NASA, Other

Wait, we thought Griffin was Spock…

Evidently, when it comes to Constellation, Florida Today believes that Obama is, well, Spock-ier.

9 comments to Wait, we thought Griffin was Spock…

  • anonymous.space

    Today’s Sentinel op-ed is better than the cartoon. It ticks through a few of Ares I’s many problems and then makes the following argument for an independent review:

    “But if Ares is seriously flawed, pushing ahead with it would do more damage to the program than switching to a rocket with a better design.

    Claims that other rockets would outperform Ares are worth fully investigating. If the transition team doesn’t have the expertise, it could name an independent panel of experts to do the job. Mr. Griffin shouldn’t have a problem with that. Such a review might vindicate his judgment.

    Despite his extensive and impressive credentials as an engineer and scientist, it’s not clear whether Mr. Griffin will keep his job under a new administration. Regardless, he’s not in a position to say “trust me” to the new administration — not on a decision that involves billions of taxpayer dollars and the space program’s future.”

    Here’s the link to the full op-ed (add http://www):

    .orlandosentinel.com/news/opinion/orl-ed19108dec19,0,5847524.story

    My only criticism of the op-ed is that it didn’t go into many of the other, even more critical, Ares I issues (e.g., specific GAO technical, schedule, and cost concerns; cost analysis from CBO; etc.) and that such an independent review should have been recommended and started a year or so ago.

    Here’s hoping that it’s not too late…

  • BD

    Exactly how many more studies is NASA supposed to do? They did studies through most of the ’80s and ’90s, looking for a Shuttle replacement. Forests have been cleared, replanted, and cleared again. Now there’s Ares, which is the result of all those studies and is actually building hardware, and the critics are carping because their pet projects didn’t get chosen. Let the darn thing (Ares I-X) fly next year. If it doesn’t work, then the critics have got more ammunition. If it does, then folks need to step out of the way and let NASA continue their primary job, which is going into space, not keeping particular constituencies happy.

  • Now there’s Ares, which is the result of all those studies and is actually building hardware, and the critics are carping because their pet projects didn’t get chosen./em>

    Ares is not the result of any of those studies, except one that they put together to justify it after Griffin came in. Not a single transportation study performed in the eighties or nineties proposed anything resembling Ares.

    Let the darn thing (Ares I-X) fly next year. If it doesn’t work, then the critics have got more ammunition.

    Ares 1-X is just a publicity stunt. It has almost no legacy whatsoever toward the actual vehicle. Its success or failure will tell us very little about the prospects for an actual Ares 1.

    …folks need to step out of the way and let NASA continue their primary job, which is going into space, not keeping particular constituencies happy.

    You seem to be confused. NASA’s primary job is providing jobs in particular states and Congressional districts. Going into space is a very low priority on the agenda of the agency, and those who provide it with funding.

  • Oops, broken HTML. The second paragraph above is mine.

  • TM

    If NASA’s primary job is providing jobs in particular states then let them continue with Ares. Obviously if they don’t continue with it many jobs all over the country will be lost and I don’t think Obama wants more people unemployed right now.

  • Some of would actually like to see progress in space, regardless of what the porkmeisters in the Beltway want to do.

  • anonymous.space

    “Exactly how many more studies is NASA supposed to do? They did studies through most of the ’80s and ’90s, looking for a Shuttle replacement.”

    And if one of those studies had been followed, NASA would be developing a Shuttle C-type solution, an ALS/NLS-type solution, or an EELV/capsule solution, not Ares I. No study prior to ESAS recommended (or even gave serious consideration to) using a single Shuttle SRB as a booster for a crewed vehicle. (And for many good reasons…)

    “Now there’s Ares, which is the result of all those studies and is actually building hardware,”

    There is very little actual Ares I (not Ares I-X) hardware to date. The vehicle (barely) passed preliminary design review (PDR) this year and is scheduled for a delta-PDR next year. Only the powerpack for the J2-X upper-stage engine and the first-stage recovery parachute have undergone any significant testing.

    Orion has considerable hardware and testing underway (heat shield, LAS, pad abort, etc.), but its PDR has been slipped to next year. NASA won’t know until then whether it can close on a viable Orion design solution given the requirements that have been levied on the capsule and Ares I’s shrinking lift capacity.

    “and the critics are carping because their pet projects didn’t get chosen.”

    We don’t have to pick favorites to see that Ares I has crippling technical, schedule, and process issues by itself and that it doesn’t compete well against most alternatives.

    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has put out a couple reports warning of Ares I’s multiple technical issues. Just at the top level, the last one in April 2008 warned that:

    “• Both vehicles [Ares I and Orion] have a history of weight issues;
    • Excessive vibration during launch threatens system design;
    • Uncertainty about how flight characteristics will be impacted by a fifth segment added to the Ares I launch vehicle;
    • Ares I upper stage essentially requires development of a new engine;…
    • Existing test facilities are insufficient for testing Ares I’s new engine, for replicating the engine’s vibration and acoustic environment,…”

    It’s worth reading the full report for the gory details. See (add http://www.):

    gao.gov/new.items/d08186t.pdf)

    The prior GAO report, from 2007, warned of similar technical issues

    “Three major elements of the Ares I system—first stage, upper stage, and the upper stage engine—pose significant development challenges. Although the first stage draws heavily from existing Space Shuttle systems, incorporating a fifth segment is likely to affect the flight characteristics of the existing reusable solid rocket booster. These flight characteristics would need to be demonstrated and understood prior to the production effort. Also, the upper stage is including a shared or “common” bulkhead between its two fuel tanks. Experience from the Apollo program indicates that common bulkheads are complex, difficult to manufacture, and should be avoided. Further, the J-2X upper stage engine represents a new engine development effort that is likely to encounter problems during development. NASA estimates that J-2X will require 29 rework cycles to address problems.”

    That report can be found here (add http://):

    democrats.science.house.gov/Media/File/Reports/Ares1_GAOrep_2007nov29.pdf

    Largely because of these technical issues, both GAO and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) have warned that Ares I is unlikely to meet its 2015 operability date and is looking at a probable slip to 2017 with an associated $7 billion pricetage. For example, in a November 2008 report, CBO stated:

    “The five-year gap in U.S. human spaceflight between the retirement of the space shuttle, in September 2010, and the achievement of initial operating capability for Ares 1 and Orion, in March 2015, might increase if NASA could not avoid the risks to the successful completion of those projects that it and others (in particular, the Government Accountability Office, or GAO) have identified in the Constellation Program.1 Those risks include an increase during development in the mass of the Orion vehicle that would exceed the capability of the Ares 1 to lift it into orbit; excessive thrust oscillation in the first stage of the Ares 1 and less-than-required performance during the rocket’s launch; a longer-than-expected development period for the J-2X engine of the Ares 1’s second, or upper, stage; and NASA’s inability to develop and fabricate effective heat shields for the Orion within its current development schedule.

    The potential problems that those risks represent could require additional time and money to resolve… CBO’s 2004 analysis of the growth of costs in previous NASA programs indicates that the costs that the agency currently foresees for the Ares 1 and Orion programs could rise by 50 percent. Accommodating that cost growth would require as much as $7 billion more than NASA has budgeted, CBO estimates. Moreover, if NASA’s total budget grew by no more than 2 percent annually, such cost increases, in CBO’s estimation, would imply a delay of as much as 18 months beyond March 2015 for the vehicles to achieve the IOC milestone.”

    The CBO report is at (add http://www.)

    cbo.gov/ftpdocs/98xx/doc9886/NASA_Letter.3.1.shtml

    Of course, NASA’s own Ares I PDR gave the project very poor grades, earning yellow or yellow/red grades on seven out of ten criteria (barely passing). Worse were the comments, indicating that the project’s basic requirements processes are screwed up causing issues like an “Eight inch height delta between First Stage and Ground Systems” (of all things).

    The PDR grades and comments are available at (add http://):

    images.spaceref.com/news/2008/ares.pdr.2.pdf

    None of the above says anything about Ares I competes against alternatives — these are just the Ares I project’s technical, schedule, and process issues. You don’t have to pick a favorite competing launch vehicle to understand the severity of the problems on Ares I.

    That said, from very early on, the ESAS figures that led NASA to pick Ares I have been called into question. The CBO released a report in 2006 showing that Atlas and Delta solutions were less costly than Ares, contrary to ESAS findings. See page XIV in the CBO report at (add http://www.):

    cbo.gov/ftpdocs/76xx/doc7635/10-09-SpaceLaunch.pdf

    Even setting aside the analysis and numbers, there’s also just issues of good policy and common sense involved here. Even if Ares I was meeting ESAS expectations (which it’s not by a long shot), when the nation has two intermediate-lift launch vehicles in its military/commercial inventory (Atlas and Delta) and a third commercial one on the way (Falcon), it makes little policy sense for NASA to duplicate that military capability or for the government to duplicate that private sector capability with a fourth such vehicle, especially when there’s not enough payloads to support all of these vehicles to begin with. NASA’s money would be much better spent leveraging these existing vehicles for its ISS and exploration architectures, and spending its remaining resources filling the holes in those architectures(crew capsules, heavy lift or in-space propellant management, EDS, landers, etc.).

    But instead, NASA is reinventing the intermediate-lift wheel (very poorly) and deferring investments in actual human space flight/exploration hardware.

    “Let the darn thing (Ares I-X) fly next year. If it doesn’t work, then the critics have got more ammunition.”

    Even if Ares I-X works, we won’t know until the Orion I test flight whether Ares I will work. The Ares I-X test flight uses a four-segment SRB and a dummy upper stage. It will not confirm whether the Ares I’s thrust oscillation, flight control, lift-off drift, and weak interstage structure issues can be resolved. Only the Orion 1 test flight, with a five-segment SRB and an actual J2-X upper-stage, will do that.

    The Orion 1 flight was slipped to 2013 (last I knew). That’s three years after Shuttle’s currently scheduled retirement. In a period when the ISS will be down to one foreign crew transport system and the nation’s civil human space flight program is on hiatus, that’s an awfully long period of time to wait to know whether a new launch vehicle concept will prove out. ISS, NASA, and the nation are better off reducing these risks by building on proven launch systems.

    My 2 cents… FWIW…

  • Wally

    Exactly how many more studies is NASA supposed to do?

    Do remind yourself that ESAS was a 60 day study. The study that determined the architecture for the next decade or three for NASA, that would obligate hundreds of billions of dollars, lasted 480 hours (assuming they worked on weekends). So no, I wouldn’t mind if a few more trees were killed in order to do the in-depth assessment that should have been done, but wasn’t.

    So, exactly what are “all those studies” you’re referring to?

  • Even if Ares 1 is brought to completion and works, we still need a back-up. We don’t want to be in the situation again, where we only have one working manned rated rocket. If there should be a failure, our access to space could be lost for years. By that time, our relations with Russia could be even worst than it currently is and using them would NOT be an option at that time.

    NASA has created the COTS program and with great success, but they need to fund COTS D now. First, as a back-up to Ares 1, but more importanly, if Ares 1 should be cancelled for whatever reason, we at least need to have a back-up.

    It is my understanding, that to fund COTS D for Spacex is only about 300 million. It is costing more than that, just for the delay in our MSL. We don’t need all of our eggs in one basket again.

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