Tuesday, September 23, 2003

IT is Rocket Science (or at least Rocket Management)

I've been reading bits and pieces of SP-4221 The Space Shuttle Decision. It's a great insight into the management of projects and also a source of technical details such as why aluminum was picked over titanium, why it has a large delta wing, etc.

Some interesting quotes:
"Troubleshooting, also, was hit-and-miss. We all have had the experience of taking a car to a garage for repair, having a mechanic replace a part, paying the bill - and finding that the problem remains unsolved. Such experiences were also common in the airline industry. The American Airlines managers wrote that...over a recent six-month period, 44 percent of the components replaced during maintenance of the air conditioning system did not eliminate the pilot's complaint. Fifty-two percent of the replacements in the autopilot system did not eliminate the pilot's complaint. "

And:
"An in-house review...showed that NASA's principal automated spacecraft programs had increased in price by more than threefold...Gemini had gone from an initial estimate of $529 million, late in 1961, to a final expenditure of $1.283 billion. Apollo, with a program cost estimated at $12.0 billion in mid-1963, ballooned to $21.35 billion by the time of the first moon landing in July 1969...What had caused these overruns? Here too, cost meant people. Major overruns resulted when large technical staffs drew salaries to little effect, as when projects encountered technical stumbling blocks, forcing major redesigns. Such difficulties brought delays and pushed up costs by wasting much of the earlier work."
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