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More Happy Talk

From Jeff Hanley:

Hanley stated his belief that Orion 2's Initial Operational Capability (IOC) test flight to the ISS will "remain" on track for March, 2015 - although the ongoing PMR (Program Management Review) budget review shows the first ISS crew rotation (Orion 4) will take place one year later (March, 2016).

How in the world can someone believe that a program with as many uncertainties--technical, political, budgetary--as this one has can be "on track" for a date seven years out? Particularly considering this:

No specific references are made to ongoing problems that face the Constellation program, such as Thrust Oscillation, mass and performance concerns, etc. Noting only 'key technical challenges' - whilst citing the workforce's 'hard work and dedication' as key to a successful resolution.

OK, so they don't even know if there is a solution within the constraints of the program, let alone what it is, yet he thinks they're on track to a 2015 IOC? Sometimes "hard work" and "dedication" aren't enough. Unfortunately, when one manages cost-plus contracts, it's easy to fall into a Marxist "labor theory of value" mode of thinking.

This would be more credible if he would at least caveat it.

[Update a few minutes later]

Hanley says that more money won't close the gap. That's probably right, short of an Apollo-like crash program. You can't get a baby in a month by putting nine women on the job. Some things just take a certain amount of time.

People who complain about this program's schedule forget that Apollo had essentially an unlimited budget, in terms of hitting the schedule. More money could have been poured into it, but it probably would have been wasted, in terms of getting men on the moon any sooner. NASA is not in that position today--they are budget constrained, yet they're taking exactly the same economically unsustainable approach that got us to the moon the first time, and not developing affordable or routine spaceflight capabilities.

Which is something to consider in terms of looking for asteroids. It's not sufficient to find them--we have to find them soon enough to be able to do something about it:

Smaller rocks matter, too. Perhaps nowhere is that so evident as in central Siberia, where 100 years ago last week, something -- presumably a meteoroid, most experts say -- streaked across the sky and exploded at an estimated height of 28,000 feet with a force equivalent to 185 Hiroshima bombs, leveling some 800 square miles of forest. Simulations by the Sandia National Laboratories showed that object could have been just 90 feet across.

Which is why we have to develop the spacefaring capability now, and not wait until we spot something, at which point it may be too late to do so. And unfortunately, Constellation in its current planned form is not what we need for that job.


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David A. Young wrote:

That's a point I've been making for years. The solution to asteroid strikes is not a "program," it's having thousands of sets of eyes distributed throughout the solar system, with the infrastructure ready at hand to take action quickly. What a "crash" program is most likely to get you is . . . a crash.

tps wrote:

There might've been a couple of ways to get to the moon faster. One was Pete Conrad's Gemini to the moon. Mark Wade came up with a what-if schedule if they had used duel Titan IIID/E launches. Just back of the envelope type stuff but its interesting. Scroll to the bottom of:

Dennis Wingo wrote:


Have you seen this comment on the "Indirect path to Direct" article at NASA Watch?

The human rating requirements have been modified as of May with the revision of NPR 8705.2. Two-fault tolerance is no longer required, single fault tolerance is the minimum. Two-fault tolerance is only required if analysis shows that single-fault does not meet reliability requirements. EELV's could be human-rated with some modifications, or maybe more extensive reliability analysis with the new NPR. One thing is for certain, the NPR was rewritten at the behest of the Constellation program manager to accommodate Ares I. So the rules have been changed after EELV (and Direct to some extent) were rejected as not meeting the human-rating requirements.

If true this is extremely interesting. Happy talk indeed.


There are plenty of ways to get to the Moon before 2020, but none of them have the name Ares associated with them.

Rand Simberg wrote:

So the rules have been changed after EELV (and Direct to some extent) were rejected as not meeting the human-rating requirements.

I'm shocked, shocked.

This is why, if I ever become King, the phrase "human-rating" will be banned from the vocabulary. Everyone uses it, and no on knows what it means. Or rather, it means whatever NASA needs it to mean on any given day.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on July 9, 2008 7:17 AM.

Clarification was the previous entry in this blog.

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