From: NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate
Posted: Tuesday, June 23, 2009
From: Hanley, Jeffrey M. (JSC-ZA111)
Sent: Sunday, June 21, 2009 3:05 PM
Subject: 6/20 Cx Update - Moving Forward...
Happy Father's Day to all you Dad's out there... more later on this most sacred of holidays J...
There is much happening, so let me take a few electrons to update all of you...
Progress Around the Program
It was indeed an eventful week - Let me work backwards from this moment (Saturday morning) to recap.
As of late last evening, the Ares I-X team mated the Interstage 1/2 stack to the frustrum interface of the first stage, this in an integration stand in Hi-Bay 4 of the VAB... here's a photo from Bob Ess and team of at that moment...
We are 10 days from the I-X Mate Review, and within just weeks of starting to stack in Hi-Bay 3. I can't say enough good things about the way the integrated team is making I-X happen, day by day, issue by issue - while a Cx product, our SSP team members are doing amazing things to process each element, with great skill and attention to detail - all with a pioneering spirit to make this happen. It's fun to witness...
Earlier in the day I attended a successful 'launch' of Virtual Mission 1. Recall that VM1 and other virtual missions are focused on helping us visualize the work entailed to really plan, process, launch and fly a real Orion/Ares mission, and use that insight to influence the design of the hardware, software, and (most importantly from a cost perspective) the processes that make up a Constellation 'mission'. Friday was the culmination of several months of planning and 'virtual' execution of our integration 'template'. We stepped through what the prelaunch MMT would entail, and discussed the capabilities, assets, and processes surrounding that timeframe. We then gave a 'GO' for launch, and conducted an actual final countdown and successful ascent using an integrated platform of physics based models of the vehicles, systems and environments running in tandem across a network. I'm happy to report that Orion made it to orbit safely with no significant anomalies. It was a virtual beautiful day at the Cape for a launch. Hat's off to all who participated in this multimonth exercise - I look forward to the lessons learned that Debbie Stapleton and team will put together and how that will shape our plans for VM2 planned for next year.
Thursday we all watched the successful launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and Lunar Crater Observation Satellite System (LCROSS), now bound for a safe arrival at the Moon in the coming days. We are greatly anticipating the unprecedented data from LRO to help us characterize our potential lunar landing sites for which we must prepare.
Meanwhile, the Orion team is deep into their wave of Subsystem Design Review's at Lockheed/Denver. These are the subsystem reviews that precede the integrated vehicle PDR, which remains on track for August. The team completed the Jettison Motor, Crew Systems, CM propulsion, and mechanical systems reviews. Great progress, keep going folks!
Dale spent the week at KSC - which included sitting in with Bob Ess' team on several I-X related meetings, hardware walkdowns, and an impressive demonstration of the Constellation Launch Control System platform being developed by Pepper's team. Meanwhile, construction continues on the Ares I mobile launcher at the parksite beside the VAB, and mods continue to pad B for I-X. And of course, Dale represented Cx at the LRO prelaunch meetings and witnessed a great launch of LRO/LCROSS to the Moon.
Human Space Flight Review - Week 1
Now to the early part of the week - our preparation and support of the Augustine panel.
We ended up with 3 separate appearances to brief the commission. These were a 30 minute fact-finding brief in closed session on architecture drivers, a 50 minute fact-finding brief on overview of the program, and a 30 minute brief in the public session of general program status.
We came into the week with some very good work in the form of high level briefing material to draw from, which many contributed to in pulling together over the last 2 months.
During our available time, we strongly made the point that, being an integrated architecture, the most significant driver that sizes much of the architecture is lunar global access. This is by far the most dominant driver in how much mass must be delivered to translunar injection. Indeed, with our present baseline, the size of the rocket and lander alone do not enable global lunar access - to attempt that would result in a rocket that is too large to reasonably build. That's just the physics of the problem. So we utilize all of the parameters at our disposal (lander propulsion load, loiter time in lunar orbit, etc) to open the hardest to reach places to exploration with what we considered a reasonable heavy lift launch vehicle to lift the necessary mass out of Earth's gravity well - and sure enough, several of the most interesting sites are in such locations. We also pointed out that we had scaled back our Ares V and Altair assumptions to supporting only equatorial and polar landings (while still protecting a reasonable level of cargo delivery capability for establishing an outpost) and the cost variance was only roughly 10 percent cheaper. We offered a subsequent brief on the integrated architecture performance.
Much attention has been focused on the probability of loss of crew (pLOC) as a figure of merit in determining the crew launch aspect of the architecture, and we expressed that the ESAS pLOC numbers were all using the same methodology and that the value was in the comparative results and not in the absolute numbers. Very simply, Ares' clear advantage is in the comparative simplicity of its first stage (the shuttle SRM) and use of a single gas generator cycle upper stage engine. These two attributes alone provide substantial robustness over, for example, a more complex liquid pump fed first stage and a multiengine upper stage - simply put, they are more complex with more moving parts. What Ares affords us, in accordance with the findings of the CAIB, is a crew launch system that has the potential to achieve unmatched safety in human spaceflight history. And this is not just a Constellation 'claim' as some would suggest, but has been validated by independent experts in the field of physics based probabilistic risk assessment. There will be much more provided on this topic as well.
On the topic of 'human rating', it is clear that the panel will want to hear more on this topic as well. The term gets thrown around in the community without a consistent understanding of what 'human rating' means. NASA's human rating 'policy' is clearly documented, but Constellation is the first program to really attempt to apply to a design in a practical manner. Our overall approach to human rating has been briefed to the ASAP, as has our program-wide approach to risk-based design that chooses robustness over blind fault tolerance in engineering these systems. All of our external review has largely validated this approach to date.
During the public session, we used our time to cover two charts of Cx 'mythbusters' on some topics that need to be clearly described to remedy potential perceptions based on the way they have been reported in some of the media. This went very well, by all reports. To summarize,
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