Oral history of British science

Parkinson, Bob (Part 13 of 15). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering; Space Science and Engineering

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    The British Library

  • Interviewees

    Parkinson, Bob, 1941- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 13: Remarks on career at Stevenage post 1992: organisational and personnel changes, sale to Matra-Marconi; difficulties of convincing ESA they were a viable company; state of UK and European space programmes, Kenneth Clarke, difficulties of Hermes space plane, Columbus programme's relationship to polar platform. [04:50] Comments about BP joining working party at Frankfurt to reduce Columbus costs: politics and budgeting; anecdote about Alenia, astronaut Wubbo Ockels and the choice of a 37 kilogram laptop computer for the mission; risks of insular thinking; [11:25] BP familiarity with people on working party from earlier meetings and studies, such as design of Ariane Transfer Vehicle and to provide outsider view on European projects; contacts at Bremen, such as Peter Sharpe, Pierre Molette at Toulouse, Maria Perino at Alenia in Turin. [16:30] Comments on women in engineering: few women at university when BP was a student; high proportion of women in space engineering in later career; BP positive discrimination approach for Assistant Scientific Officers at Westcott, success of Carol Owen later at Xerox; shift to engineering being acceptable for women; changes to education and training. [23:40] Comments on launch vehicle expertise: BP still getting study subcontracts, such as from MBB despite UK not being involved; winged launch vehicle studies for and Ottobrunn at Munich; mechanisms for launch of ESA programmes. [27:08] Comments on: replacement of problematic director Hunt at Stevenage by Brian Oak; Brian Oak asking BP to a conference on moon exploration at Beatenberg Switzerland, where BP met astronaut Harrison Schmidt and made useful contacts; BP getting involved with ESA LEDA robot moon landing study; EUROMOON project, launched after urging of Wubbo Ockels; [33:40] BP involvement in EUROMOON, weekly commute to ESTech; organisation of family life around work. [36:35] Description of using spreadsheets for simulating designs: algorithms from textbook by Wiley J. Larson; similar to older CAPS system; used on tasks such as wing design studies for MBB and Vega rocket studies for ESA; conversion from spreadsheet to engineering drawings; ESA contract for an general design method computer tool, unrealistically ambitious in scope; [42:30] BP approach of collecting design building blocks, not adopted by ESA; anecdote about BP giving a poorly received paper on spacecraft design with a spreadsheet at ESTec. [44:20] Comments on BP's use of spreadsheet to plan EUROMOON: managing input of different team members, progress meetings. [48:35] Anecdote about difficulties planning the team design of a satellite, compared to advantages of integrated spreadsheet model in design of EUROMOON allowing concurrent rather than sequential design. [52:10] Remarks on: quick progress on EUROMOON causing problems by outpacing ESA managers; spreadsheet approach influencing ESA manager Massimo Banadecchi to convince ESA to adopt computer concurrent engineering; differences between ESA and industry. [56:30] Comments on EUROMOON: task to put probe onto Lunar pole; conditions at Lunar poles, possibility of a spot where solar power always available; unexplored areas of moon; outline of mission profile; potential difficulties; [1:02:05] Comments on EUROMOON cancellation: probably cancelled due to politics; challenge of finding a safe landing spot; Wubbo Ockels quest for commercial sponsorship; programme committee killing project before costings complete to avoid political repercussions if it had progressed further. [1:06:55] Story about EUROMOON's sudden cancellation. [1:09:00] Anecdote about BP manager Mike Dandy reporting to director Claude Gionnet that Matra-Marconi Space had made a profit out of having BP work on EUROMOON, despite its cancaellation. [1:12:00] Comments on: legacy of EUROMOON in lunar reconnaissance SMART1 mission; legacy of HOTOL program in concurrent engineering and Steve Kemble's trajectory analysis program, which now navigates ESA spacecraft. [1:15:10] Comments on EUROMOON team: BP previous team at Stevenage; office; personnel from industrial organisations, such as Alena's Maria Perino, Rashid Amekrane from Bremen, Jean Pierre Bombled from Aérospatiale, Simmons, Contraves CAD designer; ESTec personnel; project manager Wubbo Ockels; Massimo Banadecchi; BP responsible for system; [1:20:20] scientific team responsible for payload; anecdote about BP updates on payload. [1:22:15] Discussion of relationship between space scientists and engineers in ESA programme development: risks of runaway programmes; advantages of smaller and cheaper missions. [1:27:30] Comments on working at ESTech: huge environment; chief EUROMOON scientist Bernard Foing; working environment and atmosphere; multilingual environment leading people to read rather than chat; anecdote about BP's German language skills.

  • Description

    Interview with aerospace engineer Dr Bob Parkinson.

  • Related transcripts

    Dr Bob Parkinson interviewed by Tom Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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