Constellation Update & Plans for 2011 By CxP Chief

AmericaSpace Note: A little birdie sent us this email by Dale Thomas, Constellation Program Manager, updating the Constellation team of their program’s progress and discussing efforts for the coming fiscal year. From the sound of things, Constellation is proceeding along well, despite the challenges it has faced from many sides. That progress is a testament to the Constellation team’s focus and dedication. We are left wondering whether or not funding NASA through continuing resolutions, what with their diktat of funding Constellation, might not be such a bad thing for America’s human space flight program since steady progress is being made. Now, on to Thomas’ email…enjoy!

From: Thomas, L. Dale (MSFC-DA01)
Sent: Thursday, September 09, 2010
Subject: Keeping our balance


Your accomplishments continue at a pace that belies the challenging environment in which we’re operating. Last week I visited Pratt-Whitney-Rocketdyne, and saw the components that are being fabricated and assembled to form the first complete J-2X engine. This engine will be delivered to SSC around the end of CY10 and will begin testing shortly thereafter. Then I traveled to Utah to witness the firing of Development Motor #2 (DM-2). It’s difficult to find the words to describe the experience of seeing, hearing, and feeling 3.6 million pounds of thrust from about 1 kilometer away. The quick-look indicates a very successful firing, with the key parameters of thrust & chamber pressure being so close to prediction that I accused (in jest, of course) Fred Braswell of drawing the plots before the firing! We continue to learn from our testing; the FS team had used the DM-1 results to refine their models, and they apparently have them dialed in quite nicely. Of course, the post-test analysis will be ongoing for the better part of a year, and I expect that we’ll learn a great deal from this test too. Also this week, a structural proof pressure test of the Orion Ground Test Article was successfully completed at MAF. And I could go on.

As I mentioned in my previous note, the Cx leadership is planning for FY11. Toward that end, we reviewed the FY11 plans of the Projects and Program Integration at the Monthly Program Review on August 25 and subsequently reviewed the FY11 planning results with ESMD and received general concurrence. In fact, the depth & rigor of the planning was praised by Doug Cooke & Laurie Leshin. We held a Cx management retreat to discuss the overall Cx Program planning for FY11. At the Program level, our planning focuses on development activities that play forward to enable Human Exploration Framework Team (HEFT) scenarios, balanced with Cx Program of Record (POR) execution. Within this strategy, the individual Project strategies follow:

  • Ares: hardware, software, & tooling that enables various HLLV configurations, including Ares I & V or other Shuttle-derived HLLV
  • Orion: an orbital flight test in late CY13 that mitigates risk to the existing Orion 1 & 2 flights
  • Ground Ops: Systems that are extensible to various launch vehicle configurations along with trades & analyses
  • Mission Ops: Mission Control & Training, the two longest lead elements needed for missions
  • EVA: the Launch, Entry, & Abort (LEA) suit needed for first human flight (Orion 2), synching design maturity of the LEA suit with that of Orion
  • LSS/Altair/EVA Config-2 Suit: preserve a destination focus & skill set
  • Program Integration: maintain traceability of all projects to the POR, technical support to Projects in FY11 plan execution, and prepare for the next wave of exploration DDT&E, including support for architecture studies and Program/Project formulation strategies led by ESMD

Given the ongoing human spaceflight policy deliberations, this represents our attempt to balance the Cx portfolio of work in FY11 and provide the most value to the Agency for the budget that has been allocated to Cx. And we will continue to coordinate with ESMD to rebalance the plan as the policy emerges. We’re in a dynamic environment, not a static one that facilitates planning, so resilience will be required of each of us, both individually and collectively, as we move forward. In a recent meeting with the Cx Leadership, Administrator Bolden acknowledged the difficulty of working in this ambiguous environment, and paid credit to the professionalism of the team in continuing to execute. I’ve said this before, and it remains the case today – we don’t know how it all plays out, but we do know that our work matters to the future of human spaceflight. Please be sure to share this message with your team.


One Comment

  1. I think funding Constellation through any means will benefit the space program for years to come! Although, I know that your comment about continuing resolutions not being a bad thing is “tongue-in-cheek” I am also painfully aware of what this up-in-the-air funding does for the workforces involved in Constellation. Several contractors will still have to lay off employees in the near future, because the business world does not pay employees to wait and see. I know that ATK, MSFC, Boeing and others will breathe a huge sigh of relief when Congress and the White House decide to go forward.

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