April 30, 2006
Pot, Kettle

An article last week in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report (sorry, no link) covered Mike Griffin's speech at the Inside Aerospace symposium, in which he had some interesting things to say about the industry.

"We, the country, don't get enough back for what we spend" on space, Griffin told attendees of the Inside Aerospace symposium sponsored by the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Space Foundation. "That means we don't get enough product for the amount of people's time invested in these activities. We have too many people doing every job we do."
Note that the "we" here apparently means the aerospace industry, in the context of the comment, rather than NASA.
Since the country is not likely in the future to be willing to spend much more on space than it does now, "if we want to see the space enterprise survive, it can't continue to cost what it does for what it produces," he said.
Huh. I wonder how much of this excessive cost-to-product-value relationship has to do with overhead imposed by the customer on the contractors, constant changes in requirements, inconsistent or conflicting requirements, etc.
Griffin pointed to the space shuttle program, which costs $4.5 billion each year to maintain, not counting launches, due to the standing army of people it employs. The time to safeguard new projects such as the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV) against such excesses is now, he said. "We can only fix the new things, and we have one chance, and that's before we start," he said.
This, on the other hand, is an excellent point, and one I hope NASA keeps in mind throughout the Constellation program. Many of Shuttle's problems with cost and complexity are the result of shortsighted compromises in the design, which kept short-term or development costs low in exchange for astronomical (!) operations costs over the life of the program.

This is...surprising:

He also said he had the CEV team go through all the "standard NASA boilerplate" in the CEV request for proposals (RFP) prior to its release and "weed out" contractual requirements for deliverables that NASA didn't think it would need. This delayed the release of the RFP somewhat. A similar process will take place for the CLV RFP and future procurements, he said.
Good grief -- while this may be true, if what they gave us was trimmed down, I'd like to know how many more DRDs there would have been had they not "weeded out" the ones they didn't think they'd need. It's also worth noting that there were several DRDs that one might have expected NASA would need that weren't there, and that the consensus is that NASA didn't do a similar "weeding out" on the CEV requirements generally and is only now adjusting some of those that conflict.

Posted by T.L. James on April 30, 2006 03:06 PM

Comments

Read up a little more on his appearance. He also said that NASA is responsible for this. So before you accuse him of hypocrisy, check several sources.



Posted by: Dave Renholder at May 3, 2006 10:23 AM

I looked for other sources at the time, and would have posted a link had I found any others. If you can provide a link to whatever it is that makes you think I am being unfair -- that is, another account of the same speech where equal focus is placed on NASA's problems, and which isn't given a leading headline like "Space industry charges too much for its services, Griffin says" -- please do.



Posted by: T.L. James at May 3, 2006 08:29 PM