PDA

View Full Version : Obama to Re-examine Constellation Program



Fraser
2009-May-05, 09:00 PM
The White House is expected to announce on Thursday that they will order a full review of the NASA’s Constellation program. The reason for the review is to determine whether the Ares I rocket and the Orion crew capsule are the best options for replacing the space shuttle. According to the Orlando Sentinel, [...]

More... (http://www.universetoday.com/2009/05/05/obama-to-re-examine-constellation-program/)

mike alexander
2009-May-06, 11:01 AM
From tuna down to anchovies already? The Bad Choice Booster needs springs, a smaller capsule (will NASA tout the extra 25% of room in the new capsule vs. the old Apollo?) and BCB is already aiming for the traditional NASA 2X+ cost overrun.

Just shut the whole thing down, let the Russians/ESA/Japan/India do manned and spend the money on what the US does best: splendid robots. A telepresence lab on the moon, with the short SOL lag should work really fine for everything from exploration to sophisticated chemistry, geology and what else. Shift that 10 billion or whatever to the next generation of Great Observatories, replacing our failing earth-observing satellites... lots to do.

apolloman
2009-May-06, 02:19 PM
If its a re-examine to give the project a boost then fine. But if Mr. Obama wants to give the project an overhaul, I can see the US catching taxi flights to space for many many years to come.

Currently there just isn't enough momentum behind Constellation so I hope this is what the re-examine is for.

mike alexander
2009-May-06, 06:12 PM
If human space flight is to become a truly international activity as we all pretend we want it to be, instead of mainly a vanity thing where countries compare rocket lengths, the idea of the US catching a ride on a proven Soyuz/Proton program shouldn't bother anyone. But it does, meaning the cold war is only cool, cooperation is guns cocked but not firing, and human space flight remains a vanity for nations that can squeeze out enough surplus income (Ex: India and Pakistan both developed atomic bomb technology, but India now has a robust launch and satellite industry that Pakistan simply cannot afford).

The idea that the US must be first and biggest in everything eventually runs up against reality (as will happen to any nation). It has happened before, as when much anxiety in the early-mid 1960's accompanied Soviet 'firsts' in the Mercury - Gemini interregnum. It happened again with the US and Russian space stations: Russia had 'Peace' so the US would build 'Freedom', and so on.

When the first mockups came out for the US Constellation stuff, Mak (rest in peace, buddy) and I were tossing a few barbs; partly because we had both seen the same thing before, forty years ago. But mainly because we had both seen the same attitude forty years ago. The US of A would once again strike out on its own, seeing cooperation as a weakness. Russia would use its monopoly on manned access to space as a bargaining chip and a club if necessary. As usual, the governments of both countries see what many of us view as amazing and necessary developments of human potential as mere counters on the geocentric playing board.

Always remember that. The people in charge have their own uses for space, and they rarely coincide with what we think.

PraedSt
2009-May-06, 06:27 PM
It's hard to tell you're a 60s child Mike :D

mike alexander
2009-May-06, 07:47 PM
It's hard to tell you're a 60s child Mike :D

Yes, but I was carrying a slide rule (K&E Log Log Duplex Decitrig) instead of flowers.:D

(I still have the recordings I took of the Apollo 11 landing. Being 35mm shots off my television screen.)

One (admittedly grumpy) advantage of having been at least partially cognitive through the entire man in space age has been being able to catalog both successes and failures. Not just hardware explosions and landings, but plans and policies. The latter have been the most frustrating. To be approaching sixty and seeing Apollo redux is, yes, a bit disheartening.

I mean, the announcement that the Orion ALREADY has to be cut from a crew of six to a crew of four should make everybody sit up and say WHAT? Even granting that we can't figure out a way to launch a vehicle without worrying every time it might get bunged up by flying ice is bad enough, but OK, we know a workaround. But to take the working part and right from the start shrink it, thus putting lots of limits and reduced flexibility on your future missions because the booster design is a kludge with incredible shrinking capability is the totally bass-ackwards approach. Come on, the logical design method with a stack is top-down; what goes on top to do the job is set first, then you design the bottom with the capacity to get the top where it has to go.

I don't think the initial reaction of people to the aesthetics of the Ares (looking nothing so much like an Estes EggsCaliber, I won't mention other remarks) are necessarily off the mark. It looks less like a launcher than a late-middle school science fair project.

PraedSt
2009-May-06, 08:43 PM
...

I'll be charitable and say give them time. If you come back to doing something after ~40 years, you're going to have problems, regardless of how smart you are or how much money you have.
And after so much time has passed, and you've forgotten so much, where else to start but where you left off?

As for the specific design- when they started the process, I presume they were working top-down, weren't it? I'm not well up on the program, I have to admit.

It probably seems bottom-up now because they've already spent a lot of money and time designing the booster (which has turned out to be incapable), so the logical thing to do now, is to shrink the payload. Yes, sometimes its hard to tell the difference between logic and stupidity. :)

(I still have the recordings I took of the Apollo 11 landing. Being 35mm shots off my television screen.)

Wow. Please digitise and put up here!

Celestial Mechanic
2009-May-06, 08:48 PM
[Snip!] (I still have the recordings I took of the Apollo 11 landing. Being 35mm shots off my television screen.)

Wow. Please digitise and put up here!
And in high-definition too! Let the fun begin! :D :clap:

mike alexander
2009-May-07, 06:03 PM
That might be fun. I think I know where the old shoebox is. While I'm at it I could digitize the pics I took of the Skylab launch. Not off the TV, at the Cape.

Rue
2009-May-08, 03:14 AM
(I still have the recordings I took of the Apollo 11 landing. Being 35mm shots off my television screen.)


Yes digitize, not only for the A11 broadcast, but also the nostalgia of seeing a faux-wood cabinet tv!;)

Jerry
2009-May-08, 05:23 PM
I'll be charitable and say give them time. If you come back to doing something after ~40 years, you're going to have problems, regardless of how smart you are or how much money you have.
And after so much time has passed, and you've forgotten so much, where else to start but where you left off?

As for the specific design- when they started the process, I presume they were working top-down, weren't it? I'm not well up on the program, I have to admit.
Yes and No.

The payload was specified, and there were a number of proposals considered. The Constallation concept surface when other top-down designed would require a complete reworking of pad and assembly building structures. So it is fair to say this concept was driven by limiting the new infrastructure required to support a new launcher. Ares engineers are finding it tight working within these constraints; but limiting the initial missions to four seats in order increase safety margins seems a reasonable downsized when contrasted with a complete rebuild of launch facilities. Down the road, a change as 'simple'* as a more energetic propellant could easily lift another two bodies.

As far as pricing: Energy and raw material costs in the US have risen dramatically in the last three years - as any farmer can tell you, and that is hay. With all the political uncertainty it is not easy to entice skilled engineers into the US rocket industry. Likewise prime subs are concerned about profit margins and iffy budgeting. It is one thing to budget a dream, but the risks of reality have their own price tag.

Everyone in the US should be concerned with the exportation of heavy launch capability outside of US borders and whether or not we have the capacity to compete for this type of technology. Anyone can make computer chips now: What can we do that sets us apart as a technically-advanced society? I hope the answer is always that we can do more than build bombs and bomb-delivery systems.

As an ancillary general comment. NASA bashing in in vogue and seems to be at a new all-time high. This is frustrating in that there are so many good successful and ongoing science missions: Cassini, Messenger, Dawn, New Horizons, the MERS, Pheonix...Isn't this a good time to put our best foot forward and move Manned Exploration beyond near Earth Orbit?

*There are no 'simple' changes in the Manned Space Flight certification process.

peteshimmon
2009-May-08, 05:47 PM
I am not so sure it is worthwhile doing the
Moon again. I still think it was miraculous
that the Apollo program did as much as it
did with no tragedy out there. Of course
the engineers will claim they just got it
right. But the odds were fantastic.

There was danger during the launch, staging
and firing the third stage for tran lunar
flight. There was danger docking with the
LM. There was danger in the three day coast.
There was danger in lunar orbit insertion.
There was danger decending to the lunar
surface. There was danger doing the EVAs.
There was danger lifting off after carefully
stowing the rocks and allowing for weight loss
in the astronauts. The centre of gravity had
to be within limits. There was danger in
rendevous in lunar orbit. There was danger
in trans Earth injection. There was another
three day coast. And there was danger in
re-entry and parachute deployment.

I was young then and coped with the feeling
of tenterhooks. Even though it was not me at
risk. But it was all done succesfully six
times plus the first few missions.

Now excuse me while I get a towel for my
perspiring palms.

raptorthang
2009-May-08, 06:46 PM
Ask some non-space keeners at work: "is it a good idea for the USA to send more astronauts to Mars?". Many won't even blink. ...some might ask 'did we go to Mars? and if you said, 'yup the Shuttle went back in 1986'...the response might be 'oh, ya, I forgot about that'.

The American manned space program, funded by taxpayers is a complete 'shoulder shrug' by most of them. NASA has a hard time selling a return to the Moon to the science community.... and the marketing of the concept to those (taxpayers) who pay the bill is almost non-existent.

Nobody has sold the 'why' of a return at the expense of 'x' billions of dollars. Congressmen and Senators in benefiting states are lobbying for funds but to most of the nation it's a big non-issue under their everyday radar. I recall the Apollo 11 landing...the world was transfixed...after Apollo 12 it was a big yawn.

These excuses for being over budget are ludicrous. Why wasn't a dose of reality factored into cost estimates? This farce of Moon mission budgeting is going to kill any potential Mars mission for decades . Every time some figure comes up like 500 billion dollars, it will get a snicker from critics, be doubled and deadlines dismissed as pie-in-the-sky.

PraedSt
2009-May-08, 07:16 PM
Yes and No.

The payload was specified, and there were a number of proposals considered. The Constallation concept surface when other top-down designed would require a complete reworking of pad and assembly building structures. So it is fair to say this concept was driven by limiting the new infrastructure required to support a new launcher. Ares engineers are finding it tight working within these constraints; but limiting the initial missions to four seats in order increase safety margins seems a reasonable downsized when contrasted with a complete rebuild of launch facilities. Down the road, a change as 'simple'* as a more energetic propellant could easily lift another two bodies.
Thanks Jerry.

As for the rest, everyone and his dog has a view on NASA: what it's done right, what it's done wrong, what it should be doing, how it should be doing it, etc...

I'm no different- I'd do it all differently (ha). But I'm neither the President nor the Administrator. And if I were, I'd probably be lynched by an angry mob of scientists. Within a week.

But thanks again for that info.

Tuckerfan
2009-May-09, 12:21 AM
This lends weight to those folks who said the previous director was not being upfront and honest with the transition team, it seems to me. One would think that if he was telling the Administration everything that they wanted/needed to know, they wouldn't need to be doing this now.

Lets hope that whatever happens, they continue to push forward with the manned program.

Jerry
2009-May-10, 03:18 AM
These excuses for being over budget are ludicrous. Why wasn't a dose of reality factored into cost estimates?
There were two original concepts submitted by two major U.S. aerospace companies. The pricing exercise is very complex, but it generally is based upon what it cost to do the same thing on a similar program in a reference time frame. To be fair, all the estimates have to use the same price for steel, for example. In a competitive bidding exercise, it would make no sense to go in with inflated estimated based upon future cost increases unless everyone submitting bids uses the same inflation factors.

The original costing on this was ~ 2003. NASA was not happy with either of the original proposals (both were two expensive), so the third alternative was developed using about the same baseline period. So the original estimates were old long before they were debated in public.

The estimates were also based upon an optimal time-frame for development - and no delays. Delays jack-up the total cost up in many ways: Vendors quit make products and new suppliers must be found and certified; Administrative costs accrue even while there is no budget for engineering and testing.

There are other reasons cost are up that may be more controllable; but it is not because engineers are raking in the dough.

raptorthang
2009-May-10, 03:53 AM
There were two original concepts submitted by two major U.S. aerospace companies. The pricing exercise is very complex, but it generally is based upon what it cost to do the same thing on a similar program in a reference time frame. To be fair, all the estimates have to use the same price for steel, for example. In a competitive bidding exercise, it would make no sense to go in with inflated estimated based upon future cost increases unless everyone submitting bids uses the same inflation factors.

The original costing on this was ~ 2003. NASA was not happy with either of the original proposals (both were two expensive), so the third alternative was developed using about the same baseline period. So the original estimates were old long before they were debated in public.

The estimates were also based upon an optimal time-frame for development - and no delays. Delays jack-up the total cost up in many ways: Vendors quit make products and new suppliers must be found and certified; Administrative costs accrue even while there is no budget for engineering and testing.

There are other reasons cost are up that may be more controllable; but it is not because engineers are raking in the dough.

Not really. ALL those things may increase costs but is also why the proposals are made with the aid of an army of bean counters. Based on optimal time-frame ....er, um, that is NOT how any estimate has done by our department...we have to take into account possibilities. 'What ifs'. So no one budgets for 'delays'?..Some new vendors being certified?.. NASA of all agencies should factor in these costs.

"it would make no sense to go in with inflated estimated based upon future cost increases unless everyone submitting bids uses the same inflation factors" huh? that's EXACTLY what makes sense...that's what the army of bean counters is paid to do. They don't need bean counters to work the adding machine ...they need them to produce a credible budget.

'Excusing away' incompetency with the Shuttle and now this program is not a way to achieve excellence. It is a way to embrace mediocrity and low, low expectations. NASA has a credibility issue as it is and these latest overcosts just piles on the skepticism.