Author Topic: ASAP concerned NASA is taking risks to meet Orion schedule  (Read 5323 times)

Offline Chris Bergin

https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2016/04/asap-nasa-risk-orion-schedule/

Not a lot more to add other than what's in the article. We tried to balance it, and the ASAP is traditionally "point fingers and frown", but there's some very interesting technical details as to the issues this time.

Article is prettier thanks to Nathan's fine L2 rendering work :)

Offline The Amazing Catstronaut

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1066
  • Arsia Mons, Mars, Sol IV, Inner Solar Solar System, Sol system.
  • Liked: 753
  • Likes Given: 624
Wonderful article as always. Nathan's work is one of the pillars of this site.

It seems inevitable that when you have a low flight rate vehicle in a state of evolution that you are going to have to deal with unenviable schedule pressures. SLS+Orion is not an architecture which is going to benefit from considerable amounts of flight data in its expected initial form before humans ride on top of the stack, nor would it recover well from any kind of mission compromising event. Good enough for shuttle and Apollo/government work? Perhaps. However Apollo benefitted from degrees of leniency and a NASA culture that SLS+Orion does not possess (which is not an objectively bad thing), whilst shuttle is unrepeatable. This seems somewhat ironic since SLS+Orion is the godchild of both programs, the first in ideology, the second technologically.

Forever the primary opposition of Orion is timeline befuddlement, be it a purpose problem or simply an issue of selecting the best way to put the darn' thing together. Much of Orion's mission rescoping has done the program some aspirational good, especially the sensation that we're starting to experience some kind of image as to what the capsule is actually going to be doing in BEO with the gradual slant towards cislunar space we've been seeing of late. Unfortunately, these decisions, for what they are, come later than the physical engineering and at this point, actual metal bending.

As with shuttle, as with (to some extent) Apollo, politically set timelines (and to be clear, nearly all manned spaceflight timelines set to date fall into that category) are both the greatest friends and the worst enemies of manned spaceflight. They get astronauts to space, sure, but they also occasionally imperil them.

There will be, of course, a time when we need to accept a certain amount of risk for EM-1, EM-2 and any other mission, to fly at all, before the money changes its mind. Just because we shouldn't be taking risks like the sixties in the lieu of modern aerospace technology doesn't mean we embrace can't certain amount of self-conscious audacity. The point of having a SHLV and a dedicated BEO capsule is to do groundbreaking missions after all.

Of course, there's a distinction between working under pressure and being pressured into corner cutting. The latter seems to be ASAP's concern and it's the latter which has killed astronauts before.
« Last Edit: 04/03/2016 09:43 PM by The Amazing Catstronaut »
Resident feline spaceflight expert. Knows nothing of value about human spaceflight.

Offline raketa

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 171
  • Liked: 27
  • Likes Given: 15
Looks like ride on Orion will be even scarier then space shuttle launch.
The best approach to make something significant, to have small team of  best engineers available and give them clear vision and let them find best solution and test their hardware and software daily and also have opportunity to tested in space.
I am worry this child of two agency ESA and NASA will be very moody.

Online Coastal Ron

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2973
  • I live... along the coast
  • Liked: 1873
  • Likes Given: 2099
As with shuttle, as with (to some extent) Apollo, politically set timelines (and to be clear, nearly all manned spaceflight timelines set to date fall into that category) are both the greatest friends and the worst enemies of manned spaceflight. They get astronauts to space, sure, but they also occasionally imperil them.

Well said.

Quote
There will be, of course, a time when we need to accept a certain amount of risk for EM-1, EM-2 and any other mission, to fly at all, before the money changes its mind. Just because we shouldn't be taking risks like the sixties in the lieu of modern aerospace technology doesn't mean we embrace can't certain amount of self-conscious audacity.

In order to accept risk, there needs to be a potential reward that is commensurate with the risk.  For Apollo the astronauts understood that they were part of the Cold War, and they accepted those risks.  And so did our government.  Plus back in the 60's we were not so hyper-connected and able to rally public opinions so quickly, so we have to realize we are living in a different world than we have during Apollo and even the Shuttle.

As of today, without a clear and defined mission for the Orion, I think any major failures are going to generate many questions.

And with our highly polarized politics today, it would be very likely that any major failure would generate some sort of review or reassessment of the Orion.

Quote
The point of having a SHLV and a dedicated BEO capsule is to do groundbreaking missions after all.

Let's not romanticize a hunk of hardware.  The Orion is designed to do a certain range of tasks, so the most important question is whether the U.S. Government has a sustained need for what the Orion can do?

The SLS and Orion programs have not had a top-down review since their inception, and I would hope the next President and Congress do one.  The result will help clarify what types of needs there are, and with that knowledge, what types of risks that will be acceptable.

Because again, without knowing what the potential rewards are, you can't know what the acceptable risks are.

Quote
Of course, there's a distinction between working under pressure and being pressured into corner cutting. The latter seems to be ASAP's concern and it's the latter which has killed astronauts before.

Again, well said.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline woods170

  • IRAS fan
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6792
  • IRAS fan
  • The Netherlands
  • Liked: 2274
  • Likes Given: 685
https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2016/04/asap-nasa-risk-orion-schedule/

Not a lot more to add other than what's in the article. We tried to balance it, and the ASAP is traditionally "point fingers and frown", but there's some very interesting technical details as to the issues this time.

Article is prettier thanks to Nathan's fine L2 rendering work :)
Great article Chris, as always. And Nathan is a real superstar here!

That said, I can't help but feel that "conservative" is quite a 'conservative' word to describe the general attitude at ASAP. IMO, if it was up to them, Orion would never fly manned, simply because any manned flight will put people at risk. Manned spaceflight is, by definition, a risky business.
It is most unfortunate that Challenger and Columbia have resulted in an extremely risk-averse environment.

Offline jgoldader

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 612
  • Liked: 180
  • Likes Given: 119
Is there a non-budgetary reason there isn't a crewed LEO flight on a commercial booster to prove out the ECLSS and SM systems?
Recovering astronomer

Online Coastal Ron

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2973
  • I live... along the coast
  • Liked: 1873
  • Likes Given: 2099
Is there a non-budgetary reason there isn't a crewed LEO flight on a commercial booster to prove out the ECLSS and SM systems?

Politically there is a reason not to use commercial launchers for anything Orion related, since that detracts from the perception that the SLS is needed - even if it would be significantly less expensive to do a test using commercial launchers (whether it is or isn't is irrelevant).
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline ChrisWilson68

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3352
  • Sunnyvale, CA
  • Liked: 1936
  • Likes Given: 2207
Is there a non-budgetary reason there isn't a crewed LEO flight on a commercial booster to prove out the ECLSS and SM systems?

Politically there is a reason not to use commercial launchers for anything Orion related, since that detracts from the perception that the SLS is needed - even if it would be significantly less expensive to do a test using commercial launchers (whether it is or isn't is irrelevant).

I agree there's a political reason not to use commercial launchers with Orion.

However, I don't really see the point in doing a crewed test flight of Orion on a commercial launch vehicle if they're still going to do the same SLS flights anyway.

If Orion is going to have an Orion-specific failure, it's likely to be just as safe or dangerous for the crew for it to happen on SLS as on a commercial launch vehicle.

Just to be clear: I'm not saying SLS as a launcher is as safe as commercial crew -- it definitely won't be, given that it's a new vehicle.  It's just that problems with Orion won't be any less of a problem with a commercial launch vehicle.

More uncrewed flights of Orion on commercial launch vehicles, on the other hand, would contribute to safety, because failures could be found without a crew being at risk.

That's where the political pressures come in.  The more flights of Orion there are on commercial vehicles, the more threat to SLS, even if the flights are without a crew.

Offline Steven Pietrobon

  • Member
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10460
  • Adelaide, Australia
    • Steven Pietrobon's Space Archive
  • Liked: 2204
  • Likes Given: 303
Is there a non-budgetary reason there isn't a crewed LEO flight on a commercial booster to prove out the ECLSS and SM systems?

In my opinion, there's no good reason why a crewed test flight of Orion in LEO should not be performed prior to sending crew around the Moon, especially when this will be the first flight of the environmental system. You know what they say. "Test what you fly. Fly what you test." That to me means forking out the dollars to crew rate Delta IV Heavy, building a crew access tower and flying Orion to the ISS orbit and perform a practice rendezvous and docking. If something goes awry, they can either deorbit or fly to ISS, something the crew won't have the option to do near the Moon.
Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design #1:  Engineering is done with numbers.  Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.

Offline rayleighscatter

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 860
  • Maryland
  • Liked: 381
  • Likes Given: 170
Is there a non-budgetary reason there isn't a crewed LEO flight on a commercial booster to prove out the ECLSS and SM systems?

In my opinion, there's no good reason why a crewed test flight of Orion in LEO should not be performed prior to sending crew around the Moon, especially when this will be the first flight of the environmental system. You know what they say. "Test what you fly. Fly what you test." That to me means forking out the dollars to crew rate Delta IV Heavy, building a crew access tower and flying Orion to the ISS orbit and perform a practice rendezvous and docking. If something goes awry, they can either deorbit or fly to ISS, something the crew won't have the option to do near the Moon.
Or it can be launched unmanned to ISS and pick up a crew there rather than a lot of costly and one time ground infrastructure and Delta-IV modifications.

Offline AncientU

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3905
  • Liked: 2358
  • Likes Given: 3242
Re: ASAP concerned NASA is taking risks to meet Orion schedule
« Reply #10 on: 04/03/2016 03:19 PM »
<snip>

Let's not romanticize a hunk of hardware.  The Orion is designed to do a certain range of tasks, so the most important question is whether the U.S. Government has a sustained need for what the Orion can do?

The SLS and Orion programs have not had a top-down review since their inception, and I would hope the next President and Congress do one. The result will help clarify what types of needs there are, and with that knowledge, what types of risks that will be acceptable.

Because again, without knowing what the potential rewards are, you can't know what the acceptable risks are.

<snip>

Agree, but don't think it would be survivable.
The first crew launch (after implementing ASAP recommendations) in mid-2020s and the budget over-runs associated with that delay, the Mars plans that leave Orion in cis-Lunar space, and five plus years of commercial crew transport by mid-2020s would put Orion at grave risk.
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline The Amazing Catstronaut

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1066
  • Arsia Mons, Mars, Sol IV, Inner Solar Solar System, Sol system.
  • Liked: 753
  • Likes Given: 624
Re: ASAP concerned NASA is taking risks to meet Orion schedule
« Reply #11 on: 04/03/2016 09:48 PM »

That said, I can't help but feel that "conservative" is quite a 'conservative' word to describe the general attitude at ASAP. IMO, if it was up to them, Orion would never fly manned, simply because any manned flight will put people at risk. Manned spaceflight is, by definition, a risky business.
It is most unfortunate that Challenger and Columbia have resulted in an extremely risk-averse environment.

I wouldn't agree with that, Woods. Whilst you're right Challenger and Columbia have resulted in a risk-averse environment, I wouldn't say they're against manned spaceflight itself. Some of those guys are ex-astros.
Resident feline spaceflight expert. Knows nothing of value about human spaceflight.

Offline Eric Hedman

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 723
  • Liked: 162
  • Likes Given: 143
Re: ASAP concerned NASA is taking risks to meet Orion schedule
« Reply #12 on: 08/04/2016 04:16 AM »
Here is the latest GAO report on Orion development:

http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/678704.pdf

The parts I found interesting is that NASA is rapidly spending down program reserves and that they are deferring some items that were to be ready for EM-1 to EM-2.

Offline Ben the Space Brit

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6814
  • A spaceflight fan
  • London, UK
  • Liked: 445
  • Likes Given: 512
Re: ASAP concerned NASA is taking risks to meet Orion schedule
« Reply #13 on: 08/04/2016 01:46 PM »
This worries me because EM-1's raison d'etra was meant to be an uncrewed test-flight of the spacecraft. It is beginning to look like that it is going to be a partial test at best of an incomplete vessel minus several key systems. I think that a EFT-2 mission in between EM-1 and -2 is looking more and more like it may be necessary.
"Oops! I left the silly thing in reverse!" - Duck Dodgers

~*~*~*~

The Space Shuttle Program - 1981-2011

The time for words has passed; The time has come to put up or shut up!
DON'T PROPAGANDISE, FLY!!!

Offline psloss

  • Veteran armchair spectator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 16639
  • Liked: 779
  • Likes Given: 278
Re: ASAP concerned NASA is taking risks to meet Orion schedule
« Reply #14 on: 08/04/2016 03:16 PM »
This worries me because EM-1's raison d'etra was meant to be an uncrewed test-flight of the spacecraft. It is beginning to look like that it is going to be a partial test at best of an incomplete vessel minus several key systems.
It's still going to be uncrewed and it's looked like a partial test for a long time.  The choice was made early in the post-2010-Authorization-compromise period (look at the 90-day report), due to the continuing reality of flat budgets.  Incremental development -- meaning EM-1 Orion/MPCV would not be "feature complete" -- has been noted by groups like ASAP / GAO / OIG going back to at least 2012.

Offline Ben the Space Brit

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6814
  • A spaceflight fan
  • London, UK
  • Liked: 445
  • Likes Given: 512
Re: ASAP concerned NASA is taking risks to meet Orion schedule
« Reply #15 on: 08/04/2016 03:35 PM »
Yeah, the problem is that I'm getting the very real impression that the situation is slowly trending backwards towards "Empty capsule simulator"
"Oops! I left the silly thing in reverse!" - Duck Dodgers

~*~*~*~

The Space Shuttle Program - 1981-2011

The time for words has passed; The time has come to put up or shut up!
DON'T PROPAGANDISE, FLY!!!

Offline joek

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2740
  • Liked: 494
  • Likes Given: 324
Re: ASAP concerned NASA is taking risks to meet Orion schedule
« Reply #16 on: 08/05/2016 05:27 AM »
Or it can be launched unmanned to ISS and pick up a crew there rather than a lot of costly and one time ground infrastructure and Delta-IV modifications.

That would require that Orion be certified for ISS operations, including autonomous rendezvous and docking.  Certification for ISS operations certainly was part of the plan, but not sure if it is at this point.  Or whether Orion provides for the necessary ISS autonomous rendezvous and docking.  Anyone care to clarify?

Offline Space Ghost 1962

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2045
  • Whatcha gonna do when the Ghost zaps you?
  • Liked: 1773
  • Likes Given: 1259
Re: ASAP concerned NASA is taking risks to meet Orion schedule
« Reply #17 on: 08/05/2016 06:14 AM »
... or use a "commercial crew" vehicle mission to dock and be a "hot standby"?

Offline joek

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2740
  • Liked: 494
  • Likes Given: 324
Re: ASAP concerned NASA is taking risks to meet Orion schedule
« Reply #18 on: 08/05/2016 06:34 AM »
... or use a "commercial crew" vehicle mission to dock and be a "hot standby"?

Unless I'm missing something...  would not work unless Orion is certified for ISS and has ISS autonomous docking capability.  Unless you are suggesting a commercial crew vehicle transfer crew to-from ISS, then to to-from Orion, so that Orion does not have to dock to ISS?
« Last Edit: 08/05/2016 06:51 AM by joek »

Offline Ben the Space Brit

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6814
  • A spaceflight fan
  • London, UK
  • Liked: 445
  • Likes Given: 512
Re: ASAP concerned NASA is taking risks to meet Orion schedule
« Reply #19 on: 08/05/2016 09:00 AM »
Or it can be launched unmanned to ISS and pick up a crew there rather than a lot of costly and one time ground infrastructure and Delta-IV modifications.

One plan that was floating around at the time of the Augustine Review was to launch the Orion and mission modules unmanned to LEO and then use a Comercial crew vehicle to carry the crew up to rendezvous with the Orion. The ISS was not involved in this except possibly as a navigation target and possibly using the SSRMS to assist assembly of the mission modules into flight configuration.
"Oops! I left the silly thing in reverse!" - Duck Dodgers

~*~*~*~

The Space Shuttle Program - 1981-2011

The time for words has passed; The time has come to put up or shut up!
DON'T PROPAGANDISE, FLY!!!

Tags: