This week's document: NASA Space Launch Systems - Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle: Analysis of Figures of Merit
Originating agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Document date: November 30, 2010
Every Friday, POGO will strive to make one document available that we or others have obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), especially documents that have not previously been posted online. Some of these documents will be more important than others, some may only be of historical interest— although relevance is in the eye of the beholder. POGO is doing this to highlight the importance of open government and FOIA throughout the year.
By NICK SCHWELLENBACH
There is an oft-cited quote in Washington, attributed to German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, which likens the creation of laws to the making of sausage. The gist of the quote is that what goes into legislation and what it takes to get it made is not a pretty sight, and you might not want to know what goes into it.
The same might be said for NASA’s proposed new Space Launch System (SLS). After all, the SLS is a creature of statute. As the New York Times pointed out, “Last year, Congress passed, and President Obama signed into law, a blueprint for the space agency calling for a rocket like the one announced Wednesday.” Some critics even refer to the SLS as the Senate Launch System, in reference to Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX). Nelson and Hutchison, respectively, are the chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology, the Committee that passed the law setting forth many fairly detailed requirements for the SLS. Florida and Texas are the homes to major NASA facilities that are key to manned space flight.
Today’s FOIA Friday post is on a NASA document that gives the public some insight into many of the different goals, needs and objections NASA juggled in reaching decisions on the SLS. The document is dated November 30, 2010 and there were developments in NASA’s thinking between now and then.
A video from the spring of one of the authors, Garry Lyles, of the November NASA document is on YouTube (his April PowerPoint presentation is online too). Lyles references his November analysis in this video around minute 7:35 (the reference to "Figures of Merit analysis" is the November analysis). In the video (around 8:54), Lyles said there was yet another analysis called a "Requirements Analysis Cycle" when NASA learned it was operating on the wrong budget target.
“The President’s proposed budget and the Congressional bills explicitly and implicitly define the Needs, Goals and Objectives (NGOs) of the heavy-lift launch vehicle program,” the November NASA document states. “Descriptive Figure-of-Merit (FOM) categories were developed for the NGOs considered to be of highest value.”
The different design options for the SLS were scored against these Congressional and Executive Branch values.
Nick Schwellenbach is the POGO Director of Investigations
Artist rendering from NASA