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Jan 29 2015

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NASA Safety Panel rips CCtCAP, Orion, SLS on lack of openess

For a government report, this is as scathing as it gets.

In a color-coded “traffic signal” chart later in the report, ASAP rated “risk transparency — Insight and communications” as red, meaning an issue of “long-standing concern or an issue that has not been adequately addressed by NASA.” It is the only one of nine areas designated that way. In describing its concerns in that area, ASAP includes not only commercial crew, but the Space Launch System and Orion programs.

Other criticisms in the report:

  • The panel draws the same conclusions for SLS and Orion as far as communication of risk goes.
  • They have lots to say about ARM — little of it good (though they note that ARM seems to be a doable mission). They point out that Orion is going to be used for ARM, yet Orion doesn’t have an airlock. This means that astronauts will have to live in their suits while at the asteroid. Current spacesuits don’t seem up to the task, yet there is no ARM requirement for new spacesuits. Finally, they think Orion is too small, with little room to move about and exercise, for a multi-week mission.
  • As far as a manned Mars mission, they note that there’s a lot more work to be done in identifying and communicating risks, including the small number of launches of SLS before launching to Mars.

As with any government oversight panel, its very existence depends on identifying problems it was formed to identify, so I generally take these reports with a giant grain of salt (plus aspirin for the headaches their reports cause). However, their criticisms about ARM are valid, in my opinion. There is so much that can go wrong with opening Orion to space and requiring long spacesuit time of all crew that it one would think that an agency like NASA that puts safety of its astronauts as its paramount priority wouldn’t even consider the idea. Makes me think that this particular conclusion:

ASAP criticizes NASA’s current “capabilities-based approach” which it believes is driven by budgets rather than a “purposeful, schedule-driven, goal-oriented endeavor.” While acknowledging that may be a pragmatic approach that could bridge a transition between presidential administrations, ASAP believes NASA would be better served to “focus on doing fewer things and on doing them better.”

is directed directly at ARM.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/01/29/nasa-safety-panel-rips-cctcap-orion-sls-on-lack-of-openess/

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