SLS and Orion: March 2016 Archives

NASA OIG Audit of the Spaceport Command and Control System for SLS and Orion

"The SCCS development effort has significantly exceeded initial cost and schedule estimates. Compared to fiscal year 2012 projections, development costs have increased approximately 77 percent to $207.4 million and the release of a fully operational version has slipped by 14 months from July 2016 to September 2017. In addition, several planned capabilities have been deferred because of cost and timing pressures, including the ability to automatically detect the root cause of specific equipment and system failures. Without this information, it will be more difficult for controllers and engineers to quickly diagnose and resolve issues. Although NASA officials believe the SCCS will operate safely without these capabilities, they acknowledge the reduced capability could affect the ability to react to unexpected issues during launch operations and potentially impact the launch schedule for the combined SLS-Orion system."

Keith's note: Typical NASA double talk. They design a system to do a bunch of things. They claim that all of the program's requirements are necessary for safety and reliability and worth the large cost. And oh yes, NASA can do it much better in-house rather than use existing commercial solutions since NASA's requirements are one of a kind. Then the costs dramatically increase and implementation delays move to the right. Then the OIG steps in an points out the problems.

Then NASA says 'Oh, [INSERT ANY PROGRAM NAME] will still work without all the stuff we wanted to do. But some things won't work. But it is still safe to use it. But we need more money to fix the things that we don't really need but want to have because maybe it is not totally safe to use it after all - but we'll still use it without those functions because we have no alternative. And oh, by the way: stop bothering us: we know what we are doing.' But wait - there's more: NASA can save its own bacon by slipping SLS/Orion flights further to the right such that the SCCS now has more time to get things right since there's no actual missions for it worry about.

The more things change ...

NASA chief: Apollo engineers who criticize SLS don't grok modern rocketry, Ars Technica

"Although the SLS rocket does indeed use modern manufacturing processes and sophisticated computer simulations, it is in many ways based on technology from the 1970s. For its initial boost, the SLS will use solid-rocket boosters based on those that performed the same function for the shuttle. The rocket will be powered by four space shuttle main engines, which NASA began developing as far back as 1969. Bolden then reiterated that Kraft knew more than him about rockets, but he again qualified this praise: "I have the advantage of a team around me that he didn't have," he said. "You have to remember. Most of us forget. I have a very mature leadership team. When Dr. Kraft was in mission control, and when he led the Johnson Space Center, we went to the Moon. Most of the people were 20 years old. They didn't know anything."

Keith's note: These RS-25 engines will end up on the bottom of the Atlantic ocean. They will not go into "deep space" - or anywhere in space. At least Shuttle missions took them for a ride into low Earth orbit. Deep space? No. Deep Atlantic? Yes. More goofy exaggerated NASA hype on the #JourneyToMars

Statement by Sen. Shelby on NASA FY 2017 Budget Request

"Surprisingly, NASA has not proposed a single dollar for the development of an upper stage engine that is absolutely necessary for a crewed mission that is only seven years away."

Keith's note: Of course Shelby forgets that $1.2 billion NASA spent on the J-2X for use on Ares V and SLS upper stages - much of it was spent in Alabama. That engine was subsequently mothballed because NASA had no idea what it was doing. But Shelby paid their bills anyway.

Overview: J-2X Engine, NASA

"J-2X is a highly efficient and versatile advanced rocket engine with the ideal thrust and performance characteristics to power the upper stage of NASA's Space Launch System, a new heavy-lift launch vehicle capable of missions beyond low-Earth orbit. Fueled by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, the J-2X builds on heritage designs but relies on nearly a half-century of NASA spaceflight experience and technological and manufacturing advances to deliver up to 294,000 pounds of thrust, powering exploration to new destinations in our solar system."

NASA Has No Clear Use for the J-2X That It Once Needed, earlier post

Keith's note: Last week a group of space-related organizations rented the National Press Club so they could announce a white paper on space policy. Why bother? Space is not going to be an issue in the 2016 campaign.

At the press event Elliot Pulham from The Space Foundation said "We thought it would be a good time to have a platform of information out there that all candidates could refer to, learn from and take to heart as they plan their campaigns" but moments later he also said "To some extent, the purpose of this is not to have space become a big presidential issue". Pulham added "Let's not undo anything." Sandy Magnus from the AIAA said that this coalition wanted to take the issue of space policy "off the table" but at the same time she said that this group wants to "stress the importance" of space.

Such is the problem with these sort of documents from the space community. On one hand the space groups want to have a say in the political decisions that affect their members (and donors). But on the other hand they'd rather not have the politicians pay too much attention to space such that the current status quo is not upset. In other words "write us the checks but don't rock the boat" - or more bluntly "look but don't touch". This is, at best, naive thinking on the part of the space community.

If you read the white paper it becomes immediately apparent that this coalition wants everything that they are doing to be supported and in some cases, they want even more money. They also want a stable funding environment (makes sense). The two main programs being supported by this coalition are SLS/Orion and Commercial Crew and Cargo with gratuitous mention of other projects that are important to the members of this coalition. Indeed that is all that this white paper is actually about: supporting specific big aerospace contracts. There is no similarly identified support for specific space, planetary, and earth science. Small wonder that the Planetary Society, American Astronomical Society, the American Geophysical Union, et al are not among the members of this coalition.

While a lot of prominent names are affixed to this white paper it is clearly being driven by the so-called "four amigos": Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Orbital ATK - the builders of SLS/Orion. Look at the organizations listed and ponder who the prime donors/members are. Its not that hard to fill in the blanks amidst the smoke and mirrors. No surprise folks - this is how these things always work.



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This page is an archive of entries in the SLS and Orion category from March 2016.

SLS and Orion: February 2016 is the previous archive.

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