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Monday, 30 April 2007

image for NASA to Restructure FAG-ASS Program
When astronauts return to the moon they will be wearing the next-generation FAG-ASS space suits.

HOUSTON, TX (AP Newsliar) -- Johnson Space Center officials today confirmed that NASA intends to restructure the Fully Articulated Gyro-Assisted Space Suit (FAG-ASS) program, a project to develop the space program's next generation of space suits. The decision comes on the heels of a determination that procurement officials neglected to adhere to an agency-wide policy entitled "Designing Interfaces for Cyber-Kinetic Systems" (DICKS), recently mandated by NASA Headquarters (NASA HQ) in Washington D.C.

"The DICKS policy has been implemented agency-wide to standardize interfaces across space systems, with the intent of maximizing their commonality and interoperability," says Anne L. Probe, Deputy Pluperfect Administrating Assistant (With Portfolio) to the Director of Standards, Standardization, and Redundancy, at NASA HQ. "We need DICKS in all our programs to achieve the level of consistency required for this interoperability, and to drive down costs by avoiding duplication of interface designs. Failing to comply with this directive would mean that FAG-ASS may not work properly with other elements of the future human exploration architecture. Moreover, I don't think I need to remind anyone that our Budget Allocation and Labor Layout System (BALLS) is really taking a hit right now to pay for the future human exploration architecture, and we just do not have the manpower to allow exceptions to this directive. When our BALLS get squeezed this hard we have to put our DICKS into everything."

Officials at Johnson Space Center downplayed the impact this change would have on the recently awarded FAG-ASS program contracts, and noted that a re-solicitation would not be required.

"The results of our original competition still hold, as DICKS only modestly changes the requirements on which the acquisition was based," one official told us under conditions of anonymity. "This policy just represents another in a long series of efforts by NASA-HQ to exert more control over the future architecture."

"HQ should just stick to their ANUS [Administrative Non-technical Uniform Standards] and leave the technical standards to the NASA centers," says another unnamed official. "Johnson Space Center already has a Biotechnology Interface Group [BIG-Johnson] that defines technical standards for these types of programs. And for all their talk about avoiding duplication of effort, NASA-HQ did not bother to reuse our standards when they drafted their own. We haven't tried ramming our BIG-Johnson into their ANUS, so why can't they keep their DICKS out of our FAG-ASS?"

"There has long been a tradition of political infighting among NASA centers and HQ," says Doppelbock, Chief Technologist of Cyberbock Industries, one of three companies awarded a contract to compete for development of the eventual FAG-ASS system. "The challenge for the contractors is to avoid getting caught in the middle. Cyberbock has successfully accommodated the BIG-Johnson on other projects before, but trying to take DICKS and BIG-Johnson from both ends may prove more than any contractor can swallow."

San Francisco-based Homodyne Integrated System Solutions (HISS), another contractor competing for FAG-ASS, declined comment. However, an unnamed source within HISS indicated that the greatest danger this policy introduces is the delay in contract award. "HISS is quite familiar with the BIG-Johnson and all related interface specifications, and eagerly anticipates DICKS as well. But FAG-ASS will be a target for budget raiding and potential cancellation until the requirements are reissued and the contracts can be awarded. HISS really hopes that NASA can get its DICKS into our FAG-ASS as quickly as possible."

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