NASA

Cooke on change and the blogosphere

Friday’s speaker at the Space Transportation Association luncheon on Capitol Hill was Doug Cooke, making one of his first public speeches in his new role as associate administrator for exploration systems at NASA. Cooke’s speech was largely devoted to the highlights of the last year and the plans for the coming year for the various aspects of the exploration program, primarily the Ares 1 launch vehicle and Orion spacecraft, but also LRO, Ares 5, and Altair as well. It was information probably similar to what Cooke and other NASA exploration managers plan to discuss at a press conference next week.

Cooke did acknowledge, briefly, potential changes in the exploration program given the coming change in administrations. He noted that the future direction of NASA’s exploration program will depend on the new administration and Congress. “We do not know yet what that direction is,” he said, “but we will, of course, adapt to the changes in direction, if there are any, when we receive them.”

Cooke also mentioned criticism of the Ares 1 development in particular, mentioning the recent preliminary design review. “I attended the review myself, and despite what was said in the blogosphere and the sensational media, it was very professionally done,” he said. The number of “yellow and orange” evaluations that came out of the PDR, he said, was because the review was focused on those issues. “So we asked a lot of hard questions, and I have to say that the team was especially well-prepared.”

During the Q&A session that followed, I asked Cooke why he felt Constellation, and in particular Ares 1, was getting so much negative attention on the Internet given his and his team’s confidence in the design. “I’m not an expert on the blogosphere,” he responded, “but there are other architectures people would like to fly and there are folks who also talk about different destinations.” These critics therefore seek out audiences, including online, for their alternatives, he said. “The blogosphere feeds on itself, so it’s unfortunate.”

21 comments to Cooke on change and the blogosphere

  • sc220

    Cooke did acknowledge, briefly, potential changes in the exploration program given the coming change in administrations. He noted that the future direction of NASA’s exploration program will depend on the new administration and Congress. “We do not know yet what that direction is,” he said, “but we will, of course, adapt to the changes in direction, if there are any, when we receive them.”

    I suggest looking for houses back in Houston. As with SEI in the mid-1990s, “Exploration” will become a set of low level study efforts going on in the background. Good news is that the housing prices are real low now.

  • SpaceMan

    He sounds like an adult. Excellent.

  • anonymous.space

    “‘I attended the review myself, and despite what was said in the blogosphere and the sensational media, it was very professionally done,’ he said.”

    Cooke’s memory of the Ares I PDR is at complete odds with the written record. See (add http://www.):

    spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=1310

    Many reviewer comments highlighted the PDR’s lack of technical substance and preference for requirements processing over actual design analysis. It was arguably a System Requirements Review (SRR, which should have been completed much earlier in the program), not a Preliminary Design Review (PDR). Among the comments making these points:

    “The PDR team did not execute the plan that they somewhat trained the participants in. Their failure to adequately inform the participants of the changes in the plan damaged the adequacy and credibility of the review.”

    “We intended to judge the preliminary design against the requirements. We ended up doing a reqts review for the most part.”

    “The focus on most of the above comments seems to be on process rather than purpose. This also seemed to be the mindset of the PDR planning goup: Rid Training, RID processing, Kick off logistics, design presentations, team processes, etc. etc. The real purpose, evaluating the preliminary design against requirements, seems to have been lost in the minutiae of RID processing without a comprehensive evaluation of design against requirements.”

    “What should have been doing is correcting design and concept defects; instead we worked very hard to kill RIDs. I guess it’s not a defect if the RID is rejected for missing or incomplete ‘from/to’ language.”

    “Because of the short review time for RID review and dispostion, RIDs were rejected based on technicalities and the underlying issue described in the RID was not addressed.”

    “We intended to confirm that the design process had matured sufficiently in addressing the requirements commensurate with the Preliminary Design Review criteria. We only confirmed where we are in the design process and captured the shortcomings through stoplight metrics and actions.”

    “The PDR was essentially a bean counting activity driven by RIDs, the RID tool, and RID tool problems. Instead of being the focus of the review, RIDs should only be used as input problem flags to an SE&I/Operations Research activity that determines root causes and identifies and documents the larger real issues. Focus on finding the problems rather than closing RIDS.”

    “The conduct of this review begs a question: was it designed to review technical content or just pass a program milestone?”

    Many other reviewer comments pointed out the immature state of the documentation supporting the PDR, the inadequate amount of time allocated for completing the review, and the resulting disregard of key subsystems and criticisms. Among the comments making these points:

    “Much of the documentation presented for PDR was not mature enough for PDR. This limited an effective of these documents and left the impression that the PDR was rushed.”

    “Insufficient time was allotted to review the documents.”

    “Restrictive invitations to PDR presentation and RID participation greatly reduced the capability of potential participants to provide a review of the vehicle design.”

    “Not allowing RIDs to be written against the SRD and declaring it a finished document prior to the PDR was just arrogant and wrong. This was further evidenced and confused by the introduction of two version of the SRD, showing that it was in fact being changed behind the scenes.”

    “This one goes to both this team and those above them. It is impossible to have adequate review of parts or the integrated vehicle if the schedules for other Elements does not allow for participation.”

    “Allow adequate time for issues raised in Element or sub-system reviews to be addressed and brought forward. If we are actually building an integrated vehicle, then we need to pay attention to all the parts. We were directly told in training that the results of the US and Avionics reviews didn’t matter to this review.”

    “Not enough actual design documentation was available for review, many of the products were in poor shape for a pdr. Not enough actual design documentation was available for review, many of the products were in poor shape for a pdr.”

    “Not enough time was provided for a complete review of the technical design.”

    “Plan for days or hours of fully training participants or participant leaders in the review processes and tools. One 30 minutes session and a pointer to the locations was essentially a hand-wave at what was really needed.”

    “Organizing the review teams by WBS prevented any team from obtaining a system level overview of what was going on. The result was a completely stovepiped review.”

    “Plan and execute and open PDR of the design, not just the delivered documentation. Make every facet of the design RIDable and accept that you have invited the discipline experts to CRITICALLY review your design.”

    Other reviewer comments pointed out that those in charge of running the PDR lacked the necessary experience, potentially due to nepotistic relationships and, worse, were changing the rules of the review in midstream and acting abusively to those participants that tried to stand up to this nonprofessional nonsense. Among the comments making these points:

    “PEOPLE RUNNING THE PDR HAD NEVER CONDUCTED A REVIEW OF THIS TYPE (OR ANY OTHER ACTUALY). NO EXPERIENCE WAS EVIDNET. PDR LEFT TO RUN IT’S SELF AS BEST TEAM MEMBERS COULD SET UP.”

    “Product readiness needs to be addressed/assessed. In general, this program changes direction so much that we spend all of our time reacting instead of working on a quality product. this review was no different. Groundrules were changed during the review-i.e., how we were to handle editorials. in that case, book managers would contact a reviewer and tell them how they were going to handle their editorial comment and by mid week that was no longer true. changing the review plan during the review is just inexcusable and shows poor planning-and my example was one of the least destructive changes.”

    “I don’t care who at NASA the RID coordinator is/was sleeping with personal abuse of team members is wrong!”

    “My overriding concern with the PDR is the lack of ethics displayed by the contractor RID coordinator and two NASA managers. The contractor RID coordinator was given tasks by NASA and did not do them, when timing was critical she passed the work onto others, then had the finished work sent back to her. She then uploaded the products as her own taking full credit work she did not do. This was known by the NASA PDR lead. Nothing was done due to the sexual relationship between the RID coordinator and a Sr. NASA manager. The lack of ethics and standards, the dishonesty and overt favoritism is damaging this project and will if left unchecked endanger the Ares 1 program (as it will spread) and one day Astronauts. We need to get back to building rockets, not hiring girlfriends.”

    It’s very hard to reconcile, in Cooke’s words, a “very professionally done” PDR when the reviewers themselves are repeatedly and consistently raising these kinds of issues.

    Moving on, this statement by Cooke at the STA luncheon:

    “The number of ‘yellow and orange’ evaluations that came out of the PDR, he said, was because the review was focused on those issues.”

    Is also at odds with the documentation. The PDR criteria were broad and all-encompassing — they were not focused on problem areas. A couple examples include:

    “The preliminary design meets the requirements at an acceptable level of risk”

    “Definition of the technical interfaces is consistent with the overall level of technical maturity and provides an acceptable level of risk”

    These are questions about general systems engineering process, not hard technical questions aimed at specific, troubled subystems.

    Finally, Cooke’s comment here from the STA luncheon:

    “So we asked a lot of hard questions, and I have to say that the team was especially well-prepared.”

    Just makes no sense. If the team had been well-prepared, then they wouldn’t have earned so many yellow and yellow/red grades in the review. Out of ten grades, Ares I earned four yellow grades and three yellow/red grades. As NASA’s next human space flight system, Ares I should be a model of technical excellence. Instead, the program hasn’t done its homework (or is finding its homework too difficult, given the constraints on the design) and is earning average or below average grades in seven out of ten areas — about as close to failing as a program could get.

    The specific technical concerns pointed out by the reviewers in the yellow/red grades include ridiculously stupid issues, like document interfaces and physical clearances, that should have been resolved long before PDR. Examples are:

    “- No formal process for control of models and analysis.
    – Areas of known failure still need to be worked, including liftoff clearances.
    – Process for producing and resolving issues between Level 2 and Level 3 interface requirement documents and interface control documents is unclear, including the roles and responsibilities of managers and integrators and the approval process for identifying the baseline and making changes to it.
    – Numerous known disconnects and “TBDs” in the interface requirement documents, including an eight inch difference between the first stage and ground system and assumption of extended nozzle performance not incorporated in actual first and ground system designs.”

    For several decades, Cooke has been a stalwart human space exploration architecture designer and line engineer on the STS and ISS program. But, and forgive my French, if this is the kind of crap that’s going to pass for technical excellence with the new ESMD AA in an Ares I PDR (or any other NASA technical review), then NASA needs yet another a new ESMD AA, and Cooke should go back to architecture studies. The program simply can’t afford for things to keep going the way they are.

    FWIW…

  • Pamper Depends

    He sounds like an adult

    The ‘adults’ will be taking over on January 21st and giving thise ‘children’ their pink slips and demotions. America can no longer affort to have bureaucratic ‘children’ like Doug Cooke given free reign over our critical technological national infrastructure programs. The result is Ares I, billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule without a chance of working.

    And you call that ‘adult’.

  • [...] amusing. Of course, I don’t really care much what Doug Cooke says. But anonymous.space has a response to it in comments at Space Politics: “‘I attended the review myself, and despite what was said in the [...]

  • anon

    Douge Cooke is a puppet. Always has been, always will be. He’s got his SES, will never rock the boat, and lacks the technical integrity required to manage a program of this stature. No doubt his reign at ESMD will be short and forgetful.

  • red

    Cooke: “but there are other architectures people would like to fly and there are folks who also talk about different destinations.”

    These are undoubtably two reasons for controversy, exemplified by the Direct approach and the Planetary Society roadmap. Cooke picked two reasons that would apply pretty much to any chosen destination and architecture, which makes it sound like such controversy is unavoidable. However, there are a number of avoidable drawbacks to the Ares-based plan. I’ll just pick one: the Ares plan violates many of the intentions of the Vision for Space Exploration. This may or may not matter much to the incoming Administration and Congress, but it’s worth mentioning.

    From the “Vision for Space Exploration” document:

    “The fundamental goal of this vision is to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program.”

    “Implement a sustained and affordable … program to explore…”

    “Develop the innovative technologies, knowledge, and infrastructures…”

    “Promote international and commercial participation in exploration to further U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests”

    “Acquire crew transportation to and from the International Space Station…”

    “Pursue opportunities for international participation to support U.S. space exploration goals”

    “Pursue commercial opportunities for providing transportation and other services supporting the International Space Station and exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit”

    I’d argue that the approach that is being taken with the Ares transportation system in particular doesn’t advance U.S. science, economic, or security interests, is not sustainable or affordable, does little to advance technologies, knowledge, and infrastructure, does little to promote international and commercial participation, and “builds in-house” rather than “acquiring” crew transportation to the ISS. In fact, the Ares approach not only doesn’t advance these areas, but it actually harms a lot of them, for example, by competing with them or absorbing funding from them. Each of these points is a discussion in itself, so I’ll leave it at that, at least for now.

  • I’d argue that the approach that is being taken with the Ares transportation system in particular doesn’t advance U.S. science, economic, or security interests, is not sustainable or affordable, does little to advance technologies, knowledge, and infrastructure, does little to promote international and commercial participation, and “builds in-house” rather than “acquiring” crew transportation to the ISS. In fact, the Ares approach not only doesn’t advance these areas, but it actually harms a lot of them, for example, by competing with them or absorbing funding from them.

    But other than that, it’s great.

  • Lev

    If Obama was serious about meaningful change he would shitcan the manned space program altogether. I can’t think of a larger and more obvious complete waste of money than sending people into orbit to study how ants and spiders react to a zero-gravity environment and to test if astronauts can drink water made from their own piss.

    We have people working their asses off at Wal-Mart and living in their cars. Half a million people lost their jobs in November. You can’t go to a city or even many modest-sized towns without seeing countless people living under bridges and on heating grates. Sending people into space so they can see if their own farts smell different in zero gravity is a luxury for a country that has all of its earthly problems solved. Last I checked the U.S. was pretty far away from that status. Time to grow up America. Is it neat and cool that the U.S. is ABLE to send people into space? Yes. Is it in any way useful or helpful to things here on earth to be constantly throwing away money so the U.S. can say to the rest of the world “Look at me!! Look at me!! See how rich we are that we can do this?”? No. It is the LAST thing that any responsible government should be doing. Think of all the blankets and food and coats and shoes and homes that could be bought with one space shuttle launch.

  • Lev

    But luckily for you guys, he is not a “change agent” but instead a neo-con in very thin disguise. So don’t worry, he’ll keep throwing money down the toilet in corporate welfare for the aerospace industry. Rest assured that even if America descends to Third World status the money will still keep rolling in for NASA to find new and imaginative ways to keep wasting it. Maybe set up a wind farm on the moon even though there’s no wind? Or maybe a scheme to mine minerals from the moon and fly them back to earth in a giant cargo shuttle? The sky’s the limit, right?

  • Well, the quality of the idiot trolls has certainly gone downhill lately.

  • SpaceMan

    I can’t think of a larger and more obvious complete waste of money than sending people into orbit to study

    Maybe you should try and know something about an issue before you shoot your mouth off & display such pride in your cultivated ignorance.

    What do you suppose this research is worth ?

    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-12/asu-tmi121208.php

    Smarter trolls please !

  • Should we take up a collection maybe? I might have some GM stock available…

  • Doug Lassiter

    Without wanting to sound like I’m defending this guy, he does speak for many people in this country, and snide shots at his at least semi-articulate rant/argument aren’t really that constructive. Oh, yeah, zero-g salmonella research is, in fact, worthless if you decide not to put humans in space.

    Now, a post about Doug Cooke is not really the right place to start a discourse on this, but what it comes down to is

    Is it neat and cool that the U.S. is ABLE to send people into space?

    Most of us would say that it’s not only neat and cool, but has cultural value. Many of us were children of Apollo, and the phrase “If we can put a man on the Moon, then we should be able to …” is a stock phrase that has powerful meaning for us. So the “can do” spirit that came out of that accomplishment lives on with us today.

    The MIT Space, Policy, and Society group just released a briefing paper to the Obama administration (web.mit.edu/mitsps — Jeff, you might want to start a thread on this one), coming up with the line that human space exploration is about the “expansion of human experience”. So is such expansion an important thing? Maybe yes. I think so. That pertains to the “can do” reward. And maybe that expansion drives technology achievement in ways that other national goals don’t. But if so, those are the arguments that have to be more clearly made to an increasingly skeptical public. No, it’s not about bringing the solar system into our economic sphere (and doing it before the Chinese!) While that might well be important, and I guess would justify space exploration in general, it’s not a goal that clearly requires putting humans in space.

    This is an old argument, about whether sending people into space should be a luxury only for a country that has all of its earthly problems solved. but this isn’t a bad time to refresh it, now that “change” is afoot.

  • Monte Davis

    the phrase “If we can put a man on the Moon, then we should be able to …” … has powerful meaning for us.

    In and of itself, it implies no completion beyond “then we should be able to perform other expensive, deadline-constrained engineering feats which leave warm & fuzzy feelings, but no substantive consequences.”

    As many others have pointed out, using it to argue “we should be able to [end poverty] [cure cancer] [come up with abundant cheap green energy] [your Good Thing here]” ignores crucial differences. Getting astronauts to the moon did not involve the challenges of competing interests and values, lack of necessary knowledge, etc. that those do.

    FWIW, I share your judgment of the value of the “expansion of human experience.” Apollo made [some of] us feel for a while that humanity can do anything it set its mind to — a feeling that [some of] us also get at times from Michael Phelps, or the Divine Comedy, or a Union charge up Missionary Ridge, or a Congolese mother who keeps all her children alive. But in chilly truth, that tells us more about our feelings than about our capabilities.

  • As many others have pointed out, using it to argue “we should be able to [end poverty] [cure cancer] [come up with abundant cheap green energy] [your Good Thing here]” ignores crucial differences.

    You mean like this?

  • Vladislaw

    “If Obama was serious about meaningful change he would shitcan the manned space program altogether. I can’t think of a larger and more obvious complete waste of money than sending people into orbit to study how ants and spiders react to a zero-gravity environment and to test if astronauts can drink water made from their own piss. ”

    During the campaign, McCain tried to make 18 billion dollars a year in earmarks an issue. Unfortunatly with a 3.4 TRILLION dollar yearly budget McCain gained no traction arguing about 18 billion because as Obama said, it was so small it was almost meaningless in total budget terms.

    The story died because America has come to realize when you are talking trillions in our 14 trillion dollar economy 18 billion is nothing.

    manned space flight gets table scraps equalling what? 10 billion?

    So your point is if ONLY President Elect Obama chopped 10 billion America would suddenly transform? It is ONLY that 10 billion that is keeping the Nation down?

    Let us just agree to disagree.

  • SpaceMan

    Oh, yeah, zero-g salmonella research is, in fact, worthless if you decide not to put humans in space.

    Thanks for displaying your inability to understand basic scientific research data.

    *sheesh* just where DO these people come from ?

  • Doug Lassiter

    “Worthless” was not a justifiable adjective, and I regret using it. Basic research is always valuable, and this is a novel line. But I’m puzzled why you bring this particular niche topic up as an example of the purpose of human space flight. Aside from the obvious value to humans who are involved in long duration space flight, what exactly does human space flight bring to such research? Microgravity research on the human organism is not only clearly fundamental to any long range planning for space travel, but you pretty much need humans in space to do it, which is what this discussion was about.

    Sure, if you have an ISS/Spacehab, you might as well use it to do this work, and you might as well have the people on board doing it. But that hardly justifies either ISS or human space flight.

    Showing your own ability to understand basic scientific research data would be appreciated here.

  • SpaceMan

    Showing your own ability to understand basic scientific research data would be appreciated here.

    The probable impact of the results of these findings (“spin off”) on research down here at the bottom of the gravity well is why I think this is important. These findings point out several different avenues for scientists to investigate further (for instance NOTE the quote “…”No one had thought to look at…”.) Mechanical stress on organisms is one and then there is the affect of biofilms on organism behavior dynamics as examples.

    Why does somone have to point these things out ? It should be obvious that the results of micrograv research feed back to one grav experiments. It is how science is done.

  • Doug Lassiter

    No, it isn’t that obvious. Any more than it is that 2g research (which is easily done, but sure isn’t done very much — life in a centrifuge, I guess?), feeds back into 1g experiments. That’s how science is done. Sure, it’s good science and, as such, I’ll be happy to accept that it identifies other avenues for research.

    But let’s be clear here. That wasn’t the subject of my post. It was whether human space flight brings value to such research. One “change” I’d sure like to see is the human space flight community having a compelling answer to that kind of question. Is it about how humans can do this research, or how to most economically do the same research (thereby providing opportunities for other research). I guess one reasonable answer is that as long as these folks are going to be up there contributing to our understanding of microgravity and its effects on the human organism, they might as well be playing with salmonella. But that answer is a curious one to use as an example of the purpose of human space flight.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>