Saturday, May 17, 2014

Book Review: The New Rocket Science

The New Rocket Science
by Richard L Keith

I just finished reading the book “The New Rocket Science” by Edward L Keith. There’s a lot wrong with it but there are a few things that I think are really good.

Of the things that are wrong with it are: the price, the artwork quality is poor, the sentence structure is repetitive and some of his points seem trite by merely saying “we need to develop better cost models.”

That said, there is a lot of good in the book.

First, the book is a good basic introduction to aerospace cost models. I haven’t had any formal introduction to cost models before and this book was almost completely about cost models. In fact, if one were to ask what is “the new rocket science?”, the answer might be “cost models” according to this book. As a general introduction to cost models in launch vehicle design, I found it entertaining and informative. I now know that I need to learn more about cost models.

Second, the author advocates an integrated design approach that considers manufacturing and operations as well as design costs. Although he doesn’t really state it explicitly, I think that he’s basically advocating for what is now MDO, multidisciplinary design optimization. Actually, he does use the term “multi disciplined optimization” at least once and maybe twice, but overall, he suggests the need to integrate all design, development, manufacturing and operations costs in considering launch system designs. I personally will put more emphasis on MDO in the future.

The one thing that I think he did well was to consider the “incentives problem” as to why the Soviet Union might have produced the closest thing to “low cost access to space” whereas the US didn’t. I liked his answer to that question.

The book suggests that those of us who want to develop low cost access to space should consider developing our own cost models to help guide our efforts. In fact, if we are to advance rocket science according to the author, we must expand the economics of launch systems as a whole as part of that science.

Anyway, I recommend this book if you haven’t had an introduction to cost models before and if you’re looking for a plausible explanation for why we still don’t have low cost access to space.

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