NASA

The coming NASA budget crunch

In response to the avalanche of comments to an earlier post about a presentation Charles Miller gave at the Space Access conference last month about the budgetary pressures NASA is facing and one potential solution, Charles approached me about fleshing out that talk into a more detailed essay. Part one of that essay appears in Monday’s issue of The Space Review and goes into detail about the budget crunch NASA and other discretionary spending programs will be facing in the near future as the Baby Boomers retire. That wave of retirements will cause mandatory spending (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) to increase, putting pressure on other programs. While NASA has done reasonably well in the current administration, when there has been little pressure to balance budgets, it did suffer a cut of nearly 20 percent during the Clinton Administration when there was a bipartisan push to balance the budget—a portent of what may come when there are similar pressures to cut spending.

A key paragraph from the article:

These fiscal pressures will force the next president—regardless of whoever is elected in November—to make some hard decisions in the years to come about discretionary spending. It is unrealistic to expect that NASA will somehow be immune to pressures to cut spending. A budget cut in the next Administration that is equivalent to last decade’s cut would result in reduction of NASA’s budget of over $3 billion per year. If that happens, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the current exploration architecture to continue in anything resembling its current form and schedule. It will be significantly delayed, radically altered, or even cancelled.

The next part will focus on what Charles proposed in his Space Access talk on how to preserve the Vision in such an austere budgetary environment.

100 comments to The coming NASA budget crunch

  • reader

    heres a simple thought excercise: imagine if NASA budget would be cut from roughly $16B to half of it, $8B. What would you keep ?

  • GRS

    Obviously go with what’s been working for the last several decades, namely robotic exploration and science. The remaining NASA budget should be used for Earth-oriented endeavors, such as Earth science, affordable access to space and aeronautics.

    NASA needs to get out of directly participating in the human spaceflight business, and support it much in the same way that it supports aeronautics. NASA could provide an invaluable role to the fledgling space tourism market by offering up technology and other intellectual resources. It certainly doesn’t need to compete with it.

  • anonymous.space

    A good, realistic, sober, and much needed analysis of the budget environment that NASA will be facing in the next Administration. Kudos to Mr. Miller and Mr. Foust. In Part 2, I would just caution that it’s important not to jump to specific conclusions (e.g., RLVs are the solution) that the budget evidence does not necessarily support. Mr. Miller’s did that in latter half of his prior article. Instead, a broader discussion of the core roles of the government in civil space that must be maintained in such an austere budget environment (as is already happening in this thread) — and what options exist for accelerating private sector investment — would probably be more appropriate and useful.

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • I agree that this was an excellent article. I would add that any effort to gut the parts of NASA that might in the future lead to dramatically new industries and resources (e.g., trade in resources useful in LEO like lunar oxyen, asteroid mining for rare and heavy metals, solar power from space, et cetera) would help to guarantee that the government will never have the money to fulfill its commitments to the baby boomers.

    As to the exercise, recall that ending Shuttle flights by itself would cut NASA’s commitments by about a third, which goes a long way toward covering the problem. After that, I would keep the ISS and COTS first, since they are what could lead to a sustainable decrease in launch costs in the future, Earth observation and applications missions second, and recognize that everything else is a luxury to be funded when and if there are resources available. I would re-orient space science to emphasize the search for exploitable resources — i.e., asteroid mapping and surveys, detailed lunar mineral surveys, a PhD mission, and the like — which would advance science while also, just maybe, providing a chance of new resources (recognizing that all searches for exploitable ores are a gamble).

    – Donald

  • Bill White

    John McCain will not alter the course set by George W. Bush and Dr. Griffin.

    Here is McCain’s space policy, from his website:

    John McCain is a strong supporter of NASA and the space program. He is proud to have sponsored legislation authorizing funding consistent with the President’s vision for the space program, which includes a return of astronauts to the Moon in preparation for a manned mission to Mars. He believes support for a continued US presence in space is of major importance to America’s future innovation and security. He has also been a staunch advocate for ensuring that NASA funding is accompanied by proper management and oversight to ensure that the taxpayers receive the maximum return on their investment. John McCain believes curiosity and a drive to explore have always been quintessential American traits. This has been most evident in the space program, for which he will continue his strong support.

    In light of the above, how do we possibly move John McCain from the above “vision” to a radically different vision? Especially if it will cost more money AND lay off the STS workforce?

    Here is Hillary Clinton’s space policy:

    Hillary will enhance American leadership in space, including:

    * Pursuing an ambitious 21st century Space Exploration Program, by implementing a balanced strategy of robust human spaceflight, expanded robotic spaceflight, and enhanced space science activities.
    * Developing a comprehensive space-based Earth Sciences agenda, including full funding for NASA’s Earth Sciences program and a space-based Climate Change Initiative that will help us secure the scientific knowledge we need to combat global warming.
    * Promoting American leadership in aeronautics by reversing funding cuts to NASA’s and FAA’s aeronautics R&D budget.

    The Moon? Does anyone see “the Moon” somewhere in there?

    Taylor Dinerman wrote in the Space Review (11-5-07):

    Hillary Clinton’s principal complaint against the Bush space policy, as evidenced with the release of her own proposed space policy last month, seems to be that it has not been focused enough on this planet.

    And on 11-12-07 he wrote:

    Senator Clinton’s space policy looks pretty good, but as we learned in the years 1993 through 2001, one always has to pay very close attention to every word and every comma. Nowhere in the policy, for example, is there a commitment to spending more on NASA.

    and

    Despite lacking a solid promise to return to the Moon and to build and outpost there, Hillary Clinton’s space policy is nonetheless an improvement over her husband’s. Until Bush came up with the VSE, NASA was reduced to using euphemisms such as “accessible planetary surfaces” when they meant to say the Moon and Mars. Today NASA has a fairly clear direction and is, within the limits of what is possible for any government bureaucracy, headed in the right direction. The junior senator from New York’s policy is probably the best and most realistic one we can expect from a Democrat.

    Is an underfunded ESAS the right direction? Opinions vary.

    Barack Obama is openly skeptical of human spaceflight (as has been well documented elsewhere) and McCain and Clinton are apparently committed to “stick with the Stick”

    Are any of these choices any good for space advocates?

    Also, if you believe ESAS is the “Emperor’s New Space Program” why should Obama be getting hammered for saying “Look! NASA ain’t got no clothes on!”

    On the other hand, if you NASA on the right track and we simply need to stay the course then it makes perfect sense to oppose Obama on this topic.

    = = =

    I suggest this book (a topic in sore need of updating):

    Spaceflight and the Myth of Presidential Leadership

    One review at amazon:

    For over 30 years space advocates have looked to strong presidential leadership in space policy as the sine qua non of forwarding their space exploration agendas. Kennedy’s bold decision to race the Soviets to the moon in the 1960s represents the high-water mark of presidential leadership in space matters. But as this collection of essays by 11 presidential scholars demonstrates, the power of the president is more limited than space advocates seem to realize. Each essay reviews every administration’s space policies since Eisenhower to reveal the complex relationships among the presidency, Congress, and the bureaucracy that produce policy. They clearly demonstrate that over reliance by space advocates on the power of the “imperial presidency” to set the space agenda single-handedly has hampered implementation of expanding space efforts as the power of the presidency waned in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate.

    In my opinion, Zsidisn, Foust, Brooks et. al. are falling into this same trap, looking for a glorious leader to take us to the Promised Land (Moon / Mars)

    IMHO? We need to find a way to get there ourselves.

    Apollo was the result of a perfect storm of political conditions and had JFK not been shot in Dallas I think it is quite possible that we would not have landed on the Moon in July 1969. The Launius book demonstrates that the conditions that gave us Apollo have never been replicated since.

  • Earl Blake

    What really needs to happen is for Thyachol and the rest of the contractors to start putting up some cash to get these vehicles. They are going to profit from the launch vehicles created by adapting them to other uses, they should share in the development cost.

  • factchecker

    Bill White asks if anyone sees the Moon anywhere in Hillary Clinton’s statement. The following clarifying statement was sent to media (and subsequently printed in HuffingtonPost and AvWeek) on October 6, 2007:

    Hillary will focus on enhancing American leadership in space exploration and space-based science and developing the capabilities we will need to explore the farther reaches of our solar system. Among other things, she will pursue:

    A successful and speedy transition from our aging Space Shuttle program – which is set to go offline in 2010 – to a next-generation space transportation system that can take us back to the Moon and beyond.

    Serious investments in aerospace and aeronautics R&D, including through incentives and cooperative ventures, which will expand our positive aeronautics trade balance and help us develop new technologies that make crewed space exploration — as well as safer, advanced air travel — more feasible and affordable.

    A new approach to space program management that promotes competence and cost-effectiveness, brings order and rigor to the contracting process, and curbs scheduling delays.

    Increased international cooperation, including a completed International Space Station that serves as a cutting-edge laboratory and a platform for rebuilding global partnerships in space.

    A robust Earth sciences agenda, with a focus on climate change.

    She believes that these nearer-term goals not only strengthen NASA’s current missions, but also complement and advance the worthy ambition of sending human expeditions to Mars. We cannot effectively achieve our long-term goals — in space exploration or otherwise — without putting NASA on a sound footing today. Just this week, Hillary co-sponsored a successful amendment to add $1 billion to the NASA budget to fortify NASA’s ongoing missions.

  • Bill White

    It appears Hillary Clinton believes going to the Moon and Mars is a “worthy ambition” but not necessarily a near term one.

    She believes that these nearer-term goals not only strengthen NASA’s current missions, but also complement and advance the worthy ambition of sending human expeditions to Mars. We cannot effectively achieve our long-term goals — in space exploration or otherwise — without putting NASA on a sound footing today. Just this week, Hillary co-sponsored a successful amendment to add $1 billion to the NASA budget to fortify NASA’s ongoing missions.

    Is there enough money to reach the Moon by 2020 sticking with ESAS and also doing these other things?

    Increased international cooperation, including a completed International Space Station that serves as a cutting-edge laboratory and a platform for rebuilding global partnerships in space.

    A robust Earth sciences agenda, with a focus on climate change.

    Not that I oppose these things, mind you . . .

    Anyway a proposed reliance on magic pixie faery dust is troubling:

    A new approach to space program management that promotes competence and cost-effectiveness, brings order and rigor to the contracting process, and curbs scheduling delays.

  • Certainly, NASA will be a tempting target in a period of constrained Federal budgets. But budgets are based on priorities which are, in turn, based on practical and political necessities. I think that the overarching question remains — whether the next President (man or woman) has a commitment to space exploration and to manned space exploration beyond Earth orbit be that in terms of the VSE or some variant of it. It seems obvious that Barak Obama does not have any serious commitment to manned space exploration beyond Earth orbit. Judging from his statement about using the first five years of the exploration budget to pay for his education initiative, I think it is safe to conclude that absent serious Congressional intervention, US manned space exploration will end under an Obama Administration. It would then fall to his successor to try to revive the US manned space program. Ironic that so many seek to make the peaceful exploration of space by a civilian space program the first — and perhaps only — sacrificial lamb in pursuit of an expanded role by the Federal government in paying for K through 12 education. Makes me wonder just what educational goals Senator Obama thinks these children will pursue. So much for vision.

    Hillary Clinton has expressed support for NASA and manned space exploration although I would anticipate that the “Vision” would be significantly reworked in a Clinton Administration.

    John McCain also has expressed support for NASA and the Vision and I think is most likely to pursue a vigorous manned space program. I think McCain is also more likely to adopt honest budgeting for NASA. If he identifies an objective worthy of achieving, he will work with the Congress to make sure sufficient funds are allocated. Funds will not be unlimited, but they will be sufficient to achieve the goal under a well managed NASA exploration program.

    In my view, what NASA needs is a “killer app” — a term used in the early days of the explosive expansion of the computer/dot com industries to describe an application that could make (or in its absence break) a company. Basically, they (NASA)/we (manned space exploration supporters) need something nearly irresistible to place manned space exploration firmly on any President’s fiscal/political/policy agenda — and keep it there. Something that will support the expenditures necessary to design and build the rockets, spacecraft and other elements of the essential infrastructure for the first stage of our space faring civilization.

    Exploration, for the moment at least, is too far off in time and too abstract a concept for the average American politician to be compelled to support it. No, we need something more visceral, more urgent — easier to grasp for citizen and politician alike — that requires humans in space and all the other infrastructure elements described above.

    The only realistic item I can think of that fills this bill is a commitment to space-based solar power as an urgent substitute for fossil fuel power sources. I realize that this suggestion will raise a chorus of skeptics — too expensive, not practical, etc, etc. However, I am convinced that any of the three possible future presidents will quickly realize that the looming threat of global warming will simply no longer allow us the delusional luxury of generating electric power by any fossil fuel combustion source. Nuclear fission will be too controversial to propose as a complete substitute, fusion is too far off in time, and wind and terrestrial solar simply won’t be able to meet the need of a 24/7 reliable power grid sustaining energy source for the US and other developed and /or developing nations. To my mind, that leaves space-based solar power as the proverbial last man standing. Think about it….

  • stargazer: I think it is safe to conclude that absent serious Congressional intervention, US manned space exploration will end under an Obama Administration.

    Maybe I’m dreaming, but I think it very unlikely that Congress would go along with a complete elimination of human spaceflight. That said, some kind of minimal program consisting of Orion and ISS support is possible or even likely.

    Given the coming budgetary pressures, I suspect that this is inevitable no matter who is President. While it is a bad outcome, at least it would keep the skills available should a future President find some need for expanded human spaceflight.

    The only realistic item I can think of that fills this bill is a commitment to space-based solar power as an urgent substitute for fossil fuel power sources.

    While I agree that this is the least politically difficult sell, I still think convincing polticians of its reality and practicality will prove a very difficult road. Ironically, I think the technically easiest “killer app” (albeit a long-term one) is trading lunar or asteroidal oxygen with the Space Station and other LEO applications, but this would be an even harder sell as a “planned” application, as opposed to something added onto an already existing lunar transprotation system.

    Unfortunately, I think we are still an Administration or three away from a killer app for human spaceflight — unless tourism pans out. That is truly a game changing application, but it probably does not need much government help beyond the ISS and an expaded COTS, or something like it.

    – Donald

    – Donald
    ]

  • Bill White

    Space based solar power for basic electric utility grid use? To replace a meaningful number of coal plants across America? I have never seen a credible study saying that is even remotely feasible within the next several decades.

    Space solar for niche power for military units far from the electric grid?

    Yes, I accept that as a potentially viable application.

  • vanilla

    Nuclear fission will be too controversial to propose as a complete substitute

    That’s not true. Nuclear fission can be a complete substitute to fossil-fueled energy, at least for electricity. The public is coming around to this.

    Your conclusion that space solar power is the killer-app was based your elimination of its strongest alternative.

  • Al Fansome

    ANONYMOUS.SPACE: A good, realistic, sober, and much needed analysis of the budget environment that NASA will be facing in the next Administration. Kudos to Mr. Miller and Mr. Foust. In Part 2, I would just caution that it’s important not to jump to specific conclusions (e.g., RLVs are the solution) that the budget evidence does not necessarily support. Mr. Miller’s did that in latter half of his prior article. Instead, a broader discussion of the core roles of the government in civil space that must be maintained in such an austere budget environment (as is already happening in this thread) — and what options exist for accelerating private sector investment — would probably be more appropriate and useful.

    Anon,

    I agree with everything you say here — although I do happen to think that RLVs are the solution. We will not achieve truly low-cost space access without RLVs, unless you invoke something even more exotic and difficult. Unfortunately, this is easy to say, and hard to do. We have many national failures in this area.

    I urge Mr. Miller and Dr. Foust (Jeff) to think a little deeper about this issue than most do, and to share their thoughts.

    WHITE: John McCain will not alter the course set by George W. Bush and Dr. Griffin.

    Really? Don’t be too sure. A number of people I talk to in the space policy community are scared to death about what McCain will do if elected.

    Let me provide a few facts that suggest a different conclusion, which suggest why knowledgeable space people are scared.

    1) Sen. McCain sponsored the VSE legislation he mentions (and you reference) **before** Griffin had completed his ESAS study.

    Thus, McCain’s efforts in 2004-2005 only represent an official endorsement of the VSE, not of ESAS.

    2) McCain has (to date) provided zero public commitment to ESAS.

    Some may “hope” he might keep ESAS, but you can’t dispute this factual statement unless you provide a reference.

    3) Sean O’Keefe and Craig Steidle are (reportedly) friends of McCain.

    Obviously, both O’Keefe and Steidle support the VSE. They helped the White House develop the VSE. Do you have any reason to think O’Keefe or Steidle are committed to ESAS?

    If then-President McCain asks for their opinion, any guesses about what they might tell him?

    4) McCain is a Balance the Budget Conservative who has publicly committed to cutting government spending.

    http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/4a3ab6fe-b025-42b1-815b-13c696a61908.htm

    Enforcing Fiscal Discipline

    As president, John McCain will not just talk about fiscal discipline, he will exercise it. The practice of excessive borrowing and deficit spending in Washington must stop. To do otherwise robs the American people of their right to responsible government, and places on future generations of Americans the burden of paying the bill for today’s waste and indiscipline.

    .
    5) McCain is publicly committed to resolving the fiscal crisis created by Social Security and Medicare.

    http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/4a3ab6fe-b025-42b1-815b-13c696a61908.htm

    Making Tough Choices

    As president, John McCain is prepared to make the tough, fair, and responsible choices that honor our promises to current beneficiaries and to our children. Every year these decisions are delayed makes meeting this responsibility more difficult and expensive.

    Promises made to previous and current generations have placed the United States on an unsustainable budget pathway. Unchecked, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare obligations will grow as large as the entire federal budget is now in just a few decades. Without comprehensive bipartisan reform to America’s entitlement programs, the nation will be unable to meet the challenges of providing vital medical and social security assistance to future generations.

    FWIW,

    - Al

    “Politics is not rocket science, which is why rocket scientists do not understand politics.”

  • anon

    heres a simple thought excercise: imagine if NASA budget would be cut from roughly $16B to half of it, $8B. What would you keep ?

    Simple keep Shuttle/ISS/Ares I/CEV and dump all the science missions that have crept into the NASA budget since Ranger was done to scout the Moon for Apollo. Close all the centers except KSFC, JSC, Marshall and Stennis.

  • anon

    Here is McCain’s space policy, from his website:

    John McCain is a strong supporter of NASA and the space program. He is proud to have sponsored legislation authorizing funding consistent with the President’s vision for the space program, which includes a return of astronauts to the Moon in preparation for a manned mission to Mars. He believes support for a continued US presence in space is of major importance to America’s future innovation and security. He has also been a staunch advocate for ensuring that NASA funding is accompanied by proper management and oversight to ensure that the taxpayers receive the maximum return on their investment. John McCain believes curiosity and a drive to explore have always been quintessential American traits. This has been most evident in the space program, for which he will continue his strong support.

    In light of the above, how do we possibly move John McCain from the above “vision” to a radically different vision? Especially if it will cost more money AND lay off the STS workforce?

    So Bill, Just what problem do you have with Senator McCain’s vision of space?.

    He believes support for a continued US presence in space is of major importance to America’s future innovation and security.

    You don’t think the U.S. should have a continued presence in space? Why?

    He has also been a staunch advocate for ensuring that NASA funding is accompanied by proper management and oversight to ensure that the taxpayers receive the maximum return on their investment.

    You don’t think NASA should be properly managed? Why?

    John McCain believes curiosity and a drive to explore have always been quintessential American traits. This has been most evident in the space program, for which he will continue his strong support.

    Bill, You don’t believe the space program reflects America’s frontier spirit? Really/ Its hard to see anything the government does today that better reflects it.

    He is proud to have sponsored legislation authorizing funding consistent with the President’s vision for the space program, which includes a return of astronauts to the Moon in preparation for a manned mission to Mars.

    Is Obama able to make this claim? Did Obama even vote on the funding for VSE?

    I’ll take someone with Senator McCain’s values, record and space vision over someone like Obama who statements on NASA spending say it should be cut for more government control (and government funding IS control) of education. Get the feds Out of our schools and NASA into space should be the rally cry for TRUE space advocates.

    Really, the only hope for America’s space program is Senator McCain, given how the Democrats have abandoned Hillary and their common sense.

  • Bill White

    Al Fansome,

    Thank you. That is interesting information.

  • anonymous.space

    “‘heres a simple thought excercise: imagine if NASA budget would be cut from roughly $16B to half of it, $8B. What would you keep?’

    Simple keep Shuttle/ISS/Ares I/CEV and dump all the science missions”

    Not enough. Even if we wiped out NASA’s entire Science Mission Directorate, we’d still fall $4 billion short.

    “that have crept into the NASA budget since Ranger was done to scout the Moon for Apollo”

    Science missions have not “crept into the NASA budget since Ranger”. Their goals are explicitely called out in NASA’s enabling legislation.

    Moreover, even if we ignore those non-human goals, there are many critical research and technology precursor and sustaining missions that are advisable to perform, or can only be performed, robotically without risking astronaut lives and/or involving multi-ten and -hundred billion dollar human space flight systems.

    “Close all the centers except KSFC, JSC, Marshall and Stennis.”

    The human space flight program relies heavily on the aeronautics centers for thermal protection, reentry, and power systems, among other systems, technologies, and functions.

    FWIW…

  • Vladislaw

    “We will not achieve truly low-cost space access without RLVs, unless you invoke something even more exotic and difficult. Unfortunately, this is easy to say, and hard to do. ” AL Fansome

    I have to disagree with that, everyone thinks that the enabler for space travel is the launch vehicle I think that is a mistaken idea because if you look at the number of launches they have declined as satelites and science missions LAST longer needing FEWER overall flights, not more.

    If the mars rovers had only lasted the 90 days they were supposed to, would we have launched more by now? If Hubble would have only lasted 5 years, would we have launched another by now? So someone finds a cheap way to send a couple tons up, then what? 10,000 launches a year to launch satelites and science missions? Hardly, there is only ONE true enabler, that is human cargo. ONLY human cargo will give you the flight rates needed to lower costs, REGARDLESS of the launch vehicle type. IRON and FUEL is cheap and with a high flight rate it will not matter and “exotic” materials, propulsion, et cetera will be irrelavent.

    “new industries and resources (e.g., trade in resources useful in LEO like lunar oxyen, asteroid mining for rare and heavy metals, solar power from space, et cetera) ” Donald Robertson

    Donald, lets say I am one of those who goto the moon to provide oxygen to LEO. I land my oxy processor and a couple of astronauts on the moon, HOW MUCH oxygen rich regolith, in acres, does MY company get to claim OWNERSHIP to as an ASSET? I HAVE to account for it to the IRS and shareholders, what does my company get to CLAIM? Do I get to claim as far as the eye can see? None of this development can occur without a CLEAR OWNERSHIP chain.

    Everyone keeps up the myth that whatever is found on the moon HAS to come off the moon or be manufactured into a finished product to be valuable. If I get the ownership rights to a chunk of lunar land that has 50000 acres of land that proves out at 40% titanium, as found by apollo astronauts, I do not have to mine an OUNCE of it. All I need to do is hire a CERTIFIED geologist, have it assayed at a certified lab and I now have THREE NEW INSTANT assets on the books. The land, the mineral rights, and the ore. If it is a subsiderary they can dig for three years piling up ore at a loss for tax purposes, file bankruptcy and firesale the assets to the parent company while the whole time their asset value is rising and I get to apply the losses against the terrestrial profits of the parent company. I would not even have to process the ore to increase my asset values, unprocessed ore is a more valuable asset then raw land.

    If I did process just ONE TON of titanium how much value do I get to carry on the books? If I was the only one in operation on the moon I could, for accounting purposes, enter it at a “fair market value” for transporting and delivering a ton of processed ore to my doorstep on the moon from a company on earth. My ONE TON of titanium could be carried on the books at what, 40 million a ton? 5000 tons of unprocessed ore would be worth what? How much a loan could I carry against those assets? How much capital could I raise with an IPO? If I bring ONE sparkely rock home and it sells for 5,000,000 dollars a caret, how much are the 500 acres, with 5000 carets still laying around on the moon worth?

    It is the private OWNERSHIP of the ASSET value that will be the economic driver. Once businesses can CLAIM OWNERSHIP they can pyramid that value to finance operations.

    People fail to realize, for TAX PURPOSES, you will get to use INFLATED lunar asset values AND losses against TERRESTRIAL profits because you get to factor in TODAY’S transportation costs, REGARDLESS when that ore, gems, ice, oxygen et cetera, actually gets USED in a finished product for an end user. Why in California in the early goldrush days was an egg “worth it’s weight in gold” ? Because you had to factor in the transportation costs OF THE DAY for transporting an egg. Once trains and local production started then prices reached the new equilbrium. Oxygen has to be considered a secondary good like food and water and will be supplied by merchants supporting the miners efforts and be paid for with the new found INFLATED valued resources: gold, silver, gemstones, shares of stock, secondary mining claims, land deeds.

  • anonymous.space

    “I agree with everything you say here — although I do happen to think that RLVs are the solution.”

    Just to be clear, I’m not saying that RLVs are not a solution — only that an analysis of the budget landscape alone does not lead one inescapably to RLVs. That analysis just says that we have limited resources. We would need some other piece of information or argument to say that we should spend those limited resources on RLV development. In fact, given the potential costs involved, full-scale government development of an orbital RLV may not be consistent with an austere federal or NASA budget.

    My 2 cents is that in such an environment, NASA has to more heavily focus on its unique functions and not duplicate capabilities resident in other space sectors. Obviously, the most glaring example of NASA duplication is in intermediate-lift ETO transport, which the military and private sector have been doing for decades. NASA should be focused on scientific research, technology development, and actual human space exploration/exploitation — not building the nation’s third or fourth intermediate-lift ETO truck and running the resulting trucking company.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean that NASA has no role to play in accelerating the evolution of ETO transport, including towards RLVs. By pushing technological boundaries (the perennial NACA chesnut), purchasing transport services (a la COTS for cargo, fuel, crew, etc.) from other sectors, and developing capabilities driven by NASA-unique needs (e.g., propellant depots and/or heavy lift), NASA can do much to advance ETO transport and bring costs down and reliability up. Whether and when that leads to RLVs (or any other particular launch solution) should be an effect of the policy framework, not its driver. At the policy level, I don’t think we should (or can) predict when a government or commercial business case will close for orbital RLV development with a particular set of technologies. Rather, I think we should put in place the right environment to make such developments possible, within the resources NASA has available to it.

    (As an aside, as much as NASA has to contribute in this area, given ongoing AFRL work and a stronger relevance to potential future military needs, actual orbital RLV development is probably going to be done on the military side, and then ported over to civil side — just like many aircraft developments.)

    “We will not achieve truly low-cost space access without RLVs, unless you invoke something even more exotic and difficult.”

    In the long-run, I think you’re right, but again, I don’t think an analysis of the budget, however sober and accurate, supports a logical leap to RLVs early next decade.

    “I urge Mr. Miller and Dr. Foust (Jeff) to think a little deeper about this issue than most do, and to share their thoughts.”

    Seconded.

    FWIW…

  • Kevin Parkin

    The Innovator’s Dilemma.

    NASA as an agency will continue to serve its existing supporters in DC who carry out the existing type of space program we have today in which we launch a handfull of people and robotic probes into space each year.

    If you give NASA money for a high-rate low-cost launch system, it does not reach the people who can make it happen. This has been tried several times now, it does not work even if you hand an already-started program to NASA.

    High-rate low-cost launch is an ecosystem of technologies, researchers, applications, users, companies and political forces that in my opinion can only grow from the grass-roots under the umbrella of a small and separate new agency. That agency could be civil or DOD, but it needs to exist for geopolitical reasons.

  • Al: We will not achieve truly low-cost space access without RLVs, unless you invoke something even more exotic and difficult

    This may well be true in the very long term, but in the short term I think we are better off pushing down the costs of expendables, creating partially reusable vehicles, and evolving toward reuse. I entirely agree with Kevin Parkin, immediately above, but with a different perspective. I think reusables and their market will grow (or otherwise) hand-in-hand. In this sense, though I think they vastly underestimate how politically and economically difficult it will be and thus how long it will take, I agree with those who argue that suborbital efforts will evolve toward the first economically practical reusable orbital spacecraft.

    But, unless we are prepared to abandon orbital flight in the interrum, or unless some dramatically larger and hitherto invisible market suddenly appears, better and / or partially reusable expendables make the most market sense. (Note in evidence: Kistler, the reusable option for COTS, could not raise money, while the conservative option from OSC looks like it might.) NASA should push technology, as Anonymous suggested, but at least for LEO, I think we are getting close to the point where the market can decide what makes the most sense. Unfortunately, I don’t expect that to involve RLVs for the foreseeable future.

    High launch rates are critical to the cost effectiveness of RLVs. And, at least if you are looking for Grandma’s retirement money, that market must be there first.

    The only other option is for the military, or some extremely wealthy individual, to fund the development — neither of which are likely to result in an RLV tomorrow.

    – Donald

  • anon

    $4 billion is a huge step in the right direction. And medical research on astronauts counts as science, so NASA would still be obeying the enabling legislation if it eliminate robotic missions not in direct near-term support of human missions.

    And yes, science crept in as NASA was mostly an engineering agency before Apollo. Science was basically engineering science, not deep sky astronomy, planetary or biology other then medical factors for human spaceflight. Those came in to provide cover for Apollo beyond its real purpose, showing how superior U.S. engineers were to the Russian engineers.

    The research the other centers do in support of Shuttle/ISS could be consolidated at JSC or KSFC. And closing them will add 2-3 billion more.

    Now lets see, Shuttle/ISS only cost about 5-6 billion, so where is the rest hiding? Probably in overhead and Earth Observation. Overhead will be reduced with only 4 centers while Earth observation could be dumped on NOAA. The aviation part would stay as its not much.

  • Note in evidence: Kistler, the reusable option for COTS, could not raise money, while the conservative option from OSC looks like it might.

    The sample space of each case is far too small to draw any conclusions whatsoever from those two examples. Kistler was a reusable option for COTS, but not necessarily a good, or even viable one. That doesn’t mean that generic space transports don’t make sense. This is the same logical fallacy as concluding that reusables don’t make sense because the Shuttle was a failure.

  • gm

    .

    another “developed internally…” idea from NASA to have a mass saving Orion’s landing on LAND option:

    http://www.ghostnasa.com/posts/028orionlanding.html

    .

  • Rand, I do not disagree with your statement. I just wanted to point out that what little evidence there is does not indicate that RLVs are necessarily the only solution, or even the best one, at this point in time.

    – Donald

  • It is refreshing to see some realism seeping in about the likely budgets of the VSE outyears. Every one of the factors Murray cites was as plain in January 2004 as it is today.

  • I just wanted to point out that what little evidence there is does not indicate that RLVs are necessarily the only solution, or even the best one, at this point in time.

    That’s certainly true for the available empirical evidence (which, despite those who illogically rely on things like Shuttle, and X-33 and X-34) is, to first order, non-existent. However, all analysis indicates otherwise. Those results won’t be born out, though, until we actually start building actual reusables, and flying them a lot.

  • Well, Rand, find a reason to fly a lot of missions to LEO, convince the manager of Grandma’s retirement money (or anyone else) that it is safe enough to invest in it fulfilling it years in advance of the capability being developed, and I’m all for it. Good luck. I think you’ll need it.

    – Donald

  • Well, Rand, find a reason to fly a lot of missions to LEO, convince the manager of Grandma’s retirement money (or anyone else) that it is safe enough to invest in it fulfilling it years in advance of the capability being developed, and I’m all for it.

    Donald, many people are already in the process of doing that (except without Grandma’s retirement money–not sure why you think that’s necessary).

  • Because the largest source of investable money in the United States is retirement funds, especially since most people don’t save. Grandma is likely to live longer than Grandpa, so it’s her money that we’re most worried about. My test for a real commercial market in space (e.g., comsats) is when Grandma’s factor is willing to invest her retirement money into it. Then, the market is proven to be relatively certain and “safe” enough for large amounts of money to appear.

    many people are already in the process of doing

    Not really. There are a few bazilianairs playing with rockets — and don’t get me wrong, I think they are the most likely route forward at this point — but, with the sole exception of Mr. Biglow, every one of the serious ones is depending on the Space Station as a market. Not one of them, including Mr. Biglow, is very close to demonstrating success, especially to the degree of meeting my test above and freeing up large amounts of money. Five, or even three, years from now, things may be different. But, they are not different now, and I think ten or even twenty years is a far more realistic estimate of when private launch vehicles really have a chance of taking off as a market. In the absense of the ISS, I think it would be far longer than that.

    – Donald

  • Because the largest source of investable money in the United States is retirement funds, especially since most people don’t save. Grandma is likely to live longer than Grandpa, so it’s her money that we’re most worried about. My test for a real commercial market in space (e.g., comsats) is when Grandma’s factor is willing to invest her retirement money into it.

    What’s your point? We don’t need “the largest source of investable money.” We only need enough. The space industry, even the one that we’d like to see, is trivially small relative to the global economy, or even the venture capital community.

    But, they are not different now, and I think ten or even twenty years is a far more realistic estimate of when private launch vehicles really have a chance of taking off as a market. In the absense of the ISS, I think it would be far longer than that.

    Yes, we know you think that, based on long repetition. But you’ve never put forth a compelling reason for anyone else to think it.

  • Al Fansome

    Donald,

    You mention the “comsat” industry. The comsat industry was created by some of those “different kinds of money”. Grandma’s money was not utilized until at least two decades after the industry was created. Meaning you are missing the point.

    Grandma’s money almost never creates new industries, or new markets. For anybody who wants to create a new industry or a new market, they need look at different kinds of money.

    There are well over a DOZEN different kinds of investment/financing, all of which have different requirements for tapping into.

    People who are experts at financial markets understand this (just like Eskimos have dozens of words for “snow, ice, etc.”)

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • Rand: What’s your point?

    The point is, the money that is available is not enough. Commercial orbital launch vehicles are not being funded without government subsidies (COTS) that are themselves inadequate. There is no sign that the kinds of private money required to develop the truly reusable vehicles as Al wants to do is going to be available anytime soon.

    Do you really think that the pool of private money being invested, or even available to be invested, in commercial spaceflight is enough to achieve the goal of moving the human economic sphere into the Solar System within a few decades? If not, than we need to tap into another, larger source — Grandma’s retirement money — and to do that we need safe investments. The only way to get safe investments is to establish markets like the Space Station and the Biglow modules, then let the market develop cheaper transportation to them, preferably with subsidies like COTS.

    Yes, we know you think that, based on long repetition. But you’ve never put forth a compelling reason for anyone else to think it.

    The history (or largely lack thereof) of private launch vehicle development in this country. As I understand it, you think that a market mostly based on tourism is suddenly going to appear that is large enough to support commercial RLV development. I agree. But, to think that is going to happen in less than twenty years is, quite simply, faith. Your faith is so strong, you’re willing to give up the one major market you already have, and that is already generating new private investment, for this one that may suddenly appear.

    It is far safer, as well as more realistic, to assume that this is going to be a hard, slow slog, with incremental improvements in markets driving slightly better vehicles, which in turn incrementally improve the market. If that is correct, we need to grub for every market we can lay our hands on, government or private, small or (especially) large. Even if I am one-hundred percent wrong, and you are one-hundred percent correct, that is the safest strategy. At the end of twenty years, we’ll have a healthier and larger commercial space industry than we have now. If we follow your faith that a market is “just around the corner” and forget our existing market and put all of our faith in a market that may appear, and that market doesn’t appear, twenty years from now we have nothing.

    The existance of the Space Station, COTS, and the VSE does not prevent any large, entirely private space tourism industry from coming into existance. It may, ultimately, help it, while prividing a market in the interrum. Getting rid of them only guarantees they cannot help your singular market while eliminating the one market we do have.

    – Donald

  • There is no sign that the kinds of private money required to develop the truly reusable vehicles as Al wants to do is going to be available anytime soon.

    There are plenty of signs, and the reusable vehicles are being built. That they aren’t orbital yet is just a matter of evolution of both vehicles and markets.

    Do you really think that the pool of private money being invested, or even available to be invested, in commercial spaceflight is enough to achieve the goal of moving the human economic sphere into the Solar System within a few decades?

    Of course I do. I still can’t figure out why you don’t.

    Your faith is so strong, you’re willing to give up the one major market you already have, and that is already generating new private investment, for this one that may suddenly appear.

    ISS is not a major market. In terms of what is needed to justify reusability, it is an utterly trivial one. It’s a market that’s unsustainable, given how much it will cost simply to maintain it, absent irrationality on the part of the governments that built it (not to imply, of course, that they aren’t perfectly capable of irrational behavior. They did, after all, build it in the first place).

  • Okay, I give up. I sincerely hope you are correct and I am wrong.

    – Donald

  • DataPoint

    Al,

    Where we disagree is in the VALUE of what NASA has learned about “in space assembly” versus the COST of those lessons. Remember — the full cost of the ISS is over $100 Billion.

    Although that sounds like a lot, keep in mind that offshore oil platforms may cost as much as $5 billion EACH to build. So a better metric for viewing the ISS is that it cost as much to build as 20 offshore oil platforms. While you are able to cover the costs of a year’s worth of Shuttle flights to support it for the price of a single offshore oil platform.

    Question: is the ISS worth as much to the American people as another 20 oil platforms?

    Other benchmarks would be the cost of a major skyscraper at 3-4 billion or a new nuclear power plant at 4-5 billion. The largest Earth based construction project, the Three Gorges Dam, comes in at an official cost of $25 billion, although unofficial estimates are around $40 billion.

    Given the difficulties and location, and the years of Congressionally mandated design changes, the cost of the ISS is NOT as much out of whack with modern construction costs for mega-projects as many opponents to human spaceflight claim.

  • Vladislaw

    “The russians just launched satelite!”
    “America will launch a satelite!”

    “The russians just launched a man in space!”
    “America will launch a man in space!”

    “The russians just launched a civilian tourist to the ISS”
    “America will …..”

    Presidemt Bush said in the vision speech “Two centuries ago, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark left St. Louis to explore the new lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. They made that journey in the spirit of discovery, to learn the potential of vast new territory, and to chart a way for others to follow.”

    new lands AQUIRED, thus the land was OWNED by the government and the government was free to give that land ownership away to settlers with the homestead act. Without the lure of free land, free timber, free minerals who was just dying to leave the safe confines of New York to go battle the elements and start from scratch. Give away land grants on the moon and see if that makes a difference.

  • Vladislaw

    Investing in any space asset is like buying a truck, the asset value is a declining asset and you depreciate it. But in the mean time you hope that truck will generate enough economic activity to pay for itself. A bank will loan you money against that asset because they know they can repo it and get some of their money back. Does a bank have that same ability with a space asset? Can they send someone to grab it? Not as easy as with a truck and the longer they have to hold that asset the more it depreciates in value. Is it wiser to stay out of the space business? For a bank obviously it is.

    What if that space asset is sitting on land that is owned? What is the one thing you can do with a mobile home to increase it’s value? Put it on land you own, it retains a higher value then if it is sitting on a lot you rent.

    What is the value of a bigelow module sitting in LEO versus sitting on the moon on a piece of land bigelow owns? If bigelow offers up the orbiting station as collateral versus if bigelow offers up a module on the moon with 10,000 acres of land.

    How much more willing is an investor willing invest when there are land assets involved that hold FUTURE potential. Investing in a gold mine, oil field, diamond mine etc. veruses investing in an intangable.

  • Vladislaw

    “in commercial spaceflight is enough to achieve the goal of moving the human economic sphere into the Solar System within a few decades? If not, than we need to tap into another, larger source — Grandma’s retirement money — and to do that we need safe investments.”

    Actually there already IS investing in economic spheres OUTSIDE LEO/GEO. You can invest in lunar land. Dennis Hope has already sold off over 300 million acres of lunar land to over 2 million people. If are going to wait for SAFE investments in space, safe enough to get a banker to invest you will have to wait just about a week before doomsday.

    The very LAST thing we need are safe investments. What we need is WILD SPECULATION! Like the DOT COM boom. We need everyone AND his brother thinking they have to invest NOW or they will miss the gravy train! Capital AUTOMATICALLY flows to EXTRA NORMAL profits. Unless there are barriers to entry e.g. regulations, protected monopoly etc, this always happens.

    What we need is for an individual or company to make EXTRA normal profits in a REPEATABLE, unprotected, market. Like say for instance someone lands on the moon on piece of land open for mining, picks up a rock that sparkles, piles up some rocks to makes a land claim, brings it back to earth and does NOT give it to NASA to bury in a vault but puts it on EBAY and it sells for 5 million dollars a carat. Now THAT would cause WILD speculation.

  • Now THAT would cause WILD speculation…

    You’re fillign that niche q

  • You’re filling that niche quite nicely as is.

  • DataPoint: the cost of the ISS is NOT as much out of whack with modern construction costs for mega-projects as many opponents to human spaceflight claim.

    This is very interesting analysis. Thanks for posting it. I may decide to use your analysis in an article. If so, how do you want the source credit to appear? You can contact me off-line at DonaldFR@DonaldFRobertson.com.

    Thanks!

    – Donald

  • Question: is the ISS worth as much to the American people as another 20 oil platforms?

    Considering the current cost of oil, it seems unlikely. An oil platform typically generates on the order of a hundred thousand BOE (barrels of oil equivalent) per day, which at current prices is over ten million dollars. So it’s generating revenue of almost four billion dollars a year (i.e., it almost pays for itself within the first year of production). Twenty of them would generate eighty billion dollars per year, and concurrently reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

    How much revenue has ISS generated? How much should it be expected to? You’re comparing apples and eggs.

    Other benchmarks would be the cost of a major skyscraper at 3-4 billion or a new nuclear power plant at 4-5 billion.

    Yes, a major skyscraper that would house hundreds of firms, with potential annual revenues and wealth production of billions. The ISS holds a crew of three when Shuttle isn’t present.

    The largest Earth based construction project, the Three Gorges Dam, comes in at an official cost of $25 billion, although unofficial estimates are around $40 billion.

    And provides power for millions of people. Ignoring the potential environmental costs, that seems like a good investment. How much power has ISS generated? What value-added activity has it been used for?

    Given the difficulties and location, and the years of Congressionally mandated design changes, the cost of the ISS is NOT as much out of whack with modern construction costs for mega-projects as many opponents to human spaceflight claim.

    This doesn’t follow from any of your examples. I don’t object to the cost of ISS so much as how little we’ve gotten for it. For that amount of money, we could have had the spinning station from 2001, had it been spent with that goal. Of course, it would have also required an investment in truly low-cost access. The mistake we made was assuming that a space station was “the next logical step” after Shuttle, even though Shuttle failed miserably at achieving its goals.

  • Donald,

    Do you really think that the pool of private money being invested, or even available to be invested, in commercial spaceflight is enough to achieve the goal of moving the human economic sphere into the Solar System within a few decades?

    No business out here expects or even desires to fund building the end game space economy off of investment dollars. That’s like expecting Apple to fund the Mac Air’s development effort from external money. You do most of the heavy lifting from internal operating revenue and then only finance the actual manufacturing step if you even need to. That’s the whole reason we’re all doing suborbital: we intend on using the profits from that business to fund the next step of the business. Even if you do need to go raise some money to build the next step, you don’t need to raise nearly as much. Plus you are doing it off of a demonstrated track record of execution.

  • Al Fansome

    DATAPOINT: Although that sounds like a lot, keep in mind that offshore oil platforms may cost as much as $5 billion EACH to build. So a better metric for viewing the ISS is that it cost as much to build as 20 offshore oil platforms. While you are able to cover the costs of a year’s worth of Shuttle flights to support it for the price of a single offshore oil platform.

    Question: is the ISS worth as much to the American people as another 20 oil platforms?

    Datapoint,

    Why do you propose an economic metric, for a privately financed capital project, and then FAIL to complete the economic metric comparison?

    Let me do it for you. (Again, you proposed the metric. I am just completing the analysis you suggested.)

    As Rand points out, just one $5 Billion off-shore oil platform results in about $4 Billion per year in revenue from paying customers.

    To be equivalent in ROI per dollar invested, the ISS should generate ~$80 Billion per year in revenue.

    To date, the ISS does NOT generate …

    * $80 Billion, or
    * $8 Billion, or even
    * $800 Million, or even
    * $80 Million, or even
    * $8 Million in revenues.

    So the ISS has — to date — at least 4 orders of magnitude lower ROI than an oil platform. That is a 10,000 times lower ROI.

    Now, this is where Donald would jump in (and I would agree), and say that COTS and Commercial Resupply Services are good things, and that you could potentially see about $800 Million in annual revenues generated in a few years as the ISS becomes a customer for commercial space transportation services.

    In which case, the ISS will only be two orders of magnitude lower ROI than a commercial off-shore platform.

    Using the same Asset/Revenue ratio as we get from an off-shore platform, this suggests the economic asset value of the ISS will be about $1 Billion.

    There are two ways to look at this.

    1) NASA turned $100 Billion in assets (taxpayer dollars) into an asset that has about a $1 Billion valuation (after CRS/COTS is complete).

    2) COTS and Commercial Resupply Services are very good things, as they are taking a sunk cost asset — which right now has an economic asset value of approximately zero — and increasing its economic asset value to about $1 Billion.

    This valuation might increase (slightly) if the ISS National Lab idea actually produces results.

    REMINDER: I only presented this analysis, because an “economic valuation” approach was suggested

    If you don’t like the result, blame Datapoint, not me.

    His/her error was in suggesting an economic comparison between a project for which is 100% justified on a private capital ROI, and one that is not.

    DONALD: This is very interesting analysis. Thanks for posting it. I may decide to use your analysis in an article.

    Donald, I don’t think this is a good comparative model for a paper, unless you also fess up to the real weaknesses in this comparative approach (shown above).

    FWIW,

    - Al

    From an economic analy

    RAND: I don’t object to the cost of ISS so much as how little we’ve gotten for it.

    I

  • Rand (and Al): I don’t object to the cost of ISS so much as how little we’ve gotten for it.

    Actually, Donald’s going to jump in and say, I still think you’re a bit premature, here. Did the first oil platform ever built generate as much income as you’ve suggested modern ones do? Did it do so when it was half built? In this, I think you are comparing apples and oranges. Again, I’ll accept this argument in, say, ten years, but not now. I’ll also accept it if there are no orbital platforms that use significant ISS-developed technologies sufficiently profitable to amortize the ISS development in, say, twenty or thirty years. If none of that happens, you are correct, but if one orbital base using ISS technology, or a set of them, generates large returns, you are wrong.

    Al: NASA turned $100 Billion in assets (taxpayer dollars) into an asset that has about a $1 Billion valuation (after CRS/COTS is complete).

    While technically true and fair, I think most of us are hoping that COTS will start a whole industry, that one day will be far larger than $100 billion. Is your argument still true if the start of that industry in the near future is dependent on the ISS being there (which is my arguement)?

    In response to your note, I always try to present both or multiple sides of an issue in anything not an Op Ed, and even there I usually try to state that people disagree with me and why.

    Michael: That was actually my point. Either you build off an existing market (ISS) and grow incrementally, or you start with suborbital tourism and grow incrementally, but it is extremely difficult to dramatically improve orbital transportation on the promise of a future market, which is what I believe Rand, et al, are trying to do. If you take the latter strategy — grow from suborbital tourism — my prediction is that we’re decades out from truly commercial orbital RLVs, because even if everything goes right technically, economically, and politically, you have to demonstrate that the coming first generation vehicles work and can be profitable. That will take time, and probably a lot of it. You’ll have to do that before you can finance second generation suborbital tourist RLVs, let alone start funding orbital RLVs — a far more difficult technology.

    My argument is that you can cut short all of that by using the Space Station as a market — which Space Adventures is doing right now. They wouldn’t be if government orbital bases did not exist, and we might not have known today that orbital tourism was an addressable market.

    – Donald

    – Donald

  • DataPoint

    Donald,

    Feel free to use it. If you need to source it, just source this forum. I am sure Jeff won’t mind :-)

    But I would prefer to remain anonymous because of my position in the space industry.

  • Is your argument still true if the start of that industry in the near future is dependent on the ISS being there (which is my arguement)?

    No, but since it’s not, that is irrelevant.

    My argument is that you can cut short all of that by using the Space Station as a market — which Space Adventures is doing right now. They wouldn’t be if government orbital bases did not exist, and we might not have known today that orbital tourism was an addressable market.

    We would have. Even absent ISS, there would have been orbital tourism. Just a ride in a Soyuz for a few days would have been worth the money. And the notion that people wouldn’t pay for such an experience, and that it had to be “proven” with actual empirical evidence was always silly. Any astronaut will tell you (and would have told you prior to Dennis Tito) that it’s a once-in-a lifetime experience, and immensely sellable.

  • Rand: No, but since it’s not, that is irrelevant.

    Unless you are clairvoyant, you do not and cannot know that.

    As for the rest, maybe so, but none of that did happen. Those Soyuz’ were flying to Mir and the ISS anyway, and tourists went along for the ride. It may not have been economically possible to use free-flight Soyuz paid for fully with tourist dollars — or, more likely, no one thought of it — but there were no tourist flight, nor any sign of them happening, absent government-financed bases in orbit.

    Once again, I hope you are correct, but I’m giving up here.

    – Donald

  • DataPoint

    Rand,

    Since when has it been a requirement that a research facility needs to earn revenue to pay for itself?

    CERN just spent $4.5 billion dollar building the Large Hadron Collider? How much revenue do you feel it should be producing a year?

    And if its not producing any revenue why should you waste money on building it? Why not just build another oil platform with the money?

    There are some projects like the ISS that push out the human frontier. That is the value they generate.

    The ISS is a symbol of the different people of Earth living and working together to open an new frontier for all humanity. Unfortunately its not possible for accountants to put an ROI on something like that. But it’s a well earned value all the same even if the bean counters don’t see it.

  • DataPoint

    Rand,

    Even absent ISS, there would have been orbital tourism. Just a ride in a Soyuz for a few days would have been worth the money. And the notion that people wouldn’t pay for such an experience, and that it had to be “proven” with actual empirical evidence was always silly.

    If it wasn’t for the Russians need to find an alternative source of funding to keep building Soyuz to serve Mir and then ISS then would have never turned to selling seats on them. They only turned to that strategy as a last resort. If not for government funded space destinations like Mir and ISS the production of the Soyuz would had stopped with the collapse of the Soviet Union. And there would have been no tourist flights or orbital tourist industry. Perhaps that is another of the payoffs of ISS you need to count for it.

  • Unless you are clairvoyant, you do not and cannot know that.

    Nor can you.

  • Donald, here’s your “market” represented by ISS:

    In a request for proposals (RFP) published April 14, NASA says it intends to purchase transportation to the ISS for at least 20 metric tons of cargo between 2010 and 2015, when NASA’s Orion crew exploration vehicle is scheduled to begin flying astronauts and cargo. Overall NASA expects to require delivery of 39.6 metric tons of pressurized cargo to the station during that same period, not counting bartered transportation services on Europe’s new Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) and Japan’s planned H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV). Another 8.3 metric tons of external “upmass” will be required during the same period, according to an estimate published with the RFP.

    Forty metric tons over five years. Two or three EELV launch equivalents. Maybe a dozen flights of something smaller. You call that a market? It’s sure not one that would ever amortize any new vehicle development, let alone a reusable space transport.

  • Since when has it been a requirement that a research facility needs to earn revenue to pay for itself?

    Since Dan Goldin told the big lie to Congress that 30% of the costs of ISS would be covered by Commercial users in his (obviously successful) attempt in the early 90s to keep Congress from killing the program.

    Having been the lead on the ISS Commercialization study in the late 90s, I can say with some confidence that he was full of S**t.

  • The ISS is a symbol of the different people of Earth living and working together to open an new frontier for all humanity. Unfortunately its not possible for accountants to put an ROI on something like that. But it’s a well earned value all the same even if the bean counters don’t see it.

    I’d hazard to say that the vast majority of taxpayers would say $100 billion is a rich price for a symbol of us “living and working together” while, in the meantime, we’re actively bombing the crap out of our fellow human beings.

  • Rand: That market is the minimum, no one (probably not even within NASA) believes that will be enough, and that market is in addition to the existing markets (e.g., traditional comsats, applications, and military satellites). An additional market is that currently fulfilled by Soyuz which is addressable by any commercial outfits that manage a cheaper price. Undercutting the ATV shouldn’t be too hard. Likewise, there are the “ride-on” markets like the current tourist flights that are dependent on the availability of already existing transportation routes.

    The most important characteristic of these markets is that most of them _must_ be fulfilled, day in and day out — they are secure markets that you can count on as long as governments are willing to support the ISS.

    If these markets (which actually exist) are not enough to help pay for new developments, no matter how small they are or otherwise, it is a lot more than your mythical hoped for “market” which might (or might not) exist in a few years.

    Address the current market, and add any future markets as they arise.

    – Donald

  • Dennis Wingo

    We would have. Even absent ISS, there would have been orbital tourism. Just a ride in a Soyuz for a few days would have been worth the money. And the notion that people wouldn’t pay for such an experience, and that it had to be “proven” with actual empirical evidence was always silly. Any astronaut will tell you (and would have told you prior to Dennis Tito) that it’s a once-in-a lifetime experience, and immensely sellable.

    Horse Hocky. Tito told me that he would not have done his trip if he had to spend days in a Soyuz with no way to really do anything. I can’t tell you how many years I went to NSS conferences where tourism was a theoretical exercise and it was only Tito’s flight that changed the game.

  • Dennis Wingo

    If it wasn’t for the Russians need to find an alternative source of funding to keep building Soyuz to serve Mir and then ISS then would have never turned to selling seats on them. They only turned to that strategy as a last resort. If not for government funded space destinations like Mir and ISS the production of the Soyuz would had stopped with the collapse of the Soviet Union. And there would have been no tourist flights or orbital tourist industry. Perhaps that is another of the payoffs of ISS you need to count for it.

    Absolutely. I was in Russia with Energia in late 2001 at the behest of Walt Anderson and they were looking at a major set of layoffs without the money that Walt put into the company for his MIR effort and then Tito came along just in time, along with the money that NASA was paying them for their support of ISS. Between the two, that kept Russia in the space business at that time when they were really broke.

  • Dennis Wingo

    Without the proof of market brought about by Tito’s flight it is unlikely that Burt Rutan would have been able to talk Paul Allen into funding his X-Prize effort or that the X-Prize would have raised the money to fulfill their requirements for the prize. That prize languished for years until Tito’s flight. It was the fact that this guy who was and is the epitome of conservative financial businessman who was willing to write a $20M check to fly to MIR with MIRCorp (only later to ISS) that flipped a switch of perception about this market.

    I also give Walt some credit for the money that he put up for the Soyuz mission to MIR (he paid for a mission) and for the lease of the station for a year.

  • Tito told me that he would not have done his trip if he had to spend days in a Soyuz with no way to really do anything.

    I must have missed the post in which I claimed that Tito would have done it. Can you point me to it, Dennis? Thanks.

  • DataPoint

    Rand,

    Do you know of anyone else that was planning on buying a seat on Soyuz at the time? If so , who?

  • Dennis Wingo

    Rand

    What part of:

    Any astronaut will tell you (and would have told you prior to Dennis Tito) that it’s a once-in-a lifetime experience, and immensely sellable.

    don’t you remember writing?

  • Do you know of anyone else that was planning on buying a seat on Soyuz at the time?

    I know that Space Adventures was talking to a number of people, and even if it hadn’t happened “at that time,” it doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t have happened by now, or even shortly thereafter.

    Rand

    What part of:

    Any astronaut will tell you (and would have told you prior to Dennis Tito) that it’s a once-in-a lifetime experience, and immensely sellable.

    don’t you remember writing?

    I did write that Dennis. I even remember writing all of it. But somehow, no matter how many times I reread it, it doesn’t say that Dennis Tito would have purchased a ride in a Soyuz.

  • Dennis Wingo

    I know that Space Adventures was talking to a number of people, and even if it hadn’t happened “at that time,” it doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t have happened by now, or even shortly thereafter.

    So was MIRCorp but be that as it may it does not mean that it would have happened either. There was a clear shift in perception after the very conservative Tito wrote a check and this is not to be underestimated. There were others who flew (the japanese journalist for example) to MIR, but it was only after Tito came back and told of the joys of ISS that the dam broke.

    Again, to make the point, no matter how you spin it, it is the combination of a facility on orbit (ISS) and a person willing to write a check to get there that enabled space tourism and no matter how many government employees have sung the praises of space, no one that I ever heard of was willing to do this on the Soyuz alone. Indeed, Tito and others that I have talked to about their Soyuz experience was that it was incredibly cramped, and the least fun part of their spaceflight.

  • DataPoint

    In 1992 the Space Station Freeedom (now ISS) was almost killed off in Congress. If I recalled it survived by a single vote.

    Question, where would human spaceflight be today if that had happened?

    Would Shuttle/Mir have taken place? Or would the Mir have been abandoned and deorbited shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. And without Mir, would Syouz product have been just as quickly shut down in the mid-1990′s? Shutdown Before Mir Corp, Before Dennis Tito or another Space tourist had a chance to buy a seat? Quite likely.

    And without ISS would the Shuttle have continued flying after Columbia. Or would it have been retired at that point. Most likely it would have been retired.

    In short, would the only human space missions today have been the occasional mission that China flies? Or would China have even gone forward if the Soyuz and Shuttle were no longer flying? I suspect it would just to demonstrate it was capable of doing what the U.S. and Russian used to do.

    But the key question. DO you think that would be a better world then we have now? With Pads 39A and B rusting away in the sun and the VAB empty and abandoned? Why?

    And would New Space even exist? Or would angel investors just ask why bother if even national governments no longer see value in human spaceflight?

    Something to think about.

  • Dennis Wingo

    DP

    I don’t know, I have to feel that spaceflight is something that is wired into us to do and that some how or another we would still be doing it.

    You should read John Lewis’s statement when he cast his deciding vote (very liberal democrat) in favor of the station.

  • DataPoint

    Dennis,

    I expect in this Alternate Universe NASA would be working on a Shuttle replacement. But without ISS as a destination, nor Russia having a human space program, I suspect it would likely be more along the lines of the MOL model (a capsule and space station) using an Atlas V.

    Since the U.S. didn’t hadn’t had a space station since Skylab the creation of a simple one would probably seem a bold enough post-Columbia goal, and surely an economical one.

    And of course COTS would not exist. Nor Bigelow.

    .

  • And would New Space even exist? Or would angel investors just ask why bother if even national governments no longer see value in human spaceflight?

    I know of no angel investors whose investment in New Space is or was contingent on an endorsement by the government of human spaceflight. If anything, they have been discouraged by government human spaceflight, because it constitutes a (false) ongoing existence proof that human spaceflight is inherently outrageously expensive and dangerous. That misperception was changed by the X-Prize, not Dennis Tito.

  • DataPoint

    Rand,

    Without Dennis Tito the X-Prize would have quitely died due to the lack of money. Peter didn’t even have the money to fund fully until afterward.

    And if you have done any presentations of Angels investors you would know the first two things they ask is are:

    If this is such a good idea why is NASA not doing it?

    Is there a chance NASA might buy this?

    But then just looked at how financing for RLVs disappeared after X-33 folded. Wasn’t NASA getting out the the development of an RLV suppose to open a flood gate of private investors who didn’t want to compete with NASA. At least that are what the opponents of X-33 claimed. Never happened.

  • Dennis Wingo

    Without Dennis Tito the X-Prize would have quitely died due to the lack of money. Peter didn’t even have the money to fund fully until afterward.

    Yea it is interesting that chronologies get muddied in such a way as to fit preconceived notions.

  • Without Dennis Tito the X-Prize would have quitely died due to the lack of money. Peter didn’t even have the money to fund fully until afterward.

    Peter got the money by buying a hole-on-one insurance policy. It had nothing to do with Dennis Tito. If you think it did, you’ll have to make a lot better case than “Dennis Tito flew, then X-Prize got funded.” It makes just as much sense to say that if 911 hadn’t happened, “X-Prize would have quietly died due to lack of money.”

    And if you have done any presentations of Angels investors you would know the first two things they ask is are:

    If this is such a good idea why is NASA not doing it?

    Is there a chance NASA might buy this?

    I have done, and attended, a number of presentations to angel investors, and those are not the first two things they ask. Often, those things are not asked at all, depending on what the pitch is. Usually the answer to those questions is self evident, and few angel investors would be stupid enough to ask them.

    …just looked at how financing for RLVs disappeared after X-33 folded.

    Yes, it had nothing at all to do with the evaporation of the market with the failure of Iridium and failure to fund the other LEO constellations that were supposed to blot out the sun with comsats. It was because X-33 folded.

    Riiiigggghhhht.

    Wasn’t NASA getting out the the development of an RLV suppose to open a flood gate of private investors who didn’t want to compete with NASA.

    I’m not familiar with that particular theory. I’ve certainly never put it forth. And NASA did not “get out of the development of an RLV.” SLI continued right up until it got folded into OSP.

    You seem to have a serious problem of confusing time lines and correlation with causation. It makes it hard to take anything you write seriously. I think your ‘nym should be “Mistaken Datapoint.”

  • Sorry, missed an end tag in the above. The two paragraphs starting with “Yes, it had nothing at all…” are mine.

  • DataPoint

    Rand,

    He bought the insurance policy because he was only able to raise a fraction of the money need for the X-prize. And the insurance company put a deadline on it that Burt Rutan only beat by a couple of months. That is far different then saying it was funded. And if Burt didn’t emerge at the last minute the amount raised would have been lost to the insurance firm.

    Clearly you where not active with space start-ups in the 1990′s when X-33 was going strong and RLVs were the focus of the start-ups. Go back and read some of G. Harry Stines’ work. Many Angel investors simply did not want to compete with it.

    Yes, NASA technically folded it into the SLI, but in the eyes of Wall Street (and investors) RLVs at NASA ended with X-33. And it ended as a failure. SLI was basically NASA’s way of saying they needed to go back to the drawing board. As for OSP, is was hardly an RLV program. Just capsules on EELVs.

  • He bought the insurance policy because he was only able to raise a fraction of the money need for the X-prize. And the insurance company put a deadline on it that Burt Rutan only beat by a couple of months. That is far different then saying it was funded. And if Burt didn’t emerge at the last minute the amount raised would have been lost to the insurance firm.

    None of which has anything at all to do with Dennis Tito. So we’re still waiting for you to back up your claim that “the X-Prize would have died quietly” if he hadn’t flown. I suspect we’ll be waiting at least as long as it takes NASA to get back to the moon.

    Clearly you where not active with space start-ups in the 1990’s when X-33 was going strong and RLVs were the focus of the start-ups.

    I was extremely active with them. The consensus among them, which all potential investors were told, was that X-33 would be a disaster. They were right.

    Many Angel investors simply did not want to compete with it.

    But I thought you said that NASA investments and endorsements were necessary to attract private investment. Now you say they chased it away? You can’t even keep your own revision of history straight.

    Yes, NASA technically folded it into the SLI, but in the eyes of Wall Street (and investors) RLVs at NASA ended with X-33.

    That must explain Beal’s well-publicized withdrawal from the market for which SLI was the stated reason. Are you saying that he wasn’t an investor?

    I’m not sure why you’re substituting your own strange beliefs for that of the investment community, but I was there. You apparently weren’t.

  • DataPoint

    Rand,

    If you were around you must have been one of those in the audience. I don’t recall you on the various panels at those conferences. Or in any of the planning committee meetings.

    The view was that Lockheed’s NASA subsidized VentureStar would be too tough a competitor for any start-up without similar government funding to compete against. There were some of us old hands that argued it was not practical technically, but the main reasons groups like Pro-Space, Space Access and Space Frontier fought it was because it created too high a barrier for a start-up to compete against.

    BTW the technical problem of a complex composite tank could have been solved with additional investment. But neither Lockheed or NASA was willing to spend the $200-300 million needed to fix it or even fly the demonstrator with an aluminum tank. The fact the neither was willing to do so also weighted on investors minds.

    But I thought you said that NASA investments and endorsements were necessary to attract private investment. Now you say they chased it away? You can’t even keep your own revision of history straight.

    The role of NASA is to demonstrate something is technically possible and worthwhile. Then you explain to investors why your firm is able to do it cheaper and better. But when NASA demonstrates its beyond current technology even with the government’s deep pockets it makes it a lot harder to convince investors you are able to accomplish it at a small fraction of the cost.

    That must explain Beal’s well-publicized withdrawal from the market for which SLI was the stated reason. Are you saying that he wasn’t an investor?

    Funny, you posted a different story on Beal on the thread below.

    http://www.spacepolitics.com/2008/04/07/cots-contradictions/#comments

    COTS contradictions?
    April 7, 2008 at 3:36 pm · Filed under Congress, NASA

    Rand Simberg wrote @ April 15th, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    Beal was good at banking. That didn’t make him an expert on either rockets, or space politics. His actions demonstrated that he was far from competent at either. Had he taken some advice from people who understood the business, he might have been successful but, like many self-made men, he decided that he was smarter than the people who had the cleat marks in their backs from previous attempts. Now he’s got a few of his own, and less money.

    So now you are saying you agree with Vladislaw that NASA drove Beal from the market by not allowing him to launch from Florida?

  • Dennis Wingo

    Peter got the money by buying a hole-on-one insurance policy. It had nothing to do with Dennis Tito. If you think it did, you’ll have to make a lot better case than “Dennis Tito flew, then X-Prize got funded.” It makes just as much sense to say that if 911 hadn’t happened, “X-Prize would have quietly died due to lack of money

    Ask Burt Rutan, he knows the story. If you want it in private I can give it to you but not writing on a public forum.

  • Dennis Wingo

    Another thing that killed RLV funding in the 90′s is when Iridium figured out that by manifesting multiple birds on a single launch that they got lower launch costs than what was promised by the RLV crowd.

    (>$8M per bird for five birds for Iridium on a Delta II).

  • DataPoint: You make excellent points.

    Rand: Yes, it had nothing at all to do with the evaporation of the market with the failure of Iridium and failure to fund the other LEO constellations that were supposed to blot out the sun with comsats. It was because X-33 folded.

    This, actually, supports my wider point. Then, the RLV crowd bet everything on LEO commercial constellations — that, in the end, did not pan out, and set back the technology indefinitely. How is that different from your being prepared to bet the farm on tourism, which may or may not pan out? I would suggest that LEO constellations appeared every bit as “inevitable” then, or more so, than orbital tourism does now.

    In fact, today, we do have a limping along industry LEO comsat constellations, mostly using the government as their customers, and no RLV industry. I think a possible, or even likely, outcome of the apprently developing tourism industry is the one requiring the least up-front investment. That is, continue flying the Soyuz and / or other incremental upgrades of existing launch vehicles, or vehicles easily and cheaply adapted from what is flying now. I don’t necessarily see that as a bad outcome — but it would be an example of why you need as broad a spectrum markets as you can get.

    – Donald

  • This, actually, supports my wider point.

    But it doesn’t support “DataPoint’s” wider point, so I wonder why you think he (or she-who knows?) makes such “excellent” points.

    I would suggest that LEO constellations appeared every bit as “inevitable” then, or more so, than orbital tourism does now.

    You could suggest that, but that wouldn’t render it non-nonsensical in the face of the vast amount of market research, and numbers of deposits.

    FWIW, I never saw those constellations as inevitable in any way, and was continuously telling the RLV folks throughout the 90s that they were chasing the wrong market. They’ve finally figured it out.

    Another thing that killed RLV funding in the 90’s is when Iridium figured out that by manifesting multiple birds on a single launch that they got lower launch costs than what was promised by the RLV crowd.

    Yes, but what didn’t kill RLV funding was the X-33 disaster, either in its selection, or its funding, or in its failure. That’s a ridiculous notion. The smart RLV investment was oblivious to X-33, which was always irrelevant to actual, flying RLVs.

  • Dennis Wingo

    The smart RLV investment was oblivious to X-33, which was always irrelevant to actual, flying RLVs.

    The smart RLV investors did not invest and the not so smart ones like Walt got screwed by probably the stupidest design this side of a parking cone.

  • The smart RLV investors did not invest and the not so smart ones like Walt got screwed by probably the stupidest design this side of a parking cone.

    Whether this statement is true or not, the fact remains that no investors, contra “(False) DataPoint” based their decisions on X-33, which was a disaster for our future in space, and probably set us back a decade.

  • DataPoint

    Rand,

    If X-33 didn’t impact investors perceptions of RLVs how could it have set RLVs back a decade or more?

  • Dennis Wingo

    Whether this statement is true or not, the fact remains that no investors, contra “(False) DataPoint” based their decisions on X-33, which was a disaster for our future in space, and probably set us back a decade.

    Where are all of these mythical investors? I seem to remember a lot of complaining at the time regarding the amount of money that went into the X-33 program and that it would have an effect on investment. Not directly related to the X-33 was Andy Beal’s article about NASA and DoD competition with his efforts as one of the reasons that he got out of that business. The fact is that besides Walt no one put any serious money into RLV’s during the late 90′s and early 2000′s.

  • Anon

    Gentlemen,

    The space transportation business is an AWFUL business to invest in. Trying to attribute any one factor as **THE CAUSE** for the failure of a space transportation venture is faulty logic, and can not be empirically proven.

    It is possible that eliminating one of these factors will make the difference (or would have made a difference), but there is no way to prove it, and arguing over the hundreds or thousands of possible alternative histories is not that productive. (That does not mean we should not eliminate or mitigate the factors in the future, one at a time, or as a group.)

    The reasons that space transportation is, in general, an awful investment, include:

    1) High technical risk. Even if you use existing technology, and hire good experienced people, there is lots of risk and uncertainty of integrating this existing system into an operational system for the first time.

    2) Large amounts of capital required drive up investment risk. Most early investors usually can’t fund the venture themselves, and they run the risk that the later investors will not show up. This makes it harder to find early-stage investors.

    3) Lots of market risk. The *proven* markets are quite small. The larger potential markets (tourism, satellite constellations, SPS, etc.) are characterized by varying degrees of uncertainty.

    4) Even if you solve the first 3 challenges, direct subsidized competition from large deep-pocket governments makes it much harder to make a profit, as some markets are captured (and not open for competition), and you have to compete against subsidized competitors (who don’t require a ROI on their up front capital) for the markets that are open to competition.

    The U.S. Government is not the only competitor to industry. It is also Russia, Europe, India, and China.

    Beal was right … but either 1) he should have known this when he started, and accepted the risk — or 2) he should have made it part of his plan to do something about it. Instead, he did neither, and then complained about it after he had failed –> when he left the business. This issue was completely “knowable”, if he had only done his homework before starting Beal Aerospace. (Hiring somebody who had real policy/political experience in the space industry would have helped This naive thinking is endemic by many new space entrepreneurs.)

    5) Burdensome regulations, and trade barriers (e.g., ITAR) drive up the cost of doing business. It is more costly to use many sources of foreign components, and it is very difficult (if not impossible in some cases) to hire very smart (and sometimes very experienced) non-citizens as employees.

    IN SPITE OF THESE FACTORS, we do have serious investors pursuing space transportation ventures. By observation, there are three approaches taking place right now.

    The FIRST strategic approach is to persuade big money investors to jump into the pond with the big boys — for reasons other than pure ROI considerations. Walt Anderson was in this class. The two most recent examples are Bezos and Musk.

    These gentlemen are “philanthro-capitalists” — they are investing in part for philanthropic reasons — to make a positive difference for humanity. Of course, they want to make money too, and plan (planned) to, but none of them would have put their money into a space transportation venture as a pure investment play.

    The SECOND strategic approach is classicly “disruptive”. Reduce your market risk, technical risk and investment risk by targeting a smaller/easier technical challenge for which there is a more certain market demand (although it may not be totally proven.) Make sure this market is “too small” and “not that interesting” to the big players (the competition) — thus avoiding the direct subsidized competitors. Then grow up the value chain as you learn how to do business.

    The THIRD strategic approach has only one existing data point in space transportation to date — a global branding strategy. This is being pursued by the Virgin Group. Virgin has over 200 companies globally. Richard Branson has built this empire based on his ability to generate “free media” for his companies and brand. The huge amount of “free media” generated for the Virgin name, by Virgin Galactic, is the real ROI for Virgin. Imagine the return when the Virgin spaceplanes start flying in many different countries. If all Virgin does is “break even” on a cashflow basis, then they have made a good investment.

    - Anon

  • Dennis Wingo

    Anon

    Amen, yea verily, and yep.

    Excellent encapsulation of the situation. That is why Walt quit playing in that arena and he and I started Orbital Recovery. There is still a considerable risk and a lot of capital required but after the barrier to entry was crossed, it would create a sea change in the comsat business, which is a key metric of a disruptive technology. Our problem was not technical or even financing the business, it was Walt’s “issue with the government.

    I came to the same conclusions as you have several years ago but for some damn reason almost everyone is focused on making fire and smoke when if you do the analysis there is a hell of a lot more money to be made and opportunities to be taken advantage of up there than in building the ride, and at today’s launch prices.

  • If X-33 didn’t impact investors perceptions of RLVs how could it have set RLVs back a decade or more?

    Because it convinced NASA to stop investing in them. What is Ares, other than a false lesson learned from Shuttle and X-33?

    But I overstated it. There are no doubt some naive investors who thought that X-33 proved that reusables wouldn’t work.

    Anon, I thoroughly agree with your post. The key to breaking into this market is tackling the ones that no one else is interested in, and sneaking up on it from below, as XCOR, Armadillo, Scaled, TGV and others are doing.

  • DataPoint

    Because it convinced NASA to stop investing in them. What is Ares, other than a false lesson learned from Shuttle and X-33?

    So you are saying that NASA investment in RLVs is critical to their development? That the build from below option of New Space is a much slower path that will add a generation to RLVs?

  • So you are saying that NASA investment in RLVs is critical to their development?

    No. It would be sufficient if NASA would stop saying stupid things about them.

  • Datapoint

    But if what NASA does has no impact on investors, as you claim, why does it matter if NASA says stupid things about them?

  • I must have missed the post in which I claimed that what NASA does has no impact on investors. Can you point it out to me? It seems quite unlikely to me that I would have said such a thing, since I certainly don’t believe it.

  • Datapoint

    You stated that NASA’s actions on X-33 had on impact on investors. Are you changing your story?

  • You stated that NASA’s actions on X-33 had on impact on investors. Are you changing your story?

    I later amended that remark. Please try to keep up.

    And saying that NASA’s actions on X-33 had no impact is not the same thing as saying that what NASA does in general has no impact. Sorry, it’s that pesky logic thing again. So I’m still waiting for you to provide some evidence for your latest fantasy of what I said.

  • DataPoint

    I later amended that remark.

    Ok, so you did change it. Just wanted to make sure.

  • And I’m still waiting for a citation for my supposed claim that “what NASA does has no impact on investors.” As with evidence for many of your other false claims and complex questions, I won’t be holding my breath.

  • DataPoint

    You mean this one?

    Yes, but what didn’t kill RLV funding was the X-33 disaster, either in its selection, or its funding, or in its failure. That’s a ridiculous notion. The smart RLV investment was oblivious to X-33, which was always irrelevant to actual, flying RLVs.

    In which you claimed NASA’s action had no impact on investor’s decisions? Then claimed it would on only stupid investors?

    But I overstated it. There are no doubt some naive investors who thought that X-33 proved that reusables wouldn’t work.

    I guess by you definition any investor who is not willing to invest in New Space is “naive”.

    Sheesh….

  • In which you claimed NASA’s action had no impact on investor’s decisions?

    I claimed that a particular NASA action had no impact on investor’s decisions (a claim I later modified).

    Only someone completely innocent of any understanding of logic (or another possibility–someone disingenuous, and sufficiently scornful of the intelligence of people reading this blog) would say that this was equivalent to a general claim that ““what NASA does has no impact on investors.”

    Know anyone like that? I do.

    I guess by you definition any investor who is not willing to invest in New Space is “naive”.

    No. Once again, work on the logic thing. Though perhaps it’s a futile request. You seem to be incapable of it.

  • DataPoint

    Once again, work on the logic thing.

    One reason I think many space advocates like you have problems with space policy is you think it should work like a wiring diagram. That is not how humans work, not even space policy decision makers and especially not Angel investors.

    That I believe is one of the key reasons most policies push by space advocates, like New Space, end up losing to opponents of space flight.

    Basing Space Policy on “debate” logic is like bringing a knife to a gun fight. You will lose every time to the emotion and politics of the real world.

    NASA’s problems with X-33 did cool off investment interest in that it signaled that the technical risk for RLVs was still too high for their comfort level. Their cancellation of the project increased that preceived risk – “If NASA could solve the problem why do you think your start-up could?

    Now as a space expert you know the problems was related to thte specific design selected by NASA and the very tight funding constraints used for the program.

    But to the investment community it looked like NASA tried and failed to make the technological leap.

    But don’t believe me. Ask the people who were actually trying to finance their RLVs in that time frame. Try Kistler, USL, TGV, etc. and ask how the investment community cooled. It only got new vigor from SpaceShipOne.

  • Basing Space Policy on “debate” logic is like bringing a knife to a gun fight.

    If you can’t exercise logic, and you repeatedly get your facts wrong, I wonder why you think that anyone should take anything you write seriously. Forget about knives — you didn’t even bring a spork.

  • PolicyGeek

    Rand,

    That attitude is why space is and has been marginalize politically. You may wish the political world works a particular fashion like the laws os physics, but the world works the way it does and doesn’t care about logic. As Spock would say, Humans are Illogical. So why do you think policy must be logical? Or logical arguments will work? Especially when they haven’t so far?

  • So why do you think policy must be logical?

    I didn’t say policy should be, let alone expected to be logical. Now you’re assembling a strawman.

    I just said that if someone is going to falsely accuse me of writing, and believing, things that I didn’t and don’t, and wants other people to believe it, that they should have some basis for it, in facts and logic. None was provided.

    And clearly logic doesn’t work with such people, which is why we shouldn’t take what he or she writes here seriously.

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