Frank Buzzard: Reflections of a Chief Engineer

Uploaded by NASAappel on 18.05.2011


My name is Frank Buzzard, some say Buzzard
I tell 'em, Buzzards are the rich ones.
I'm a plain old Buzzard.
And uh, it's an honor to be here
I'm glad you're here; I'm glad you're continuing to work on the space program.
And I want to tell you a few things
that I learned about the uh, space shuttle
and a little bit about the space station.
So, we'll just jump right in here.
It's a great
song I won't try to sing it. I have been known to do that in public
before but I'm a little choked up here
so I don't want to mess it up.
Where it began... I don't begin to knowin'... but then I know it's growin' strong
The important lessons learned for you in this room
is stand on the shoulders of giants.
All of us have done it.
Learn from what they did
and extend successes that they had
so as we go to the next programs within NASA.
Be very aware that you want to learn
and use and extend and grow
the systems that work
'cause everytime you go to a new system you're going to find things that don't work.
It's easy to draw a rocket engine on a view graph
but nobody flies a rocket engine
and like Jodi told you, until they go test it on a test stand
and they always find things that aren't right.
We had a nation with bold leadership, we had the will
to succeed, and we chose
to excel in space. We chose to do that.
Don't forget that.
We had a NASA industry team, clear goal and objective.
We had a vision to go to the moon and we did it.
We built uh, human space flight core competencies
in design test and operations
and infrastructure
and those are the things that you want to build on for your next
systems. It was huge investment. We learned
huge lessons. Listen to what Russ told you
about the things that we learned here at the Kennedy space center.
It's very important as you go to the next systems
not to start over. Build on the shoulders of the giants
that have preceeded us.
Apollo changed the world forever.
That view
from Apollo 8 changed our vision
of this world
and then we went to the moon several times
with uh great hardware. We build an ops team
we uh, we actually learned to
go to another planet, and my challenge
to you is to go do that again.
The next obvious planet is Mars. We may
and probably should go to the moon to learn how to
get there, but uh, don't
don't forget that Mars is where we really need to go.

Then we dreamed of a reusable space plane
Why reusable? We wanted to reduce cost.
And, what did we want to do
with that space plane? We wanted to get to low Earth orbit
uh, without throwing things away
so that we could build the next
transportation node or infrastructure
and that was the Space Station
and the purpose of the Space Station was
to be like St. Louis when we
expanded West to go to
And Mr. Nixon and James Fletcher announced that
in 1972, and so that's what we set about.
Tom Hossier talked about early space shuttle concepts
the initial designs were intended to be
fully reusable, budget constrained
and reality led to this
design that you see flying today, and it
is really the most remarkable space craft
uh, air craft, or flying
system that has ever been designed by mankind.

We had some tremendous challenges
to overcome, not all of them technical, some of them just
big. Building the uh, Ed Marshall
we uh built the structures and materials.
We tested a full scale uh, tank.
We simulated the orbitor aft structure, we had to to shake it
and bake it and roll it make sure we understood our structural margins.
The external tank is like the spine
of your human body, and we had to understand
that it could take the uh, aerodynamic loads.
Uh, the solid rocket boosters are attached to it; the orbiter is attached to it.
So all of those things that make
that make lots of fire and smoke and tremendous loads
including the air that we fly through
have to be reacted by this entire
integrated structure. Uh, Kennedy had to
build new and modified launch and landing facilities.
They built on the materials that we used from Apollo.
They used what we could, they modified and built new
things that we needed, the orbitor processing facility
the SRB, uh, check-out
Uh, the RPS
facilities to bring them here by train
and the uh external tank by its barge
it comes all the way from 'Nawlins.
It's hard for me to say that not being born there,
but Nawlins, it's not New Or-leans.
And uh, so Kennedy built
all that. JSC did the mission operations, crew training
orbiter systems with the life support
uh, fail-op, fail-safe
avionics. Our avionics design was full
fly by wire. I have to tell you a little story
the uh, the space shuttle main engine
provided the umbrella I grew-up in guidance
navigation flight control avionics systems
the computers move through all of that, uh stuff
later into the program and system engineering
and uh without the main engine
having ten engines blow-up that Jo- Jodi talked to you
about, and taking 95
starts to get to half power, and being two years
late, our avionics system would not
have made 1979. It took
us a tremendous amount of work just to get four
computers to talk to each other and stay
in the system and stay in synchronization
and understand that the information that they were sharing
was always the same information
took a very long time. So we thank you Jodi
and the Marshall elements for providing this cover
for the rest of the system
so don't ever think that it was
the propulsion system. It was the whole system was
really difficult. The thermal protection system
getting our control centers. And we, as Tom Moser
said, we traded time to
for the budget that we had, but we made it work.
And, course Stennis is where we do our engine testing
certification testing, and don't forget what I told you. It's
easy to draw turbo pump on a
view graph, or a main engine on a view graph
but they never work like the view graph says.
You gotta test 'em.

I was uh, worked in the uh
mission control centers, guidance support
and uh, after we landed on April the 14th
I was about ten foot hover
and uh, Jim I'anson came out, and I said "it worked"
"the damn thing worked, couldn't believe it."
A picture of Jim
and his wife, he was a World War II
bomber pilot, B17 pilot
in the Pacific.
Our crew.
Keys to Success. We had a clear objective, we had a
common goal. We divided our labor
where we had our strengths and our core competencies
We did propulsion at Marshall, we did launch and landing at Kennedy.
We did mission operations crew training in Houston.
We did engine testing at Stennis.
Tom talked about something that's very important. We kept the
interfaces simple, and uh,
we had engineering excellence
outstanding people, facilities tools
and budget, it was limited, but we made it do the work
We had to build multi-center
relationships with our centers
and contractors, uh
acceptance of a better idea is not a strength
is is a strength, is not a weakness. I think of Apollo
when the initial moon, going to the moon
involved an Earth orbit rendez-vous
and we didn't have a large enough launch vehicle
to do that. And a group of engineers from Houston
went to Marshall, and said that we can do this
with one Saturn five, if we do
a lunar orbit rendez-vous
we have enough performance to do this. It was considered
very dangerous, but uh
Wernher von Braun, who was working on the Nova rocket
which was even bigger the Saturn five, realized
that we had to take that risk and do that in order
to fly this mission with one
and even though the idea came from Houston
von Braun and his team at Marshall accepted it, embraced it
and it was a long fight, couple years, but they went forward
and we executed that mission.
So that was a strength not a weakness.
Lead from the front. Communicate, communicate and communicate.
One of the early people that I worked for in the avionics
was Howard Tindall, he was send out
Tendall-grams. And his Tendall-grams were
ways to keep us all informed, make sure we
understood the problems, were we on the same page
were we all working on the same issues.
So communicate, communicate, communicate.

Attitudes to avoid are human
nature, in the simple
way of saying it. First is arrogance, guilty
Ego, guilty.
Ask my family.
Organizational, "I'm in charge; I know it all."
Organizational "stove-pipes"
we tend to only talk to people that we work with, you really have to
work hard to go outside your organization
to build relationships at other centers
with other people. The fellow you're going to talk to here later
uh, Harold Ross went to Moscow with me
and uh, we helped try to figure
out what was wrong with the solid fuel oxygen
generator that caught on fire on the Mir space station
and caused uh nearly uh a terrible fire
and almost the loss of our crew
and I knew where to ask.
I needed somebody that who knew something about combustion
in Zero-G, so you gotta reach out
know where your talent is, and then go
uh, ask for that help at other centers. It's key.
Don't restrict or surpress the flow the information.
Never belittle
an opposing view or conflicting view
Um, one thing I
learned on the International Space Station was, and this was key
I took a course on different cultures
and we tend to view cultures from our own prism
of experience, but other people have
different cultures and it's ok
the key thing is to understand what's different
accept that it's different
and just that's really strength, that's not it's not
a difference. Different is ok.
we think differently and talk differently at Marshall
then we do at Johnson, then we do at Kennedy.
It's ok. Just like Jodi says "all of y'all."
That's plural in the South.
I'm a Yankee, I was born in Pennslyvannia grew up in Colorado
I had no idea, why would you say all of y'all?

Now I actually say it, too, so it's ok.
Couple of unique
capabilities about uh shuttle, and
what I wanted to do was be visual and not preachy
so I want to tell you a couple of things that are unique about shuttle.
Shuttle uh, was designed as a living
quarters for working, learning to work in space
and to learn to repair things and
build something in space. It's mission was intended to
build the Space Station, which we did
and we could not have built the Space Station without the shuttle.
So, something to remember
if you're going to build other structures in space
you need an ability to go out to space.
You need an airlock, we had an airlock on the shuttle
You need robotics, so you can grab things
and hold them and work on them.
You need the uh, capability to support your
crews, uh so that they have to have
space suits, and since we're retiring the
space shuttle, we're losing some key
capabilities of building future things in space.
So now the place that you have to
build things in space is going to be the International Space Station.
It has power.
It has robotics. It has life support.
uh, and it has an airlock
and it has space suits so you can go outside. You can take
a crew in a capsule, but you probably
can't build things in space from a capsule.
It's ok as long as you have
place for where you're going next
that you have these capabilities that you can build and service
large structures in space. Another unique
one on Space Sta- on shuttle, was it can return
payloads. And uh,
we are giving up that capability.
The Soyuz can bring back, oh, about a water
can's full of uh, of things from the Space Station.
So if we actually do learn to
uh, grow things in space that are useful, like
crystals that are a thousand times bigger
than things we can grow Earth, and make giant super computers
for them. If we can make vaccines that can only be
made in space, you have to have a way to get them back here.
So any follow-on vehicles need
to have some payload return capability.
The uh, other unique thing
about shuttle was we designed it
along with several of its payloads I'll talk about here in a second
to be serviced and repaired
Uh, Hubble is one of those
we'll talk about Hubble in a second
but we, with this fundamental capability of having people
be able to go outside a cargo bay, a work area
in space, we found that we were able to
expand our capabilities by actually
retrieving satellites. We brought some back
and we repaired some in orbit that later became
successful. So let's talk about a couple of those.
First one, Bob Crippen and his crew
George "Pinky" Nelson attempted to capture the
Solar Max in 1984. He flew out there with
a backpack, and we had designed this fancy tool
on the front of Pinky that was supposed to
grab these pins. We had drawings of these pins
and these pins looked like a good thing that we could design this
tool to to to grab. He goes out there and bangs
into the space craft, and that pin didn't match
the drawing. It had some interference
and his capture device didn't work. That came back
to bite us later. So you gotta keep it simple, keep the
interfaces simple. The way we actually grabbed this
thing was we were lucky, it was designed to be
uh, captured and repaired by the shuttle, and it had
uh, it had the fixture that we could grab it
with a Canadian arm from the space shuttle.
They stabilized the satellite. The next day Bob Crippen came
back and he grabbed that satellite and we put it in the cargo
bay and fixed it. And so that's another example
of how the ops team saved the engineering
teams. Um, and and it's critical
that you really do understand your interfaces, and don't
be surprised if your drawings and your documentation
isn't really up to snuff.
And that turned out very well, we repaired it.
Another one where two commercial satellites
we had a problem during this time frame in
19, uh, middle 1980s where our booster
rocket, that was a solid rocket device on the back
of these satellites that's intended to send it up to
geosynchronous orbit had a generic problem, and
we left these two very expensive communications
satellites in low Earth orbit. We were able to
go up and get 'em. Dale Gardner, we designed a new tool
that had to go in the back of this rocket engine, that wouldn't
work, and his tool slid into the nozzle
and captured the nozzle, and he's on the man maneuvering unit
and he brings it back, and the, he and Joe
Allen take that and put that in the cargo bay.
We actually recovered two satellites on that mission
both had the same problem and we brought 'em back and we repaired
'em on the ground and they launched on
uh, expendable rocket.
Pretty amazing stuff. None of this was a planned
capability for the shuttle, so we had
to use some innovation. Uh, we had to build
some new tools, and we actually uh
trained and sent the train team up there and they were very
successful. STS 49
first flight of endeavor, first flight
of a new operational increment. I want to talk
just a bit about better is the enemy
of good enough. Tom Moser talked about that
I just added a word. Better is the enemy of
good enough. On this mission, uh
we went to get the Intelsat VI, we built
this fancy tool to grab it in the back, and here's
Pierre Thuot out on the end of the, uh, shuttles
arm trying to grab this satellite, and the
brakes on the remote manipulator are
the Canadian arm kept coming on.
And uh, that was very distressing for the
crew who's trying to maneuver him out there
and so they would reset the breaks, and et cetera
It turns out, that I was the chairman of the
Shuttle Avionics Software Control Board who approved
the change that the, our engineering
team said we have to tighten up our protection
for a possible runaway robotic arm.
If that robotic arm runs away,
it's gonna bang into something and hurt something
so, I approved it, uh software change
that tightened up the limits, but we didn't, we weren't able to
test that change with all of the robotic arms
and the first test with the hardware was on this
mission, in orbit, and for that particular
arm, the software thought the arm was running away. It was
working just fine, we just had the limits too tight.
Better is the enemy of good enough.
The other thing we did was we
my my, and I grew up in this world, Lambert
Guidance rendez-vous, uh the engineers
came to me and said, "We have this possibility that we can
have a numerical instability in Lambert Guidance."
Lambert Guidance is what we use for the onboard targeting
and on the third rendez-vous attempt, after
we had failed to capture this satellite and we had one more
chance, the Lambert Guidance routine blew
up because it was, it was iterating between
two limits, and it wouldn't converge
and give us the answer. Well the ground team
was able to, to uh finish
the rendez-vous by targeting those
burns from the ground and using an alternate, uh
burn system that we called Peg VII, so they
saved me on that one. What did I learn?
I said, you better do a darn good job of assessing the
risk of the change that you're trying to make
that's trying to make it better, to make sure that
you're really solving a problem that needs to be solved.
And then be careful that you don't introduce
unintended consequences
You really need to quantify the risk. Make sure that you're working on the problem
that needs to be worked on. Then the crew
had to grab this thing outside
Uh, Dan Brandenstein did the best formation
flying of any pilot I've ever seen in my life
and the three guys went out there, first three
man EVA, grabbed this satellite
and Brandenstein had a terrible headache cause he worked so hard to execute
this thing afterwards, and then they put the capture arm
and we repaired this and put it back in service.
We launched NASA's great observatories.
Spitzer was launched on an expendable.
Hubble Space Craft, another thing that changed our view
of the world. We had five repair missions
it was designed from the beginning to be
serviced by the shuttle, it's instruments upgraded by the shuttle.
We, we replaced failed instruments.
We added new capabilities. We reboosted
it, and Hubble is still working to this day
and the Hubble has changed our view of the world.
Now, because we didn't
spend enough money to test the main mirror
Here's the first picture Hubble took of the Whirlpool Galaxy
That was not a good day.
So, our
Goddard team got together and they put
eye glasses on Hubble,
and now Hubble with this flawed main mirror
has done an extraordinary job. We found
out that when these solar panels went into light and dark
they would flex and they would cause the space craft to jiggle, and
that affected Hubble's view, so on one of those
repair missions we changed the
solar panels, uh
This is a view
of a piece of sky in the Fornax
Galaxy that's like looking through a straw
a tenth of the diameter of the moon when we look at it from
the Earth. It's all black
but, out there in that
universe, it's an amazing creation.

So just think about that.
Andromeda, 1924 Edwin Hubble
found a, uh,
a yard stick, we didn't realize
Andromeda was outside of our galaxy until
1924, and
the Hubble telescope is named for Edwin Hubble
who found a star, that we could, we knew it's
luminosity called a cepheid variable,
and when we found this star
we could measure
how far away this place was
to a half
million light years away.

I think the Chinese must have
seen some of these, because they look like their, uh
uh, what're they
things we launch fourth of July?
Those are stars. Some of the iron
in our blood came from exploding stars
in our region and our sun, later
came from. Most of the beginning of the universe
was hydrogen and helium. Most of the heavy elements
that you see, including the iron in our hemoglobin
came from these exploding stars.
We paid a terrible price
but we kept going.

We made some needed changes.
These are examples of better was not the enemy of good enough
We have the best solid rocket motor design
we designed new APUs, we put new brakes
put new tires, uh,
drag chutes, block changes
we have the best reusable rocket engine on the planet
External tank allowed us
to build a ISS
there are as you fly new systems, you will learn
you will need to change them
be careful that you're working on the right risk
and, improvement process
and, improvement process
the other thing I've learned is
be very careful of
design deficiencies that you think you can
completely understand. Our computer models
do not model the entire real
world. We thought we understood
O-Rings and that we had
enough margin and enough safety, but we didn't
understand how that O-Ring would work in a very cold
environment. We thought
foam was not a danger, but was a
maintenance issue
but foam, hitting at 500
miles an hour on the wing
we paid a terrible price for.
Challenge the test data
and the modeling. Don't believe everything
a computer tells you.
Have a healthy skepticism.
Turbopumps that
turn at 35,000 RPM
we designed those blades not to have cracks
in them. When you see cracks
be careful, thinking that you understand
crack propagation at
minus 428 degrees Farenheit
spinning at 35,000 RPM.

I talked about better is the enemy of good enough.
Quantatative risk assessment, there are several ways
to do this. Try to quantify that risk
make sure you're working on the risky problem, the one that's
likely to getcha, and make sure that your
fix is gonna actually help reduce the
risk, and then make sure you're very careful
that you've assessed unintended consequences.
and be aware you can't be 100 percent sure
and correct. Then we used the shuttle to learn
how to build space stations. This is shuttle MIR.
How to work with the Russians
we were late, but we did exactly what we intended
to do with the shuttle. We built a remarkable laboratory
and a working environment to learn to live and work in space
and I think the Space Station should be the
St. Louis of where you go next, because that's where
we outfitted and prepared the wagon trains to go
West, a transportation node.
And there she is.
Sixteen nations working together
it was an awesome challenge, but, uh
what a goal. Make sure
you have fun along the way
Some things are better left in the ocean
than eaten.
This place right here is
important for the last site. This is where the Japanese launched
their facilities, a little island south
and east of Honshu at Tanegashima.
And some parting thoughts. Let me start at the bottom.
Are we going to go the way of Portugal?
The Portuguese
Henry the Navigator
made unique hull designs in ships, sail
designs. They were leaders in exploration for
a 150 years. In
1543 the Portuguese landed on
that island of Tanegashima and introduced
modern weapons
guns, to the Japanese. It changed their culture.

150 years, then they left exploration
and they ceded that to Spain, England, and the Dutch.

So think about that carefully, are we gonna lead
in space, or are we gonna buy
seats from somebody else to go to our
space station?
That's a way of commercializing space, I would
just like to see us buy our own seats
from a commercial provider, but those are the choices that
we've made. Commerical transportation
is gonna be very important, the
railroad industry built the railroads. The governor, government
was a partner that guaranteed bonds
they were a good customer, they gave the railroads
land, but the railroad industry
built and operated the railroads.
Aviation industry built and operated commercial
aviation. The government role was very important, did
research and development, spent a lot of money
uh, streamlining airplanes. The war
accelerated that because we had to have them,
but the aviation industry built
airplanes and operates to this day the
commercial industry. So we should ask ourselves
is it NASA's job to build and operate new rockets
or should NASA work on
technology development, nuclear propulsion
for anything that you want to do between planets
or our transportation node? If I want to go
the moon and Mars, maybe I should start at the space station
and use uh, a nuclear
rocket to go between them instead of chemical
rockets. NASA needs to do the lunar
and Mars habitat work.
Living and working and technology development
it's time, and it's hard, it's our human nature
but we have to move from NASA
designing and building new rockets
and operating new rockets.
The satellite industry right now can go to a commercial
provider and buy a rocket
and we need to think about that model. There is a proper role for
government, but it's time to transition
to let the commercial industry take us to the
low Earth orbit. And
the last one, future space exploration will and should be
international and that's a great legacy of uh both shuttle
program with the Canada arm and the international space station.
I thank you. [Applause]