Congress, NASA, White House

Congressmen seek to fix “safety glitch” with commercial crew program

When Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) director John Holdren testified before the House Science Committee four days after the release of the administration’s FY2013 budget, the first question he was asked by committee chairman Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) was about NASA’s ability, or lack thereof, to require Commercial Crew Program companies to meet NASA safety requirements. The Space Act Agreements used under the first two rounds of the program, as well as for the new third round announced last month, prevent NASA from strictly requiring companies to meet those standards. However, NASA argues, it’s in the best interest of companies to meet those standards in order to be eligible for later contract awards where compliance with them will be required. (Holdren, clearly unfamiliar with that level of detail about the program, simply said that “if there is a problem in the agreements that would jeopardize that, I am sure we will fix it.”)

Several members of Congress are now asking Holden and the Obama Administration to do just that. Seven members of the House—Pete Olson (R-TX), Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Steven LaTourette (R-OH), Mo Brooks (R-AL), and Ted Poe (R-TX)—signed a letter submitted to Holdren on Wednesday on this topic. “We have serious concerns about the Administration’s course of action with the commercial crew program,” they write, after summarizing the exchange in the February 17 hearing. “It is inexcusable for the Administration to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds on these nascent systems without the ability to define and impose the necessary requirements to ensure the health and safety of astronaut crews.” They ask Holdren to take “immediate action” if crew safety is, in fact, being jeopardized.

The letter also separately asks Holdren to expedite any request for the extension of NASA’s current waiver from the Iran North Korea Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA) so that it can continue to purchase Soyuz seats and obtain other services from Russia to support the ISS. NASA officials indicated last month that such a request would be forthcoming in the near future, but the congressmen asked for the proposed extension as soon as possible “in order to ensure that Congress has the time to take the necessary action on this important request this year.”

157 comments to Congressmen seek to fix “safety glitch” with commercial crew program

  • MrEarl

    More hoops and red tape for Commercial Crew. And they can’t wait to extend NASA’s dependance on the Russians. Oie Vey.

  • Holdren’s ignorance not withstanding, this is just political gamesmanship by these GOPers. If there was a Republican Administration in power, the question of “safety” would be moot to these partisans.

    And we would still have to buy rides from the Russians.

  • Paul Fjeld

    It’s blatant kneecapping.

  • It’s classic public choice theory. Entrenched competitors (SLS contractors) leverage all-to-willing policymakers to try and setup barriers to entry for their competition. I think their hope is that if they make commercial crew expensive enough and late enough, they might be able to prevent them from being able to close a business case.

    ~Jon

  • Jason

    The headline should be: “Congress supports Syrian murder.” With what the Syrians are doing to their own people, with the help of Russian weapons, there shouldn’t even be a discussion of waiving INKSNA. If this isn’t a prime example of what INKSNA was trying to prevent, I don’t know what is.

    And as much as I supports spaceflight, I adhere to my morals first. Murder is not okay, selling weapons to murderers is not ok, ignoring murder is not ok.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Olson is a piece of work…he rails over and over about to much government regulation on his Facebook page and in his goofy speeches…then he comes up and wants more government regulation FROM AN AGENCY that has no clue how to regulate…and which killed 14 astronauts and lost two orbiters due to incompetence.

    The GOP is a bunch of losers RGO

  • Right Field

    If they don’t like what the commercial crew people are doing, let them build their own damn rocket. We’ve seen and we’ll see again how that works out.

  • Doug Lassiter

    But you have to understand, this is ALL that Congress can do with regard to human space flight. They don’t want to pay for it, but they see themselves as noble defenders of it. So they make themselves heroes by shaking their finger at HSF providers and telling them they MUST be careful with astronauts. It’s just a pathetic no-cost attempt to come across as looking responsible and relevant when there aren’t any other ways they’ve bought into to look responsible and relevant.

  • This is what I call shooting yourself in the foot. One reason the tea party movement started is because Republicans during the Bush years had sometimes become as unreliable as Democrats when it came to some basic political issues. If we want private enterprise and the free market to rule, then the last thing a bunch of Republicans should be doing is demanding greater supervision by government agencies.

  • MrEarl

    RGO:
    Your insistence of waiving the “bloody shirt” of two orbiters and 14 crew lost is really getting old and insulting. If anything, those two tragedies have made NASA hyper sensitive to safety.
    How many were lost to “incompetence” by the FAA’s failure to enact regulations? How many people were killed by Boeing, Airbus and other airplane manufacturers who ignored warnings of impending failures? None of these failings should be excused, but to single out NASA like you do is insulting to all those at NASA who try to make spacecraft safer every day. I, and I think most knowledgeable people, would feel safe going into orbit on a spacecraft the meets NASA safety specifications.
    The main point of this thread is congress slapping more unnecessary regulation on the Commercial Crew process thus making it more expensive and delaying it further making us more dependent on what I consider to be an unreliable partner.

  • End the ISS program and Congress won’t have to worry about Commercial Crew Companies meeting NASA standards. Using the ISS as a $3 billion a year workfare program for the Commercial Crew companies was a bad idea in the first place.

    Ending the ISS program would give NASA a lot more money to contribute to Commercial Crew Development so that private companies can build their manned vehicles– their way! It also gives NASA a lot more funds so that the government can build their vehicles– their way!

    However, if you’re a company that wants to be part of a government workfare program then you have to obey the government’s workfare rules:-)

    Marcel F. Williams

  • amightywind

    I concur Jason. I find the notion of collaborating with Vladimir Putin to be abhorrent at this point. We should be ashamed of mugging for the camera with the Russians on ISS while they and the Chinese support mass murder in Syria. INKSNA should be denied, ISS abandoned.

    In brighter news, SLS components are coming together.

  • Marcel, your first paragraph sounds like something Windy would say…except he might then proceed to argue afterwards that without ISS, who needs Commercial Crew at all?

    (And the usual suspects would welcome that, as they’d be quite uncomfortable with the continuing competition.)

    Two birds, one stone…

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ March 1st, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    In brighter news, SLS components are coming together.

    You think spending ~$50M to fire a SRB horizontally – YET AGAIN – somehow adds value? You are nuts.

    At least with liquid-fueled engines it only costs a couple of thousand (if that) for the the fuel to run a test, and you can run multiple tests over a period of days, not years. ATK’s SRB’s are waste of taxpayer money.

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ March 1st, 2012 at 11:39 am

    “How many were lost to “incompetence” by the FAA’s failure to enact regulations? How many people were killed by Boeing, Airbus and other airplane manufacturers who ignored warnings of impending failures?”

    There is no example (you are happy to try and find one) of the FAA or the airframe manufacturers in modern times (ie say 1980 and beyond) of the scale of incompetence of NASA HSF in terms of the loss of the two orbiters and the many near misses that occurred.

    None.

    the two orbiters were lost not by some mechanical failure that crept up on them or by some law of physics or aerodynamics that was not understood properly…but by people ignoring known problems and indeed flying in times when those problems got worse.

    WORSE those people are still there making policy.

    NASA HSF is hypersensitive to nothing. They do not understand safety, they have no clue of how to operate a turd wagon much less a complicated integrated piece of equipment…and one day when something on the station goes bang we will find that out.

    Watch RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ March 1st, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Ending the ISS program would give NASA a lot more money to contribute to Commercial Crew Development so that private companies can build their manned vehicles– their way! It also gives NASA a lot more funds so that the government can build their vehicles– their way!

    I find it amazing how confused you can sound sometimes. Do you even read what you write before you hit the “Submit” button? Maybe you don’t understand what issues are being discussed?

    For instance, why would “private companies” need more NASA money to build manned vehicles “their way”? The topic is Congress is concerned NASA doesn’t have enough oversight, not that private companies don’t have enough money (Rep. Hall doesn’t care about that).

    Same with your “gives NASA a lot more funds so that the government can build their vehicles– their way!” comment. Congress is already providing what they feel is enough funding for the SLS & MPCV, and they are being built per what Congress wants. So you’re babbling about something that isn’t an issue. Again.

    Not to mention your “Using the ISS as a $3 billion a year workfare program for the Commercial Crew” comment. Since Congress is enthusiastic about keeping the ISS, and you see that as workfare for Commercial Crew, then the same must be true to an even greater degree for the Congressionally supported SLS/MPCV, which would be workfare programs for Lockheed Martin, ATK and Boeing.

  • well

    Republicans demanding more government oversight and red tape?

    Maybe they could take some of their heartfelt concern and direct it toward the $77 billion f-22 program where the pilot’s can’t, you know, breathe.

  • Googaw

    This is what you sign up for when you sign up for the astronaut cult. If you don’t like it, launch stuff that is actually useful — satellites.

  • A M Swallow

    Safety regulations are the responsibility of the FAA not NASA.

    If those regulations involve a minimum number of flights before astronauts can fly on a launch vehicle then the in service date of the SLS will also be delayed, possible by decades.

  • If anything, those two tragedies have made NASA hyper sensitive to safety.

    No, they haven’t. They’ve made it hypersensitive to the appearance of being hypersensitive about safety.

    Safety regulations are the responsibility of the FAA not NASA.

    Not for astronauts.

  • Martijn Meijering

    This is what you sign up for when you sign up for the astronaut cult.

    And there’s nothing wrong with pointing out how wrong that is. You could theoretically run a non-corrupt space program, even though it doesn’t happen in practice. More people should point out the corruption, just as they do with healthcare, defence spending, agriculture etc.

  • MrEarl

    @RGO:
    Here’s a glaring fault of both the FAA and industry ignoring and brushing a known serious problem under the proverbial rug.
    http://www.vision.net.au/~apaterson/aviation/kapton_mangold.htm
    Kapton wiring, a known deadly problem for years.
    I’m not getting into a “Who struck John” argument here, I just want to point out that NASA is not the only entity, government or industry that makes grievous mistakes. I think they have learned from their mistakes and those lessons are a large part of their safety culture.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    This has little to do with flight safety. NASA is several years from flying astronauts on any new U.S. vehicle, commercial or otherwise.

    Instead, this is about politics. House Republicans are attempting to deflect an issue that they created. The whole reason NASA is continuing to use SAAs for the upcoming phase of commercial crew development is because the program’s FY11 funding was cut in half by Congress (led by Hall), and SAAs are more efficient than FAR contracts. If these House Republicans want FAR contracts, per NASA’s original plan, then they should have funded the program at the level requested by NASA.

    Similarly, the INKSA language is an attempt to accelerate an unavoidable but always distateful Administration decision so that it can be used to clobber the President before the elections.

    The House Republicans should be ashamed of playing politics with issues surrounding astronauts’ lives and important foreign policy matters. (That said, I have no doubt that Democrats would do the same if the President was a Republican.)

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Your insistence of waiving the ‘bloody shirt’ of two orbiters and 14 crew lost is really getting old and insulting.”

    Robert may be old and insulting (just kidding), but his point is highly relevant.

    Challenger was lost because NASA managers who thought they knew better allowed SRBs to fly in a thermal environment that the Thiokol engineers told them posed a serious danger. That orbiter and those astronauts were lost precisely because NASA imposed its own judgements ahead of a commercial firm’s recommendations. This begs the question of whether NASA managers should be put in such a position over commercial crew vehicles if the commercial operators know their vehicles best.

    Columbia was lost because NASA managers repeatedly waived their own flight safety rules regarding impacts that, had the rules been followed, would have been investigated and understood long before Columbia’s last flight. That orbiter and those astronauts were lost because NASA doesn’t follow its own safety rules. In fact, neither Shuttle nor Soyuz nor Ares I/Orion met NASA’s own flight safety requirements — they all had to waivered and grandfathered in. Although there has to be some minimum standard, this double standard begs the question of whether NASA’s flight safety requirements are realistic and/or actually improve safety.

    Reflexively arguing that NASA knows best for the sake of politics, as the House Republicans did in their letter, prevents NASA as an institution from learning from its history and improving its flight safety record in the future.

    “If anything, those two tragedies have made NASA hyper sensitive to safety.”

    Not really. Columbia happened despite the lessons of Challenger. And Ares I/Orion design made serious compromises in reliability and flight safety left and right, despite the lessons of Shuttle development. There’s no significant track record or other evidence that the “pressure to fly” and the “NASA knows best” syndromes that led to Columbia and Challenger have been fixed.

    “How many were lost to ‘incompetence’ by the FAA’s failure to enact regulations? How many people were killed by Boeing, Airbus and other airplane manufacturers who ignored warnings of impending failures?”

    The FAA and NASA flight safety models are not comparable. Aside from flight controllers in a tower making sure that aircraft don’t run into each other, FAA managers don’t inspect, review, or otherwise determine whether each and every single aircraft is in proper shape to take off or not. Yet despite not having a hands-on role in every aircraft and flight, the FAA’s safety record is orders of magnitude better than NASA’s. (It’s also better than the USAF’s.) Some of this is due to the relative maturity of the technologies involved, but I have no doubt that some of it is also due to the differences between the FAA and NASA (or USAF) flight safety models.

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ March 1st, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    @RGO:
    Here’s a glaring fault of both the FAA and industry ignoring and brushing a known serious problem under the proverbial rug…

    NO NO A thousand times no. There is nothing repeat nothing in that paper regarding Kapton…that is remotely like the glaring levels of incompetence that caused both Challenger and Columbia and a lot of near misses in between.

    Next thing you know you are going to stumble into the B737 rudder controversy…(a goofy controversy if there ever was one…and my SEAT on the Boeing is in the left front…unless I am in the right front giving a check ride).

    Safety is about a “culture” not about a group or even an individual decision…If you want to understand the NASA safety “culture” go read up on Linda Hamm and her performance after the launch of Columbia…nothing has changed…as the launching with the AiLi tank issue proved…the only thing is that mercifully they have stopped flying before they killed more people.

    Safety is not “a grevious mistake” it is a “culture”…and that starts with something basic…we dont fly out of specification. It then moves on to “we dont fly when parts are known not to work”.

    RGO

  • Das Boese

    Jason wrote @ March 1st, 2012 at 9:45 am

    And as much as I supports spaceflight, I adhere to my morals first. Murder is not okay, selling weapons to murderers is not ok, ignoring murder is not ok.

    Unless, of course, it’s your own country doing it.
    The hypocrisy is mind-boggling.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Once again, we have to go back in history.

    How did the known combustion oscillations in large solids get ignored by NASA safety, resulting in BILLIONS of dollars being wasted on Ares 1?
    Now that would make a good hearing.

    Everyday I remember that for less money than was wasted on Ares 1 we could have had DIRECT and 2 manned launch systems, all operating today.

    What the hell was Griffin thinking?

  • E.P. Grondine

    RGO –

    yep.

    Can you dig out info on how the Ares 1 large grain combustion oscillation problem was so conveniently ignored from the get go?

  • Jason

    Where in the U.S.A. is the government shelling American citizens?…. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

  • Hall and his GOP dogs are talking about Roscosmos right?

    “It is inexcusable for the Administration to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds on these nascent systems without the ability to define and impose the necessary requirements to ensure the health and safety of astronaut crews.”

  • amightywind

    How did the known combustion oscillations in large solids get ignored by NASA safety, resulting in BILLIONS of dollars being wasted on Ares 1?

    They weren’t ignored. The combustion oscillation for Ares I was to be mitigated by a simple system of counterweights. Direct measurements on Ares I-X proved this problem to be greatly overstated. Real surprise there. Engineering truth is unimportant to new space shills. If you want to talk about wasting $ billions lets discuss ISS’s annual budget.

    FAA’s safety record is orders of magnitude better than NASA’s.

    Flight controllers falling asleep. Failing to warn aircraft of microbursts. Clearing aircraft on the wrong runways… The carnage has been staggering over the years.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Jason wrote @ March 1st, 2012 at 9:45 am
    Murder is not okay, selling weapons to murderers is not ok, ignoring murder is not ok…

    But the US does it…we call them “our valued allies”. RGO

  • Seven porkers oinking because none of the slop will be in their trough.

    Funny how they had no concern about this when the Bush administration was in power. Commercial space in its current form goes back to 2004, buried in the Vision for Space Exploration. The Reagan administration enacted legislation ordering NASA to prioritize commercialization of space.

    But only now these porkers — all Republican — are concerned.

    By the way, today’s “wet dress rehearsal” of the COTS 2/3 demo flight went well. Another hoop jumped through.

  • Das Boese

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ March 1st, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    It then moves on to “we dont fly when parts are known not to work”.

    What they’re teaching here is “We don’t fly when parts are not known to work”

  • Dave Huntsman

    One of the unfortunate issues is that folks like Olson and others controlled by the oldspace lobbyists continue to talk – almost unchallenged by anyone – about traditional business-as-usual being real human spaceflight, and they are the proud defenders of the legacy. The fact is that business-as-usual oldspace – which I frankly have been a part of in my almost four decades in NASA – has kept human spaceflight from expanding. We humans were launching about 2 dozen humans into space per year at the end of the ’60s; and now in the 21st century, operating the same way, we are launching ……. about two dozen humans per year, still; after the spending of untold billions. About the only person recently who has been publicly trying to push back on this ridiculous notion that oldspace = pro human spaceflight, is Charles Miller with his articles. We need more people to publicly push back and explain reality, folks; again and again and again if needed.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 1st, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Robert may be old and insulting (just kidding), but his point is highly relevant….

    I much prefer “obnoxious and disliked”

    You raise good points…and I agree with them all.

    I would add this.

    “Safety” is primarily a culture; but embedded in that is “knowing” who one is responsible to.

    For the FAA it is easy; (or at least it should be) they are responsible to the traveling public (particularly in airline ops it gets a little more mushy in general aviation but that is an entirely different kettle of fish) pure and simple. People expect when they walk on a plane that (they will walk off…joke) a certain level of safety that is significantly higher then “random chance”.

    At the core of the issue with NASA “safety” is that I really dont believe a single clown in the safety office there (or the astronaut office or MOD or really anywhere) believes that they are responsible to the people riding the rocket. They say that they are, they mouth those words “we stand up for the astronauts” is one goofy phrase.

    But when you get down to it, when the decisions come as to waiving this or that or flying with this or that issue…1) they dont tolerate opinions contrary to the “line” and 2) the responsibility issue seems to be “lets fly the mission”.

    I cannot imagine a pilot at say Southwest in Houston taking a look at his airplane and seeing the brake wear indicator needing service would not simply tell the line mech that it was this way (even though the line mech would have seen it and taken care of it alone) and if someone said “no you can fly it Captain” would not have picked up the phone and called safety and safety would have shut the thing down.\

    Likewise I cannot imagine an astronaut at NASA who during hte shuttle era said “I am uncomfortable with foam coming off the tank” or “the erosion of the O rings on past flight” or “insert problem here” period…much less saying it and keeping a flight assignment.

    The folks at NASA HSF safety do not “stand up for the astronauts” I dont know really what they do stand up for.

    But the bottom line on it is, is that how NASA will act with a commercial provider particularly on a fixed or near fixed price contract is impossible to figure out…because they (NASA) do not have a clue how safety works.

    Robert

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ March 1st, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    Failing to warn aircraft of microbursts>>

    goofy…it is almost impossible for FAA tower controllers (and it is impossible for radar controllers) to warn about “microburst”. The Low level wind shear alert system at major airports can only pick up microburst that REACH THE GROUND” at the various locations of the LLWS…and while that warning is useful to characterize the general state of things (ie microburst are reaching the ground at one or a few locations around the airport) it by no means characterizes the approach environment.

    The only known means of doing that would be a doppler radar system set up on each runway as a PAR type system…ie constantly characterizing the approach environment in three dimensions. We have (meaning “I”) have flown some approaches using a LIDAR system which is suppose to help in that mode but its not very useful right now…the technology will get better.

    All the statement you posted says is that you have no clue as to the windshear environment or how it is dealt with at approaches. It is more like “the Falcon 9 second stage is spinning out of control”).

    I’ve executed exactly 4 missed approaches in IFR conditions due to a LLWS alert and that only when I got confirmation of in cloud sheers by what the airplane was doing. But you see that is why I get the title “Captain” and “Pilot in command” and “Designated Examiner” and a few other things…and you are blogging under a fake name.

    It is not the wings on the airplane that get you home…it is the wings on the pilot. I have them, you dont RGO

  • Jason

    If Oler, or Boese would like to provide an example that is equal to the murder that Syria is carrying out, I’ll adress them, otherwise, just saying the US does it too, is lame. And if you can provide a legitimate example, I will equally dissaprove. Do you? Two wrongs don’t make a right. I don’t support gunwalking to Mexico’s cartels. That is also NOT ok. Saying it happens here too, is not an excuse.

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ March 1st, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    The combustion oscillation for Ares I was to be mitigated by a simple system of counterweights.

    AMW is trying to put lipstick on a pig. He/She/It should have said:

    The combustion oscillation for Ares I was to be mitigated by subtracting significant payload capability.

    Those kind of “engineering truths” are the reason the Ares I had a family tree that looked like this before it ever left the ground, and the main reason the Orion/MPCV is a $8B work-in-progress instead of a $4B completed program.

    Fiscal truth is unimportant to old space shills.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Jason wrote @ March 1st, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    If Oler, or Boese would like to provide an example that is equal to the murder that Syria is carrying out,>>

    just staying in the Mideast.

    The Shah in Iran, Saddam (who was our client) in Iraq before we stopped liking him, The House of Saud, and maybe even us the US. The numbers of “civilians” we killed in shock and awe alone range from 10K to 50K…total civilian deaths in Iraq through no fault of their own, ie they were “collateral” range from 100K to 1.4 million (my personal number is about 225K). Rummy talked about “surgical strikes” but almost everyone in Iraq knows someone who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time as the Paveway came screaming through their house and incinerated them…but its OK we were “freeing” them in a “preventive war” which is a phrase that according to Ike, The short guy with the mustache who ruled Germany until mid 45 invented.

    Robert G. Oler

  • A M Swallow

    Rand Simberg wrote @ March 1st, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Safety regulations are the responsibility of the FAA not NASA.

    Not for astronauts.

    Look again. The FAA regulates the space port, the launch vehicle and its flight crew.

    NASA does has not ability to control launches it is not paying for and that do not go to the ISS.

    http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/faa_regulations/commercial_space/#regulations

  • Mark

    This is an interesting example of political doublethink. The same Congressmen who voted to cut commercial crew, thus making it impossible for NASA to send in the committees of minders and require all that paperwork and testing, are now shocked, shocked that NASA is not sending in the committees of minders and require a bunch of paperwork and testing. The irony is, NASA is on Olson’s side on this.

  • For me this is a contractual issue only. If NASA wants to procure transportation then it should define its requirements for transportation (no matter what they are; safety being one subset.) “Non-gov’t entities” (attempting to sidestep/ignore funding sources & issues) can bid. The best one wins. If none of them meet the requirements, requirements can be waived (again, I’m not arguing this on any grounds other than contractual) and/or prioritized with requests for mods. If mods aren’t sufficient, or entities don’t want to mod, or no one meets requirements, then no one gets an award.

    And therein lies the problem. The gov’t doesn’t want to be in that position. Right now Congress is asked to authorize funds for non-gov’t entities – funds distributed under a mechanism (SAA) that does not provide for nor enable enforcement of said requirements – but Congress is asked to pay for it, nonetheless, on the assumption (and that’s what it is) that said entities will meet requirements – safety, in this case, but it could be any from a contractual point of view.

    I’m a proponent of human spaceflight; I want what works. I’m also a business woman and I’m really uncomfortable with agreements I can’t enforce. What’s needed is a legal mechanism to enforce those requirements no matter who is doing the build. So the question is, what is that mechanism, and – in this case – how is it applied in such a way that you _don’t_ go back to prolonged development by a couple of contractors using cost-plus contracts for access to LEO? You want a mechanism enabling compliance and enforcement of compliance (in other words, a CONTRACT) but you also want to encourage in every way possible innovative, creative, capable “riffs” on the theme of LEO access.

    Every time this comes up many folks seem to “choose sides” – “old space” vs. “new space” – so much wasted hot air – and not the point.

    I found it amusing that someone commented that Olson et al are beholden to “SLS contractors” who want to kill CC. Maybe those of you who read minds of Congresspersons will share with the rest of us how you do it. Meanwhile, tell it to Boeing, who is engaged in development across the board, and wants both approaches to succeed.

    MLD

  • @Coastal Ron

    Congress is only giving NASA enough money to build the SLS/MPCV but not enough for the EDS upper stage and not enough for a lunar landing vehicle. And there is no money at all going to develop lunar base components. Getting access to lunar polar resources should be NASA’s top priority.

    If you’re going to severely limit the NASA budget then you to prioritize which programs are most important. And if NASA’s focus is supposed to be on beyond LEO programs then you cannot continue to spend huge amounts of money on LEO on steroids programs like the ISS. But Congress still wants to then they have to raise the annual NASA budget by $3 billion– as recommended by the Augustine Commission. And they probably would have done it if Obama hadn’t abandoned the Moon.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • E.P. Grondine

    CR –

    If we need a little aggravation to get going, we can always drop by, counting on AW to spout the ATK line.

    His latest BS is that a 4 seg = a 5 seg.
    Well, 4 does not equal 5.
    Ares 1X does not equal Ares 1.

    The problem is that many reps and the public at large are taken in.

    Is there any way legal way to arrange for ATK’s managers to have their brains hitting the insides of their skulls repeatedly at .7 G, until they are no longer able to spew this “stuff”?

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    Well IMO the current SAAs don’t allow for the oversight that is being requested. By the time a decision is made, we should see Dragon flying.
    That may change the landscape a bit if successful as most of use hope for.

  • E.P. Grondine

    RGO –

    NASA safety?
    No one looses their paycheck, even after the Ares 1 screw up.
    Since there’s no risk for calling it, and calling it early, but instead a good chance of loosing that paycheck for doing it, no one calls it.

    Unlike the commercial aviation industry, or the NASA we remember.

    While it’s time for some people to be fired immediately for the Ares 1 combustion oscillation screw up, I don’t think anyone will fund anyone going through the paperwork and email archives to determine who.

    Even if someone blows the whistle on the whole of it now, for some strange reason, the ATK PR effort will likely be to stop them from ever being heard.

    Perhaps what’s really needed is a change to the language of the False Claims Act regarding government contracts. At 15%, the Ares 1 payout would be in the billions.

    We could have had DIRECT and 2 manned launch systems, and no gap in ISS flights, for the money that was wasted on Ares 1.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “The combustion oscillation for Ares I was to be mitigated by a simple system of counterweights.”

    Nope. Mitigation required at least three primary countermeasures, all of which introduced new failure modes:

    1) a dual-plane interstage compliance structure (hundreds of C-springs that softened the two interstages but also made them susceptible to structural failures from lateral loads),

    2) an active damper (either a LOX damper or an aft skirt actuated reaction mass damper, both of which were prone to sensor, power, and actuator failures), and

    3) Orion cockpit countermeasures (spring-loaded seats and displays that blinked in time with the oscillation, again prone to sensor or power failures).

    In addition to the many failure modes these countermeasures introduced, 1) and 2) added a lot of mass, which reduced Ares I performance considerably and sharply limited Orion’s mass, introducing additional reliability and safety issues for Orion.

  • A M Swallow

    I strongly suspect that the whole thing is a red herring. Orbital and SpaceX developed the COTS cargo launch vehicles using Space Act Agreements but the cargo will be flown under Commercial Resupply Services Contracts.
    http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2008/dec/HQ_C08-069_ISS_Resupply.html

    If the same system is used for Commercial Crew then the manned spacecraft will be developed using Space Act Agreements but astronauts will be flown using ordinary contracts. Contracts can have as many enforceable safety rules as you want to pay for.

  • A M Swallow

    p.s. Such contracts will probably be signed after the presidential election.

    AMS

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ March 1st, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Congress is only giving NASA enough money to build the SLS/MPCV but not enough for the EDS upper stage and not enough for a lunar landing vehicle.

    Why do you chatter on about going to the Moon? Congress just canceled a Moon mission, and if they wanted another one they would fund it (though not likely after Newt’s Moon push). Regarding why the SLS was created, the SLS supporters in Congress stated when they created the SLS that it was meant to save jobs in certain districts.

    No customers were clamoring for it, and none that have money have stepped forward even now, so why are you confused about a lack of funding for using it? Weird.

    And if NASA’s focus is supposed to be on beyond LEO programs then you cannot continue to spend huge amounts of money on LEO on steroids programs like the ISS.

    Well someday NASA might focus on beyond LEO HSF, but again, just like your Moon dreams, that’s not currently funded. Do you understand that?

    And as far as the ISS, you fail to understand that the ISS has been supported by Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and now Obama. In comparison, only Bush 43 has pushed for a Moon program, and it is widely acknowledged that he never used any of his celebrated “political capital” to support it, so the Constellation program was the HSF aberration, not the ISS. Another big clue is when Congress canceled the Constellation program without any debate, and reaffirmed it’s long-term support for the ISS.

    And we can thank the father of the ISS, Ronald Reagan, for promoting Commercial Cargo & Crew, and Bush 43 for getting it going, which refutes your theory that commercial efforts are a recent political push (i.e. an Obama conspiracy).

    But Congress still wants to then they have to raise the annual NASA budget by $3 billion

    Unless E.P.’s asteroids show up, or aliens appear overhead, NASA is not getting more money. We have to make do with what we have. Plan accordingly.

  • Coastal Ron

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ March 1st, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    Is there any way legal way to arrange for ATK’s managers to have their brains hitting the insides of their skulls repeatedly at .7 G, until they are no longer able to spew this “stuff”?

    Well I guess the good news is that even if the SLS somehow continues to be funded, that ATK will have to compete for the booster contract.

    As a main engine, solid fuel engines are a poor choice, but I don’t mind them as boosters. For me, the biggest concern I’ve had with ATK is cost, since they were grandfathered in on the Constellation program, and now the SLS, which means we have no idea whether they are providing the best value for the taxpayer. I suspect not, and that’s what we’ll find out if the SLS booster competition goes forward (hopefully the SLS gets canceled before that).

  • Fred Willett

    NASA safety?
    Recently Scot Pace was interviewed re crew safety
    http://thekojonnamdishow.org/shows/2012-02-27/private-space-race/transcript
    MCCLESKEY are there dangers of cost cutting as you try to put a private enterprise into space? Will it be as safe as NASA say?
    PACE …… it would take actually some years of routine flights to prove that out and actually get comfortable……….. You’re probably not going to put something really expensive until you’ve seen seven successful flights. And you really don’t have a sense of the long-range reliability of the vehicle until you had about 14 flights.

    Then I turn around and look at the plans for SLS.
    One test flight. People on the second.
    NASA has different standards of safety for their own vehicles.
    They’ve learnt nothing.

  • Fred Willett

    Mary Lynne Dittmar wrote @ March 1st, 2012 at 7:59 pm
    For me this is a contractual issue only.
    You’re right. But the contract stage hasn’t been reached yet.
    When we get to that stage – NASA actually contracting for services – NASA can specify all the safety regs they like, and the commercial providers will have to meet them if they want a contract.
    But at the moment that is way down the road. NASA is currently assisting companies to develop systems. NASA is getting insight into the various designs CST-100, Dragon, Dreamchaser and Blue Origin through milestones. Each company has to prove to NASA at each milestone what there system does and how it works IN DETAIL in order to get paid.
    But none of this development work guarantees NASA will buy the end product. Nor does it excuse the companies from meeting any safety standards NASA may decide to impose.

  • Mary Lynn Ditmar wrote:

    I’m a proponent of human spaceflight; I want what works. I’m also a business woman and I’m really uncomfortable with agreements I can’t enforce. What’s needed is a legal mechanism to enforce those requirements no matter who is doing the build.

    Just curious … Every time a government employee flies on a commercial airplane — let’s assume it’s a Boeing aircraft — should the government have a “legal mechanism” to “enforce” that the flight will be safe for that employee?

    NASA is not a regulatory agency. The FAA is. The FAA regulates the safery of Boeing aircraft. Why should it not regulate the safety of Boeing spacecraft?

    NASA is a customer. They will be flying their employees on these craft. They are essentially paying for a ticket, just like they pay for a ticket to ride a commercial airline flying a Boeing aircraft.

    Why NASA should be expected to have a contract with Boeing enforcing the safety of the aircraft is beyond me.

    And let’s not forget that the first “A” in NASA stands for Aeronautics, the science of flight. NASA and its predecessor NACA (born March 3, 1915, happy birthday NACA) help develop the science of flight. Did NACA ever order Boeing to build planes a certain way? Not to my knowledge.

    NACA provided the technology to help Boeing design its aircraft. But it was the FAA’s ancestor agencies that actually regulated aircraft safety.

    In today’s law, the FAA has the responsibility for regulating commercial space transportation. If Congress doesn’t like it, then they should change the law, not expect NASA to violate the law just to protect pork coming to their districts.

  • DCSCA

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 1st, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    “NASA is several years from flying astronauts on any new U.S. vehicle, commercial or otherwise.”

    =yawn=

    HOUSTON, March 1, 2012 — /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — On Feb. 29, NASA successfully conducted another drop test of the Orion crew vehicle’s entry, descent and landing parachutes high above the Arizona desert in preparation for the vehicle’s orbital flight test in 2014. Orion will carry astronauts deeper into space than ever before, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and ensure a safe re-entry and landing.

    http://www.sacbee.com/2012/03/01/4303896/nasa-continues-orion-parachute.htm

  • Mind Reader

    Meanwhile, tell it to Boeing, who is engaged in development across the board, and wants both approaches to succeed.

    Can you tell us how you read Boeing’s mind then as well?

    SLS success is independent of contract payments, just as Constellation was.

  • DCSCA

    “It is inexcusable for the Administration to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds on these nascent systems without the ability to define and impose the necessary requirements to ensure the health and safety of astronaut crews.”

    Sort of like bailing out banks and financial institutions, beefing up their bottom lines and permitting bonuses to be paid w/o caveats in the deal to ensure small business loans are made– which weren’t– and refinance mortgages– which weren’t.

  • Back to the original subject matter … I find it interesting that seven Republican members of Congress — who claim to want less government regulation and intrusion into the private sector — are demanding more government regulation and intrusion into the private sector.

  • amightywind

    If NASA wants to procure transportation then it should define its requirements for transportation (no matter what they are; safety being one subset.) “Non-gov’t entities” (attempting to sidestep/ignore funding sources & issues) can bid.

    That would require a little discipline on both sides of the contract. Experience with Solyndra, SpaceX, and the like have shown that this administration likes to hand out our money with few strings attached.

  • Vladislaw

    Marcel F. Williams wrote:

    “Getting access to lunar polar resources should be NASA’s top priority.”

    Actually,

    “(c) Commercial Use of Space.–Congress declares that the general welfare of the United States requires that the Administration seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space.”

    That’s the real priority.

  • Vladislaw

    “administration likes to hand out our money with few strings attached.”

    And this is different from any other administration in the last 100 years how?

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ March 2nd, 2012 at 8:34 am

    =yawn=

    LOL

    A press release about a drop test somehow disproves what Dark Blue Nine said about NASA being years away from flying astronauts on the MPCV?

    Maybe you shouldn’t post when you’re sleepy… ;-)

  • The FAA regulates the safery of Boeing aircraft. Why should it not regulate the safety of Boeing spacecraft?

    Because it’s against the law, at least until October 2015?

  • E.P. Grondine

    AW –

    If you want to talk about Solyndra, talk about Solyndra.
    They got a piece of manufacturing line equipment that did not work.

    (Disclaimer: Just to be clear here, I lost money on gallium arsenide long before it was fashionable by investing in Trilogy.)

    If you want to talk about SpaceX, talk about SpaceX.

    If you want to talk about Croneyism, with a capital letter, talk about ATK.

  • E.P. Grondine

    RGO –

    Right now the NASA IG’s office writes reports on stuff they understand, usually nickle and dime stuff, not major safety blunders.

    Perhaps the best thing to do would be to move NASA safety into the IG’s office, and not distract the FAA from aviation, even though I’m sure many at the FAA are grinding their teeth over what they see at NASA.

  • William Mellberg

    Coming out of the commercial aviation industry, I believe one can never take the safety issue too seriously. Not only are lives at stake, but so are corporate reputations. Short cuts to save a few dollars can be pennywise and dollar foolish. Which is why I endorse the questions the Congressmen have raised and the letter that they wrote.

    I was at O’Hare International Airport the afternoon that American Airlines Flight 191 crashed. The cause of that accident was a faulty procedure used by three airlines (including American) to remove wing-mounted engines from the pylons of DC-10 aircraft. That procedure was reportedly regarded as being more cost effective by those carriers. But, as the Wikipedia entry for Flight 191 notes:

    “The field service representative from McDonnell Douglas said the company would ‘not encourage this procedure due to the element of risk’ and had so advised American Airlines. However, McDonnell Douglas ‘does not have the authority to either approve or disapprove the maintenance procedures of its customers.’”

    Furthermore, the NTSB report concluded …

    “Contributing to the cause of the accident were the vulnerability of the design of the pylon attach points to maintenance damage; the vulnerability of the design of the leading edge slat system to the damage which produced asymmetry; deficiencies in Federal Aviation Administration surveillance and reporting systems which failed to detect and prevent the use of improper maintenance procedures; deficiencies in the practices and communications among the operators, the manufacturer, and the FAA which failed to determine and disseminate the particulars regarding previous maintenance damage incidents; and the intolerance of prescribed operational procedures to this unique emergency.”

    Speaking of the DC-10 …

    I am also reminded of Air France Flight 4590. A strip of metal that had fallen off a Continental Airlines DC-10 onto the runway at Paris caused a tire to burst on the Air France Concorde. Chunks of tire debris hit the belly of the aircraft, leading to a large fuel leak and a massive fire underneath the port wing. There were other contributing factors to the resulting crash. But the fact of the matter is that there were several earlier incidents involving burst tires and punctured fuel tanks with Concorde that could have been “potentially catastrophic” (as the NTSB described them). The Wikipedia entry on Flight 4590 put it this way:

    “To save on weight, Concorde was designed to take off without the assistance of flaps or slats. That required a significantly higher air and tyre speed, during the take-off roll, which imposed a much greater centripetal force load on the tyres. That higher speed increased the risk of tyre explosion during take-off. When the tyres did explode, much greater kinetic energy was carried by the resulting shrapnel travelling at great speeds tangentially from the rims (the kinetic energy of an object being directly proportional to the square of its speed), increasing the risk of serious damage to the aircraft. A thicker skin on the bottom side of the wings could have prevented serious damage from an exploding tyre, but that would have added too much weight, cancelling out most of the advantage of not having flaps or slats.”

    Like the DC-10 (and the Space Shuttle), Concorde had an Achilles Heel.

    I am also reminded of the comments made by Space Shuttle veteran Travis Thompson at the end of a recent article in the Washington Post about “commercial” space and safety issues:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/45-years-after-americas-first-space-tragedy-lessons-linger/2012/01/27/gIQAJ9OwVQ_story.html

    Moreover, I’m reminded of those experts who declared the Titanic “unsinkable” one hundred years ago.

    Following the Apollo 1, Apollo 13, Challenger and Columbia accidents, NASA carried on with those space programs because Congress and the White House supported them. But Congress and the White House didn’t have to answer to stockholders. Nor did those accidents affect commercial sales.

    A serious or fatal accident with a “commercial” space vehicle might produce a different outcome — especially if the “customer” is NASA and the result is a Congressional hearing giving the provider a thorough rectal exam.

    One other consideration …

    Commercial aircraft are thoroughly proven during hundreds (often thousands) of hours of flight testing prior to receiving FAA type certification. Such in-flight testing is not possible with rockets and spacecraft because of the tremendous costs involved. Thus, the need to focus attention on safety is even greater for “commercial” space vehicles than for commercial aircraft as the designs cannot be as thoroughly tested ahead of entering service.

    Do not take safety issues lightly.

    Again, I applaud the Congressmen for taking them seriously.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “=yawn=

    HOUSTON, March 1, 2012 — /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — On Feb. 29, NASA successfully conducted another drop test of the Orion crew vehicle’s entry, descent and landing parachutes high above the Arizona desert in preparation for the vehicle’s orbital flight test in 2014.”

    I agree. Taking years to finish parachute tests, in preparation for a first crewed flight that isn’t scheduled to take place until 2021, is a big “yawn”.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “That would require a little discipline on both sides of the contract. Experience with Solyndra, SpaceX, and the like have shown that this administration likes to hand out our money with few strings attached.”

    SpaceX’s COTS agreement was awarded under the Bush Administration.

    http://www.space.com/2768-spacex-rocketplane-kistler-win-nasa-cots-competition.html

    The Bush Administration also pushed Solyndra and advanced it to the final round of DOE’s loan guarantee selection process.

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/nov/17/david-plouffe/solyndra-loan-george-w-bush-david-plouffe/

    http://mediamatters.org/research/201109190020

    Whether you like or hate them, neither of these awards originated with the Obama Administration.

  • Do not take safety issues lightly.

    We take them far too seriously.

    Again, I applaud the Congressmen for taking them seriously.

    They are taking them so seriously, that we will never open up space. It is simply an indicator that they don’t view what humans do in space as important in any way.

  • The Bush Administration also pushed Solyndra and advanced it to the final round of DOE’s loan guarantee selection process.

    But it was the Obama administration that pushed it over the finish line, and continued to fund it even after it became clear that the business model wouldn’t work.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ March 2nd, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Again, I applaud the Congressmen for taking them seriously.

    Are they? Why do you assume that a biased political body is acting in an unbiased fashion? While it’s possible that they are, I’d say we have to wait for the hearing before we’ll know if they have legitimate concerns or are on a snipe hunt.

    On the assumption that the hearing is legit:

    - What standard are they using to determine “safe”? NASA has a history of changing the rules to fit their needs, so whose to say things won’t change the day after the hearing – one way or the other?

    - Will they apply those same standards to NASA as well as commercial? Scott Pace (an associate of Mike Griffin) was recently quoted talking about Commercial Crew:

    You’re probably not going to put something really expensive until you’ve seen seven successful flights. And you really don’t have a sense of the long-range reliability of the vehicle until you had about 14 flights. So, the discussion of bending the rules a bit or accelerating the rules means that you will be taking risks by potentially putting people or high value cargo on before you’ve established a real track record.

    Commercial Crew companies will be close to meeting that standard with their rockets (Atlas V especially), and certainly SpaceX will have significant risk reduction done with their Dragon capsule before flying crew.

    In comparison, NASA is currently planning to fly humans on the second SLS flight, and only the third flight of a MPCV. And it won’t be a short LEO flight, but a trip around the Moon.

    Do you think those same Republican Congressmen will ask NASA about their plans to fly humans on a unproven rocket & capsule? I doubt it for two reasons:

    1. The proposed hearing, while addressing a legitimate concern, is also driven by political concerns about funding for NASA centers.

    2. Congress can’t afford to build and fly 7-14 test flights of the SLS & MPCV, so Congress will be perfectly happy to accept the risk of failure in order to save money. Sound familiar?

  • Martijn Meijering

    Which is why I endorse the questions the Congressmen have raised and the letter that they wrote.

    What about the first manned Orion flight then?

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ March 2nd, 2012 at 11:12 am

    interesting post. None of these incidences are like the problems which lead up to the loss of Challenger and Columbia…the Death Cruiser incident in ORD bears some resemblence in terms of the unique maintenance procedure, but the procedure when done correctly was valid…however if done incorrectly well.

    The interesting thing about that incident was what came out of pilot training. The incident need not have been “fatal”…(although it was through really no ones fault). The pilots had been trained, as were all pilots of that era to, with loss of engine climb during second segment at V2 AND to slow to V2 if a loss of engine occurred after V2 had been attained. The airplane was some speed (I forget sorry its been a bit) above V2 due to above normal accel when the engine stopped producing thrust and indeed came off. The pilots had no real way of knowing the engine came off…and had some discussion about “slowing” to V2 as acceleration feel off. They finally decided to accept the additional climb by pitching up to slow to V2…and somewhere as they slowed they got to a speed where the airplane’s assy lift caused a stall.

    As a result of that (and a near simultaneous incident with a NASA airplane near V1) A GREAT DEAL

  • Robert G. Oler

    (SORRY THAT POSTED BEFORE I was ready)

    more time is spent imparting some understanding of V1 and V2…and no longer is “slow to V2″ with an engine failure taught as reflex…

    The airplane (the 10) is landable in the config that it was put in (ie assymetric slats) …it takes some effort and the approach is fast…but that maneuver was trained (and is still today) it is likely that they would have survived the flight. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg wrote @ March 2nd, 2012 at 11:58 am

    “But it was the Obama administration that pushed it over the finish line, and continued to fund it even after it became clear that the business model wouldn’t work.”

    the Cx program which Bush pushed wasted far more money and had no good outcome even if it had worked. Solyndra is not that bad a thing…in the scheme of things RGO

  • A M Swallow

    Do not take safety issues lightly.

    Again, I applaud the Congressmen for taking them seriously.

    The Congressmen are using safety as a hammer. Since it is an excuse not a reason they are definitely not taking it seriously.

    The FAA may have to wait until 2015 before it can publish requirements but it can have informal meetings.

  • Mark

    Ms. Dittmar, good for you! A breath of fresh reason, I must say.

  • the Cx program which Bush pushed wasted far more money and had no good outcome even if it had worked.

    That is both true and a non sequitur. Which is par for the course from you.

  • William Mellberg

    Rand Simberg wrote:

    “We take them [safety issues] far too seriously.”

    Let me repeat what I said previously …

    Coming out of the commercial aviation industry, I believe ONE CAN NEVER TAKE THE SAFETY ISSUE TOO SERIOUSLY. Not only are lives at stake, but SO ARE CORPORATE REPUTATIONS.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ March 2nd, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Not only are lives at stake, but SO ARE CORPORATE REPUTATIONS.

    Is Congress supposed to look out for corporate reputations? Let’s not put any higher expectations onto the hearing than are necessary.

    Since it’s was the lack of funding from Congress that lead NASA to use SAA’s, Congress can address their own concerns by providing the requested funding for the Commercial Crew program. Pretty simple.

    Or…. they can imply nefarious reasons for corporations wanting to fly humans to space without the full oversight and involvement of NASA. That of course won’t happen if NASA is the customer, since as others have pointed out, NASA just won’t buy rides from them. Again, pretty simple.

  • Again, I applaud the Congressmen for taking them seriously.

    Again, I reiterate that if we had a GOP Administration, this “safety” issue would be moot.

    This is just political gamesmanship in order to funnel more money to old space companies and keep the good ol’ boy network alive and kicking.

  • Coming out of the commercial aviation industry, I believe ONE CAN NEVER TAKE THE SAFETY ISSUE TOO SERIOUSLY.

    Shouting (all caps) doesn’t somehow render a mistaken opinion valid. We are at far too early a state in the industry to expect the kind of safety record of the modern aviation industry. If one takes it so seriously that it is unaffordable, or one hardly ever flies (as has been the case for the past half century), then one is taking it too seriously.

    This is a frontier, and the harshest, most unforgiving one we’ve ever faced. People are going to die opening it. Accept it, or just stay home in bed.

  • pathfinder_01

    “Coming out of the commercial aviation industry, I believe ONE CAN NEVER TAKE THE SAFETY ISSUE TOO SERIOUSLY. Not only are lives at stake, but SO ARE CORPORATE REPUTATIONS.

    Which is why I expect the commercial crew companies will do their best at it.

  • William Mellberg

    Robert G. Oler wrote:

    “None of these incidences are like the problems which lead up to the loss of Challenger and Columbia …”

    Actually, the loss of the Air France Concorde was like the loss of Challenger and Columbia.

    First, as with the Challenger accident, there were previous cases of the failure which caused the catastrophic loss of the vehicle. But like the Space Shuttle, Concorde kept flying despite repeat cases of tire failures and shrapnel damage to the wings and engines. In one instance, a passenger told an Air France flight attendant shortly after take-off from Dulles that he could see through the wing. In fact, he saw fuel streaming from the hole. The aircraft returned to Dulles (needless to say). Yet, despite repeated incidents, Concorde kept flying on … until the odds finally caught up with that particular design flaw. And the Paris crash contributed to the type’s premature retirement in 2003, despite the fixes that were made afterward. A very costly mistake in terms of both lives and money.

    Second, it was shrapnel damage that sealed the fates of both Columbia and Air France Flight 4590. In Columbia’s case, a known, pre-existing problem (foam shedding from the External Tank) was ignored. The attitude seemed to be, “We dodged those bullets before. We’ll dodge them again.” It was a similar attitude that doomed Concorde. (“We’ve blown tires and punctured wings before. No problem.”)

    Another example that comes to mind is TWA Flight 800. That was the 747 which was lost off Long Island in 1996. But it was not the first time that an empty (or near empty) center wing fuel tank had exploded, causing the in-flight destruction of an aircraft.

    As for American Airlines Flight 191, I spoke to a Silver Stripes Club luncheon several years ago. (The Silver Stripes Club is comprised of retired American Airlines pilots and flight engineers.) Several of the attendees were former DC-10 captains, and some of them had flown simulators designed to recreate what had happened in the Chicago accident. As I recall, only one of them managed to get the aircraft back to a runway. But even his effort failed. He would have crashed on touchdown.

    I was invited to a later Silver Stripes Club meeting where Captain Dennis Fitch was the guest speaker. He was a DC-10 training captain for United Airlines who happened to be aboard United Flight 232 when it blew the Number Two (tail-mounted) engine during a trip from Denver to Chicago. Shrapnel punctured all three hydraulic lines, resulting in a loss of the aircraft’s flight controls. But Captain Fitch was able to help the crew get the aircraft to Sioux City using asymmetric thrust from the two wing-mounted engines to semi-control their flight path. They managed to line up the DC-10 with the runway, but they did not have enough control to avoid a crash landing. Amazingly, some two-thirds of the nearly 300 people aboard survived the accident.

    A contributing factor in the accident was a design flaw that ran all three hydraulic lines together. Thus, when shrapnel penetrated the primary system, it penetrated the secondary lines, as well. Another factor was the failure of maintenance personnel to detect an existing fatigue crack in one of the fan disks. The failure of that disk is what ripped the center engine apart and flew the shrapnel into the hydraulic lines and the tail surfaces.

    Another friend of mine was an Area Sales Manager for Douglas Aircraft Company during the 70s and 80s. After AA 191, he followed the work of engineers at NASA Dryden who developed software that would enable an MD-11 (a DC-10 derivative) with a similar problem to land safely using asymmetric thrust from the wing-mounted engines. What a pity that such software wasn’t available to the crew of United Flight 232. But sometimes we do learn from our mistakes. And sometimes, we don’t.

    I would cite the saga of the de Havilland Comet 1 and the in-flight disasters which grounded the type and severely damaged the manufacturer’s tremendous lead in jetliner production and sales during the 1950s.

    In a move to save time and money during the design and early manufacturing phase of the project, the structures surrounding the Comet’s windows were riveted. As Chief Designer Ron Bishop later noted, “My biggest mistake was to agree to the riveting of the window surrounds in the Comet 1 rather than insisting that they were Reduxed as planned.”

    That was a literal example of cutting corners to save time and money … the end result being catastrophic for the victims aboard the airplanes, as well as for de Havilland Aircraft and BOAC (the operator).

    I cannot emphasize too strongly that safety should NEVER be compromised or taken lightly — especially in a misguided effort to save time and/or money.

    “Commercial” space and its supporters should learn the lessons of commercial aviation. No matter how much you think you might know about safety, you ignore the lessons of the past at your own risk.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Okay guys…

    Even though the skill set needed for aviation and space safety are very similar, I’d still would like to see the FAA kept focused on aviation safety, with commercial space safety and NASA safety moved under the NASA IG’s office, until such time as it needs to be set up as a second line under the FASA (Federal Aviation and Space Authority).

    Do I have any seconds for the motion?

  • E.P. Grondine

    This may sound sick to some of you, but it may make a great deal of sense to others here.

    NASA buried the tiles from Challenger in a hole in the ground, trying to put that behind them.

    I think they need to be dug up and 1 tile signed out to the desk of everyone involved in Human Space Flight, just as a constant reminder to keep them on their toes in regards to safety.

  • vulture4

    William –

    I fully agree with your in-depth approach to system safety. But I disagree with the proposition that commercial launch vehicles cannot be thoroughly tested. The best reference on this I have seen is “Space Launch Vehicle Reliability” by Chan (you can google it). We assume failures are random, but launch vehicle lifetimes are measured in minutes, totally insufficient for stochastic failure processes to occur. Consequently virtually all launch vehicle failures are deterministic, and the result of unanticipated failure modes. Obviously if the failure mode was anticipated, and we did not eliminate it in the design, we should be fired.

    But because these failures are relatively deterministic, they almost always occur within the first few launches, so adequate testing is indeed feasible. The design _must_ then be modified to eliminate the identified failure modes. To accomplish this, the initial 5-10 flights must be unmanned and at a prototype stage in the development, or preferably technology demonstrators should test the design and components before the prototype stage.

    Both the O-ring leakage and the foam damage were seen on early Shuttle launches though the risk was not appreciated; changes were not made because the design was already finalized (based on paper design analysis) and changes in a “man-rated” design are very expensive.

    No matter how much effort NASA pours into paper safety analysis at the design stage it accomplishes little because most actual failure modes are unanticipated and deterministic failure rates cannot be accurately estimated without flight experience. However this doesn’t stop NASA from assigning “safety engineers” with no real hands-on experience to predict (often to two or three significant figures) the reliability of designs that have never flown.

  • William Mellberg

    Rand Simberg wrote:

    “We are at far too early a state in the industry to expect the kind of safety record of the modern aviation industry. If one takes it so seriously that it is unaffordable, or one hardly ever flies (as has been the case for the past half century), then one is taking it too seriously. This is a frontier, and the harshest, most unforgiving one we’ve ever faced. People are going to die opening it. Accept it, or just stay home in bed.”

    What a wonderful marketing campaign to attract commercial passengers (er, participants) into space. In effect, you’re saying, “Spaceflight is very dangerous. It’s very costly, too. And we cannot afford to spend the sort of money that is needed to guarantee your safety. But the chances are fairly good that you’ll make it home alive. And we’ve cut every corner we could to make sure your trip is more affordable. Just remember that if you should die, that’s the price we pay for progress.”

    Try telling that to the next of kin … and their lawyers.

    Back in the early days of commercial aviation, many airline executives avoided talking about accidents (especially after the Rockne crash). They didn’t want to scare customers away. But C.R. Smith of American Airlines went out of his way to cite safety as a selling point because he was totally committed to safety. Smith knew how important safety was to the fledgling commercial aviation industry. And guess what? Selling American’s safety record worked!

    I should add two other personal notes here …

    1) I worked part-time for the American Society of Safety Engineers during
    my college years. The subject of safety was first driven home to me
    there.

    2) My former boss at Fokker Aircraft, Stuart Matthews, went on to become
    President & CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation. Our conversations over
    the years have driven the point home even further.

    I am not posting these comments to lock horns with anyone. Rather, I offer them because safety is something that I’ve been involved with for a very long time. And I used caps to drive home the point that SAFETY CANNOT BE COMPROMISED. That’s a concept that needs to be shouted every time people forget the lives that have been needlessly lost because someone decided safety could be compromised to save time and/or money.

    With the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster coming up next month, this is a good time to remember that humans make mistakes — including the humans who thought that a full complement of lifeboats wasn’t needed aboard Titanic because the ship was “unsinkable.” That saved money. But it doomed the White Star Line.

    I cannot believe that any serious person would suggest that “people are going to die” so we should just “accept it.” Most potential customers will, indeed, “stay home in bed” if that attitude prevails — especially if “commercial” space suffers any serious accidents early on.

    Yes, people are going to die. Yes, that is part of the price we pay for progress. But we should NEVER just “accept” it. I find that attitude totally reprehensible and thoroughly self-defeating. In the long-run, that attitude will do more harm than good to the development of commercial space.

  • vulture4

    Oh, I forgot to mention that the most dangerous Shuttle flight of all was STS-1, which should by all rights have had a 100% probability of being destroyed after the SRB ignition shock knocked the body flap 15 degrees away from the neutral position. Not predicted by “NASA safety analysis”. The close shave and the mitigation (with the ridiculous water bags used for the next 25 years) may have taken our minds off the SRB seals and the foam damage.

    The problem isn’t that the FAA wants to regulate spaceflight. The real problem our country faces is that NASA has abandoned aviation R&D, which is at least 100 times more important to our economic survival.

  • Vladislaw

    “ONE CAN NEVER TAKE THE SAFETY ISSUE TOO SERIOUSLY. Not only are lives at stake, but SO ARE CORPORATE REPUTATIONS.”

    30,000 – 50,000 people a year die in automobiles. In the last 50 years … MILLIONS and gosh .. Ford is still here, GM et cetera, et cetera. So much for corporate reputations and safety.

    You would think that with millions dying in cars no one in their right mind would ever ride or drive one.

    Risk reward, you can stay on the safety of your couch, I believe there are plenty of Americans willing and believe it is there right … to do something on the edge without a nanny government saying they can’t do it because it is dangerous. Or put so many freakin’ safety regulations on the product it is impossible to build and still sell it.

  • William Mellberg

    vulture4 wrote:

    “The real problem our country faces is that NASA has abandoned aviation R&D, which is at least 100 times more important to our economic survival.”

    I appreciate your insightful comments. One other point that I’ve been trying to drive home is that safety also affects a company’s bottom line. That is something that cannot be quantified or even analyzed ahead of time. But as we’ve seen in one example after another over the years, accidents can destroy a corporation (after the fact) if safety can be shown to have been compromised to save time and/or money.

    As to your point which I quoted above regarding aviation R&D …

    This is one of the reasons Harrison Schmitt has proposed that NASA be dismantled in favor of a new National Space Exploration Administration (NSEA). Dr. Schmitt’s proposal also suggests that the old National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) be reinstated to focus more attention on aviation R&D. Which makes sense to me.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ March 2nd, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    “Commercial” space and its supporters should learn the lessons of commercial aviation. No matter how much you think you might know about safety, you ignore the lessons of the past at your own risk.

    If a blocked pitot tube can bring down a modern airliner and a $1B bomber, then that should tell you about the likelihood of perfection for the future of space travel. Those aircraft were at the pinnacle of what we have learned over a century of flying, and yet they still crashed.

    Instead of worrying about if the commercial crew vehicle builders are incorporating lessons learned from prior aircraft & spacecraft (I think they are), the bigger question you should be worrying over is whether the U.S. will go back to relying on only one rocket and spacecraft vehicle (i.e. SLS and MPCV) to access space.

    Just as there was no shortage of astronauts to fly on the risky Shuttle, and just as there is a constant stream of people attempting to climb the most dangerous mountains on Earth, there will be no shortage of passengers for Commercial Crew. And just like when airliners kill their paying passengers, some Commercial Crew providers will survive to fly another day, and some will not.

    However the question still remains – will this hearing in front of Congress change the likelihood of success or failure? I doubt it, unless the hearing convinces Congress to fully fund the Commercial Crew program, which is the whole reason NASA is using SAA’s in the first place.

  • Jason

    I appreciate the response Robert. I don’t think those are quite the same situation. Half of that was before my time. I can’t justify those deaths, but collateral damage is different. And even so, it can’t be, or at least shouldn’t be, used as justification for more death. In this case, it truly is murder. It is clear, and targeted murder of civilians. Just to be clear, I do believe we should mind our own business. If we had, we wouldn’t have most of these situations. And, we wouldn’t have INKSNA, or be asking for waivers if that was the case. I still stick by my original thought… Don’t waive INKSNA, at the expense of our own (or at least our claimed) morals, and corporations who would provide the services we wish to buy.

    And if it weren’t for the same hypocrisy that these congressmen are displaying with regards to commercial companies, we wouldn’t need the waiver in the first place. Both of these situations, quite honestly – make me sick.

  • Daddy

    To dear Mr. Simberg,
    I have worked my entire career in safety and mission assurance. In virtually every instance I can recall, being safe didn’t cost extra money, it cost a little extra thought and a willingness to listen to and heed the hard lessons. Those who expected to get hurt, or lose lives, invariably did. You sir, and the worst of the commercial space advocates, exhibit that unfortunate attitude. There are those who want to make space travel as safe as reasonably possible and there are those who “just want to get on with it” ready or not.

    Welcome to the barnstorming era of commercial space flight…

  • What a wonderful marketing campaign to attract commercial passengers (er, participants) into space.

    OK, you insist on remaining clueless. We get it. You don’t have to continually repeat it.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ March 2nd, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    I am not posting these comments to lock horns with anyone. Rather, I offer them because safety is something that I’ve been involved with for a very long time.

    I know you mean well, but are you assuming that no one at the four Commercial Crew companies is concerned about safety? That they have no relevant professionals that are qualified to build the safest possible vehicles?

    You do realize that one of the great things about the CCDev program has been that NASA has had a very detailed look at the plans each company are proposing? And the companies are being paid to validate them too, which means far less surprises down the road.

    But regardless what you or I think about safety, the real question is whether this upcoming hearing makes a difference in future safety, or if it’s just political theater? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

  • William Mellberg

    Vladislaw wrote:

    “30,000 – 50,000 people a year die in automobiles. In the last 50 years … MILLIONS and gosh .. Ford is still here, GM et cetera, et cetera. So much for corporate reputations and safety. You would think that with millions dying in cars no one in their right mind would ever ride or drive one.”

    Are those deaths the result of negligence on the part of the manufacturers … or are they the result of reckless and careless drivers?

    Your analogy mixes apples and oranges.

    However, it is true that manufacturers have produced faulty automobiles and unsafe components. They’ve paid the price for their mistakes — sometimes some very stiff prices. The Firestone 500 radial tire comes to mind.

    As Wikipedia notes:

    “Harvard Business School and Wharton School taught classes and wrote papers on the issues of misjudgments and poor decision making by the management of Firestone. After years of bad publicity and millions paid out in compensation to victims, Firestone was losing vast amounts of money, and its name was severely damaged.”

    And that’s my point. Safety problems can affect a company’s reputation, as well as its bottomline. That’s as true for “commercial” space as it is for any other industry.

    I’m not suggesting that the bar be raised to impossible standards. But I am saying that cavalier reactions to legitimate concerns expressed about safety are an invitation to trouble.

  • Daddy wrote:

    There are those who want to make space travel as safe as reasonably possible and there are those who “just want to get on with it” ready or not.

    With all due respect, sir, I believe you’re missing the point.

    The point is that the seven GOP members of Congress who wrote that letter are demanding that NASA become a regulatory agency for the nascent commercial crew industry.

    That is not NASA’s role in the law. NASA is a research and development agency, as was its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA).

    Click here to read the National Aeronautics and Space Act. Nowhere does it give NASA regulatory powers.

    The regulatory powers lie with the Federal Aviation Administration. Click here to read the FAA page where it states they have that authority. To quote from that page:

    The FAA issues a commercial space transportation license or experimental permit when we determine that your launch or reentry proposal, your proposal to operate a launch or reentry site, or your proposal to test equipment, design or operating techniques will not jeopardize public health and safety, property, U.S. national security or foreign policy interests, or international obligations of the United States.

    But now we have seven members of Congress demanding that NASA violate the law. Why?

    That is the issue at hand.

    No one wants to kill people in space. That is a red herring.

  • Fred Willett

    I don’t work in the safety field.
    Not even in the rocket field.
    Yet I do know that SpaceX looked all all the relevant NASA documentation before they started. (and build their Dragon to comply with it)
    They commissioned studies into failure modes in rockets before they started.
    And.
    NASA, under COTS excercises oversight at every milestone in the contract.
    If it’s not right the COTS companies don’t get paid. Ditto CCDev.
    As well NASA now has published safety guidelines which all the CCdev companies know they are going to have to meet.
    As Phil McAlister, director of the Commercial Crew Program said:
    “Everybody knows what our requirements are going to be if they ultimately want to sell their services to NASA,”
    So what are these politicians on about?
    Sure you can say safety is important.
    But no one has yet demonstrated that there is any safety issue.
    None.
    These politicians have cried “wolf” so they can grab their elephant guns, shoot commercial programs and force NASA to switch to “safe” pork programs.
    That’s politicians for you.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ March 3rd, 2012 at 6:08 am
    “The point is that the seven GOP members of Congress who wrote that letter are demanding that NASA become a regulatory agency for the nascent commercial crew industry.”

    Exactly. It goes beyond regulation, though. What these legislators want to do is to frame a key purpose of NASA as being flight safety, rather than technology development and exploration. In fact, that’s what Chairman Hall has already voiced, in calling safety “job one” for the agency. I’m sorry, but it just can’t be that.

    Now, we certainly need both safety and transportation, but there are good reasons why these responsibilities have historically been separated for civil aviation. In fact, one can wonder how effective NASA can be at flight safety for its own space programs when regulation and development are under the same roof.

  • Martijn Meijering

    But I am saying that cavalier reactions to legitimate concerns expressed about safety are an invitation to trouble.

    No such reactions were given. What we are witnessing is a transparent smear campaign against commercial crew.

  • And I used caps to drive home the point that SAFETY CANNOT BE COMPROMISED.

    Safety CAN’T NOT BE COMPROMISED if you want to fly. Nothing is either “safe” or “unsafe.” It is always a matter of degree. Some will have a higher risk tolerance than others. As John Shedd wrote, “A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”

    Your comparison of space transportation to aviation is completely spurious, because people have to fly to do business — it isn’t a discretionary activity, and to them, safety will be very important. But many are flying into space simply because they want to, and as long as they are informed of the level of risk, that is their decision to make, not NASA’s or the FAA’s.

    The companies will compete on a number of bases, and safety will surely be one of them (Virgin Galactic says that it is their “guiding star”). But they will also compete on price and experience, and some will be willing to accept a higher level of risk for those things. To say that safety is the single most important thing in spaceflight is irrational, from both a business and an economic standpoint.

  • Sorry, that first line was from Mr. Melberg.

  • vulture4

    William Melberg said: “Dr. Schmitt’s proposal also suggests that the old National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) be reinstated to focus more attention on aviation R&D. Which makes sense to me.”

    The history of NACA is chronicled in Hansen’s excellent online book “Engineer in Charge” (google NASA sp4305). IMHO spaceflight needs closer attention to the lessons of aviation, particularly the need to meet the practical needs of customers at a cost they can afford with reliable, fully reusable systems and low-cost turnaround. Spaceflight must merge with aviation. Without a factor of ten reduction in cost human spaceflight will remain unsustainable except as an extravagant stunt. I think NASA should be combined with DOE, NSF, NIST, and NIH into a new Department of Science and Technology.

    I would urge everyone to call your senator or congressman and ask for the staffer concerned with space. Tell them what you think of this issue, and of what space advocates think of the current programs. You are taxpayers, and have the right to be heard.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Jason wrote @ March 2nd, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    I appreciate the response Robert. I don’t think those are quite the same situation. Half of that was before my time. I can’t justify those deaths, but collateral damage is different>>

    No it is not, when the “cause” is unjust all the deaths are that way. Collateral damage during WW2 (on all sides) was “OK” in the moral scheme of things we were at war…but even then there are limits. The US and its decision makers got very squimish over the bombings of Dresden and the fire bombing of Tokyo…we never repeated the fire bombings of Tokyo because as Justice Jackson noted “we should not, even in a world war walk over the precipice of morality”.

    When the war itself is a fraud then all the deaths are immoral particularly the collateral ones. Assad has far more business supressing a civil war then we did invading Iraq. my last word on the subject. RGO

  • vulture4

    EP Grondine said:
    “NASA safety moved under the NASA IG’s office,”

    Don’t make me laugh. Have you ever actually reported anything to the NASA IG? I have. It was absurd. They would not even take my name. I was forced to call the anonymous line and leave an anonymous tip, ensuring there was no real record anything had been reported. I left my name anyway, with detailed information about obvious malfeasance. I never even heard back. I would report the IG to the IG, but that would be redundant.

  • Vladislaw

    The point has been made on this blog, more than once, that all it is going to take is one accident and loss of crew of a commercial firm and there goes commercial space access, game over. I personally think that is BS.

    Americans have been suffering bloody noses with it’s transportation systems from day one and none of those transportation systems, and many of the founding companies, are still around. It is a silly point to try and make. Planes, trains, cars, boats, hell even bicycles and horses caused deaths and they are all still around, space launches will be no different.

    So lets just stop dragging out the dead horse that safety is paramount because if there is an accident space transportation is dead.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Coastal Ron wrote @ March 2nd, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    If a blocked pitot tube can bring down a modern airliner and a $1B bomber, then that should tell you about the likelihood of perfection for the future of space travel. Those aircraft were at the pinnacle of what we have learned over a century of flying, and yet they still crashed.”

    I am not free to discuss the bomber incident but in the case of hte Air France Airbus there was far more to it then a blocked pitot tube…there was substantial pilot error RGO

  • Mary Hail

    Dr. Schmitt’s proposal also suggests that the old National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) be reinstated to focus more attention on aviation R&D. Which makes sense to me.

    Just like his very reasonable scientific opinion on global warming and climate change make so much sense to me as well.

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ March 2nd, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Coming out of the commercial aviation industry, I believe one can never take the safety issue too seriously.>>

    Having “kicked the tin” at quite a few airplane (and other) Accidents I would concur with the above comment and most of your post…but I would add this.

    One can never take the safety issue too seriously, but the trick in all aspects of “safety” in complex vehicles is to be “safe enough”…”safety” after that adds cost and complexity and to some extent cuts the margin.

    First I agree to some extent with Simberg…it is unreasonable to expect commercial aviation safety in commercial space transport…NASA didnt have it in shuttle and wont have it in Orion if it were to be built…and SpaceX nor Boeing will have it in commercial crew lift.

    But it will be close…both spacecraft and rockets are far removed from the “test flight” days of Mercury and Gemini…the main challenge in both is not the discovery of new limits of materials or the like; but is the challenge in integrating the “parts” to be an operational vehicle (both in the spacecraft and the boost). The spacecraft is basically the easiest part. We know a lot about pressure vessels and the electronics have no real mystery. Rockets are a little more entertaining but it is a technology that is maturing fast. As in anything today the software is probably the longest and most dangerous pole in the tent.

    the trick in integrating the systems is to design in enough redundancy and isolation of systems right up to the point where any more redundancy or isolations induces a complication factor that negates safety. The simpler a system usually the better…

    A B-737 has three different ways to manipulate the primary flight controls…a Ercoupe has 1…but its a cable. If the Boeing could have been turned and pitched in an efficient manner by cables…they wouldnt have had system A and B hydraulic actuators…But flying the 37 in “B29 mode” is not a very comfortable way to go…it just barely worked with a B29.

    You bring up the TWA800 crash. I would under no circumstances be for a “nitrogen inerting system”…thats more work then its worth. The “bowl” solution was quite adequate…(considering I think it was more a wiring issue then anything else).

    there is no such thing as 100 percent safety…but there is the vaunted four or six 9′s and anything past that is in my view not very worthwhile.

    Since you bring up the Titanic…in my view the Titanic is very closely related to both Challenger and Columbia…what sunk Titanic is bad management by the Captain. NEVER steam in such a manner (particularly in a known sea with “hard things” you can hit) where your turning radius is longer then the view that you have of things ahead. And know how to turn the “boat” in her tightest radius.

    IE know your limitations. The hubris on the part of the NASA people operating the shuttle is unimaginable unless you have experienced it first hand. They wrap themselves in endless safety meetings as the phrase goes they “pound flat” in meetings issues…thinking that the meeting itself really does those things…when in reality they are like Captain Smith…steaming his ship in an iceberg field faster then her lookouts could see based upon his demonstrated turning radius…

    after that…it was all random chance…just as it was with Columbia or Challenger. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    vulture4 wrote @ March 3rd, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    EP Grondine said:
    “NASA safety moved under the NASA IG’s office,”

    Don’t make me laugh…

    Yes…it wouldnt make any difference where the NASA safety office is…as long as it has the “authority” and “yank” at the safety meetings that it has.

    Robert

  • pathfinder_01

    William riveting the comet was not the reason for the comet’s problems. WWII aircraft were riveted with no problems. The cause was not understanding the effects of pressurization on aircraft and not testing. Thanks to the comet all pressurized aircraft are tested in a water tank to make sure that the cabin will not fail due to pressurization. This is the danger in overregulating. Without real world data you may miss the real dangers for instance the comet also had large square windows which are also a danger.

    NASA is not a regulatory agency and although it has experience that needs to be tapped, it also should not overregulate it in the name of safety. It can address those specifics in a contract for services if needed

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi V4 and RGO –

    Then both of you think that spaceflight safety needs to be moved to FASA,
    a Federal Aviation and Space Authority,
    and that the FAA be given responsibility for more than range safety?

    Moving the NASA safety line staff to under the IG’s office was the best idea I could up with, but perhaps you are right.

    V4, if the wording of the False Claims Act was changed…
    or if you only could have found an accounting error in the mess…

  • pathfinder_01

    “With the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster coming up next month, this is a good time to remember that humans make mistakes — including the humans who thought that a full complement of lifeboats wasn’t needed aboard Titanic because the ship was “unsinkable.” That saved money. But it doomed the White Star Line.”

    Actually this is a good example of attempting safety without being grounded in reality.

    Actually white star line survived into the 1930’s then it was forced to merge with Cunard. In addition the reason titanic lacked lifeboats was not due to cost, but because they blocked visibility from the deck (i.e. ascetics.) In fact Titanic carried more lifeboats than required by law. The law set lifeboat capacity by tonnage not passenger count.

    Without radio lifeboats are of very limited use. Only good should you happened to wreck near the shore (and even then you could use them to drop people off and return to pick up more). Use a lifeboat in the middle of an ocean without contacting anyone else and you will likely die. With radio one can send an s.o.s. and one does not need to wait till the ship does not return to know that something is wrong.

    Titanic had water tight doors which should have prevented the sinking, but they didn’t go all the way to the top and they were not expecting multiple compartments to be flooded. Basically enough compartments flooded such that the safety device was rendered useless. The flooded compartments brought the ship low enough that water flooded over the remaining compartments. The Britannic (Titanic’s sister) had water tight doors that went to the top and in its case the doors were open at the time she hit the mine to allow the crew to change shifts and blown ajar by the mine that sunk her. (i.e. In both cases water tight doors which should have prevented sinking failed).

    This is why trying to overregulate does not work and sadly it takes testing and disaster to point out the flaw in the design. You can’t design out flaws that you don’t know about and you can design in flaws in the attempt to be safe (i.e. Foam vs. heaters on certain areas of the shuttle fuel tank).

  • A M Swallow

    A related question. Should the FAA regulate NASA’s SLS?

  • William Mellberg

    pathfinder_01 wrote:

    “William riveting the comet was not the reason for the comet’s problems. WWII aircraft were riveted with no problems. The cause was not understanding the effects of pressurization on aircraft and not testing.”

    Yes, I am well aware of the pressurization problem with the Comet as I have written extensively about its history in several publications, including this abridged version of the story that I penned for Mechanical Engineering magazine nearly a decade ago:

    http://www.memagazine.org/supparch/flight03/transrev/transrev.html

    But square windows weren’t necessarily the Comet’s Achille’s Heel. After all, the Douglas DC-8 (another first generation jetliner) had even larger square windows (albeit with more rounded corners).

    The problem with the Comet was the structure surrounding the windows (i.e., using rivets to reinforce that structure rather than Redux bonding). The substitution was a cost saving measure. But de Havilland wound up paying a very heavy price for that decision, as Chief Designer Ron Bishop later acknowledged when he made his comment about rivets vs. Redux bonding: “My biggest mistake was to agree to the riveting of the window surrounds in the Comet 1 rather than insisting that they were Reduxed as planned.”

    Rivet holes weakened the structure and contributed to the propagation of stress cracks. Redux bonded structures would have helped to prevent cracks and their propagation. Redux bonding (developed by the British) provides continuous adhesion of metal parts that are joined together and avoids the concentration of stress on small areas. Which is why Bishop, in hindsight, regretted that he had agreed to the use of rivets around the window structures to save time and money in the production process.

    Another problem with the Comet 1 was that the fuselage skins were too thin. Their thickness had been chosen to decrease empty weight in order to increase range and payload.

    The RCAF modified their Comet 1As and returned them to service with reinforced skins and oval windows. The nose of one of the RCAF’s Comets is on display at the National AViation Museum in Ottawa. You can see where the structure was beefed up in several places.

    The RAF continued to fly three of its Comet 2s with the original square windows. (The windows were actually rectangular.) But they only flew unpressurized.

    Of course, as you say, the underlying problem was that the effects of pressurization were not fully understood, even though other aircraft had been pressurized. The Boeing Stratoliner was the original pressurized airliner. It had square windows surrounded by rivets. But it was also less pressurized than the Comet.

    All of which goes to the heart of Gene Cernan’s comment that some people “don’t know what they don’t know.”

    His point, of course, is that some problems cannot be foreseen when pushing the envelope. Which is why people still die despite the best efforts of designers and builders to reduce the risks. But that isn’t an excuse not to do everything possible to increase safety. As the Comet experience taught us, ‘cutting corners’ to save time and/or money can have disastrous results.

    The British lost their tremendous lead in jet transport development following the Comet 1 accidents. De Havilland’s hopes to dominate the jetliner market were dashed. Learning from de Havilland’s mistakes, Boeing went on to develop its ‘family’ of jetliners — including the incredible 737 which is still in production after 45 years (and more than 7,000 built). Boeing is still a world leader in commercial aviation because part of Boeing’s lead is built on its reputation for producing aircraft that can “take a licking and keep on ticking” (to borrow the old Timex slogan). As many pilots put it, “If it’s not a Boeing, I’m not going!”

    The commercial space company that establishes a similar reputation might enjoy similar long-lasting success. Which is why safety is so important to both the short-term and long-term viability of commercial space.

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “I know you mean well, but are you assuming that no one at the four Commercial Crew companies is concerned about safety? That they have no relevant professionals that are qualified to build the safest possible vehicles?”

    No. I’m not assuming that at all. But I do know that even safety professionals can make mistakes. All that I’m really saying is that safety can never be taken lightly.

    BTW, does anyone know why Ken Bowersox left SpaceX in December as VP of Astronaut Safety and Mission Assurance? All I’ve heard is that he left the company. I’m not suggesting anything. I’m just asking. Apparently no reason was given for his departure.

  • Then both of you think that spaceflight safety needs to be moved to FASA,
    a Federal Aviation and Space Authority, and that the FAA be given responsibility for more than range safety?

    FAA already has responsibility for more than range safety, and in fact has no responsibility for range safety — that is the responsibility of the range-safety officer. Thus, the very premise of your question is invalid.

  • pathfinder_01

    In fact FAA will/does regulatr sls as it did the shuttle(there were some FAA regs on the shuttle).

  • pathfinder_01

    “His point, of course, is that some problems cannot be foreseen when pushing the envelope. Which is why people still die despite the best efforts of designers and builders to reduce the risks. But that isn’t an excuse not to do everything possible to increase safety. As the Comet experience taught us, ‘cutting corners’ to save time and/or money can have disastrous results.”

    Not always. Safety does not always cost more. A lot of safety is found in the design. For instance the shuttle’s side mount makes for difficult emergency escape and make for problems with debris falling down on the shuttle from the tank. The shuttle has no emergency escape system worth mentioning because NASA though it could design a spacecraft safe enough not to need them (i.e. the cost/risk/weight of the system would be not worth it). I mean Challenger’s O rings were triple redundant…it is just that cold knock out all three O rings! Apollo 13’s problem could have occurred on any flight up to that point. Apollo 1’s fires again something that could have occurred on Gemini.

    The ccrew craft all have emergency escape. All are found at the top of the rocket. All are not pushing the edge of design.

    The reason why the EELV are cheaper than previous rocket systems (including the shuttle) is because they have evolved. They have taken in lessons learned, incorporated new technology and changed. NASA HSF does little of that. They can’t launch new technology or procedures on an unmanned spacecraft or rocket first (like ULA, Space X, and the Russians). Without real world data, figuring out safety is a wild guess.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ March 3rd, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    All that I’m really saying is that safety can never be taken lightly.

    OK. Let’s wish that for all involved.

    BTW, does anyone know why Ken Bowersox left SpaceX in December as VP of Astronaut Safety and Mission Assurance?

    The only public information I’ve seen is that he left, and I haven’t seen any public announcements about what he’s doing now. Nothing on LinkedIn or Wikipedia either, so if he has taken another job he’s keeping it real quiet.

  • DCSCA

    @vulture4 wrote @ March 3rd, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    “I think NASA should be combined with DOE, NSF, NIST, and NIH into a new Department of Science and Technology.”

    Hmmm. Imagine that. LOL Welcome to the club.

  • Doug Lassiter wrote:

    What these legislators want to do is to frame a key purpose of NASA as being flight safety, rather than technology development and exploration. In fact, that’s what Chairman Hall has already voiced, in calling safety “job one” for the agency. I’m sorry, but it just can’t be that.

    I had a couple chats recently with retired astronauts who at one point in their NASA careers represented the agency on the Hill.

    Both strongly emphasized that most of the members of Congress they met with were totally clueless. The real power is wielded by the staffers who know what’s going on and tell their politician employers what to say.

    It’s not unusual for staffers to move from one politician to another, building their own power base within D.C.

    Jim Muncy, if you’re lurking out there, you might wish to chime in since you dealt with this (and still do).

    In any case, I suspect you have some “OldSpace” lobbyists who are ingrained with career staffers that are responsible for the efforts to strangle “NewSpace” in the crib.

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ March 3rd, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    an entertaining series of exchanges but not really related to the shuttle or really anything else.

    The main “problem” area of the Comet was that the two issues that it had (one of which has been the subject of conversation…metal fatigue but the flight control issue with no feel back pressure) resulted in hull losses…and those hull losses were quite easily sluffed off the blame being “pitched” onto assumptions rather then facts.

    This is of course reminiscent of the issues with Challenger and Columbia…

    Safety issues are rarely “nuts and bolts”. RGO

  • Martijn Meijering

    BTW, does anyone know why Ken Bowersox left SpaceX in December as VP of Astronaut Safety and Mission Assurance? All I’ve heard is that he left the company. I’m not suggesting anything. I’m just asking.

    Didn’t you tell us a while ago that you used to get paid for promoting the interests of established aerospace players? Are you still doing that? Not that I’m suggesting anything. I’m just asking.

  • Martijn Meijering

    In any case, I suspect you have some “OldSpace” lobbyists who are ingrained with career staffers that are responsible for the efforts to strangle “NewSpace” in the crib.

    Well, we pretty much know that and I could name at least one name. The OldSpace vs NewSpace frame is very unhelpful however, and the “OldSpace” people know it and are doing their best to communicate it. The big questions are ongoing, redundant and competitive procurement vs a brief period of competition followed by multi-decade guaranteed single source procurement, dual use (NASA and foreign / commercial clients) vs NASA only use, and large launchers vs low specific launch prices.

  • DCSCA

    William Mellberg wrote @ March 3rd, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    May have had a confidentiality clause in his contract, hence the silence– or he’s awaiting a fresh gig before opening up. No sense in burning bridges going critical on your former employer– but you could use your common sense and deduce why an ex-NASA flyboy w/specified areas of responsibility at SpaceX punched out after what– three years or so. Their schedule slippages alone should be a tip-off.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Rand –

    You are correct, and sorry about the confusion.

    Generally the FAA was involved with determining the safety of the launch area in spaceport proposals, the “range”.

    The question should be, should NASA safety be moved under the FAA?
    Should government activities not be exempt from FAA oversight?
    Would this ensure better safety practices at NASA?

  • The question should be, should NASA safety be moved under the FAA?

    Commercial launches, both manned and unmanned, are already under the FAA. In a sane world, NASA would simply purchase rides for their personnel, like any other customer, just as they do airline tickets. They would make an assessment as to whether or not a given provider was “safe” enough. At least for now, for missions beyond LEO, NASA would be in charge of its own systems and their safety systems.

    But the notion that a NASA astronaut’s life is somehow much more valuable than that of an ordinary citizen is one of the insanities that have developed as a result of the strange circumstances of the birth of the agency. It is also a continuing indicator of just how completely unimportant human spaceflight is, that we are unwilling to risk lives on performing it.

  • On the general subject of political interference in space matters by Congressional staffers …

    SpaceRef.com has published the resignation letter of CASIS executive director Jeanne Becker. You can read through all the details at the link, but she cites “unrealistic expectations” from “Congressional staffers” among others.

    She didn’t say whose Congressional staffers, but I’d sure like to know.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ March 4th, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    “But the notion that a NASA astronaut’s life is somehow much more valuable than that of an ordinary citizen is one of the insanities that have developed as a result of the strange circumstances of the birth of the agency. It is also a continuing indicator of just how completely unimportant human spaceflight is, that we are unwilling to risk lives on performing it.”

    This kind of disturbing thinking carries no weight in the discourse on space policy. Do HSF a favor- stay away from it. .

  • This kind of disturbing thinking carries no weight in the discourse on space policy.

    Well, it certainly carries a lot of weight in any rational discourse on that topic. But then, your opinions carry no weight there at all, particularly given that you are nothing but a cowardly pseudonymous Internet troll.

  • Vladislaw

    vulture4 wrote:

    “Don’t make me laugh. Have you ever actually reported anything to the NASA IG? I have. It was absurd. They would not even take my name. I was forced to call the anonymous line and leave an anonymous tip, ensuring there was no real record anything had been reported. I left my name anyway, with detailed information about obvious malfeasance. I never even heard back. I would report the IG to the IG, but that would be redundant.”

    Did you ever report this to newpapers, news shows, internet blogs, with names dates etc?

    Just curious since you were not afraid of using your name, ever think about making it REALLY public?

  • Artemus

    NASA should be able to impose requirements on the prime contractor as detailed as those the prime imposes on its biggest subcontractor. Otherwise, all NASA is doing is writing checks. That’s just as pork-barrel as SLS.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Otherwise, all NASA is doing is writing checks. That’s just as pork-barrel as SLS.

    No, it isn’t. If anything a detailed specification is a sign of a desire to channel money to certain interests, say a preferred supplier or the workforce at a certain NASA center. NASA’s requirement is to move crew safely and affordably to the ISS. How contractors do that should be left to the contractors.

  • Coastal Ron

    Artemus wrote @ March 5th, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    NASA should be able to impose requirements on the prime contractor as detailed as those the prime imposes on its biggest subcontractor.

    There is a difference between buying a product built to a customer specification and buying a service.

    For instance, NASA is specifying exactly how it wants the SLS and MPCV to be built, not the contractors (unless specified otherwise). But when NASA employees travel cross-country on commercial airlines, NASA just buys a ticket – they don’t have any say in how the airline runs it’s business.

    Commercial Cargo and Crew is kind of a hybrid, mainly because NASA is providing the specifications, but the service providers are designing their systems to meet those specs (not unlike the FAA or DOT). And in the case of COTS and CCDev, NASA only pays for milestones that have been completed in the agreed upon way, so NASA has detailed knowledge of what each company is doing at each step.

    NASA has also stated that when it comes time to buying rides, that they will only purchase from companies that meet their requirements, so as long as there is a choice (why advocates want two or more providers), NASA is in complete control of their needs.

  • Artemus

    I agree that NASA has in many cases imposed (or had imposed on it) the wrong kinds of requirements, things that have nothing to do with performance and everything to do with politics.

    But if NASA views itself as a payload customer for CCDev, it should be prepared to levy the same requirements any payload customer would levy on a launch services provider. Saying “deliver a working payload to orbit or you don’t get paid” has never been enough, even in the purely commercial world. They’ve already departed from that with their milestone payments. Furthermore, NASA has to write the payload planner’s guide (something the LV people normally do), because it’s the only customer now.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ March 5th, 2012 at 12:15 am

    “Well, it certainly carries a lot of weight in any rational discourse on that topic.”

    Your value of hardware over human life in HSF operations is well documented on this forum– which is itself irrational, unless you’re a machine. And when you’re left with devolving your arguments into personal attacks, it only reinforces the perception. Keep it up.

  • Coastal Ron

    Artemus wrote @ March 5th, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    They’ve already departed from that with their milestone payments.

    No, you’re wrong. Why would you think that? Are you familiar with how the COTS and CCDev program works?

    Furthermore, NASA has to write the payload planner’s guide (something the LV people normally do), because it’s the only customer now.

    They have. What do you think the COTS and CCDev participants are using as guidance?

    For instance, once the last COTS milestone has been successfully completed (as determined by NASA), NASA will be satisfied that Orbital Sciences and SpaceX will be able to deliver cargo to the ISS in the way that NASA wants. Same with the CCiCap program once it gets to that point.

    Why do you think that NASA hasn’t provided specific requirements? The crew specs were slow in coming, but NASA says all of them have now been issues.

    What is the source of your concerns?

  • Martijn Meijering

    You seem to be keen to find a role for NASA civil servants. Why is that?

  • Your value of hardware over human life in HSF operations is well documented on this forum– which is itself irrational, unless you’re a machine.

    It has nothing to do with being a machine. It has to do with not being an economic ignoramus, and not wanting to misallocate resources, and wanting to actually accomplish useful things in space.

  • Artemus

    “No, you’re wrong. Why would you think that? Are you familiar with how the COTS and CCDev program works?”

    Certainly I am. NASA is making milestone payments to “buy down risk” (programmatic risk) without levying formal safety requirements. That’s what this whole debate is about.

    “They have. What do you think the COTS and CCDev participants are using as guidance?”

    Can you provide a cite for that? I read the SAAs for CCDev and they impose no requirements. They simply set as a milestone a review of requirements written by the contractors themselves.

  • Artemus

    “You seem to be keen to find a role for NASA civil servants. Why is that?”

    Writing and enforcing requirements is inherently the responsibility of the procuring agency.

    I am not sure where you’re going with your comment. I work in military space launch, not for NASA. We had our fling with acquisition reform and learned the hard way which parts of it were good and which were bad. NASA would do well to make a study of our experience.

  • Coastal Ron

    Artemus wrote @ March 5th, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Certainly I am. NASA is making milestone payments to “buy down risk” (programmatic risk) without levying formal safety requirements.

    This is what NASA said when they awarded SpaceX and RpK COTS contracts:

    Usually, the space agency issues detailed requirements and specifications for its flight hardware and it takes ownership of any vehicles and associated infrastructure that a contractor produces. For COTS, NASA specified only high level goals and objectives instead of detailed requirements where possible, and left its industry partners responsible for decisions about design, development, certification and operation of the transportation system.

    Sounds formal to me. NASA also conducts PDR’s & CDR’s as part of the milestones, so how do they judge whether the reviews were successful if they don’t have standards? Sounds like sufficient oversight to me, especially when I think of similar products like commercial airliners. You may have a different point of reference.

    That’s what this whole debate is about.

    To know for sure what these few Republican Congressmen are really “debating”, we would have to know their true concerns and what they are prepared to do to “fix the situation” (i.e. would they take money from a program in their district to address the issue). Considering where their political loyalties lie, and NASA’s tight budget, it’s tough to ascribe pure motives to their “concern”. I’ll wait and see if anything further happens…

  • E.P. Grondine

    Rand –

    DCSCA has it right.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ March 5th, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    A lot of useful things have been accomplished in space by government managed and operated space programs, both civil and military since Sputnik on all sides- and by human and by machines, for various motives–including economic and geo-politcal. However, misallocating dwindling government resources to subsidize private enterprised firms incapable of selling themselves to skeptics in private capital markets- when there already exists several space programs competing for said resources, both civil and DoD- is one most decidely not a smart allocation of those resources. And, of course, space exploitation is not space exploration. However, you advocacy for hardware over the safety of the crews which fly said hardware is disturbing- a position you’ve often repeated on this forum, is unsettling. Stay away frm HSF.

  • Daddy

    Mr. Smith,
    Yes, I understand the issue at hand and I appreciate your efforts toward pointed dialog despite Mr. Simberg’s steadfast entrenchment in his own self-importance.

    Plain Fact 1: The FAA will not do anything proactive to regulate commercial space until either a rocket crashes into a populated area or a commercial space passenger is killed. Their people have said as much because they have way too much on their plate already with civil air travel. Headline grabbing commercial space tragedies may indeed be an eventuality, as Mr. Simberg infers. But NASA has and will always be focused on trying to prevent unfortunate tragedies, rather than waiting for the next one to occur.

    Plain Fact 2: There are, unfortunately, commercial space entities that are not taking the human element seriously. Scaled Composites had a pretty dismissive attitude before 3 of their workers were killed in the Mojave. They didn’t have to die if they, and their employer, had simply paid some respect to the energy they were working with. Just one more example where a little thought was needed, not more money or control. There are other behavioral and attitude examples I have heard, but I will not pass on the hearsay.

    It is unfortunate that NASA works for 50 years to pursue safe space travel and is maligned as if it were twiddling its collective thumbs.

    NASA has been working to integrate their efforts with the FAA. Both have mutual interests. NASA is not in the regulation business, and the FAA does not have a robust level of space travel acumen. NASA has cooperated with the FAA on many fronts associated with commercial space, and they have been sharing representatives to learn from one another.

    I fear that the Senate saber-rattling may very well throw gas on the fire and drive a political wedge between the FAA and NASA, when they need to continue, if not accelerate, their cooperative progress.

    “Clueless” Daddy

  • Martijn Meijering

    Writing and enforcing requirements is inherently the responsibility of the procuring agency.

    Validating requirements too. Part of the job of the procurement function is to make sure that demands for goods and services generated by the wider organisation are not overspecified. Or at least that’s what the textbooks I’ve read say. This allows you select from a wider range of suppliers, order larger quantities to get a discount etc.

    What I’d be worried about is that detailed specification by NASA would turn this into just another NASA project, with NASA engineers in effective control. I don’t see how this is likely to be better than the traditional approach or likely to lead to commercially viable crew transport, or even semi-commercially viable transport, say for someone like Bigelow.

  • Plain Fact 1: The FAA will not do anything proactive to regulate commercial space until either a rocket crashes into a populated area or a commercial space passenger is killed. Their people have said as much because they have way too much on their plate already with civil air travel.

    That is not a fact, plain or otherwise. It is nonsense.

    The FAA is pro-actively regulating commercial space right now, precisely to prevent a “rocket crash into a populated area.” They are statutorily required to do so. They are not regulating passenger safety, because they are currently statutorily prohibited from doing so, at least until October 2015. It has nothing to do with how much they “have on their plate.”

    I never fail to be astounded at some peoples’ repeated willingness to flaunt their ignorance on the Internet.

  • Artemus

    “What I’d be worried about is that detailed specification by NASA would turn this into just another NASA project, with NASA engineers in effective control. I don’t see how this is likely to be better than the traditional approach or likely to lead to commercially viable crew transport, or even semi-commercially viable transport, say for someone like Bigelow.”

    NASA is strangely schizophrenic. They either do too much oversight or too little. From what I know about CCDev, they’re swinging toward “too little”, like they’ve done for LSP. The trouble is, for CCDev the military won’t be there to pick up the slack as they have done for LSP. Notice that OCO and Glory failed on vehicles DOD hasn’t used in a decade, while all NASA’s EELV launches have been successful.

    They’ve got to be able to write and enforce a reasonable set of requirements, there’s no way around it. EELV let contractors write the requirements and lived to regret it, with continual, expensive and time-consuming review activities to try to compensate. CCDev sounds like a replay of the original plan for EELV and certain satellite programs from the 90s.

    Google “smc standards revitalization” to get a flavor of their current thinking.

  • Coastal Ron

    Artemus wrote @ March 6th, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    They either do too much oversight or too little. From what I know about CCDev, they’re swinging toward “too little”, like they’ve done for LSP.

    Just for perspective, when my wife works in the garden, she prunes lightly, but when I work in the garden I hack away at the undergrowth so things can grow again new.

    As another point of reference, I was on the proposal team and part of the management team for one of the first DoD Commercial-Off-The-Shelf programs (a different COTS). It was quite a learning process for the local DCAS inspectors to not have total sway over what we were building. While I could probably list a number of areas where we could have done better, the DoD was getting a lot more useable equipment for their money compared to what they would have gotten under a full mil-spec program (which I’ve worked on also).

    And I’m not suggesting a complete lack of oversight, and that is not the case with either COTS or CCDev. But NASA’s primary experience with HSF revolves around Shuttle and ISS, and I don’t think they know everything about building and operating a low cost, relatively low-tech, transportation system.

    What I have liked about COTS and CCDev is that NASA is involved but acting more as a consultant and guide, which to me allows the best of both worlds, especially since NASA has a wealth of public-funded knowledge that is free for U.S. companies to tap. Win Win.

    And just like NASA’s approach to building and operating space hardware isn’t perfect, I don’t expect perfection from cargo or crew carriers. But this new generation of crew vehicles will be far safer than the Shuttle was, so if we had no shortage of NASA personnel to fly on Shuttle, the same will be true for Commercial Crew.

  • Martijn Meijering

    But NASA’s primary experience with HSF revolves around Shuttle and ISS, and I don’t think they know everything about building and operating a low cost, relatively low-tech, transportation system.

    In fact, you have to wonder whether they are at all qualified to make judgments about that. I think NASA would do well to hire some commercial procurement expertise, a few former heads of corporate purchasing departments for example.

  • Daddy

    Mr. Simberg,
    Being “statutorily required to do so,” is not the same thing as actually doing it. Yes, OCST has a licencing process, much like what you do at the Department of Motor Vehicles so you can drive what must be a suitably self-important car, but they don’t have much of an enforcement process. No traffic cops… Just a handful of hard working suits staring at stacks of regulatory paperwork. The field regulators are all at airports, on airplanes, and checking out aircraft part pedigrees. How many FAA regulators have you actually talked to?

    I suspect your ignorance comes from spending WAY TOO MUCH time on the internet fueling your virtual understanding of reality. I occasionally get on the internet and am amazed at the self-important eggheads who blaze away on their blogs with literally no perspective on the real world. Live long and prosper, my Vulcan friend…

    “Ignorant” Daddy

  • Daddy

    Artemus,
    I believe you are right on target with your assessment of NASA either wanting too much or too little. The commercial partners are scared to death of having to deal with the whole enchilada’s worth of NASA standards and requirements. And NASA overcompensates by throwing away the baby with the bathwater by stripping out any teeth in their respective Space Act Agreements with commercial partners.

  • Being “statutorily required to do so,” is not the same thing as actually doing it. Yes, OCST has a licencing process, much like what you do at the Department of Motor Vehicles so you can drive what must be a suitably self-important car, but they don’t have much of an enforcement process. No traffic cops… Just a handful of hard working suits staring at stacks of regulatory paperwork. The field regulators are all aI suspect your ignorance comes from spending WAY TOO MUCH time on the internet fueling your virtual understanding of reality. t airports, on airplanes, and checking out aircraft part pedigrees. How many FAA regulators have you actually talked to?

    Many of them are personal friends, including the highest levels of FAA-AST (not “OCST”), and someone who is permanently stationed in Mojave. And you have no idea what you’re talking about. If you don’t satisfy the requirements for the license (including the need to ensure public safety), you don’t fly.

    I suspect your ignorance comes from spending WAY TOO MUCH time on the internet fueling your virtual understanding of reality.

    Your suspicion is idiotic, particularly since I have no such “ignorance.”

    Physician, heal thyself.

  • Son of Szebehely

    What Jeff doesn’t mention is the reason for the INKSA waiver.

    SpaceX did an EMI test recently on the Falcon 9 and blew some sensors. So much for “designed for human rated from Day 1″. Anyway, the April 30 launch is very, very…VERY much in doubt. Oh, and OSC used a contractor, one blacklisted by both the Air Force and NASA, in building their Wallops launch complex. Over 187 valves and a lot of fuel plumbing had to be replaced. Yup, those commercial guys really are proving that they are faste, better, and cheaper…with the same record of success that Dan Golden’s “faster, better, cheaper” NASA had in the 1990′s.

    So, yeah, ISS will need additional Russian resupply missions. Those additional flights must be purchased. Thus, another INKSA waiver. And I’m sure the members of Congress will also force NASA to disclose, so that it’s in the record, why another waiver is necessary.

    As I’m sure all of you are aware, SpaceX is coming up on its 18th month anniversary since its last launch. Clearly, given its lack of progress, we can all be grateful that Congress didn’t buy into SpaceX’s March 2010 Senate testimony by Gwynne Shotwell that SpaceX would be able to launch crews within 3 years of a contract being signed. After all, they can’t seem to launch another cargo test flight within 1 1/2 years since their last one.

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