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
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe
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
GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Robin Wright Can Dance! (WATCH) She's Back! See Paris Hilton's New Carl's Jr. Ad Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show' Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House