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#1 2015-08-02 19:51:17

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 25,943

engineering art, the knowledge of the 50 plus club

Gw has meantioned this previously as the art of making rockets but its more than that as its what is called tribal knowledge, its the stuff that is in there head and not on paper.

GW Johnson wrote:

As for NASA and its LM,  I doubt there's anyone still alive and still employed there who had anything to do with the LM capability.  Even if there were,  the "real smarts" wasn't in NASA it was in Grumman,  where the thing was built. 

Grumman got swallowed up into one or the other of the two giants comprising ULA.  I'm just about dead certain nobody is left alive or still employed that had anything to do with the LM.  That was 50 years ago. 

So Spacex is the authority on vertical rocket landings.  Such as they are.  Until Blue Origin gets theirs working,  maybe. 

GW

GW Johnson wrote:
Mark Friedenbach wrote:

That's age discrimination, and illegal sad

Sure it’s illegal!  But that law is almost completely unenforced!  It’s evil,  it’s unethical,  it’s actually unprofitable,  and a whole lot of other epithets.  But it’s management policy at most contracting companies,  aided and abetted by the government labs that fund them. 

This has been true for 2-3 decades now,  at the very least.  If you are an engineer over about 40-45 years of age,  you WILL NOT be hired by anyone!  I have seen this up close and personal for over 20 years myself.

This is also why “we” seem to have lost the ability to do what our 1950’s-1960’s ancestors did.  An example would be SLS:  a reprise of Saturn 5 based on shuttle technology.  It might or might not ever fly,  but if it does,  it will have taken 20+ years to do what our 1960’s ancestors did in only 6 years back then. 

This is precisely because most all of engineering,  not just rocketry or aerospace,  is about at most 40% science  written down for others to follow,  at least 50% art (never written down) that was intended to be passed on one-on-one on-the-job from older mentors to the new hires,  and at least 10% blind dumb luck.  That’s in production work.  The art and luck percentages are higher in development work. 

The engineering art was never written down because managers never wanted to pay for writing it down,  pure and simple.  This effect was worse at contracting companies.  You can tell,  because only the government labs were truly “prolific” at published papers.  It makes them seem smarter than they really were.  The “real smarts” was in the contractors that they hired,  though!

Managerial types never wanted to believe in the engineering art concept,  because it meant increased spending.  Hiring high-school drop-outs to do what was in the “cookbooks” was the road to increased profit,  as long as you do not believe there is such a thing as engineering art.  Thus there was no compelling reason to keep older engineers on the staff. 

All based on a false belief system.  Where have we seen that,  recently?  There IS recent precedent for this self-deception. 

Without older guys,  above about age 50-ish,  there was no pass-down of engineering art to the next generation of oncoming engineers.  The under-50 guys are (and were) just too busy to take this responsibility on.  Since engineering art is the majority of engineering knowledge,  why should it surprise anyone that none of the companies who built Saturn 5 can repeat that performance?

We have seen this play out in very recent history:  Spacex had very fatal problems during the first few flights of their Falcon-1 vehicle out of Kwajalein.  They did not resolve this until they temporarily hired a few old farts who actually knew the rare art of flying supersonic vehicles that stage,  within the sensible atmosphere.  It simply wasn’t about rocket engines,  it was about aerodynamics and flight mechanics.

They have bumped into this wall again with landing Falcon-9 first stages.  It’s not about the rocketry,  it’s about flight mechanics,  once again. 

Old guys are still widely viewed as “too expensive to have on staff”.  Until they consult some of us old farts,  they (Spacex) will continue to crash Falcon-9 first stages.  Or else they will crash many of them until they re-learn the hard way the “ancient art”.  That’s my prediction. 

It applies to any part of ULA as well.  Including Aerojet Rocketdyne the subcontractor. 

GW

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#2 2015-08-02 19:52:55

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 25,943

Re: engineering art, the knowledge of the 50 plus club

SpaceNut wrote:
Mark Friedenbach wrote:

That's age discrimination, and illegal sad

I myself have also been turned down as living to far from a work place only an hour away, having to much experience and yes having a last job that had earnings greater than that to which I was willing to work for as well as the age thing.

The aging work force that has put in a career in one company for periods of 20 plus are now reaching retirement age and with that the knowledge is not being passed on to that younger work force.

GW Johnson wrote:

This is precisely because most all of engineering,  not just rocketry or aerospace,  is about at most 40% science  written down for others to follow,  at least 50% art (never written down) that was intended to be passed on one-on-one on-the-job from older mentors to the new hires,  and at least 10% blind dumb luck.  That’s in production work.  The art and luck percentages are higher in development work.

Tribal knowledge is what is not written down and is what is lacking from those newly trained to do the work.

GW Johnson wrote:

Old guys are still widely viewed as “too expensive to have on staff”.  Until they consult some of us old farts,  they (Spacex) will continue to crash Falcon-9 first stages.

The only thing expensive about older workers is the retirement package that has not been given to those newly hired people as compared to the older generation that has it. Sure the older people have progressed up the ladder but that is only natural and given time those at the bottom newly hired will be in that say seat.

GW Johnson wrote:

There aren't any "real NASA NTR engineers",  and never were.  The actual smarts were (and still are,  to whatever extent they haven't died,  retired,  or gone on to other jobs) in the contractors that NASA hires,  in just about any topic area you wish to discuss.  Talk to the guys who actually did Project Rover,  culminating in NERVA.  There's 3 left,  all in their 80's now.  I did.  What you say about NTR simply isn't true.  Yep,  it has unresolved problems.  But it is NO dead end. 

As for engineering art in chemical rocket work,  yep,  it's still there.  Still about 40%,  even in production work,  just like I said.  Less to do with the rocket engines themselves now (although Orbital Sciences might disagree with that!!!!),  and more to do with successfully flying supersonic vehicles that have to stage. 

Ask Spacex;  they had real troubles with Falcon-1,  until they finally talked to some of us old guys about that.  That was somewhat of a humbling experience for them,  and it's still a subject they do not like to discuss in public.  But they did learn,  and well.  So far,  anyway.  But,  they do not like to hire anybody over 40-45 years of age.  Sooner or later,  that art thing will bite them again,  precisely because they don't like old,  experienced hands on staff.

GW

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#3 2015-08-02 19:54:08

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 25,943

Re: engineering art, the knowledge of the 50 plus club

Like GW there are many others that have a wealth of knowledge that can be passed on, another is RobertDyck, and the list probably has at least 6 to 12 more if I dig for the posts in the forum.... such as this page http://www.newmars.com/forums/viewtopic … 92#p122492


Mentoring, half-time work help NASA Glenn address aging workforce


AR-308029986.jpg?MaxW=880&v=201411210943

Kathleen Needham was supposed to retire from NASA Glenn Research Center back in May.

If that would have happened, nearly 40 years' worth of experience would have walked out the door with her.

But it didn't happen. In April, Needham heard that NASA was about to launch a phased retirement program. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management finalized rules related to the process in November 2014. It's designed to help the federal space agency's aging workforce ease into their Golden Years — and pass along their knowledge in the process.

So in June, Needham became the first NASA Glenn employee to take the partial retirement plunge: She'll work half-time and receive half of her retirement annuity, while maintaining other benefits.

There's just one catch: She has to spend at least 20% of her work time mentoring other employees and passing along her knowledge.

As required, Needham is doing her part to address that problem: She created a written plan detailing how she will pass along her knowledge.

In the 80's this was down sizing when the 50 plus were terminated and in the 90's it was right sizing when this happened  and in this decade its phased or early retirement.

I currently experience this first hand with the recent retiree's returning as contractors but I am not seeing that return as equal for passing on there knowledge in all cases....

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#4 2015-08-02 20:09:07

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 25,943

Re: engineering art, the knowledge of the 50 plus club

We saw first hand that when the Space Exploration was first announce in 2004 that people questioned why could we not simply restart the Apollo program and it was that the plans were on old velum or microfiche ect....that was echo'd for why we could not.
But we have seen the J2 engine from the era come back to life and we still have hope that the F1 could as well.

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