FIGURE 5.2 Example of a chart showing risk reduction of the rocketback return-to-launch-site (RTLS) maneuver. NOTE: AGN&C, adaptive guidance navigation and control; CFD, computational fluid dynamics; IVHM, integrated vehicle health management.
The outstanding launch reliability records of both the Atlas and Delta EELVs have been achieved, in part, by each program institutionalizing a Continuous Improvement philosophy. This happened first when both Atlas and Delta were commercial programs but has continued when they were combined under United Launch Alliance. This approach, which enjoys a program budget allocated for changes and for a supporting nonbureaucratic change process, coupled with a rigorous Systems Engineering process, allows improvements to be implemented quickly. When difficulties arise in procurement, manufacturing, or launch operations, fixes can be identified and analyzed and are presented to an Engineering Review Board (ERB). Estimated implementation costs and a phase-in schedule are included. The contractor’s Program Management then makes a yes or no decision, and provides the budget needed for implementation.
Excluded from this process is the requirement to estimate the cost savings resulting from the change and preparation of an Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) for customer approval and funding. In most cases, the cost savings are difficult to capture, because the problem being addressed by the change affects the hidden factory (hard-to-build or operate hardware that causes quality problems). Continuous Improvement implementation on the Atlas program resulted in cost savings that were significantly greater than the cost of making the changes. These changes have also resulted in a more robust vehicle, more streamlined launch operations, and a workforce that is continuously engaged in fixing problems and improving the product.