SLS and Orion: September 2008 Archives

Editor's 27 Sep note: Mike Griffin has given Dave King 30 days to fix this problem. King has assigned people to fix or remove problems/people ASAP. Heads have already rolled. The phrase "clean house" has been used again and again over the last two days. Meanwhile, X-33 genius and Ares manager Steve Cook mysteriously remains in his current position.

Editor's 24 Sep update: NASA sources report that there are some red faces in Huntsville and that there is the obligatory witch hunt under way at MSFC to find guilty parties and to try and figure out how this information got outside of NASA. Suffice it to say that the way this post-PDR "survey" was done is laughable - and that this witch hunt will simply cause even more embarrassing information to surface. So Steve, instead of searching out the people who spoke the truth to you and wanted the world to hear it as well, perhaps you should take their comments to heart and fix a process that is most certainly dysfunctional.

NASA as Minderbinder? "It Takes a Nation to Build a Rocket", Orlando Sentinel

"The day the "It Takes a Nation to Build a Rocket" notice first went up earlier this month it was accompanied by 22 press releases targeted to different states, trumpeting that there were companies in their towns and cities working on Constellation's Ares I rocket. "It's blatant pandering," said one Washington space advocate when he saw the wave of releases. "Obviously they are worried the next president might not want to continue with the project and want to show that there are already many stakeholders."

NASA PAO Wants Everyone To Know Who Pays The Bills Back Home, earlier post

Soyuz Waiver Update

NASA clears hurdle on Soyuz, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin on Tuesday won the approval of a key Senate committee in his battle to buy Russian spacecraft as a four-year replacement for the space shuttle. But the fight is far from over. And Griffin has less than two weeks to persuade the rest of Congress to allow the use of Soyuz spacecraft to take U.S. astronauts to the international space station after the space shuttle's planned retirement in 2010."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008, Business Meeting

S.3103: A bill to amend the Iran, North Korea, and Syria nonproliferation Act to allow certain extraordinary payments in connection with the International Space Station.

Beating Orion?

Web Entrepreneur Wants NASA to Use His Rockets, Discovery

"With a successful Falcon 1 mission, Musk plans to start lobbying for a follow-on contract to develop the Falcon 9-Dragon to transport space station crews. "We haven't pushed hard yet, even though I think it's like blindingly obvious as the thing to do because we're hoping to get to orbit and then on the back of getting to orbit and push hard ... because otherwise our detractors have too much ammunition," Musk said. "They'd say, 'How can you trust the future of the American space program to a company that hasn't gotten to orbit?' That's the obvious attack. So we hope to get to get to orbit and then they can't use that attack."

USA Vs ATK Ares Update

NASA contractors call truce, try to settle dispute over Ares rockets, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA contractors Alliant Techsystems and United Space Alliance declared a weeklong truce in their contract battle that threatens plans for the Constellation moon-rocket program. The truce means that USA workers will continue working on NASA's next-generation Ares rocket and its Ares I-X test model for seven more days while the companies try to resolve their dispute. "We are going to keep on doing what we have been doing," said USA spokeswoman Tracy Yeats."

USA stops work on Ares I and Ares I-X rockets, Orlando Sentinel

"In a move that could upset NASA and its plans to hurry the Constellation moon rocket program, United Space Alliance, the main contractor at Kennedy Space Center, told its employees in a letter on Thursday that it will no longer be working on the Ares I rocket or Ares I-X test rocket from Sept 22."

ATK and USA declare a truce over Ares contract, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA contractors Alliant Techsystems, Inc., and United Space Alliance on Friday declared a week-long truce in what has become a nasty contract battle that threatened to upset NASAs plans for its Constellation moon rocket program.
The truce means that USA workers will continue working on NASA's next generation Ares rocket and its Ares I-X test model for seven more days while the companies try to resolve their dispute."

Cost Estimates Used to Support the FY 2008 Budget Request for NASA's Constellation Program Could Have Been Better Documented

"We found that the CxP project managers' documentation did not include the level of detail called for in either NASA's Handbook or the GAO Cost Guide. With respect to the Handbook, the documentation provided by the CxP project managers did not provide sufficient information to allow an independent analyst to reproduce the estimates. The GAO Cost Guide states that the documentation should include source data and significance, clearly detailed calculations and results, and explanations of why particular methods and references were chosen. The Guide also states that the data in a well- documented cost estimate must be traceable to its source."

Editor's note: Whenever a large government project is in trouble, the agency that depends on its continued funding usually employs a standard set of tricks to remind people how important the project is - while also making it clear that lots of jobs ($$$) are associated with the project as well. A classic aerospace company approach is to make certain that they track every Congressional district wherein a company works on a piece of the program - no matter how small. And when threats appear on the horizon, they remind the folks back home where the bacon (pork) comes from - and how many jobs could be in peril if something were to happen to the program.

Today I got 21 press releases from MSFC in rapid fire succession. You can see them all here. These releases are virtually identical - except that each one is tailored to an individual state and the specific companies that are working on the Ares 1 program in that state - including the monetary value of the work.

Of course, you want everyone to feel patriotic about what this project does, so you make certain to interject some feel good language such as Steve Cook's line "It takes a nation to build a rocket," Cook added. "And this is the rocket that will inspire our nation." Alas, whether intentional or not, Steve borrowed the first half of the line from the title of Hillary Clinton's book "It Takes a Village" which itself was supposedly inspired by an African proverb: "It takes a village to raise a child".

As for the "rocket inspiring a nation" phrase, I am not certain about that Steve. Given the steady series of delays, engineering problems, and cost overruns it has encountered in its development - and the fact that its delays are fueling a heated political debate about the Shuttle and Russia - I am not certain I'd be holding it up as a source of inspiration. Frustration, perhaps, but it has a long way to go before it can start inspiring people.

Ares PDR Telecon Notes

Ares I PDR Board Pre-Board Findings September 10, 2008

Editor's note: Steve Cook stated that dealing with thrust oscillation would be handled by Ares side of the interface and that Orion would not be asked to isolate crew couches from vibration. However, Cook said that this crew couch isolation option would still be held as a "back-up to a back-up" in case it needed to be considered at a later date. When asked what sort of manager's weight reserve was being held against Orion in case seat isolation was required, Jeff Hanley said it was on the order of 2,000 - 3,000 pounds of performance. However, Steve Cook said that Ares was bookeeping a weight impact for crew couch isolation of only several hundred pounds.

When I asked a clarification follow-up about the differing weights, Steve Cook said "If we had to put in seat isolation we'd have to use several hundred pounds of that 2,000 - 3,000 performance reserve that Jeff is holding to put the additional weight into orbit."

Ares PDR Update

Ares I PDR Board Pre-Board Findings September 10, 2008

"Pre Board Recommendation: The Ares I Project has demonstrated readiness to proceed to detailed design*

* Upon completion of delta PDR and assigned actions"

NASA To Brief Media About Completion Of Ares I Rocket Design Review

"NASA will host a teleconference Wednesday, Sept. 10, no earlier than 6 p.m. EDT, to discuss the conclusion of the Ares I rocket preliminary design review. The review, conducted at NASA's Marshall Center Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., examines the current design for the Ares I rocket to ensure the planned technical approach will meet NASA's requirements for the fully integrated vehicle. The Ares I rocket will launch the Orion crew exploration vehicle and its crew of astronauts to the International Space Station and on missions to explore the moon and beyond in coming decades."

Editor's 8 Sep note: Word has it that the preferred option to deal with Thrust Oscillation issues is "Option 2" which would use an isolation plane at FS/US, passive TMAs in the aft skirt, and crew seat isolation from vibrations. However, the crew seat isolation will not be incorporated into the design of Ares at this point. This decision was made so as to allow the Ares PDR to be completed with full knowledge of the potential impacts to Orion and Ares. Once a solution to the crew isolation issue is decided it will be added via a Change Request and its impact upon Ares design will be worked via a Delta-PDR.

Griffin claims there is a 'jihad' against the Space Shuttle, Nature

"In other words: stopping flying the Shuttle before its replacement is ready is a bonehead move. Griffin even goes on to claim that "retiring the Shuttle is a jihad rather than an engineering and program management decision" for the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget. If he was that angry before the email leaked he must be apoplectic now his private thoughts are all over the internet..."

Nelson, Griffin to huddle Thursday, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin is set to pow-wow with one of his biggest congressional allies on Thursday, but U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., likely has little good news to share. Griffin and NASA need Congress to pass two measures this fall to help the agency, but Congress likely does not have the time to aid NASA -- as congressional leaders do not expect to be in session longer than a few weeks so that members can return to the campaign trail."

NASA chief says he backs 2010 shuttle retirement, Houston Chornicle

"In a brief statement on Sunday, Griffin did not refute the newspaper's account, and chief NASA spokesman David Mould authenticated the e-mail. However, Griffin complained the reporting failed to "provide the contextual framework for my remarks," which was an internal agency discussion over the implications of the Russian military's invasion of neighboring Georgia."

Griffin not optimistic about new deal to buy Soyuz rides, Spaceflightnow

"My own guess is at this point we're going to have some period in 2012 where there's no American or international partner crew on station, that there's only the Russians there," he said. "That period always ends three years from when we have a contract with the Russians. So if we can get through all this by June of next year and have a contract with the Russians, then in the latter part of 2012 we can fly a Soyuz flight and restore things to normal."

NASA's Exploration Systems Architecture Study -- Final Report, Nov. 2005, Executive Summary, section 1.1.1

"Dr. Michael Griffin was named the new NASA Administrator in April 2005. With concurrence from Congress, he immediately set out to restructure NASA's Exploration Program by making its priority to accelerate the development of the CEV to reduce or eliminate the planned gap in U.S. human access to space. He established a goal for the CEV to begin operation in 2011 and to be capable of ferrying crew and cargo to and from the ISS."

Shuttle Vs Soyuz OpEds Appear

We think: Congress needs to maintain U.S. access to the international space station, editorial, Orlando Sentinel

"Lawmakers have little choice but to hold their noses and grant the waiver, so the United States can maintain its access to the space station and protect its huge investment. They need to look for other, better ways to underscore their anger with Russia. Lawmakers also need to find the $2 billion, called for in House-passed legislation, that could speed up the development of NASA's next vehicle by a couple of years. That would make the period that the U.S. astronauts are forced to depend on Mr. Putin's taxi service as short as possible."

Orion PDR Slips To Mid-2009

Editor's note: NASA sources report that the Orion PDR (Preliminary Design Review), which was originally planned for September 2008 and then slipped to November, will be delayed much further - perhaps as far as mid-Summer 2009.

Orion PDR Slip, Earlier post
Constellation Update, Earlier post
NASA Internal Memo: Orion DAC2 Architecture Closure Plan Rev E, 2/19/08, Earlier post

Chart from NASA Internal Presentation: CxMPR, Orion Project Office, 2 July 2008



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