Congress, NASA

Florida Today sees “signs of trouble” in Ares 1

The day after NASA awarded the last major contract for the development of the Ares 1, Florida Today weighs in on a recent GAO report on the vehicle, saying that the report raises “signs of trouble” about not just the vehicle but also the overall exploration architecture. “At this early juncture, the Ares and Orion programs are starting to look like a repeat of NASA’s dismal performance on its last two major programs: The shuttle fleet and International Space Station, both of which came in far behind schedule and far over budget,” the editorial claims. More money could at least ease the problems, but the paper is skeptical that the White House and Congress would be willing and able to so, given the “enormous costs” of Iraq and growing pressure on Medicare and Social Security. “That puts NASA advocates in Congress — including Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez, and Space Coast Reps. Dave Weldon and Tom Feeney — in the impossible position of trying to push the funding boulder up hill.”

25 comments to Florida Today sees “signs of trouble” in Ares 1

  • Although it’s good to see the GAO report and the political implications for NASA getting the attention they deserve, as is typical of most articles and editorials written by the local Space Coast/Houston/Huntsville papers, Florida Today managed to get at least one major fact totally wrong:

    “The study estimated $14 billion in cost overruns on the moonship program by 2011, unless the agency changed the way it does business with contractors.”

    The “$14 billion” figure cited in the GAO report is not a “cost overrun”. It’s just the projected cost of Ares I development. Ares I may be egregiously costly in comparison to the alternatives, but in fairness to the program, it’s not overrunning its budget, at least not yet.

    Like Congress, I’d also criticize the opinion piece for making the argument a binary one about whether to fund Ares I or not. There are alternatives to Ares I that will cost much less to develop and operate, take much less time to develop, and take on much less technical risk. That’s what our Congressmen, their staffers, and these editorial boards should be exploring in a serious way — how to make the VSE work (and reform NASA human space flight in general) — instead of repeatedly clucking their teeth about budgets, the gap, and NASA jobs.

    My 2 cents… FWIW…

  • reader

    Only two last major programs ? They are taking it easy .. lets look at the spectacular success string of X-30, X-33, X-34, X-38, 2GRLV , SLI and OSP too, all good and well executed manned spaceflight projects by NASA.

  • Charles in Houston

    Fellow Space Exploration Advocates -

    Anonymous has a good point that the Florida Today article could have explained that the path ahead is not a choice between The Devil or the Deep Blue Sea, but there are alternatives. We have two excellent flying EELVs – we could fly Atlas or Delta at least with the cargo of the system. And they could be man-rated at some point.

    The scary part is that the cost estimate to fly to the Moon is $230 billion dollars and there is just no way that we can find even a part of that kind of money. We have to adjust our expectations to reality.

    Sigh.

    Charles

  • Nemo

    Only two last major programs ? They are taking it easy .. lets look at the spectacular success string of X-30, X-33, X-34, X-38, 2GRLV , SLI and OSP too, all good and well executed manned spaceflight projects by NASA.

    Those weren’t “major” programs. X-30 was the only one that came within an order of magnitude of shuttle/ISS, and that was more than 50% DoD. And OSP didn’t fail – it was absorbed into VSE.

  • Al Fansome

    READER: Only two last major programs ? They are taking it easy .. lets look at the spectacular success string of X-30, X-33, X-34, X-38, 2GRLV , SLI and OSP too, all good and well executed manned spaceflight projects by NASA.

    I would also add OMV and ISS Prop Module to the list of significant failures.

    NEMO: Those weren’t “major” programs. X-30 was the only one that came within an order of magnitude of shuttle/ISS, and that was more than 50% DoD. .

    Nemo, Nemo, Nemo …. it is pretty weak to argue that they were not “major” programs. This creates an argument about definitions — which leads to spin. In my book, any program that spends over $100 million of taxpayer money is a major program.

    NEMO: And OSP didn’t fail – it was absorbed into VSE.

    There is some accuracy to this — as the OSP had not failed (some would argue “yet”) — but was effectively cancelled when the White House set a new direction with the VSE.

    IMO, it is more accurate to say “it was cancelled by the VSE” rather than “it was absorbed into VSE”, but the distinction may be miniscule. The CEV was basically a new start, with fundamentally new requirements. OSP was focused on humans to/from ISS, not sending humans to the Moon. CEV’s primary mission is sending humans to the Moon.

    BTW, I note note that your argument implies (concedes) that you agree that NASA has a long series of failures in new space transportation initiatives (which avoids the issue of whether they were “major” initiatives).

    - Al

  • reader

    “cancelled” vs “failed” is really pointless distinction here. None of the problems “failed” outright, all were cancelled. OSP was cancelled, for all intents and purposes as well.
    And some of its more useful results were actually forcefully shoved under the carpet under ESAS, the whole EELV “blackout zones” thing comes to mind.

  • MarkWhittington

    As Anonymous points out, most of the basis for the opinion piece is built on a falsehood.

  • “As Anonymous points out, most of the basis for the opinion piece is built on a falsehood.”

    That’s not what I pointed out at all. In fact, my post starts off with:

    “it’s good to see the GAO report and the political implications for NASA getting the attention they deserve”

    Only one sentence in the editorial is in factual error regarding how the $14 billion figure is portrayed. The rest of the piece is true, accurate, and very consistent with the GAO report, independent of that figure.

    If you can’t enter into a debate without putting words in another poster’s mouth and doing your homework regarding the report in question, then please don’t bother.

    Oy vey…

  • Oy vey…

    Yea Verily

    Why don’t you just go ahead and say what you really mean – AMEN.

    You bearded and pony-tailed religious fre@ks won’t be happy until you have completely destroyed America and its space program. You and Marburger lied your way into VSE, you lied about the EELV black zones in order to ram your ESAS down our throats, you continue to lie and obstruct mainstream science at every turn, and at every opportunity you still lie about global warming, even after the evidence is now overwhelming, that this launch vehicle architecture and this administration is a failure.

    Face it, you and your compatriots are liars, and we have called you out.

  • Ah the OSP…

    I would argue the point that when Bush announced a CEV, the first designs were trying to incorporate the work that had already been done on the OSP. When it was discovered that the wing design would make re-entry at high speeds (like those coming from the moon) very dangerous, they went back to capsule form. I would argue it was obsorbed, and then transformed into the Orion concept. Again, we’re just nitpicking at terminology here…

    btw, where did the $230 billion come from? Last I heard, it was closer to $110 billion. Well, $110 billion to get back to the moon anyway… Are we including lunar base operations in the $230 billion figure?

  • Wow.

    I think that “Secular Humanist” needs to either increase, or decrease, his medication. Elifritz, is that you?

    OSP was a LEO design. Orion has to go to the moon and back. Twice as much heat shield, and a lot more mission life. Since Lockmart’s OSP concept was winged, they pretty much had to start from scratch for Orion, and Northrop didn’t use that much of Boeing’s OSP work, AFAIK. It was essentially a new program.

  • “Oy vey…

    Yea Verily

    Why don’t you just go ahead and say what you really mean”

    Great, Elifritz again. This is another request to Mr. Foust to permanently ban this poster, ideally using any and all of his ISP addresses, rather than his ever-changing screen names, if the software allows it. Despite not being part of the conversation to this point, Elifritz has jumped in again with a purely ad hominem and utterly false (at least in my case) attack against two posters, including slurs and name-calling. This comes on top of threats, trolling, and insults in prior threads.

    In the meantime, since my “oy vey…” is up there, I’m going to waste some time refuting Elifritz’s delusions one by one.

    “AMEN.”

    For the record, I’m agnostic and have never prayed for anything. The only time I utter the word “amen” is out of respect for relatives and friends at someone else’s religious ceremony or dinner table.

    I’d actually sympathize with the secular humanist label if Elifritz’s first post in a thread wasn’t always a broadsided flame of multiple other posters based on pure falsehoods and exaggerations.

    “You bearded and pony-tailed”

    I wear neither a beard (for all Elifritz knows, I’m a woman), nor a pony tail.

    “freaks [sic]”

    No one has resorted to juvenile name-calling in this thread. Why does Elifritz feel compelled to do so in his very first post? Does he have Tourette’s Syndrome?

    “You and Marburger lied your way into VSE”

    Wrong. I’ve always been critical of Marburger’s Goddard speech. It overplays the economic benefits of lunar resources. I’m also critical of Marburger’s pick for NASA Administrator and his lack of oversight since. If Elifritz bothered to read other people’s posts before throwing insults, he’d know that.

    “you lied about the EELV black zones”

    Wrong again. I’ve always pointed out that the EELV black zone argument in ESAS was wrong or false based on prior SLI/OSP work. If Elifritz bothered to read other people’s posts before throwing insults, he’d know that.

    “in order to ram your ESAS down our throats,”

    Wrong a third time. Anyone who pays the slightest attention to my posts here would know that I’m highly critical of ESAS. Again, if Elifritz bothered to read other people’s posts before throwing insults, he’d know that.

    “you continue to lie and obstruct mainstream science at every turn”

    Wrong a fourth time. For the record, I disagree with the Bush Administration’s treatment of a broad range of science issues: from stem cells to end-of-life issues to various agricultural/environmental/industrial regulations to global warming to rewriting science findings in government documents to gagging of civil servant scientists. Moreover, I’ve been a consistent defender of majority space science community priorities against very narrow viewpoints on this forum. Again, if Elifritz bothered to read other people’s posts before throwing insults, he’d know that.

    “and at every opportunity you still lie about global warming, even after the evidence is now overwhelming,”

    For the record, I agree with the majority scientific view on the existence, acceleration, and anthropogenic causes of global warming. But it is not a space policy issue. It’s not germane, it’s off-topic for this forum, and it should be taken to other forums.

    “that this launch vehicle architecture and”

    Wrong a fifth time. I’ve spent extensive time on this forum enumerating the many crippling faults in the ESAS architecture and changes made to it since then. In fact, in a recent thread, I expressed the opinion that Ares 1/Orion may not even by flyable, nevertheless safe/soon/simple. Again, if Elifritz bothered to read other people’s posts before throwing insults, he’d know that.

    “this administration is a failure.”

    For the record, I agree with statements that the Bush Administration is a failure.

    “Face it, you and your compatriots are liars,”

    On the contrary, it is Elifritz who has, knowingly or unknowingly, lied about my religious beliefs (or lack thereof), appearance, and positions and viewpoints on multiple issues.

    “and we”

    Why does Elifritz always refer to himself in the plural? Does he have megalomania on top of the Tourette’s Syndrome?

    “have called you out.”

    It’s impossible to call someone out on total falsehoods.

    The really sad thing about Elifritz is that he’d actually find a lot of folks who share some or all of his viewpoints on this forum, including myself, if he’d just turn off the paranoid vitriol. But until he does so, we have no choice but to variously refute his false attacks, ignore his ravings, and request that he be banned.

    Oy vey…

  • reader

    “This is another request to Mr. Foust to permanently ban this poster, ideally using any and all of his ISP addresses”

    IP banning does not really work unfortunately, anyone can just download a Tor client.

  • anonymous.space – for the record, I think you’d look good with a pony tail :D

  • D. Messier

    I figured this would happen pretty much from when Bush and O’Keefe announced the whole VSE four years ago. Seemed awfully optimistic.

    It’s interesting what’s being reported now about Scott Horowitz. I hadn’t realized this whole revolving door thing was going on with him. Might have been nice to know at the time they awarded the Ares contract. Anyone know what if any role he played in the contract award, or did he recuse himself due to possible conflicts of interest?

  • I hadn’t realized this whole revolving door thing was going on with him. Might have been nice to know at the time they awarded the Ares contract.

    Then you weren’t paying attention. I was kind of amazed at the time that no one, at least no one in the press, including the space press, seemed to think it a conflict of interest, or an issue at all.

  • reader

    I was kind of amazed at the time that no one, at least no one in the press, including the space press, seemed to think it a conflict of interest, or an issue at all.
    The first rule of the Old Boys club is: you dont talk about the Old Boys club.

  • Vladislaw

    Is not nasa a little brother to the defense dept? SRBs burning powdered alum. is just about the most nasty environmental formula you could choose so why did they choose HUGE solid rockets? I AWAYS just assumed the military wanted the capability to slap big warheads on big solid rockets
    so the big SRBs were going to continued to be developed and be a part of ANY NASA program so the USA would always have that capability IF they needed to.

    Vladislaw

  • Is not nasa a little brother to the defense dept?

    It is not.

  • Vladislaw

    “We’ve always had a strong relationship with the Defense Department, and we expect that will continue,” said Robert “Doc” Mirelson, NASA’s press chief in Washington.

    Although NASA now accepts astronaut applications from qualified individuals whether civilian or military, virtually all shuttle mission commanders still come from a military background.

    After President Bush appointed Sean O’Keefe the agency’s administrator in 2001, the new director pressed for closer cooperation between the U.S. space agency and the Department of Defense.

    “Because of the size and weight of some of the classified DOD payloads,” Nelson said, “the shuttle was the only way to put them up.”

    “I see no reason to keep an artificial separation if a NASA program has a capability that the DOD can use. There’s no reason not to take advantage of it,”said George “Pinky” Nelson

    Retired Air Force Col. William “Pete” Knight agrees. In 1967, he attained a speed record of 4,520 mph while piloting one of NASA’s X-15 rocket research aircraft over the Mojave.

    “The X-15 was a joint Air Force and NASA program. It was a benefit of both parties, who each brought something to the table,”

    Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., member of the Senate committee that oversees NASA’s budget, has urged O’Keefe to be cautious about strengthening NASA’s cooperation with the Pentagon.

    Senior fellow Michael O’Hanlon of the independent Brookings Institution in Washington believes collaboration between NASA and DOD is valid, though, he noted, “the military will always have its secrets.”

    “Military, NASA linked from start”
    By Wayne Specht, Stars and Stripes
    Pacific edition, Monday, February 10, 2003
    http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=12459&archive=true

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA, pronounced /ˈnæsə/) is an agency of the United States government, responsible for the nation’s public space program. NASA was established on July 29, 1958, by the National Aeronautics and Space Act.[3]
    In addition to the space program, it is also responsible for long-term civilian and *military aerospace research.*

    Elements of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (of which von Braun’s team was a part) and the Naval Research Laboratory were incorporated into NASA.

    Representatives from the U.S. Army (M.L. Raines, LTC, USA), Navy (P.L. Havenstein, CDR, USN) and Air Force (K.G. Lindell, COL, USAF) were selected/requested to provide assistance to the NASA Space Task Group through coordination with the existing U.S. military research and defense contracting infrastructure, and technical assistance resulting from experimental aircraft (and the associated military test pilot pool) development in the 1950s.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA

    maybe not a little brother but you can not deny they are at the very least RELATIVES.

    Vladislaw

  • vladislaw – well, of course they are relatives – they are offspring of the US government. NASA is also a relative to NOAA, the EPA, the DOE, and all the other federal agencies.

  • Vladislaw

    The point I was trying to illustrate was that the military MIGHT have a vested interest in having a big SRB in the inventory, personally I have no problem with that. I was trying to provide some rationalization for the path NASA chose when there was other methods and LVs that could have put up a basic orbiter. As one poster had said before, most of the RLV talk was a lot of bogus hype and was not ready for instant use.
    On that point I tend to disagree, I feel there is a lot of options more suited to JUST putting people into orbit. The statement about hanging a rocket under a plane to launch was not plausable at this time, I believe is incorrect. Using a hybred rocket to put a three man capsule up that would really not even need docking avionics because the robotic arm could do that. Plane launching means no launch pad and all the insurance, environmental, labor and service costs associated with them. You would have airports that would already be qualified for handling non toxic hybred fuels. By using a small 3 man system you could achieve a lot higher launch rates. Everyone knows that is ONE of the key enablers.
    Also you lesson the risk of losing 6-9 astronauts a time when a catastrophic failure occurs, lowering insurance liablity premiums, that also helps lower launch costs.

    Personally, I honestly do not understand NASA’s approach, WHY drag your car along when you are taking a cruise ship across the ocean?

    WHY drag your 20 ton EARTH landing orbiter to the MOON? At this stage of our space program we should have a lot more vehicle types. Use a fleet of 3-4 man capsules and planes to put up our astronauts to the ISS, use a manned shuttle POD to dock with the Inflatable or Metal “can” that serves as your travel habitat and dock that with the ARES V lunar lander and EDS while sending the robotic shuttle pod back to the ISS and hybernate. You do not have to bring your orbiter back to earth at the higher Lunar return speed and it lowers TPS costs because the Lunar Habit stays in LEO and gets reserviced for the next lunar mission.

    We should have mastered a simple commerical “POP & DROP” system by now. Heck it would be like bungie jumping or an extreme sport. Cheap Ballistic returns done at a commerical rate can be shown as a business case, and that is the bottom line. It wouldn’t be pretty, it would do no science or site seeing just pop and drop at a commerical flight rate.

    The russians are already jacking their rates and we will be seeing 40 mil a pop now instead of 20-25. ESPECIALLY since NASA paid then 719 million for 15 astronauts at 41 million a head and three cargo launches, they run about 105 mil from the 719.

    They are creating a back log of customers because of the shuttle being retired.
    America REALLY has to get over this “one vehicle for all” mentally, Not only is it inefficient thus more expensive but ALSO lowers productivity. Can you imagine if the only vehicle america had on the road were semi trucks? we have literally hundreds of vehicle types for a LIMITED land area BUT for the VASTNESS of space we feel ONE should do the trick. To me, that is insanity on a bun.

  • The point I was trying to illustrate was that the military MIGHT have a vested interest in having a big SRB in the inventory, personally I have no problem with that.

    It doesn’t. This is about pork, not national security. ATK doesn’t want to give up their contract.

  • Artemus

    The U.S. military already has extensive experience with large segmented SRBs (Titan III and IV). There is no current or contemplated requirement for a large segmented SRB, but if one arose, they’d start from the Titan design, which was operational before the Shuttle was even on the drawing board.

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