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Our space industry. Look at industry issues from the perspective of an ordinary developer
Material posted : Administrator Publication date: 11-03-2019

I was working in our aerospace industry for a long time (1983-1995, 2008-2012). When I read articles about our failures, they are often not visible to the main mechanisms of creating problems. So, I would like to start this review with the principle of "actual adverse selection." It is interesting – I ask under kat (many letters and no pictures).

The actual Negative selection

Somewhere in the distant 60-ies created a lot of bureaus, research institutes, and among them one was created in the Penza branch of research Institute of Measuring Equipment (Podlipki Suburban, now it is Queens).

The goal was quite simple: research Institute it was overwhelmed by the breadth of space science and they wanted to reach out to someone for support and continuation of their projects. In short and in Russian speaking, required "the boys in the wings". Shortly before that, in Penza was established by a local Polytechnic Institute. Very well and by that time had prepared the first editions of their "experts", about which you can say stereotypes from jokes "can hold a candle" and work a "doofer". For them it was great — these "boys" was the first on this wonderful glade... And they appreciated the beauty of this situation... In the mid-60s of them was nominated young Director, and in key positions around him appointed friends of his "call." And as it happens often mediocre people – they were painfully proud of and was well aware of their selfish personal and group interests.

Somewhere in the 1967-68 year, the young Director makes a "sweep" of the top from the wise men – their potential competitors. All this was done very humanely. They have been squeezed out in the local Polytech and they helped with financing and the creation of a new Department...

It is clear that the stability of such "research" was crucial to have someone very competent was doing the initial study of the projects, carried out the creation of some prototypes and demonstrated the technique of testing and debugging. At the initial stage in this regard the important role played by transfer programs, ideas and patronage from the NIIIT.

In the future, the majority of theoretical research projects, the initial layout design, preparation of surveys and recommendations was done by chairs of the UNIVERSITIES. At the time of the Department of UNIVERSITIES stood out as "Islands" certain freedoms, including in terms of self-realization. Very interesting early development was proposed by graduate students and teachers of LETI, the work was carried out with the Baumanka, Khai (Ukraine).

This scheme certainly worked, but you have to understand what here was laid out a potential "bomb". But back to the main thesis.

And in the late 80's I heard the phrase on my head-nacebe, a very talented man who reached the most outstanding results in the field of sensor electronics for space applications:

"... he is a very competent, talented, very decent, which is unusual here, and not a member of any clan party... and... here with such qualities it above the head of the laboratory will not be allowed..". This person I'm thankful that he's at least within his lab was able to create a creative atmosphere and focus on common sense.

When in the early 2000s, he mentioned the need for greater adequacy of the enterprise to modern realities, he immediately gave a kick from the enterprise.

The principle of several specific evaluation of labour worked below the level of head of laboratory (head of sector).

I began my career as a designer involved in the overall layout of the plasma-ion engines at OKB Fakel.

The first and the only project I did half a year after Bauman. It was a motor unit 17Б14 the super-heavy communication satellite "Relay". In fact I had to completely redo the entire project for a Leading engineer. I did it quite well. The project quietly lived his whole life in the shop.

And my classmate, with whom I was in the Bureau Torch, given to the support of the finished project. Project propulsion unit of the satellite — sea scout – it was already third-hand. And there, discrepancies, regular meetings with the authorities and love nest wherever possible.

When I met this classmate at the 25th anniversary of the release, he said:
"... And you know me and already in the 90s provided the title Honored Builder of the Russian Federation..."

In the new times this principle has not disappeared, but only got a few other shades.

The hierarchical pyramid and the system of regulation

Comical moment of the places where I worked, was the amazing size of the hierarchical pyramid and... the lack of adequate management.

First, let's look at this pyramid.

It is clear that at its base is simple the audience is directly involved in grassroots work. That we are talking about ordinary engineers, designers with all sorts of degrees, and the leading chiefs of groups. This is so – called Performers. Head of the laboratory (sector) – it is the next step – he spends much of his time that goes to any meetings.

Next to the Head of the laboratory heads — is a Head of Department and his deputies...
When they are all in his circle were neovessels they could go to consult the Heads of Departments and their deputies.

The next level of meetings is Deputy. Director (Chief) at the research (project) work. Finally, Director (Chief Designer).

So I came back in 2008 in the INSTITUTE. The Director General is the Chief Designer, Doctor of Technical Sciences, Honored Builder of the Russian Federation (I confess, I don't remember all this long list, but in the official papers was strictly forbidden anything to reduce).

And then there is a very big problem.

This man is "first call" and for a long time he was the Deputy Director for research and development work. He was appointed to this key position with a specific purpose:

the Director should not look futility in the background, real life can sometimes create quite a powerful impulse, and at the top of the hierarchical pyramid is the essential layer in which the safe dissipation of the energy of these pulses (layer type wool or clay).

I remember my first project in electronics (INSTITUTE, 1988).

This was the topic of "Quartz" measurement system of cryogenic liquids for the military laser on heavy hydrogen.

When we, the electronics lab, discussed the beginning of this development with the designers of the sensors, we stressed that the strain gauge sensor of the type here most likely will not work and will be better still a capacitive principle. However, on the other side was silent.

Next, I was asked to describe what I'm supposed to set on the sensor and that was expected to remove. I was interested in, including the expected dispersion values and temperature dependence. And yet, for error correction to the temperature I asked about the need for a temperature sensor. But there again was silence.

When I expressed the wish that the results of the conversations should be recorded and, if possible, in writing, the developers of the sensors broke down and spoke such "claim" they see for the first time.

— Well, what voltage should I sue tenzomash?
After a pause I was told that 5 Volts.
— And what level of signal I get with tentmate?
Pause was obscenely large, and I asked again. It was the rare case when you do not answer they had no right. Finally came the reply.
— 5 millivolts.
— And the range of values?.. The levels of the temperature treatments?..

I tried to continue to ask questions, but the discussion was terminated.

Tu electronics I designed really good. The basis for these sensors lies in thin-film technology, in the original version of the TU for which the stated temperature dependence of resistance tolerance of ± 75 ppm (parts per million per degree). In reality, the resulting temperature dependence of the resistive film dangles in the range of ±3000 ppm. The diagonal feed of the measuring tentmate I was placed in another resistive bridge hoping to get a signal about the temperature.

And here are the test.

When I make a measurement of the temperature dependence of the resistance of the diagonal feed tentmate, she was 15-35 ppm ( for comparison, running precision resistors — C2-36 to 75 ppm, S2-29 – 75..50 ppm), and based on output signals from the temperature – a huge (800...3000 ppm).

We conduct a lot of measurements, and is becoming more and more clear that the project came out of all admissions (and he could not go – the real operating temperature range of our load cells – 80..140 degrees and about any a cryogenics could not be speech).

And suddenly, at some point – boom! – darkcity show me the fingers and loudly declare – "He blew it!"... I'm trying to open a discussion... and they have burning in the eyes of idiocy. They chose me as a "whipping boy" and "scapegoat". Hovering the idea — "It is necessary to drag to the boss!".

Finally, I explain – I carefully collected all experimental data, spend Analytics and have built graphs, which suggests who to blame. Suddenly and instantly the idiocy in their eyes disappears. They tell me I'm a bastard, the draft softened and "merge"...

But who needs statistics collected and dependency graphs? They are not wanted. I still went to the Deputy.Director for science, but it turned out that he had globally — the Ostrich position.

After some time I got used as a developer of electronics, and it was clear to me — "... our lab developers much more talented, can work at an accelerated pace and we can replace all of the electronics design in physical measurements (it's 5 laboratories)".

But the same idea — a dangerous sedition:

"forage base" — the base of the hierarchical pyramid is reduced in 3-5 times, the pyramid falls into the strict dependence from the real experts, the situation has a chance to return to the distant '50s,' 60s years, when the project was done over weeks and months.

And the historical answer "space leaders" to these challenges is a multi — dimensional matrix — hierarchy, total regulation of everything, multiple parallel control (spec-sector networks and reporting coupons, military acceptance, quality control, compliance assessment,... ). When they are all taken very seriously for their work – common sense can be forgotten.

In the 80-ies of the regulatory framework regulation has been relatively adequate to the reality that was then. Now this is not. At the grassroots level, we are firmly obliged to demonstrate loyalty to all that order.

However, the full extent is either problematic, or there are places where an ordinary performer is out of control and has freedom of action.

Begins... Marlezonskogo ballet

Imagine such a situation.

Some kind of Adjuster on the stand in the workshop carries out setting some sensor.

Everything goes as usual, but at some point clicks somewhere contactor and somewhere off some kind of electric motor.

The Adjuster changes the calibration pressure, and indications of output voltage of the sensor does not change. Then he turns off the power supply and after a few seconds turns it on again. The sensor resumes operation.

Or another situation.

The young man went to Moscow for testing devices for EMC (electro magnetic compatibility). From him it is assumed only one thing – a positive result. By themselves, tests are carried out in good faith, there the tester "bet" on the "tails" of our instruments with all sorts of impulses, and the young man looks at the sensor on the laptop.

In this process there is one subtlety.

In the program on the laptop there is one combination of keys which, when pressed, instead of the data readout from the sensor included an internal simulator: the sensor (or rather its processor) after some kind of pulse beats is in a "coma" and the simulator shows that life is beautiful and amazing.

The young man knows (this 2008-2012) that slip through testing without this "trick" had no chance.

There are a lot of poorly formalized phenomena and parameters in production and development, which is not widely spoken.

Another point from the great mass of artists needed a very strict adherence to certain patterns of understanding, of action and of thinking. In the modern world
templates old employees — it's the wildest archaic, and young people — they simply do not.

Our response to modern challenges...

Somewhere towards the end of the first decade of the 2000s in our country colorful "blasted" a certain number of missiles. It was a good time when oil prices were soaring, and money in the state was in bulk.

And we fell on the program-subject Diagnostics.

First of all superiors in the INSTITUTE's knees were shaking, and I had a feeling that this audience can agree. I have prepared his vision of the problem.

However, the head said that my writing is nonsense, and according to the rules, any steep this work must begin with the patent report. And all laboratory accelerated pace of writing patent reports.

The first wave of reports "swept" — and for that Institute made good money... all the lab again accelerated pace of writing patent reports... And again, again and again To those endless reports as to dilute the practical results, are new developments that is almost completely repeat the previous.

This continued – 2009-2012

It should be understood that the above task is just a link in a big chain. To the subject "Diagnosis" was the theme of "Revival" ... with the same result. Even earlier, in the late '80s – early' 90s, for example, were made an ambitious attempt to begin to develop their own specialized chips, and it was received tangible resources from the state...

But the fact is that designing analog circuits is a challenge to aces among aces circuitry, and the bet was made on a completely random people from "the street". Additionally, the development of chips requires extremely clear statement of the design problem,... and "space farm" with this large the tightness.

... And then the topic "Diagnosis" was, for example, a curious theme of "Sandwich".
This theme was significantly more funding than the "Diagnosis".
And who now remembers which tasks in this category were promised to solve?

As an insider who observed the situation from a grassroots position, I've found in the 80s that the silent (... and informed !) the decision about the failure of some research-and is often taken before beginning any actual work.

In addition to ambitious areas-themes, there are inconspicuous tasks.

Paradoxically, these tasks may have substantially higher potential impact. Such tasks include the introduction of CAD.

What is CAD?

There are several options for response. According to the most popular and attractive option, CAD is when the computer works and thinks for you:
"put or shove with this hand in computer your task, but from the end – pull out the decision."

As it tried to do, I watched since the early 90-ies ( the era of the classic PCAD-a, PSpice) and our time ( e.g. Altium Designer).

The official movement in this direction in the enterprise always looked in General like this. Here in "officially important" lab is a free man. It's now Turner, in that time studied at the evening Department of the University, and he highlighted the priority of the super-scarce (90 years) a personal computer.

Deletion from the equation a key element

There ought to speak about education.

If we take as the starting point of a good Soviet education, for example – the school is additionally in the PTCs (correspondence school at the Moscow physical-technical Institute), earlier participation in the school technical circles (incidentally, a very common and useful practice in the Soviet Union), and the University – something like Bauman. This starting point is very chic, but to solve cool problems – far, far from sufficient.

The first thing is to work intensively, is the art of engineering design with the accumulation of practical experience.

But who are provided an opportunity to obtain design experience and the opportunity to hone your skills? The number of "lucky" was very small. And very often I saw really anecdotal mechanism for selecting promising candidates.

Interesting possibilities are provided by an interdisciplinary field.

To work here need double — triple the actual education and freedom of action, which is extremely poorly placed on the hierarchy of the Institute and adopted a style of work.

But the most brutal and lethal is a bet on the theoretical superiority. This requires a huge and long work. But after that, there is a feeling that you're in a different weight class and can take on a completely different level projects. And let's face it, in this way were very few.

That gave a kick with enterprise nacubo, whom I respected very much and whom I mentioned above... This man is the author of the most prominent directions of the INSTITUTE – family of capacitive sensors with the options that are vastly superior to other options. Technically, it is possible to talk about a tricky set of theoretical features, that compensate for a few severe negative effects.

Most humorous – in the INSTITUTE there is a bunch of descriptions of how it was done, a pile of old drawings, but no one understands how it all worked.

... But it's just a tricky dynamic negative feedback... and nothing more (the lower level is understood as a dynamic system of continuous time, the top contour system of discrete time). And it's puzzling to look the other way – those who entered and heads the hierarchical pyramid is the space of local academicians, doctors, candidates of Sciences...

Somewhere in the early 80-ies I had to familiarize themselves with the guidance of the RK-75 for creation of space technology. As conceived by the leadership of the industry they were to be the "Bible" for all developers. And indeed, at all levels of the hierarchy are constantly told about the importance of compliance with all work these materials.

I bother to go in the 1st division and forced himself to read them.

All that it says is very sensible (though written in a language of extreme boring). These materials were generalized experience in the development of rocket and space the 50's and possibly 60 years.

If to summarize the RK-75 in a nutshell, most difficult job is split into a plurality of stages, tasks, and then recurrent – sub-phases, sub-objectives and so on.

On the lower level, everything is presented in the form of models performed with a very narrow, specific and main research goal.

My personal experience has been that if you want to create a new move fast, it is best to do multiple quick small steps, with a large number of experiments and a complete covering problems. Better to do a lot more and spend it in the initial stages. In this I agree with RK-75.

But it is puzzling that on the merits, nobody was going to really follow a RK-75. In the structure of enterprises were production units "sharpened" to the tasks of prototyping, but in 80-e years they were used for maintenance of the company's management and the local elite (sharpened parts for machines, pitching for the cottages). Additionally, to be honest, 60-90% of developers are unable to create any clear new ideas, but among them there are representatives of absolutely "no brakes". Or they fall into nonsteroidalanti ideas, or trying to create their own "masterpieces" method of infinite bust a pilot for the state "pays the bills". It was commonplace that in their "games" these comrades could easily "eat" as the budget for your project and budget neighbors, dedicated to the search direction.

In modern terms all of this prototyping was found to be ineffective, confusing and unnecessary subject to optimization.

So what is it modeling?

In networks works in the ' 80s was the stage layout. Here for example, my boss set me the task, I developed a scheme, soldered it on some piece of breadboard, adjusted, adjusted... this layout attaches to the real sensors and comprehensively tested.

The most important thing — the developer had a bit of freedom which was very hard to use for hurt and self-development. The depth of engineering theory is poorly absorbed without at least some practice.

And yet, the quality and the running layout, even made "on the knee" is a very important argument when the project has been going on in the "big circle", when used all design and manufacturing divisions, when everything is all signed and approved rules.

It is curious to note that while the General opinion in the Institute on a "work on the knee" has always been arrogant, contemptuous. The bulk was represented by the development process as an Assembly "pictures" method "cubes" — fragments of textbooks and... "whole drawn" variants taken from neighbors or somewhere else.

A little bit about the question of reincarnation

When I returned to the INSTITUTE in 2008, I regularly attended a local conference
young specialists. I was curious to know what "growing change" glimpses of the knowledge about the Fourier, Laplace, Z - transform (the mathematical basis of the description of dynamical systems).

When I listened to the reports I drew attention to one feature of all the speakers.

Each of them presented their work, and in fact the entire Department, but made as if they personally or in its Central part. As it turned out, they were set up and they explained.

As I recall, at that conference no credibility in the statement, no one was not there. But at the conference next year, the presenters have already appeared solid feel.

At the last conference, which I participated in 2012, it was all clear — do you Want success? — Popping up on stage, well, then loudly — "... You know! I've been so cool. I've got a bunch!.. I made up!.."

... A few years later met a former colleague and his downright "sausage":

"... In the INSTITUTE's now replaced all the grassroots and middle leadership on this promising youth... You have no idea what is there now "the circus"!.."

Their point of view on the situation and problems in the space industry, I have explained it on the forums, when I was working at the INSTITUTE... First, look goes some Commission and something is watching... Here's the boss pointed to the instrument National Instruments and some Chinese and gave the order to stick the tag — "Made in the INSTITUTE" and to report to the Commission.... I described it on the forum... Usually I give some technical details...
Long it lasted... And now people specifically goes to the interrogations...
After some time, "Shock and Awe", too, have subsided...
I meet in a relaxed atmosphere with my buddy, and he tells me about the interrogation:

"... How long was I in the interrogation. I was shown a lot of documents...
But what I was very impressed — none of the documents not signed ХYZW..."

It turns out that the Main Manipulator of the Situation, which by the way "decimated" a fool, a charlatan, in fact — far and away not a fool, and never lit up.
And we have the case when you can bring the next "Zits-chairs", and the situation repeated again...

This case should not be taken as a joke or some kind of locality. Profiling the development of the situation in the process of transmission of status positions, financial flows... is a systemic phenomenon, widely present in our classical industry.


Everything written here is based on personal personal experience, work in two space research Institute-KB peripheral zones. There may be some local and temporary limitations in the description and understanding of the situation. However, considers the problem in its common form, widely present in all of our classic industry.

If you look at the problem from the point of view of a geek, we geeks, we set higher goals and required substantially greater effort to achieve results than the average public. But we often lack understanding of the "coordinate system" and the hidden "mechanics" of the environment in which we operate.

And finally, our space industry is going through hard times and shows itself not in the best way. Any solution to the problem begins with the analysis of the current situation.


Tags: Russia , space

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