Author Topic: Why is NASA Beholden to Ares if Direct is the Better Alternative?  (Read 14028 times)

Offline kkattula

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The problem is that to Congress, NASA IS mostly a jobs program.  That could also be the saviour of Direct, because it saves more jobs than Ares I/V.


Offline vt_hokie

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MB123 - 1/4/2008  9:48 PM

I would expect him to have the courage. That is his job.

Exactly.  An ego that prevents one from admitting mistakes is not a trait of a good leader, imo.  (And to make it clear, I'm not accusing Dr. Griffin of that, but just speaking in a generic sense.)

Offline kraisee

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alexterrell - 3/4/2008  4:11 AM

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When Sean O'Keefe left, Griffin had his chance. O'Keefe left the agency in the position of doing a lot of studies - all based upon EELV architectures which Congress was strongly against because of the jobs situation. By all accounts they made it *very* clear they wouldn't accept an Administrator who would abandon the STS infrastructure.

Is this statement true?

If it is true, then that means that NASA's role is not to conduct a Vision for Space Exploration, but to provide jobs.

Providing jobs  = added costs. You can't have a cheaper solution whilst providing more, or the same amount of jobs.

Essentially this is one of the key things most people haven't realized or accepted about this yet.   YES, to Congress this IS partially a jobs program.   It always was and always will be.   Its funded by Congress, and jobs are always one of Congress' biggest priorities.

But jobs programs are not in and of themselves a bad thing.   How that jobs program is utilized - efficiently or inefficiently - is the real key though.

No matter how we do this, a full Lunar Exploration Program which evolves into a Mars program is going to end up being quite a bit bigger than Shuttle/ISS is today.   The program will cost at least as much, and will employ at least as many people as it does today.

If you can do it efficiently, it might be only 10% bigger.   If you do it inefficiently it may end up being 60% or 160% bigger - at which point it will become unsustainable - just like Apollo was.


The deciding factor in such a situation (where Congress is fighting hard to keep the size of the program level) then all revolves around exactly *how* you plan to manage the program.

And this is where efficiency plays its vital role.   In this case it ultimately boils down to the launch vehicles because that's the only element which won't be common to all approaches.   You need a CEV and you need an LSAM if we're going to the moon.   The LV's (in particular the number of new development LV's) then end up being the only really "flexible" element in the process.

Congress is pushing to keep the same staffing levels, so the budget will automatically remain fairly stable at the end of the day (broad strokes view only).   You can therefore either cut the LV costs in half and fly double or quadruple the number for the same money, or you can leave the LV costs at the same level as they are and reduce the scope of the program.

If you do the former, you get more return for the investment.   While the budget didn't change and the staffing didn't change you're now producing double, quadruple, or even more return for that same investment.

If done right, an efficient approach can make it a very cost-effective solution indeed.   If done wrong it ends up as just another boondoggle.

I'm in favour of an efficient jobs program to satisfy everyone requirements and produce many more results.    I'm strongly opposed to any more NASA boondoggles - we've had too damn many already.

Ross.
"The meek shall inherit the Earth -- the rest of us will go to the stars"
-Robert A. Heinlein

Offline luke strawwalker

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alexterrell - 3/4/2008  3:11 AM

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jkumpire - 1/4/2008  6:33 PM
When Sean O'Keefe left, Griffin had his chance. O'Keefe left the agency in the position of doing a lot of studies - all based upon EELV architectures which Congress was strongly against because of the jobs situation. By all accounts they made it *very* clear they wouldn't accept an Administrator who would abandon the STS infrastructure.


Is this statement true?

If it is true, then that means that NASA's role is not to conduct a Vision for Space Exploration, but to provide jobs.

Providing jobs  = added costs. You can't have a cheaper solution whilst providing more, or the same amount of jobs.

Across the World, Defence Departments do not engage in building missiles, ships, tanks etc. They procure them and operate them, and for good reason. Perhaps NASA needs to be banned from developing and building rocket launchers.

Quite true... Something I've pointed out before and is the only 'bug' I have really seen in the Direct proposal, which I personally think is INFINITELY better than the Ares launchers for the job at hand.  One of STS's biggest failings has been it's enormous cost, which from what I've read has been in large part because of it's enormous standing army of workers to support the orbiter and STS infrastructure.  Now the architecture is going to be changed, but the first prerequisite is to keep the large standing army of workers...  so where exactly are the savings going to come from??  It was made quite clear how expensive that standing army is, whether there are missions flying or a total stand down as there was after Columbia.  Yes I understand that shuttle workforce retention is a big "MUST" check box on the list of any feasible architecture alternative, and also that the workforce is to be reduced somewhat thru 'natural attrition' retirement or whatever.  But I also know that if the goal is to keep basically most folks on the payroll program costs aren't going to be much lower than they are currently.  

Ares is just as bad if not worse on this count, as it's 'beholden' to maintain as many STS jobs as possible, but also has a huge development budget and a massive gap where either folks will be kept on the payroll for years doing 'make work' waiting for the architecture to come on line, or given pink slips.  It will end up being a bloodbath on the jobs preservation front and then require the large standing armies to keep it going once it IS online, so it won't do either one very well, and STILL require all that development money, which seems to be growing by the day as it more and more looks like a suboptimal clean sheet design hobbled by old architectural elements (Ares).  

At least Direct doesn't require the huge development budget... JMHO!  OL JR :)
NO plan IS the plan...

"His plan had no goals, no timeline, and no budgetary guidelines. Just maybe's, pretty speeches, and smokescreens."

Offline Jim

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alexterrell - 3/4/2008  4:11 AM

Across the World, Defence Departments do not engage in building missiles, ships, tanks etc. They procure them and operate them, and for good reason. Perhaps NASA needs to be banned from developing and building rocket launchers.

incorrect.   The USAF was the integrator for the B-1.   The Army develops tanks before letting contractors produce them

NASA actually goes further than the military.  NASA doesn't build or operate launch vehicles, NASA hires contractors to do it.  The issue is the contractual mechanism and whether NASA does insight or oversight

Offline edkyle99

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kkattula - 3/4/2008  11:58 AM

The problem is that to Congress, NASA IS mostly a jobs program.  That could also be the saviour of Direct, because it saves more jobs than Ares I/V.


I have trouble believing this assertion outright.  NASA isn't just about jobs.  It is about national prestige.  It is about new technology development.  It is about the creation of new systems that create entirely new fields of knowledge.  (Before NASA, no Van Allen Radiation Belts, no weather satellites, no communication satellites, etc.  After NASA, all of the above and more.)  If these goals could be accomplished more efficiently, using fewer workers, I suspect that Congress would not complain.  Congress has downsized plenty of Government projects over the years, including NASA after Apollo, while hardly blinking an eye.  

 - Ed Kyle

Offline clongton

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There is an element to the “jobs program” topic that is often overlooked; and that is the necessity for skill retention as NASA transitions from STS to CxP. The mix of skills for STS and CxP are not an exact match and there are gaps in what’s available vs. what’s needed, but by and large, once CxP is “the” program, most of what was accomplished on STS will still need to be accomplished in CxP, although somewhat differently and with a different mix of people.

It has been noted above that the contractors would need to keep thousands of people on the payroll for 5 years, more or less, while NASA transitions. The truth of the matter is that no contractor is going to do that. Between KSC and MAF, there are going to be approximately 8,000 workers furloughed. Most of those people are married, with husbands and wives and most have children. NASA contends that they will simply hire them back once the gap approaches its end. Here is where NASA looses sight of reality. The last time this happened, between Saturn/Apollo, all those furloughed workers simply went elsewhere and started other careers. Lots and lots of them just “walked away” from mortgages, car payments, etc, because there was absolutely no way to retain them or even to sell them; there was no market because the entire economy was depressed by what NASA had done. Those people had families to care for and they were not going to just hang around and wait for NASA. When STS was started up, NASA went on a hiring binge and tried to rehire the old workforce back. Surprise, surprise; less than 10% came back. That means that 90% of the skill that NASA needed to effectively startup STS had to be obtained from new people with little, if any experience. That was almost 40 years ago and to this day NASA still cannot do some of the things that NASA of the 1970’s could do – those skills are simply lost. Tribal knowledge cannot be passed when the tribe is gone. Yet NASA is taking the same attitude today as it did back then – it plans to rehire the furloughed workers. To say it politely, that is simply “not smart”. The people are going to do what they did 40 years ago; they are going to walk away. They are going to forget about NASA and go elsewhere, start new careers and take care of their families. When NASA gets around to asking them to come back 5 years later, 90%, just like before, will thumb their noses at the agency and turn their backs.

Congress is aware of this and that is partially what plays into the minds of the senators and representatives whose constituents will be affected. They are painfully aware of the double edged sword of this situation; job losses on this scale will make their own re-election tenuous at best, and job losses on this scale will make a successful restart for CxP difficult at best. That is why this “jobs program” issue is so important. Some people prefer to focus on only the “keep them employed” aspects, while others remain focused on “keep the skill mix intact”. The truth is somewhere in the middle. NASA *MUST* be able to retain an appropriate skill mix for successful CxP startup, and the Senators and Representatives must minimize job losses among their constituencies. That’s why they are there. That’s why they were elected. They are doing their job. They are *properly* considering both aspects and trying to find the best solution.

To bring this back to the topic, while a 2-year gap may have been something the contractors may have been able to deal with and retain the people NASA was going to need, a 5-year gap cannot be absorbed. Ares, regardless of its technical performance issues, will result in a minimum of 8,000 job losses between KSC and MAF. DIRECT, on the other hand, while requiring less people among the standing army than STS currently has, is able to account for the lessening of the workforce mainly thru normal attrition; retiring, families moving, etc. With DIRECT, we are back to a much smaller gap. With an 85% confidence level, DIRECT can put CxP in business on an *operational* basis by September 2012. We have developed a workforce transition plan that takes into account what people do what, and where their skills can be either used or transitioned to the new program. We have a plan for actually employing the vast majority of those people, right where they currently are located, in real, necessary and needed CxP work during the transition period; not “make-work” but “real” work. With DIRECT, both the “jobs program” aspect and the “skill retention” aspect are addressed in a manner that is affordable, sustainable and economically prudent, all while returning Americans to flight on their own launcher with only an 18-24 month flight gap, and *NO* work gap.

But Ares is the current program and has had almost 3 years to build up a head of steam. It has momentum and unless a big show-stopper is uncovered, turning NASA’s direction is difficult, even for the people in Congress who want to. But we’re working on that.
Chuck - DIRECT co-founder
I started my career on the Saturn-V F-1A engine

Offline BogoMIPS

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Give the looming of an apparent (or already present, depending on your PoV) recession in the U.S., does it make sens to position DIRECT as a better option for the current economy?  

Set aside whatever technical arguments about which system is better (asuming both systems can do the job, according to the "laws of physics").

Does it not make sense to pick the one that is more affordable to the taxpayer, and protects more jobs?

A "fiscally-conservative jobs program".  I'm not sure how either side of the aisle argues against that (though I know that both are more-than-capable of finding a way).

Offline kraisee

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luke strawwalker - 10/4/2008  10:44 AM
One of STS's biggest failings has been it's enormous cost, which from what I've read has been in large part because of it's enormous standing army of workers to support the orbiter and STS infrastructure.  Now the architecture is going to be changed, but the first prerequisite is to keep the large standing army of workers...  so where exactly are the savings going to come from??

This makes the assumption that you replace the Shuttle with a launch vehicle costing the same.   In that scenario then I agree, you won't ever see any improvements in launch costs.

But unlike Shuttle, this new program isn't just about launch vehicles.   In addition to the pure launchers, we also need a pretty capable Earth Departure Stage, a new Crew Vehicle and an all-new Lunar Lander system too.   All of which are significant budget items in and of themselves.   And all of which will require fairly large staffing numbers too - on top of the LV costs.

So, the logical way to do this - IMHO - would be to make sure that the total workforce for the new program  (LV's, EDS, CEV, LSAM together), matches that we are retiring (STS).

But that would mean that we suddenly now need to be spending only about half the original budget on the new LV's.   The other half must be re-directed to work on the new hardware elements you didn't have previously.


The problem is that NASA has planned the Ares-I / Ares-V 2-vehicle solution to replicate the *full* annual cost of Shuttle.   Thus the agency then needs additional budget to pay for the EDS, CEV and LSAM.   Those items don't come out of the same size pot any longer - the pot must grow.

The extra money they were promised has never turned up to pay for this though - and isn't ever likely to.   So NASA is now forced to go scrabbling around all the other directorates (Science, Aeronautics etc) in order to scrounge-up the missing cash.


In order to "tick" both the workforce retention and budget boxes what you really want is a solution which keeps everyone employed, but which apportions the work differently and makes LV's a much smaller part of the overall budget.

That means you're after an LV solution which costs probably about half the current STS amount and which employs about half the current workforce - and which then allows the other half of the budget/employees to be transferred to the new hardware elements you need.

You just can't do that with Ares sucking up all the available resources though.

Ross.
"The meek shall inherit the Earth -- the rest of us will go to the stars"
-Robert A. Heinlein

Offline jeff.findley

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jkumpire - 1/4/2008  7:33 PM
At this point, Ares-I is the *only* way for Griffin to ever get his "big rocket" - which has always been his personal goal - ask anyone who worked with him at APL or OSC or anywhere else. He's really *driven* by rockets like Saturn-V.

If Ares-I fails, his big rocket also fails, and that would mean he also fails - at least to himself, anyway. Of course nobody wants to fail, that's totally normal and true of Mike, you or I. Thus, to achieve his goal, he is "sticking the course" no matter what - and essentially praying for a miracle to come from somewhere.

Even if Ares-I doesn't ever fly a crew, it still pays for J-2X and 5-segment SRB - both of which he needs for the big rocket. He has no reason to abandon Ares-I - even if it never flies.

I don't think history is on Griffin's side.  Look at how many times the space station was redesigned due to slipping schedules and escalating costs.  If such a redesign is forced upon Ares/Orion, it could very well mean that something like Direct gets a chance.  

I'm not at all happy that the politicians want to "preserve" as many jobs as possible by keeping NASA in the launch vehicle business.  NASA should be spending its resources designing and building lunar landers and LEO fuel depots rather than designing and building yet another launch vehicle architecture.  This does mean shuttle job losses, but hopefully it means job gains in areas critical to the longer term programs.

Still, if they must "preserve" shuttle jobs, Direct is a much more sensible way to go than Ares I/V.

Offline clongton

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jeff.findley - 11/4/2008  9:03 AM

I don't think history is on Griffin's side.  Look at how many times the space station was redesigned due to slipping schedules and escalating costs.  If such a redesign is forced upon Ares/Orion, it could very well mean that something like Direct gets a chance.  

I'm not at all happy that the politicians want to "preserve" as many jobs as possible by keeping NASA in the launch vehicle business.  NASA should be spending its resources designing and building lunar landers and LEO fuel depots rather than designing and building yet another launch vehicle architecture.  This does mean shuttle job losses, but hopefully it means job gains in areas critical to the longer term programs.

Still, if they must "preserve" shuttle jobs, Direct is a much more sensible way to go than Ares I/V.
DIRECT was not designed as “the best possible way to go”, it was designed as the best possible way to go given the constraints imposed by the NASA Authorization Act of 2005. Our goal from the beginning was to adhere to the law, in both letter and spirit. DIRECT does both while Ares does neither.
Chuck - DIRECT co-founder
I started my career on the Saturn-V F-1A engine

Offline cpcjr

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vt_hokie - 3/4/2008  1:34 PM

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MB123 - 1/4/2008  9:48 PM

I would expect him to have the courage. That is his job.

Exactly.  An ego that prevents one from admitting mistakes is not a trait of a good leader, imo.  (And to make it clear, I'm not accusing Dr. Griffin of that, but just speaking in a generic sense.)

What makes it worst is that switching to Direct does not requier admitting mistakes. A  switch to Direct could be explained as just being a benefital upgrade from Ares I.  Just call the J-120 the Ares II and say that the up grade will allow for a better Orion, better safty margins, and the option of carring additional cargo to ISS or the Moon all with lower development costs. No mistakes made just impoving performance.

They could also add that there is the added benifit that by adding the 3 engine and an uperstage (J-232) called Ares III that it would give us a 2 launch moon system should the Ares V be delayed.

So no mistakes need to be admitted for such a switch, but should the Ares I-X end up being an embaresing failure, then not only would mistakes need to be admitted but heads would roll.

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