunted SSME was thought (at several instances in time) to be too complex and unsafe due to several critical issues in the high-pressure turbomachinery. Both government and contractor engineers took much brow beating in the press, but they kept up the effort. Now the 30+ year old SSME is still touted as the state-of-the-art in reliable, high power density, high performance rocket performance. (They ain't cheap, but they run like a champ.)

Then there is no problem, keep flying the dozen you have left, in the manner for which they were designed, on the back of a minimal unmanned booster assisted rocket, and by returning them to Earth.

No noooooooo ... you retrogrades had to air start them, or even worse, throw them away a half dozen at a time on the biggest freakin expendable rocket ever to grace a napkin from an Italian restaurant.

You asked for failure, you got it, and after four years, you still support it. Excuse me if I don't agree with your analysis, and publish my own rocket proposal.

Anonymous said...

""Direct has no more margin then Ares. They are using the same margins as the Ares/Constellation team are. That's foolish. Real Foolish."

That's not my impression! Where are you getting that info? Direct apparently exceeds CxP targets with oodles (technical term, sorry) to spare.

"
it exceeds constellation margin at a conceptual design level.

Ares 1 looked pretty good until they started designing it, then, it started porking up, remember that 4 segment SRB in Ares 1? Now it's 5.5 segments.

Ares 1 is wildly over weight and won't get better.

Direct looks good because it's powerpoint, when you start doing serious weight growth which will happen, when you do engineering, you are hosed.

Look, Shuttle-C has as a redeeming feature, that all the major parts are COTS. 4 segment SRB, ET, SSME, all you do is take the orbiter load structure, remove the wings and TPS and package everything inside that. it's 60 Tons to ISS, not enormous but with 2 you have a lunar mission.

kT said...

That's not my impression! Where are you getting that info? Direct apparently exceeds CxP targets with oodles (technical term, sorry) to spare.

Except for that oodly term called 'budget'. I guess you missed that.