Test Flights Rumor

One of the more disconcerting rumors mentioned in Florida Today’s article about Obama’s plans for NASA, is the idea of “annual test flights” at KSC, to retain workforce skills.  These tests were compared to Ares I-X, and made it sound as though they thought these test flights would be a continuation of the Ares-I program in some form or other.  I find it amusing that in all the EELV-based architectures evaluated by ESAS or by the A-com, it was assumed that there would be a several billion dollar cost to shut down the shuttle infrastructure.  This always helped to make the EELVs look worse or only slightly better than some shuttle derived scheme (funny how adding $11B to your competitor’s approach can do that).  But now people are realizing that if you have a 5-8 year gap between Shuttle retirement and when an HLV could come on-line, that you need something to keep the ground ops people around and trained.  Funny how that never seems to be factored in to the costs on the SDHLV side of things.

Ares I-X was one of the most retardedly colossal wastes of money NASA has done since I started paying attention to space.  $500M for a single flight test of a non-representative booster.  For the amount of money they wasted on Ares I-X, they could’ve probably funded two COTS-like commercial crew projects over the same time period, and probably had a solution to the gap (not that a solution to the gap was actually in their interests).  Or they could’ve funded an Orbital Express scale demo of cryo propellant transfer.  Or several microlanders from Ames (which all disappeared in the bloat when the program got sucked into the Shelbyville blackhole).  Now they want to continue that at an even faster pace for several years.  What a steal!

If there is any reality to this rumor, I hope someone puts it out of our misery while there’s still time.

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
Jonathan Goff

About Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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35 Responses to Test Flights Rumor

  1. Martijn Meijering says:

    If there is any reality to this rumor, I hope someone puts it out of our misery while there’s still time.

    How optimistic are you? I’m pretty pessimistic myself. An SDLV seems inevitable and I no longer believe it makes much of a difference which one is chosen, none of them would give much synergy with commercial development of space and all of them would require scuttling the ISS after 2020. Something as close to Ares V as possible might be the best option, since it has the longest development time and the greatest chance of being cancelled somewhere down the line.

    Does the Ares V Lite plan still call for dismissing the Shuttle workforce? If so, that too would work in our favour and would put an end to the test flights you mentioned. What a depressing thought that Ares might be our best hope. At best we’ll have lost at least a decade and none of us are getting any younger.

    Does anyone here have any inside information on how likely it is ACES could be operational by then, based solely on DoD funding?

  2. Gary C Hudson says:

    Keeping the workforce at KSC employed is viewed by those of us who wish to open the space frontier to human endeavor as a bug – which it is, since the cost of labor (the standing army, to use Max Hunter’s term) is responsbile for most of the cost of launch.

    But viewed from the Congress, this is a feature: jobs. NASA exists *only* to produce jobs plus the occasional photo opportunity. It survives its Cold War origins for no other reason.

    Infrequently, NewSpace picks up crumbs swept off the table, but we should never delude ourselves into thinking that reducing the cost of access to space is in the Congress’ interest. It’s not, and never can be.

  3. I heard a different rumor:

    “Sen. Bill Nelson is expected to announce in a speech on Thursday at the Kennedy Center Visitor Complex that if NASA relies on commercial rocket companies to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station, 1,700 jobs would be created in Florida to help launch the rockets and crews.”

    I tell ya, Sen. Nelson’s flip flops confuse me. http://bit.ly/7ltnDw

  4. Jonathan Goff Jonathan Goff says:

    Gary,
    Oh, I understand. Doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to kvetch. I haves myself a blog after all…

    Trent,
    Well, Senator Nelson has actually been getting more commercial space friendly for some time. He even chewed NASA out for not having already spent stimulus money on commercial crew (back when Shelby was holding it up). There’s a reason I never publicly mentioned my nickname for our 40lb of lead ballast used on Xombie for the NGLLC.

    ~Jon

  5. Gary C Hudson says:

    Jon,

    Kevtching is the only thing that keeps us sane, these days.

    And I too have occasionally hoped for better from NASA, so I am not finding fault with your view that we should demand more. We should always demand more, but we shouldn’t expect to get it.

    Gary

  6. Jonathan Goff Jonathan Goff says:

    Gary,
    Exactly. Mostly I just post a lot of this stuff more as a hand-washing exercise. There is a chance that some of these bad ideas are suggested by people who don’t realize how bad they are. Maybe by pointing out the flaws it will cause someone to stop a bad idea before it becomes a slow-motion train wreck. Of course it’s not like I’ve actually had any luck at making any difference there.

    ~Jon

  7. mike shupp says:

    Uh…. the idea is, we’ll keep 6000 people on the payroll for the next ten years or so, to practice launching a … something.

    An Ares I something? An Ares V something? A SpaceX something? An Atlas V something? A Delta 4X something? All with very different setup and lauch requirements? 6000 people who are going to have be replaced and retrained whenever the federal government makes up it mind, ten years from now?

    This is never going to fly. Tell me 20 NASA engineers are going to draft and review and redraft launch requirement documents for the next few years to keep up some expertise, and I’ll believe it. But 6000 people? No damned way.

    As for the oft-expressed thought that NASA is going to keep all those folks around because it’s a jobs program … Well you’re space nuts, so you’ve got your own perspective, but on this planet, most of the NASA-contractor workforce got laid in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s and no one gave a good goddam, and in the early 1990’s aerospace employment in this country dropped from 1.8 million people to about 650,000 in about two years and no one gave a good goddam. Right now all of NASA and its HSF contractors consists of about 70,000 people — which is about the number of jobs the USA is currently losing each month, with very little interference by the federal government. You guys who think NASA employees are going to get special protection live in a dreamworld.

  8. Rick Boozer says:

    I think that the main reason for these “test flights” is to throw a bone to Shelby to quiet him while commercial rockets take over the role originally assigned to Ares I. Unfortunately, it appears that some people in the current administration are willing to pay this price to reduce the hassle.

  9. Robert Horning says:

    I’d sort of have to second Rick Boozer here. If you thought the role of the Ares I-X launch had anything at all to do with any testing beyond evaluating KSC vehicle handling procedures (which after a fashion I suppose it met that criteria), that really wasn’t the purpose.

    It was a $500 million public relations photo op to help guarantee that Congress would continue the funding of the Ares I program.

    Now, could this have been done any cheaper? Yes. Certainly the Pathfinder was able to perform a similar mission for the Shuttle launches at a much cheaper price and didn’t require a launch. Are most representatives in Congress aware that this was its purpose, in addition to being a “jobs stimulus bill” for Florida and Alabama? I think that is rather unlikely. Of course with the trillions of dollars thrown around Washington this past year, what is a petty little half billion done as simply publicity. I wonder if Madison Avenue could have come up with a much more effective P.R. campaign for the same amount of money… but then again Congress would have noticed that kind of expenditure, and Senator Shelby isn’t the senator from New York. Too bad that Hillary Clinton didn’t bother trying to stir the pot on that one.

  10. one says:

    “Ares I-X was one of the most retardedly colossal wastes of money NASA has done since I started paying attention to space.”
    .
    not true, thanks to the 1-X test, now, we have enough data to say that the Ares-1 can’t fly

  11. The Ares I-X flight test proved out a lot of simulation and modeling techniques, many of which have never been used before because most people just flight test to get the data. Jon’s comment about Ares I-X not be “representative” is telling us that he believes flight testing, not modeling and simulation, is the way to develop rockets. I don’t disagree with him, but NASA does. They consider his stance antiquated.

    “It was a $500 million public relations photo op to help guarantee that Congress would continue the funding of the Ares I program.”

    No, it wasn’t. Who do you think was involved in this great conspiracy that is so obvious to you? The engineers? Have you ever met any of these guys? They’re not the kind of people to go along with a conspiracy to extend lunch, let alone a program. So if they weren’t involved then they’re just pawns on the chess board right?

    Get real. Developing rockets without a test program is hard but the political reality is that NASA is expected to be able to do it, cause they did with Shuttle. Some would say it is stupid, but others would say it is cutting edge aerospace research and exactly the kind of thing NASA should be working on – it costs more but it pushes the state of the art.

  12. Rick Boozer says:

    “No, it wasn’t. Who do you think was involved in this great conspiracy that is so obvious to you?”

    I don’t know that “conspiracy” is the right word. My description would be a face-saving dog and pony show. The whole time during the countdown before the launch of Ares 1-X, the announcers were saying that it was the launch of “America’s next generation launch vehicle” when in reality it was a pale imitation of what that launch vehicle was supposed to be in its final form. Just as Robert said, they knew the Congress critters wouldn’t know the difference.

  13. lol says:

    “70,000 people — which is about the number of jobs the USA is currently losing each month, with very little interference by the federal government. You guys who think NASA employees are going to get special protection live in a dreamworld.”

    lol, I didn’t know the government was laying off so many people each month

    or wait, are those people not government workers and your comparison doesn’t make sense

    guess what pal, NASA employees aren’t just going to get special protection. they already GET special protection. they’ve gotten special protection their whole careers. NASA centers aren’t located where the smart people are, they’re located where politicians want jobs.

  14. Rick, either make specific allegations at specific people who stop casting around wild accusations. How can you assign motives to people you can’t even identify.. why would you rule out ignorance, or just trying to make an otherwise boring flight test into something interesting? What evidence do you have that anyone was trying to deceive Congress?

  15. Arnie says:

    Wait, so Jon, you DON’T like the Ares 1-X?

    Arnie
    wonders: should I use the /sarc tag? How many would be put off by that. Are there readers of this blog without sarcasm detection installed? Should I worry about them? Eh! To hell with it! I’m posting as is.

  16. Tom Merkle says:

    Trent,
    If you reread what Rick wrote, he does make specific allegations about NASA decision makers (Griffen on down) and Sen. Shelby.

    You’re the one who’s casting about generalities that amount to strawmen. Rick never said conspiracy, you dreamed that up. It’s not a ‘conspiracy’ when government bureaurcratic management makes a decision in its own self interest that is not in the immediate public interest, it’s just politics as usual in the 4th unelected branch, and its bad government.

    NASA mangement’s motive in keeping Sen. Shelby from strangling COTS in the crib, as well as in supporting the Ares 1-X flight, is self-evident, and to be frank, not even nefarious. It’s the path of least resistance that holds the least possibility of public embarrassment or political resistance.

    Ain’t rocket science.

  17. Rick Boozer says:

    OK, Trent, to be honest, it is more of a suspicion than something that is ironclad provable. I and others can’t help but have that suspicion since the final five segment booster will have a longer combustion column and thus have different harmonic resonances than the four segment booster on the Ares I-X. Because of this extra length, the longer stack should produce more oscillations at the longer wavelength infrasonic frequencies that manifest themselves as severe vibration. This fact alone puts into question the validity of any claimed results regarding thrust oscillation relative to the final Ares I.

  18. Robert Horning says:

    OK, I’ll give one more little tiny bone to those who thought the Ares I-X test actually accomplished something:

    It proved that a shuttle SRB could go into space all on its own without being attached to a shuttle.

    As to if a shuttle SRB could fly, I would hope that the hundreds of “test flights” that carried astronauts could have been used as test data. That is all the Ares I-X test flight really was, and rumors that it was anything different are self-delusional. It was an incremental improvement over the SRB, and had a dummy upper section to “simulate” a full Ares I vehicle.

    I think what ATK is doing is impressive work, and I like the SRB quite a bit. Still, that Ares I-X launch didn’t really provide any meaningful information that is going to be useful for the Ares-I launcher, nor did it test any other equipment that would have been incredibly handy like say testing the launch abort system mid-launch. THAT would have been a useful data point, and something that would have improved general safety for astronauts in the future. Unfortunately, the launch abort system isn’t ready to be tested yet.

    The main point of this thread, that additional flights of the Ares I-X vehicle is a useless proposition is IMHO also valid.

  19. Rick Boozer says:

    Clarifying, my last comment. I meant my comment about Congress was conjecture. But one of the points that fuels that conjecture is the ironclad physics of what I stated about the inconsistent harmonic frequencies of Ares I-X and Ares I. That point alone is fairly strong evidence that Ares I-X was indeed as I stated earlier, “a face-saving dog and pony show”.

  20. Gah.. Rick, please, listen carefully to what I’m saying. The Ares I-X was not a test of the Ares I.. it wasn’t supposed to be like the Ares I. Any contrast to the Ares I is irrelevant. The purpose of the Ares I-X flight was to test *the modeling and simulation methods*.

    They took the hardware they had available (a 4 segment SRB and a dummy upper stage), added software they had available (roll control software from an Atlas V) and they modeled and simulated all that. The test flight showed that their modeling/simulation was accurate. It provided “ground truth”. Now they can design the Ares I and test it in simulation.. That’s why Ares I-Y is being canceled, because the modeling/simulation is so damn good. They don’t need to do *any* Ares I flight tests, they say, because the first rocket will be perfect.

    None of this is “politics” or “face saving” or a “dog and pony show”.. it’s just engineering guys doing their job. The media picks up on these decisions and spins them however will make a better story. If NASA is doing a flight test: it’s a waste of money, and they don’t know what they’re doing. If NASA is canceling a flight test: their budget is being starved and the program is in jeopardy.

    Anyone who has the mindset of “to make a rocket you must flight test a lot of similar vehicles and work out the bugs” will look at NASA’s decisions and think they are stupid fools who have no idea how to develop a rocket. But that’s not NASA’s mindset anymore. They *believe* in modeling and simulation. They think you can do more with simulation than you ever could with testing. For example, you can simulate a failure that causes the vehicle to explode at 10 km and see how bad the devastation is. You can do searches of the failure space and find everything that could possibly go wrong.

    Time will tell is NASA is smoking the crack pipe with all this analysis.. but if you ask Jon and others you’ll get the answer now, they are, and I don’t disagree.. just know that our mindset is not shared by those at NASA and stop assigning them motives that don’t even make sense.

  21. R2K says:

    A real test would have taken 4 of the SRBs and strapped them together to see if they would fly like that. That would be a nice Ares V first stage, and it would have been even cooler to watch.

  22. Jim Gagnon says:

    From an engineering perspective, there may have been some merits to the Ares 1X launch, but when compared with the cost of $.5B, you really have to ask yourself “wasn’t there a better way to learn what we learned?” That’s the question any Ares 1 supporter really needs to answer.

    And guess what? Jon is correct: if what you wanted was a systems shakedown, verification of your modeling software, etc. then the launch to wait for would have been a full five segment Ares with a live 2nd stage. Much more cost effective, and some lucky university could have had a bunch of payload placed in orbit free.

    However, the timing would have been inconvenient for political support as Ares 1 is late and getting later every day. Ares 1X was a Griffin PR launch, make no mistakes about it. And you know what? It worked! It generated an inordinate amount of excitement in relation to its importance, even getting hailed as Time magazine’s “Best invention for 2009.”

    Personally, I think Ares 1 has been a mistake from day one. However, it has shown that NASA can still excite the populace. I fervently hope that the next time NASA does so it’s for a much better reason.

  23. Well it’s obvious that I’ve failed to convince Jim that contrasting the Ares I-X to the Ares I makes no sense. The Ares I-X flight was already delayed, delaying it further would not have been cost effective no matter how much you changed the design..

    “Ares 1X was a Griffin PR launch, make no mistakes about it.”

    I disagree.. I’ve presented an argument for why it wasn’t and I think there are many more arguments that can be made. I also think that some people will make snide and underhanded remarks about ANYTHING that NASA does or doesn’t do. That’s the only politics here.

  24. A_M_Swallow says:

    I dislike Ares I but supported Ares I-X as a PR job. NASA needed to show that it was doing something, doing nothing for many years would result in NASA being abolished.

    The Ares I-X that was launched may be the wrong rocket, that is something I am willing to debate.

    As for the proper launch vehicle I prefer the Jupiters.

  25. Jim Gagnon says:

    With apologies to Trent, I think you really need to look at the cost and put it into perspective: $.5B, $500M, $500,000,000. That’s enough for a lake lander on Titan, the Io observer mission, a couple of rovers on the Moon, or a down payment on a Martian sample return. Now look at what we got: a test that we will have to rerun in several years should we decide to save a launch system that’s too small in the first place and has zero growth potential.

    Jon thinks that NASA shouldn’t be in the launch system in the first place. Flights like Ares IX do nothing but support his position. I’m not mad at the engineers or mid-level managers that made Ares 1 possible, but rather the upper management that set NASA on this course in the first place. It’s disappointing, and makes me think that maybe Jon is correct and NASA should focus on LEO and beyond, and leave building launch vehicles to the private sector.

  26. Jim, if you’re measuring the cost of Ares I-X by what other launch vehicles you could have made using traditional engineering techniques, it certainly seems overpriced and epically stupid engineering too. I don’t think comparison to the costs of spacecraft is at all fair as, by that logic, no launch vehicle has ever been worth its development cost as all launch vehicles have cost more than a typical spacecraft to develop.

    But, to repeat myself, NASA thinks they’re pioneering a new way of developing launch vehicles and, at the same time, new methods for making aircraft and other high performance vehicles. The Ares I-X flight was part of a program to develop a *methodology* which will make it possible to design and test a variety of vehicles inside a computer, and then make those vehicles perfectly the first time. This fantastic new technology will make it so crew killing accidents are *impossible*, or at least put a number of how *improbable* they are.

    Just think about how wonderful and fantastic that is.. clearly it is worth a few billion, let alone half a billion. Jesus, I don’t even remember how many 9’s they’re talking about now? 46? Something like that.

    Of course, if you think that NASA are just loony with their crazy design-and-test-it-in-the-computer nonsense then yeah, you would think Ares I-X is a waste of money.. but direct your scorn at their philosophy.. after actually knowing what that is.. not at the *single* test they’ve done in the development of this revolutionary new technology.

    Oh yeah, and if they pull it off we’re all going to look dumb building rockets the same way we did in the 60s. Not that they’ll be giving a copy of this software to me, and even if they did I wouldn’t have the supercomputers to run it on anyway.

  27. I’m going to have to chime in here in support of Trent’s comment about the primary purpose of Ares I-X was to provide experimental verification of their simulation capabilities. My work for the past few years has been supported by grants from NASA to help extend the capabilities of our computational solvers to do predictive modeling of rocket engines. Trust me when I tell you that NASA’s current simulation capabilities are very impressive. However, the ability to take the insights gleaned from these simulations and try to design a new rocket is really on the cutting edge of what is possible and practical.

    There has been a slow but steady shift away from flight testing (build a little, test a little) at NASA and the big aerospace corporations for the last couple of decades. As computational simulations have become more capable, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that it is much more cost effective to do most of the early design and analysis work on the computer. It will always be cheaper to do a simulation than to do an experiment, and a simulation will also generate a tremendous amount of data at much higher resolution than any experiment would ever be capable of. Thus, simulations provide engineers with the ability to inspect the physical responses of nearly any point in the simulation without altering those responses with the presence of instrumentation.

    The important thing to keep in mind, though, is that every model (computational or otherwise) must be experimentally verified if it is to be trusted. For the flight regimes that traditional aviation experiences, there is a quite large corpus of experimental data to draw from, and most commercial CFD codes have been extensively verified in the regimes where they are most commonly used. However, for the flight regimes that NASA vehicles experience, there is very little experimental data available. Hence, the need for a flight test to get some ‘ground truth’ for their simulation models.

    And in this respect, the Ares I-X was apparently a resounding success. As a hardware demonstrator, there probably was only superficial resemblance to the eventual Ares I. But as a flight test unit, gathering crucial verification data on their modeling and simulation techniques, the test seems to have met its objectives.

    Was it worth half a billion dollars to obtain this data? Maybe. Maybe not. But that half a billion dollars probably supported thousands of engineers for the better part of five years, in addition to the cost of the hardware and related transport, assembly, range, and logistics expenses.

    Also keep in mind that these modeling and simulation techniques can be applied to design any number of potential rocket configurations. If Ares I is an infeasible design, as many of you seem to believe, then we should be able to figure that out with these simulations long before they start bending metal on the actual Ares I hardware. But as Trent says, if they (we) are successful at developing this simulation capability, then that will fundamentally change how future space craft are designed. Such a shift may even make it possible to eventually design fully reusable launch vehicles.

  28. Jonathan Goff Jonathan Goff says:

    Trent,
    I’m generally of the opinion that if you have design tools that require a $500M test that serves little other purpose to validate them, you’re probably doing something wrong. $500M was about the government investment in Delta-IV or Atlas V. Did we get anywhere near as much out of that experiment as we did from our investment in those other LVs? No. Hell No.

    It may sound like a plausible engineering excuse, but I don’t buy for a second that there was no PR angle in it. It doesn’t take conspiracy theories to say that–it just takes knowing engineers and engineering managers and understanding their incentives. They knew they needed something to get buy-in from the new administration post-Bush. Had Ares I-X flown on time it would’ve been flying before the new administration came in.

    We’ve had flights before at MSS that while we had to find at least a contrived engineering excuse for running them were really for a PR reason. That’s not evil or even dishonest. It’s just the reality that no engineer works in a vacuum with respect to funding and PR, and that non-engineering decisions always have an effect on engineering. To think otherwise demonstrates severe naivety.

    ~Jon

  29. Karl Hallowell says:

    But, to repeat myself, NASA thinks they’re pioneering a new way of developing launch vehicles and, at the same time, new methods for making aircraft and other high performance vehicles. The Ares I-X flight was part of a program to develop a *methodology* which will make it possible to design and test a variety of vehicles inside a computer, and then make those vehicles perfectly the first time. This fantastic new technology will make it so crew killing accidents are *impossible*, or at least put a number of how *improbable* they are.

    That’s blatantly unrealistic. 500 million could have bought you a thousands of flights of small sounding rockets of a variety of propulsion technologies. That’s much more likely to generate useful information for a modeling/simulation technology that you claim will make crew killing accidents “impossible” (hah!). A one-time test flight that just so happens to be dubbed an “Ares-1” flight, isn’t going to suffice.

    Here’s my take. Ares 1-X was planned and done precisely to put political pressure on Congress to continue to fund Ares. Any other benefits like partial proving of the Ares 1 design or simulation models were merely coincidental.

    Further, those simulations have so far been used merely to rationalize the program of record rather than a objective evaluation of the relative risks of various launch vehicle choices. For example, any simulation that comes up with a 1 in 3700 failure rate for the SRB which has a historical failure rate of more like 1 in 250, is just wrong.

    The simulation could well be right, but we don’t have confidence in the simulation where it matters, namely the projection of failure rates. A single launch test doesn’t change that. You need a number of tests on the order of the failure rate (N tests for claims of 1 in N failure rate) to prove the software to that degree.

    In the mean time, without that confidence, the software is just a tool for justifying the approaches that NASA wants to take. Paper rockets like the Ares I are always safer than real rockets like the EELVs. The simulations show that, of course.

  30. Repeating myself, yet again, I too do not believe NASA’s approach to building rockets via modeling and simulation is any good. I think build-a-little test-a-little is still the way to go and that all this analysis just leads to paralysis.

    But it would seem that at least a few people here are starting to actually acknowledge the fact that the motivation for the Ares I-X was to test the computer modeling software.. not to test a single possible launch vehicle configuration.. if you believe me when I tell you this, please stop contrasting the Ares I-X with the Ares I design.

    Lastly, I know you all so desperately want to hold on to the “It was PR!!” nonsense, so I guess I’ll have to pull out some of the other, minor, arguments why that makes no sense.

    First, the Ares I-X flight test was well underway when the program was completely funded (as much as it ever was) and was driven to launch by engineering needs. At the current time, the Ares I-Y flight is seen as unnecessary.. if that attitude continues and management pushes for the flight anyway, that would be a PR thing.. maybe.. but that simply wasn’t the case with Ares I-X. In fact, management at NASA wanted to cancel Ares I-X. I seriously doubt that any engineers went to their managers and said “hey bob, if we go ahead with the Ares I-X flight it’ll be fantastic PR!”

    Second, the Ares I-X flight had received so much bad press by the time it flew that everyone, including space geeks like yourself who should know better, thought it was a colossal waste of time and money. So many people thought it was pointless that they didn’t even tune in. The viewing areas were mostly empty.

    The press review was lackluster after wards.. popular science stupidity not withstanding. None of the media cared enough to send a science writer to talk with the engineers and get more than sound bites about what the purpose of the test was. Even now you hear the press referring to mumblings about Ares I being canceled as evidence that they were right in saying the Ares I-X test was a waste of money. Like it was an ordinary test flight of a potential rocket. If this is a PR effort, it’s a terrible one.

    If it was a PR effort, the risk was substantial.. the Ares I-X had a good chance of blowing up, colliding in mid air, having bits fall off at the wrong time, or just being so incredibly dull that the public thinks the Ares I will be boring too. If you ask some people *cough*NASAWatch*cough* there was a mid-air collision and it was incredibly dull. The media attention after the launch focused on the big dent in the side of the SRB due to one of the parachutes failing to open. This clearly has no effect on the stated goal of the test, so why focus on it? Oh, because its the only pictures that clearly show that something went wrong. The media love disaster and that’s all they want to report.. so what is this PR effort supposed to achieve?

  31. Tom D says:

    Trent,

    Argument by repeated assertion is really not that convincing. While Ares 1-x *may* not originally have been intended as a PR stunt, that is certainly what it looked like and turned into. I really don’t see why it is hard to believe that some good PR was hoped for.

    As an engineer, I am sure that most of the engineers working on Ares 1-x have tried hard to come up with something useful from this flight. Hopefully, some very good model improvement and validation is taking place, but I seriously doubt that was the main purpose of the test.

    I content that the main purpose of Ares 1-x was to fly something as soon as possible. The hope was that this would reassure Congress, the American people, and NASA itself that they could develop and fly a rocket that wasn’t the Shuttle but was derived from it and looked something like the final vehicle. I’m not sure that Ares 1-x was even in the original plan for Constellation, but it became necessary as Ares I proved to be much harder to develop than was initially believed.

    I personally think that Ares I is something of an afterthought. Ares V was what Mike Griffin and the NASA Bureaucracy really wanted so that they could send people to Mars (or at least the Moon), but they couldn’t see how to pay for its development while continuing to fly the Shuttle. Ares I was mainly intended to be a “safe, simple, and soon” way of keeping the US astronauts flying and NASA workers employed in the gap between the Shuttle and Ares V.

    Unfortunately, Ares I has gained a life and following of its own that looks likely to kill any hope of developing Ares V. It looks extremely unlikely that NASA will be given enough resources to develop both Ares I and Ares V. I suspect that most of the NASA bureaucracy (and former-administrator Mike Griffin himself) would dearly love to kill Ares I now and replace it with something like the “Jupiter” shuttle-derived vehicle, but that may not even be possible now politically.

  32. Rick Boozer says:

    “I content that the main purpose of Ares 1-x was to fly something as soon as possible. The hope was that this would reassure Congress, the American people, and NASA itself that they could develop and fly a rocket that wasn’t the Shuttle but was derived from it and looked something like the final vehicle.”

    And it worked too! In the aftermath of that flight, what did Time magazine name as invention of the year?

  33. “Argument by repeated assertion is really not that convincing.”

    I can tell that by your continual repetition of shit that don’t make any sense.

    “Hopefully, some very good model improvement and validation is taking place, but I seriously doubt that was the main purpose of the test.”

    Yes it was.. what evidence do you have to say it wasn’t?

    “I content that the main purpose of Ares 1-x was to fly something as soon as possible.”

    And yet it was late…

    “I’m not sure that Ares 1-x was even in the original plan for Constellation, but it became necessary as Ares I proved to be much harder to develop than was initially believed.”

    What evidence do you have for this? Why are you telling me about your “gut feel”? Why do you expect to achieve anything other than reassure me that you’re a bone-head?

    “I personally think that Ares I is something of an afterthought.”

    Maybe that’s because you’ve never read any of the literature that led to the Constellation program? Maybe, your personal opinion gets less and less relevant with every comment you make?

    “I suspect that most of the NASA bureaucracy (and former-administrator Mike Griffin himself) would dearly love to kill Ares I now and replace it”

    WOW.. that’s umm.. WOW.. I’m shocked and confused that *anyone* would suggest Mike Griffin would even entertain the notion of killing Ares I, let alone “dearly love” to do so. Put down the crack pipe.

  34. A_M_Swallow says:

    @Trent Waddington

    Mike Griffin is no longer NASA Administrator. The new man has his own ideas.

    Note: The McAfee Siteadvisor does not like your website. You may want to run a virus checker over it.

  35. A_M_Swallow:

    He said “I suspect that most of the NASA bureaucracy (and former-administrator Mike Griffin himself) would dearly love to kill Ares I now and replace it” .. that’s what I was replying to.

    crackpipe, smoking.

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