Exploration: December 2008 Archives

Military rockets: Solution for NASA?, Orlando Sentinel

"According to documents presented to Obama's transition team three weeks ago -- including internal studies by the rockets' manufacturer, United Launch Alliance -- upgraded human-rated versions of the military EELVs would have enough power to take NASA's fully loaded Orion crew capsule into orbit. In fact, the studies say some configurations of the rockets can lift up to 6 metric tons more than NASA requires..."

... Industry officials say that a few days later, Griffin called Robert Stevens, the CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp., which jointly owns ULA together with Boeing Co., and demanded that Stevens stop what Griffin called the subsidiary's efforts to "kill Ares I" by promoting versions of its own rockets that could carry humans to space.

From The Earth to the Moon

Forty years ago, three men left for the Moon

"[Sunday] marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 8 mission, Americas first human mission to the Moon and by any measure, still a remarkable achievement. Its difficult from our position so many years later to appreciate what a bold, giant leap this mission was, in some ways even greater than the subsequent lunar landing of Apollo 11. Before Apollo 8, no one had ever ventured more than a few hundred kilometers above the Earth. No one had ever seen, with their own eyes, the glowing disk of a full Earth nor the cratered dusty surface of the Moon up close. And no one had ever experienced the isolation of being on the far side of the Moon, cut off from all contact with the Earth and everything the human race has ever known."

ESMD Telecon

NASA to Update Reporters about Constellation Program

"To participate in the call, reporters should dial 800-790-1836 and use the pass code "ESMD update." Replays of the call will be available through Dec. 24 by dialing 866-507-3617 and entering the pass code 52368."

Editor's note: When you call 800-790-1836 (I have tried twice) you get "Video Professors' free CD hotline". Oh well. I don't think there will be very many people on this telecon today.

Editor's update: The actual number is 888-790-1836

Telecon Notes starting at 4:00 - 4:10 pm EST:

AP's Seth Borenstein asked Doug Cooke a question about $2 billion in underfunding for Ares as was presented to industry in a recent briefing. Cooke denied having held any such briefing saying "I do not know what briefings you are referring to." Doug Cooke is not telling the truth. Steve Cook and ESMD representatives met with industry representatives this morning at NASA HQ to discuss Ares, Orion, and Constellation issues. This was sponsored by the Space Business Roundtable. Multiple sources report that this $2 billion underfunding was discussed. NASA PAO was not there.

Doug Cooke: 2008 milestones. Completed System Baseline Review for Orion completed. Administrator participated. Looked at what is needed to proceed to PDR. Launch Abort motor test completed. Jettison motor test as well. In the next week we have the HTA test that will test valves of Launch Abort Motor.

Ares 1 PDR completed with one open review with one item that will be subject to a delta PDR in the Spring. This was the first time in 35 years that we have had a review like this. J2-X reviews under way. Getting ready for RFP for Ares V in the next few days or early next year. Ares V Industry Day on 3 December. 11 July Ares 1-X launch contingent upon shuttle issues.

First lunar program milestone - lunar capabilities concept review completed that set in place point of departure designs for Altair and Ares V. This is the first programatic milestone in returning humans to the moon. LRO will be our first step on the way back to the moon. LRO has been in thermal vacuum testing and due to be done with this soon. LCROSS will launch with LRO - no real issues with that.

Analog surface testing of vehicles and EVA capabilities have gone well. Tested out ISRU to extract Oxygen from soil. COTS - we signed agreement with OSC for Space Act Agreement. Also have one with Space X. Have milestones where we provide payment and invest in their capabilities. Working to cargo capability in 2010. Space Space X had a successful Falcon 1 launch and Falcon 9 engine test. Do not know what changes lie ahead with the new Administration. We do have follow up to Ares 1 PDR that deals with Thrust Oscillation issue. Pad Abort 1 test in the Spring - no date set yet for that - waiting for HTA test next week.

NASA Watch: You are quoted on spacepolitics.com as saying that "I attended the review myself, and despite what was said in the blogosphere and the sensational media, it was very professionally done,". I am wondering how you justify such statements when your own internal PDR review documents as posted on NASA Watch were riddled with complaints about incomplete and inaccurate documentation?

Cooke: There are always items that are to be worked - and there were. The review was where is should be and for the issues that we identified we made sure that there were plans that were logical to mitigate those issues.

NASA Watch: Why are you rushing ahead with the Altair RFI which requires that lots of people work over the holidays when it is all but certain that the incoming Obama team is going to put all ESMD activities on hold pending an internal review? Is this the wisest way to be spending everyone's time?

Cooke: In the world that we live in we have a budget that we work to - we have to work to the direction that we have. We feel it is important to keep moving on things. I actually asked the question if we should wait until after the holidays and contractor community wanted it early.

When asked about moving Orion to an EELV Doug Cooke said "We do not have any data on that specifically."

Burying The Hatchet

Competitors for space suit to work together, AP

"Two companies that competed against each other in a contested bid to design the next-generation space suit for NASA will now work together in a joint enterprise. Dan Coulom, a spokesman for Hamilton Sundstrand, which is a partner of ILC Dover in the project, said Tuesday the venture will bid for the $745 million contract with Oceaneering International Inc."

Dodd Weighs In On Space Suit Competition, earlier post
Hamilton Sundstrand Fights Back, earlier post
Changing Horses, earlier post

NASA Calls for Comment on Draft Altair Request for Proposals

"NASA has released a draft request for proposals, or RFP, to seek industry support for the design of its Altair lunar lander vehicle, part of NASA's Constellation Program. Altair will deliver four astronauts to the moon's surface late in the next decade, fulfilling U.S. space exploration goals. A pre-solicitation conference is scheduled for Dec. 18 at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The conference is designed for information sharing about the Altair conceptual design contract with potential offerors."

Editor's note: Typical NASA ESMD procurement silliness: they post a procurement notice and issue a press release toward the end of the working day (4:30 pm EST) on 16 December and announce a pre-proposal conference for 18 December - but they then tell you that you have to RSVP for that meeting on 16 December. What a nice way to limit participation.

Responses are due no later than 12 January 2009 which means little or no time off for the holidays. It is curious that ESMD is rushing to do all of this over the holidays - for an activity the Transition Team may well put on hold a week or so after the due date as it evaluates where it wants the agency to go with regard to the previous Administration's various initiatives. Lets see if all of this work over the Holidays simply has to be redone.

Of course, this is all part of a plan by Mike Griffin's soon-to-be departing ESMD staff to force the Obama Administration's hand by shoving as much as they can into the procurement process so as to make it all that much harder to alter what they have done after noon on 20 January 2009.

Ares V Update

NASA Calls for Comment on Draft Ares V Request for Proposals

"This document is a draft of the final version of the RFP for Phase I, expected in January 2009."

Ares V to Support Heavy Lift for U.S. Space Exploration, Industry Day Conference 2008, December 3, 2008 (PDF)

- Issued Draft RFP Nov 25, 2008
- Pre-solicitation Conference Dec 3, 2008
- Plan is to Synopsize RFP Dec 19, 2008
- Plan is to Issue RFP Jan 5, 2009
- Proposals Due Feb 9, 2009
- Clarification of Proposals Complete Feb 16, 2009

Fourth Item of Business: Ares V, NASA Strategic Management Council, 27 August 2008

Steve Cook, MSFC Ares Projects Manager, presented the approach to initiating and acquiring Ares V.

- Cook would like to get industry involved as early as possible. He stated that a point of departure design has been identified, along with key technology areas, such as a composite case booster. He noted that lessons learned from the Ares 1 vehicle integration are being applied, as well as from previous contract constructs. He stated that the contracting approach includes maintaining NASA ownership of overall Ares V vehicle system architecture and key discipline areas; there will be government led contractor teams acquired through dedicated contract activity; the contracted work will involve severable entities with clear evaluation criteria so NASA can go elsewhere if needed; 5 work packages are being considered; and the request for proposal is in development with an aim to release it mid-December. He noted that when the NASA civil servants feel ownership of the products, the morale, excitement, and quality goes up dramatically.

Griffin confirmed that he really likes this approach, an acquisition strategy used in the Apollo days. He observed that NASA never gets rid of the ownership and that it is important to feel ownership, because the Agency, in fact, owns the system and its design.

No decision, no action required.



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This page is an archive of entries in the Exploration category from December 2008.

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