NASA

Stumping for Griffin

When Mike Griffin became administrator of NASA a little over two years ago, he made it clear that he felt his tenure there would be limited and not to exceed beyond January 2009, when a new administration takes over and (presumably) picks a new administrator. While at least one member of the Senate is counting down the days until January 2009, there are some in official Washington who are hoping that Griffin will stay on into the next administration. Sue Payton, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, is one of those people, and said the following at a Women in Aerospace event on Capitol Hill last night:

I would like to put in a big plug for a guy named Mike Griffin, because I will tell you that this guy was born for the job he has. There’s no one better technically, there’s no one who understands industry better, there’s no one who’s run his own company more. And no matter what happens in the next election… that man needs to stay in the job he’s in and continue the momentum. Whatever we can do to help him we ought to do because he has the recipe and I truly believe that changing out that particular job in a year and a half, January 2009, right when we’re needing that expertise that he can bring to bear, would be a huge mistake for the advancement of space.

184 comments to Stumping for Griffin

  • anonymous

    It’s second-hand, but I understand from folks who have talked to Griffin recently that he has changed his mind and that he would like to stay into the term of the next President (a la Goldin).

    But I disagree with Ms. Payton regarding the desireability of keeping Griffin on board. Just the fact that Griffin’s self-professed top priority, closing the human spaceflight gap after Shuttle’s retirement, has more than doubled to five years and grown by three years than his short two-year tenture — from 2010-2012 to 2010-2015 — speaks volumes about his lack of effectiveness and poor planning. Under Griffin, new human space flight systems are receding faster than the rate of time in our universe. NASA does not need more of that.

  • anonymous

    I’d also note that Ms. Payton’s bio, while impressive, does not reflect any particular expertise in civil or military space programs:

    http://www.af.mil/bios/bio.asp?bioID=8723

    FWIW…

  • Griffin is giving his schedule for the Orion capsule and Ares program based on the budget he’s given. The original 2012 date was based on the budget projected for the years between 2006 and 2010. If you remember, FY08 was going to see $18.7 billion to help fund this venture. Under that kind of budget, yes, human space flight will resume two years after the shuttle goes away. Don’t take his money and tell him not to slash things, and to keep his original schedule. Something will slip, or something will be cancelled. Poor guy is getting yelled at for doing both!

  • Don’t take his money and tell him not to slash things, and to keep his original schedule.

    The original premise of VSE was that it would be executable on the existing budget without effecting science. I suppose we must all be forgiven for pointing out that either we were lied to, or that Micheal Griffin is incompetent.

  • anonymous

    “Don’t take his money and tell him not to slash things, and to keep his original schedule. Something will slip, or something will be cancelled. Poor guy is getting yelled at for doing both!”

    Actually, under Griffin, both have happened. Despite billions of dollars of cuts to science and aeronautics programs and the cancellation of any actual human space exploration development during the remainder of this Administration’s term, Griffin still couldn’t develop, change, or adopt a path of action that would prevent the post-Shuttle gap — Griffin’s own, self-professed, topmost priority — from more than doubling in the space of just two years. I don’t deny that both the White House and Congress have not lived up to their budget promises, but a failure to adapt to change — at least enough to preserve your topmost priority — is the very definition of ineffectual leadership.

    (As an aside, I don’t agree with Griffin’s priorities, but by his own goals, he’s doing terribly.)

    Griffin deserves serious criticism for implementing a human space flight development plan that was fiscally and politically unsustainable and then for staying with that flawed plan regardless of the plan’s growing technical issues, its threat to getting any actual human space exploration underway, and the large negative impact its had on NASA’s other programs.

    (Another aside, but because both have played large roles in essentially throwing away rare political opportunities to get a sustainable human space exploration effort underway, I would rank Griffin up there with Truly as one of NASA’s worst Administrators. Not that my rankings means squat, but that could change if Griffin changes course over the next year or so. But unless the next White House keeps him onboard — nearly impossible under a Democratic White House and unlikely even under a Republican White House — time is running out.)

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • Dave Huntsman

    My biggest problem with what she said was her statement that we have “the right recipe”. Exactly what is is that she thinks we’re cooking?

    All the wars and budget problems aside……..the ‘recipe’ seems to be that we will return to the moon…and then on to Mars….. and that everything else in NASA should be sacrificed to how we’re doing those two goals. (That is, in fact, exactly what Mike argued in an AAS paper 12 years ago: Moon, Mars…and everything else subsumed to that as NASA’s new paradigm he was arguing for). It is also, in a way, exactly what Werner von Braun argued for. It is my guess that both gentlemen’s primary goal was to get to Mars in their own lifetimes. When that was taken away from Werner, he didn’t last too long, dying I think at 65.

    The problems with doing things that way is that it literally won’t work.
    - it’s premised on business-as-usual within NASA and Big Aerospace. Minimum of innovation; continous yearly requests from the American people for billions of dollars, with no decrease in costs, or increase in sustainability. Just more and more big taxpayers budgets with no end – or change in paradigm – in site.

    - That sustainability -or lack of it – point needs to be emphasized. There are no tipping points being created in the plan; no up-front push to change the rules to make things affordable so that we can afford to stay. It’s just continous Apollo, continously draining budgets; with no direct payback to the American people, or to Earth. It won’t last; meaning, in the end, it won’t work.

    - The ‘moon/Mars – and only in this particular way – all else expendable’ paradigm has yet that additional fatal flaw: it’s willing to sacrifice things that are important to Americans – like, protection of America, and Earth – to do it. This was made clear not only in MIke’s past writings, but in his testimony to the full House Science Committee in March. He made clear there that protection of Earth, from things like near-earth asteroids and climate change, was simply not NASA’s business. Something I think would shock the American people if it became known in a different time, where war and poisonous politics was not otherwise blanking out all other thoughtful news.

    In fact, if a real NEO issue does crop up in the next decade or two, and something happens….something that could have either been given warning of , done something about, whatever….I imagine that that testimony will get replayed again and again, and become infamous. After all, the people (and Congressman) would ask: if NEOs aren’t in NASA’s bailiwick….whose is it? HUD? HHS? FEMA? FDA? I don’t think there would be any forgiveness in that situation; ie, to not spend what in the end are small amounts protecting Earth, while massive amounts are spent on a lunar/mars architecture that I think will be found to be unsustainable.

    I have this nightmare years from now of George W. Bush coming out of retirement as a NEO approaches, goes to a party for Mike G., puts his arms around Mike and says: …….” You did a heckuva job, there, Mikey…….”

    Dave Huntsman

  • MarkWhittington

    “Anonymous” has made the sort of post that makes the serious space analyst tear ones hair. Of coiurse Griffin is adapting to changing budget realities, by stretching out the development of VSE and looking for savings elsewhere. That’s really all he can do. The idea of him cancelling VSE on his own initiative and “going another direction” is pure fantasy and exposes ignorence about how things are done. VSE is a Presidential initiative, confirmed by an act of Congress. Griffin can no more “go another direction” on his own than General Patreaus could withdraw from Iraq or invade Iran on his own.

  • There’s no one better technically, there’s no one who understands industry better, there’s no one who’s run his own company more.

    Maybe so, but Dr. Griffin is truly terrible at politics. He picks unnecessary fights, changes course where it doesn’t much matter except to waste money (reversing the cancellation of SOPHIA), and refuses to change course where it does matter (ESAS). Whatever his technical skills, he needs to have someone powerful on his staff who can play the political game, and he needs to listen to this person.

    While I think Anonymous and I may disagree about how to go forward for the next two years, and about what priority human spaceflight should have, I fully agree with his analysis of Dr. Griffin as an Administrator of NASA. While I will reserve final judgment until he is out office, my bet now is that he will prove to be an almost total failure by the measure that counts — achieving his own (and his boss’s) stated goals.

    – Donald

  • Outside the Beltway

    Let’s not lay all the blame at Griffin’s feet for failure in implementing the VSE. Remember that O’Keefe and Steidel wasted the first precious year after Bush made his speech. It took the better part of 2005 to root out and replace Steidel’s boarding party in ESMD. Not that I’m all that impressed with the people Griffin chose to replace the boarding party…

  • anonymous

    “That’s really all he can do. The idea of him cancelling VSE on his own initiative and “going another direction” is pure fantasy and exposes ignorence about how things are done.”

    I think you may be confusing the VSE with ESAS. Bush is responsible for the former and Griffin for the latter. And because it’s Bush’s baby, of course Griffin can’t cancel the VSE. (I have not suggested in this thread or anywhere else on this forum that the VSE be cancelled. Rather, I struggle to figure out how it can be sustained through the current mess and the next election. The VSE by itself is a good strategy.)

    But Griffin is responsible for how the VSE is implemented. And how Griffin has chosen to implement the VSE — in the form of ESAS, Ares 1, and Orion — is woefully flawed in terms of budgetary realities, political sustainability, technical errors, and impact to other NASA programs.

    As NASA Administrator, Griffin does have the wherewithal to change how he implements the VSE. Although Griffin should have chosen a more budgetarily sound plan in the first place, at this point, he could say that changing budget realities and their impacts on the human space flight gap, human space exploration, and other NASA programs all necessitate a reevaluation of the current plan. Where such a reevaluation leads — to a smaller capsule on EELVs, a much more efficient use of the Shuttle infrastructure like DIRECT, or something else entirely — is immaterial at this point. The point is that the current plan, for all intents and purposes and regardless of who’s to blame, is broken — it can’t even meet Griffin’s top priority of a narrow post-Shuttle human space flight gap. Good leadership recognizes a broken plan and changes path.

    And until Griffin does so, I’d argue that he’ll never have a shot a going down in history as a good NASA Administrator.

    Of course, I’d bet that Griffin won’t make a change in course — too much of his tenure and ego is already invested in ESAS, Ares 1, and Orion — but we should still argue for the better.

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • anonymous

    “Remember that O’Keefe and Steidel wasted the first precious year after Bush made his speech.”

    Not that O’Keefe and Steidle didn’t have their flaws, too, but the “wasted year” is largely of myth of Griffin’s own making. Most of the first year after Bush’s VSE announcement was spent getting the first VSE budget increase passed through Congress. Until Congress appropriated those dollars, Steidle’s (and O’Keefe’s) hands were legally tied with respect to major procurements, studies, etc.

    “It took the better part of 2005 to root out and replace Steidel’s boarding party in ESMD.”

    From where I sat, the sad part was that O’Keefe left and Steidle’s legs were cut out from underneath him right as ESMD was getting ready to release several major procurements. One could argue that by setting the clock back to zero with ESAS instead of altering the plan that was in place, Griffin wasted as much time as anyone.

    Such are the vagaries of history…

  • MarkWhittington

    “But Griffin is responsible for how the VSE is implemented. And how Griffin has chosen to implement the VSE — in the form of ESAS, Ares 1, and Orion — is woefully flawed in terms of budgetary realities, political sustainability, technical errors, and impact to other NASA programs.”

    False or at the very least unproven.

  • Um Mark,
    The fact that he chose to implement the VSE in a way that is currently not meeting even his internal goals should be proof enough. What in your opinion would actually constitute proof that would convince you? Or is this just a religious argument?

    ~Jon

  • Yes let’s all stick out little knives into Griffin’s back. After all what has he achieved in 25 months? Waking NASA up and getting it back to exploration, cleaning up O’Keefe’s unauditable mess, returning the Shuttle to flight, shutting down the Shuttle program, finally getting a real Shuttle replacement started, controlling the almost out of control science budget, getting ISS assembly restarted and the crew back to three, producing a feasible architecture to implement the VSE, and lastly energizing, unifying and setting a new course for the listless, drifting NASA. Yes let’s carve our notches in his reputation safe in the knowledge that most of us are anonymous.

  • Yes let’s all stick out little knives into Griffin’s back.

    Wow, you make the little man sound like some kind of superhero. Did SuperMike do all those things himself? I thought NASA had employees. Perhaps if SuperMike had just consulted some of those ‘little people’ and not his mafia bosses at ATK, things would have turned out rather differently,

    Disclaimer : All opinions are my own, and I am not anonymous.

  • EELV Mafia

    EELVs! We want NASA to buy EELVs and Dr. Griffin stands in our way.

  • We have EELVs, two of them, of different designs, ready to go, as I recall. Mr. Griffin is disingenuous if he claims he can’t close a manned spaceflight gap. Close it, not open it up to five years or more, but close it right up to zero.

  • Thomas Matula

    Anonymous, you are right on target. The ESAS is a joke. Many folks at NASA know it’s a joke. Its what has dragged NASA down. If NASA had gone with a CEV on Atlas V they would probably be flight testing boiler plates now. The key is if Dr. Griffin is will admit he made a mistake and replace it with a realistic architecture.

    This also puts the ball in Congress’s court. If they don’t want those nice high paying aerospace jobs in Utah and Louisiana to go away to go away with Ares I and Ares V, then let THEM fight to increase NASA’s budget to fund Ares I and Ares V. If they don’t then at least NASA will have a workable architecture for a return to the Moon. And forget Mars, trying to decided what vehicles we should be building to go to Mars now is like someone in 1915 deciding what a WWII heavy bomber should look like.

    As for returning the Shuttle to flight, starting ISS, shutting down the Shuttle product line (actually ETS and SRBs production is just being mothballed because of ESAS, NOT shut down…) is basically the thing NASA would do anyway on auto pilot. And the CEV is not a Shuttle replacement, not until it flies and odds are it never will under the current design and budget. And gutting the science budget was basically a result of Congress gutting NASA’s budget under Griffin. You aren’t able to do science if you don’t have the money for it.

    Also, unstated in any of these budget discussions is that the Shuttle schedule generated b NASA to finish ISS is just not sustainable. NASA will need to come to a decision in the next year. Atlantis basically pushed it into the open, but it was coming any way. NASA will need to decide if it should fly beyond 2010 to finish ISS or shut the shuttle down in 2010 without flying the 16 missions needed to finish the ISS. But the reality that is emerging is that flying more then 3 missions a year will create the same schedule pressure that doomed both Apollo 1 and Challenger. Safety in space and hard deadlines are not compatible as Apollo I and Challenger showed.

  • Contrary to what some folks think, the Vision for Space Exploration called only for a Crew Exploration Vehicle – not a National Space Transportation System. This is what O’Keefe and Steidle were exploring in the CE&R studies back in Sep. 2004. Industry came up with a lot of good ideas and it was a fruitful exercise at least in presenting a lot of different ways to approach the problem. It was also relatively public and open.

    Of note is that while the ATK had the first round of ESAS ready at that same time (think ‘Safe, Simple, Soon’ website, 10 min. ATK promo video from Aug 04), they didn’t participate in the CE&R studies. However, when O’Keefe ‘retired for kid in college’, all of a sudden whiz-kid Dr. Michael Griffin comes in with a pre-packaged solution to the transport problem (create National Space Transportation System, a/k/a ESAS [Here, let me show you this video...]). Unlock the budget and we can start building it for you…

    Engineers of course screamed like little girls with delight, and the scientists rolled over to get their belly rubbed by one of their own. Then NASA got their hands on ESAS and tried to pound the square peg into the round NASA hole. That was a good portion of 2005. Well, we’re still dealing with that.

    All the VSE called for was the CEV. The exact words are:

    “C: Space Transportation Capabilities Supporting Exploration
    ·Develop a new crew exploration vehicle to provide crew transportation for missions beyond low Earth orbit;
    ·Separate to the maximum practical extent crew from cargo transportation to the International Space Station and for launching exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit;”

    That’s it. No National Space Transportation System (read: ESAS), just a CEV. That probably could have been done pretty close to the 2012 deadline. Now – no way.

    As for O’Keefe’s’unauditable mess’, he was of course only trying to clean up the mess from the Goldin years, when the fine art of budget manipulation reached an apex under the pressures of FBC. That, I imagine, was a forensic accounting nightmare.

  • anonymous

    “The fact that he chose to implement the VSE in a way that is currently not meeting even his internal goals should be proof enough.”

    As I tried to do at the beginning of this thread, I think Mr. Goff has hit it on the head here. Even if you’re not worried about the budgetary and political sustainability of the ESAS implementation plan, even if you like Ares 1 and Orion, and even if you could care less about the impacts to other NASA programs, the sad, sad reality is that Griffin’s plan and subsequent execution has been unable to meet even the minimal goal of keeping the post-Shuttle gap in U.S. human space flight operations from reaching Shuttle/Apollo proportions. According to all of his testimony and speeches, this has been his number one goal since his first day on the job. And he can’t even achieve that. Again, I don’t know how else to describe that other than as the definition of impotent and ineffectual leadership.

    And the alarming thing to me is that the trend doesn’t seem to be reversing or stopping yet. In the span of two years under Griffin, we’ve gone from a two-year gap, to a four-year gap, to a five-year gap. And since NASA’s 2008 budget request is such a large increase over the NASA budget that Congress passed in 2007 (almost seven percent, IIRC), we’re probably looking at a six- or seven-year gap at this time next year. Personally, I don’t place as much importance on the gap as Griffin does, but if the fact that ESAS/Ares 1/Orion isn’t meeting Griffin’s own top priority isn’t a call for change, I don’t know what is.

  • anonymous

    “Yes let’s all stick out little knives into Griffin’s back.”

    I doubt anyone on this forum is close enough to Griffin to actually be stabbing him in the back. I’ll admit that I’ve had a couple conversations with the man, as have many folks in the space community, but I’m not an employee, associate, advisor, or friend of Griffin and have never been mistreated or well treated by him. My critiques are of the man’s policies, plans, and performance in the position of NASA Administrator. It’s not in any way personal.

    “After all what has he achieved in 25 months? Waking NASA up and getting it back to exploration”

    I think we have the sacrifice of the Columbia astronauts, the contributors to the CAIB report, the Bush White House, and O’Keefe’s tenure to thank for that — not Griffin, who was heading Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab when the VSE was formulated, announced, and for the first year or so of its existence.

    “cleaning up O’Keefe’s unauditable mess”

    Actually, last I checked, Griffin’s NASA was still earning reds for “Financial Management” under the President’s Management Agenda. (Yep, see http://www.whitehouse.gov/results/agenda/fy07q2_scorecard.pdf.) I’d guess that the poor rating (and NASA’s continued inability to earn a clean independent audit) has more to do with the performance (or lack thereof) of NASA’s CFO, Gwen Sykes, who served under both O’Keefe and Griffin, than either of the Administrators. In fact, a good question would be, given her vast underperformance, why hasn’t Griffin gotten rid of Sykes yet? (I have no clue myself unless she has protectors in the Congress or White House.)

    “shutting down the Shuttle program”

    Again, I think we have the sacrifice of the Columbia astronauts, the contributors to the CAIB report, the Bush White House, and O’Keefe’s tenure to thank for that — not Griffin, who was heading Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab when the Shuttle 2010 termination decision was made and later announced by the President at NASA HQ.

    “returning the Shuttle to flight”

    That happened under Griffin’s tenure and he deserves credit for some technical calls, but the effort was well underway before Griffin was on board.

    “finally getting a real Shuttle replacement started”

    I guess if one is an Ares 1/Orion fan, then that’s more real. But I’d take a smaller, more easily realized capsule on an existing, flight-proven booster (or at least a booster with actual heritage systems) and substantially smaller total budgetary and schedule requirements over the much greater budgetary, schedule, and technical risks associated with an unnecessarily large capsule and a non-existant, unproven booster with razor-thin margins and several new subsystem developments in its critical path.

    “controlling the almost out of control science budget”

    Well, there’s some spin for us. I have a very hard time defining budget cuts totalling several billion dollars — and the associated halving of grant programs, the halving of Mars missions, the complete elimination of other mission lines, etc. (see earlier comments above) — as bringing the science budget under “control”. Please…

    “getting ISS assembly restarted and the crew back to three,”

    Again, that happened under Griffin’s tenure and he deserves credit for some technical calls, but the effort was well underway before Griffin was on board.

    “producing a feasible architecture to implement the VSE,”

    What about ESAS is feasible? The fact that Griffin has delayed and effectively handed control of the decision to start actual exploration hardware development to the next White House? The fact that the post-Shuttle human space flight gap has more than doubled to five years in the span of just two years of Griffin’s tenure? The fact that NASA needs an unprecedented seven percent increase from Congress in its FY08 budget to avoid extending the gap again to six or seven years? The fact that Ares 1 is so underpowered and inflexible that the lunar architecture has no design margin despite having at least 13 years of development in front of it?

    See above for more discussion.

    “lastly energizing, unifying and setting a new course for the listless, drifting NASA”

    Again, I think we have the sacrifice of the Columbia astronauts, the contributors to the CAIB report, the Bush White House, and O’Keefe’s tenure to thank for that — not Griffin, who was heading Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab when the VSE was formulated, announced, and started.

    “Yes let’s carve our notches in his reputation”

    Again, unless Griffin changes direction soon, I don’t think he’s going to have much of a legacy, at least at NASA.

    “safe in the knowledge that most of us are anonymous.”

    Please… it’s hypocritical to criticize someone for posting anonymously when you’re posting anonymously as well. Moreover, Mr. Foust has repeatedly stated that anonymous comments are welcome on this forum and that folks should not be criticized for posting anonymously when their day jobs require otherwise.

    “EELVs! We want NASA to buy EELVs and Dr. Griffin stands in our way.”

    Just to put all the cards on the table, I, for one, am agnostic regarding what should replace Ares 1 and Orion and have nothing invested in ULA, DIRECT, or any other alternative. Such an important decision with multi-decadal impacts deserves deep study and strong competition — much more than what the 90-day (originally 60-day) ESAS effort provided.

  • anonymous

    “Anonymous, you are right on target.”

    Thanks, Mr. Matula.

    “If NASA had gone with a CEV on Atlas V they would probably be flight testing boiler plates now.”

    Not that I favor EELV over any other alternative, but it would be interesting to compare the schedule for Steidle’s CEV development (which explicitely called for a boilerplate version and EELV flight) against Ares 1/Orion progress. I think you’re right — there would have been a boilerplate flight by now, maybe next year at the outside.

    “This also puts the ball in Congress’s court. If they don’t want those nice high paying aerospace jobs in Utah and Louisiana to go away to go away with Ares I and Ares V, then let THEM fight to increase NASA’s budget to fund Ares I and Ares V. If they don’t then at least NASA will have a workable architecture for a return to the Moon.”

    The workforce is the fundamental conundrum of any transition off Shuttle, whether to ESAS/Ares or something else. Keep that workforce for the sake of politics and the next architecture will be just as expensive and overburdened. Get rid of them and risk making the effort politically unsustainable. That said, I think the political issues associated with the transition could be managed in a gradual manner with a clear, transparent plan. But they cannot be managed the way Griffin is doing it — with no concrete plan to communicate to Congress and pushing all the potential pain into the future and onto an unnamed successor. That’s a sure recipe for failure.

    “And forget Mars, trying to decided what vehicles we should be building to go to Mars now is like someone in 1915 deciding what a WWII heavy bomber should look like.”

    Agreed. Well put.

    “Also, unstated in any of these budget discussions is that the Shuttle schedule generated b NASA to finish ISS is just not sustainable. NASA will need to come to a decision in the next year.”

    Good point. Something to watch in the coming months. (FWIW, O’Keefe’s unrealistic post-Columbia STS flight and ISS servicing and assembly plan is something I would have criticized him for during his tenure.)

  • anonymous

    Mr. Whittington wrote “False or at the very least unproven.”

    Very far from it. Indulge me and let me tick off the facts and arguments with respect to each claim. Again, ESAS, Ares 1, and Orion are woefully flawed in terms of:

    – Technical errors — ESAS itself uses figures and assumptions that variously: are at odds with industry figures (blackout periods and costs for EELVs); have highly questionable biases (using flight reliability numbers for Apollo and Shuttle “heritage” systems that have no flight record, like the upper-stage engine and the 5-segment first-stage); or are just plain wrong or ridiculous (using Shuttle processes as the basis for estimating the costs of human-rating commercial launch vehicles like EELVs, especially when the same processes will not apply to the COTS vehicles).

    The ESAS analysis, selection criteria, and requirement are also flawed or missing analytical elements common to these types of studies. Instead of optimizing and finding the knee in the curve where the minimal investment and time could generate the maximum capability and safety, ESAS simply tries to find the safest (and, to a lesser extent, most capable) architecture, with costs and schedule as a secondary (really tertiary) consideration. There is also no attempt to understand the marginal (likely high) costs of adding crew to the architecture (e.g., four versus two crew on the Moon) or of adding safety requirements to the architecture, among other things. And the criteria are missing important elements like national benefits of the architecture beyond NASA (e.g., military, commercial), competitive considerations (monopoly suppliers versus two or more suppliers), potential for international contributions (to help lock in the effort with a foreign policy rationale), etc. Heck, ESAS, supposedly a comprehensive study of launch vehicle options, missed identifying and analyzing some important and desirable hardware combinations (like the DIRECT 2 proposal, for example).

    Don’t get me wrong. Unlike some folks I’ve read in other fora, I’m not claiming that there was some big conspiracy behind ESAS. Rather, I suspect that, like any quick, 60- or 90-day study with a limited number of participants (e.g., the blue-ribbon panel that recommended the ISS configuration prior to the Ruskies coming on board or the group that developed the Bush I Moon/Mars report), the errors and flaws in ESAS are more a function of the time allowed and the limited people involved. Based on history, rigorous competition — ideally through development and demonstration procurements, but at least through multiple studies — works much better than annointing one group as the know-alls/be-alls, because realistically they never can be. But even if Griffin was uncomfortable with industry competition or competing industry studies (as Steidle successfully executed), there should at least have been an independent study by a non-profit (e.g., Aerospace Corp, RAND, National Academies) as a check on ESAS.

    Regardless, as a practical consideration, I think the next White House is going to have to revisit ESAS in another study or set of studies or competitions, in fact if not in name.

    Finally, the technical issues surrounding Ares 1′s lack of performance and the impact that’s having on Orion’s capabilities and the margins for, flexibility of, and performance of the lunar architecture are worthy of at least passing mention. I won’t reiterate all the problems here — they are discussed in agonizing depth on nasaspaceflight.com and elsewhere. The bottomline is that — contrary to the history of every other aerospace development project — there is no margin left for further design and development changes. Heaven help NASA if Ares 1/Orion don’t close or encounter a technical setback that eats up the remaining performance margin.

  • anonymous

    Continuation of my response to Mr. Whittington’s post. Must be bumping up against word limits. I’ll put each point in a separate post.

    – Impact to other NASA programs — I doubt this one is very debatable any more, but for the sake of argument… Even if one is a fan of ESAS, Ares, and Orion, the reality is that a few billion dollars have been taken out of NASA’s science budget and that NASA’s aeronautics budget has been nearly cut in half to keep ESAS, Ares, and Orion on track. At some level, a little pain in other NASA programs, in exchange for a sustainable human space exploration effort, is worth it. But the magnitude of these cuts is hugely damaging and verging on the ridiculous — grant programs cut in half, the number of Mars missions cut in half, annual science mission flight rates plummeting from 7-9 per annum to 2 per annum, no future missions to search for extrasolar planets (a major element of the VSE), no future outer moons missions (another major element of the VSE), no future high-energy astrophysics missions… I could go on and on and still not touch Earth science or aeronautics. No matter how much one likes Ares 1/Orion, no new civil LEO launcher and human capsule is worth the loss of these programs — especially when the launcher duplicates military/private capabilities, the capsule is larger than needed for the task, and both are enlarging (not closing) the U.S. human space flight gap after Shuttle’s retirement.

  • anonymous

    Here’s the third point in response to Mr. Whittington’s post (again, please indulge me while I back up my earlier assertions):

    – Budgetary Realities — Just to get ESAS kicked off, Griffin had to send a budget adjustment to Congress that wiped out a large chunk of ISS research, nuclear power systems development, and other human exploration technology development. Now we can argue over the value of ISS research, whether Prometheus was on the right path, or whether other human space flight technology plans were focused enough. But regardless of their value, the fact that Griffin had to cancel billions of dollars of other programs just to get his ESAS implementation plan for the VSE started shows that the programs that became Ares 1, Orion, Ares V, and LSAM were precariously funded and out of whack with budgetary realities from the get-go.

    And all that was way before the Bush White House didn’t meet its budget commitments to the VSE for a couple years in a row and before the new Democratic Congress flat-funded the exploration budget in FY07. Any sensible, risk-adjusted budget plan for any long-term project includes margin, disposable elements, or off-ramps to deal with the inevitable budget changes from above. Not only did ESAS not have any of that, it actually had to take the budgets from other programs just to get going. From a budgetary perspective, ESAS was a highly risky plan that was doomed to major setbacks from its inception.

    Anyone who has managed or budgeted for multi-year development projects in the government or the corporate worlds could have guessed that the budgetary good times would come to an end at some point and planned for it. It was as simple as sending the ESAS team back to the drawing board, rebalancing the criteria used to select the final ESAS architecture, or assuring that the ESAS team was using conservative budget constraints to begin with. To not have done any of those things before the final ESAS decision was made and announced represents severe managerial and planning hubris.

  • anonymous

    And here’s the fourth and final point. Thanks to anyone who has stayed with it this far.

    – Political Sustainability — The VSE rightfully made a big deal about the need to sustain the exploration effort over many elections, Presidents, and Congresses. And probably the single most important thing that could be done to ensure the effort’s sustainability was to get some amounts of actual human exploration hardware underway (i.e., Ares V and LSAM) before the 2008 elections. It is incredibly hard to cancel something in Washington (or anywhere) once substantial dollars have been sunk into it.

    Unfortunately, ESAS started out with its budget ramp-up for actual exploration hardware not starting until 2009. The situation has only gotten worse, as budget cutbacks and technical issues have arisen on Ares 1/Orion. Now the ramp-up for Ares V and LSAM doesn’t start until is way out in 2011-12. That’s at the end of the term of the President AFTER George W. Bush! Pushing exploration so far over the horizon makes it incredibly easy for the next White House — which, regardless of party, is going to face monumental budget challenges between the baby boomer retirement, medical costs, the war on terrorism, and energy R&D — to terminate those lunar elements, put the VSE money to work outside NASA, and defer human exploration for another Presidency.

    I personally think that trading the start of actual exploration hardware development for a duplicative Ares 1 launch vehicle and an oversized Orion capsule is the greatest tragedy and error of Griffin’s tenure (on par with Truly’s insufficient response to — and maybe sinking of — Bush I’s Space Exploration Initiative) and of the ESAS recommendations. But even if one is a fan of Ares 1/Orion, it’s very hard to argue that we are not sacrificing very rare and valuable window of political opportunity to get the camel’s nose under the tent with regard to actual human exploration hardware development for Griffin’s chosen LEO capability.

  • Ken Murphy wrote: “As for O’Keefe’s’unauditable mess’, he was of course only trying to clean up the mess from the Goldin years, …”

    The bean counter himself was brought in to clear up the mess. After more than three years he didn’t succeed other than in crippling the ISS. Griffin inherited the new mess directly from him. One thing O’Keefe did accomplish was the VSE, he may be forgiven for almost everything else.

    Oh and one more achievement on Griffin’s watch, the start of the COTS program, but no doubt there will be many here who will endeavor to destroy that too before it’s had a chance to succeed.

  • …one more achievement on Griffin’s watch, the start of the COTS program, but no doubt there will be many here who will endeavor to destroy that too before it’s had a chance to succeed.

    That’s actually probably one of the few things that people here wholeheartedly support. Do you fantasize that we oppose things simply because Mike Griffin started them? This isn’t about personalities. It’s about policy.

  • It’s about policy.

    No, Rand, it’s about ‘you’re doing a heckava job, Alberto’.

  • anonymous

    “The bean counter himself was brought in to clear up the mess. After more than three years he didn’t succeed other than in crippling the ISS.”

    O’Keefe was brought in after Goldin and Abbey’s $5 billion or so overrun in the ISS program, which forced the cancellation of the CRV and Hab Module. To be honest, the decisions on those offsets were made, and the ISS Management and Cost Evaluation Task Force created, long before O’Keefe came on board as NASA Administrator, although I imagine he had something to do with them in his prior position at OMB.

    ISS accouting was obviously a shambles before O’Keefe came on board. By all accounts I’ve heard, O’Keefe brought in a military manager or two, who put in place an information management system that largely resolved the problems that led to the overrun. I think the reports of the IMCE largely testify to this.

    “Griffin inherited the new mess directly from him.”

    To the extent you’re referring to NASA’s overall accounting woes, nothing has changed in the two years Griffin has been on board. (O’Keefe didn’t solve NASA’s overall accounting problems, but neither has Griffin.) NASA still earns a red rating from the White House for Financial Managment under the President’s Managment Agenda and cannot pass independent audits. See NASA’s rating in the scorecard here:

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/results/agenda/fy07q2_scorecard.pdf.

    Again, I’d guess that the poor rating — and NASA’s continued inability to earn a clean independent audit — has little to do with either Administrator and more to do with the performance (or lack thereof) of NASA’s CFO, Gwen Sykes. But given her vast underperformance, a fair question to ask is why Griffin hasn’t fired Sykes yet? He’s had over two years to find a new CFO, after all.

    “Oh and one more achievement on Griffin’s watch, the start of the COTS program,”

    Like STS return-to-flight and the resumption of ISS assembly, yes, COTS procurements were released and competitors selected during Griffin’s tenure. But also like STS return-to-flight and the resumption of ISS assembly, the effort was started under O’Keefe, not Griffin. In fact, it was O’Keefe’s staff at OMB who pushed the idea on Space Operations originally. (Space Operations largely dropped the ball.) Steidle and his staff also deserve credit for independently pursuing commercial human space flight services. In fact, it’s their work that became COTS.

    “but no doubt there will be many here who will endeavor to destroy that too before it’s had a chance to succeed.”

    I, for one, would love to see COTS succeed. Unfortunately, Griffin has already taken the first step to disassembling COTS. Griffin’s FY08 budget proposal includes a multi-hundred million cut to the outyear budget for COTS services. The budget cut reduces the market that Space-X and Kistler are relying on to repay their investors. I’d argue that the business case for COTS will always be specious as long as NASA pursues its own in-house competitor (Ares 1/Orion) — when push comes to shove in the budget, Griffin or his successor will be forced by political considerations to favor Ares 1/Orion over COTS. But Griffin making these cuts to COTS so early in the program exceeds even my worst fears. I had hoped that the program would survive the remainder of Griffin’s tenure, but the realist in me is not so sure now.

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • Anonymous, your insight and wisdom into the problem before us is dead on.

    Of greater concern is not that Mike’s judgment/team is imperfect but that they appear to be perfectly willing to fiddle away while NASA burns rather than admitting to mistakes/problems (not entirely of the their own making) and move towards a better solution.

    My feeling is that the situation won’t change until congress requires it to change via the recommendations of a non-contrived study done jointly by NASA, Rand, CBO and the OMB. With DIRECT, All-ELV, ESAS, plus anything else all on the table.

    Any ideas on other solutions or a way to get the above kicked off?

  • My feeling is that the situation won’t change until congress requires it to

    The situation will change when the next administration kills VSE entirely.

  • MarkWhittington

    “The fact that he chose to implement the VSE in a way that is currently not meeting even his internal goals should be proof enough. What in your opinion would actually constitute proof that would convince you? Or is this just a religious argument?”

    Cute, Jon, when you can’t make a coherent argument, call names.

  • Anonymous: Such an important decision with multi-decadal impacts deserves deep study and strong competition — much more than what the 90-day (originally 60-day) ESAS effort provided

    While I agree with the competition part of this, I can’t help thinking that the last thing we need is “deep study.” We’ve been studying how to get to Earth’s moon for my entire lifetime. After we’d been there, we studied some more. We’ve regularly been to orbit. We have a long heritage of reliable equipment and skills. If we can’t return to the moon now without further “deep study,” we’re never going to go at all.

    To embark on another long set of expensive studies now would be a failure of leadership as great or greater than anything demonstrated by Dr. Griffin. For all its many faults, we’re better off now continuing to execute the current flawed plan than to start over on yet another set of studies.

    Which does not mean I disagree with this, there should at least have been an independent study by a non-profit (e.g., Aerospace Corp, RAND, National Academies) as a check on ESAS. That should still happen, with an emphasis on how to make the current effort work, but that is quite different from starting from scratch with a set of clean-sheet studies. I also agree that there are significant tweaks to the current plan that could make it easier or cheaper — e.g., cut weight from Orion by reducing crew to three or even two, get rid of everything not needed for lunar missions and rely on a better financed COTS for Space Station supply — but again, these are modifications, not a new plan. If there is not enough money to execute the current plan, there is certainly not enough money to start over from scratch.

    From a budgetary perspective, ESAS was a highly risky plan that was doomed to major setbacks from its inception.

    The problem is, while it would have been less expensive, any realistic EELV-and-small-capsule plan probably would not have been all that much cheaper. It is an unfortunate real-world truth that if we were going to return astronauts to the moon without significantly increasing NASA’s budget while simultaneously flying out the Shuttle and completing the Space Station, any plan was going to eat into NASA’s existing projects. It will not be “cheap” to fly to the moon any time in the foreseeable future. Thus, many of the financial problems start from the top, not Dr. Griffin — but the current Administration has never had a good handle on basic Quicken skills.

    Please don’t take this personally, but the problem with your excellent analysis — much of which I agree with — is that you are graphically showing problems and the failures of Dr. Griffin’s management, but not solutions. I wish you would put as much effort into a detailed plan going forward from where we are today. You say Dr. Griffin has to do something different. Fine, but what does he have to do that is different that gets us to the moon faster or cheaper than ESAS from where we are today?

    For all his many, many faults, Dr. Griffin has chosen a plan and is trying to execute on it. I’ll take that any day over the endless expensive studies, or the random technological development efforts leading nowhere, or the overly-ambitious “cheap access to orbit” boondoggles, that we’ve suffered through in the past.

    – Donald

  • MarkWhittington

    The problem with the analysis presented by “Anonymous” is that it’s opinion that doesn’t seem to be buttressed by any evidence. There are people who will state the exact opposite (and under their own names). It’s a little bit tiresome to have to witness, once again, the Internet rumor that VSE is “on the verge of collapse” only to see it proven wrong again.

    The statements by “Anonymous” about budgetary and political sustainability are predicated on the notion that adapting an Atlas V to do the things the Ares 1 is designed to do would cost less, while matching safety and capability. Again contradicted by others who actually have names and provable credentials. Besides, I am astonished at the idea that members of Congress care about the vagaries of hardware. I suspect the that is reason one never hears some of the arguments presented by internet rocketeers in the political realm.

  • MarkWhittington

    BTW:

    “Unfortunately, Griffin has already taken the first step to disassembling COTS. Griffin’s FY08 budget proposal includes a multi-hundred million cut to the outyear budget for COTS services. The budget cut reduces the market that Space-X and Kistler are relying on to repay their investors. I’d argue that the business case for COTS will always be specious as long as NASA pursues its own in-house competitor (Ares 1/Orion) — when push comes to shove in the budget, Griffin or his successor will be forced by political considerations to favor Ares 1/Orion over COTS. But Griffin making these cuts to COTS so early in the program exceeds even my worst fears. I had hoped that the program would survive the remainder of Griffin’s tenure, but the realist in me is not so sure now.”

    I’m not sure how “Anonymous” comes to this conclusion. With the 06/07 money that has already been paid out is taken into account, COTS phase one is still five hundred million dollars. I’m not sure why “Anonymous” believes that Ares/Orion needs to be cancelled. Since COTS is an inherently high risk proposition, Griffin would be very irresponsible indeed not to have a backup plan just in case the alt.space companies cannot step up.

  • Donald wrote:

    “To embark on another long set of expensive studies now would be a failure of leadership as great or greater than anything demonstrated by Dr. Griffin. For all its many faults, we’re better off now continuing to execute the current flawed plan than to start over on yet another set of studies.”

    All plans are flawed this one is fatally flawed. Given that we have spent less than 0.5% of the longer term VSE budget I think we can spend another 0.0005% making sure that we spend the next 99.4995% as efficiently as possible.

    BTW the only plan that the politicians who put Mike in charge care about is the plan that protects their districts iron rice bowl. On that fact and that fact alone the ESAS plans interaction with the limited budget makes it fatally flawed by definition. Direct or something close to it is one solution.

    Mark wrote:

    “Again contradicted by others who actually have names and provable credentials. Besides, I am astonished at the idea that members of Congress care about the vagaries of hardware. I suspect the that is reason one never hears some of the arguments presented by internet rocketeers in the political realm.”

    You might want to find out more about logically fallacies specifically

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_authority

    and the related

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

    Intelligence, position, resume is no guarantee of being just plain dead wrong. A lot of “experts” told us the Space Shuttle was the way to go. They were wrong then and Mike is dead wrong now; my concern is that he will take human spaceflight down with him. Trapped in LEO for another generation.

    I would be hard pressed to come up with a better way of destroying NASA than what he is currently doing.

  • MarkWhittington

    “A lot of “experts” told us the Space Shuttle was the way to go. They were wrong then and Mike is dead wrong now; my concern is that he will take human spaceflight down with him. Trapped in LEO for another generation.”

    Speaking of fallacies, Stephen, one wonders what one has to do with the other. Orion/Ares is not the space shuttle and there were experts (many within NASA) even in the 1970s that were pointing out that the shuttle was not going to work as advertised.

    It seems to me that what were arte witnessing is the Vietnam Syndrome of space. Just as some people (even today) like to yell than any military intervention by the United States is going to be or is “another Vietnam”, then there are people who like to yell than any large scale space project undertaken by NASA is “another shuttle.” I suspect this would be the case even if whatever prefered hardward that one imagined was the one being used.

    As to “appeal to authority” my point was not not those who disagree with “Anonymous” are right or wrong, but that alternate views exist that are just as valid (if not more so since these views come from people with names.) So I wish to be forgiven for not being more fawning to someone whose name I do not know and whose credentials cannot be verified.

  • anonymous

    “The problem with the analysis presented by “Anonymous” is that it’s opinion that doesn’t seem to be buttressed by any evidence.”

    I guess I’m a little disappointed that stayed up late last night writing nine pages worth of arguments, each dense with evidence, only to get this response. I hope Mr. Whittington at least appreciates the effort.

    But maybe it was my own verbosity that did me in. I’ll try to boil it down:

    FACT: ESAS included no sensitivity analysis, had very limited optimization analysis, completely missed important hardware combinations (like the option developed in DIRECT 2), and ignored important criteria regarding national goals, competition, and international cooperation. One only has to read the publicly available ESAS report in some depth to see that the ESAS analysis is missing these important elements.

    FACT: Contrary to ESAS, industry papers (LockMart/Bigelow) show that EELVs can fly human capsules on depressed trajectories without blackout periods and can be human-rated without Shuttle-type processes and costs (as is planned for the COTS vehicles). ESAS also treated safety figures for unflown and substantially altered Shuttle “heritage” components as if they were flight-proven systems. One only has to obtain copies of these papers from the AIAA and read them and the ESAS report in some depth to see that ESAS employed bad data on several occasions.

    FACT: Just to get Ares 1/Orion started, Griffin had to cut billions in ISS research, Prometheus nuclear systems development, and other human space flight technology research. One only has to read the first or second operating plan that NASA sent to Congress under Griffin to see that Ares 1/Orion blew the VSE budget from the get-go, adding enormous and unnecessary risk to the human lunar return effort.

    FACT: Ares 1 is underpowered and Orion must use its own motor as a third-stage to reach orbit. For ISS missions, Ares 1/Orion has no design/development margin left. According to Horowitz’s own press presentation available on the web, all the remaining margin is performance margin. It’s hard to imagine, contrary to the history of aerospace project development, that Ares 1 and/or Orion will avoid further problems and not eat into that performance margin. At what point the performance margin becomes too thin and a major, time-consuming, and expensive design change is necessary to avoid impacting mission reliability and crew safety is hard to predict, but it’s highly probable given how much of the development of these systems still lies in front of the program.

    FACT: To keep from totally blowing the schedule for Ares 1/Orion, Griffin has had to cut billions from the NASA science budget and nearly halve the aeronautics budget. These cuts are reducing the annual flight rate for new science missions from a 7 to 9 per annum to 2 per annum. The cuts have also halved key VSE research grant programs, halved the number of Mars missions, and completely eliminated future missions to address other key VSE targets (extrasolar planets, outer moons) or in other space science disciplines (high-energy astrophysics). I won’t even get into the Earth science and aeronautics impacts. One only has to compare Griffin’s budget proposals and operating plans on the NASA CFO website and read the Congressional testimony of various National Academy chairs to tally these cuts and their impacts.

    FACT: Despite all the billions thrown at the ESAS implementation plan, no significant work will begin on any actual human lunar exploration elements (such as Ares V and LSAM) until the second half of the Presidency that will follow the George W. Bush White House. One only has to read Griffin’s budget proposals on the NASA CFO website and his Congressional testimony to see that Griffin’s chosen LEO capability has pushed the decision on whether to return humans to the Moon well past the next election, putting the “E” in “VSE” at great political risk.

    FACT: Despite all the billions thrown at Ares 1 and Orion, the post-Shuttle human space flight gap — suppossedly Griffin’s top priority since day one as NASA Administrator — has more than doubled to five years in the span of just two years under his leadership (from 2010-2012 when Griffin started to 2010-2015 today). And, given that NASA must get Congress to pass a highly unlikely seven percent increase in the FY08 budget just to keep this schedule, the gap is very likely to grow by at least another year to two (from 2010-2015 today to 2010-2016 or 2017 a year from now). One only has to read Griffin’s budget proposals on the NASA CFO website and his Congressional testimony to see that Griffin has been unwilling or unable to make adjustments in order execute even his topmost priority with any effectiveness.

    “There are people who will state the exact opposite (and under their own names). It’s a little bit tiresome to have to witness, once again, the Internet rumor.”

    Let’s be very clear. Unlike Mr. Whittington’s unsubstantiated reference to “people that will state the exact opposite”, I’m NOT referencing internet rumors, hearsay from my day job, or documents that I have access to but that are not publicly available. I’m referencing publicly available documents that anyone can read on a NASA or Congressional website or by making a request to the AIAA.

    I’d also remind Mr. Whittington that the forum administrator welcomes anonymous comments and frowns on criticizing such comments simply because they are anonymous.

    “that VSE is “on the verge of collapse” only to see it proven wrong again.”

    FWIW, I really do hope the VSE is salvaged is some form, either under Griffin (and I would give him kudos for doing so) or after him. But the VSE is not ESAS, and I think it’s going to take the major change in direction away from ESAS to save the VSE.

    My 2 cents…

  • Mark wrote:

    “Speaking of fallacies, Stephen, one wonders what one has to do with the other. Orion/Ares is not the space shuttle and there were experts (many within NASA) even in the 1970s that were pointing out that the shuttle was not going to work as advertised.”

    The Ares cannot place Orion beyond LEO. Therefore while it “may” be safer it is also less capable than the Space Shuttle and not as safe or capable as the Jupiter-120. Therefore the Ares I doesn’t represent any significant progress towards advancing human spaceflight out of LEO which “is” the cornerstone of VSE. The fact that Ares I also duplicates what we already have in ELV’s while leaving our existing heavy lift infrastructure to the ravages of time and politics only adds further injury.

    During the run up to the be all end all Space Shuttle there were also individuals (99.999% outside NASA and for the same reasons then as now) like myself who didn’t ape the official NASA kool-aid. NASA was wrong then it’s wrong now.

    The people I have communicated with that are actually making a courageous attempt at implementing this terrible idea don’t share your glorious assessment of the shaft. The environment in the trenches is one of fear. Fear of telling truth to power because they want to keep their jobs. This is no way to run any program.

    Space doesn’t suffer fools, wishful thinking, or arrogance gladly.

  • anonymous

    “I’m not sure how “Anonymous” comes to this conclusion. With the 06/07 money that has already been paid out is taken into account, COTS phase one is still five hundred million dollars.”

    Aboslutely right. The cut was in the outyears, to the budget for the future Phase 2 services procurement. See Griffin’s FY08 budget proposal on the NASA CFO website.

    The NASA Phase 1 money is only a fraction of what Space-X and Kistler need to build and flight-test their vehicles. They must raise the remainder through private financing. Those private investors get paid back, plus interest, through the revenue from Phase 2 services procurement.

    The more NASA cuts out of the budget for the Phase 2 services procurement, the less future revenue is available to Space-X and Kistler to pay back their investors, and that much harder it is for them to raise private financing from those investors.

    “I’m not sure why “Anonymous” believes that Ares/Orion needs to be cancelled.”

    It’s not the Ares 1/Orion designs per se (although they should be cancelled for other reasons), but the fact that NASA is building an in-house competitor to COTS. When push comes to shove in the budget and Ares 1/Orion starts competing with COTS for NASA dollars (in fact, COTS has already gotten shoved in the FY08 budget proposal), Griffin or his successor will have no choice — due to the NASA jobs involved, Congressional pork-barrel politics, and the relative dollars sunk into each — but to cut COTS further in favor of Ares 1/Orion.

    Investors are not stupid — they can see the inherent conflict coming from miles away. (And besides, it’s already happening in the outyears of the FY08 budget with the cuts to the budget for the Phase 2 services procurement.) And they’re not going to pour dollars into the COTS vehicles with that kind of risk sitting out in the future. Kistler is already missing its financing milestones because of this issue (see Logsdon’s comments at the last meeting of the NASA Advisory Council), and the same will probably happen to Space-X when Musk is done putting his own dollars into that company.

    “Since COTS is an inherently high risk proposition, Griffin would be very irresponsible indeed not to have a backup plan just in case the alt.space companies cannot step up.”

    Sure. But there’s a world of difference between a true backup plan (e.g., contract with ULA for a small capsule on an EELV with minimal modifications) or even a fair and open competition (e.g., widely compete NASA LEO transport needs and pick one EELV- or STS-derived vehicle along with couple “new space” vehicles and require cost-sharing and future service competitions out of all of them) and what’s happened under ESAS and with Ares 1/Orion and COTS. The former approaches minimize the inherent conflicts created by the NASA jobs involved, Congressional pork-barrel politics, and the relative dollars sunk into each while the latter has greatly magnified those conflicts.

    Finally, I’d just add that even COTS Phase 1 is way underbudgeted for the given requirements. On the EELV development program — another government/industry cost-sharing launch vehicle development program –the Air Force contributed twice the dollars that NASA has contributed to COTS Phase 1. But the COTS requirements — because they involve ISS docking and Earth reentry — are several times tougher than the EELV requirements (just deliver satellites to LEO). So, although I hope Space-X and Kistler can work much smarter than LockMart and Boeing did on EELV, I doubt they can be six or eight times smarter.

    Unlike some folks, I don’t think COTS was a conspiracy by Griffin and his cronies to buy off the new space players for the lowest possible dollar. Griffin’s testimony and speeches indicate that he really does care about commercial space. But why Griffin bothered with COTS at all when he must have known that he was vastly underfunding it is a bit of a mystery to me — unless it’s just viewed as part and parcel of his mistakenly huge bet on ESAS/Ares 1/Orion.

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • Stephen: Given that we have spent less than 0.5% of the longer term VSE budget I think we can spend another 0.0005% making sure that we spend the next 99.4995% as efficiently as possible.

    The problem is, when we start down that road, we end up spending 95% of the budget on studies, and then when nobody likes the selected results, re-studying the studies, leaving nothing except budget increases to pay for the actual development. Recall the sorry early history of the Space Station, which is a far better example of what to avoid than the Shuttle. If we start over on ESAS now, we’ll spend a ton of money developing a new plan, chances are it won’t be any cheaper than the current one, than everyone whose study was not picked will start screaming this [plan] is fatally flawed, and we’ll be right back where we are now only with even less money. (Don’t forget, we’ve already changed course once, from Mr. O’Keefe’s ideas to ESAS.)

    the only plan that the politicians who put Mike in charge care about is the plan that protects their districts iron rice bowl.

    Welcome to the real world. No human society, ever, has been able to avoid this kind of politics (and note that dictatorships are usually far worse than democracies and republics). That is the environment that any public project financed by an entire nation must live in. This includes any publically financed returning to the moon. We will accomplish far more by figuring out how to get to the moon in a meaningful way within that environment, than to wish it didn’t exist.

    – Donald

  • My feeling is that the situation won’t change until congress requires it to change via the recommendations of a non-contrived study done jointly by NASA, Rand, CBO and the OMB.

    [blush]

    I’m not worthy, but thanks for the thought. ;-)

  • Donald wrote: If we can’t return to the moon now without further “deep study,” we’re never going to go at all.

    The issue was never how to return to the moon. The issue (which NASA seems to have completely forgotten, and ignored the Aldrich Commission as well) was how to do it sustainably. From that standpoint, ESAS is, and always has been, a disaster.

  • richardb

    Interesting topic. Donald’s call for alternatives rather than brickbats has also been a cottage industry on “nasaspaceflight.com” and elsewhere. The problem with the alternatives is Congress won’t adequately fund them either. If EELV could be proven to be X billions cheaper, guess what? Congress would take X billions out of Nasa. I think this gives an incentive to Nasa to add a design restriction to their big projects…..maximize political influence in Congress, you might call it.

    The irony is that while Nasa has a proud record of solving tough engineering problems, they don’t have a comparable record of solving tough political problems. These political solutions have caused engineering problems that Nasa is justifiably proud to have solved. Griffin has been around a very long time and knows the game Nasa must play with Congress. I think the CLV & Ares V are his gambits taking into account that extra design parm.

  • John Malkin

    It seems that it might be possible for the space advocacy groups to champion a study to validate the best path forward to meet the nations manned space requirements which is low cost and safe access to space for people and cargo. I’m sure the agenda for ISDC is already set but maybe someone could sneak it into the proceedings.

    I agree 100%!

    I would like to see Donald and Jeff added to that list for the non-contrived study group (NCSG).

  • John Malkin

    I messed up my tag. It’s a terriable thing to mess up a tag. I was agreeing with Donalds comment:

    Welcome to the real world. No human society, ever, has been able to avoid this kind of politics (and note that dictatorships are usually far worse than democracies and republics). That is the environment that any public project financed by an entire nation must live in. This includes any publically financed returning to the moon. We will accomplish far more by figuring out how to get to the moon in a meaningful way within that environment, than to wish it didn’t exist.

  • Donald wrote:

    In response to my statement “the only plan that the politicians who put Mike in charge care about is the plan that protects their districts iron rice bowl.”

    “Welcome to the real world. No human society, ever, has been able to avoid this kind of politics (and note that dictatorships are usually far worse than democracies and republics). That is the environment that any public project financed by an entire nation must live in. This includes any publically financed returning to the moon. We will accomplish far more by figuring out how to get to the moon in a meaningful way within that environment, than to wish it didn’t exist.”

    Donald, I think we agree on this point. My point is while Mike’s plan started out on this “poltically” correct path, ESAS would have been difficult enough under the ever increasing budget originally promised to NASA. Under the current congressional leadership and the actual budget cut over the next three years has definitely pushed ESAS into fantasy land territory.

    The Ares I’s overlap with ELV’s, Griffins COTS slush fund, the raiding of unmanned exploration, wholesale layoffs at KSC and JCS coming after STS retirement and chopping up of the ET and KSC facilities to build a non-STS derivative know as the Ares V painted orange is the problem.

    Mike will eventually be gone the only question is when and how much more damage will be done to NASA before this happens. I’m suggesting the Direct offers a way for everyone to succeed.

    Under no circumstance would we ever plan to leave a politician behind. Far from it we need as many as possible to agree with the plan or it’s DOA. That is precisely why Direct works and why an all ELV or ESAS approach doesn’t’ work. It doesn’t adhere to the prime directive “no cuts in my district”.

  • Far from it we need as many as possible to agree with the plan or it’s DOA. That is precisely why Direct works and why an all ELV or ESAS approach doesn’t’ work.

    No, any single plan is demonstrably the wrong plan. We’ve got enough assets that all plans will work. We need to proceed on broad, well funded multiple fronts, and all fronts are supported at the fundamental level by propulsion. What we lack is the will, the money and the leaders capable of pulling it off.

  • anonymous

    “While I agree with the competition part of this, I can’t help thinking that the last thing we need is “deep study.” We’ve been studying how to get to Earth’s moon for my entire lifetime.”

    Yes and no. You’re right that there have been an endless slew of lunar and Mars architecture studies since the 1950s, but the vast majority of them are point-design exercises — developing and advocating a particular architecture and set of vehicles and systems to meet a particular set of requirements and assumptions.

    What ESAS tried to do was find the optimum solution from among a wide set of possible vehicles and systems — a good and necessary goal before setting out on such an initiative, even if the execution fell short. It’s something that’s been done routinely for LEO transport (e.g., STAS was probably the latest example from a few years ago for NASA civil applications), but very rarely for lunar or Mars transport.

    “To embark on another long set of expensive studies now would be a failure of leadership as great or greater than anything demonstrated by Dr. Griffin…”

    While I sympathize, I don’t know how it’s avoided at this point if NASA is going to change course. ESAS has so many bad data points, so many poor assumptions, and so much missing analysis — most of which bears on critical decisions — that the situation really demands that the analysis be revisited, revised, or redone.

    I’d argue it’s a failure of Dr. Griffin’s leadership to have had the hubris to believe that a 60-day study by one limited team could have found a good (forget optimal) LEO and lunar architecture. Even starting from scratch, this kind of optimization analysis requires months of options-generation and number-crunching, ideally by multiple competing teams. Witness the year-long CE&R industry and NASA studies under Steidle or the year-long STAS industry and NASA studies before the VSE.

    “I also agree that there are significant tweaks to the current plan that could make it easier or cheaper — e.g., cut weight from Orion by reducing crew to three or even two”

    Apologies for using your words against you, but this is one important example of exactly why a revamp of ESAS is needed. ESAS never performed any requirements sensitivity analysis — i.e., how much do we have to pay to get an extra crewmember and is it worth it? And as a result, you (and me and everyone else) still don’t know what the right crew number is.

    It still escapes me how Griffin could have embarked on a multi-decadal human space exploration effort costing tens of billions of taxpayer dollars without performing even the basic homework needed to understand the specific costs and benefits of different crew sizes in the context of the various competing architectures. Same goes for sensitivity analysis regarding mission reliability or crew safety — how much we pay for each incremental increase or added process — another woeful omission from the ESAS analysis. I could keep rattling off similar examples of major ESAS flaws, but I’ll refrain for now.

    “For all its many faults, we’re better off now continuing to execute the current flawed plan than to start over on yet another set of studies.”

    Per my points earlier in this thread and regardless of fault, the ESAS implementation plan is no longer executable. It’s inevitable that either ISS assembly will take longer; that NASA won’t get its 7% increase in FY08; or that Ares 1/Orion is going to hit a performance margin wall — any one of which is a major budget buster. And the problem is that NASA has nowhere left to go in its budget or programmatic content/schedule when one or more (probably more) of these events happen.

    I mean, if Griffin is unwilling to adopt a different, less expensive, and faster approach to fielding the next generation of U.S. civil human space flight vehicles, what is left for Griffin to do when the next budget shoe drops? Zero out aeronautics? Send the science mission rate to zero? Go back on his workforce promises and do a RIF or close a field center? Eliminate COTS? Push the start of human lunar systems development past the first term (post-2012) of the President after Bush II? Accept a six- or seven-year gap in post-Shuttle human space flight?

    As far as I can see, there’s no workable choices left absent a major course shift away from ESAS/Ares 1/Orion.

    “Which does not mean I disagree with this, there should at least have been an independent study by a non-profit (e.g., Aerospace Corp, RAND, National Academies) as a check on ESAS. That should still happen,”

    And, as we’ve discussed in prior threads, it would be wise for White House and/or Congressional staff to force such a study on NASA now — in parallel with ongoing Constellation work. Even if they can’t stop Griffin, they need to prepare for his departure. Per your concerns about wasting a year rethinking ESAS, it would be wise to have options ready for discussion with the new White House and Congressional leadership when they come into power after the next election.

    “The problem is, while it would have been less expensive, any realistic EELV-and-small-capsule plan probably would not have been all that much cheaper.”

    Again, I don’t mean to be a cheerleader for EELVs or any other alternative, but industry analysis available in the public domain shows otherwise. Like anything in the aerospace costing biz, the key is the assumed requirements, especially regarding human rating. If we human rate EELVs using the same requirements and processes used to qualify the Shuttle for flight, an EELV is absolutely going to be as expensive as Shuttle. The lazy and unrealistic assumptions behind human-rating EELVs used in ESAS — i.e., just apply Shuttle assumptions — proved this to be true. But if we decide to think smartly and realistically about how NASA should go about human-rating in the future — arguably a good thing to do given how the safety processes applied to Shuttle have not met expectations — or if we just tried to find the knee in the safety versus cost curve, massive dollars and schedule could be saved vice ESAS/Ares 1/Orion.

    And even if we’re skeptical of EELVs or commercial approaches in general, there’s other approaches to Shuttle-derived systems that are much more efficient and capable than Ares I/V. The DIRECT 2 analysis (a hardware combination that ESAS missed) illustrates how one Shuttle-derived vehicle could meet both ISS and lunar architecture needs, make much more efficient use of existing Shuttle systems (instead of using so-called “Shuttle-derived” systems that are basically clean-sheet designs), and make practically no changes to the existing Shuttle infrastructure, creating considerable near-term budget and schedule savings vice Ares 1 and fielding a lunar-capable system years before the less-capable Ares V.

    Again, serious analysis needs to be done to identify the best (or even just verify a much better) option. No study — ESAS, industry teams, NASA employees in the their spare time — should be taken at face value. But when we look at what ESAS screwed up; the fact that there was no competition or check on ESAS; and see what alternatives internally funded industry teams and NASA employees in their spare time have developed independently, the situation is just begging for re-examination.

    “It will not be “cheap” to fly to the moon any time in the foreseeable future.”

    Agreed. But for the most part (unfortunately), we’re not talking about lunar transport systems — we’re still talking about LEO transport systems to get to the ISS. And the solution we’re pursuing to meet that objective is so ridiculously out of whack with the available budget that we won’t seriously discuss lunar transport systems for many years to come.

    “Thus, many of the financial problems start from the top, not Dr. Griffin”

    Again, Ares 1/Orion blew the VSE budget right out of the starting gate — Griffin had to cancel ISS research, nuclear systems development, and other exploration technology research just to get Ares 1/Orion started. Although the Bush Administration has failed to live up to its budget promises with respect to the VSE and the Democratic Congress flat-funded exploration in FY07, there is no good reason for Griffin to have pursued such a budgetarily overextended plan for his LEO systems — especially when it put the dvelopment of his lunar systems in such political peril.

    “Please don’t take this personally, but the problem with your excellent analysis — much of which I agree with — is that you are graphically showing problems and the failures of Dr. Griffin’s management, but not solutions. I wish you would put as much effort into a detailed plan going forward from where we are today.”

    As I’ve done above and in prior threads, I can point to solutions or combinations of solutions that should be worlds better than ESAS/Ares 1/Orion but I really do hesitate to advocate for a particular architecture or set of vehicles. Doing the homework to select the best option, or to just verify a good one, is beyond the skills of any one person.

    “You say Dr. Griffin has to do something different. Fine, but what does he have to do that is different that gets us to the moon faster or cheaper than ESAS from where we are today?”

    Honestly, it should be enough to recognize that the current path is unsustainable. Once that is done, either NASA leadership is capable of setting a new path that is sustainable and in check with reality, or they should resign or be removed from their positions. They’re not earning their salaries and positions otherwise.

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • anonymous

    “The issue was never how to return to the moon. The issue (which NASA seems to have completely forgotten, and ignored the Aldrich Commission as well) was how to do it sustainably. From that standpoint, ESAS is, and always has been, a disaster.”

    Well put.

    Good point on the Aldrich Commission, too. The advice of this Presidential advisory group has been ignored for quite a while now.

  • anonymous

    “My point is while Mike’s plan started out on this “poltically” correct path, ESAS would have been difficult enough under the ever increasing budget originally promised to NASA. Under the current congressional leadership and the actual budget cut over the next three years has definitely pushed ESAS into fantasy land territory.”

    Mr. Metschan hits the nail on the head here. In an effort to create sustainability through Congressional appeasement, Griffin just made ESAS vulnerable to its own unrealistic budgeting. Griffin probably thought he was doing the slick thing politically, but he only managed to outfox himself.

  • Bill White

    I believe this comment by Mr. Metscham from Chris Bergin’s site (he is SMetch at nasaspaceflight, right?) hits the nail on the head:

    From the grass roots level to just below the NASA Executive level “Direct” is very popular (better than 2/3 roughly). I’m as confused as you are as to the problem with Direct at the high level.

    Based on my take on these prior NASA-HQ meetings Sean’s boys didn’t like it because they were clearly going towards the all ELV approach. From Mike’s boys they didn’t like it because they are pretty much Mars firsters so they wanted the largest vehicle that they could get (ie the Ares V).

    An all EELV program (spirals, we want spirals) would have been pork, pork and more pork for Boeing and Lockheed plus it pushes Mars to the “maybe someday” category. Also, an all EELV program closes niches for new players such as Kistler and SpaceX. The Delta line really is intended to provide for ALL of America’s launch needs and Boeing lobbyists would make sure Congress knew that.

    Then, DirectV1.0 had a serious glitch in its numbers but I agree the proponents should be free to take a “mulligan” as suggested by nasaspaceflight commentator “Jim” and now DirectV2.0 appears to hit the sweet spot dead center at the interface of politics and engineering.

    However, DirectV2.0 was only released May 10, 2007, right?

    Perhaps DirectV2.0 never would have surfaced if we had not traced the historical path from Columbia disaster to the O’Keefe/Steidle VSE vision to Griffin’s ESAS. But now, DirectV2.0 does appear to me to be the optimal route for NASA to take.

    That said, I gotta say that the early Jupiter launchers look a whole lot like a very simple plain vanilla in-line Shuttle C and since this could have been and should have been the plan as far back in January 2004 (or 1994?) a whole lot of people (not just Mike Griffin) took their eye off the ball due to an emotional attachment to the shuttle orbiter or an obsession with jumping straight to RLVs.

    A 1994 deployed Jupiter-esque inline shuttle C plus a space tug could have built ISS for a small fraction of what was actually paid.

    Anyway, what matters now is whether DirectV2.0 can get any traction.

    .

  • Bill White

    Add to this:

    A whole lot of people (not just Mike Griffin) took their eye off the ball due to an emotional attachment to the shuttle orbiter or an obsession with jumping straight to RLVs,

    this:

    or perhaps a desire to subsidize DoD D-IV purchases with NASA’s commitment to D-IV as their sole crew launch vehicle.

  • Bill White

    Oh and a PS –

    As for Congressional appeasement, DirectV2.0 seems well designed to accomplish that exact “mission critical” assignment.

  • Dennis Wingo

    Perhaps DirectV2.0 never would have surfaced if we had not traced the historical path from Columbia disaster to the O’Keefe/Steidle VSE vision to Griffin’s ESAS. But now, DirectV2.0 does appear to me to be the optimal route for NASA to take.

    I dispute that Direct 2.0 is the best solution.

    David Christensen’s MAX design is lower risk, greater payload, and lower development costs than the Direct design and could be fielded quicker.

  • Anonymous

    “David Christensen’s MAX design is lower risk, greater payload, and lower development costs than the Direct design and could be fielded quicker.”

    Are there any detailed descriptions of the MAX launcher on the web? I understand that it’s an RD-180 core with 4-seg boosters, but not much else. All I’ve found is a four-paragraph summary through searches.

    Thanks in advance.

  • Al Fansome

    ANONYMOUS: Such an important decision with multi-decadal impacts deserves deep study and strong competition — much more than what the 90-day (originally 60-day) ESAS effort provided.

    DONALD’S RESPONSE TO ANONYMOUS: While I agree with the competition part of this, I can’t help thinking that the last thing we need is “deep study.” We’ve been studying how to get to Earth’s moon for my entire lifetime. After we’d been there, we studied some more. We’ve regularly been to orbit. We have a long heritage of reliable equipment and skills. If we can’t return to the moon now without further “deep study,” we’re never going to go at all.

    Of possible interest, I recall talking to one of Griffin’s people, soon after Griffin came on board. This person stated something like “Mike came here with the 90% plan, already in hand. (Meaning that he has made 90% of the decisions already). He is just letting people have time to figure out what it is.”

    Doug Stanley already knew what answers Griffin wanted, when he was given leadership of the ESAS study. All Stanley needed to do was to read Griffin’s previous writings, including the Planetary Society report that Griffin co-chaired with Owen Garriott.

    I say this to cast light on what I think the biggest weakness of the ESAS study was (and I do agree with Anonymous’ criticisms.) The ESAS did not evaluate key criteria for political sustainability. The ESAS did not evaluate the benefits of each option (including those options which were eliminated before ESAS began) in the areas of “national security”, “economic” and “science” as established by the White House.

    A true systems engineer who was LISTENING to his boss — the White House — would have started with the requirement to maximize “national security”, “economic” and “scientific” benefits. Those were requirements that should have flowed down, and been measured and evaluated.

    They were not.

    That is a fact.

    Mark — if you disagree, please show me in the ESAS report where those key criteria were evaluated.

    WHITTINGTON: It seems to me that what were arte witnessing is the Vietnam Syndrome of space. Just as some people (even today) like to yell than any military intervention by the United States is going to be or is “another Vietnam”, then there are people who like to yell than any large scale space project undertaken by NASA is “another shuttle.” I suspect this would be the case even if whatever prefered hardward that one imagined was the one being used.

    Mark, this implies that we have only one data point of failure on NASA’s part with regards to large scale space projects. If this was true, your criticism would have great merit.

    THE FACTS: Beyond the Shuttle, we have the …

    1) Space Station “Freedom” program, which spent ~$10B and then was effectively cancelled.

    2) X-33 VentureStar, which spent ~$1B to create a hangar queen that never even got close to flight. (X-vehicles are good in principle … it was NASA’s methods of implementing the X-33 program which messed it up. This is a long story.)

    3) X-34 I/X-34 II: NASA spent several hundred million dollars on X-34, after first starting and then rebooting it, before killing the program. The second implementation actually was a pretty good x-vehicle program before Goldin & Company killed this x-vehicle because it did not have dual string avionics.

    4) SLI/CTV/CRV/NLS/ASRM/STAS I/STAS II/STAS III/2nd Gen RLV/ISS Propulsion Module: I have nothing to add. The records of this series of programs speak for themselves.

    CONCLUSION: NASA has had many many chances, in the last several decades to bring about a new space transportation system. Since the end of Apollo, they have an almost perfect record of failure. Most of these programs were led by NASA MSFC, which is now leading the development of the Ares 1 and Ares 5.

    Considering these facts, the burden of proof should be on those who think that ESAS will be different.

    Considering these fact, the burden of proof should be on those who think that MSFC will get this one right.

    Mark, are you willing to acknowledge these facts (instead of ignoring them)?

    Mark, can you explain why this time will be different?

    RAND: The issue was never how to return to the moon. The issue (which NASA seems to have completely forgotten, and ignored the Aldrich Commission as well) was how to do it sustainably. From that standpoint, ESAS is, and always has been, a disaster.

    I totally agree.

    RICHARDB: The irony is that while Nasa has a proud record of solving tough engineering problems, they don’t have a comparable record of solving tough political problems. These political solutions have caused engineering problems that Nasa is justifiably proud to have solved. Griffin has been around a very long time and knows the game Nasa must play with Congress. I think the CLV & Ares V are his gambits taking into account that extra design parm.

    Richard, I totally agree with your core point … except to add that picking a “non-political” for Administrator was a failure of the Bush Administration. The masses in NASA should not be expected to have a world-class understanding of politics — on top of world-class engineering and science capabilities.

    The political job is really the job of the Administrator. He or she must be the link between the requirements of politics (which come from above) and the requirements of engineering and science (which come from below). This is the most important job of the Administrator.

    As I have written about before, the White House should have picked a NASA Administrator who had outstanding management and political credentials — who knows how to work the political process and knows what our elected leaders want because he or she listens, and knows the language. NASA’s first administrator is, to this day, the model of success. Even Griffin acknowledges this.

    Mike Griffin, or somebody with his background and experience, should have been given the Deputy Administrator job. As such, in the end, all of Mike Griffin’s failures are truly the failure of the Bush White House.

    - Al

  • 4) SLI/CTV/CRV/NLS/ASRM/STAS I/STAS II/STAS III/2nd Gen RLV/ISS Propulsion Module: I have nothing to add. The records of this series of programs speak for themselves.

    Don’t forget OMV.

  • MarkWhittington

    “Anonymous” technical statements about the utility of EELVs sounds like a case of dueling experts. One would be more comfortable accepting them if the studies he cites did not come from Boeing and Lockmart. There is no way for the lay person to evaluate the validity of these studies or (certainly) the ones that suggest that Ares 1 is not the great disaster that some have confidently predicted. Are any problems deal stoppers or just the teething difficluties inherent in any large scale, technological development project.

    His budget objections leave out the cause the the budget crunch which does not have anything to do per se with VSE, but with unexpected shuttle return to flight costs and the half billion dollar shortfall that had nothing to do with hardware choices. Nor does he offer any proof that the matter won’t be dealt with except for opinion.

    In any case, while to be sure Jeff can allow anyone to post on his comments site in any way he wants, I am personally uncomfortable with having a debate with someone who refuses to give out his name. No one knows who “Anonymous” is, what his credentials if any are, and what his biases might be.

    Al makes a seemingly valid point, which I think falls down under close examination when one looks at the causes of the X-33, et al debacles. Besides, the only way that NASA can “prove” that it can handle a large scale project is–well–by doing it. So far confident predictions of disaster have not transpired.

  • MarkWhittington

    By the way, “Anonymous”, if you could cite where the phase two COTS funding is located and cite actual numbers, it would be appreciated. In any case, out year numbers that far in advance do not have as much meaning as you might think as they tend to be adjusted from year to year. Your objection about how that affects investment is a bit specious, since there no evidence that either SpaceX or RP/Kistler is having any problem attracting funding. Besides, if ISS resupply were the only market that was being chased, one doubts that there would be too much interest in private investment in a private orbital vehicle any way. In any case, I am fascinated by the idea that private launch companies are so much better than the big, bad gummit, yet need gummit funding to proceed. I can well believe the former but wonder about the latter.

  • Dennis Wingo

    Mark

    The funding difficulties related to the ESAS architecture have nothing to do with any federal budget crunch. If you look at just the pork part of the Iraq bill (@$24 billion dollars) and the fight between the two transportation bills a couple of years ago (they fought about numbers between $275 billion and $385 billion) you will see that NASA is just not a priority to either the administration or congress. This is not because of any inherent lack of value that space development brings to the nation but for the interest by both congress and the White House.

    There is no lack of funds if they want to fund it, there is a lack of enthusiasm for this architecture and a lack of understanding of what this architecture brings to the nation’s economic and security development.

  • Thomas Matula

    Hi All,

    Given the discussion of the ESAS I thought this link might be useful for some of the folks here NOT familiar with the study Dr. Griffin did for the Plantary Society that has been discussed.

    http://www.planetary.org/programs/projects/aim_for_mars/study-report.pdf

    I fail to see any differences between this study and the ESAS. The VSE is independent of the ESAS and of this study which reflect only ONE opinion of how to implement it. And because this narrow study has become the ESAS is why its in trouble, not the VSE itself.

    VSE may be salvaged, but only be having a proper study done on the best way to implement it, not just simply importing the Planetary Society study that Dr. Griffin did and make it national policy with little if any debate, or voluntary buy-in by the people who now must actually implement it.

    If anything this Planetary Society study needs at least a honest and fair review by one or more outside groups (Rand Corp. Aerospace Corp. Etc.) before any more funds are spent trying to make it work. Remember that is what these think-tanks were created for and one of the key roles they played in making Apollo successful.

    As for predictions of disaster not transpiring yet. Well, I suppose that is what the Captian of the Titanic said when asked if he was worried about icebergs when trying to set a speed record to New York – “we haven’t hit one yet….”

  • MarkWhittington

    Dennis, I’m not sure I get your point. I will conceed that the administration has not provided adequet funding, but I’m not sure that you can say that NASA is “not a priority.” Not at the same leval as Iraq, but then what is.

    NASA was one of the few non defense, non homeland security accounts to get an increase (albeit less than is necessary) in recent White House budget requests. An attempt to gut VSE in its first year was turned back by a combination of the first veto threat this administration issued plus some manuevering from the former House Majority Leader Tom Delay.

    I can remember how earlier this decade I suggested that the new Bush administration was going to provide a fresh direction to the nation’s space effort, and being hooted at. Bush, we were told, had zero interest in space. I guess we now know who is right.

    I’m not sure what the meaning of “a lack of enthusiam” for this archecture. I don’t think either the administration or Congress really cares about hardware (neither to I, when it comes down to it). As for the “lack of understanding–” ect, I just don’t see that.

  • MarkWhittington

    Thomas. I think we’ve had enough studies about how to go back to the Moon over the past three decades. I get it that some people don’t like the decisions Griffin has made. But somebody has to make decisions if we are going back to the Moon and reverting NASA to “Need Another Study Agency” is not going to bring us any closer to that.

  • Al Fansome

    Now that a debate has started about what is the best single replacement of ESAS is — either Direct 2.0 or MAX, or something else — I actually find myself agreeing with something that Mr. Elifritz said earlier.

    ELFRITZ: No, any single plan is demonstrably the wrong plan.

    If we are really going to open up space, we need to build it on the power of free enterprise. Any approach that picks a single “NATIONAL SPACE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM” as “THE SOLUTION” is just another flavor of “das Space Program” and is the wrong plan.

    That does not mean that the U.S. government should not have a “plan”, but it should not conduct a study, and then say “this is the right way to build our nation’s new rocket”.

    The core strategy of the U.S. Government’s “plan” should be to encourage, promote, support (and subsidize) free enterprise-designed solutions to our space transportation problems, and in achieving the goals of the VSE.

    - Al

  • Jake

    Many decisions made by Griffin during and after the ESAS process have had the effect of front-loading development costs. Picking the Stick over EELVs traded billions in shuttle shutdown and cleanup costs that could be spread out through much of the 2010s for billions that have to be paid before Orion has something to fly on. The switch to the 5-segment SRB moved another $3B in costs from the mid to late 2010s to in front of the Orion first flight.

    All of these decisions might make sense in the context of an Apollo style program, but the VSE is very clearly not Apollo. It’s not as important to the country as Apollo was, and the current budget picture is much grimmer. Trying to run the VSE like Apollo merely ensures its failure.

  • Thomas Matula

    Mark,

    No, its just going to result in a train wreck with few if any pieces available for the next adnminstration to salvage. Then VSE will be dead along with the ESAS. The post-CEV/Post-Shuttle capsule that follows (whatever its name is) will fly on a EELV anyway, but only to the ISS, and only after a LOT more studies and hearings on why ESAS failed and what should have been done to prevent. The time to save VSE is now and the only way is to cut it free from the ESAS.

    Also if firms like Lockheed, which has the CEV contract, are not expecting ESAS to fail why are they using firms like Bigelow as cover for studies on to salvage a CEV replacement fromt he wreckage? To me that is more telling any anything coming out of the beltway. And perhaps the only hope for a post-ESAS VSE.

    Incidently, one other gem in the Planetary report. The observation that the ISS does not really need to finish the ISS, only do 3-4 critical flights and perhaps a couple for must fly foreign modules. I wonder if that is why NASA is not worrying about the unrealistic launch schedule for the Shuttle. They don’t really expect to fly another 16 missions with it, just 9-10 and then shut it down using the 2010 deadline as an excuse for not finishing ISS. Again, it will be interesting to see how the Shuttle end-game plays out with ISS.

    Nope, no more studies are needed. Just full steam ahead and hope for the best.

  • MarkWhittington

    Thomas, you know as well as I do that doing a study is just a bureaucratic manuever to avoid doing something, in this case going to the Moon. I keep hearing that ESAS (which is as much the same as VSE for all practical purposes as Apollo was the same as going to the Moon) is going to collapse “any day now.” So far I haven’t seen it nor any evidence ethat it is going to occur.

  • MarkWhittington

    Jake – I’m not sure how you imagine that VSE is being “run like Apollo.” Apollo was a crash program with a hard deadline with a single point goal, none of which describes VSE.

    Al – I think we get to the main point I’ve been making. There are some people for whom no plan would be acceptable. Thanks for making my point.

  • I think we’ve had enough studies about how to go back to the Moon over the past three decades.

    All the studies I did indicated that we don’t need to go back to the moon.

    What we need to do is a lunar reconnaissance orbiter, and we’re doing it.

    What we need is go out to that amazing new fifth planet, and we’re doing it.

    What we need to do right now is get a liquid powered rocket flying to the ISS. Possibly in the future we might very well need a giant heavy lift launch vehicle that uses five segment SRBs and a 10 meter hydrogen powered core tank and a powerful space rated upper stage engine, but right now we need to get some small lightweight capsules on some EELVs, and then use those very expensive launch vehicles as the bar that commercial COTS competitors must beat, and that’s a very low bar indeed. Right now we have two or three very crucial engine development programs, one in the Air Force (IPD), and one or two commercial endeavors (RL-60/MB-60) that are vastly underfunded. Right now we have EELVs that are vastly underutilized. Right now we are looking at a six year manned space flight gap and the complete mothballing of national treasures (SSMEs). We’ve got shuttles, we’ve got EELVs, we’ve got COTS competitors, we’ve got an ISS, we’ve got the Russians, frankly, I utterly fail to see how Michael Griffin could have screwed up this transition, but low and behold he did, and royally too.

    Micheal Griffin has demonstrably made the WRONG decisions, and it’s well past time to correct them. The Stick must go if he wants to save manned space flight. It’s a very clear decision to make.

  • Tom

    anonymous, since Mark doesn’t want to take your points one at a time, I will:
    FACT: ESAS included no sensitivity analysis, had very limited optimization analysis, completely missed important hardware combinations (like the option developed in DIRECT 2), and ignored important criteria regarding national goals, competition, and international cooperation. One only has to read the publicly available ESAS report in some depth to see that the ESAS analysis is missing these important elements.

    FACT: sensitivity and optimization analysis are like statistics–they are only as good as the input data and assumptions made. Excellent tool for small-scale physical analysis. Largely worthless for “architecture” level conceptual studies. Their inclusion or exclusion in the report doesn’t say whether or not they were done, and plenty of large scale projects have passed these semi-fantasy based ‘tests’ only to crater in the real world.

    FACT: Contrary to ESAS, industry papers (LockMart/Bigelow) show that EELVs can fly human capsules on depressed trajectories without blackout periods and can be human-rated without Shuttle-type processes and costs (as is planned for the COTS vehicles). ESAS also treated safety figures for unflown and substantially altered Shuttle “heritage” components as if they were flight-proven systems. One only has to obtain copies of these papers from the AIAA and read them and the ESAS report in some depth to see that ESAS employed bad data on several occasions.

    I believe this point is somewhat valid, but not exactly damning of Griffen, and certainly not evidence of gross incompetence. The beaureacracy always gets its jabs in one way or the other. Either way, the lack of an EELV existence proof doesn’t exactly refute the NASA point.

    FACT: Just to get Ares 1/Orion started, Griffin had to cut billions in ISS research, Prometheus nuclear systems development, and other human space flight technology research. One only has to read the first or second operating plan that NASA sent to Congress under Griffin to see that Ares 1/Orion blew the VSE budget from the get-go,

    all true, no disagreements to this point. You stated a fact, and then…
    adding enormous and unnecessary risk to the human lunar return effort.
    oops, no fact here anonymous, this is your opinion which bears no relation to the “FACT” you stated.


    FACT: Ares 1 is underpowered and Orion must use its own motor as a third-stage to reach orbit. For ISS missions, Ares 1/Orion has no design/development margin left. According to Horowitz’s own press presentation available on the web, all the remaining margin is performance margin. It’s hard to imagine, contrary to the history of aerospace project development, that Ares 1 and/or Orion will avoid further problems and not eat into that performance margin.

    I have the same presentation on SpaceRef, I don’t see where you’re getting that. Even if it’s in there, and I just can’t find it, I’m trying to understand how the pre-planned “design margin” being mostly eaten up during the process of DESIGN is a “failure”…that’s the purpose of design margin.

    At what point the performance margin becomes too thin and a major, time-consuming, and expensive design change is necessary to avoid impacting mission reliability and crew safety is hard to predict, but it’s highly probable given how much of the development of these systems still lies in front of the program.
    ok…once again, stop putting these into you “FACT” catagory. maybe you should label this “SPECULATION:”

    FACT: To keep from totally blowing the schedule for Ares 1/Orion, Griffin has had to cut billions from the NASA science budget and nearly halve the aeronautics budget. These cuts are reducing the annual flight rate for new science missions from a 7 to 9 per annum to 2 per annum. The cuts have also halved key VSE research grant programs, halved the number of Mars missions, and completely eliminated future missions to address other key VSE targets (extrasolar planets, outer moons) or in other space science disciplines (high-energy astrophysics). I won’t even get into the Earth science and aeronautics impacts. One only has to compare Griffin’s budget proposals and operating plans on the NASA CFO website and read the Congressional testimony of various National Academy chairs to tally these cuts and their impacts.
    All thankfully true. AND YET, YOU SEE THIS THIS AS A NEGATIVE? The administrator of a major federal agency for once has the balls to focus the agency budget on actual goal accomplishment instead of spreading the dough around, and all people do is complain.

    FACT: Despite all the billions thrown at the ESAS implementation plan, no significant work will begin on any actual human lunar exploration elements (such as Ares V and LSAM) until the second half of the Presidency that will follow the George W. Bush White House. One only has to read Griffin’s budget proposals on the NASA CFO website and his Congressional testimony to see that Griffin’s chosen LEO capability has pushed the decision on whether to return humans to the Moon well past the next election, putting the “E” in “VSE” at great political risk.

    This is true, but rests on a couple of unalterable realities: 1. have to finish ISS 2. shuttle fixed costs until retirement 3. limited budgeting flexibility. 4. No support for a big increase. I don’t care what fantasy plan you come up with, unless it’s essentially free, there’s no way to start work on it until ISS is done and shuttle retired.

    FACT: Despite all the billions thrown at Ares 1 and Orion, the post-Shuttle human space flight gap — suppossedly Griffin’s top priority since day one as NASA Administrator — has more than doubled to five years in the span of just two years under his leadership (from 2010-2012 when Griffin started to 2010-2015 today).

    Ahh, at last, red meat for the masses! Come on, anonymous. I suppose the effective cut in NASA’s budget for ’07 is Griffen’s fault? If only the NASA administrator was smarter, NASA would have been the ONLY part of the government to get an increase in funding after the Democrats took over the Congress? Dream on.


    And, given that NASA must get Congress to pass a highly unlikely seven percent increase in the FY08 budget just to keep this schedule, the gap is very likely to grow by at least another year to two (from 2010-2015 today to 2010-2016 or 2017 a year from now). One only has to read Griffin’s budget proposals on the NASA CFO website and his Congressional testimony to see that Griffin has been unwilling or unable to make adjustments in order execute even his topmost priority with any effectiveness.
    This is incredibly rich. After complaining about how Griffin slashed all the other parts of the NASA budget to pay for ESAS, here you complain that Griffin has been unwilling to make adjustments. Contradiction? No, I’m sure you’re answer is just that ESAS costs too much period, and it all comes down to that…I still fail to see how you have proved that DIRECT or EELV PHASTASY program or Gary Hudson Super Bunny SSTO, or whatever your favorite pet project is, could procede without the funding bulge that is currently going to ESAS, leaving _____(insert your favorite alternative here)___ in the same position as ESAS.

  • Al Fansome

    I SAID: 4) SLI/CTV/CRV/NLS/ASRM/STAS I/STAS II/STAS III/2nd Gen RLV/ISS Propulsion Module: I have nothing to add. The records of this series of programs speak for themselves.

    RAND RESPONDED: Don’t forget OMV.

    Oops. I also missed the Orbital Spaceplane Program (OSP) and the X-38.

    MARK: Al makes a seemingly valid point, which I think falls down under close examination when one looks at the causes of the X-33, et al debacles.

    Mark, by this I take it that you acknowledge that the following programs were debacles (your word):

    – Shuttle
    – Space Station Freedom
    – X-33
    – X-34
    – SLI
    – CTV
    – OSP
    – CRV
    – X-38
    – OMV
    – NLS
    – ASRM
    – STAS
    – 2GRLV

    Since you acknowledge that they were debacles, I will note that you have provide ZERO FACTS about how my point — that this long series of “debacles” is a good predictor of the current ESAS — ”falls down”.

    Since you have challenged others to provide FACTS, and they have done so, it is now time for you to backup your assertion with FACTS.

    MARK CONTINUES: Besides, the only way that NASA can “prove” that it can handle a large scale project is–well–by doing it. So far confident predictions of disaster have not transpired.

    There is a list of 13 “debacles” (Whittington’s word) above. Another word for “debacle” is “disaster”. All the evidence, as listed by Anonymous, is that the current program is “more of the same”. What is coming is completely predictable.

    You apparantly want to debate this issue, yet you have not provided a reasonable factual argument that this time will be different.

    The agency that has this long track record of failure.

    Again Mark — what makes you think that the currently “centrally-planned “Apollo on Steroids will be different?

    “Faith based” assertions without backup are not persuasive. Facts please.

    - Al

  • MarkWhittington

    Al, it is you and others who are making an assertion that VSE is doomed to fail. You are going farther than most and are suggesting that *any* project that NASA proposes to undertake is doomed to fail.

    Your litany does seem lengthy, except that it doesn’t include recent successes, all admitably in the unmanned side, but still is one takes in to account projects like MER, Cassini, Hubble, and so on, NASA’s record is not exactly an unbroken string of disasters.

    It seems that given that, the burden of proof is with you not with me,

  • Thomas Matula

    Mark,

    If the ESAS collapsed today we would be very, very lucky as there is time to still salvage VSE from the wreckage of ESAS.

    But it likely won’t until well into the next adminstration and be left for the next NASA adminstrator to deal with. And I recall many folks who made the same predicitions about the X-33 when it was selected, folks with a LOT of experience building rockets.

    And that is the problem. Just as folks saw the X-33 problems coming some folks, perhaps many judging from the number of posts here, see this train wreck coming. Unforunately the folks who might actually be able to do something are in denial and won’t put on the brakes. Then AFTER the wreck of ’09 they likely will be leading the crying on why oh why did it happen….

    I call it beltway blindness syndrone.

  • anonymous

    “anonymous, since Mark doesn’t want to take your points one at a time, I will:”

    Thanks for the time and effort, Tom.

    “sensitivity and optimization analysis are… Largely worthless for “architecture” level conceptual studies.”

    I have to disagree based on personal experience participating in and reviewing prior launch and architecture studies of this magnitude.

    But even setting my past experience aside, based on the ESAS effort, can we answer questions like: What is the optimum crew size for the lunar architecture? How much do we pay for adding that third crewmember? That fourth crewmember? With regard to reliability and safety, where is the knee-in-the-curve on LOM vs. cost? LOC vs. cost? Where is the sweet spot between development costs and operating costs that results in the lowest total cost? Etc., etc.

    Unfortunately, we can’t get the answers to these questions from ESAS because the analysis was never done. And it’s just plain irresponsible not to be able to answer these kinds of questions — to have a deep understanding of the tradeoffs being made — before making major decisions on vehicles and architectures for a multi-ten billion effort that will drive (or disable) human space flight for decades to come.

    “I believe this point is somewhat valid, but not exactly damning of Griffen, and certainly not evidence of gross incompetence. The beaureacracy always gets its jabs in one way or the other.”

    I won’t venture a guess here as to whether it was incompetence, bureaucratic conspiracy, or just plain lack of time and people, but employing bad data in such a pivotal, critical, and important study is unforgivable regardless. For that reason alone, ESAS needs to be revisited.

    “Either way, the lack of an EELV existence proof doesn’t exactly refute the NASA point.”

    And that would be…? That’s its okay to apply erroneous data to the analysis of military/commercial systems? Or to so-called Shuttle “heritage” systems?

    “all true, no disagreements to this point. You stated a fact, and then…
    ‘adding enormous and unnecessary risk to the human lunar return effort.’
    oops, no fact here anonymous, this is your opinion which bears no relation to the “FACT” you stated.”

    It is a fact. The costs of Ares 1 and Orion have moved the political decision to start the development of actual human lunar hardware (Ares V and LSAM or whatever form it takes) into the next Presidency. And whoever that next President is, they won’t be George W. Bush and they won’t share his budget priorities. It’s a fact that Ares 1/Orion have pushed actual lunar hardware out of a certain future where a favorable President would have provided substantial funding for them into a very uncertain future with a unknown President who is likely to redirect their funding elsewhere. If that ain’t the definition of adding “enormous and unnecessary political risk” to a human lunar return effort, I don’t know what is.

    “I have the same presentation on SpaceRef, I don’t see where you’re getting that.”

    All the margin in the presentation (and others) is referred to as performance margin. There is no margin left for future design and development changes. In fact, the team is effectively trying to buy back design and development margin by cutting Orion’s mass and capabilities.

    “Even if it’s in there, and I just can’t find it, I’m trying to understand how the pre-planned “design margin” being mostly eaten up during the process of DESIGN is a “failure”…that’s the purpose of design margin.”

    There’s still at least 8 years of design and development left on these projects. They should not be at zero or negative design/development margin this early in the process. Ares 1 and Orion are far from done with their design iterations, and there may still be developmental hiccups after the designs are frozen.

    “ok…once again, stop putting these into you “FACT” catagory. maybe you should label this “SPECULATION:””

    It’s speculation that Ares 1/Orion will experience no mass growth over the next 8 years of design and development? Contrary to the history of every other aerospace development project?

    No, that’s living in the real world. It’s speculation (pure fantasy, really) to assume that Ares 1/Orion will experience no mass growth over the next 8 years of design and development, contrary to the history of every other aerospace development project.

    “All thankfully true. AND YET, YOU SEE THIS THIS AS A NEGATIVE? The administrator of a major federal agency for once has the balls to focus the agency budget on actual goal accomplishment instead of spreading the dough around, and all people do is complain.”

    There’s a world of difference between focusing an R&D organization — cutting away fat, terminating poor performing or non-relevant projects, realigning — and eliminating whole lines of relevant research and viable projects. Griffin has done the latter, not the former.

    Forget Earth science, aeronautics, or the parts of space science that are not called out in the VSE. Let’s just focus on the VSE.

    The VSE explicitely called for an strong robotic Mars program and sample return. What did Griffin do? Halve the number of Mars missions and eliminate the sample return.

    The VSE explicitely called for a series of telescopes to image and characterize Earth-sized extrasolar planets. What does Griffin do? Cancel the two telescopes capable of completing this task.

    The VSE explicitely called for at least one mission to study habitable environments at the outer moons. What did Griffin do? Cancel the mission and any related technology development and alternative mission studies.

    The VSE explicitely called for a focus on the search for habitable environments that could support life elsewhere in the universe. What did Griffin do? Halve the funding for astrobiology grants.

    The VSE (and the Aldridge Commission report that accompanied it) explicitely called for an aggressive program of prize competitions to involve private sector innovation in the exploration effort. What did Griffin do? Zero out all funding for future prizes not started before he came on board (although a little has been restored in the FY08 request).

    “This is true, but rests on a couple of unalterable realities: 1. have to finish ISS 2. shuttle fixed costs until retirement 3. limited budgeting flexibility. 4. No support for a big increase. I don’t care what fantasy plan you come up with, unless it’s essentially free, there’s no way to start work on it until ISS is done and shuttle retired.”

    I agree with the first two “unalterable realities” (although it would be interesting to revisit the ISS final configuration and assembly for earlier Shuttle retirement and cost savings).

    But to say that NASA’s exploration has had no budget increases or has limited budget flexibility is just plain not true.

    In FY07, NASA will spend $4 billion on Exploration Systems. Constellation Systems (Ares 1/Orion) alone will spend over $3 billion this year.

    From the start of the VSE (in 2003) through the end of Griffin’s tenure under Bush (in 2008), NASA will spend almost $16 billion on Exploration Systems. Constellation Systems (Ares 1/Orion) will spend almost $10 billion over the same time period.

    If NASA’s leadership can’t develop an Apollo-type capsule and fly it on an affordable LEO launcher and have the whole system be considerably safer than Shuttle for those kinds of dollars — and still have considerable change leftover to get some actual lunar hardware underway before Bush leaves office — then NASA’s leadership needs to resign or be removed from office.

    And Griffin & Co. aren’t even coming close to that. They’re claiming that they need to continue spending billions of dollars per year for several more years after Bush is out of office to get Ares 1/Orion fielded. Think about that — $15 to $20 billion by the time it’s all over for an oversized capsule and a duplicative LEO launcher. How much more budget and flexibility do these underperforming plans, vehicles, and managers need?

    “Ahh, at last, red meat for the masses! Come on, anonymous. I suppose the effective cut in NASA’s budget for ‘07 is Griffen’s fault?”

    No. But the fact that Ares 1/Orion required the cancellation of billions in other programs just to get started — overextending the VSE budget from the start of Griffin’s tenure and ensuring that any future White House or Congressional budget hiccups would seriously derail the effort — is absolutely Griffin’s fault.

    Do you buys affordable cars that fit your budget? Or do you buy luxury cars well beyond your means, requiring you to cut back on other expenses, leverage your credit, and put your possessions at risk if your income ever takes a hit?

    The former is good budgeting and planning. The latter is bad budgeting and planning. Griffin did the latter with respect to the nation’s human space flight program, not the former.

    “If only the NASA administrator was smarter, NASA would have been the ONLY part of the government to get an increase in funding after the Democrats took over the Congress?”

    Where did I say that. Please don’t put words in my mouth.

    What I did say was that if Griffin was smarter (budgetarily and politically astute), he never would have pursued a plan with such an overextended budget from the get-go, one that would put the whole lunar effort in political peril when (not if) the budgetary good times came to an inevitable end. Any project manager knows to budget with margins, off-ramps, and/or disposable elements to spare for such events. Griffin should have too.

    “Dream on”

    Please turn off the vitriol. Argue the opinions and facts. Don’t make it personal.

    “This is incredibly rich. After complaining about how Griffin slashed all the other parts of the NASA budget to pay for ESAS, here you complain that Griffin has been unwilling to make adjustments. Contradiction?”

    There is no contradiction. I argued that Griffin has been unwilling or unable to adjust his plans for the next generation of NASA human space flight vehicles. But instead of recognizing how bad his decisions were and being willing and able to make the necessary adjustments, Griffin has terminated countless viable projects and programs in other areas of NASA, many of which were highly relevant to the VSE. And despite all those cuts, Griffin’s plan still can’t achieve his topmost priority — closing the post-Shuttle human space flight gap. It’s a textbook case of ineffectual and impotent management.

    “No, I’m sure you’re answer is just that ESAS costs too much period, and it all comes down to that…”

    Again, Exploration Systems and Ares 1/Orion are on a run-rate of $3 to 4 billion PER YEAR. They’ll spend $10 TO 15 BILLION by the time Griffin leaves office (if he leaves after the next election). Again, if Griffin can’t pull off an Apollo-type capsule on an affordable LEO launcher with substantially better safety numbers than Shuttle for those kinds of dollars — and have some change left over for some actual exploration hardware development — then he shouldn’t be NASA Administrator.

    “I still fail to see how you have proved that DIRECT or EELV PHASTASY program or Gary Hudson Super Bunny SSTO, or whatever your favorite pet project is, could procede without the funding bulge that is currently going to ESAS, leaving _____(insert your favorite alternative here)___ in the same position as ESAS.”

    Again, please stop putting words in my mouth. Per my earlier posts, I have not advocated a particular alternative solution. In fact, I wrote this in response to Mr. Robertson earlier in this thread:

    “As I’ve done above and in prior threads, I can point to solutions or combinations of solutions that should be worlds better than ESAS/Ares 1/Orion but I really do hesitate to advocate for a particular architecture or set of vehicles. Doing the homework to select the best option, or to just verify a good one, is beyond the skills of any one person.

    Honestly, it should be enough to recognize that the current path is unsustainable. Once that is done, either NASA leadership is capable of setting a new path that is sustainable and in check with reality, or they should resign or be removed from their positions. They’re not earning their salaries and positions otherwise.”

    Unlike the poorly conceived, executed, and unchecked ESAS study, finding the best or even a good solution will take more than a limited number of poeple working for a couple months.

    Again, thanks for the time and effort.

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • anonymous

    “except that it doesn’t include recent successes, all admitably in the unmanned side, but still is one takes in to account projects like MER, Cassini, Hubble, and so on,”

    Exactly, all the successes are on the unmanned side. So why does Griffin cut NASA’s highly successful science programs to pay for human space flight programs with no track record of success since Apollo?

    Talk about your perverse government incentives…

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • Ray

    I’m sure I disagree with something that anonymous has said in all those posts, but for the most part if I could write better I would have written them. In all those long posts, he was just skimming over the problems. Imagine going through each and every one of the Earth observation, astronomy, or planetary probes that have been cancelled, delayed, or (in a regular series) not started since ESAS. Does anyone have such a list? Now we have the lunar robotic probes (beyond the first) and NIAC in danger.

    Everyone’s posts about the lack of relevance, compared to what is being sacrificed, of ESAS to U.S. security, economic, and science (all VSE purposes) ring true to me. What surprises me is the original post’s Air Force representative seemingly supporting this direction. That I can’t understand given the EELV situation (ESAS not using it, and missions using EELVs drying up), and the similar situation with satellite technologies (useful to the military) that NASA will no longer be pushing or cost-sharing much.

    Assuming Griffin is determined to continue the current ESAS path, no matter what the costs to the nation, how could ESAS be tweaked to make it bearable? How do we make sure it either fails completely soon before costing too much, or succeeds, ie we don’t after much delay and cost get an Ares I/Orion that just goes to ISS, killing, through political, not performance, means, EELV/COTS/similar?

    Can Griffin make some sort of compromise? For example, set up a new NASA program of, say 10 *small* Earth Observation and Lunar robotic missions launched on EELVs, COTS, and similar, providing incentives and benefits to the space access entrepreneurs. The space access cost-sharing and improvements would be good for NOAA, military, etc – everyone. The smallsat companies would be happy. GSFC and MD Senators would smile. Environmentalists would support it. Scientists would like it. Lunar exploration would actually start and give the public the sense of progress. The cost would by definition be light (even if it means very targeted science). I’m picture, say, very small $50-100M missions, some depending on new cheap launchers. Politically it could save ESAS, even if it takes some funds from it. Even if ESAS trips technically, at least some benefit will have resulted.

  • Al Fansome

    MARK: Al, it is you and others who are making an assertion that VSE is doomed to fail. You are going farther than most and are suggesting that *any* project that NASA proposes to undertake is doomed to fail.

    Mark,

    Do you intentionally keep collapsing the VSE and the ESAS, as if they are the same thing?

    I think the VSE was a very bold, important, and visionary step by the Bush Administration. It was a significant step forward in space policy — but possibly not in the same ways you think it was a positive step forward — and one that was long overdue.

    I do believe the VSE will eventually succeed, but not until Griffin leaves NASA and ESAS collapses, and a more rational approach is substituted.

    You are correct in that I believe that *ESAS* has already failed.

    Even if the Ares 1 and Orion actually successfully flies on the schedule proposed by Dr. Griffin, it will NEVER be AFFORDABLE. Therefore, it has already failed.

    We will have spent many years, and many tens of billions of dollars, and we will yet again have a national transportation system that puts a handful of government employees in space at a time, and none of this effort will deliver an ROI in the form opening the frontier to human settlement. In summary, I think ESAS is turning into a complete dead-end, even if it succeeds “technically”. Remember, the Shuttle also succeeded technically, but the general agreement from a national policy perspective is that it was a failure.

    I am a critic, but I am one who has proposed an alternative on this site several times. A specific alternative that would deliver a much bigger bang for the buck in the form of “commercial” and “national security” benefits, and which would not require cuts to other parts of NASA. A specific alternative which would be affordable, as you could “go as you pay”, and which was “politically sustainable” as it would deliver things that Congress and the White House are demonstrably willing to pay for (like national security benefits).

    MARK: Your litany does seem lengthy, except that it doesn’t include recent successes, all admitably in the unmanned side, but still is one takes in to account projects like MER, Cassini, Hubble, and so on, NASA’s record is not exactly an unbroken string of disasters.

    In summary, you acknowledge a lengthy list of program failures by the human spaceflight part of NASA — and can not provide even one “success” by the human spaceflight part of NASA.

    The best you can do is provide a list of successes by the unmanned exploration parts of NASA as an argument that JSC & MSFC will succeed.

    I see no reason to respond. The weakness of your argument is obvious and needs no response.

    MARK: It seems that given that, the burden of proof is with you not with me

    Wow. Your assertion — that since JPL and GSFC, and other parts of the robotic space program are doing well — is a reason for believing that it will be different this time at MSFC and JSC … in the face of a series of debacles (YOUR word) … fails to make any case.

    Since Mark is not apparantly capable of making a rational argument on why this time it will be any different than the last 13 times — is there anybody else who reads this website who cares to try?

    - Al

  • Dave Salt

    Mr Whittington,

    You began your criticism of Anonymous by saying that he/she had “made the sort of post that makes the serious space analyst tear ones hair”. I therefore assumed that you considered yourself a “serious space analyst” but have been consistently disappointed by the manner in which you argue your case. Based upon your responses to date, both here and over at Transterrestrial Musings, I’d rank your analytical skills on a par with, if not slightly below, those of Robert Oler.

    So, if you really want us to take you seriously, please make a rebuttal against the evidence presented. Simply claiming that it is specious or that Anonymous cannot be believed because he/she does not want to reveal his/her identity just isn’t good enough – though compromising someone’s identity could conceivably limit their ability to continue such a discussion.

    Just for the record, I see the lack of cheap/safe/robust launch as the root cause of our abject failure to achieve a real and sustainable growth in space exploration and, more importantly, space EXPLOITATION. Unfortunately, virtually nothing proposed within the VSE addressed this problem directly, though some of the ideas could be interpreted this way. As a result, I view discussions like this as extremely interesting but irrelevant to the basic problem (i.e. I have no axe to grind on either side of this particular debate).

    Dave Salt

  • Ray

    From http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/exploration/main/index.html (The Vision for Space Exploration page):

    President’s Commission section, “Read Report” link: “The page you have requested might no longer exist or has had its name changed.” So much for the current NASA implementation’s view of the Aldridge Commission recommendations …

    From http://www.whitehouse.gov/space/renewed_spirit.html (A Renewed Spirit of Discovery – VSE site):

    For some reason the “Goals and Objectives” are repeated 3 times … editor please? Here are the Goals and Objectives:

    “The fundamental goal of this vision is to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program. In support of this goal, the United States will:

    Implement a sustained and affordable human and robotic program to explore the solar system and beyond;
    Extend human presence across the solar system, starting with a human return to the Moon by the year 2020, in preparation for human exploration of Mars and other destinations;
    Develop the innovative technologies, knowledge, and infrastructures both to explore and to support decisions about the destinations for human exploration; and
    Promote international and commercial participation in exploration to further U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests.”

    From my point of view the Shuttle and ISS aren’t doing enough to further U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests, so if ESAS were just a matter of replacing them, even with all of its flaws and risks and missed opportunities, ESAS might be worth it just to shake things up so maybe something would come of it. I would probably just ignore it unless it somehow someday seemed to show promise in actually being useful in scientific, security, economic, or other way I’m interested in. However, with all the damage it (and the Shuttle/ISS overruns and delays) is doing to NASA programs that actually do further U.S. scientific, security, and/or economic interests, it’s quite another thing.

    The first bullet about “sustained and affordable” human and robotic program and “robust space exploration program” also makes one do a double-take when looking at the ESAS implementaton. I didn’t get the impression that by “sustained and affordable” and “robust space exploration” they meant getting rid of most of the robotic exploration missions. I thought it meant scaling the content and schedule of the new human program to be affordable and pay-as-you-go (eg: if all we can afford to do without breaking all the china in the NASA house is 3 passengers to ISS/2 to the moon, then that’s what we’ll do).

    “Develop the innovative technologies,” … It seems like we’re actually getting rid of the technology innovation programs, and just going back to Apollo.

    “Promote international and commercial participation in exploration to further U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests.” The international participation part doesn’t seem to be getting too far, since the NASA is doing all of the transporation, and anything else is a decade or 2 away and dependent on NASA vehicle development and thus of little interest to other nations. The most disappointing part of ESAS, though, is the “commercial participation” part. COTS is fine but too small for the daunting goals and totally detached from (and even counter to) Ares I/Orion. It needs to either have more up-front investment as demonstration milestones are met, or more long-term business potential (eg: money on the table ready to pay for COTS launchers for lunar cargo or other non-ISS transportation). Centennial Challenges is way too small. There are some commercial contracts, but most of it is typical big aerospace cost-plus government work, which I don’t consider commercial. There’s much more that could and should be done in this area.

    “Starting no later than 2008, initiate a series of robotic missions to the Moon to prepare for and support future human exploration activities;”

    Well, one mission doesn’t make a series.

    “Conduct robotic exploration of Mars…”

    Well, we were already doing that; now we will be doing much less of it. Did they mean “Conduct less robotic exploration of Mars…”?

    “Conduct robotic exploration across the solar system … In particular, explore Jupiter’s moons, asteroids and other bodies to search for evidence of life, to understand the history of the solar system, and to search for resources”

    Well, we had a mission to explore Jupiter’s moons, but now it’s gone. (Juno is not for the moons). Did they mean “Do not explore Jupiter’s moons”? We already had an asteroid mission; I don’t see any new ones planned, especially not enough to seriously search for resources.

    “Conduct advanced telescope searches for Earth-like planets and habitable environments around other stars”

    We already had missions to do this, but these efforts have been scaled back. Did they mean “Scale back advanced telescope searches…”?

    I could go on but even Anonymous has only scratched the surface of how ESAS is not really addressing the VSE …

  • Dennis Wingo

    Dave Salt

    Send me an email!

    Dennis

    http://www.mailcity.com

    Use your name in the subject line.

  • Al Fansome

    DAVE SALT: Just for the record, I see the lack of cheap/safe/robust launch as the root cause of our abject failure to achieve a real and sustainable growth in space exploration and, more importantly, space EXPLOITATION. Unfortunately, virtually nothing proposed within the VSE addressed this problem directly, though some of the ideas could be interpreted this way.

    Dave,

    Although I see the VSE as a major policy step forward in many aspects, I agree your statement here about the VSE’s lack of mention of “cheap/safe/robust launch”. I see this as a big “missing”. Cheap, robust, reliable, routine access to space would do more to deliver “economic”, “national security” and “scientific” benefits than anything that Griffin proposes to do with a >$100 Billion investment in ESAS.

    I am wondering WHY they did not explicitly state something about its importance.

    QUESTION: Are there any readers here, who were part of this WH discussion, who can illuminate this issue (perhaps anonymously)?

    - Al

  • Dave Salt

    Al,

    To me, VSE was the Administrations reaction to the Columbia accident, which was a national tragedy that threw a spotlight on NASA’s appalling situation. As such, it was a simple but clear set of directives to put the house in-order that was present in an up-beat/optimistic manner: cold hard facts/directives (Shuttle retirement, ISS withdrawal, inflation capped budgets, etc.) wrapped up in warm fluffy dreams (Moon, Mars and beyond) just to soften the blow.

    The launcher problem is a far more subtle issue, requiring commercial driven solutions that address markets, economics and the judicious application of appropriate technology rather than simple government directives. A subtle application of the latter would obviously be useful – COTS and Centennial Challenge are good example – but, for this particular problem, I suspect that blunt political directives are likely to be just as bad as none at all (C.f. Sod’s law of unintended consequences).

    Dave

  • Bill White

    The launcher problem is a far more subtle issue, requiring commercial driven solutions that address markets, economics and the judicious application of appropriate technology rather than simple government directives.

    My own opinion is that genuine low cost LEO access will not occur until the private sector starts writing the checks for LEO access and that will require a business case that can close without Uncle Sugar covering the tab.

    NASA buying “commercial” may be smart procurement policy but that is not private sector space.

  • Tom

    Anonymous, first, no personal attack was intended. I sometimes let my sarcasm get the better of me. But that doesn’t mean I agree with you. So let me address what I largely see as the main thrust of your argument:

    Unfortunately, we can’t get the answers to these questions from ESAS because the analysis was never done. And it’s just plain irresponsible not to be able to answer these kinds of questions — to have a deep understanding of the tradeoffs being made — before making major decisions on vehicles and architectures for a multi-ten billion effort that will drive (or disable) human space flight for decades to come.

    It seems there is a large subset of NASA critics out there who have a similar opinion, that NASA has not exercised proper due diligence, that more studies need to be done, that we need to look at more options. Maybe. Where you draw the line on due diligence, especially when it comes to nebulous ideas like “sustainability”, “flexibility”, etc, is a tough question to answer, and usually one answered correctly only in hindsight. I would argue that many studies have already been done regarding space transport, lunar exploration, and beyond earth exploration architectures, ESAS being only one of them, and they have come to a dizzying array of conclusions about the proper course for the American space program. And they’re all only as good as the paper they’re printed on until something gets built.
    Regardless of the methodology described by reports like the ESAS, you know that major decisions are not made on the scientific output of a machine calculation. High level decision makers will find the two or three issues they deem most critical to mission success, as long as it doesn’t “violate the laws” of the relevant “due diligence”. Intuition, a completely unjustifiable, but utterly necessary part of good decision making, also plays a key role. My point is not that NASA didn’t exercise due diligence, but that the ESAS study is of less importance than it appears in determining how and why Griffin made the decisions he did a couple of years ago.

    It is clear from the publicly available ESAS study that getting NASA on a clear, defined path for getting Americans to the moon again, was more important for Griffin’s purposes than any particular piece of hardware. If you read enough of the suprisingly philosophical speeches that Griffin has given in the past couple years, you cannot fail to recognise that to Michael Griffin, the hardware choice is insignificant compared to the goal–his only object is ensure that the goal remains obtainable, and the path clear ahead enough, to ensure emotional sustainment of the idea, and eventual mission accomplishment. He really wants to avoid, above all, burdening the program with a looming major unknown, which could be deemed by a future Congress too great a hurdle to overcome, with no visible payoff ahead.From that perspective, EELV is the wrong way to go. It gets us into orbit smaller faster cheaper–maybe–and with a much more difficult design problem in the out-years. If offers a much lower price in the begining, only to smack the taxpayer and NASA with a big UNKNOWN well after the president and likely Griffin are out of office. It’s one thing to leave a big-ticket item on the budget for out-years. There is a possiblity of cancellation. But in government, inertia, not change, is the order of the day, and a committed out-years program will have to fight against a currently non-existent alternative, and an entrenched program office / congressional support / etc. In other words, ESAS would have to screw up REALLY bad, much worse than ISS, to get cancelled outright.

    Again, Exploration Systems and Ares 1/Orion are on a run-rate of $3 to 4 billion PER YEAR. They’ll spend $10 TO 15 BILLION by the time Griffin leaves office (if he leaves after the next election). Again, if Griffin can’t pull off an Apollo-type capsule on an affordable LEO launcher with substantially better safety numbers than Shuttle for those kinds of dollars — and have some change left over for some actual exploration hardware development — then he shouldn’t be NASA Administrator.

    And you’re basing that statement on what? The many affordable Apollo-type launchers that have been developed previously? Let’s see. Saturn V cost $38 billion (Y-2000$).
    ESAS is looking pretty good by comparision.

  • It seems there is a large subset of NASA critics out there who have a similar opinion, that NASA has not exercised proper due diligence, that more studies need to be done, that we need to look at more options.

    You miss the point. People aren’t saying more studies need to be done. The studies were done. They were called “Concept Exploration and Refinement” (CE&R) under Steidle. They were done precisely to avoid the kind of disaster that seems to be looming.

    But because Mike already knew what he wanted to do, and thought that everything Steidle had done was…errrr…excrement…he didn’t even bother to look at them. They had the kinds of sensitivities that “anonymous” is referring to, and they looked at a range of architectures. But the architectures didn’t include what Mike wanted to do. So they were ignored. They are still available for perusal, when this train wreck finally occurs. Fortunately, he couldn’t put them completely down the memory hole.

  • anonymous

    “It seems there is a large subset of NASA critics out there who have a similar opinion, that NASA has not exercised proper due diligence, that more studies need to be done, that we need to look at more options. Maybe. Where you draw the line on due diligence,”

    Employing erroneous data — inaccurate EELV flight profiles and flight safety figures for Shuttle “heritage” components that have never flown — is not due diligence, no matter how loosely the term “due diligence” is defined.

    Failing to do critical analysis — analysis necessary to understand the incremental cost of each incremental increase in various FOMs (crew size, LOM, LOC, etc.) — is not due diligence, no matter how loosely the term “due diligence” is defined.

    ESAS was not due diligence.

    “especially when it comes to nebulous ideas like “sustainability”, “flexibility”, etc, is a tough question to answer”

    Sustainability is not at all hard to define. The more sustainable a human space flight program is, the more of the following elements it will possess:

    – Costs that fit within the available budget. ESAS did not fit within the available VSE budget. Griffin had to cancel ISS research, nuclear technology, and other human exploration technology just to get ESAS off the ground.

    – A budget that covers projected costs with an 80% or greater probability (which is typical for the aerospace world). ESAS is so overextended that Griffin could only budget it at 65%. Even before Congress and the White House flattened (somewhat) NASA’s exploration budget, the effort already had a 1-in-3 chance of overrunning.

    – Margin to cover increases in cost, reductions in budget, or other unexpected events without cuts to other, unrelated programs and the blowback that comes from such cuts. Margin can consist of unallocated budget reserve, schedule reserve, performance reserve, expendable elements, etc. Ares 1/Orion obviously did not have enough of any of these to avoid billions in cuts to NASA science programs (including practically every other key element of the VSE), a near-halving of NASA aeronautics, and a more than doubling of the post-Shuttle human space flight gap.

    – Critical elements are underway and substantial costs sunk in them before the next anticipated change in leadership will take place. In this case, that would be the 2008 election, when a new White House, Congress, and (likely) NASA Administrator will take over. Ares 1/Orion cost so much that NASA will not start the critical path human lunar return elements — Ares V and LSAM — until 2010-12. (The $1 billion mark for these elements won’t even be broken until 2011.) This is 2-4 years AFTER the new White, Congress, and (likely) NASA Administrator have taken over.

    – Early, regular, visible and demonstrable progress to keep stakeholders engaged and positive about the program and to maintain political and budgetary momentum. The schedule for the first ESAS test launch is now up in the air, but, unfortunately, it almost certainly won’t take place until after the next President and Congress have taken office.

    – Early and significant international participation. The history of the Space Station demonstrates how foreign commitments help to lock in a program, even in the face of substantial adversity. Griffin and ESAS ruled out any foreign participation in the lunar transportation architecture.

    I never proposed using “flexibility” as an FOM, although the architecture’s growth potential (human Mars) or ability to support other missions (e.g., human NEO, flagship robotic missions, etc.) and contributions to other national space goals in the military and commercial sectors are certainly important considerations. For reference, DIRECT 2 appears to do a better job of the former than ESAS, and EELV-derived architectures do a better job of the latter than ESAS (and which ESAS never considered as a FOM).

    “Intuition, a completely unjustifiable, but utterly necessary part of good decision making, also plays a key role. My point is not that NASA didn’t exercise due diligence, but that the ESAS study is of less importance than it appears in determining how and why Griffin made the decisions he did a couple of years ago.”

    So instead of doing good due diligence, it’s okay that these multi-ten-billion decisions affecting the future of U.S. civil human space flight for decades to come were made based on Griffin’s (or anyone’s) “intuition”?

    “If you read enough of the suprisingly philosophical speeches that Griffin has given in the past couple years, you cannot fail to recognise that to Michael Griffin,”

    While the philosophical rationales that Griffin offers in some of his speeches appeal to the space cadet in me, he’s preaching to the choir. Even he admits in these speeches that those rationales and that philosophy don’t cut it in Washington.

    “the hardware choice is insignificant”

    The heck it’s not — especially not when the hardware (Ares 1/Orion) blows the budget and the schedule and is being developed under very thin technical margins. His AvWeek blog/op-ed piece aside (which relies on steadily increasing budgets for the next 50 years — sure, boss), I don’t think even Griffin would say this.

    “his only object is ensure that the goal remains obtainable,”

    If by “goal”, you mean close the post-Shuttle human space flight gap, Griffin has demonstrated how to make that goal very unobtainable in a very short time, more than doubling (probably tripling after the FY08 budget) the gap to five years in just under two years of his tenure.

  • anonymous

    “He really wants to avoid, above all, burdening the program with a looming major unknown,”

    Let’s talk about the worst “unknowns” in Griffin’s lunar plan. Under Griffin’s lunar plan, no substantial development of any actual lunar hardware (Ares V, LSAM, or what have you) gets underway until the 2010-12 timeframe. So who will be President in 2010-12? Will they share George W. Bush’s human lunar return priority? Or will they cancel the lunar hardware and redirect the funding to other federal budget priorities? Same goes for the Congress. Which party will control Congress in 2010-12? Will that party give priority to a human lunar return program? Which congressmen will sit in the controlling seats for NASA’s appropriations? Will they be from NASA human space flight states and districts? For that matter, who will be the next NASA Administrator? If practically no dollars have been sunk into Ares V and LSAM by 2010, will he or she still want to build those vehicles?

    I don’t want to advocate any one alternative plan, but a plan put together by a group of current and former NASA engineers in their spare time (DIRECT 2) would avoid all these unknowns by developing a single heavy lift vehicle by 200X for launching Orion on both ISS and lunar missions. And that’s just one alternative.

    “From that perspective, EELV is the wrong way to go. It gets us into orbit smaller faster cheaper–maybe–and with a much more difficult design problem in the out-years.”

    I want to reiterate that I’m advocating the need for change. At this point in time, I don’t favor any one alternative over any other. Finding the right, or just verifying a good, alternative — EELV-derived or otherwise — is beyond the talents of any one person (including Griffin, me, or anyone else).

    That said, there’s no reason that a good lunar architecture (whether it’s based on a Shuttle-derived heavy lifter like DIRECT 2, smaller EELV or commercial launches to an on-orbit refueling station, or something else) cannot be proposed at the same time that a small capsule on a single-stick EELV is being proposed.

    In fact, as long as NASA doesn’t get crazy with Shuttle-type safety assumptions for a human-rated EELV (again, it’s all about sensitivity analysis and finding the sweet spot where the minimal investment produces the maximum safety gain) and shoots for initial operability in the 2011-13 timeframe, there should be considerable budget left over to actually get the hardware for that lunar architecture underway before the next President, Congress, and NASA Administrator consider the 2010 budget (their first full budget).

    There’s about $8 billion in Constellation spending budgeted for the remainder of 2007 and 2008-9. Spend about $6 billion of that on a small capsule and human-rating an existing single-stick EELV — far more than enough to get it down the field for that 2011-13 initial operability date by EELV development program, SLI, or COTS budget standards — and spend the other $2 billion getting the lunar hardware underway.

    I’d also note that, again, as long as NASA hasn’t gotten crazy with Shuttle-type safety assumptions to human-rate an EELV, the ability to share EELV infrastucture costs across military, commercial, and NASA users should actually free up budget in later years and make it easier to develop the lunar architecture hardware (heavy lifter, lunar lander, etc.) faster. But under the current plan, NASA will be footing the whole bill for Ares 1 operations at the same time the agency is struggling to get Ares V developed (assuming the agency gets that far).

    “If offers a much lower price in the begining, only to smack the taxpayer and NASA with a big UNKNOWN well after the president and likely Griffin are out of office.”

    Only if we don’t bother to define the lunar architecture and vehicles. The same faulty logic would apply to Ares 1 if Ares V was undefined. But of course, it’s not and neither would the lunar architecture that accompanied an EELV-based ISS architecture.

    “It’s one thing to leave a big-ticket item on the budget for out-years. There is a possiblity of cancellation.”

    And that’s exactly what Griffin has done. Ares 1/Orion costs have pushed the Ares V/LSAM budget so far into the outyears that it will be up to the President after Bush to decide whether they’re worth pursuing.

    “In other words, ESAS would have to screw up REALLY bad, much worse than ISS, to get cancelled outright.”

    No. NASA could execute perfectly from here, and the next President could still cancel Ares V, LSAM, and the rest of the lunar effort. In fact, given that Social Security costs will start rising circa 2010 with the first wave of baby boomers, given that continuing inflation in medical costs will drive up Medicare costs, given that the war on terror will be far from over, and given that other R&D needs related to climate and energy will probably be given a higher priority — and given that no substantial dollars will have been sunk into the lunar effort by 2010 — the next President will have a lot of incentives to terminate the lunar hardware and redirect those dollars elsewhere.

    And of course, the reality is that NASA won’t be able to execute perfectly from here anyway. There are too many large and high risks being run — from an overextended Constellation budget that is highly susceptible to even minor budget perturbations, to an underpowered Ares 1 vehicle that is forcing the architecture to be developed under very thin margins very early in its development process, to a Shuttle fleet that looks increasingly incapable of completing ISS assembly by 2010.

    One of these events (and probably two or more) is almost certain to happen and when it does, Griffin and NASA will have nowhere left to go unless they redirect away from ESAS, Ares 1, and (maybe) Orion. They can’t take anymore out of science without dropping the mission rate to zero or near-zero. They can’t eliminate aeronautics. They (probably) can’t tolerate a six- or seven-year post-Shuttle human spaceflight gap. They (probably) can’t tolerate pushing the development of lunar hardware into the second term of the President that follows Bush (or first term of the second President after Bush). They won’t close a field center or induce a massive RIF. There’s just nothing left.

    It’s time now to cash in the remaining chips before they’re all gone, revisit ESAS, and get off Ares 1/Orion and onto a more sustainable path.

    “And you’re basing that statement on what?”

    Actually, my rough calculations were too much on the conservative side. Here’s a more accurate accounting:

    According to NASA’s 2008 budget proposal, available on the NASA HQ CFO’s website, between 2008 and 2012, NASA plans to spend $17.1 billion on the development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle (Orion), Crew Launch Vehicle (Ares 1), and their associated ground and mission operations infrastructure.

    Again, that’s just 2008-12. When you add in the prior year numbers from 2006-7, the Ares 1/Orion total rises to $20.2 billion.

    And that’s still not the total cost for Ares 1/Orion development because these vehicles don’t become operational until 2015 under the current schedule. NASA’s 2008 budget projection only goes out to 2012, but looking at the Ares 1/Orion run-rate of $3.9 billion in 2012 and projecting a typical development ramp-down, there’s probably around another $5 billion to be spent in 2013-2015 to get Ares 1/Orion fielded operationally. So call it $25 billion total.

    And even that’s probably a slight underestimate, since Griffin certainly redirected a billion or two in 2004 and 2003 to Ares 1/Orion.

    So something more than $25 billion total to get one oversized human capsule and one duplicative LEO launcher fielded.

    Going by your $38 billion (which I can’t confirm) Saturn V figure — a decades-old, heavy lift, lunar-capable launcher — that’s pretty pathetic. After 40 years of civil, military, and commercial space development, NASA still insists on a plan that spends the greater majority of the Saturn V development budget just to get a human LEO transport system fielded? If that Saturn V figure is accurate, then what a joke…

  • kert

    Ares 1/Orion total rises to $20.2 billion.
    a billion here, a billion there, soon we are talking real money.
    Just a point of illustration : $20 billion, at (excessive) launch cost of $10 000K per pound, would loft nearly thousand tons to LEO ( disregarding any bulk buy price cuts or cheaper launchers coming online ).
    Thats one hell of a lunar stack.

  • al Fansome

    SALT: The launcher problem is a far more subtle issue, requiring commercial driven solutions that address markets, economics and the judicious application of appropriate technology rather than simple government directives.

    I agree. I believe the WH could have said something about the goal of “cheap access” and then stated some strategic direction that was subtle in nature. The Aldridge Commission talked about prizes, commercial procurement, tax incentives, etc.

    WHITE RESPONDED: My own opinion is that genuine low cost LEO access will not occur until the private sector starts writing the checks for LEO access and that will require a business case that can close without Uncle Sugar covering the tab.

    NASA buying “commercial” may be smart procurement policy but that is not private sector space.

    I hear this whine about the commercial sector.

    The truth is that the biggest breakthroughs in transportation in this country were smart partnerships between government and private industry.

    I am just arguing for a similar “smart partnership”. Stating “this not true private industry” because “it is not 100% private industry” is a strawman argument.

    Let me illustrate:

    RAILROADS: I think we can agree that the development of the transcontinental railroad, is a programmatic success. It was not 100% pure “private”, but it worked, and worked very well from a programmatic perspective. The Government did not come in and start designing trains, or building the train tracks. Instead it provided huge economic incentives to private industry to achieve the goal, and got out of the way.

    Building this railroad was sold based on its major “economic” and “national security” benefits. If you read the Congressional record from an 1856 report, it is clear why they build the transcontinental railroad.

    http://cprr.org/Museum/HR_Report_358_1856.html

    The necessity that exists for constructing lines of railroad and telegraphic communication between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of this continent is no longer a question for argument; it is conceded by everyone. In order to maintain our present position on the Pacific, we must have some more speedy and direct means of intercourse than (the Panama Canal, -Al)

    The importance of our Pacific possessions is felt in every pursuit and in every relation of life. The gold of California has furnished the merchant and trader with a capital by which enterprises have been undertaken and accomplished which were before deemed impracticable. Our commercial marine has been nearly doubled since 1848; internal improvements have been pushed forward with astonishing rapidity; the value of every kind of property has been doubled; and the evidences of prosperity and thrift are everywhere to be seen. The security and protection of that country, from whence have emanated nearly all these satisfactory results, is of the greatest importance; and that can be accomplished only by direct and easy communications through our own territories. Railroads will effect this.

    No talk of cathedrals here.

    Can you imagine how the NASA of today would have proposed to solve the transcontinental railroad challenge?

    That NASA would almost certainly argue that they need a national initiative to design a new and build a better train, that could go over mountains, and would start a Government-led program, using Government engineers to design it.

    AIRWAYS: The US Government did many many things to promote aviation in this country. It invested in “technology” … specifically the “technical” priorities of industry … not the technical priorities of the US government. It created the “Kelly Airmail Act” to buy “commercial services” and create a market to justify private investment in buying airplanes. It designed/developed/operated the air traffic control system.

    The one thing the US Government DID NOT DO was to design, own or operate the airplanes.

    The huge U.S. federal investments in the airways were primarily driven by “national security” purposes. The biggest policy changes, and federal investments, were driven WWI and WWII.

    But even in the face of a national security crisis — when we absolutely had to have that breakthrough airplane — at no time did the federal government take over the role of designing or building the airplanes.

    INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM: Donald Robertson likes to argue that the Interstate Highway is an example of government success in developing transportation systems, which I agree with, but on closer examination it still makes my point. BTW, Donald is correct in that US Government took a larger role in this initiative — in that the Government effectively put up 100% of the FUNDING to build the highways. This just means that the Government was the monopsony customer.

    The Government did not “build” the interstate highways … they hired private contractors. The US Government did not hire a huge team of civil engineers to produce the detailed design of all invdividual parts — the engineering expertise was primarily from private industry. The US Government did not design or build the cars that run on this highway.

    ON THE SUBJECT OF SUSTAINABILITY:

    In all three cases, these national initiatives had to be sustained through multiple Presidencies and many many Congresses, and they succeeded.

    This is what “sustainability” is all about.

    So, why did they succeed?

    Related to Griffin’s philosophical speechers … we did not do this because somebody gave a speech arguing that this was the modern-day equivalent of “cathedrals”. We did not do this because somebody gave a speech arguing about “acceptable reasons and real reasons”.

    In all three cases, it is clear that our elected leaders wrote huge checks — year after year — because of the significant “economic” and “national security” benefits.

    - Al

    PS — Too bad “economic” and “national security” impacts were not evaluated as key discriminators when NASA looked at the various alternatives.

  • Too bad “economic” and “national security” impacts were not evaluated as key discriminators when NASA looked at the various alternatives.

    Yes, particularly since both the president’s vision and the Aldridge Commission stipulated that they must do so (many of the CE&R contractors did a good job of this, and all of them at least attempted to do so). But ESAS seems to have ignored this almost completely, or even defied it (for instance, use of EELVs would have provided a broader user base for a dual-use vehicle, but now the Pentagon will bear a larger share of the costs of the program with its own tight space budgets, while the taxpayers additionally pay for NASA’s new toy).

    At the end, though, it’s one more case of the Bush administration starting with a good idea, but then dropping the ball. Once they appointed the new administrator, a rocket scientist, they figured that they could move on to more important things than civil space, and trust him to carry out the original vision. It would seem to have been a bad move, but the White House has too many other problems now to even notice, let alone do anything about it.

  • Dennis Wingo

    Hey Al

    The necessity that exists for constructing lines of railroad and telegraphic communication between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of this continent is no longer a question for argument; it is conceded by everyone. In order to maintain our present position on the Pacific, we must have some more speedy and direct means of intercourse than (the Panama Canal, -Al)

    I thought that the railroad came first?

    PS

    I know that you know this but the text would allow another interpretation.

    :)

  • Dennis Wingo

    Al

    INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM: Donald Robertson likes to argue that the Interstate Highway is an example of government success in developing transportation systems, which I agree with, but on closer examination it still makes my point. BTW, Donald is correct in that US Government took a larger role in this initiative — in that the Government effectively put up 100% of the FUNDING to build the highways. This just means that the Government was the monopsony customer.

    Actually the government only put up 92% of the funding, the rest came from state coffers. Also, the federal government did not even do the contracting for the Interstate, that was left to each individual state highway department. The only thing that the Interstate and Defense Highway Act of 1956 did is to set the standards that the states had to abide by in building their system as well as providing the funding from a special tax on gasoline and Diesel fuel.

  • al Fansome

    Dennis,

    Thanks for additional information and clarification. Although I did not have the 92% fact that you quote, I actually did actually account for it, by intentionally deleting “U.S.” from the phrase “the Government effectively put up 100% of the FUNDING”.

    I also knew that each state manages highway funds & contracting at the state level, but thanks for making this clear. If my language was confusing, please forgive me as I was attempting to shorten an already lengthy post.

    - Al

    PS — BTW, the actual name of the enabling interstate highway legislation, the “Interstate and Defense Highway Act”, directly supports one of my key policy assertions above … If we want “sustainability” in the VSE, then we need to design the approach so it can deliver clear and compelling “national defense” benefits.

  • Bill White

    The railroad model was very much based on the federal government’s ability to give away free land in exchange for miles of railway built. What comparable benefit can the US Congress offer private sector launch providers?

    NASA can and should do a better job of “starting the motor” but unless the engine is fed with revenue that is not ultimately tax-payer sourced the engine wil stop as soon as the tax dollars stop flowing.

    I fully support public-private partnerships but the “private side” needs to find a revenue stream that does not depend upon Uncle Sugar’s largesse.

    The potential com-sat boom very nearly gave us the launch demand to support genuine low cost LEO access until cell phone networks proved that market unnecessary.

    To some extent, launch providers continue to face a glut of supply with too little demand which suggests that the economic thing froa private player to do is harness that glut and arbitrage cheap Russian lift just as google is harnessing the glut of dark fiber to promote bandwidth hungry business models such as YouTube.

  • Bill White

    If we want “sustainability” in the VSE, then we need to design the approach so it can deliver clear and compelling “national defense” benefits.

    Can you amplify this point?

    If you intend to provoke a lunar land grab race between world powers then, I agree with you. A new space race would stimulate launch providers to provide better, cheaper lift.

    If you propose to buy EELV to help both NASA and DoD “save money” then I disagree as EELV is at least an order of magnitude too expensive for the private sector to close a viable business case and to adopt EELV as you say creates business incentives for Boeing and Lockheed to use K Street influence to smother start-ips such as SpaceX or Kistler.

  • al Fansome

    WINGO: I thought that the railroad came first?

    Dennis,

    You are correct, but to clarify, my post is a direct quote of the very first paragraph from the 1856 congressional report. I added the 3 words “the Panama Canal”, in parantheses, to shortern an otherwise longer sentence.

    - Al

  • Dennis Wingo

    The national defense benefits are an interesting thing.

    For the Interstate and Defense Highway Act of 1956 (Ike saw the autobahn’s in German) the big ticket items were: (from memory)

    1. Loads

    All of the Interstate bridges are built well in excess of the load carrying capability needed for normal transportation. They have to be able to carry lots of tanks and other military equipment.

    2. Turn Radius

    The interstates cannot have any turns that a tank cannot take a full speed.

    3. Straight Line length.

    Very x number of miles the interstate has to have y number of perfectly straight road with no encumberances (bridges, power lines) in order that the roads can be used as airstrips. The roads have to be able to carry those loads from heavy planes as well.

    So the interstates are designed to facilitate military usage in the same way that a percentage of airline planes have to be able to be converted for military use as well.

    That is the thought process anyway.

  • Anonymous: Per your concerns about wasting a year rethinking ESAS, it would be wise to have options ready for discussion with the new White House and Congressional leadership when they come into power after the next election.

    On this we agree. I would in no way oppose parallel studies of alternatives, as long as they did not in themselves eat the budget, and as long as they did not prevent going forward with ESAS in the interim. We should always look at alternatives, since conditions always may (as they indded have) change.

    Thomas: Incidently, one other gem in the Planetary report. The observation that the ISS does not really need to finish the ISS, only do 3-4 critical flights and perhaps a couple for must fly foreign modules.

    I would advocate for this. The Space Station is sufficiently complete, now, to serve as the market for COTS — which is by far its most important purpose in life, notwithstanding what I state below.

    Jake: Many decisions made by Griffin during and after the ESAS process have had the effect of front-loading development costs.

    Dr. Griffin has stated up front that this was his plan.

    Anonymous: What is the optimum crew size for the lunar architecture?

    I’m not sure why we need to study this. We know for a fact that two will work (it has). We are not putting anywhere near enough effort learning from our Apollo experience, which in my mind should count far higher than studies or additional robotic exploration. That said, it is probably a safe bet that more people are better in any exploration architecture. In a quick-and-dirty plan to get back to the moon and prepare for Mars (which is what this whole thing was originally advertised as), you should probably set two as your floor and add as many extras as the launch architecture — once it is actually up and flying — will support. You can improve the architecture, and add additional crew, in a second generation. (Irrelivant side note: the Soviets were planning a single crew person toward the end of their N-1 work.)

    Al: Do you intentionally keep collapsing the VSE and the ESAS, as if they are the same thing?

    Unfortunately — and I think this is the real reason I am so uncomfortable with Anonymous’ “start over” ideas — today, politically in Congress and probably even in the White House, the VSE and ESAS are one and the same. I strongly suspect that there is close to zero chance of VSE surviving the collapse of ESAS, for any reason. If NASA goes back to Congress now and says, gee, we were wrong after all, and after spending all this money on something that’s not going to work, we want you to let us start over, the VSE will get zeroed. While inertia and politics will ensure that spaceflight (and probably human spaceflight) budgets will stay in the same ball park they are at now, the focussed goal will be gone and we’ll go back to aimless studies and research. Worse, it’s likely someone will try to get the Shuttle revived (mark my words!). Human planetary exploration would be put off far longer than Anonymous fears from ESAS. ”

    Also, while the Space Station is by no means a budgetary success, and it is not (so far) a scientific success, it is so far a technical success. It is even an egnineering success, in that we have learned a lot about building (and, yes, how not to build, though I would be carefully about reading too much into that at this early point in time) large multi-purpose structures in orbit — skills we will need no matter what our future in space. To quote myself, we are learning nothing less than how to build something in the environment that dominates the Universe. And, as I argued earlier, doing so is probably far more difficult, and certainly of greater moment for our future, than a few quick dashed to Earth’s moon. Yes, it cost way too much and we should use the Space Station as a sterling example of how not to manage a large project, but we should not over-extend the lesson and fail to recognize what we have achieved. Astronauts conduct truly routine construction projects out of the Space Station’s airlocks, and that is something far, far beyond anything we had before the beginning of the Shuttle program.

    Finally, Dennis, it was my understanding significant subsidies for the Freeway and Highway systems come out of the general fund, and that the gas tax only covers a part of their costs.

    – Donald

  • Al (and Dennis): the actual name of the enabling interstate highway legislation, the “Interstate and Defense Highway Act”, directly supports one of my key policy assertions above … If we want “sustainability” in the VSE, then we need to design the approach so it can deliver clear and compelling “national defense” benefits.

    Sustainability — and least as it relates to financial low cost, as those opposing ESAS are using it — had little or no bearing on the decisions to develop the Highway and Freeway systems. If you want to move goods, it is hard to imagine a less efficient method, especially as applied to trucking. Rail is far cheaper to build, can operate at far higher speeds, can go just as many places (I still remember every local road in the industrial districts of San Francisco having tracks down the middle), et cetera. (One little known but important fact is that the passenger capacity of the Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco to Oakland, which is now hopelessly congested, was almost twice its current capacity when the old Key line commuter trains shared the bottom deck with freight.) The Freeways were built for military (and then from technical and political inertia, and then for ideological reasons), but low cost was never a consideration.

    – Donald

  • Bill White

    Donald writes:

    If NASA goes back to Congress now and says, gee, we were wrong after all, and after spending all this money on something that’s not going to work, we want you to let us start over, the VSE will get zeroed. While inertia and politics will ensure that spaceflight (and probably human spaceflight) budgets will stay in the same ball park they are at now, the focussed goal will be gone and we’ll go back to aimless studies and research. Worse, it’s likely someone will try to get the Shuttle revived (mark my words!).

    Actually, I believe that in this scenario, DirectV2.0 would have a very strong chance of being adopted.

    Direct Launcher link

    On page two the diagram shows an Orion sitting on top of a largely unmodified shuttle stack (satndard SRBS and ET) with RS-68s swapped for the SSMEs. THAT would seem easy enough to sell to Congress (and the congress critters from the various relevant states)

    Same Orion, same LSAM etc. . .

    Ares 1 work done to date is banked for future work on a 5 segment Jupiter upgrade.

  • Concerning the whole Highway vs VSE once again we have been able to solve the analogy leaving the original problem untouched. Dr Neil Degrasse Tyson has made some excellent points that it’s the cost of the spacecraft and limited mission/markets that set the demand not launch costs. Even if the launch was free the other 80% of the cost would still be there as a barrier to entry. In addition over 80% of “market” is Government funded. Billionaires in space will not break this industry out the rules that govern what is in essence still a nationalized endeavor.

    Concerning the idea that it’s to late to stop the train before it goes over the cliff argument. Direct doesn’t start anything over. What Direct represents is getting back to Aldridge Commissions three imperatives to success

    1) VSE must be Sustainable over several decades with regular, visible demonstrations of ongoing progress and success.

    Under the current plan nothing really happens prior to the Ares V. Without Ares V we aren’t leaving LEO with people anyway so the Ares V is VSE. With the budget cuts needed to pay for Ares I even the robots are staying home. So I guess it’s lose lose. We’re not happy to everyone’s not happy.

    2) VSE must be Affordable not requiring huge peaks in annual funding or significant decreases in other important NASA initiatives.

    Anyone care to debate that this imperative to success hasn’t been total destroyed many times over?

    3) VSE’s implementation plan must represent a Credible stewardship of the taxpayer’s dollars that leverages the current infrastructure and workforce whenever possible.

    Besides the orange tank foam and LOX suppliers it’s hard to find a whole lot the original STS production and launch infrastructure that is left under the current plan. Add the huge time delay between STS and Ares V and very little of the workforce will be around as well. Anyone care to take bets on who wins the debate between Grandma taking a haircut or the US going back to the moon?

    Further ESAS was originally a STS derived architecture when it was first announced. Ares 1 and 5 are no longer STS derived. In addition, Direct fixes a serious error in the 2xHLV solution shown in the ESAS report. We still need almost all the technologies under way like Orion, advanced upper stages and engines just not all at once and only a few are on the critical path to support the ISS and preserve the bulk of the STS infrastructure and workforce.

    The switch to LOR didn’t end Apollo nor will getting back to the original ESAS recommendations or the Aldridge Commission’s imperatives for success doom VSE. Rather as in the case of Apollo a shift now will save VSE from the certain doom that now confronts it.

    “For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will be our last.”

    John F Kennedy
    Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs
    May 25, 1961

  • Dennis Wingo

    Donald

    You are falling into the fallacy of looking at limited variables. The interstate highway system was not built as an overall enabler of commerce. The interestates are freedom for the people as well as for moving cargo. Not everything is about maximum efficiency for limited uses.

  • Dennis Wingo

    The Interstate system was built to be an enabler of commerce as well as a means to provide a greater defense of the American nation. It was also designed to allow everyone to have a greater ease of movement acorss the nation and is probably one of the most important and beneficial construction projects in the history of mankind.

    This is the legacy that American space efforts should also have.

    1. Commerce
    2. Freedom of movement
    3. Defense

    These are the three legs of a key component of American power.

    I am not opposed to development in this direction. However, NASA is not the agent bringing this about in any way shape form or fashion.

  • anonymous

    Missed an earlier post by Mr. Whittington…

    “if you could cite where the phase two COTS funding”

    COTS Phase 1 is still budgeted and managed out of ESMD. But in the 2008 budget (see the NASA CFO website, which is linked from the NASA HQ. website), the COTS Phase 2 budget was moved under Space Operations.

    “In any case, out year numbers that far in advance”

    This income is not “far in advance”. Both COTS competitors are scheduled to finish their test flights before 2010, when the Shuttle retires less than three years from now. If NASA or Griffin still wants these vehicles fielded by that time, then they can’t afford to take actions that would deter or delay private investment in these vehicles. Reducing a market, especially one that’s only three years out, is a huge disincentive to investors in any business.

    “do not have as much meaning as you might think as they tend to be adjusted from year to year.”

    Yes, federal budget projections do get adjusted annually, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not incredibly important to companies (“newspace” or otherwise) that are trying to line up investment based on those future revenue streams.

    “Your objection about how that affects investment is a bit specious, since there no evidence that either SpaceX or RP/Kistler is having any problem attracting funding.”

    See Dr. John Logsdon’s comments about Kistler missing their funding milestones in the NASA Advisory Council minutes, available on the NASA HQ website (also on NASAWatch/SpaceRef, IIRC).

    “Besides, if ISS resupply were the only market that was being chased, one doubts that there would be too much interest in private investment in a private orbital vehicle any way. In any case, I am fascinated by the idea that private launch companies are so much better than the big, bad gummit, yet need gummit funding to proceed. I can well believe the former but wonder about the latter.”

    Other markets aren’t relevant. This was a deal between NASA and the COTS competitors. Griffin himself has publicly described COTS as an arms-length agreement modeled to how commercial satellites get built. Under those kinds of agreements, developers (COTS competitors or satellite manufacturers) line up investors based on the markets promised by the buyer (NASA or satellite buyers/operators). NASA is starting to reneg on its part of the deal. Simple as that.

  • anonymous 5

    Payton and Griffin are old golf buddies. Endorsement is very suspect.

  • anonymous

    Response to another missed post by Mr. Whittington:

    “”Anonymous” technical statements about the utility of EELVs sounds like a case of dueling experts. One would be more comfortable accepting them if the studies he cites did not come from Boeing and Lockmart.”

    Wow. I don’t know what to say. These are the companies that build and operate these vehicles. That’s as close to getting the truth from the horse’s mouth as we can get. If study teams at these companies claim that Atlas V or Delta IV has such-and-such thrust or this-and-that flight profile — and have been using the same data and analytical models to successfully execute military and commercial satellite launches on Atlas V and Delta IV for years — then we have no choice but to believe these corporate studies over ESAS. Unlike Boeing and LockMart, NASA isn’t responsible for building or operating these vehicles and doesn’t employ them to launch anything (yet, anyway). That doesn’t mean that data and analysis shouldn’t be independently checked (as ESAS should have been), but for the purposes of a blog, we should apply some common sense as to which organization is much more likely to possess the accurate data and correct analysis.

    And even if we refuse to accept these industry studies, at the very least, they cast a huge shadow of uncertainty on ESAS. Either EELVs can fly human capsules on depressed trajectories and avoid blackout periods or they cannot. We have authoritative and verifiable sources in the form of industry studies that conflict with ESAS. Someone needs to investigate and find out who’s right.

    And more than that, this is just one example of the bad data employed in ESAS. There’s still the use of flight reliability and safety numbers for so-called “Shuttle-derived” systems that have never flown and are in fact clean-sheet designs. And then there’s the use of Shuttle safety assumptions and processes for the costing of human-rated, non-Shuttle systems. Etc., etc.

    And even more than that, there’s also a slew of missing analysis in ESAS, leaving all sort of important questions unanswered about crew size versus cost, LOM versus cost, LOC versus cost, development costs versus operating costs, and many other trade-offs — understandings that are critical to making good decisions about requirements, vehicles, and architectures.

  • anonymous

    More response to earlier post from Mr. Whittington that I missed…

    “Are any problems deal stoppers or just the teething difficulties inherent in any large scale, technological development project.”

    We’re not talking about teething problems. ESAS/Ares 1/Orion had deal stoppers from the very beginning.

    It’s a deal stopper to base a multi-ten billion dollar taxpayer investment that will affect the course of U.S. civil human space flight for decades to come on erroneous data and absent analysis.

    It’s a deal stopper that the ESAS implementation plan didn’t fit the VSE budget from day one, adding enormous budgetary risk and resulting in at least a five-year gap (probably more) in U.S. civil human space flight when the budgetary good times inevitably came to an end.

    It’s a deal stopper that the budget for Griffin’s chosen LEO transport system (Ares 1/Orion) lacked any appreciable margin, delaying the start of actual lunar hardware development until well after the 2008 election, putting the human lunar return effort at great political risk.

    It’s a deal stopper than billions in actual robotic space exploration program — many of which were called out in the VSE as priorities — have been terminated for the sake of a human LEO transport system that stands in the way of getting actual human exploration hardware underway.

  • anonymous

    More response to a missed Whittington post…

    “His budget objections leave out the cause the the budget crunch”

    What budget crunch? By the time Griffin leaves office as NASA Administrator in early 2009 (assuming he exits at that time), NASA will have spent at least $16 billion in total on Exploration Systems and at least $10 billion in total on Ares 1/Orion. And if the next NASA Administrator sticks to the same path, he or she will have to continue to spend $3-4 billion per year for several more years to get Ares 1/Orion operational, resulting in a total cost of more than $25 billion. (See my last post for a more thorough accounting.) I mean, c’mon, after 50 years of civil, military, and commercial space development, if Griffin can’t come up with a more affordable plan for flying an Apollo-style capsule, then he should resign or be removed as NASA Administrator.

    Ares 1/Orion is so expensive that the cost comparisons to comparable LEO transport systems are just over-the-top unbelievable.

    For example, NASA’s COTS program has awarded Space-X an amount just short of $300 million (MILLION!) to develop and flight test a medium-lift orbital launch vehicle (Falcon 9) and an uncrewed pressurized capsule capable of docking with the ISS and Earth reentry (Dragon). Now that $300 million is not the total cost of the Falcon 9/Dragon system. But even if we assume that Space-X investors cost-share at a level ten times that of NASA’s contribution (which I’m sure they won’t; no one cost shares at 10:1 ratios), the total development cost for Falcon 9/Dragon will still come in at only $3.3 billion. That’s 8 (EIGHT!) times less than the $25 billion total development cost for Ares 1/Orion. (The real comparison is probably closer to a factor of ten — a whole order of magnitude.) Of course, we expect the federal government and NASA to build and operate systems less efficiently than an entrepreneurial or “newspace” company. But EIGHT TIMES less efficient? Please… forget space policy… taxpayers shouldn’t stand for such wastefulness on the basis of fiscal policy alone.

    And we don’t even have to rely on comparisons to vehicles still under development or innovative newspace companies to see how unreasonable Ares 1/Orion costs are. Ares 1/Orion costs are still awful when compared to military systems developed by major aerospace primes. In the EELV program, for example, the USAF spent a total of $1 billion in taxpayer funding and got 2 (TWO!) medium-lift orbital launch vehicles. Now, Ares 1/Orion is more difficult because it includes Orion, a pressurized, crewed vehicle that must be capable of docking and Earth reentry — something the EELV development program never had to deal with. But is Ares 1/Orion really 25 times (TWENTY-FIVE TIMES!) more difficult for NASA to pull off than the development of two new medium-lift launch vehicles was for the USAF? Even when we add in Boeing and LockMart’s cost-sharing on the EELV development program — probably a few billion more, call it $5 billion total — the cost differential is still at least a factor of 5 (FIVE!).

    The egregious costs of Ares 1/Orion in these comparisons are nuts. There is no good or even acceptable reason for Ares 1/Orion to cost FIVE to EIGHT TIMES more than comparable LEO transport systems, especially when those costs are delaying and doing so much damage to the things we most care about (post-Shuttle human space flight gap, development of actual human space exploration hardware, ongoing and actual robotic space exploration, etc.).

  • anonymous

    Last of the response to the Whittington post that I missed earlier…

    “Nor does he offer any proof that the matter won’t be dealt with except for opinion.”

    To avoid more delays in the initial operational date for Ares 1/Orion (to 2016 or 2017), NASA needs a 7 (SEVEN!) percent increase in the 2008 budget currently before Congress. The other major departments and agencies getting increases this big or larger in 2008 are primarily associated with the war on terror: Department of Defense, Homeland Security, Department of State, Veterans Affairs, etc. There’s just no way civil space programs rise to the same level of priority as the war on terror. That’s proof enough that NASA is highly unlikely to get its requested increased in 2008 and that Ares 1/Orion are highly likely to get delayed again to 2016 or 2017.

    “I am personally uncomfortable with having a debate with someone who refuses to give out his name.”

    If it makes you so uncomfortable to debate an anonymous poster, then please don’t do so. You responded to one of my posts. No one is forcing you to communicate with me or any other anonymous posters.

    “No one knows who ‘Anonymous’ is, what his credentials if any are, and what his biases might be.”

    For the record, I have never worked for or have any personal interest in ULA, LockMart, Boeing, the DIRECT team, the Shuttle program, USA, any of the “new space” companies, or any other organization relevant to this discussion that I can think of. I realize that folks have to take my word for it, but I really have no institutional bias. Although I work in the Washington space community, with respect to the topics of this discussion, I’m sitting on the sidelines in both my day job and in this forum and calling them like I see them.

    And even if I didn’t offer that disclaimer, it shouldn’t matter whether I or any other poster here is the village idiot or an evil mastermind. If we base our opinions on cogent, logical arguments and the facts as best we can ascertain them, it shouldn’t matter who I am, what I do, or even what my biases are. If you read someone else’s post, you’re either persuaded by their arguments or you’re not. It’s as simple as that.

    And if you’re not persuaded, by all means, articulate what you think is wrong with the argument. But if you don’t have any better logic or counter evidence to present, then don’t hide behind ad hominem whining about the anonymous status of a poster who has a day job that he or she has to protect. Just say you’re not persuaded, that you’re a fan of Griffin/ESAS/Ares 1/Orion, and leave it at that. It’s okay to express opinions, even in the absence of relevant arguments to back them up.

    “So far confident predictions of disaster have not transpired.”

    And what evidence is there that things are going well? The zeroed design/development margin for Ares 1/Orion, despite the fact that there’s still eight years of design and development in front of the program? The five-year and growing post-Shuttle human space flight gap? The fact that decisions about starting the development of any actual human lunar hardware have been pushed out into the tenure of the next President, Congress, and NASA Administrator? The billions in other VSE and NASA programs terminated?

    I’m all for giving programs a chance to prove themselves. But things have gone so bad, so quickly — and NASA now has no room left to maneuver when the next shoe drops — that it’s time reevaluate and change course. Simple as that.

  • Dennis: i>The interestates are freedom for the people as well as for moving cargo. . . and is probably one of the most important and beneficial construction projects in the history of mankind.

    Even (especially) if all that is true, that rather undermines those who think the government has no place in the transportation industry. It is a safe bet that the Highway and Freeway networks (as opposed to one- or two-lane national roads serving a few automobiles for the rich) would never have been developed without government intervention, since a far cheaper and more efficient system already existed. (In fact, even with the government paying most of the bills, the rail network had to be deliberately torn up, e.g., in Los Angeles, to create an artificial market for automobiles before the latter could succeed commercially.) There are obvious lessons here for spaceflight. Just because it does not make any rational economic sence (e.g., the Space Station), does not mean that it cannot contribute to a sustainable future if that is what is defined as desirable.

    Anonymous: There is no good or even acceptable reason for Ares 1/Orion to cost FIVE to EIGHT TIMES more than comparable LEO transport systems,

    The basic conceptual idea of ESAS — use upgraded Shuttle boosters and derivitives of existing upper stages and the J2– ought be (a lot) cheaper than any clean sheet design (like both the EELVs, and especially Boeings). That is the idea that led most people on this forum at the time to strongly support the idea . . . until it actually started getting developed. If your accounting is correct, where is all of that money going? Was NASA sold a bill of goods by Orbital Sciences and ATK (where many of the ideas behind ESAS originated)? Or, did NASA screw a good idea up all by themselves?

    I expect the answers to these questions are not clear-cut or simple, but I’d love to hear your speculation. . . .

    – Donald

  • Reve BM

    I will have to spend hours to sort through everything that is being said here. What a discouraging contentious pile of needling little arguments, I will need a flow chart to map it all out.

    As a general member of the public, I am just beginning to inform myself about what Ares is, and the general program. I feel like I’ve entered a bar in the middle of an argument.

    I certainly hope the space program can survive all this backbiting. It reminds me, I have relatives from both the North and South sides of the Civil War. After the war, in Nevada, two wings of my family married. There were two old geezers, one from each side, in the 1890s. They used to get into terrible arguments about Lincoln, the meaning of the War, etc. America had passed them by and went on to an arguably better future.

    I honestly hope the space program, including the long-term manned moon habitation portion of it, succeeds in the coming years in spite of whoever has screwed up what. Even if we waste hundreds of billions, that’s a gap that can easily be patched with some google or hedge fund money.

  • Welcome to the bar, Reve BM.

    You have hit one nail directly on the head, and it’s an issue I’ve tried to address to some degree. The space community is extremely insular, we each know exactly what needs to be done to go forward, and whatever decisions get made everyone else is going to insist that they were the wrong decisions. While I think there are many things wrong with the current strategy, it’s the one we’ve got, and one with a modicum of political support behind it. Many (most) here argue that the current strategy is unsustainable. I hope they are wrong, because I disagree with those who believe that we can start over at this point in time with a new plan. The political window for that is shut for now, and the window even for going forward is rapidly shutting. I think our best strategy would be a united front to get the current plan as far as we can before that window does shut. Most here believe that the current plan is so flawed that we need to stop and try something else in the remaining year or three of the current political window. For better or worse, that is very unlikely to happen in the current political environment, so time will tell whether ESAS is as bad as people think, or whether it has any chance of achieving its goals.

    – Donald

  • Even if we waste hundreds of billions, that’s a gap that can easily be patched

    A billion here a billion there. Pretty soon we’re talking trillions.

    http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/

    Good luck patching that gap.

  • “anonymous,” you’re wasting your time coming up with responses to Mark Whittington. While we appreciate it, he’s not even capable of comprehending them.

    Note that when he whines about this thread (I think–he’s never very specific about who are members of his infamous “Internet Rocketeers Club”), he can’t even link to it, because if people read it, they will realize how out of his depth he is.

    I’d say that it’s safe to ignore him, and put your talents and time to better use. Only respond to people who have actual serious and informed critiques.

  • anonymous

    “I’m not sure why we need to study this. We know for a fact that two will work (it has)… [and] it is probably a safe bet that more people are better in any exploration architecture. In a quick-and-dirty plan to get back to the moon and prepare for Mars (which is what this whole thing was originally advertised as), you should probably set two as your floor and add as many extras as the launch architecture — once it is actually up and flying — will support. You can improve the architecture, and add additional crew, in a second generation.”

    For the question of crew size, I’d be comfortable with this approach in the absence of sensitivity analysis on crew size. Unfortunately, that’s not the approach taken in ESAS. Four crew was mandated as a requirement with no analysis of the additional costs we’re paying for those two additional crew.

    And again, there are other critical sensitivities (LOM vs. cost, LOC vs. cost, etc.) that are not so easily addressed and will require substantive analysis to understand if and when the time comes.

    “If NASA goes back to Congress now and says, gee, we were wrong after all, and after spending all this money on something that’s not going to work, we want you to let us start over, the VSE will get zeroed.”

    It depends on the argument. If the argument put forward is the one above, yes, of course NASA is just asking for cancellation. But, if the argument is that the White House and Congress have changed NASA’s budget situation and that demands a change in direction, then the White House and Congress will have little choice but to listen. And after listening, they’ll have the choice of either accepting the proposed new direction, coughing up a lot of more money to fix the current broken plan, or letting things continue to spiral downward. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    The key to proposing any such major course change in Washington (or in any big organization) is to have your ducks in a row before approaching the decisionmakers. Of course, if you say we’re screwed but keep sending checks while we sort it out, the decisionmakers will turn a deaf ear and cut your budget. But if you say we’re screwed but here’s a good path out of the mess that stays within the budget, the decisionmakers will provide a fair hearing.

    Of course, I think Griffin’s choices are much more to blame for the current situation that the moderate White House and Congressional shallowing of the NASA topline and exploration budget. But placement of blame would be besides the point if Griffin or his successor were actually courageous enough to present an alternative path to the White House and Congress. And, if the plan were a good one, I’d applaud them for doing so.

    “Worse, it’s likely someone will try to get the Shuttle revived (mark my words!).

    Per some earlier comments (originally by another poster) in this thread, I’d bet dollars to donuts based on what’s happened so far this year with the STS manifest that the 2010 retirement date will get blown by about a year or so unless drastic surgery is performed on the ISS final configuration. I think we’re headed down this path regardless.

    “Human planetary exploration would be put off far longer than Anonymous fears from ESAS.”

    I sympathize with the argument, and I’d support it if the current plan preserved something. But ESAS and Griffin have already lost everything. Under the current plan, Griffin can’t close the post-Shuttle human space flight gap; can’t get any actual lunar hardware underway before the next election likely results in the cancellation of the human lunar return; and can’t afford to pursue any of the other major elements of the VSE (Mars, outer moons, extrasolar planets, commercial). Staying with the current plan guarantees that NASA winds up with an oversized human capsule, a duplicative LEO launcher, and nothing else. Proposing a different plan at least provides the option of gaining back some of what’s been lost.

    Even more realistically, I don’t think Griffin or his successor will have any choice but to revisit ESAS and rethink Ares 1/Ares V/Orion when the next budget shoe drops. There’s three likely and big threats looming: Congress doesn’t provide NASA its requested 7% increase in 2008, STS retirement date gets pushed back past 2010, and/or Ares 1/Orion don’t close technically. Any one of those events is a budget buster and at least one of them will almost certainly happen. And when one or more of those events do happen, there’s nowhere left for Griffin or his successor to go in the budget. They can’t/won’t reduce the science flight rate to zero, wipe out aeronautics, extend the gap any further, push the human lunar hardware out any further, close a field center, or conduct mass firings. All that’s left is to revisit ESAS and change course away from Ares 1/Orion/Ares V. Thus, I think it’s going to happen regardless. From where I sit, it’s just a question of whether it’s done carefully and methodically through analysis and pre-planning or whether it’s done reactively and rushed (again) to meet the arbitrary deadlines of a budget emergency.

    “Astronauts conduct truly routine construction projects out of the Space Station’s airlocks, and that is something far, far beyond anything we had before the beginning of the Shuttle program.”

    This line of argument would make sense if we weren’t going down the heavy lift path and were using in-orbit assembly (or just fueling) in the lunar architecture. But we’re not (at least under ESAS).

    “If your accounting is correct, where is all of that money going?”

    Honestly, I don’t know for sure. I can point to things like:

    … Development and testing of clean-sheet elements (first-stage, upper stage engine) that were sold as, or changed from, true, flight-proven, heritage components (i.e., no real heritage). A capsule that is bigger than needed to take care of ISS crews and cargo. A capsule that is much more complex than needed to maintain minimal margins due to the underpowered launcher. Major alterations to the launch and ground infrastructure that are not required by other concepts to accommodate the new hardware. Assumption of unnecessary Shuttle safety assumptions and processes that provide little or no benefit. The intensive and extensive nature of the Shuttle infrastructure that the program is assuming. Etc…

    But I’ll don’t think those issues alone explain a five- or eight-fold difference in costs (maybe two- or three-fold). Unfortunately, I and other folks would need to do more analysis than what my time allows and this forum is capable of communicating.

  • Reve BM wrote:

    “I will have to spend hours to sort through everything that is being said here. What a discouraging contentious pile of needling little arguments, I will need a flow chart to map it all out.”

    Don’t waste you time, you’ve got already to the core of it. The topic was about stumping for Griffin and as usual the nit pickers and critics had their way. Griffin has revitalized NASA, changed its direction completely and set it on course for the Moon and Mars. He needs support both public and congressional to succeed. This type of debate is totally destrutive and offers no alternative except fantasy schemes from ignorant bystanders.

  • Anonymous, thanks for your very detailed responses: I don’t think Griffin or his successor will have any choice but to revisit ESAS and rethink Ares 1/Ares V/Orion when the next budget shoe drops.

    In that case, the debate here will prove academic and you “win” by default. I would be very saddened by that outcome, so I sincerely hope that there is something wrong with your analysis. The fact that neither of us can identify a reason for the budgets you are assuming leads me to hope that Dr Griffin is not quite as incompetent as we are assuming. I’ll grant it’s probably a forlorn hope, but we’ll see.

    argument would make sense if we weren’t going down the heavy lift path and were using in-orbit assembly (or just fueling) in the lunar architecture.

    By your own argument, we’re never going to get to the heavy lift part of this. Assuming Dr. Griffin continues to muddle through, we’ve agreed that we’ll probably end up with Orion and Ares-1 and not a whole lot else. If so, I would hope that a future administration would start from that, replace Ares-1 with a better second-generation vehicle, and continue with a new architecture and cheaper utilizing smaller vehicles. I have argued before that has other benefits: learning to get by with less; to live off the land; and the assemble things out of smaller, more easily launched components are all vital if we are to have a truly successful future in the inner Solar System.

    From where I sit, it’s just a question of whether it’s done carefully and methodically through analysis and pre-planning or whether it’s done reactively and rushed (again) to meet the arbitrary deadlines of a budget emergency.

    Welcome to the United States. For better or worse, that’s the way we make decisions, when we make them at all. And thank any gods for that — read Siddiqi’s “Challenge to Apollo” for the results of an alternative method. (Don’t forget that Apollo was the result of a “reactive and rushed” set of decisions, and it achieved far more than most the carefully planned projects that followed it.)

    – Donald

  • Don’t waste you time

    You’re kidding, right? C’mon man, Jeff just made some history here.

    He brought the old space policy board back to life. It’s son of Frankenstein.

    NASA employees are just moving blindly forward on momentum, into disaster, like most other Americans are in all walks of life. However, most of us here are incognizant of the relative importance that space based technology will be when it comes time to pick up the shattered remains of America, and most of us know that time is indeed rapidly approaching.

    There is very little room for error here, and VSE/ESAS is a very large error.

  • anonymous

    “The fact that neither of us can identify a reason for the budgets you are assuming leads me to hope that Dr Griffin is not quite as incompetent as we are assuming.”

    It depends on what the definition of “incompetent” relates to. If it’s technical decisions on operational programs (STS, ISS), Griffin is a very competent Administrator. If it’s technical decisions on programs under development, the jury is still out (Ares 1/Orion) but the prosecution has all but made its case. If it’s planning, budget, and political decisions on programs under formulation, Griffin is crippingly conservative. If it’s policy and political calls on course corrections and budget adjustments, Griffin is crippingly inexperienced and naive.

    “Don’t forget that Apollo was the result of a “reactive and rushed” set of decisions”

    While the political decision to land a man on the Moon was a reaction to Gagarin’s flight and other Soviet advances, the major technical decisions on the final architecture and vehicles emerged over the period of a year. Kennedy announced his decision in late May 1961. But the engine types and configuration of the C-3 launch vehicle that later became Saturn V were announced in mid-January 1962 and the EOR/LOR architecture decision would not come until mid-July 1962.

    ESAS, in contrast, condensed the same 6-12 month decision processes into a period of 60 days.

    And regardless, Apollo obviously proved to be unsustainable. I would strongly advise against using it as a model for formulating or executing an implemention plan for the VSE or any other future human space exploration effort if sustainability (arguably the central feature of the VSE) is a key goal.

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • anonymous

    “While we appreciate it”

    Thanks, Mr. Simberg.

    “Note that when he whines about this thread”

    Thanks for the link. I also saw it at Transterrestrial Musings. What worries me about the argument at Curmudgeon’s Corner is that it misses the real problem and substitutes a false one. The real problem is not who occupies the White House in January 2009 — that’s a false problem because we in the space community never had control over that.

    The real problem is how Griffin has thrown away one very important thing that we did have control over — the schedule for lunar hardware development. And instead of adopting a plan that would have gotten that lunar hardware underway well before the 2008 elections — while there was still a sitting President (Bush II) whom we were certain supported the effort — Griffin, ESAS, and Ares 1/Orion costs have all pushed the start of lunar hardware development far into the term of the unknown Presidency that will follow Bush II. And that greatly increases the political uncertainty about whether the human lunar return effort will be funded and started at all. It’s no longer up to the President that owned the VSE to begin the development of human lunar return hardware. It’s up to his unknown successor.

    Same goes for the new Congress in 2009, and whoever succeeds Griffin in the Administrator’s office (assuming Griffin leaves in 2009).

    “Only respond to people who have actual serious and informed critiques.”

    If it gives me the impetus to do a little more budget digging and cost analysis, it’s worth it.

  • anonymous

    “What a discouraging contentious pile of needling little arguments, I will need a flow chart to map it all out.”

    Although it is a pile of posts — and I’m the worst offender when it comes to length — the arguments in this thread are contentious not because they’re needling or little. Rather, they’re contentious because they go right to the heart of whether the NASA Administrator has made the right set of decisions to implement what is a once-in-a-generation political opportunity to get a sustainable human space exploration effort started. If you care about the future of space exploration, research, and development — and it’s either a job or a religion for most folks here — it’s terribly important stuff.

    “I certainly hope the space program can survive all this backbiting.”

    That said, this forum should be viewed in the proper perspective. The likelihood that anyone in a strong position of power over the U.S. civil space program would be influenced by the comments section of an internet blog (or even just read these comments) is probably vanishingly small. As much as many of us may care and for all our thunder, the comments in this blog are little more than a hobby in terms of their ability to affect the future course of our nation’s space program. We shouldn’t be afraid to be too critical (or too supportive), and we shouldn’t take each other’s arguments so seriously as to not remain civil in our debates.

    “I feel like I’ve entered a bar in the middle of an argument.”

    Very understandable. Questions can obviously be posted here or emailed to our addresses (or at least mine, link via the screenname).

    “It reminds me, I have relatives from both the North and South sides of the Civil War.”

    Funny… I did, too. Two cousins who wrote each other letters during the war (which we still have) in the language of their native nation (not English).

    “I honestly hope the space program, including the long-term manned moon habitation portion of it, succeeds in the coming years in spite of whoever has screwed up what.”

    I think we all do. But hope, of course, is not enough, and this forum is not about cheerleading NASA or the space community in general. Clear, critical policy thinking is needed from those in power. At its core, this forum offers a chance to examine whether such thinking is taking place amongst our leaders, and if not, what should substitute for it.

    “Even if we waste hundreds of billions, that’s a gap that can easily be patched with some google or hedge fund money.”

    Unfortunately, NASA cannot obtain its budget from those sources (and neither do Google nor hedge funds have those kinds of dollars to spare).

    Good luck and welcome.

  • anonymous

    “as usual the nit pickers… had their way… ignorant bystanders”

    These sorts of ad hominem attacks — especially when no argument or evidence about the debate at hand is offered — are exactly the wrong example to set for new posters. Debate the logic and the facts of a poster’s argument, not the poster him- or herself.

    “Griffin has revitalized NASA”

    What is the evidence of NASA “revitalization” under Griffin? Griffin cut most of the remaining ISS research and human exploration technology development just to get ESAS started. Griffin has sent the science mission rate is dropping from a high of 7-9 mission to 2 missions per year and cut aeronautical research nearly in half to pay for the lack of margin in the Ares 1/Orion program plans and budgets. Griffin has let his primary goal — minimizing the post-Shuttle human space flight gap — to more than double to five years in under two years of his tenure. Griffin has made no hard decisions regarding the Shuttle workforce as Shuttle functions go offline, allowing taxpayer dollars to support unnecessary positions while critical future management needs for Ares 1/Orion go unmet.

    “set it on course for the Moon and Mars.”

    No, actually Griffin has pushed decisions about funding human lunar hardware well into the next Presidency. The course is far from set yet and won’t be under the current plan until at least 2011. In fact, Griffin has delayed by several years and jeopardized NASA’s chances of just getting to the start of a course that leads to a human lunar return.

    “He needs support both public and congressional to succeed.”

    No, Griffin needs a workable plan that fits reality — especially the reality that the public outside fora like this will remain apathetic, unaware, and ill-informed about NASA and where political leadership will change and occasionally make minor reductions to government programs.

    “This type of debate is totally destrutive”

    And how is rah-rah cheerleading going to improve anything?

    Besides, do we really think that a powerful politician or staffer is really going to be influenced by the comments section of an internet blog?

    “offers no alternative except fantasy schemes”

    No. Expecting Ares 1/Orion to avoid any further margin erosion over the next eight years of design iterations and development challenges that lie in front of these projects — contrary to the history of aerospace project development — is fantasy. Expecting Congress to fund a 7% increase in NASA’s budget in 2008 — when most other non-defense agencies are being held to little or no increase — is fantasy. Expecting the next President to have the same human lunar return priorities as this President — not to mention the next Congress and NASA Administrator — is fantasy.

    I’ll take a human exploration program that has substantial development and budget margin and gets actual human exploration hardware underway before January 2009 (and DIRECT, EELVs, and more all appear capable of that) — or even just an intensive program of robotic space exploration and commercial human space development in Earth orbit — over those fantasies any day.

  • kert

    on the subject of Shuttle life being extended over 2010, i have seen arguments a few times that it would not be possible: key decisions have been made and production of certain components have ended. Long lead items not being ordered and no more ETs being on order and so on.
    The closer to 2010 we get, the harder it will be to reverse this process.

  • cIclops

    anonymous wrote:
    “These sorts of ad hominem attacks — especially when no argument or evidence about the debate at hand is offered — are exactly the wrong example to set for new posters.”

    Thank you for a perfect example of an ad hom attack, subtle and nicely done but ad hom all the same. My point iwas that the proposed alternatives to Griffin’s plan are based on ignorance and come from bystanders, there’s nothing personal in that characterization unlike your comment.

  • …key decisions have been made and production of certain components have ended. Long lead items not being ordered and no more ETs being on order and so on.

    That only mean that there are a finite number of flights left. It doesn’t have anything to do with schedule.

  • kert

    it also has to do with the schedule, as reportedly some regular maintenance ops on tooling and facilities have been reduced or ceased, so that they can only remain in operations up to a given date. i dont have the details, but this has been mentioned a few times over at nasaspaceflight forums.

  • anonymous wrote:
    “These sorts of ad hominem attacks — especially when no argument or evidence about the debate at hand is offered — are exactly the wrong example to set for new posters.”

    Thank you for a perfect example of an ad hom attack, subtle and nicely done but ad hom all the same.

    That’s absurd, and a perfect example of ignorance of the meaning of ad hominem (and no, that’s not ad hominem, either). An ad hominem attack is an attack on a person (in this case, as being “anonymous”), while avoiding addressing the argument itself. This is exactly what you’ve been doing.

  • Chance

    Yes clclops, your post contained an ad hominem attack alright. Can’t we all just get along? I’m tired of interesting threads getting closed.

  • Thomas Matula

    My understanding is there is enough hardware in the pipeline, including spares, for about 20 shuttle flights. The long-pole in the pipeline, the ET production capability, is just being mothballed and not disassembled. The line is being mothballed because no one is sure yet how much of the tools and dies will be needed for Ares V. ET-138 is basically the last tank down the production line and the line is slowly being mothballed behind it. They are not destroying the tooling as was done with the Saturn V. So future ET production for Shuttle flights is a possibility with enough lead time, although a very unlikely one for now.

    Ares I basically ensures that the SRM and its support system will stay in production, The VAB, Crawlers and Launch pads for Shuttle are all required for the ESAS and will be available until modified for Ares missions. And they will be kept up for the same reason.

    So if NASA drops to a schedule of 2 Shuttle flights a year, it could keep Shuttle flying for a decade. My estimate is NASA will fly 3 missions a year, probably the maximum possible under the new safety system, until 2012 to meet the requirement to finish the ISS and only afterwards convert the infrastructure to Ares use. This schedule will also fit well with the budget delays in Ares I

    Incidently this is another weakness of the ESAS which hasn’t been discussed. Like the Shuttle system requires the VAB. As such it assumes that no major hurricane will take out infrastructure like the VAB that will take years to replace. NASA has been lucky with hurricanes, so far… By contrast the upgrades needed to the EELVs for human spaceflight could also take into account the vast knowledge of hurricane resistent construction that has emerged since the VAB was built to make it more robust to large storms.

  • Dave Salt

    Tom says “Ares I basically ensures that the SRM and its support system will stay in production”, which ties in with what Steve Cook said at this year’s Space Access conference (i.e. SRM’s are required for Ares V and so Ares 1 is required to use them simply to maintains the production capabilities). He also indicated that Ares 1 was being used as a way of restoring launcher design and development capabilities within MSFC (i.e. to “educate” NASA engineers) and that the USAF signed off on Ares 1 because the size of Orion meant the EELV option would be more expensive.

    If true, this information provides the simple rationale for justifying the current architecture, which is: Ares V needs SRMs; SRMs must be used on Ares 1; Orion needs to be big enough to justify Ares 1 over EELV; requiring a crew of 4 to be on the lunar surface for 2 weeks guarantees a big enough Orion.

    Okay, it’s just a theory but it does make sense of a lot of apparently strange choices.

    One more thing: wouldn’t the information contained in this thread make an excellent Op Ed for Space News, Av. Leak or some other influential trade publication because it would be a real pity for it to be simply cosigned to the archives and thereby effectively buried. Maybe Anonymous couldn’t submit it directly but maybe Jeff or Rand could play the fall guy?

    Dave

  • Anonymous: and the EOR/LOR architecture decision would not come until mid-July 1962

    I realize that it wasn’t this simple, but that implies to me that changes in course utilizing the designs and hardware developed to that date (which is what I advocate for a couple of years from now) can be done. Use Orion (and Ares-1 if it successfully developed), while developing a successor to Ares-1 out of the EELVs or something else. Since we all agree that Dr. Griffin is not likely to change course, this strikes me as the only politically viable “solution.”

    What do you think of the Orion redesigns discussed in this weeks AvWeek?

    Regarding continuing to use the Shuttle, that is a political problem, not a technical one. If you pay enough money, you could re-start the Shuttle production lines; you could probably even build another orbiter. And, the longer “the gap,” and the more NASA employees see their jobs threatened, the more likely the first of those options becomes. I think most people here (including myself) would consider that the worst of all possible outcomes.

    Thomas Matula: The hurricane issue is a real one, likely to be made far worse by the additional energy being pumped into the atmosphere by the global warming the Administration insists on pretending does not exist. That said, there are few places not subject to natural disasters of some sort, and that is a game you have no choice but to play. (Interestingly, small and eventually medium class launch vehicles are moving away from fixed infrastructure, and SpaceX, et al, may yet save the day!)

    – Donald

  • We aren’t going to the moon or Mars anymore, we’re coming back to Earth.

    Haven’t you heard? As more and more Americans embrace irrationality, the Earth is getting more and more of a fever. There is no way that an SRB powered gigantic moon rocket is going to solve that problem. We need bed rest and lots of liquid fuels if we are ever going to knock that fever down.

    http://cosmic.lifeform.org/?p=302

    Here’s the scoop : five meter SSTO cores will easily fit inside either the Dreamlifter or the Beluga. That is the bottom line right there.

    http://cosmic.lifeform.org/?p=257

    We have all those SSMEs.

    The era of SRBs is over.

  • Dave Salt: If true, this information provides the simple rationale for justifying the current architecture, which is: Ares V needs SRMs; SRMs must be used on Ares 1; Orion needs to be big enough to justify Ares 1 over EELV; requiring a crew of 4 to be on the lunar surface for 2 weeks guarantees a big enough Orion.

    I don’t think Dr. Griffin has made any secret of his wider picture, that is, including Mars infrastructure in the Station and lunar developments. He wants nothing less than to create the infrastructure to explore the inner Solar System with ESAS (note the decision to add a docking station to JWST which will be located in deep space (and which I think is a very smart decision)). The seeds of all that was even in Mr. O’Keefe’s original ideas. It also explains why Dr. Griffin is so resistant to changing course. While politically this strikes me as a great idea, it assumes greater budget than turned out to be available, and Dr. Griffin has burned some of his support making unnecessary enemies and waffling on budgetary decisions of lesser importance.

    – Donald

  • If you pay enough money, you could re-start the Shuttle production lines; you could probably even build another orbiter.

    Yes, for many billions of dollars, over many years. There are much better ways to spend the money.

    The hurricane issue is a real one, likely to be made far worse by the additional energy being pumped into the atmosphere by the global warming the Administration insists on pretending does not exist.

    a) I don’t know of any reputable hurricane expert who agrees with this and

    b) that is not the administration position. Bush Derangement, Donald?

  • I don’t know of any reputable hurricane expert who agrees with this

    You don’t know ANY reputable hurricane experts, Rand.

    I do. Trenberth, Emanuel, Curry, etc. A bunch of meteorologists trained by the crackpot William Gray don’t really constitute credible climatologists

  • Thomas Matula

    Donald, Rand is correct on this one. Hurricanes appear in cycles and weather events in the Eastern Pacific and Western Africa appear to be key drivers of their intensity. However what impact global warming would have on them is unknown as some likely outcomes, more El Ninos and a drier West Africa result in fewer and weaker Hurricanes offsetting the impact of higher water temperatures in the Atlantic and Gulf. How these forces balance out is unknown as yet as this NY Times article shows.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/24/science/earth/24storm.html

    Study Finds Hurricanes Frequent in Some Cooler Periods
    By ANDREW C. REVKIN

    What is known is that we have been in a cycle of increased hurricanes since 1700 and a higher cycle within that larger cycle since 1995. We also know that hurricanes with winds greater then 150 mph occur in Florida. And we know that the VAB and other Apollo era infrastructure was only designed to withstand winds of around 105 mph when new.

    Bottomline – one major hurricane hitting the KSFC will likely take out the VAB and much of the Apollo era infrastructure it depends on. Since the ESAS is dependent on the VAB and other Apollo era infrastructure its sustainability is also reduced by this hazard.

    So one key factor that needs to be addressed in making the VSE sustainable is how to use the knowledge of the effect of Hurricanes and Hurricane resistent construction that has emerged since the 1960′s to harden VSE infrastructure against major hurricanes.

    Also remember that speed of construction was a driving factor for Apollo, not durability. No one really expected we would still be using Apollo era infrastructure for as long as we have been.

    Just as NASA played the odds game on the SRM “O” rings and debris striking the Shuttle’s thermal protection system it has been playing the odds games on this hazard for decades. The question is when, not if, it will draw a losing hand.

  • Donald, Rand is correct on this one

    No, he’s not. Fundamental thermodynamics easily refutes the ‘SST does not increase the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones’ premise.

    The study you quote, claims that over the last 5000 years, when we understand that SSTs haven’t changed all that much, that regional climate variability is the primary driver of hurricane formation and evolution, which is certainly what we expect from simple thermodynamical reasoning..

    It says nothing about the last 30 years, when we know SSTs have been increasing, and it certainly says nothing of the next 30 years, when we know that SSTs will be increasing dramatically. What we have here is a coterie of meteorologists, mostly trained by a known crackpot, gleaning over the data and then fabricating misleading scientific papers, which are then distributed for the mainstream media spin fodder propagandists..

  • Dave Salt

    Here’s a link to an article about what the the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has to say on this subject…
    http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/climate_change/001005wmo_consensus_statem.html

    Their statement includes the following conclusion on attribution of recent storms and seasons: “The possibility that greenhouse gas induced global warming may have already caused a substantial increase in some tropical cyclone indices has been raised (e.g. Mann and Emanuel, 2006), but no consensus has been reached on this issue.”

    Okay, given the diverging nature of the debate, it looks like this thread has run its coarse. So, let me ask again before it’s “archived”, is there any chance of Anonymous or someone with a credible reputation pulling together the basic arguments for an Op Ed in one of the more widely read trade publications?

    Dave

  • You mean the Griffin ATK Rational.

    Let me condense it : Michael Griffin assumed he needed the big five segment SRBs for his ‘Saturn V on Steroids’ Mars rocket, which would require very long lead times, so he attempted to finesse it with the Ares I. The horrible alternative for ATK, which is my approach (and apparently mine only) is the complete abandonment of SRBs in favor of all liquid space flight vehicles and second generation liquid propulsion development.

    That would be the Delta IV Medium, the Atlas V and presumably my hypothetical SSME powered single stage to orbit / solar power satellite / space colonization demonstrator. And second generation liquid propulsion.

    There is a clear difference of philosophy.

  • Thomas Matula

    Sorry to set Thomas Lee Elifritz off.

    The key point is that although global warming will likely increase the number of Cyclones globally the mechanisms driving Atlantic Hurricanes is more complex and needs more modeling. Individuals in the U.S. like Thomas tend to forget that the majority of Cyclones are found in the Indian and Pacific oceans and have different drivers. For example last year, although a quiet one in the Atlantic, was a wild one in the Pacific.

    Bottomline is that although global warming may cause an global increase in Cyclones available data on its impact is not sufficient to determine if a similar increase will occur in Atlantic Hurricanes. The model and data are still unclear on this, the point of the article. And it’s the Atlantic Hurricanes that are the basics of the gamble NASA has been taking with the Apollo era infrastructure.

    The pattern I see with NASA and Hurricanes is very similar to that with the SRM “O” Rings and the Shuttle’s Thermal Protection System. It survived so far so its not a priority. The architecture for VSE is an opportunity to finally address this issue and make the infrastructure lunar and Mars missions will depend on robust enough to survive a major hurricane event. Unfortunately it will probably be like New Orleans. Some studies and lone warnings, but nothing done until after the lesson is learned the hard way. The everyone will be pointing fingers and saying we should have done something about it.

  • Thomas, I will accept your correction. However, it is interesting to put these two statements by you next to each other,

    The model and data are still unclear on this, the point of the article. And it’s the Atlantic Hurricanes that are the basics of the gamble NASA has been taking with the Apollo era infrastructure.

    The pattern I see with NASA and Hurricanes is very similar to that with the SRM “O” Rings and the Shuttle’s Thermal Protection System. It survived so far so its not a priority.

    So, it’s okay to gamble with the weather but not with O-rings?

    I recognize that statement is not entirely fair, but, the specific hurricanes we are talking about aside, I think many (most?) climate experts expect the additional energy we are adding to the atmosphere to result in more violent and unpredictable weather worldwide. That, inevitably, will have an impact on permanent infrastructure, spaceflight-related or otherwise.

    If we want our spaceflight infrastructure to have a high degree of availability for indefinite periods of time — which strikes me as the very definition of “sustainability” — it would be good to make it as minimal and portable as possible.

    – Donald

  • If we want our spaceflight infrastructure to have a high degree of availability for indefinite periods of time — which strikes me as the very definition of “sustainability” — it would be good to make it as minimal and portable as possible.

    And yet you support ESAS…

  • Bottom line is that although global warming may cause an global increase in Cyclones available data on its impact is not sufficient to determine if a similar increase will occur in Atlantic Hurricanes.

    That’s so weird that you say that, because a recent study by two young meteorologists of the Bill Gray garden variety came to exactly the opposite conclusion, that only the Atlantic basin showed a clear global warming enhancement, and that the large western basins were uncorrelated :

    http://www.ssec.wisc.edu/~kossin/articles/Kossin_2006GL028836.pdf

    http://www.news.wisc.edu/13510.html

  • Thomas Matula

    Donald,

    I was pointing out NASA is following the same behavioral pattern with Hurricanes it followed with “O” rings and debris strikes, with likely the same sad result, a grounding of NASA’s human spaceflight program while the shattered pieces are put back together and Congressional committees ask why NASA didn’t see they had a problem. Its not a behavioral pattern I endorse, just the opposite, it shows a lack of learning on NASA’s part as an agency.

    In terms of Atlanitc Hurricanes what I feel is likely to happen is indeed a movement to extremes. Years without El Nino and a wet monsoon season in West Africa will be full of storms like 2005. Years with an El Nino and West African dought will see few hurricanes. So if global warming increases the El Nino events and results in more frequent doughts in West Africa the average number of hurricanes may well go down with Global Warming as Rand argued. But the flip side is that the bad years when there is no El Nino and a wet Monsoon Season in West Africa will likely be really, really bad like 2005 was. And it only takes one major hurricane hitting the Cape to put an end to the legacy of Apollo infrastructure. This is a gamble NASA is taking independent of Global Warming. All Global Warming may do is alter the odds a bit, not eliminate the risk. Just as launching in warmer weather reduced the “O” Ring risk, but did not eliminate it.

    Now where this brings it back to Dr. Griffin and the ESAS discussion is if you read the Planetary Society study that was the basis of the ESAS. You will see one of the reasons it dismissed the EELV option was the need for new infrastructure at the Cape to support the EELV for human spaceflight. I presume this to mean a new launchpad to support the CEV. Whereas the report treated this as a show stopper for the EELV I argue its a major point in its favor as it allows NASA to disconnect itself from the Apollo legacy infrastrucutre and build a new one more resistent, and realistic, to the actual Hurricane risk for the KSFC. This is one of the items an independent review may well have picked up in making its recommendation.

  • Rand: And yet you support ESAS…

    In fairness to myself, I do not support ESAS, per se. I argued hard for the EELV solution at a time when it was not popular. For a variety of reasons, I prefer the “small package and orbital construction” route to these things. However, I like to think of myself as a realist who will take “good enough” over “perfect,” and, at this point in time, I don’t think revisiting the ESAS approach has a political snowball’s chance in hell. Thus, I’d rather get what we can out of ESAS — Orion — and revisit launch vehicles and the overall strategy later.

    If we don’t get that, we’re right back where we were after Bush-1′s plan collapsed, or worse.

    – Donald

  • Thomas: Now where this brings it back to Dr. Griffin and the ESAS discussion is if you read the Planetary Society study that was the basis of the ESAS. You will see one of the reasons it dismissed the EELV option was the need for new infrastructure at the Cape to support the EELV for human spaceflight. I presume this to mean a new launchpad to support the CEV. Whereas the report treated this as a show stopper for the EELV I argue its a major point in its favor as it allows NASA to disconnect itself from the Apollo legacy infrastrucutre and build a new one more resistent, and realistic, to the actual Hurricane risk for the KSFC. This is one of the items an independent review may well have picked up in making its recommendation.

    I largely agree with this. It’s not one of the reasons that I had for supporting the EELV strategy, but I buy it.

    – Donald

  • al Fansome

    KERT: on the subject of Shuttle life being extended over 2010, i have seen arguments a few times that it would not be possible: key decisions have been made and production of certain components have ended. Long lead items not being ordered and no more ETs being on order and so on.

    Kert,

    Although ending the ET assembly line makes it “difficult”, it would not be impossible, as a new President & NASA Administrator could restart this line.

    Remember the B1? Carter cancelled the development program early in his term. The B1 is flying today.

    It is just a matter of money to restart the ET assembly line, and pay big bucks to rebuild tooling. If the old ET team is not “dispersed” (e.g., if they are kept on to work on the Ares 5 program), there is no technical or managerial reason they can’t bring the Shuttle back.

    Difficult “Yes”. Impossible “No”.

    I think the best defense is that any President who proposed to bring back the Shuttle would be judged to have “No vision”, and would be characterized as bringing back a lemon that kills people.

    - Al

  • al Fansome

    DONALD: If we want our spaceflight infrastructure to have a high degree of availability for indefinite periods of time — which strikes me as the very definition of “sustainability” — it would be good to make it as minimal and portable as possible.

    Donald,

    An architecture based on a LEO propellant depot, resupplied by RLVs, would open up the spaceflight infrastructure to many more geographic places. RLVs drive down costs with “high flight rates” instead of using a super-heavy-lift approach, and their infrastructure requirements are much smaller than the Ares 1/5. (If you recall, Lockheed had nearly a dozen states competing to the home of VentureStar.)

    Having an open architecture, that allows (and supports) many suppliers, is much more robust than the current single point of failure.

    - Al

    PS — Since you support ISS as a market for commercial space transportation, I am waitin for the day when you will support the next obvious step — to support the creation of a LEO propellant depot architecture as a market too.

  • Al, I do support an orbital propellant depot, albeit a little different than yours. Read the end of this piece,

    http://www.space.com/spacenews/archive06/RobertsonOpEd_070306.html

    RLVs drive down costs with “high flight rates” instead of using a super-heavy-lift approach, and their infrastructure requirements are much smaller than the Ares 1/5.

    When RLVs exist, I will support them. Until they do, I still think we should use what we have (EELVs and the like, and soon Space X if we have a modicum of luck, and Orion if Dr. Griffin pulls off his miracle) to expand markets. As the Space Station is showing, once real markets exist, new launch vehicles become politically and financially possible. (Thus, if push came to shove, I would give the continued support and expansion of the Space Station the single highest priority at this point in time.)

    Your fuel depot can be that market, but it in turn needs a market itself. What, today, right now, demands a fuel depot? Once we identify that market, then you can get politicians in Houston to push for building and expanding them. Until then, building your fuel depots will be just as politically and financially difficult as was the Space Station or Orion.

    I think that you and I actually have similar visions, just different ways of getting there.

    – Donald

  • al Fansome

    DONALD: When RLVs exist, I will support them.

    Donald,

    They will not need your support after they exist.

    Think about it.

    - Al

  • anonymous

    “If true, this information provides the simple rationale for justifying the current architecture, which is: Ares V needs SRMs; SRMs must be used on Ares 1; Orion needs to be big enough to justify Ares 1 over EELV; requiring a crew of 4 to be on the lunar surface for 2 weeks guarantees a big enough Orion.”

    Not really. For example, the Jupiter launch vehicle in the DIRECT 2 architecture proposal is another HLV that utilizes SRBs like Ares V. (The difference is that Jupiter uses tried-and-true 4-segment SRBs, while Ares V has gone the route of unflown 5-segment SRBs.) But unlike ESAS, which is a “1.5-launch” EOR architecture that requires the development of a second, entirely different MLV (Ares I), the DIRECT 2 lunar architecture is a true, 2-launch EOR architecture. DIRECT uses two of the same Jupiter HLVs to mount each lunar mission, totally avoiding the cost and time associated with developing another different launch vehicle (MLV or otherwise).

    The key to the DIRECT 2 proposal and the Jupiter launch vehicle is that they leverage STS components and infrastructure, along with other flight-proven motors (RS-68), as is. No 5-segment SRB development and testing, no retooling and testing of a different ET diameter, no air-start SSME or J2-X development and testing, and no significant changes to the ground infrastructure. Even after the shallowing of the exploration budget, this highly efficient use of STS heritage, along with eliminating the need to develop a second MLV like Ares 1, would allow NASA to field a Jupiter HLV with SRBs as early as 2012 according to the analysis (which needs to be independently verified). Orion could be flying on a Jupiter HLV (with tons of mass to spare) to the ISS in 2012 (as Griffin originally intended) and the first human lunar return could be launched in 2017 (the earliest year targeted by the VSE for the first human lunar mission).

    Again, I’m not a cheerleader for DIRECT 2 over any other particular alternative (EELVs, etc.). I’m just using DIRECT 2 to point out that Cook’s argument is faulty. NASA doesn’t need to go through the rather enormous hassle of developing an SRB-derived MLV like Ares 1 in order to field an HLV like Ares V, even one that uses SRBs. The exploration budget is plenty big enough to get an HLV under development that could be fielded with a much smaller gap than we have now between the end of STS SRB production and SRB production for the follow-on vehicle.

    And in case anyone hasn’t seen it, more on the DIRECT 2 proposal here:

    http://www.directlauncher.com

    and here:

    http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=7868&start=1

    “Okay, it’s just a theory, but it does make sense of a lot of apparently strange choices.”

    Setting aside the ATK/SRB/Griffin conspiracy theories, the sad reality is that the launch vehicle concepts that became the Ares I and V really were chosen on the basis of the flawed ESAS analysis. ESAS identified an EOR architecture with 1.5 launch vehicles utilizing a combination of 4-segment SRBs/air-start SSMEs as the safest and least costly of the options studied, at least using the 4-crew, Shuttle safety processes, and other requirements and assumptions dictated in the study. (Since then, the architecture has switched to 5-segment SRBs and J2-X engines.) Of course, as I’ve tried to illustrate at several points in this thread, the ESAS analysis was flawed in several important respects, including the absence of sensitivity analysis on the requirements, the use of bad EELV data and Shuttle safety assumptions, and even missing the hardware combination embodied by the DIRECT 2 proposal.

    FWIW…

  • From now on, anything which includes SRBs is DOA, including Direct X.

    With the possible exception of the GEMs, the SRB era is over.

    The sooner you get on board, the sooner we can start.

  • Dave Salt

    Anonymous said: “Setting aside the ATK/SRB/Griffin conspiracy theories, the sad reality is that the launch vehicle concepts that became the Ares I and V really were chosen on the basis of the flawed ESAS analysis.”

    Agreed. However, the point I was trying to make was that whatever the architecture selection process, the resulting designs apparently had to include SRBs in some form or another.

    Do you know if this was an explicit/implicit requirement and, if so, what was the justification (apart from the obvious one of maintaining continuity during the transition away from Shuttle)?

    Dave

  • anonymous

    “My estimate is NASA will fly 3 missions a year, probably the maximum possible under the new safety system, until 2012 to meet the requirement to finish the ISS and only afterwards convert the infrastructure to Ares use.”

    Absent a change in the ISS final configuration, that’s probably about right. Based on last year’s flight rate and what’s happened so far this year, Shuttle operations will probably have to be extended another year or two to finish ISS assembly. The flight rate is just not approaching what NASA needs to finish ISS by the end of 2010.

    “This schedule will also fit well with the budget delays in Ares I”

    Unfortunately, no it does not. Constellation is counting on Shuttle retirement in 2010 to free up the funds necessary to get Ares I/Orion fielded by 2015 and to get Ares V development started in 2011. Every month that Shuttle retirement gets delayed means a roughly equal delay to the already late operational date for Ares 1/Orion.

    “My understanding is there is enough hardware in the pipeline, including spares, for about 20 shuttle flights. So if NASA drops to a schedule of 2 Shuttle flights a year, it could keep Shuttle flying for a decade.”

    “it also has to do with the schedule, as reportedly some regular maintenance ops on tooling and facilities have been reduced or ceased, so that they can only remain in operations up to a given date.”

    “Regarding continuing to use the Shuttle, that is a political problem, not a technical one. If you pay enough money, you could re-start the Shuttle production lines; you could probably even build another orbiter.

    I think elements of all of these statements are right. Although some of less visible orbiter functions are being taken offline today because they’re not needed for Ares I/V, there will still be many spares come 2010. Moreover, because NASA has selected a Shuttle-derived architecture, the more visible ET and SRB elements will be kept intact after 2010. And more than that, even those parts of the Shuttle workforce that are no longer needed under a 2010 retirement date are not being let go under Griffin. Thus, the amount of dollars needed to reverse what limited Shuttle shutdown activities have taken place would probably be small relative to Shuttle’s $4-5 billion annual budget.

    “And, the longer “the gap,” and the more NASA employees see their jobs threatened, the more likely the first of those options becomes.”

    “I think the best defense is that any President who proposed to bring back the Shuttle would be judged to have “No vision”, and would be characterized as bringing back a lemon that kills people.”

    Although the chances of Shuttle continuing to fly for another decade or so are very slim, the chances that the 2010 retirement date will not be met are relatively high and growing. There will certainly be political pressure from the likes of Senators Hutchison and Nelson to keep Shuttle flying as the gap grows. But the main pressure to extend Shuttle operations will come from shortfalls in the post-Columbia Shuttle flight rate and the remaining demands of ISS assembly. Shuttle workforce politics may play a role, but a decision on the value of the final ISS configuration versus paying for another year or two of Shuttle operations will probably come first.

    “I think most people here (including myself) would consider that the worst of all possible outcomes.”

    Stretching out the Shuttle retirement date, instead of just cutting off ISS assembly, would be a real shame. But NASA may have no choice, especially if all foreign partner elements are not up by 2010.

    “NASA has been lucky with hurricanes, so far…”

    I don’t have a clue on the off-topic global warming/hurricane debate. I would just point out, though, that hurricane damage/destruction of the VAB is not an academic discussion. Hurricane Frances, for example, was a really close call in 2004. See old press release here:

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=974

    Regardless of whether Florida hurricanes increase in number or intensity with global warming, it’s only a matter of time before one levels the VAB and other vulnerable KSC infrastructure. If ESAS does get re-examined, all other things being equal, an architecture that is not so reliant on such an intensive and vulnerable ground infrastructure would be preferable.

    FWIW…

  • Thomas Matula

    Hi All,

    Some interesting comments by Capt. John Young on the current CEV.

    [[["It's a very nice vehicle and there are only a couple of problems with it," Young told a group of 50 community leaders and Apollo program veterans gathered on the esplanade of a new city park where the monument is being erected.

    "One, it's too large. Two, it's too heavy. And three, there's no money to build it," he joked. "But other than that, it's OK."]]]

    That really sum up the thread here on ESAS/CEV as well.

    The comments were made at a fund raiser for the Apollo monument at the U.S. Space Walk of Fame. The full article with comments is here.

    http://www.flatoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070525/NEWS01/705250340/1007/NEWS02

  • anonymous

    “Agreed. However, the point I was trying to make was that whatever the architecture selection process, the resulting designs apparently had to include SRBs in some form or another.

    Do you know if this was an explicit/implicit requirement and, if so, what was the justification (apart from the obvious one of maintaining continuity during the transition away from Shuttle)?”

    There were no explicit requirements in ESAS regarding SRBs or any other elements of the Shuttle infrastructure.

    I’m of two minds on whether there were any “implicit” requirements.

    It’s possible that as part of his Senate confirmation deal with Senators Hutchison and Nelson, Griffin had to commit to keeping the Shuttle workforce intact, which meant fixing ESAS’s requirements (e.g., four-person lunar crew), data (e.g., bad data on EELV flight trajectories and blackout periods), analysis (e.g., no sensitivity analysis and bad safety assumptions), and criteria (e.g., can go over the VSE budget with minimal budget margin) to favor a Shuttle-derived architecture. SRBs would not have been an implicit requirement by themselves (i.e., I don’t think ATK put Griffin in their pocket and drove the whole thing). SRBs would just have been caught up in the implicit requirement for the overall architecture to be Shuttle-derived.

    That said, I have serious doubts about this scenario. One, from my limited interactions with them before and after ESAS, neither Griffin nor Doug Stanley (the ESAS lead) strike me as the types of engineers who would “fix” a study like ESAS to produce a certain result. Two, even if they were, it doesn’t explain what a much more efficient Shuttle-derived architecture (like DIRECT 2) that would still have kept Shuttle workforce intact wasn’t selected.

    At the end of the day, I still conclude that ESAS (for what it was attempting to do) was just a poorly conceived and rushed study with limited inputs that produced flawed analysis.

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • Al, They will not need your support after they exist. Think about it.

    Gee, I guess I no longer need to support applications of expendable vehicles for projects like returning to the moon. Okay, I should have said, I will support the application of RLVs to a fuel depot (and other projects) when RLVs (other than the Shuttle, which is a special case) exit.

    Anonymous: DIRECT uses two of the same Jupiter HLVs to mount each lunar mission, totally avoiding the cost and time associated with developing another different launch vehicle (MLV or otherwise)

    And also reduces the number of vehicles (and related infrastructure) that must be maintained, while increasing launch rates and thus economies of scale. This was my principle early reason for supporting the EELV architecture. By increasing EELV “customers” and consequently the flight rate of vehicles designed for high flight rates, you get more stakeholders on board while simultaneously reducing the costs to orbit for each customer. If we had gone with the EELVs and the flight rate had dramatically increased, we might even still have the scientific community on board. (Recall that they were not originally opposed to the VSE, and many still aren’t as long as it doesn’t cost them anything.)

    Thomas: From now on, anything which includes SRBs is DOA, including Direct X.

    Much as I hate to encourage Thomas, there is truth to this. One of my original reasons for preferring the EELV approach (particularly the Delta-IV) was the environmental risk of large numbers of ongoing SRB launches. While I would support their use to get started, if that were the least expensive way forward, we should move away from any SRB-related architecture ASAP.

    I forget who said this, So if NASA drops to a schedule of 2 Shuttle flights a year, it could keep Shuttle flying for a decade

    But, it would still cost $5 billion per year. The Shuttle was a wonder and a great achievement, but at this point in time it is a lead weight keeping us in LEO (or on Earth, depending on how pessimistic one is).

    – Donald

  • Anonymous: i>Griffin had to commit to keeping the Shuttle workforce intact

    Dr. Griffin has a history of quickly caving in to political pressure. I thin that has cost him, but it also might be why he has got as far as he has while retaining a modicum of political support. The lessons here will be something historians will have to draw in a decade or two.

    – Donald

  • anonymous

    “… changes in course utilizing the designs and hardware developed to that date (which is what I advocate for a couple of years from now) can be done. Use Orion (and Ares-1 if it successfully developed), while developing a successor to Ares-1 out of the EELVs or something else…”

    As we’ve discussed before, from a human lunar return perspective, there are several problems with this approach, some bigger than others:

    1) The Orion developed for ISS flights starting in 2015 will not be a lunar vehicle. Additional development, modifications, and production runs at some not inconsiderable cost will be necessary to field a block of lunar-capable Orions.

    2) Orion is too heavy to launch on readily available and commercially viable EELVs or other planned launch vehicles (e.g., Falcon 9). The more Orion requires modifications to or development of new launch vehicle production lines, the less benefit NASA gets in terms of low development costs and cost-sharing with other customers, and the more it makes sense for NASA to just stick with even the highly flawed Ares I.

    3) The political argument that NASA should get a second bite at developing or adapting a new LEO launch vehicle because the agency screwed up on Ares I is a very tough one.

    “Since we all agree that Dr. Griffin is not likely to change course, this strikes me as the only politically viable “solution.”… I don’t think revisiting the ESAS approach has a political snowball’s chance in hell.”

    Yes, Griffin is unlikely to change course. But politically speaking, attempting a change in direction now – when NASA can place the blame on recent budget shortfalls, when NASA has not spent (relatively speaking) a lot of taxpayer dollars on Ares 1/Orion, and when NASA still has a friendly President sitting in the White House – is going to be a helluva lot easier than doing it later – when tens of billions of taxpayer dollars have been sunk, when an unknown President will be sitting in the White House, and when NASA has no one to blame for Ares I shortcomings.

    “I’d rather get what we can out of ESAS — Orion — and revisit launch vehicles and the overall strategy later… If we don’t get that, we’re right back where we were after Bush-1’s plan collapsed, or worse.”

    An ISS-capable capsule that can’t fly efficiently on any other launch vehicle besides the inefficient Ares I is more valuable than trying to recover the human lunar return hardware and other lost VSE elements while there’s still an opportunity to do so?

    I’d only say “yes” if losing Orion conflates with flying Shuttle for the next 10-20 years. But it shouldn’t under any new plan. Therefore, I would emphatically say “no”.

    “I don’t think Dr. Griffin has made any secret of his wider picture, that is, including Mars infrastructure in the Station and lunar developments.”

    That is Griffin’s apparent intent in his speeches. Unfortunately, ESAS/Ares I/Orion costs don’t square with Griffin’s intent. They’ve sucked all the budgetary oxygen out of the room and pushed the actual human exploration hardware way over the time horizon and into very politically vulnerable waters.

    “He wants nothing less than to create the infrastructure to explore the inner Solar System with ESAS. It also explains why Dr. Griffin is so resistant to changing course.”

    Griffin is not resistant to changing course because elements of the ESAS architecture can support Mars, NEO, or other human exploration missions. There are alternative architectures like DIRECT 2 or a small capsule/EELV with a quicker HLV that can do the same and do it much sooner.

    Griffin is human like the rest of us and just has too much time and ego invested in ESAS/Ares 1/Orion.

    “While politically this strikes me as a great idea, it assumes greater budget than turned out to be available,”

    This is understating the case. ESAS busted the VSE budget from day one – requiring the cancellation of ISS research, nuclear technology development, and other human exploration – and carried very little in the way of budget margin and reserves. Although Congress and the White House shallowed NASA’s budget in the following years, those shortfalls were minor compared to the very large budgetary risks undertaken by ESAS.

    “Dr. Griffin has burned some of his support making unnecessary enemies and waffling on budgetary decisions of lesser importance.”

    Compared to the huge budgetary risks that Griffin took on with ESAS and how Griffin was oblivious to how those risks greatly reduced the political sustainability of VSE, angering the science community and bowing to Congressional budgetary pressure in other areas are relatively minor offenses in comparison.

    “What do you think of the Orion redesigns discussed in this weeks AvWeek?”

    I really don’t have anything substantive to add to Mr. Young’s comments:

    “One, it’s too large. Two, it’s too heavy. And three, there’s no money to build it,” he joked. “But other than that, it’s OK.”

    Horowitz is wasting his people’s time dithering with the Orion design while the fundamental mismatches between Ares I performance and Orion’s mass and between Ares I/Orion costs and the exploration budget go unaddressed.

    Maybe Mr. Young would be interested in coming out of retirement and taking Horowitz’s job…

    Kudos to Mr. Matula for finding that article.

  • anonymous

    “When RLVs exist, I will support them. Until they do, I still think we should use what we have (EELVs and the like, and soon Space X if we have a modicum of luck, and Orion if Dr. Griffin pulls off his miracle) to expand markets. As the Space Station is showing, once real markets exist, new launch vehicles become politically and financially possible. (Thus, if push came to shove, I would give the continued support and expansion of the Space Station the single highest priority at this point in time.)

    Your fuel depot can be that market, but it in turn needs a market itself. What, today, right now, demands a fuel depot?”

    Although I don’t think orbital RLVs are in our future anytime soon, I disagree with a position advocating continued ISS expansion (especially if it requires maintaining Shuttle operations past 2010) over development and demonstration of an in-space fuel depot.

    The “market” (really just need) for a fuel depot exists even in the lousy ESAS lunar architecture (topping off the EDS in LEO to expand the launch window for Orion and/or deliver more cargo to the lunar surface). Instead of spending tens of billions more taxpayer dollars on the ISS and Shuttle albatrosses or waiting a decade-and-a-half for a lunar polar base that may never be realized, NASA should invest much smaller amounts of taxpayer dollars in a fuel depot capability that would both lower the barriers to a sustainable lunar architecture and much more rapidly develop commercial human space flight capabilities.

  • anonymous

    “One more thing: wouldn’t the information contained in this thread make an excellent Op Ed for Space News, Av. Leak or some other influential trade publication because it would be a real pity for it to be simply cosigned to the archives and thereby effectively buried. Maybe Anonymous couldn’t submit it directly but maybe Jeff or Rand could play the fall guy?”

    “Okay, given the diverging nature of the debate, it looks like this thread has run its coarse. So, let me ask again before it’s “archived”, is there any chance of Anonymous or someone with a credible reputation pulling together the basic arguments for an Op Ed in one of the more widely read trade publications?”

    If it helps the cause, I’d be willing to help out in any of the following ways:

    – Write one or more op-eds under a pseudonym. I doubt even industry rags like AvWeek and Space News would publish an op-ed under a pseudonym or anonymously. But if anyone knows of a major space community publication whose editorial standards would allow such an op-ed, please drop me a line at anonymous.space@yahoo.com.

    – Help “ghost” write someone else’s op-ed that appears under their name. I’m happy to help with constructing arguments, sources, writing, and editing. Again, if someone is interested, drop me a line at anonymous.space@yahoo.com.

    – Let folks “plagiarize” my arguments on this or other threads for their own op-eds. Anyone is free to incorporate my thoughts and writing into their own arguments about what is broken in the current ESAS/Ares 1/Orion approach and how to fix the VSE. With the exception of the Constellation budget data, most of the facts (e.g., schedule slips for Ares 1/Orion, COTS award to Space-X, USAF awards for EELV development, etc.) are well-known facts (even available on Wikipedia) and easily referenced. All the Constellation budget data can be found via links here:

    http://www.nasa.gov/about/budget/index.html.

    To see where I got my Ares 1/Orion estimates specifically, click on “Full Document” link for the “FY 2008 Budget Request, and add then up the relevant budget figures in the table at the top of page 308 in the PDF that comes up (page ESMD-14 in the budget document’s numbering scheme).

    There’s a chance I may leave my day job in the Washington space community in the next year or so. If and when that happens, I might submit a paper on “Saving the Vision for Space Exploration” to a scholarly journal like Space Policy and pull excerpts for Mr. Foust’s Space Review and industry rag editorials. But that remote and untimely possibility should not keep anyone from beating me to the punch if they want to put in the time and effort.

  • Anonymous: Orion is too heavy to launch on readily available and commercially viable EELVs or other planned launch vehicles (e.g., Falcon 9).

    I find this dubious. First, if there were a market for them, both LM and Boeing have identified upgrades that would significantly increase EELV payloads. Second, as part of the effort to make Orion fit on the Ares-1, significant weight reduction efforts are underway (c.f., this week’s AvWeek). At some point, those two lines could be made to cross, probably at far less money than is now being spent on the Ares-1.

    The political argument that NASA should get a second bite at developing or adapting a new LEO launch vehicle because the agency screwed up on Ares I is a very tough one.

    As you pointed out in another context, it’s all in how you sell it. I’m proposing an evolution from a first generation Ares-1 to a second generation, more [environmentally, if you're talking to Democrats] sustainable second generation vehicle.

    when NASA can place the blame on recent budget shortfalls, when NASA has not spent (relatively speaking) a lot of taxpayer dollars on Ares 1/Orion, and when NASA still has a friendly President sitting in the White House

    Excellent points, but, as we’ve discussed, academic. We both agree it isn’t going to happen, so it’s time to consider what to do when the inevitable does happen.

    An ISS-capable capsule that can’t fly efficiently on any other launch vehicle besides the inefficient Ares I is more valuable than trying to recover the human lunar return hardware and other lost VSE elements while there’s still an opportunity to do so?

    Probably not, but we’ve agreed over and over that there is no “opportunity to do so” at least at this point in time. The only person who has the political credibility for a change in course now is Dr. Griffin (and then only if it can be made to appear evolutionary). If and when he proposes that change, depending on what it is I’ll consider supporting it over the current architecture and writing Op Eds about it for Space News, but in the mean time, yes, this is better than the alternative of nothing or continuing to fly the Shuttle. Right now, at this point in time, until Dr. Griffin does change course those are the two alternatives we have.

    I really don’t have anything substantive to add to Mr. Young’s comments

    I had rather hoped that you, of all people, would have something substantive to say about this, rather than the above cheap shot. However, Maybe Mr. Young would be interested in coming out of retirement and taking Horowitz’s job, I’ll say yea to that. I’ve always liked Mr. Young’s dry sense of humor, and even if he proved incompetant at this job, at least he would be funny.

    – Donald

  • Your fuel depot can be that market, but it in turn needs a market itself. What, today, right now, demands a fuel depot?”

    The launch vehicles and the propulsion systems themselves are the market.

    Anyone is free to incorporate my thoughts and writing into their own arguments about what is broken in the current ESAS/Ares 1/Orion approach and how to fix the VSE

    You are entirely missing the point. VSE and ESAS can’t be salvaged. They are entirely obsolete by new results, which appear to be streaming in daily.

    We’ve already finessed it out and presented it to Mr. Gore :

    http://cosmic.lifeform.org/?p=302

  • anonymous

    “First, if there were a market for them, both LM and Boeing have identified upgrades that would significantly increase EELV payloads.”

    This is exactly the point. There is no existing or projected commercial market and a very limited military market in Orion’s mass range (~25,000 kilograms). There are no commercial EELVs capable of throwing that much mass. The only military EELVs (barely) capable of throwing that much mass into LEO are the heavy versions, and it would be foolhardy to accept the safety risks associated with those three-stick configurations and/or their performance margin at that throw weight. To safely fly a 25,000 kilogram human vehicle on an EELV, a new EELV would have to be developed specifically for NASA use, with all the attendant costs, lack of cost-sharing, and low flight rates. At that point, NASA might as well stick with Ares I.

    If we really want to leverage vehicles in the commercial sector (a very laudable goal), NASA has to redirect LockMart to build a smaller human capsule now that matches those vehicles’ capabilities.

    “Second, as part of the effort to make Orion fit on the Ares-1, significant weight reduction efforts are underway (c.f., this week’s AvWeek). At some point, those two lines could be made to cross, probably at far less money than is now being spent on the Ares-1.”

    You’re kidding, right? I have not read the AvWeek article, but as I understand it, the new Orion 606 configuration only saves a little more than 340 kilograms over the 605 configuration. Orion must shed something like 5,000 to 15,000 kilograms (THOUSANDS of kilograms, not hundreds) to get down into the mass range of the commercial EELVs and their LEO performance parameters (10,000 to 20,000 kilograms). Ain’t no way in heck Orion will ever lose that much mass as long as NASA is doing marginal design refinements that only save a few hundred kilograms at a swipe. If we want to fly Orion on commercial or military launch vehicles, NASA has to scratch Orion as is, revisit ESAS requirements, and start with a fresh design.

    Just to inject some more reality, although the Orion 606 does things the Apollo CM did not, by comparison, the Apollo CM weighed a little something over 5,000 kilograms — one-fifth of Orion’s mass. No wonder John Young thinks Orion is too heavy.

    It always comes down to requirements and ESAS compounded bad requirements (e.g., 4-crew to the lunar surface) with an absence of sensitivity analysis on those requirements (i.e., how those requirements drive an exceptionally heavy capsule and all the attendent costs and technical risks). Orion mass, Ares I performance, Constellation, and the rest of NASA are paying the price now.

    “We both agree it isn’t going to happen, so it’s time to consider what to do when the inevitable does happen… we’ve agreed over and over that there is no “opportunity to do so” at least at this point in time.”

    I agree that it’s unlikely that Griffin will swallow his pride and change course. But given how bad the situation is now, I don’t put the probability at 100%. As written earlier in this thread, another big budget shoe is bound to drop, and when it does, Griffin appears to have nowhere left to go. We may yet see him back away from ESAS, Ares I, and Orion.

    And, per the mass analysis above, the point is moot anyway since Orion cannot fly on commercial vehicles without a huge mass reduction that necessitates a new set of requirements and a major redesign.

    I apologize for being so grim, but you’re hoping to salvage something out of this wreck that’s not salvageable. Better to change course now before the wreck occurs.

    “I had rather hoped that you, of all people, would have something substantive to say about this, rather than the above cheap shot.”

    It’s not a cheap shot. It’s just a very succinct summary of the current situation. The low performance of Ares I and the high mass of Orion are mismatched. Orion’s high mass is also a mismatch (to the tune of thousands of kilograms) for existing launch vehicles. And the whole Ares I/Orion system blew the VSE budget and then some right out of the starting gates. I don’t know how else to better sum that up than with Mr. Young’s words:

    “One, it’s too large. Two, it’s too heavy. And three, there’s no money to build it.”

    Saving a few hundred kilograms here or there in design iterations is just noise that obscures the real problems that Griffin and Horowitz need to confront.

    And heck, even if it is a cheap shot, if a Gemini/Apollo/Shuttle astronaut can use it, why can’t I? ;-)

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • …the Apollo CM weighed a little something over 5,000 kilograms — one-fifth of Orion’s mass.

    Careful, apples/oranges alert.

    Don’t compare the Apollo CM to the entire Orion S/C. Orion includes the equivalent of the Apollo Service Module as well (and are you including the Launch Abort System in that number?–if so you to include the Apollo escape tower).

    Not to disagree with the broader points, of course.

  • anonymous

    “Careful, apples/oranges alert.”

    I agree. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison and never really could be because: we’re comparing the masses of a lunar-capable system (Apollo) and an ISS-capable system (Orion Block I); they have different crew requirements; Ares I performance forces Orion to carry additional propellant just to finish boosting itself into orbit; etc. That’s why I wrote “although the Orion 606 does things the Apollo CM did not…”

    But at a gross level and for the purposes of blog comments, I’d argue that an Orion/Apollo comparison is a useful one. It’s data from a real, flown system showing that NASA doesn’t have to go down the “supersized” Orion path that it’s currently on.

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • But at a gross level and for the purposes of blog comments, I’d argue that an Orion/Apollo comparison is a useful one.

    I didn’t say that it wasn’t. My objection was to comparing an Apollo CM to the entire Orion S/C.

  • anonymous

    “I didn’t say that it wasn’t. My objection was to comparing an Apollo CM to the entire Orion S/C.”

    And I’m not comparing the Apollo Command Module to the entire Orion assembly (Command Module, Service Module, and Launch Abort System). I’m comparing Orion Command Module to Apollo Command Module.

    According to multiple sources, the ORION COMMAND MODULE comes in at roughly 25 tonnes (metric tonnes or roughly 25,000 kilograms).

    For example, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orion_%28spacecraft%29, which states:

    “The Orion CM is projected to be around 5 meters (16.5 feet) in diameter, with a mass of about 25 tonnes.”

    Or see http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/O/Orion_spacecraft.html, which states:

    “The Orion CM has 2.5 times the volume of the Apollo CM. It will be 5 meters (16.5 feet) in diameter and have a mass of about 25 tons.”

    The APOLLO COMMAND MODULE, by contrast, comes in at 5.8 tonnes (metric tons or roughly 5,800 kilograms).

    For example, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_Command_Module, which states:

    “Specifications
    Crew: 3
    Crew cabin volume: 6.17 m³
    Length: 3.47 m
    Diameter: 3.90 m
    Mass: 5,806 kg”

    Again, even though I’m comparing command module to command module, it’s still not a perfect apples-to-apples comparison. Orion carries more crew and has to do more on orbit.

    But for the purposes of the comments section of an internet blog, the huge difference in mass between the two command modules — despite 40 years of intervening technology development in materials, computer, and aerospace design — shows just how grossly unnecessary ESAS’s approach to Orion’s requirements and design is.

    Again, no wonder John Young is making the statements he is.

  • Anonymous,
    I hate to correct you (when I think that otherwise you’re dead on with your analysis), but those sources for the Orion CM mass are incorrect. According to most of the sources I’ve seen, including:

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/156298main_orion_handout.pdf

    The CM portion of Orion is in the 8500-9000kg range. Which for a 4 person to the moon/6 person to ISS capsule is big, but not completely beyond the pale.

    ~Jon

  • anonymous

    “I hate to correct you (when I think that otherwise you’re dead on with your analysis), but those sources for the Orion CM mass are incorrect.”

    Fair enough. The sources conflict, and when they do about a NASA system, you have to go with the NASA source.

    Not to turn this into a nasaspaceflight.com discussion, but I’ll note that this NASA source provides GLOW numbers for the CM, LAS, and SA, but not for the SM — an interesting omission as it relates to Ares I.

    “The CM portion of Orion is in the 8500-9000kg range. Which for a 4 person to the moon/6 person to ISS capsule is big, but not completely beyond the pale.”

    Even at 8,500-9,000 kg, I still see John Young’s point. If three crew and two to the surface was good enough for Apollo, why do NASA need four crew today? If the Apollo astronauts felt that the Apollo CM was roomy, why do today’s astronauts need even more volume per astronaut for ISS visits? (Are they getting obese like the rest of us?) Why, despite about 40 years of lighter materials and avionics development does the Orion CM weigh 45-55% more than the Apollo CM for only a 25% increase in crew size?

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • Anonymous: If three crew and two to the surface was good enough for Apollo, why do NASA need four crew today?

    I fully agree as it applies to the moon. But, I think the size was politically determined to be able to deliver close to the Shuttle’s crew to the Space Station. This is yet another reason why this decision will not be revisited in the near future.

    – Donald

  • anonymous

    “But, I think the size was politically determined to be able to deliver close to the Shuttle’s crew to the Space Station.”

    The size may have been politically determined, but it wasn’t for the sake of ISS.

    As the COTS capsules and the LockMart/Bigelow work shows, six or more space station crew can travel comfortably in a considerably smaller volume. For example, a 4.5-meter Orion CM copy with about 320 cubic feet of volume could fit six crew with a per-person habitable volume slightly smaller than Apollo:

    – Apollo CM (3.9 meters and 3 crew): 210 cubic feet total or 70 cubic feet per crewmember

    – 4.5 m Orion CM (4.5 meters and 6 crew): 320 cubic feet total or 53 cubic feet per crewmember.

    And of course, the ISS trip time for 4.5 meter Orion would be much, much shorter than the lunar trip time for the Apollo CM.

    And not incidentally, a 4.5-meter capsule could sit a crew of four abreast with slightly more per person volume than Apollo had for three crew at 3.9-meters:

    – Apollo CM (3.9 meters and 3 crew): 210 cubic feet total or 70 cubic feet per crewmember

    – 4.5 m Orion CM (4.5 meters and 4 crew): 320 cubic feet total or 80 cubic feet per crewmember.

    Mass savings going to 4.5 meters are reportedly in the 2000 pound range for the CM alone. May still not enough for a single-stick EELV even after the savings trickle through the rest of the Orion stack, but certainly enough to provide margin for a three-stick heavy version.

    I’m not advocating 4.5 meters per se. Just using it as an example to point out that ESAS and NASA didn’t have to size Orion the way they did for the sake of either six ISS crew or four lunar crew.

  • anonymous

    Continuation of previous message that got cut off…

    “This is yet another reason why this decision will not be revisited in the near future.”

    And as such, six ISS crew is not a good reason not to revisit Orion sizing now, before it really is too late.

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • Thomas Matula

    Hi All,

    One observation I have is perhaps there also needs to be a discussion on why a 4 person crew to the lunar surface?

    Apollo was 3 person because it was consider you needed two on the surface for safety and one on the CSM in case of emergency, either with the CSM or if it was necessary to go into a lower orbit to dock with a LM that failed to achieve the proper docking orbit. The entire Apollo/Saturn system was then designed to support the need to have two on the surface while 1 is in orbit architecture.

    Similarly it appears that the 4 crew for 6 months is driving the needs of the ESAS. Perhaps we need to drag out that basic requirement and look at it in more detail.

    But modern communications and electronics eliminates the need for a crewman on the orbital element, and the 6 month duration makes it impractical. So we only need to address the surface crew needs.

    A 4 person crew for the base makes sense from the safety viewpoint. Two members to go on extended explorations, two to stay at the base to maintain it and be available if the two on expedition need support.

    And the 6 month duration is probably driven by the ability to launch the Ares V vehicle.

    But lets consider another option. Instead of sending 4 new crew every six months for a six month stay (4-6-6 rotation), why not 2 new crew every three months for a six month stay (2-3-6 rotation)? This might have several advantages.

    1) a 2-3-6 rotation allows a major downsizing of the CEV and Lunar Lander from 4 crew to 2 crew. A huge saving in weight, perhaps enough for both elements to be easily launched by EELV’s.

    2) Smaller spacecraft are easier to design and cheaper to build. And you would be building more of them, 4 a year versus 2, which creates additional economies.

    3) The smaller vehicles could also be developed much quicker, especially since no new launch vehicles would be needed. This would both close the spaceflight gap and allow the VSE to move forward in the existing budget environment.

    4) A 2-3-6 rotation allows easier transfer of lunar surface experience, the new crew serving three months with a “veteran” crew that has already learned the ropes. This will have major safety benefits.

    5) The 2-3-6 rotation also reduces the problems of long term crew compatibility. It a lot easier to put up with the same faces for 3 months then for 6.

    6) The 2-3-6 rotation also means there will always be at least 2 CEV and 2 Lunar Landers available to the base. This would allow emergency medical evac without requiring the base to be abandoned. Again safety benefits.

    7) The cost of launching 8 EELVs a year is also likely to be much less then launching 2 Ares I and two Ares V. Especially since most of the STS infrastructure could now be abandoned. And would create economies of scale for the EELV infrastructure for other missions. This would create a high level of sustainability.

    8) The smaller size of the 2 crew vehicles would also allow them to be easily transition to new less expensive launch vehicles as they become available. You wouldn’t be locked into an expensive STS based infrastructure for as long as the Moon base exists.

    However there would be some downsides.

    1) The STS infrastructure, and associated political support, would go away.

    2) The Russians and Chinese would have bigger crew spacecraft then we have.

    3) The infrastructure would have no value for a Mars mission which does require a large CEV and Ares V for heavy lift.

    Still, is the VSE is to be salvaged in the current environment it might be worth a look at the assumptions behind a 4-6-6 rotation and see if a 2-3-6 rotation makes more sense.

  • Thomas Matula

    The smiling face was suppose to be point 8.) Looks like auto formatting struck.

  • anonymous

    “… why not 2 new crew every three months for a six month stay (2-3-6 rotation)? This might have several advantages.”

    I am continually impressed by the ideas being generated outside NASA for fixing the lunar return effort. I hope they get a fair hearing someday.

    If only ESAS had actually examined such alternatives and requirements sensitivities in the first place…

  • Thomas: 3) The infrastructure would have no value for a Mars mission which does require a large CEV and Ares V for heavy lift.

    While measuring it is far beyond my competence, an aerobraked mission to the Martian moons (and maybe even staged to the surface over multiple live-off-the-land flights) need not require as much heavy lift. Which begs the question: does a Mars mission really require something like Ares-V?

    Such an architecture gets you early deep space experience, two “asteroids,” and Mars — probably for much less money, and more “sustainable” — than the current plan, albeit at probably far greater risk. . . .

    – Donald

  • Thomas Matula

    Donald,

    If you add nuclear-ion or solar-ion to the mix you could well have a very viable Mars system without Ares. But you would also need orbital assembly which NASA seems to be avoiding because of their experience with ISS.

    I also agree that the Moons of Mars are its natural space stations and should be the first goal of any Mars exploration program, and then use landers from there. Best of all it looks like Deimos has water on it. This means ISRU for life support and agriculture. And fuel for landers!

    http://www.spacefuture.com/archive/the_deimos_water_company.shtml

    Really ISRU looks a far better as a strategy for the Mars Moons then for Mars itself if water is found on them as some believe is possible. Just put a RTG on it and start mining water. Find a cave, or make one perhaps using an impactor like with Deep Impact, then build your habitat safe from solar storms. Use the water for food, life support, fuel. And then just make dashes down to the surface as needed.

    Much better then Mars direct. And the vaccum living technolgies and water mining ones developed from your lunar polar base would fit right in your Deimos one.

    Actually if NASA is really serious about going to Mars we really need to get some high quality maps and resource surveys of both moons. I wonder if MRO would be up tp the job once its prime mission is over?

  • But you would also need orbital assembly which NASA seems to be avoiding because of their experience with ISS

    But, the problems have been driven by the Shuttle. The Space Station construction has gone well. (No one is dead yet, and in an endeavor like building the Space Station, that’s an amazing statement.) This is a classic example of drawing the wrong conclusion, partially because of unrealistic expectations.

    Best of all it looks like Deimos has water on it.

    If so, that is fantastic news! I’ll read the paper tomorrow.

    I’m not ready to write off Mars Direct as a possible strategy, but if I thought I could sell it, I’d make the Martian moons at least an equal priority than the moon.

    – Donald

  • Thomas Matula

    Donald,

    I agree with you, that most of ISS problems are Shuttle related. And for the record I am a advocate of on-orbit construction.

    But NASA’s focus on heavy-lift indicates they have decided on avoiding on-orbit construction at all cost – an illiogical over reaction by NASA in my mind. And it will likely lead to a lost of expertise in the area of on-robit assmebly just as NASA’s abandonment of the moon led to a lost of expertise in lunar surface operations. Expertise that must now be relearned.

  • Paul Dietz

    Heck, forget on-orbit assembly, they’re also avoiding on-orbit propellant transfer. How do you do in situ propellant manufacture if you’re too timid to pump the stuff from one tank to another?

  • Paul,
    Heck, forget on-orbit assembly, they’re also avoiding on-orbit propellant transfer. How do you do in situ propellant manufacture if you’re too timid to pump the stuff from one tank to another?

    You beat me to the punch. Its obvious why they’re avoiding this one. If on-orbit propellant transfer became available pre-Ares-I/V, it would completely undermine their argument for existence. HLVs mostly ship up fancy containers of propellants with some goofy looking thruster thingoes on the back. :-) If you no longer need to ship those containers with the propellants already pre-packed, the need for really big rockets goes down substantially.

    That’s why Griffin while he’ll say good things about propellant transfer really wants the technology to appear after Ares I and V are “sunk costs”, because then they’ll have Congressional constituencies tied to them and will be harder to cancel…

    ~Jon

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