Hanley’s confidence over the gap – Orion 4 scheduled for March, 2016

by Chris Bergin

Constellation manager Jeff Hanley has addressed his workforce with a wide-ranging e-mail that overviewed the budgetary challenges faced by the program.

Hanley stated his belief that Orion 2’s Initial Operational Capability (IOC) test flight to the ISS will “remain” on track for March, 2015 – although the ongoing PMR (Program Management Review) budget review shows the first ISS crew rotation (Orion 4) will take place one year later (March, 2016).

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Orion 2 vs Orion 4:

Key focuses of the address – dated early June and acquired by L2 at that time – ranged from the Hanley’s dislike of the gap between the current retirement date of the shuttle, to the transition from ‘formulation into development’ of the Constellation program.

No specific references are made to ongoing problems that face the Constellation program, such as Thrust Oscillation, mass and performance concerns, etc. Noting only ‘key technical challenges’ – whilst citing the workforce’s ‘hard work and dedication’ as key to a successful resolution.

‘We have spent the spring compiling the most detailed budget picture we have ever assembled, while working key technical challenges, and finishing our requirements base through the remaining season of SDR’s (System Definition Review),’ noted Hanley.

‘(We have also been) completing the lunar capability concept-level architecture, moving into for PDRs (Preliminary Design Review) for Orion and Ares I, and achieving agency approval to transition from formulation into development later this year. So there is a lot going on. You (the workforce) are making it happen.

‘Through the spring we’ve had the chance to interact with agency leadership on a number of occasions, and they have been uniformly complimentary of the work you have done.

‘We have plenty of challenges, but this program is changing the way NASA works, and our success to date is because of your hard work and dedication.’

Hanley noted his growing confidence that the March, 2015 target for Orion’s IOC can be achieved, despite that date slipping a full 18 months in the last few years.

‘As we finish the ‘formulation’ phase of the program and projects for what we’ve termed ‘initial capability’, we have achieved a detailed definition of the ‘work to go’ to execute the first phase of the program,’ Hanley added.

‘My confidence is growing that we will indeed maintain – or perhaps even improve upon – the targeted date for the first crewed launch, what we’ve been referring to as ‘initial operational capability’ or IOC.’

However, that first crewed launch is a test flight, with the later flight of Orion 4 the first time a crew rotation is planned – thus the first real mission.

Orion will visit the ISS to test the adapter/docking systems on both Orion 2 and Orion 3, thus Orion 2 is always referred to as IOC, as it is the first time Orion will ‘meet’ ISS, whereas Orion 4 is classed as Full Operational Capability (FOC) – and won’t take place until a year after Orion 2.

Orion 4’s date has internally slipped a full 12 months, when compared to PMR manifests from last year, which are showing reserves of around six months remaining, based on the commitment of carrying out Orion 2’s mission by March, 2015.

That reserve – which was previously as high as 18 months – means Orion 4 is currently documented as September, 2015, but with a matching alignment with the Orion 2 IOC commitment, scheduling the crew rotation mission for March, 2016.

While the PMR process still ongoing – ahead of a completion date in July, when the full overview is sent to NASA management – the reality of the schedule shows a six year gap between the shuttle’s retirement and the return of a full US manned capability to the ISS.

Hanley meanwhile stated that the dates are mainly affected by the budget in the short-term, as the Constellation program waits for the retirement of the shuttle and the freeing of the huge amounts of cash the fleet eats up in the NASA budget.

Those issues of cost and schedule – added to the technical challenges – make for a ‘triple constraint’ in the program’s push towards the completion of its Constellation development phase.

‘Over a year ago we established that date to be March of 2015, a date driven in part by agency budget priorities, but most significantly affected by our budget limitations until the shuttle retires in 2010,’ he added, again referencing the IOC date for Orion 2 – which was September, 2014 on last year’s manifest.

‘As most of you know, during this ‘formulation’ phase, we have set for ourselves aggressive internal targets on ‘all axes’ of the program – cost, schedule and technical performance.

‘These three aspects of project management are often referred to as ‘the triple constraint’ on any project, and it is the project/program manager’s job to balance these to achieve the desired outcomes of the program.

‘Aggressive internal targets were tools for us during formulation to drive out the risks involved across all three parts of the ‘triple constraint’. Specifically as it pertains to our schedule, the internal manifest dates we chose were designed to push the team to define the work as leanly as possible to get to the finish line – and this is exactly what you have done.

‘Thus my growing confidence that our target of flying by early 2015 is indeed achievable.’

With the gap causing a great deal of concern – with even Apollo 17’s Captain Gene Cernan now calling for the shuttle to be extended (article to follow later this week) – Hanley himself classed the gap as ‘distressing’.

‘Many folks ask me about ‘the gap’ between the last shuttle flight and the first crewed Orion mission,’ he added, again referencing Orion 2. ‘This ‘gap’ is indeed distressing on a number of levels – and has been actively discussed throughout the last two and a half years at the highest levels.

‘No one in senior agency management likes the gap. But considering the ‘triple constraint’ of cost, schedule and technical performance, I want to review the situation with those factors in mind.

‘First cost: our budget is set, and it’s commonly understood that budget is tightly constrained over the next three years, until shuttle retires. We may hope for it to grow, for new money to show up early enough to change the outcome, but the reality is that we must plan assuming that will not happen.

‘Second is technical performance: our sights, from the beginning of the program and flowing out of the ESAS study, has been firmly set on the Moon. We are building Orion and Ares to go to the Moon.’

Interestingly, Hanley also made references to Ares I’s development as ‘down payments’ on Ares V, which appears to be either premature – based on the performance requirement to move to 5.5 segment boosters on Ares V’s first stage – or an indication that Ares I will soon transition in parallel with a 5.5 segment booster on its first stage.

Ares V, incidentally, is likely to grow yet further, with the 5.5 segment/6xRS-68s still not closing the performance shortfall.

‘Key elements of Ares I are also down payments on Ares V – the first stage solid motors and J-2X engine will be used on the big rocket as well as Ares I, with very little if any modification.’ he continued.

‘Orion will be designed with all the capabilities and capacities to accomplish the lunar mission. This has been a ‘stone tablet’ tenet established from the very beginning.

‘Third and last is schedule – we set aggressive dates during formulation to see just how close we could get to achieving them with the available dollars. This also was designed to keep the earliest possible dates technically viable for as long as possible.

‘As any project manager will tell you, when it comes to the ‘triple constraint’ and optimizing the three factors, under even the best of circumstances you are free to optimize two out of the three.’

Hanley’s address also intimated that a potential decision to extend the shuttle’s role through to 2012, in order to ‘reduce’ the gap, would hold problems for the stability of Constellation’s schedule – given internal dates are fluid, in order to control spending, until the shuttle’s dominance over the budget is released.

‘Given that budget is set and technical performance is set – the ‘free variable’ in the equation is schedule. So internal schedules will need to adjust to achieve the given performance at the given budget profile through completion. This adjustment is solely to control our rate of spending through the end of 2010.

‘Meanwhile, we will remain aggressive in pursuit of minimizing the ‘gap’ to the extent our funding profile allows. Our current assessment shows, assuming no significant changes in available budget over the next two years, we will still be able to stay within the dollars allocated for phase I of Cx (Constellation) to meet our March of 2015 target.

‘As we study our plan against our budget, we now have enough insight to be able to investigate ways of perhaps improving on that date – something we would all like to do.

‘Once we finish our assessment through the summer we will finalize a formal baseline schedule, derived from the working schedules we have worked throughout the formulation phase, as we prepare for our Program Approval Review later in the year.’

Hanley closed by mentioning the use of any additional funds would be earmarked for closing the gap, though efforts by politicians – via a bill that requests a $2.9 billion increase in NASA’s budget – is mainly related to extending the shuttle program.

‘In closing, we should all recognize and appreciate that Congress has been very supportive and recognizes the pressure we are under in regards to the budget available to accomplish IOC any earlier than the 2015 target. But there are many competing national priorities, and we must accept the support we do enjoy and make that work.

‘There are several Congressional attempts underway to obtain additional funding for NASA to shorten the gap. Any additional funds, should they be appropriated, would be applied to reducing the ‘gap’ and further improve upon our target date.’

To review the latest series of Ares/Orion articles based on documentated engineering processes being carried out on the vehicles at this time. Click for: **Part 1** – **Part 2** – **Part 3** – **Part 4** **Part 5** – **Part 6**

Selection of L2 Resources For Ares I, V and Constellation: 

Ares V (5.5/6xRS-68) Presentation. Orion Parachute Vehicle Images. Latest Risk Matrix for Ares. SI Unit Directive Document. CxP PMR08 Manifest. PDR and associated notes from CPCB meeting. Full (and very expansive) list of current Ares/Orion mass and status report. Ares I ‘Parasorber’ TO migitation hardware presentation and animation. Orion Parachute Test Vehicle (PTV) Photographs.

110mb worth of Ares I-X Weekly Test Presentations (Ares I-X, J2-X etc. up to end of April) The Orion LIDS (Low Impact Docking System) Section (Images, Videos, Engineering Notes). Hi Res Images of Ares I in the VAB. Ares I-X Integrated Milestone Charts. Ares I Thrust Oscillation Focus Team Status Presentations (over 50mb – includes DTO on Shuttle missions), Ares I-X Global Buckling Status Presentation, Ares I – Launch Pad Stabilization and Damping Presentation, Ares I: Purge/Vent/Drain and Vehicle Access Presentation.

Ares Tilt Up Umbilical Arm (TUUA) Test – Video, Ares/Orion Comm and Tracking Presentation, Ares I Nozzle Extension Update Presentation, Ares/Orion Integrated Stack TIM Summary (Major Issues) Presentation, Orion Land vs Water Landing Update + Crew Survival (post 36 hrs) Presentations.

Altair Overview Presentation. Ares I Risks and Status. Ares I-X Booster Recovery Images and Video. Ares I-X Pad Images. Ares I-Y Mission Overview Video (50mb – Superb).  Orion Lunar Transit CGI Video. (Several more videos, including first video of Orion splashdown). 

Orion Rendezvous with the ISS CGI Video, plus AERCam Inspections. Ares I Thurst Oscillation Update Section.  Images of completed PA-1 boilerplate Command Module at LaRC.  CxP Planning for Architecture Closure – Feb 19. Ares V Overview Presentations. Other Major CxP Updates for Feb (List restricted to L2).

Orion 607 Overview Presentation (Jan 08), Constellation Program Status/Budget and new Manifest to Orion 20 Presentation (Jan, 08). Michoud Transition to Ares I/V (Jan 17, 08). Several MLAS (Max Launch Abort System) Presentations. Over 60 Hi Res Images of Orion Mock-up at JSC (Hatch, Seats, Flight Deck) – December.

Lunar Habitat Assembly. PRCB Presentations on hardware and infrastruction transition (from Palmdale to MLP Park) ‘Follow live’ Lightning Towers Construction images. Latest Mobile Launcher details. Orion/Ares I/Delta IV Heavy NEO Feasibility Study (Video). Constellation EVA Study Presentation. Superb Gene Kranz address to CxP workforce (Apollo to Orion feature) video. MOD ‘LEO to Mars’ presentations.

Superb Ares I Launch Ascent, Pad Abort Test CGI Videos (three). Integrated Stack (IS) Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM) notes – Nov 6 to Nov 15. The full ‘8th Floor News’ – Constellation Update (performance issues) – Nov 5. Ares I Mobile Launcher PMR.

‘Proposed’ Ares I SRBSF (Mini VAB) and graphic. LSAM (LDAC-1) Video and Images. Several Constellation All Hands Videos and Presentations. Ares I Pad Rollercoaster (Old and New presentation and slides – the very cool ‘CGI ride on the Ares pad coaster’ video. Ares I VAB ‘In-Line’ Stacking presentation slides.

Presentation of Ares/Orion impacts relating to Shuttle manifest acceleration. Ares I Interstage diagrams. Ares V Super Crawler. Ares I Launch Pad images (ML etc.) Hi Res images of Ares I-X Upper Stage. Orion 606-7 Data Updates. Updates Constellation launch schedule through to Orion 15. Orion Seat test photos. New ML Graphic and info. New Ares V graphic and baseline data. Large collection of hi res Orion paracute drop tests. SIX Part Series of Ares I Upper Stage Graphical Overviews. DAC-1C DDD Vast Slides on Vehicle Design. ATK First Stage Presentation. 39B Lightning Towers Slides. DAC-1C Departure points to DAC-2 Upper Stage Graphcs (Many Changes).

Orion/CEV Display Layout Presentation (40 pages). ATK figures on the 5-Seg Booster weight for CLV. Weather Shield (Rain Shield) for Orion on the pad. New Super hi-res images of Ares I. ATK Cutaway graphics of Ares I – perspective and axonometric. Ares I/Orion CxP 72031 Requirements Validation Matrix Information. CEV Paracute Assembly System (CPAS) Presentation.

Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) overview presentation. Changes to Ares I Upper Stage – expansive details and data. Ares I/Orion CxP 72031 Requirements Validation Matrix Information. CLV Umbilical Trade Matrix XLS. Vehicle interfaces for the DAC 1C version of Orion Ares. Ares I-X Test Flight Plan (full outline) Presentation. Ares I-X timeline and modification expanded info. Ares I Reference Trajectory. Boeing’s STS to Ares – Lessons Learned Presentation. CLV DAC-1C (Changes to CLV Upper Stage).

Ares I-X: Four Seg+Dummy ‘Tuna Can’ stage. Ascent Developmental Flight Test Presentation. CLV Pad 39B Handover Info and Latest. New images of CLV on top of new MLP and LUT. Lockheed Martin CEV/Orion Updates. ATK figures on the 5-Seg Booster weight for CLV.

90 Minute Video of Constellation all hands meeting. Escape System Trade Study Presentation. CEV-CLV Design Analysis Cycle Review (DAC-2) Presentation. Flight Design and Dynamics Division CEV update. CLV Mono-propellant RCS system. CEV pressurisation system review. CLV/CEV Configuration Images. The 2×3 Seg SRB Crew Launch Vehicle Option Presentation…

….plus much more (L2 Constellation over 180,000mb in size).

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