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posted by martyb on Thursday January 20, @02:59PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the sls-spice-must-flow dept.

NASA safety panel recommends agency review how it manages human spaceflight programs

[...] The shift to commercial crew transportation has created some specific issues in the last year mentioned in the report. The panel cited a "concerning dissonance" between NASA and SpaceX during preparations for the Crew-1 landing last May. The two organizations "differed in their understanding of the level of risk to be incurred" regarding a nighttime landing of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, with NASA initially preferring a daytime landing as the lowest risk option. SpaceX argued that a nighttime landing was acceptable and offered better sea state conditions than the proposed daytime landing. The report stated that "last-minute communications had been necessary to ensure NASA approved the plans for the night landing."

There was also a difference of opinion between NASA and Boeing involving the risk of stuck propulsion valves on the company's CST-100 Starliner that delayed an uncrewed test flight last summer. Boeing evaluated the risk as low, the panel said, while NASA considered it moderate during a flight readiness review. That review, the panel concluded, "revealed NASA and Boeing do not share a common understanding of how to assess and characterize risk."

[...] The panel also took issue with the "disaggregated" way NASA's exploration efforts are organized. That structure treats the Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft and Exploration Ground Systems as separate programs, which the panel attributes to the uncertain direction of the agency's exploration programs after the cancellation of the Constellation program more than a decade ago.

Among the panel's recommendations was to create an integrated Artemis program led by a single manager "endowed with authority, responsibility, and accountability" along with a bottoms-up approach to systems engineering and integration as well as risk management. NASA sometimes refers to an "Artemis program" today, the panel noted, but without the formal program architecture that risks "confusing both employees and contractors about who is ultimately responsible and accountable."

It might help NASA if Congress would stop treating it like a jobs program.


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  • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @03:16PM (21 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @03:16PM (#1214174)
    • Don't trust anything that Boeing says: They are evil bastards who wear top hats and black capes and twirl the ends of their handlebar mustaches as they light their cigars with burning $100 bills.
    • Fully trust what SpaceX says: Elon is dreamy and never talks out his ass and overpromises and underdelivers.
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Freeman on Thursday January 20, @03:50PM (13 children)

      by Freeman (732) on Thursday January 20, @03:50PM (#1214189) Journal

      Hey, point #1 could be very true as far as I know.

      Point #2 is pretty much flamebait. As far as SpaceX goes, they've hit homerun after homerun. It's like calling Babe Ruth that weird fat guy who played baseball.

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      • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @03:58PM (9 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @03:58PM (#1214194)

        The rent-seeking parasites at Boeing have only killed hundreds of people with their actions. That is a far cry from the millions of people that the Musky One has consigned to death.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Freeman on Thursday January 20, @04:17PM (8 children)

          by Freeman (732) on Thursday January 20, @04:17PM (#1214201) Journal

          I find that hard to believe, on both counts.

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          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @05:19PM (7 children)

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @05:19PM (#1214228)

            How soon you forget. MCAS killed 346 people and was entirely because Boeing management were evil.

            I don't know about the Musk one, unless the GP expects the Mars colony to collapse.

            • (Score: 5, Interesting) by HiThere on Thursday January 20, @06:37PM (3 children)

              by HiThere (866) on Thursday January 20, @06:37PM (#1214264) Journal

              FWIW, at this point I'd give the Mars colony a 60% chance of collapsing. And still think it worthwhile, as long as the participants were volunteers.

              Also I'm rather sure that Boeing has killed more than 346 people through cost cutting on security. That 346 sounds like one incident, though I didn't care enough to search. OTOH, if you consider deaths of employees (including of via subcontracting, etc.) during manufacturing, then I'm rather sure both Musk (Tesla, etc.) and Boeing have killed a lot more. Whether that was reasonable or not is a question that would need careful investigation. (In neither case do I beleive they set out the kill the people, though possibly some of the sub-contractors did.)

              FWIW, manufacturing isn't the safest job. It's generally safer than being a lumberjack or a miner, but not as safe as many others.

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              Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @06:49PM

                by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @06:49PM (#1214276)

                346 was the two MCAS crashes. Management sold it as the same plane, when it handled differently. They put in a software system to mimic the older handling so they didn't have to pay for pilot training. The software worked fine as long as the sensor didn't fail. The evil part was that they charged extra to put in a backup sensor. The two planes that crashed, the sensor failed and the software dived the plane into the ground.

              • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Thursday January 20, @10:17PM (1 child)

                by Freeman (732) on Thursday January 20, @10:17PM (#1214371) Journal

                Boeing produced "229 military aircraft" in 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing [wikipedia.org]

                Pretty sure those weren't all cargo planes. Boeing has been producing military aircraft for quite some time: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_military_aircraft_of_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]

                When you are developing a military aircraft, you're intending for it to kill people.

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                • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, @11:28PM

                  by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, @11:28PM (#1214657)

                  With military aircraft the intention isn't to kill your own people.

            • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Thursday January 20, @10:08PM (2 children)

              by Freeman (732) on Thursday January 20, @10:08PM (#1214364) Journal

              In the event that you blame every crashed plane on Boeing. There's more than 100s of casualties to Boeing's name.

              Currently, Elon Musk's dream of a Mars colony is a very large pipe dream. Blaming any possible future collapse, on his vision of a functional colony, is preposterous.

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              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, @12:53AM (1 child)

                by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, @12:53AM (#1214409)

                It was sarcasm, o course.

                • (Score: 2, Touché) by khallow on Friday January 21, @02:18PM

                  by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday January 21, @02:18PM (#1214489) Journal
                  So you really have an altar to the Musk?
      • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @04:55PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @04:55PM (#1214219)

        Point #2 is pretty much flamebait.

        You're saying Elon isn't dreamy?

      • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Thursday January 20, @06:48PM (1 child)

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 20, @06:48PM (#1214275) Homepage Journal

        Wait - you're claiming that Babe wasn't a weird fat guy? Lots of sports figures are weird mofos. But, we don't pay them to be conformists, do we? We pay them for performance in their chosen sports.

        But, yeah, I gotta agree with you. SpaceX hits homerun after homerun, we need to keep them up at bat. Boeing, not so much. They are something more than just bench warmers, but not a whole lot more. Waterboys?

        --
        Our first six presidents were educated men. Then, along came a Democrat.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, @11:03PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, @11:03PM (#1214654)

          I wouldn't trust Boeing to be water boys these days. Management would find a way to screw it up. Even bench warmer is pushing it.

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by mcgrew on Thursday January 20, @04:20PM (5 children)

      by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Thursday January 20, @04:20PM (#1214203) Homepage Journal

      Boeing has a track record of killing hundreds of people when their airplanes crashed. To be fair, I don't think any airline is free of past deaths, and neither is NASA. So far, SpaceX hasn't killed anybody. Yet.

      --
      Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @05:04PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @05:04PM (#1214222)

        More importantly, both Boeing and NASA have killed people through blatant, reckless mismanagement, and are probably going to kill more that way. While there is no doubt that SpaceX will experience casualties at some point there is no sign of that with them. On the contrary, they are perfectly willing to expend hardware to make their manned program safer and have even improved the state of the art at least twice through rigorous testing.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @06:08PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @06:08PM (#1214250)

        SpaceX has a track record of blaming rocket failures on deliberate sabotage employing high powered sniper rifles. But to be fair, I don't think any rocket vendor is free of past behavior. In fact, didn't the McDonnell Atlas-1 blow up because a Lockheed guy shot it with a bazooka?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @06:42PM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @06:42PM (#1214269)

        Unless the same Boeing people and divisions are involved, you can't drag the 737 stuff into the argument, and you can't integrate the accidents over 60 years of history and compare it one to one with SpaceX's relatively few. If you want to do that, you should drag into the argument Musk's abject failures, such as with SolarCity and the Boring Company, and tack them onto the SpaceX track record. If you want to compare the number of SpaceX aircraft deaths to Boeing, then you might as well suggest that SpaceX should split their NASA money with that the company from that other story from today (the one that is about building a direct to orbit plane) because they haven't killed anyone in an airplane accident either. I'd suggest that almost everyone here cannot comment on the internal interpersonal dynamics of SpaceX to know realistically whether a down the line engineer can veto decisions based upon their comfort level with something, particularly after complacency sets in. That's the kind of thing that comes out after the fact during a disaster investigation.

        The general consensus expressed by most comments so far is "no, you should not just blindly accept their word, but I fully trust them." If people don't understand what is wrong with that sentence, they need to think about it a bit harder. The report is correct noting it is a problem if NASA and SpaceX don't agree on what the lowest risk option is, but it is disappointing that the solution deemed acceptable here is let SpaceX call the shots because "we haven't killed anyone yet!"

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday January 21, @02:28PM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday January 21, @02:28PM (#1214490) Journal

          The general consensus expressed by most comments so far is "no, you should not just blindly accept their word, but I fully trust them."

          Your straw men are so well-behaved. They don't poo on the carpet much.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, @11:40PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, @11:40PM (#1214663)

          Boeing's problems start with upper management and affect both their aircraft and spacecraft divisions. This is a systemic issue.

          SpaceX's solution is acceptable because they were correct and NASA's analysis was flawed. This has been a recurring problem because of internal dysfunction within NASA that NASA's Office of Safety, Reliability and Quality Assurance was created to address after Challenger, but as the Columbia disaster demonstrated, the OSRQA has been a complete failure.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by DannyB on Thursday January 20, @04:26PM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 20, @04:26PM (#1214205) Journal
      • Don't trust anything that Boeing says
      • Fully trust what SpaceX says

      I would point out that SpaceX sure makes it look easy. Has an amazing track record at this point. High reliability. Reused boosters are more reliable track record than new boosters. The last several launches have been on boosters that were flying their 10th launch. Have recovered 103 orbital class boosters. I could go on, but . . .

      Boeing has multiple royal screw ups on its starliner capsule demo. Even their do-over was a major pooch screw. In their aviation department the 737-MAX was also a major pooch screw.

      Now I'm not suggesting that SpaceX should have blind trust. Verify everything. But SpaceX sure does make the extremely difficult look like it is easy and routine.

      --
      A parade of tiny elephants. Not afraid of mice. Optical or the kind with balls.
  • (Score: 2) by crafoo on Thursday January 20, @05:42PM (2 children)

    by crafoo (6639) on Thursday January 20, @05:42PM (#1214235)

    along with a bottoms-up approach to systems engineering and integration as well as risk management.

    I wonder about the people making such a recommendation. They must know that a bureaucracy like NASA is fundamentally incapable of organizing a project around bottoms-up system integration and especially risk management. Risk management is something NASA has gotten wrong, with terminal consequences, since the 80s. It's the nature of splitting responsibility away from authority, and it happens in all government agencies.

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @05:57PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @05:57PM (#1214244)

      This is far from being just a government thing. It happens everywhere that is large enough to have at least one middle management level between the top and bottom. For example, anywhere that has a VP who you can't tell what their job is by looking at their title.

    • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Thursday January 20, @06:57PM

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 20, @06:57PM (#1214279) Homepage Journal

      It's the nature of splitting responsibility away from authority, and it happens in all government agencies.

      Bingo. And, I bring forth my Navy training. You cannot be responsible without authority, you cannot wield authority without responsibility. That applies to all walks of life, but life in the Yacht Club teaches, reteaches, and reemphasizes that concept, repeatedly. Responsibility and authority are inseparable. It's a basic tenet of leadership, unless you are a politician.

      --
      Our first six presidents were educated men. Then, along came a Democrat.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, @12:20AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, @12:20AM (#1214395)

    They obsess over irrelevant things and ignore things that matter.

    Land a rocket at night that doesn't depend on vision? Oh God no.

    Giant blobs of debris punching holes in the spacecraft? Meh, it's probably fine.

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