Cuddihy's Cut

Cuddihy's Cut on the events of the day....

Friday, April 07, 2006

attacking ATK --Updated 4/10/06

The usual suspects of Big Aerospace tomfoolery, Boeing and Lockheed, appear to have been shut out of the CEV launch market. The sole source provider, ATK, is therefore in the unusual position (for ATK as compared to BLoMart)of bearing the brunt of angry alt.spacer's tinfoil hattery.

Rand first complains about the sell:
Nice bait and switch--you have to admire ATK for their marketing, if nothing else.
Okay, that's reasonable. But then he implys EELVs could have done the job if it wasn't for human rating:
And tell me again, what was the estimate to "human rate" an EELV? And more to the point, how many very juicy first, second and third prizes for low-cost crew access to LEO could three billion dollars fund?

I won't even touch the rather laughable politics of basing a federal multi-billion dollar program on the possible success of a prize-award system.

But as for human rating an ELV, is that true?

Griffen pretty clearly stated last year that if the next manned launcher was going to pass muster, it could not have multiple cores or a side-mounted crew compartment because of the increased complexity and numerous failure modes that impact surviveablity. When I get some time I'll find the studies that backed that up.

That constraint limits EELV's options to the Delta-IV and Atlas-V single core, medium versions.
Max payload for medium Delta IV, 10.3 metric ton(t) and for Atlas-V 17 t. If you follow the (usual mantra that solids are deadly --especially the ones that have explosively destroyed a mountain like Delta's--cut that medium to a no-solids medium. Now you're at 7 t for Delta and 12 t for Atlas.

That might be enough for a CEV designed by George W. Herbert, but NASA has evidently decided it needs much...much...much more, so it would seem man rating the EELV is not the issue here--it's uprating and manrating.

As for the tin hat part:
Also, for any enterprising muckraising space journalists out there, this has been a juicy scandal waiting to happen, what with Scott Horowitz' recent job change, and all. Moreover, it could potentially be one that kills the Satay (or as Henry Spencer calls it, Porklauncher I).
okay, now we're implying a Darleen Dryun size contractor steering scandal--maybe an inflation of costs to improve ATK profit. At first glance, seems plausible. After all, Scott Horowitz moved directly from developing the plan at NASA to selling the plan at ATK to managing the Exploration systems that will buy the ATK booster. Fishy fishy fishy, right?

Here's the reality of that--unlike with Boeing's scandal, there is no existing system that could fulfill NASA's requirements for cheaper. (Darleen Dryun was getting the Pentagon to overpay for renting KC-737s when it would have been cheaper to buy them outright.) In fact, there's no existing system that can fulfill NASAA's requirements anyway, which is why ATK is going to be awarded a single-source contract to help with the new launcher booster with little fuss.

As for the Horowitz connection, Scott Horowitz developed the CLV plan at the JSC spaceflight office when it became apparent that OSP was not going to go anywhere(2001 timeframe), but O'Keefe refused to make any movement on a new launcher, which is why Horowitz left for ATK(in 2004). Griffin then brought Horowitz back to NASA after he became the new administrator (late 2005). In other words, Horowitz got the ATK job offer after O'Keefe had declined to pursue the idea(in 2001). It was Griffin who brought Horowitz back.
That's not steering government contracts to a specific contractor to the disadvantage of the government(as with Boeing). That's getting the contractor on board with governmental intentions.

Second of all, as I said in the comments on Rand's site,
the original estimate for the CEV mods was assuming 2 things
1. a 4 segment SRB w/ one J2S or J2X and
2. a lighter CEV.

When ESMD said the CEV had to be nearly 20 t, that mandated a 2-J2 or 1-SSME soln instead; the airstart SSME, while reasonable at first glance, was on the whole a dead-end, which is why it was dropped in favor of the more architecture-friendly J2X.

So it would seem the root cause of the problem here is the excessive weight of the CEV, not a Darleen Dryun style conflict of interest.

Rand replied in his comments that
No one said that the root cause was the appearance of the conflict of interest. Nonetheless, there is an appearance of a conflict of interest.
um, I'd say the quote above pretty clearly suggest malfeasance of some sort, not merely the appearance of it. Nor will something so thin in any way affect the politics of the CLV.

Updated 4/08/06 to add the Horowitz NASA-->ATK-->NASA timeline.
Updated 4/10/06 to correct spelling of Griffin's name and abbrev. for metric tons.

Post a Comment

<< Home