Another Blow To Orion

Another Blow To Orion

Postby Sionnach Glic » Mon Jun 07, 2010 6:59 pm

Orion becomes a liability as Lockheed Martin pull 600 engineers off the contract
June 6th, 2010 by Chris Bergin

Orion's role of transporting US astronauts into space has been reduced to little more than an assumption it may one day be involved in human space exploration, after contractor Lockheed Martin effectively washed its hands of the project due to fears relating to termination liability. With key procurements cancelled, the Denver-based company 'moved' 600 engineers off the project, effectively leaving the vehicle in limbo.

Orion Status:

Although the Program Of Record (POR) remains in place - due to the lack of Congressional approval for the much-maligned FY2011 budget proposal - NASA managers have effectively given up on any faint hope of implementing the long-term strategy that was centered around the marriage between Ares and Orion.

Orion was set to transport US astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), and eventually on to destinations such as the moon and Mars, although the Augustine Commission's report showed the architecture was on an "unsustainable path", due to funding constraints and the resulting schedule delays, some of which were notably caused by continuous design changes - mainly driven by the shortcomings of the Ares I launch vehicle.

Both Ares and Orion were cancelled in President Obama's FY2011 budget, prior to a token reprieve for a "dumbed down" Orion, know as the Crew Rescue Vehicle (CRV) - to be utilized as a lifeboat on the ISS, despite an already implemented evacuation plan via the use of two Soyuz vehicles, a plan that enables an ISS crew of six to depart from the Station in the event of an emergency.

As to how much work is being conducted on Orion as a CRV is unclear, given the vehicle has now suffered a double body blow - firstly via the removal of the majority of Orion work with NASA via the initial defunding action, which in turn sent work and funding to aid contractor Lockheed Martin's efforts.

"Cx (Constellation) funding is being pulled back, that was going to JSC (Johnson Space Center) engineering, and being sent to Denver to support LM similar facilities/services," noted a NASA memo in March, with sources noting the remaining Orion teams outside of Lockheed Martin have been vastly reduced in numbers, to the point some of the remaining engineers have become demoralized and have left for companies such as Bigelow.

The second blow is related to the billions of dollars it will cost to cancel the POR, with specific concerns at Lockheed Martin on the estimated value of contractor work required to close out the contract - otherwise known as termination liability.

The fallout has resulted in the removal of 600 workers from the Orion project at Lockheed Martin, its sub-contractors, along with a ripple effect being impacted the non-prime workforce.

"Given the revised interpretation of how to account for termination liability, LM and its subs will be moving 600 people off the contract. Also LM has halted several key procurements," noted Orion manager Mark Geyer in an address to his workforce, which was acquired by L2.

While the language uses terms such as "moving" and "reducing", Mr Geyer appears to intimate an actual loss of employment will be suffered via the fallout.

"Another fallout of this issue is that reductions in non-prime are also coming. These are all members of the team and have been a part of our successes and struggles over the last four years. Our thoughts are with them and their families as they have to deal with this reality," Mr Geyer noted.

"There were no easy solutions left under the constraints we have been given. Despite all of these challenges and personal impacts, I am continually impressed by the dedication and creativity applied by the team to get through this difficult time. Even with these challenges we continue to move forward doing critically important work."

As Mr Geyer alluded to, some work will continue with Orion. Also, despite the reductions suffered by Orion, he believes some stability - albeit at a reduced funding level - may be in the pipeline, via his opinion that the FY2011 budget proposal will remain in limbo, resulting in a continuing resolution, which he notes mirrors the level of funding Constellation is currently being drip-fed.

"This reduced funding level will put us near the level consistent with a continuing resolution for 2011 (which I understand is likely for much of 2011)," he added. "Therefore, while we are not out of the woods yet, I expect to see more stability after this latest round of cuts. We will be putting out guidance targets and content descriptions for us to update 2010 and plan for 2011."

The Orion manager is also holding on to some hope that the vehicle may still grow into the crew transport it was intended to be, as the CRV effort at least avoids the full cancellation of Orion.

"Given the fact that Orion is in the 2010 appropriations and has been mentioned by the President in his KSC speech, it is certainly reasonable to assume that Orion (in some form) will emerge from this debate as the spacecraft that will take us to the new frontiers of human space exploration," Mr Geyer added.

"Our near term task is to put the United States in the best position to have this system ready when needed."

However, the Constellation Program (CxP) finds itself all-but muted when it comes to such aspirations, as seen via the removal of Cx manager Jeff Hanley - who was the only person making a concerted effort to find a potential backup plan which utilized Orion via a change to the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicle configuration, an Ares IV type vehicle that also allowed for growth into a Heavy Lift Vehicle (HLV).

Mr Hanley's removal from CxP was greeted with shock - as seen with the comments made on the forwarded e-mails of the news throughout NASA and its contractors, although Mr Geyer used his address to simply praise the departed manager.

"Jeff provided extraordinary leadership to the Constellation Program which has led to the amazing accomplishments we have achieved. Jeff has given all of his professional energy and commitment to this enterprise. I have enormous respect for his clear thinking, creative problem solving, great strategic sense, and personal integrity. He is also a great friend."

"We will honor Jeff's contribution by continuing to advance the exploration dream that we all have."

Mr Geyer also welcomed Mr Hanley's replacement, whilst noting the design phase name for the Orion CRV as Block 0. The ISS Orion was known as Block I, while the Orion that was to transport crew past Low Earth Orbit (LEO) was known as Block II.

"Dale Thomas will be acting Cx program manager. I have worked with Dale for many years and he is a consummate professional and highly qualified for this job. Also, in my discussions with Dale and (ESMD manger) Doug Cooke, I have been assured that we should remain on the plan we have including implementing the block 0 strategy. Thanks again for your dedication and hard work."


Source
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Re: Another Blow To Orion

Postby Tyyr » Wed Jun 09, 2010 12:04 pm

Can't really blame them, why keep people working on a project that's canceled or at least well on it's way to being canceled? Put them to work on something that will make some money.

But hey! The Russians have those Soyuz rockets that they designed before some of our parents were even born. We're fine!
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Re: Another Blow To Orion

Postby Sionnach Glic » Wed Jun 09, 2010 5:42 pm

Hey, don't knock the Soyuz. They've yet to rack up the death toll that your flashy shuttle has. :P

Seriously though, there's a limit to how much you can modernise the thing. Though I don't see Russia being able to afford to design and build a new ship for the next couple of decades. And the shuttles aren't getting younger as time goes on either, nor any more numerous. We're going to need something capable of putting people in space once both Soyuz and the shuttle either become too old or lack the numbers to keep up operations.

Unfortunately, Orion is as dead as the dodo. It just hasn't realised it yet. And I doubt that the US will be mustering the enthusiasm to start the whole design process from scratch for some time. Honestly, I'm starting to think that China and Japan are more likely to design the next generation of spaceship.
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Re: Another Blow To Orion

Postby Tyyr » Wed Jun 09, 2010 5:50 pm

That the Russians will admit to at least.

That was the promise of Orion, a brand new nice and big crew capsule that could haul six people into space for long durations and do lots of fun things. The Ares started to suck so Orion shrunk to 4 men, and Ares kept getting worse so they started lopping off duration boosting gear, then Ares completely gave up the ghost and Orion had to start trimming basic safety gear...

The original Orion was great, Ares I was total shit. Losing Ares is no great loss, completely giving up on manned space flight was a very bad idea.
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Re: Another Blow To Orion

Postby Sionnach Glic » Wed Jun 09, 2010 5:55 pm

Tyyr wrote:That the Russians will admit to at least.


Touché. :lol:

Tyyr wrote:.
That was the promise of Orion, a brand new nice and big crew capsule that could haul six people into space for long durations and do lots of fun things. The Ares started to suck so Orion shrunk to 4 men, and Ares kept getting worse so they started lopping off duration boosting gear, then Ares completely gave up the ghost and Orion had to start trimming basic safety gear...

The original Orion was great, Ares I was total s**t. Losing Ares is no great loss, completely giving up on manned space flight was a very bad idea.


Wasn't the original Orion supposed to have some sort of nuclear-powered engine? Now that would have been fucking progress.
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Re: Another Blow To Orion

Postby Tyyr » Wed Jun 09, 2010 6:09 pm

Sionnach Glic wrote:Touché. :lol:

We have a saying at my plant. If you're going to die you'd better damn well do it off site. In a similar vein there was a shipyard in the seventies that prided itself on no one ever dying at their operation. A very large number of men died on the ambulance ride to the hospital though.

Wasn't the original Orion supposed to have some sort of nuclear-powered engine? Now that would have been f***ing progress.

Different Orion. The original Orion was designed to use nuclear bombs. The ship would eject one out the back and detonate it at a precise distance behind the ship. The radiation would interact with a gigantic plate strapped to the back of the ship and push it forward. It was designed in the 60's I think and in the style of a nuclear submarine. Given enough bombs it could make it to Mars in 4 weeks.
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Re: Another Blow To Orion

Postby Sionnach Glic » Wed Jun 09, 2010 6:29 pm

We should have built one. :(
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Re: Another Blow To Orion

Postby Mikey » Wed Jun 09, 2010 6:32 pm

Sionnach Glic wrote:We should have built one. :(


Is the technology available to make a whiskey-fueled rocket? :P
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Re: Another Blow To Orion

Postby Tyyr » Wed Jun 09, 2010 6:34 pm

Yeah but the impulse sucks.

The big problem with project Orion is that no one gets a warm fuzzy when you point out the only way to get that thing into space was to lift off from the earth, via its normal propulsion method, dozens of low level atomic bomb detonations.
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Re: Another Blow To Orion

Postby Sionnach Glic » Wed Jun 09, 2010 6:36 pm

Damnit man, there're better uses than that for whiskey!

The big problem with project Orion is that no one gets a warm fuzzy when you point out the only way to get that thing into space was to lift off from the earth, via its normal propulsion method, dozens of low level atomic bomb detonations.


Couldn't you strap a few SRBs onto the side of the thing to get it into space, and then start up the nukes?
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Re: Another Blow To Orion

Postby Sionnach Glic » Wed Jun 09, 2010 6:38 pm

Something like this, for example?
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Re: Another Blow To Orion

Postby Tyyr » Wed Jun 09, 2010 6:38 pm

Not really. Remember, this thing flies by detonating nukes a few dozen meters behind it. Between the shielding and the mass of the pusher and such this thing was freaking massive. Nothing like modern space vehicles.

You could build it in orbit but you'd be talking dozens if not hundreds of launches to get everything up there.
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Re: Another Blow To Orion

Postby Sionnach Glic » Wed Jun 09, 2010 6:44 pm

Hm, fair enough. That's a pity.
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Re: Another Blow To Orion

Postby Sonic Glitch » Wed Jun 09, 2010 6:46 pm

:sigh: How're we doing on a M/AM reactor these days? :D
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Re: Another Blow To Orion

Postby Captain Seafort » Wed Jun 09, 2010 7:01 pm

Tyyr wrote:Not really. Remember, this thing flies by detonating nukes a few dozen meters behind it. Between the shielding and the mass of the pusher and such this thing was freaking massive. Nothing like modern space vehicles.

You could build it in orbit but you'd be talking dozens if not hundreds of launches to get everything up there.


Not to mention that you'd probably still be talking about high-altitude atmospheric initiations. Say goodbye to half the electronics on the planet.
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