It occurred to me (again) the other day that the history of the Orion program to-date is a rich mine of project management lessons. Unfortunately, I don’t know that anyone on the inside has been keeping a detailed history of the program along the way.
I wish it had occurred to me to do so six years ago. The lower-level issues and decisions I’ve been involved in would alone make for some very interesting case studies.
UPDATE: entirely coincidentally, LM just signed a contract to build several production versions of these things for Canadian company Aviation Capital:
Alberta-based private company Aviation Capital Enterprises says it has inked a deal with US aerospace colossus Lockheed, builder of the P-791, to “design, develop, build, flight test and Federal Aviation Administration certify a family of hybrid aircraft”. The first ship, dubbed “SkyTug” and able to lift 20 tons, is to be delivered in 2012. Further versions are to scale up to “several hundred tons”, apparently.
While in other articles they reference humanitarian and disaster-relief applications, the focus appears to be on unspecified commercial applications.
Ahh, it seems like just yesterday when this idea was just a glimmer in some Skunk Works’ engineer’s eye, and now it’s all growed up…
Back in 1998 when some of my coworkers at Michoud were loaned out to work on this, it seemed like a clever but uneconomical idea — I mean, how much use would there be for an airship that could carry a dozen cargo containers anywhere in the world and land in places with no infrastructure beyond a parking lot or football/soccer field?
Clearly, events in the intervening decade have answered that question. Imagine how useful a fleet of full-sized airships like this could have been after Katrina, the Boxing Day Tsunami, the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and other natural disasters in remote areas or areas where the usual infrastructure (roads, airports) is temporarily inoperable.
It’s worth noting that there was a competitor of sorts for Aerocraft back in the day: CargoLifter. They didn’t have the same land-anywhere features, but the various CargoLifter vehicles were intended to carry large and bulky items too difficult or disruptive to transport by land.
Perhaps Rand is right – space isn’t important. Even to Lockheed Martin, a somewhat large player in the space biz, if our Flickr site is anything to go by.
Ten (old) pictures, three of which are nearly-three-year-old renderings of Orion, and none of which are of the External Tank, despite these being two of Space Systems’ most recognizable products. (There is even one picture of Atlas V, which is technically no longer an LM product.)
Meanwhile, there are hundreds of pictures of aircraft and other assorted defense items. One would think the PR squad could squeeze in at least one pic of the Orion ground test article, just to show the public that some progress is being made on the program.
NASA’s Pad Abort 1 will be the first fully integrated flight test of the launch abort system being developed for the Orion crew vehicle. The test is part of an ongoing mission to develop safer vehicles for human spaceflight applications.
A young girl sets out to prove herself by resolving a long-forgotten mystery. But when she gets close to the truth, what she thought was a harmless adventure becomes a threat to the future of the independent commercial settlements on Mars.
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