Robotic arm is key to improved project schedule

Although the European space-plane project was a magnificent dream, it never came to fruition. Nevertheless, at one time it occupied talented space engineers from 20 countries.  At the end of every month they would review the status in a meeting with representatives from many of the leading European aerospace companies. 

The "success-oriented" timeline already seemed challenging. Two planners worked late one night before a critical meeting. One Flemish, sceptical, the other British, ironic, from the country that called the project ‘a cuckoo in a nest.’ Perhaps, it was inspiration, perhaps pure caprice that made them modify the project schedule in the last fifteen minutes before going back to their hotels. 

At the meeting the next day, the schedule showed the development of the robotic arm linking into the milestone for the first unmanned launch, instead of integartion of this sensitive instrument being programmed for the third launch six months later. There was uproar in the meeting: “You are going to burn our robotic arm”, erupted the work package manager. A few seconds later: “No, this is good; we can study the cabin configuration in this way.” 

A heated discussion ensued. The end result: a model of the robotic arm was planned for the first launch, together with much of the documentation which had been previously put back until the third launch. Three months had been saved on the tightest of schedules.


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