Thursday, October 30, 2014

How NASA is Picking Model T Technology to Compete in Grand Prix Space Race

This weeks explosion of the rocket carrying supplies to the space station revealed a deep flaw in NASA's system - but not the flaw you may think.  It shows a huge lack of common sense at the management level that smacks of gross incompetence and lack of sound judgment that jeopardizes our entire space program at a time when even China is beginning to pass us by.

NASA awarded a $ 2 billion contract to Orbital Sciences to help supply the space station -- a company that has zero manufacturing expertise! Furthermore, Orbital Sciences was not allowed to buy engines that companies like Boeing have sole (monopoly) access to.

As a result, Orbital Sciences had a $2 billion contract but could not perform without buying and "fixing up" 50 year old Soviet era engines in order to do the job. Who in NASA thought that awarding a contract to a company relying on ancient technology was a good idea?

                                         Photo: Obital Sciences 50 year old engines major malfunction

So, Orbital Sciences ended up using Soviet-era engines that were built in the 60's and 70's!

Does that sound "cutting edge" to you?  Imagine trying to win the Indy 500 using a car built forty years ago.  Should we be surprised that these engines blew up after sitting in a warehouse for decades?  How many Packards or Edsels have won the Grand Prix, even after a tune up?

The problem is not using private companies; the problem is the companies that NASA has been selecting -- they picked companies that a rationale citizen could determine were not qualified.

This is not an isolated incident.  NASA just awarded SpaceX and Boeing $6 billion in contracts for further space station supply flights. The difference? SpaceX has been building its own engines and has actually successfully flown several missions! That was a correct choice. However,  Boeing hasn't even made a test flight, yet it got 2/3's of the money and SpaceX only 1/3 (about $2 billion). How does this make sense? Was the decision based on merit, or politics?

So far NASA picked one winner who hasn't even flown a test flight (Boeing), and another which is using technology old enough to qualify for social security (Orbital Sciences.)

NASA's decision-making also lacks common sense in that it picked three designs which were all basically the same capsule designs. SpaceX, Boeing and NASA's own Orion are all capsules. NASA eliminated Sierra Nevada although it has developed a reusable "Space Plane" design called the Dreamchaser which can take off and land on an ordinary runway, vastly speeding up turn-around time and cutting costs and recovery effort.

All the capsules selected by NASA have to be fished out of the ocean, just like they were over fifty years ago. How is that an improvement?

                                        Photo: Sierra Nevada's "Dreamchaser" Space Plane
                                         - NOT picked by NASA

NASA's decisions lack common sense when they give billions to a company that brings nothing to the table and has to rely on ancient technology to perform a high risk job of launching cargo into space. NASA's decision lack vision by overlooking a mini-shuttle design like the Dreamchaser Space Plane that would bring down the costs of recovery and launching payloads.

There needs to be an investigation into NASA's contracting processes.  As a result of this launch failure, Orbital Sciences needs to have its contract revoked and replaced with Sierra Nevada's more modern design. Also, Space X should be getting the lion's share of the launch contract funds, not Boeing.

We need more decisions from NASA that result in more manufacturing of modern components in the United States instead of relying on foreign competitors and junk engines left over from the Soviet Union.

Write your Congress representative.  Demand that NASA start picking cutting edge technology instead of conducting an American space race with Model T technology.

We are not going to be No. 1 in space by following the road of mediocrity.

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  1. thanks for the articel succes always

  2. Well done for the How NASA is Picking Model T Technology to Compete in Grand Prix Space Race article success always. Live Streaming


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