The Union Recorder

Columns

April 3, 2012

Electric propulsion: Busting the Triangle

MILLEDGEVILLE — Surely you’ve heard of the infamous Project Management Triangle: things can be done fast, cheap and well, but you can always pick only two of those three characteristics: if you want something fast and cheap, it won’t be good. If you want it to be fast and good, it won’t be cheap. And if you want it good and cheap, it will take a long time. This seems to be a rather simplistic way of looking at things, but once you think about it, you’ll find it is amazingly accurate.

And nobody knows it better than NASA and all the companies involved in space technology.

Case in point: electric propulsion.

We’ve looked at the ion drive on several occasions, explored how it works and what missions it can be used in. Boeing is currently experiencing firsthand the reality of the pesky Project Management Triangle. They have invested considerable resources in the development of commercially viable electric propulsion engines that go way beyond the experimental stage and are now crossing over into big business, and commercial clients have begun placing orders.

Mostly these clients are in the communications business of launching and operating relay satellites for telecommunications of all sorts. “Business” is the operative word here. A business exists to make money, and of course it would be fantastic to get satellites into orbit fast, cheap and well. So far, the Triangle has held true.

Electric propulsion could in the very near future upset this familiar applecart and do all three. Up until recently, the launch of communications satellites, which tend to be big heavy behemoths, has required very heavy lift booster rockets. It’s a catch-22: if they could make a rocket big enough to lift a satellite of that heft straight into geostationary orbit, it would have been done. But the only option was to boost the satellite into a highly elliptical low-Earth orbit, and give it a good supply of chemical propellant so that over the course of a few weeks the satellite could fire its engines and lift itself into a circular orbit one step at a time.

Text Only
Columns
Poll
AP Video
SKorea Ferry Toll Hits 156, Search Gets Tougher Video Shows Possible Syrian Gas Attack Cubs Superfans Celebrate Wrigley's 100th Raw: Cattle Truck Overturns in Texas Admirers Flock to Dole During Kansas Homecoming Raw: Erupting Volcanoes in Guatemala and Peru Alibaba IPO Could Be Largest Ever for Tech Firm FBI Joining Probe of Suburban NY 'Swatting' Call U.S. Paratroopers in Poland, Amid Ukraine Crisis US Reviews Clemency for Certain Inmates Raw: Violence Erupts in Rio Near Olympic Venue Raw: Deadly Bombing in Egypt Raw: What's Inside a Commercial Jet Wheel Well Raw: Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit Raw: Anti-Obama Activists Fight Manila Police Motels Near Disney Fighting Homeless Problem Michigan Man Sees Thanks to 'bionic Eye' S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers
Facebook
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Stocks
NDN Video
BASE Jumpers Set World Record Raw: Obama Plays Soccer With Japanese Robot Michael Strahan's First Day on "GMA" Clerk catches on fire after man throws Molotov Cocktail into Brooklyn store Amazon's Deal With HBO Leapfrogs Streaming Rivals Stephen Colbert Tells David Letterman His Plan for 'Late Show' Georgetown police officer filmed tripping students Viral: It's Not Pitbull - It's Amy Poehler! Recycling Highlights for Earth Day Lupita Nyong'o Named People's 'Most Beautiful' Peeps Launched into Outer Space NYPD's Twitter Request For Photos Backfires New HBO Go Commercials Capture Awkward Family TV Watching Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Rise of the Milkbots Jenna Dewan-Tatum Strips Down TRENDING: Brian Williams Raps 'Gin and Juice' on ‘Tonight Show’ Middle School heroes rescue students from burning bus WHOPPER OF FISHING STORY: Florida man catches massive Mako shark Maks Chmerkovskiy's "DWTS" Meltdown