So, Orion supposedly passed its Preliminary Design Review (even though it never really made it through a System Requirements Review, and the requirements are still all over the map as a result of the Ares 1 problems and other issues). But I don’t buy this:
If Orion’s companion rocket — dubbed Ares 1 — is spiked in favor of another rocket, then any Orion mission would be delayed by up to two years so engineers could fit a new rocket to the capsule.
That possibility looms large. Ares 1 faces mounting technical and financial problems and an independent presidential panel said this summer that it would be impossible for Ares 1 to meet its goal of a first mission in 2015 without a funding increase of tens of billions of dollars.
Given these funding pressures, it’s uncertain when Orion could be ready for a new mission if a new rocket is chosen.
This is just more FUD by Hanley to try to save Ares 1. It is six years until 2015 (and they already had less than a 35% confidence of hitting that date even with Ares 1). Sure there will be some changes to the vehicle if they switch over to an affordable and safe launcher, but there is no reason in the world that those changes would have to add two years to an already long schedule. I’d be curious to see the project schedule and critical path.
“Rocketman” has a plausible alternate theory:
Viceroy Hanley, standing on one leg with his fingers crossed behind his back, came as close as he’s going to admit the real status of Orion at it’s PDR. He’s at least two years behind schedule. How do we know that?
“It’ll take up to two years to fit a new rocket to the capsule,” he said. Design changes to accommodate weight and size differences are required he says.
But at least one EELV provides more mass margin than the corndog does.
As I note in comments, playing “schedule chicken” like this is a win-win for him — either he gets to keep Ares, or he gets an excuse for his schedule slip. But only if he keeps his job, and someone doesn’t call him on it. If I were Bolden I’d demand a briefing showing (as already noted) the assumptions behind his claim.
[Update a couple minutes later]
What is schedule chicken, you ask? It’s a game in which multiple teams on a project are behind, but they don’t want to report it, and they don’t in the hope that someone else will fess up first, making their own slip moot so they don’t have to. It can have just as disastrous program results as the road version, in terms of delays and cost increases.