Author Topic: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand  (Read 12857 times)

Offline TomH

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WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« on: 12/16/2014 01:55 AM »
This is quite a long and critical article re. the A-3 test stand. The author spreads blame, unfairly I believe, equally between NASA and politicians.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2014/12/15/nasas-349-million-monument-to-its-drift/

Moderators, I did not see this posted elsewhere. If this is a duplication, please delete. If in the wrong section, please move.

Online yokem55

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #1 on: 12/16/2014 02:09 AM »
Yeah, NASA does what Congress tells them to do. And as long as space spending is driven by pork barrel politics, these types of projects will continue. I'm not sure the answer is to cut the pork and live with a space program funded at  a far lower level, or live with the pork and waste and have a higher over all funding level in the hope that a portion of the pork is useful. I really don't know....

Offline Blackstar

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #2 on: 12/16/2014 02:10 AM »
I just read it. I spotted a couple of things missing. I wouldn't say that the article is factually inaccurate, but the omissions are important.

A minor point it misses is that the B-2 stand would probably need to be refurbished even if there had been no change in plans in the past few years. It's not like the A-3 was a boondoggle and the B-2 will be a boondoggle as well. The B-2 is for testing the core stage and is needed no matter what.

The bigger issue is that the reporter explains that the A-3 stage was created for testing the J-2X rocket engine, then says that there was a change in plans and the J-2X was not needed (implying that it was a change in destinations that led to that). But he never explains why the J-2X was canceled. And if he really wanted to pile on, he could have pointed out how much money was spent finishing out the J-2X without finishing testing on it. The particulars of the J-2X cancellation are an important detail and they're just missing here.

Offline kfsorensen

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #3 on: 12/16/2014 02:21 AM »
Zipcode engineering at its best.

Offline notsorandom

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #4 on: 12/16/2014 02:32 AM »
The Washington Post is owned by the same person who owns Blue Origin.

Offline kfsorensen

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #5 on: 12/16/2014 02:55 AM »
If Congressional salaries were dependent on having a balanced federal budget, you wouldn't see foolishness like this going forward.  Companies have to make difficult decisions all the time to pare back research and to scrap tooling and facilities.  I once saw a very-well-known tech company sell millions of dollars worth of brand-new assets for pennies on the dollar because they had cancelled the program for which the assets were purchased.  It was a huge money loss for them, but they did it because they didn't want to throw good money after bad.

Online A_M_Swallow

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #6 on: 12/16/2014 03:36 AM »
The Washington Post is owned by the same person who owns Blue Origin.

Blue Origin needs to test its engines.  Does A-3 have a rival?

Offline Blackstar

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #7 on: 12/16/2014 03:57 AM »
If Congressional salaries were dependent on having a balanced federal budget, you wouldn't see foolishness like this going forward.  Companies have to make difficult decisions all the time to pare back research and to scrap tooling and facilities.  I once saw a very-well-known tech company sell millions of dollars worth of brand-new assets for pennies on the dollar because they had cancelled the program for which the assets were purchased.  It was a huge money loss for them, but they did it because they didn't want to throw good money after bad.

That implies that companies don't make stupid decisions. But companies make stupid decisions all the time. Look at the Edsel, or the Concorde, or the A380, or BP and Deepwater Horizon. Or look at companies that take on too much debt and then cannot dig themselves out of the hole they've created, or change their executive leadership like some people change their socks (anybody remember Borders Books?). Or look at ValueJet, which made a really stupid decision (well, more like a whole bunch of them, but only one fatal one) and then went out of business.

There's nothing inherently intelligent about capitalism at work. It's just that in general the hidden hand of the market can sort out winners and losers.
« Last Edit: 12/16/2014 04:03 AM by Blackstar »

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #8 on: 12/16/2014 03:57 AM »
The Washington Post is owned by the same person who owns Blue Origin.

Does that change the facts of the matter?

I think it will be more interesting to see if any other media outlets notice this, especially any in Mississippi.  I mean, the pipefitters foreman that helped build the now mothballed test stand is quoted as saying:

It’s heartbreaking to know that, you know, you thought you’d done something good,” Forshee said. “And all you’ve done is go around in a damn circle, like a dog chasing his tail.

That's a pretty powerful statement from an average U.S. Taxpayer...
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 Blackstar

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #9 on: 12/16/2014 04:00 AM »
The Washington Post is owned by the same person who owns Blue Origin.

Blue Origin needs to test its engines.  Does A-3 have a rival?

That whole issue is irrelevant to the article. Jeff Bezos doesn't make editorial decisions at the Post.

Blue Origin has tested its engines at Stennis. I was out there while one of their engines was still on a test stand. Stennis is an important asset that is available for this kind of work. And as the article indicated, but did not fully explore, sometimes it is necessary to put a test stand into mothballs for decades because the annual maintenance cost, even over decades, is much less than the cost of building a new test stand.

Suppose, for instance, that A-3 is mothballed for two decades at a cost of $14 million total. When it is taken out of mothballs, that money would be a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of building a new one.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #10 on: 12/16/2014 04:01 AM »
The Washington Post is owned by the same person who owns Blue Origin.

Does that change the facts of the matter?

I think it will be more interesting to see if any other media outlets notice this, especially any in Mississippi.  I mean, the pipefitters foreman that helped build the now mothballed test stand is quoted as saying:

It’s heartbreaking to know that, you know, you thought you’d done something good,” Forshee said. “And all you’ve done is go around in a damn circle, like a dog chasing his tail.

That's a pretty powerful statement from an average U.S. Taxpayer...

He's free to give back to the Treasury all the money that he received from other U.S. taxpayers.

Offline Steven Pietrobon

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #11 on: 12/16/2014 04:47 AM »
If the US does decide to build the 130 t version of SLS, its going to need J-2X for a new upper stage. That's when this stand will be properly used.
Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design #1:  Engineering is done with numbers.  Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.

Offline Lars-J

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #12 on: 12/16/2014 05:12 AM »
Let's not fall into the "sunk cost fallacy". Even though a lot of funds have been spent, it is not always wiser to "stay the course".

This applies to both J-2X and this stand.

Offline butters

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #13 on: 12/16/2014 05:30 AM »
Probably cheaper to do the best you can in computer modeling and component testing and then just launch a flight test article to prove it all-up in vacuum. If you can't afford a test flight, then you have a more fundamental problem...

It's not entirely out of the question that somebody might find this property convenient at some point in the future. But I can't imagine that it would be essential for anything. Anyone developing a large upper stage at this point would have a better test plan.

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #14 on: 12/16/2014 05:36 AM »
The Washington Post is owned by the same person who owns Blue Origin.
Does that change the facts of the matter?

I think it will be more interesting to see if any other media outlets notice this, especially any in Mississippi.  I mean, the pipefitters foreman that helped build the now mothballed test stand is quoted as saying:

It’s heartbreaking to know that, you know, you thought you’d done something good,” Forshee said. “And all you’ve done is go around in a damn circle, like a dog chasing his tail.

That's a pretty powerful statement from an average U.S. Taxpayer...
He's free to give back to the Treasury all the money that he received from other U.S. taxpayers.

That taxpayer was hired to do a job, and they did it, and part of the money they earned even went to pay for the test stand.  And you think the worker/taxpayer is to blame for the situation, and not the politicians that authorized the waste of money?  That's a pretty odd point of view...
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 savuporo

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #15 on: 12/16/2014 05:39 AM »
Yeah, NASA does what Congress tells them to do.
This is such a cop-out. It should have been the responsibility of NASA's top management to actively campaign against and eliminate waste like that.

There are huge opportunity costs involved here. Why was ASRG cancelled, again ?
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Offline Rocket Science

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #16 on: 12/16/2014 10:15 AM »
Yeah, NASA does what Congress tells them to do.
This is such a cop-out. It should have been the responsibility of NASA's top management to actively campaign against and eliminate waste like that.

There are huge opportunity costs involved here. Why was ASRG cancelled, again ?
Remember how NASA tried to stop SLS but Congress took them out to the wood shed and told them to start building it...
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Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #17 on: 12/16/2014 02:14 PM »
This WaPo story made the top of the page of Digg, which is a news aggregator that is pretty popular (Alexa rank of 541).  Will be interesting to see if any Mississippi media outlets do their own story, and what their perspective is on it.
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 Blackstar

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #18 on: 12/16/2014 04:28 PM »
The Washington Post is owned by the same person who owns Blue Origin.
Does that change the facts of the matter?

I think it will be more interesting to see if any other media outlets notice this, especially any in Mississippi.  I mean, the pipefitters foreman that helped build the now mothballed test stand is quoted as saying:

It’s heartbreaking to know that, you know, you thought you’d done something good,” Forshee said. “And all you’ve done is go around in a damn circle, like a dog chasing his tail.

That's a pretty powerful statement from an average U.S. Taxpayer...
He's free to give back to the Treasury all the money that he received from other U.S. taxpayers.

That taxpayer was hired to do a job, and they did it, and part of the money they earned even went to pay for the test stand.  And you think the worker/taxpayer is to blame for the situation, and not the politicians that authorized the waste of money?  That's a pretty odd point of view...

"Forshee is a tea party supporter..."

And:

"“Well,” he said. “Nice.” (He took the job at the new test stand anyway, to be sure the work stayed with his union local: “If we don’t do this work, then they’re going to give it to Local 60 out of New Orleans.”)"


So he's a tea party supporter, but also a government contractor, also a union member, also unhappy at "government waste" but also perfectly willing to take the money...

Sounds like not all of his views are consistent. Again, if it really bothers him, he didn't have to take the money, and he certainly didn't have to take yet another job there.
« Last Edit: 12/16/2014 04:30 PM by Blackstar »

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: WaPo Article Critical of A-3 Test Stand
« Reply #19 on: 12/16/2014 06:17 PM »
So he's a tea party supporter, but also a government contractor, also a union member, also unhappy at "government waste" but also perfectly willing to take the money...

And we blame the worker instead of the politicians who authorized it?

Look, I'm not a Tea Party supporter by any means, but if Congress authorized taxpayer money to be spent it's going to be spent, so blaming the people that worked on the contract - regardless if they knew it was pork or not - is nonproductive.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

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