Saturday, September 17, 2005
A Future FEMA?
An Atlas V booster carries the 6 ton Inmarsat-4 satellite into orbit on March 15, 2005
With FEMA-hindered bureaucracy still a subject of much talk across the nation, The New York Times, Saturday, published a curious article that attempts to suggest the Bush Moon/Mars mission is still go, go, go.
The Times article introduces the term Shuttle-Derived Vehicle into the popular media:
A new generation of vehicles…a radical departure for the space program, rearranging the components of the space shuttle into a new design…the new plan would draw on the shuttle's existing network of thousands of contractors and technologies, in theory speeding its completion and lowering its cost…Michael D. Griffin, NASA's administrator…won a preliminary approval for the project despite continuing questions about how to pay for it.
Not being an on-the-cheap PR conscious Bush bureaucrat, I fail to see how “rearranging the components” can constitute “a radical departure” in NASA’s approach to achieving regular cost-effective orbital travel.
A Lockheed-Martin design for a Crew Exploration Vehicle (right) with a Trans Earth Injection Module (left)
A cached copy of an April 16, 2004 article at SpaceDaily.com pierces the “radical departure” and suggests any Bush Mars mission “Go” is more of a “Not Quite Yet”:
SDV promoters are under-estimating the current cost of Shuttle launches by a factor of 2. NASA has traditionally used a phony cost accounting system in which the salaries of civil service personnel and facilities support are not allocated to specific projects… The only workable [SDV’s]…are not really "Shuttle-Derived Vehicles" because they no longer retain any element of the Shuttle… These designs are really EELV-Derived Vehicles.
EELV’s or Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles, an evolution of the highly successful Air Force and Lockheed-Martin-designed Atlas booster and according to the SpaceDaily.com article “a true second generation of chemical rocket technology”, are bedeviled by two program-killing non technical bureaucratic and political difficulties:
One is employment. There will be strong political resistance to cutting back the huge Shuttle workforce. To Congress, NASA is a middle-class entitlement program… The other reason is the "Not Invented Here" syndrome. The EELV program was entirely managed by the Air Force and has provided the final proof that NASA's own booster design group at MSFC is unnecessary as well as incompetent.
If you find this subject interesting I urge you to ignore the sometimes mind-numbing jargon and read the Times and the cached SpaceDaily.com articles for a glimpse of the possible Team Bush-inspired space disasters that could occur in the reasonably near future.
Images: International Launch Services, Lockheed-Martin