This was one of those things that are good to write to just get off one's
chest. I just scanned through it and see that there are a few editorial
changes I could make if I were sufficiently inclined, but it hanga together
pretty clearly; the main thing is to realize that I was writing it around
1993. It would not have been good for my "career dynamic" to have released
it at the time I wrote it, or perhaps even now, for that matter. Needless
to say, the following in no way represents the official position of any of
the government or corporate interests involved. I invented the pseudonym
thinking I would publish it somewhere, but I never did so. (23 May,
2004 15:16:52 PDT)
What reminded me of this was the x-prize activity. One of the interesting
aspects of this story is that google found it first coming from the Chinese
news agency (headquarters in Beijing). The key criteria in the x-prize
are these: "... flown twice within a 14-day period ... carry at least
one person, to minimum altitude of 100 km (62 miles) ... [able] to carry a
minimum of 3 adults." This flight was 2/3 of the way there in altitude
and energy, if you just want to reach altitude and drop. Orbital energies
are substantially greater. For years I've been intrigued with Burt Rutan
designs; he's done a fair amount of ground breaking. Suffice it
to say that when these guys succeed it will be a huge embarrassment to the
apologists for NASA who want to spend untold billions on another space shuttle
system to replace the current ones.
I was an Engineering Welfare Bum
I spent several years as a systems engineer on the NASA Space Station program
before realizing my job was actually that of a science fiction writer.
During those years I observed the space station workers (both NASA and contractor)
struggle under a deliberately disorganized management structure that
allowed numerous redesign exercises to systematically add costs and slide
the program schedule.
Now, the space station program has undergone yet another redesign effort,
the press reports of cost overruns on the program, and a major reorganization
is in work. In light of this, I wonder why anyone should believe that
NASA is competent to manage any large development effort?
Come on in, the water's fine
Then-President Reagan announced in the early eighties that the United States
would build a space station within a decade for $8B. When I graduated
from college there were few prospects I thought as interesting as that of
human beings like me, leaving this earth and making a life among the other
planets and stars. Perhaps not surprisingly, when in 1984 the opportunity
arose for me to participate in the new NASA space station, I jumped.
Since that time my interest in space exploration has not diminished.
My perception of NASA as a means to that end, however, has gone from cautious
optimism to deep skepticism. After eight years on the project, I reached
the conclusion that so long as NASA is in charge of getting people into space,
the costs will be astronomical and the number of human space travellers will
be pitifully few. And I won't be among them.
It has now been more than a ten years since Reagan made his pronouncement,
and NASA has already spent more than $8B on the program [R.W. Stewart &
R. Abramson, Los Angeles Times, 5/20/93]. In case you were wondering,
no part of the space station is in orbit, it is in the midst of yet another
redesign, but appears to have barely survived cancellation votes in congress.
What follows is an account of some of the fundamental technical, management,
and political issues in which the space station project is embroiled.
Although the story is anecdotal, perhaps it will provide an understanding
for what causes the program to be in such a mess.
FREEDOM, the FREEDOM Station, and Space Station FREEDOM
are the officially mandated and only formally accepted names for the orbiting
hardware and associated ground facilities considered to be the NASA flagship
program for the next century. I resist using these names, so I will
simply abbreviate with SS, and not fail to point out the other connotations
associated with these two letters, both diabolical and wasteful.
The SS is a program in search of a constituency and sponsors. That
is, constituency and sponsors beyond the NASA and contractor establishment.
For the people laboring on it, the mission of the SS is to find a mission
that is independent of shifting political winds.
For the general public, on the other hand, the ostensible purpose of the
NASA SS program is to build a low earth orbiting facility that will house
a crew of humans, allow them to perform experiments, and test their ability
to survive the rigors of long duration space flight. It is to be a base
for performing tests upon materials, plants, and animals that can be done
in the micro-gravity and near vacuum environment of earth orbits. It
is also to be used for earth and celestial observations. Unfortunately,
not all of these goals are compatible with each other or with the design constraints
placed on the program.
As a result, no one seems to know exactly what SS is supposed to accomplish.
Or more appropriately, everyone knows what they want a space station to do
for them, but the political leaders rarely discuss whether it is suitable
to integrate those goals into one vehicle. This problem was never reconciled
early in the project, because the objective at that time was to build a constituency.
Consequently, as the political influence of various potential users wax and
wane, the mission direction for the SS changes as well. In the attempt
to satisfy everyone, no one is satisfied very well.
A visible science or technology objective has always been required to sell
the program. Even in the midst of the current redesign effort, the participants
have had to scramble to find out which science or technology objective the
SS is supposed to accomplish. In March, NASA was given 90 days to come
up with options to the current design, but they were not given guidance on
the SS mission until a letter dated April 30 from Clinton's science advisor
John Gibbons [A. Lawler, 'Gibbons: Science is Civil Space Priority, Space
News, 5/10/93, 8].
Ultimately, the mission of the SS has been more to employ engineers and
technicians than to provide a science platform. As time progresses,
planned accommodations for experiments grow less and less. The logical
conclusion of this trend is the creation of a space station with no usefulness
other than to provide a habitat for a small crew for short durations, at
the cost of millions of dollars a day.
The key to understanding the problems with the SS lies in the program\'d5s
origins: it was deliberately disorganized. It was set up from
the start to have as many different elements as interwoven as possible.
Responsibilities were diffuse, and integration authority was kept from being
assigned and then later enforced. The reason for this was politics.
James Beggs was the NASA administrator when the concept for the current
SS project was concocted. The Shuttle had been flying for a few years,
so development costs were turning down, and NASA needed another big project
to bolster funding. Beggs decided to make the SS his legacy, and convinced
Reagan to do the same. But selling the idea in Washington was a big
challenge, and the SS promoters needed very broad support.
What came about as a result was what a subsequent NASA administrator - Andrew
Stofan - called 'the rather cumbersome management structure' to which the
SS was saddled. The SS needed broad congressional support, so pieces
of it were spread across as many districts as possible. SS needed broad
support within NASA, so development responsibilities were spread among the
most powerful centers. And SS needed broad support from the contractors,
so lots of subcontractors were favored, especially if their operations were
in different congressional districts, or districts represented by powerful
appropriations committee members.
So, a consensus was reached and the program was kicked off. The senior
management must have had some idea of the morass into which they were headed,
because in 1987 they reorganized the program. Previously, there were
three levels of NASA management directing the activity of the contractor
'work packages'. These levels had been designated 'A' for NASA headquarters,
'B' for the program integration management, and 'C' for the various NASA
field centers that directed the work package contractors. After the
reorganization they were called 'Level I', 'Level II', and 'Level III', representing
NASA headquarters, the program integration management, and the various NASA
field centers that directed the work package contractors.
As for the Work Packages, their responsibilities overlap in almost every
area. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and Johnson Space Center (JSC),
share most of the development responsibility. A third NASA site, Lewis
Research Center (LeRC), is responsible for the electrical power system.
Goddard Space Flight Center was removed from the program back around 1989;
they were responsible for attached payload accommodations that got spun off
to be the Earth Observation System (another boondoggle if the space station
is any indication). Of course, a program as big as the space station
couldn\'d5t let the other centers be left with nothing, so Kennedy, Langley,
JPL, and all the rest get to do special studies.
Each of the NASA centers are largely independent, with their own agendas
of budgets to maintain, clientele to serve, and technical interests.
The space station managers at the field centers report first to their center
director, then to the Level II program office. In the face of this independence,
the authority of the program integration management (NASA Level II) was never
commensurate with their responsibilities.
Each Work Package was given responsibility over distributed systems (e.g.
data management, communications) and configuration elements, such as the truss
and the U.S. Laboratory module. Each work package distributed systems
hardware is scattered among the elements of the other work packages.
As a consequence, no work package has responsibility for an end item that
is independent of the other organizations; they all depend on each other
to make their own elements work properly. The effects of this stretch
from design through test and assembly, and whenever a change is required the
approvals must often get worked through two layers of NASA management and
back. The Work Packages are so intermingled in each others affairs it
has been a wonder they have managed to get much of anything right (in spite
of awful organizations, good people have been able to make some progress).
Reporting to the NASA centers are Boeing (MSFC), McDonnell Douglas (JSC),
and the Rocketdyne division of Rockwell (LeRC). Reporting to them are
dozens of subcontractors, including IBM, Lockheed, and numerous others.
Of the Work Package contractors, it is interesting to note the situation
with the electrical power system development when the contracts were about
to be awarded. At that time, Rocketdyne was in competition with TRW,
and the baseline design included both photovoltaic panels and a solar dynamic
option (large solar energy concentrators used to drive an engine). TRW
had stated that as long as the solar dynamic option was part of the program,
they would not be interested in the work. Rocketdyne was awarded the
contract, but shortly thereafter NASA set the Solar Dynamic option aside for
The Bottom Lines
Consider the official story in the summer of 1990. SS was to be a
permanently manned spacecraft supporting eight crew working on rotations
of between 70 and 150 days each. It was to be assembled on orbit using
the space shuttle orbiters beginning 31 March 1995, being expanded to greater
and greater capability using a total of 29 flights, completing assembly on
15 June 1999. It would support initial experiment operations in a man
tended capability on 15 June 1996, and be permanently manned with 4 crew
on 30 August 1997. It would devote 30 kW of the total power capability of
75 kW to user experiments. All this for a cost of approximately $30
Billion to develop and launch into orbit (more funds would be required to
continue to operate it for 30 years).
The official story, however, assumed that the technical parameters of SS
were not at all what was honestly expected by anyone working the problem of
getting SS into orbit. The official story assumed that the SS hardware
would weigh about 10% less than expected - estimates showed that closer to
40 flights would be required. Once on orbit, SS would be very power
poor - actual power available for experimenters was estimated to be closer
to 20 kW, not 30kW, because the systems required to keep the crew alive and
the spacecraft in orbit consumed 20% more power than advertised.
Then there is the problem NASA has in getting shuttles into orbit. Routinely
there have been delays in the launch schedule; in 1990, 5 months passed
between shuttle flights, while the station required a 45 day flight frequency
to keep the assembly on schedule and the crew resupplied with provisions.
This all assumed that the crew would actually have time for experiments;
estimates of the time required to perform extra-vehicular (EVA) maintenance
operations amounted to over 2200 crew-hours per year, which didn\'d5t include
1100 crew hours required for an additional person inside the pressurized volume
to monitor the people outside. That's 3 people over 20 hours every
week for external maintenance. This at a time when the NASA total aggregate
EVA experience base for almost 30 years of space flight was on the order
of 200 hours. And then there were the problems of crew time required
for internal maintenance and operations, internal storage volume, logistics,
debris protection, and communications bandwidth.
One step forward, two steps back
Periodically there is progress made against the weight and power problems,
but typically at the further expense of experiment capability (e.g. cutting
the main radiator size reduced overall weight but limited the heat rejection
capability). The design changes also add cost. On the other hand,
things could get worse all on their own; by September, 1990, the EVA
estimates had gone up to ~3,800 hours per year on the average, with peaks
well above that.
In 1985, 1992 was to be the date for launch of the first portion of the
station. In 1991, official launch of the first element was to be November
1995. Now the SS redesign team is trying to find a way to get the laboratory
element on orbit by 1996, but assuming a plan can be prepared and approved,
I would be surprised if the launch occurs any earlier than 1997.
As for the cost, the current NASA estimate is $31.3 B, while the GAO estimates
$43B is closer to the mark for the baseline SS [R.W. Stewart & R. Abramson,
accompanying graphic, Los Angeles Times, 5/20/93]. The reduced cost
redesign option favored by the Administration is estimated to cost $34.3B
over 10 years [A. Lawler, 'Details of Redesign Team Findings Sent to White
House,' Space News, June 14, 1993, 20]. Even when the costs go down,
they go up.
Revealing of the management morass that NASA has become is the statement
of John Gibbons, President Clinton\'d5s science advisor. He admitted
June 24, 1993 that the current NASA organization spends only 30% of their
total funding on actual hardware, while 25 years ago during the Apollo days,
that fraction was 80% [A. Lawler, 'Effort to Reduce NASA Work Force Begins,'
Space News, 6/28/93, 21].
Which space station do you mean?
Given the organizational problems, it should not be surprising that there
are numerous management problems.
At the start of full scale development, a well prepared program should have
compatible requirements, cost, schedule, and configuration baselines.
With the space station program, however, there was no hope for them to be
consistent. Not only did each of the Work Package contractors have to
be consistent within their own organizations and with their subcontractors,
they had to match their respective NASA customers, who themselves had to match
each other and Level II, the erstwhile integrators. Trying to match
on top of all this the sometimes contradictory direction coming from NASA
headquarters and from congress has been extremely difficult.
At any given time on the SS program there can be four different, incompatible,
configurations among the participants. As an illustration, consider
a typical change directive originated at Level II, who have incorporated the
change in their baseline. This directive is provided to each of the
three NASA Work Packages for assessment, who in turn provide it to their contractors.
Each of the contractors make an estimate of how much the change will cost
to implement, and provide the estimate back to the NASA field centers.
Because of the additional cost associated with the change, approval at the
Work Package level is often delayed, sometimes to the point of renegotiating
with Level II about the nature of the change. Finally the renegotiated
change must pass back through the other Work Packages to ensure they still
agree. When this is all done, then everyone can implement the change.
Compound this problem by the literally hundreds of changes that may be in
circulation at any given time, and it is no wonder these guys have trouble.
Of course it helps if everyone has established an original baseline against
which changes are to be judged. In the case of SS, the change process
had started before any of the full scale development contracts had even been
awarded, placing the tentative program in turmoil from the beginning.
No sooner had authorization to proceed been given, than several significant
requirements changes were introduced to the contractors as directives.
Before anyone had time to settle in to the contracts that had been awarded,
they were already being changed in big chunks.
Aside from the normal day-to-day changes required to just get the requirements
nailed down, every year or so NASA recognizes that some major aspect of the
program is wrong. Sometimes it is the budget, other times the schedule.
Still other times the problem is weight, power, EVA time, debris protection,
or resupply requirements. During these exercises, other considerations
are typically set aside while the crisis of the hour is resolved. Since
all of these aspects are interrelated, there is little that can happen in
one area that does not result in changes elsewhere, some bigger than others,
some much bigger. And they all seem to end up costing more.
Even the exercises that have cost as the primary motivator end up costing
more. Congressional budget cycles being what they are, the major concern
is the cost this year or next year, rarely as many as 5 years from now, and
hardly ever as far ahead as the 30 year SS operational lifetime.
Programs planned in excruciating detail to \'d2work\'d3 in a particular
funding profile no sooner have settled into that profile than are caught
up in a study to reassess and cut near term costs. There have been
at least six redesign efforts since full scale development contracts were
awarded in December 1987.
As an example, the Configuration Budget Review (CBR) was supposed to lower
the program costs in fiscal years 1990 and 1991. Instead it turned out
to add cost, complexity, schedule delays, and frustration to the program from
top to bottom. The contractors could have known this would happen, and
they might have been able to pull NASA in line by refusing to support it.
But there is not much incentive for them to fail to go along - the more the
project costs and the longer it takes to build, the more the contractors
make on the deal. Every change that is approved means that much greater
award fee, and the CBR was one gigantic change.
The original bid price for the portion of the SS managed by MSFC in 1987
was approximately $800 Million. In 1988 the price was renegotiated to
account for changes requested by NASA for a total price in excess of $1.5
Billion. The cost of the \'d2Rephased Program\'d3 resulting from the
CBR changes was close to $2.1 Billion. In 1993, the value of this contract
is reported to be $2.7B [R. W. Stander & R. Abramson, Los Angeles Times,
Assembly Sequence Misunderstandings
Understanding of the assembly sequence has driven more of the configuration,
capability, schedule, and budget of the station, than any other aspect of
Or rather, misunderstanding of the assembly sequence. From the start
the complexities of assembling large space structures in earth orbit were
not well appreciated. This combined with the unknown SS mission to create
a design that was continually being reworked to meet the need of the moment.
The program cycled through studies with emphasis on weights to meet the shuttle
capability, then emphasis on costs, schedules, and back to weight, with occasional
interruptions for investigations into power and EVA requirements.
To help understand the complexities of on-orbit spacecraft assembly, NASA
arranged the EASE/ACCESS orbital flight experiment to demonstrate space construction
techniques. Due in part to the success of this experiment, NASA decided
to baseline an erectable truss instead of a deployable one. But the
problem with that decision was that the truss is only the frame, the backbone.
Ask what was to be attached to that truss and the answer gets complicated.
The more the truss was analyzed, the more it became clear that it was being
used to support plumbing, cabling, and attachments for all sorts of fixtures
ranging from propulsion modules to control moment gyros, communications antennae,
EVA translation aids, trays to protect the plumbing and cables, radiators,
solar arrays, batteries, radiators for the solar arrays, make-up gases for
atmosphere, the pressurized modules, airlock, Shuttle docking adapters, and
various other items.
All of these additions made that experiment on the shuttle in December of
1985 a gross simplification. Finally, in 1990 NASA decided to abandon
the erectable truss design in favor of a ground integrated truss.
As the new space station design emerges from NASA and the White House for
congressional review, it appears that at least some of these lessons are going
to be learned again: the configuration favored by the administration
and congress is characterized by NASA as risky from the standpoint of assembling
and maintaining the station [D. Pendick, 'Freedom's redesigns reach the White
House,' Science News, 6/19/93, 389].
A rock and a hard place
Weight is critical parameter in most aerospace systems; it has been
particularly so for the Space Station. The key is to balance the weight
of the hardware against the lift capability of the launch vehicle. The
shuttle performance is an unforgiving constraint; it can lift only so
much into space at a time. Running in conflict with this limit is the
weight of all things.
A contributing factor that placed the assembly sequence in such a mess was
the consistent insistence on the part of NASA to refuse to recognize how much
things would actually weigh. The goal is always to jam as much equipment
into the orbiter as possible, but this problem was always simplified or ignored
by making assumptions that equipment will not weigh as much.
For example, NASA was initially convinced that two of the elements called
Resource Nodes, fully outfitted at the time, should be able to fly on a single
shuttle flight. The little fact that this could only work if some of
the radial berthing ports were eliminated was glossed over. Similar
assumptions that the systems were exceptionally light weight allowed NASA
to conclude in 1986 that the entire dual keel station could be assembled in
19 shuttle flights.
At the start of the full scale development program, with each proposal delivered
by the contractors came a set of corresponding weight estimates aimed at meeting
the NASA allocations. Following contract awards, many design changes
were made to add more features and capabilities, but the implications on
system weights were not addressed by the program management for many months.
Furthermore, reserves were not explicitly retained to account for additional
capability or for technical problems downstream. So as the capability
grew, so did the weights, by leaps and bounds.
By the time this story started to reach Level II, the weights placed the
assembly sequence in serious trouble. Iteration after iteration of the
sequence would band-aid the problem, allowing a little weight relief here
or there. Compounding the issue was the periodic reduction in shuttle
lift capability, or recognition of some additional EVA that had to be performed,
or determination that the assembly altitude had to be just a few miles higher
to keep the whole thing from falling to earth.
The assembly sequence iterations were made with such frequency, and with
such minor variations one from another, that at one point each version was
given a name. The significance of subsequent comparisons to hurricanes
was not lost on anyone working the problem. At another time during the
program, assembly sequence variants were being developed at such a rate that
they were known by the date and time stamp shown on the summary.
Weight and power improvements gained at great cost in performance or actual
dollars were squandered due to inadequate control over the design and its
evolution. More was blundered away as NASA Level II again failed to
recognize the true weight and power estimates coming from the work packages.
For example, when the weight allocations were handed down by Level II, margins
for contingencies were sometimes eliminated. For some new hardware items
the Level II allocations were based on the most light weight numbers they
happened to have on hand, regardless of their relative fidelity. For
power, when one new program configuration was defined, the design had only
75% as much power available than before. Once again, lower allocations
were the response.
NASA Level II would consistently ignore data provided by the work packages
relative to weight and power allocations. Their objective was not to
define consistent performance and resource requirements, but to brew up resource
allocations that were consistent with the tale being told on capitol hill.
In retrospect, I believe NASA could not face reporting to congress that
the SS could not be assembled in twenty flights (or 24, or 13, or whatever
the fashionable number was at the time). The reason was that Congress
would perhaps cancel the whole program. On the other hand, perhaps
NASA was simply engaged in delaying tactics, with the premise being that
if they could just get the political ground softened by having a few more
thousand contractors working on SS, then when the piper was paid in the form
of additional shuttle assembly flights, the spectacle would not collapse.
If so, that approach seems to have worked for another year.
Shuttle Launch Costs
All of that brings up another strange aspect of the NASA Space Station dilemma
- that of the relationship to cost of use of the Shuttle fleet. Frequently
the value of a pound of payload delivered to orbit by the shuttle is attempted
to be calculated.
Shuttle launch costs vary quite a bit depending upon who is doing the calculating.
Estimates range from ~$70M to ~$300M per flight. The low end is
cited as the incremental costs to perform a single launch, assuming there
have been other launches in the year in question. But the low estimate
fails to consider the development costs that have been expended, as well as
the costs to create and maintain the standing army of NASA and contractor
people who are hanging around in case there is a Shuttle launch. Nor
does it consider replacement costs for Orbiters that wear out over time, let
alone those that fail catastrophically.
It is crucially important to have confidence in the launch cost figure,
because this is a figure used frequently to justify spacecraft characteristics.
The launch costs are often converted into dollars per pound payload.
When they are, one can compare the cost of making a design change with the
'savings' or 'cost' in launch expenses. By using your favorite value
for shuttle launch costs, almost any conclusion can be reached.
The risks involved with flying the Shuttles is also an element rarely spoken
out loud. The Challenger disaster can easily be repeated, potentially
leaving a partially assembled spacecraft in orbit. Or perhaps worse,
leaving a crew of four to eight people on board with no way back to earth.
But SS is not at risk only to the magnitude of failure that Challenger represented
- launch delays occur on almost every flight the shuttle makes. The
assembly sequence, and subsequent resupply flights have been scheduled to
occur every 45 days, but SS capabilities are so tightly balanced that any
delay may result in crew members beginning to consume their reserves.
Similarly, lack of orbit reboost propellants leave crew members with an unsatisfying
choice: 1) immediately boost the station much higher and make it more
difficult for the Shuttle to reach it again, 2) allow the station's orbit
to decay further and risk further delays in the shuttle launch, or 3) boost
the orbit just a bit, use up the most propellants, and still risk the further
Shuttle. launch delays. The latest shuttle flight is now late three
Here is an example of one of the circles that NASA runs in. Back in
1985, the SS propulsion system was based on hydrazine propellant, because
it was relatively well understood and inexpensive to develop. In 1986,
studies of a hydrogen/oxygen (H/O) system indicated that there would be operations
costs savings as a result of higher performance, with some added development
costs that could pay off in the first year of operation. As a consequence,
the design was changed to the H/O system. However, the objective of
the cost cutting review in 1989 was to reduce expenses in fiscal years 1990
and 1991. In such an environment the only conclusion is that the H/O
system is a terrible choice - Hydrazine is the best thing for Space Station!
And so it was, decisions were made, paths taken, and the H/O system went back
to the wayside.
The propulsion system is also an example of how the development responsibilities
were traded among the various NASA field centers. MSFC has for decades
been known for its expertise in propulsion systems. It was at MSFC that
Von Braun and company set up to build the Saturn vehicle that delivered Apollo
to the moon. MSFC is also responsible for the main engines and solid
rocket motors of the Space Shuttle. One would think that with all of
that experience MSFC would be responsible for Space Station propulsion development.
Well, they are not, JSC is. On the other hand, environmental control
systems have in the past been the responsibility of JSC, yet on SS MSFC does
Those who will not learn from the past . . .
The Configuration Budget Review (CBR) mentioned earlier struck the program
in August of 1989 as a cost saving exercise driven by recent congressional
funding action. Unfortunately, the only cost savings allowed were those
that saved money in the following two fiscal years. The whole program
was running around, preparing presentations, trying to prove that they could
reduce outlays in the next two years. Generally the result would increase
the long term costs both in real contract terms and in more intangible measures
such as shuttle flights.
These presentations were prepared in a matter of days, with loose ends left
for the clean up that would take the next year to re-baseline, prepare proposals,
and negotiate contracts. And loose ends there were. How could
there not be, when the program had not even fully agreed to a baseline that
would satisfy each party. How many holes through the program were created
by the CBR, simply because no one had the time to fully evaluate the implications
of the changes that were being made?
The SS program has been caught in one fire drill after another. The
fire drill of the minute mentality doesn't allow for assessing implications
of changes until the decision has already been made. The program then
goes off to make whatever change has been directed, and only later realizes
the unresolved issues with the original decision, most with cost increases
tied to them. And the cost to change now is even more because everyone
has already reset. Not to mention the time lost, frustration, dissatisfaction,
. . . . are doomed to repeat it
The NASA space station appears to have survived the congressional budget
battle this year. Now, the new redesign of the space station is being
assessed. The redesign option was developed in just 90 days. How
many disconnects remain to be uncovered is anyone's guess, but more likely
than not they will be finding them for many months to come, especially since
it appears as if a major management shakeup is in the works for the same
time [A. Lawler, Redesign Team Recommends Radical Space Station Management
Changes, Space News, 6/14/93, 10]. It will take another month for congress
to decide definitively on this year's space station, eight months more to
prepare and negotiate new contracts, and by that time a new budget cycle will
have begun, forcing implementation of this change to occur in the face of
the next change. If past experience is any indication, no sooner will
a new baseline be established than another revised program plan will be in
development. The result will be an even more reduced space station that
will take longer to build and cost even more to develop and operate.
copyright John R Palmer 1993