Silicon Sky: How One Small Start-Up Went over the Top to Beat the Big Boys into Satellite Heaven

By Gary Dorsey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
December 1994 — March 1995
Imperfect Object, Imperfect World

Dave Steffy thought it was a miracle they came as far as they had. From September to October of '94, with a new financial incentive plan kicking in, the team went three full weeks without missing a single deadline— probably some kind of record for the satellite-builders. They put three satellites into environmental tests, running them back and forth to Germantown to stuff them into big thermal and vacuum chambers they called "Bowser" and "the Hot Dog," knocking off tests, redlining problems on their test documents, fixing bugs.

Why wasn't Steffy happy?

One day after a fractious management meeting, he dragged into work with a forlorn look. No tie. Tennis shoes. A gloomy expression burdened his face.

The engineers had seen the same look a few days before, when Steffy wandered into the high bay to watch Tony's antenna-deployment tests. Denton had planned that morning to lecture Steffy about pressing the Boulder crew to test the receiver more thoroughly, but then he just didn't have the heart. Steffy was rubbing his eyes the whole time, and he just stood in the background watching the work. He looked so pained, the only response Denton could call up was sympathy.

Everybody saw it. Even the technicians commented.

Sometime that fall the program manager began to withdraw from the project—psychologically, even physically, it seemed—and turned over the day-to-day operations to his assistant, John Stolte, who called on Kim Kubota

-260-

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