Congress, NASA

Kosmas: extend shuttle and accelerate constellation

When Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) wrote a letter to House leadership last week asking for an extra $2 billion for NASA in the latest stimulus bill, it appeared that she was advocating that the money be used primarily, if not exclusively, for accelerating Constellation. “This infusion of funds will accelerate the Constellation program, which will create new infrastructure and high-tech jobs and minimize our dependence on Russia during the impending space flight gap,” she wrote in the letter, making no explicit mention of extending the shuttle beyond 2010.

However, in an op-ed in Friday’s Orlando Sentinel, she takes a different stance in her call for that extra $2 billion. “Increasing funding for NASA in the recovery package will allow for the extension of our shuttle program and the acceleration of the Constellation program,” she writes. “Minimizing the spaceflight gap will ensure that taxpayer dollars, which would otherwise go to foreign countries to ferry our cargo and astronauts to space, will stay in the United States and drive our economy.” Given that NASA estimates it would cost $3 billion a year to keep the shuttle program going at even a minimal level after 2010, that $2 billion wouldn’t go very far in minimizing the gap.

28 comments to Kosmas: extend shuttle and accelerate constellation

  • Dennis Wingo

    A two year extension of STS with a transition to Shuttle C thereafter makes a lot of sense. Orion can be an ISS only vehicle with a new vehicle, sharing many systems with ISS (updated of course) could then become a human Reusable Space Vehicle (RSV), capable of travel with humans anywhere in Cislunar space. You couple this with a reusable lunar shuttle that takes humans from upper cislunar space (anywhere from Low Lunar Orbit to the libration points possibly) to the lunar surface and back.

    With plenty of cargo and eventually human onramps for the international partners and private enterprise, we would transform our twice per year Apollo on Steroids to a robust bone crushing twice per week means of moving humans and cargo back and forth anywhere in cislunar space.

  • Dennis, first the Shuttle-C carries only twice mass and no more volume than an existing EELV. With a minor upgrade to the EELV even the Shuttle-C lift advantage is eliminated. You must mean the Shuttle-Z right?

    Assuming you mean the Shuttle-C and given the minor improvements, if any, above what missions do you intend on launching on the Shuttle-C until the we finally get around to the lunar mission over ten years from now? Without missions it is hard to justify the heavy-lift infrastructure cost or is that the real agenda?

    The Shuttle-C looks like a Trojan Horse for getting NASA out of the launch business in favor of the 100% EELV/COTS approach.

  • Dennis Wingo

    Shuttle C is a generic term for Shuttle derived side mounted cargo carriers. I am aware of the volume limitations of the Shuttle C “classic” though its 85 ft cargo bay is considerably larger than the EELV faring.

    Part of the problem is that space hardware advocates forget the paperwork that is required to send hardware into space. Even the classic Shuttle C dramatically cuts that as the longerons and other STS cargo bay type features are retained as well as the load paths.

    I would advocate probably two separate types of side mounts, one for high value systems type cargos (modules, landers, and such) and a second won with a larger volume to loft a big upper stage.

    I doubt seriously that a “minor” upgrade to any EELV will match the Shuttle C lift advantage. You gotta do better than that. I have the numbers for these mods, including the RL-60 upper stage and it is more like the middle of the pack mods gets you close to Shuttle C. However, even that is eliminated, depending on what materials you use in the Shuttle C hardware.

  • Bill White

    I would be entirely content if we extended orbiter flights for a brief period, began working on a human rated Delta IV for Orion, and initiated a transparent process to look “under the hood” at all of the following:

    1. ESAS (Ares 1 & V)

    2. Direct 2.0

    3. Shuttle B / C and other side mounted versions

    4. EELV only-architectures leveraged by propellant depots.

    If I missed any options, they should be included as well.

    Transparent means that sufficient data is released to allow independent assessment of the results – perhaps restricted to qualified advocates of each system to the extent there are security issues with the release of the data.

    EVERYTHING should be considered and all hoods looked under.

  • Dennis, the side mount configuration was a compromise made in rocket 101 principles almost four decades ago necessitated by the size of the Space Shuttle Orbiter. I don’t see why we should sign up for another forty years of reduced performance, utility and options for an approach that won’t save time or money over a clean inline STS derivative along the lines of what the NASA NLS study recommended.

    The STS External tank will need to be redesigned either way and all the new stuff we need is the same whether we mount it all on the side or in a way that rocket 101 advises.

    The Shuttle-C is not a pennywise and it will always be a pound foolish because of basic physics.

    Bill, I agree provided the review is

    Soon
    Independent
    Comprehensive
    Balances
    Near & long term policy objectives
    Budget, schedule, workforce & capability advancement
    Open to input, review and debate by all stakeholders before findings are released
    The process above is used as needed for independent technical assessments over time

    The big near term question before us now is do we destroy our existing heavy lift system and layoff the workforce providing America access to space or not. A characteristic that both the Ares and 100% EELV/COTS plan share in common which is at complete odds with the NASA authorization passed by a wide majority.

    While other plans have a number of good ideas almost all of them translate directly to the Delta/Jupiter (Direct 3.0) plan we presented in detail recently. Direct 3.0 is really a hybrid of many of the best ideas promoted originally by others, including Dennis, over the last thirty years.

    Imitation in the end is the sincerest form of flattery.

    Now if we could just get NASA to imitate our imitation of their own NLS recommendations :)

  • Dennis Wingo

    The STS External tank will need to be redesigned either way and all the new stuff we need is the same whether we mount it all on the side or in a way that rocket 101 advises.

    I have access to ALL of the documentation from the late 80′s and early 90′s Shuttle C program and NONE of those designs required modifications of the ET except for ones that also used the Aft Cargo Carrier. Sorry Steve that is a red herring.

    What the DIRECT fanboys miss is that NASA is unlikely to be trusted with yet another completely new development program. The Shuttle C, depending on the variant, needs little modifications to the existing infrastructure in order to fly.

    The Shuttle C could fly by the end of FY-12 and none of the other systems come even close, no matter how many pretty pictures you make.

  • Again, Dennis you want it both ways.

    Which is it?

    Shuttle-C
    A side mount design that offers has no significant advantage over the existing EELV.

    Or

    Shuttle-Z
    A side mount design that will require a redesign of the STS External Tank and the KSC facilities, plus a side mounted upper stage (never done before) that does, if it works, offer a mass and volume improvement over existing EELV.

    If you say Shuttle-Z then why not skip a step and just do the redesign it right in the first place? If you say Shuttle-C why bother, just drive a little further down the road to ULA and pick something from the catalog? After all if it’s good enough for a crew why not cargo?

    You still have not answered the question of what you plan to do with either cargo only launch systems between now and when the lunar hardware starts to show up more than ten years from now. That’s a long time to have the KSC and MAF workforce just standing around twiddling their thumbs watching all the launches go out of Cape Canaveral don’t you think? Might be hard to justify the cost if you don’t have something for them to do over the next ten years? Orion is the pacing item in an Ares free future and the Shuttle-C does nothing to help that.

    BTW, for what its worth (not that good ideas shouldn’t stand on their own merits regardless) I have over 10 years of production aerospace structural design experience plus direct access to the very NASA engineers that actually generated all those documents you have, plus the documents.

    They don’t think that putting engines at the bottom of a cryogenic tank and some payload at the top (better known as a rocket) is such a big leap from STS and neither do I for the same Mechanical Engineering 101 reasons detailed in NASA NLS proposal. You know the same NLS that passed a real PDR in 1993 and was ranked head and shoulders above the Shuttle-C or Z for the same reasons and basic logic 101 I cite above.

    Your engineering degree and work experience is in what field again? Let me guess its not Mechanical engineering is it? Again, I stay away from the logical fallacy of using “argument from authority” but if you choose to keep using it our team has you and your primary supporter beat by a very large margin.

    We all like the pictures of the Jupiter as well. It’s amazing how little needs to be modified from the pictures of flying hardware. Just like the DIRECT plan. Looks like art does imitate reality after all.

  • Dennis Wingo

    Your engineering degree and work experience is in what field again? Let me guess its not Mechanical engineering is it? Again, I stay away from the logical fallacy of using “argument from authority” but if you choose to keep using it our team has you and your primary supporter beat by a very large margin.

    Excuse me? I have considerably more experience in launch vehicles (having designed avionics for them as well as flying payloads on them for over 20 years) than a group of model builders and people that claim that NASA engineers are working on their pet project.

    The biggest cost and the biggest time consumer in building payloads is the paper work. If you dispute that, then you have not flown very much.

    They don’t think that putting engines at the bottom of a cryogenic tank and some payload at the top (better known as a rocket) is such a big leap from STS and neither do I for the same Mechanical Engineering 101 reasons detailed in NASA NLS proposal. You know the same NLS that passed a real PDR in 1993 and was ranked head and shoulders above the Shuttle-C or Z for the same reasons and basic logic 101 I cite above.

    When NLS was designed the joke was “nother launch system”

    The NLS was in the SEI path as the follow on to the Shuttle C if and when they got the money to build it. It quickly became apparent that they would not get it and that the Shuttle C was the only game in the SEI era.

    We all like the pictures of the Jupiter as well. It’s amazing how little needs to be modified from the pictures of flying hardware. Just like the DIRECT plan. Looks like art does imitate reality after all.

    What is amazing is that the recently departed NASA administrator said just about the exact same thing when he came to NASA several years ago and several billion dollars later we are no closer to a real flight vehicle than we were the day he came in the door.

    You still have not answered the point that there is no way that MSFC is going to be trusted with yet another clean sheet design (Which is what DIRECT is no matter how often you sing tunes otherwise). With STS almost certainly flying another couple of years, the Shuttle C is the path of least resistance and the path that keeps the jobs at KSC and gets us to the moon years earlier than any other plan.

  • SpaceMan

    Looks like the children are still playing around here.

    Paper work my a**. Time to grow up and get off your high horses folks. Your little engineering flame wars are REAL OLD & aren`t gonna do anyone any good so STFU.

    Deal with the world as it ISand not as you wish it was because you aren`t gonna get your way.

  • Real Engineer

    engineering flame wars are REAL OLD & aren`t gonna do anyone any good so STFU.

    That attitude supposedly left the premises with Griffin, Bush and Cheney.

    Deal with the world as it ISand not as you wish it was because you aren`t gonna get your way.

    In the real world, the one US adults live in, real engineers don’t tell other real engineers to ‘shut the f@ck up’, they flame real engineering concepts.

    Since you don’t have any engineering concepts here to flame, you’re good. Just as soon as you have a real engineering concept for us to flame, like the rest of us have, then the minute you do you get right back to us, ok?

    We’ll give it the old ‘trial by fire’. You don’t have shite and we all know that.

  • Forgive me if I missed it in the above posts, but aren’t there inherent human spaceflight safety problems with side-mounted carriers like Shuttle-C? These problems include foam shedding/impact, and limited crew escape options. I thought these problems would best be solved with top-mounted human carriers, rendering the Shuttle-C approach suitable only for cargo.

  • red

    As Jeff mentions, even if they got $2B for Constellation and Shuttle, $2B isn’t going to do much to close the gap, since those programs as so expensive. If the goal is to shorten the human spaceflight gap and help the U.S. economy, a COTS-D effort or something similar to encourage private crew space transportation would be a better and in the long run more useful approach.

    Funding more Shuttle isn’t going to do much in the way of jump-starting the economy in the short term, either, since the Shuttle is booked for the rest of its expected lifespan. I doubt that Constellation is “shovel-ready”, either, in spite of what Griffin recently said. Funding Constellation also has the issue that with a new Administration and NASA Administrator, and with all of the budget, schedule, management, and technical controversy over that program, there’s every chance that it will be cancelled or changed considerably. Until that’s settled, it’s unwise to pour even more money that way.

    It’s hard to see a lot of space missions being kicked off and in big-employment stages in the short run (to achieve the stimulus package goal), since they take a while to get into gear.

    That being the case, I think the more interesting question is what NASA efforts could be funded that would be both useful in helping jump-start the economy *in the short term*, and helpful for achieving space-related goals. It would be interesting to hear anyone else’s suggestions for short-term economic stimulus ideas for NASA, private space, NOAA space, etc.

    Off the top of my head, I don’t see a lot of “big-iron” “shovel-ready” possibilities for NASA, but maybe there are some smaller ones.

    1. Could the science research and analysis budget be increased somewhat? I’d imagine that small university research teams with proposals already in the hopper and a steady stream of grad students enrolling would be able to get working fairly quickly.

    2. The House stimulus package bill had lots of NASA funding for traditional Earth Science missions. It sounded like a lot of this was for initial fleshing-out of mission designs, with the main work coming later. Could a similar effort take place in other NASA areas?

    3. What ever happened in the NASA Arecibo funding controversy? Was it resolved? If not, will the stimulus package NSF boost help? If not (I haven’t followed it), this might be a shovel-ready kind of thing – the observatory already exists and just needs to be kept running. Are the other similar situations?

    4. Could Centennial Challenges be funded and started quickly? I’d imagine so, since there are a number of CC proposals already, and if that would take too long the existing Challenges could probably be augmented quickly. Maybe within a bit over a year or so any new ones could at least get to the point where competitions are announced, groups are identified to run them for NASA, those groups are getting sponsors and doing similar economic activity, teams are starting their work, and perhaps an initial competition event has been run.

    5. Are there any running NASA spacecraft missions that just need additional funding to keep running? This is sort of like the Arecibo situation. It seems like a common scenario – running missions run out of budget eventually since we need to fund new missions. With the stimulus package situation, it seems like we’d be able to keep those old missions going. Does anyone know if any mission shutdowns are imminent due to budget constraints?

    6. What about funding a few more SBIRs (perhaps some of those that almost made the cut last time, and thus are probably shovel-ready), NASA education programs like internships, university research projects, space-related scholarships, and the like? I also imagine that temporarily boosting NASA’s funding for internal employee or even contractor education might help spur some economic activity (i.e. typical week-long classes, or better yet if you want them to study on their own time, tuition assistance for night classes).

    All of these probably represent small funding boosts and small increases in economic activity, but maybe enough can be found to make them collectively worth Congress’s trouble to add to the stimulus package. I’m not really sure how “shovel-ready” my suggestions above are; I’m just throwing out a few ideas. Comments are welcome.

  • Dennis wrote: Excuse me? I have considerably more experience in launch vehicles (having designed avionics for them as well as flying payloads on them for over 20 years) than a group of model builders and people that claim that NASA engineers are working on their pet project.

    Then stick to avionics and payloads and leave the rocket engineering to….. well ….. rocket engineers. BTW the claims are not claims but the truth. Keith is completely out of the loop by design on this one and for good reason. For some reason both Keith and Mike agree that all modern day John Houbolts at NASA should be fired if they don’t “do the right thing” and quit. Imagine how Apollo would have turned out if his “voice in the wilderness” had been silenced one way or the other.

    As an engineer it has been an honor to talk to and work with a number of the engineers that were on the Apollo and STS programs. The advice of these accomplished rocket engineers has been completely ignored in the grey beard reviews at NASA. The only question they get asked is how can we make the Ares-1 work. Their first response is to challenge the whole premise of why we are doing the Ares-1 in the first place. Some even ask the obvious, question of why NASA doesn’t just put existing engines at the bottom of an existing STS stack and payload at the top just like the NASA NLS they developed recommended.

    Since this doesn’t solve the dilemma facing the Ares-1 engineers (trapped between ego and physics) they just moved on down the line. Unfortunately they ran out of grey beards before the got an answer to the serious Ares-1 problems. Of course it doesn’t take a grey beard rocket engineer to figure out that the Jupiter makes a lot more sense than the Ares-1. Unlike the grey beards though the current NASA engineers still have families to support and can be fired for daring to state such heresy in public.

    I for one have been very impressed at their Herculean efforts to make such a terrible configuration at least have a chance of launch something. Such demonstrated resolve will always be needed and represents just how powerful the NASA can do attitude is when faced with significant challenges. Unfortunately these significant challenges are a direct product of one man’s extreme ego. Fortunately, Mike’s recent resignation has opened up an opportunity to use this engineering talent in advancing our capabilities in space by building upon what we have rather than destroying it.

    Dennis wrote: The biggest cost and the biggest time consumer in building payloads is the paper work. If you dispute that, then you have not flown very much.

    Actually, I agree with you on this one. In fact up to 80% of the cost of space exploration is in the spacecraft and mission. That is why we are not going to significantly reduce the cost of space exploration and development by chasing yet another low cost to orbit rainbow. In addition, which commercial companies (USA, ULA, SpaceX etc) the federal government writes the launch cost check to is not ‘commercialization’ nor is it going to significantly change the remaining 20% of the cost if the same rocket technologies are used. What will lower cost is the ability to ground integrate/test complete spacecraft systems (think Skylab not ISS) before launch that are designed to be reusable via propellant depots and Lunar ISRU development.

    Dennis wrote: You still have not answered the point that there is no way that MSFC is going to be trusted with yet another clean sheet design (Which is what DIRECT is no matter how often you sing tunes otherwise). With STS almost certainly flying another couple of years, the Shuttle C is the path of least resistance and the path that keeps the jobs at KSC and gets us to the moon years earlier than any other plan.

    I disagree; I think the NASA engineers are perfectly capable of putting the Jupiter into service and just as soon as the Shuttle-C for the simple fact that the tank redesign is not on the critical path. I also have much more confidence in the NASA engineers than you do having worked directly with them. All they lack is a NASA leadership chain that will reward and not punish those who are honest about the problems they have found while allowing the NASA engineers the latitude to debate and use their collective judgment in finding solutions to these problems. In the end the only ‘wrong’ engineering solution is one that doesn’t fit the budget and achieve the policy objectives.

    I believe the engineers at NASA still have the Right Stuff. All they lack is good executive leadership in implementing the great policy our elected representatives put in place and have adequately funded if the resources are used efficiently.

  • Dirck Noorman

    Very interesting forum. have a masters in physics (irrelevant to this discussion) and work in finance, so my opinions are nothing more than those of a concerned citizen and space-program enthusiast.

    One thing seems clear to me – it is very unlikely the Ares V will ever fly. Too many new technologies, too expensive, too long a development cycle. NASA is too easy a target for regular budget raids and needs to focus on shorter development cycles with major milestones coming on the order of national election cycles.

    Shuttle C is certainly a frankenstein of sorts – no one would chose such a configuration for a cargo lifter if starting from scratch. But Shuttle C could be useful as a transition platform.

    It would require effectively zero new technologies. To the extent some want to extend the manned shuttle program (even for a precious few additional launches), that would be easier to justify since the costs of SST and Shuttle C would be amortized across each other. And perhaps “lightly used” components – SRBs, SMEs – that are no longer “man rated” but otherwise perfectly good could be used on Shuttle Cs.

    5 years from now we would have a apollo-capacity cargo launcher and manned orbiter. Neither is ideal, but at least we wouldnt be out of the manned space business altogether.

    Shuttle C could also serve as a segue to some kind of DIRECT, inline launcher. For example, a later generation Shuttle C launch could be used as a testbed for whatever first stage DIRECT engines are selected.

    I have read that NASA was already studying a 5 segment SRB approach for use with the existing shuttle fleet before the 2003 Columbia loss. If we thought we could use 5seg SRBs with a manned orbiter, perhaps part of the Shuttle C program could be flight testing the larger boosters for later use in DIRECT. My understanding is that DIRECT advocates dont want to discuss the 5seg SRB idea because they want to demonstrate an idea with as few new technologies as possible. Yet DIRECT detractors claim DIRECT performance estimates are overstated. If a 5seg SRB was proven on a Shuttle C flight then it wouldnt be a new technology anymore, and the additional lifting capacity would be a plus for DIRECT.

    So wouldnt Shuttle C at least ensure we remain in the heavy launch game over the next decade? And it would provide a more gradual transition to DIRECT. Again, the risk is Washington pulls the budget plug in the middle of a massive project and we have nothing to show for it.

    One more perhaps related idea – another Delta IV Heavy launched from the Cape this weekend. We should do whatever it takes to “man rate” this vehicle ASAP and have men on it within 3 years. Maybe a smaller “orion” type module with fewer people. Keep the manned shuttles available until the Delta IV is carrying people to the ISS.

    I know there are concerns about whether or not the IV Heavies can be man rated, but I have trouble believing the Delta technologies are inherently less safe than the Russian operated Soyuz vehicles we already trust, and will otherwise be stuck with for the foreseeable future.

    Goal – 10 years from now have a DIRECT-type in line cargo carrier (maybe with 5seg SRBs) with either Delta IV Heavy and/or DIRECT-based manned launchers. In the mean time we will have no interruption to our manned launch capacity, and wont have taken any huge development risks that could leave us out of the game.

  • Not that I’m a fan of Ares of any number, but what “new technologies” are required for an Ares V? The problem with NASA’s new launch systems is precisely that they completely abjure any new technology, locking us into continued high launch costs.

  • Sorry, didn’t read the whole post.

    So you imagine adding a segment to an SRB constitutes a “new technology”?

    That’s a very strange definition of a “technology.”

  • Dirck Noorman

    Ares V new technologies:

    - 5.5/5 segment SRB. We have fired one horizontally. The first flight test of one of these will be with Ares I-Y in Sept 2013.

    – J2X. I dont believe any J2 series engine has been fired in over 30 years. The first “hot-fire” test of the J2X is scheduled for 2010.

    - 10meter dia hull. Not really a new technology, but certainly different engineering from the 8.4m ET used with the SST (and possibly Shuttle C) and the

    Shuttle C would require none of these. Neither would a man rated Delta IV heavy. Of course neither would an SST extension.

    If there are problems with the 5/5.5seg SRB Ares I and V are delayed, maybe done completely. If dismantle the infrastructure for making the 8.4m ETs (something Griffin tried to do last summer) there’s no going back. None of this would be an issue for Shuttle C or DIRECT.

    How long could it possibly take to have a Shuttle C ready? Give the astronauts sleeping pills so they dont make it to the pad on time for SST-119 in a few weeks and you’ll have a Shuttle C demo launch (just kidding, but I hope you get my point).

    Id be happy to skip the Shuttle C altogether and go straight to DIRECT. But Id want to be very, very sure they could get it done in little enough time and without precluding an SST extension into FY2012-13.

    The goal would be to maintain heavy launch and manned space flight capability (ShuttleC-DIRECT & Delta IVH), have a shiny new set of advanced launchers ready to support Mars-scale missions in 10yrs or so, and get there with small, manageable development steps with lots of milestones that would keep the public’s attention, support.

    Writing this with great humility – i am an interested amateur.

  • Dirck Noorman

    Again, Rand, Im sure you know much more about this stuff than I.

    Fair enough, an additional booster segment, enlarged ET diameter, improvement of J2 – maybe none of these are “new technologies”.

    Whatever they are, however, they are certainly expensive and time consuming. From now to the first manned Orion launch will be more than 5 years. That’s like the entire duration of the Mercury and Gemini programs. From now to the first Ares V test launch will be longer than the time of Kennedy’s lunar-challenge speech to a man walking on the moon.

    Maybe not “new technology.” I wish it was “new technology” that took that long.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Dirck,
    The point is, they are time consuming and expensive. The question is, what are we expecting for the ROI from them. The ROI on the Saturn and Apollo program was, for better or worse, clearly defined – it allowed us to beat the Soviets to the moon. Many people who believed in space and space development bought into the idea that it was moving us towards becoming a spacefaring society, but I think its an open question about how much it might actually have done that or not.

    And, if you are willing to accept that standpoint, then the question is, if we are redoing Saturn and Apollo, is that actually moving us closer to becoming a spacefaring race, or is it nothing more than a large amount of showmanship, without much moving forward towards the point of becoming a spacefaring race? I would submit, and I suspect that Rand agrees with me, that Orion, as is, doesn’t actually move us towards that destination.

    If we are going to spend that money on space, we need the best ROI, and Orion as is isn’t the best.

  • Whatever they are, however, they are certainly expensive and time consuming.

    Whatever we do will be expensive and time consuming. The question is, as Ferris suggests, whether what we have purchased is worth the money. Heavy lift in general is a very expensive way to go from a marginal cost standpoint. What we need is low-cost launch, not heavy lift.

  • Dirck Noorman

    Ferris,

    I cannot defend NASA on an economic ROI basis, and all the questions you raise are, of course good ones.

    The ability to launch satellites is, of courses, a vital national priority. This is something that is supported by the private sector (and DoD), and really no longer requires NASA support.

    But NASA is necessary for maintaining an infrastructure that can put Americans into orbit. The private sector may never be able support this, and the DoD has no need. I dont think maintaining this capability is terribly hard to sell to taxpayers, particularly if we do it in a smarter, cheaper, safer way than the SST.

    As for heavy cargo launches, this is something else neither the private sector nor the DoD seem interested in. This is probably harder to sell, but if we stop maintaining this capability it will be hard to get it back.

    As for re-doing “Saturn and Apollo” – Russia has been “re-doing Soyuz” for more than 40 years. Hard to argue they haven’t made any progress as a spacefaring nation over that time.

    I honestly want to learn more about this stuff. What would you consider a better path to a good ROI? Seems we could make some good progress as a “spacefaring race” over the next few decades if we had a reliable vehicle for getting 1/2 people at a time into and out of orbit, plus the ability to launch 100,000-200,000kg into LEO in a few individual shots per year. Lunar Base, Mars Visit, dozens of unmanned probes scurrying all over the moons of Saturn, Jupiter – all of this would be possible.

    I apologize for de-focusing this board, but I will submit one big shift I’d like to see. We need to get away from this massive solar panel garbage. No way we’re sending people to Mars with some huge solar panels for electricity. Same goes for powering a lunar base. Im not an engineer, but I do have a masters in Atomic Physics, and I believe the dangers associated with nuclear power (both reactors and batteries) are overstated. Imagine a Mars rover with a small nuclear battery, or rover base station with a small reactor that could beam energy to dozens of rovers 10s of km away. No more of this 5in per day garbage – they’d be doing wheelies. Solar makes sense for very small, remote applications (i.e. communication satellites). Everywhere else its a waste of materials, weight, money.

    Just my opinion.

  • Dirck,

    No worries about your questions. To answer your question, as to what I’d like to see, Jon Goff and myself wrote something for the transition team.

    The Case for Becoming a Spacefaring Society:
    Proposals for an Integrated US Space Policy

    The Case for Becoming a Spacefaring Society:
    Recommendations for Space Technology Investment

    Thats a pretty good start. Beyond that, I’d like to see Orion be launcher independent, among other things.

  • But NASA is necessary for maintaining an infrastructure that can put Americans into orbit. The private sector may never be able support this

    That seems extremely unlikely.

    As for heavy cargo launches, this is something else neither the private sector nor the DoD seem interested in.

    Because they don’t need it. Neither does NASA.

    This is probably harder to sell, but if we stop maintaining this capability it will be hard to get it back.

    Fortunately, it’s entirely unnecessary.

    Russia has been “re-doing Soyuz” for more than 40 years. Hard to argue they haven’t made any progress as a spacefaring nation over that time.

    Not for me. It’s trivially easy to argue. What are they doing in space that they weren’t doing decades ago? In what way have they advanced in terms of being able to send people to other bodies, or divert other bodies, and do so regularly and affordably, in large numbers? What does “spacefaring” even mean to you?

    There are no spacefaring nations by any useful definition of that word, and there is nothing in NASA’s current plans to make the US one. Fortunately, the private sector is more ambitious.

  • Dennis Wingo

    Then stick to avionics and payloads and leave the rocket engineering to….. well ….. rocket engineers. BTW the claims are not claims but the truth. Keith is completely out of the loop by design on this one and for good reason. For some reason both Keith and Mike agree that all modern day John Houbolts at NASA should be fired if they don’t “do the right thing” and quit. Imagine how Apollo would have turned out if his “voice in the wilderness” had been silenced one way or the other.

    Then lets deal with your plumber boy (that is what we sparkies call rocket engineers since without each other neither one of us is getting to orbit)

    You make the claim that the Shuttle C has only marginally greater lift capacity than the EELV. Well here are the numbers from the “Shuttle-C Users Conference Executive Summary”, chaired by Terry Mitchell from MSFC May 25-26, 1989.

    Shuttle C Three engine payload to various orbits.

    220 nautical miles, 28.5 degree orbit (space station freedom orbit)

    145,200 lbs

    110 nautical miles 28.5 degrees

    155,000 lbs

    30 x 220 nautical miles

    167,400 lbs

    This does not include any of the improvements in mass to orbit brought about by the Aluminum/Lithium ET which happened well after this program died but it can be considered to be about 75% of the gain that the ASRM numbers gave (if my memory of this serves)

    With the ASRM

    220 nautical miles, 28.5 degree orbit (space station freedom orbit)

    156,600 lbs

    110 nautical miles 28.5 degrees

    166,500 lbs

    30 x 220 nautical miles

    179,400 lbs

    What is the EELV performance to similar orbits?

    The EELV Number to 45 degrees circular 220 nautical mile orbit is 55,000 lbs (page 2-42 of the Delta IV payload planners guide)

    If you drop that down to 28.5 degrees you will probably pick up about 3000 lbs of performance for a mass to orbit at 220 nautical miles of 58,000 lbs. Scale for the rest of the numbers for comparison.

    One would think that a “real” rocket engineer would use real numbers rather than the fuzzy ones that are tossed about by the DIRECT fanboys for their launcher.

    One would also think that before making claims that the EELV is almost as good as the Shuttle C that you would at least consult some real documents and not internet rumors about performance.

    This is with the plain jane volume limited 15 x 85 ft cargo bay.

    Sorry but before castigating someone for a mote, you might want to think about the beam.

  • Jim Hillhouse

    What’s surprising is that no one here is taking into account the Aerospace Corp’s latest study comparing EELV’s to the Ares I. Money quote is that the Ares I is coming out very much on top.

    In fact, the Aerospace Corp. Ares I/EELV study prelim results were such that Doug Cook invited ULA to submit their own data, in place of the EELV data NASA originally submitted. ULA might be able to BS the Obama NASA transition team, but that act won’t work with the Aerospace Corp.

    When the Aerospace Corp. Ares I/EELV study is done, it is going to be a fair part of what sways those in DC who make funding decisions about whether the Ares I program will continue or not.

    But I’m sure many here believe that they, not Aerospace Corp., have insights and knowledge that would tilt the engineering balance to their side. My recommendation would be to write the Aerospace Corp. folks doing the Ares I/EELV study and submitting your data. I have friends who work there and they are as smart as they are open-minded.

    And if the Aerospace Corp. study does come down on the side of Ares I being the optimal launcher for Orion, can all of us accept that, stop the back-biting and anti-NASA bashing, unify behind the Ares project, and get behind our nation’s Space program? All of the infighting that the Space advocacy community engages in only confuses the public, thus aiding those who want to kill the nation’s Space program.

  • Dennis Wingo

    What’s surprising is that no one here is taking into account the Aerospace Corp’s latest study comparing EELV’s to the Ares I. Money quote is that the Ares I is coming out very much on top.

    The Aerospace study was very restricted. Given the exact desired payload for Orion and the NASA stated performance for the Ares 1, how will EELV stack up. Not hard to see where that will play out. Open up the trade space differently to the architecture level and see what happens.

  • Dirck Noorman

    “And if the Aerospace Corp. study does come down on the side of Ares I being the optimal launcher for Orion, can all of us accept that, stop the back-biting and anti-NASA bashing, unify behind the Ares project, and get behind our nation’s Space program? All of the infighting that the Space advocacy community engages in only confuses the public, thus aiding those who want to kill the nation’s Space program.”

    If we end up with Ares I, I very honestly hope it works well for us.

    But there are two problems with this study. One, I cannot find it anywhere on line.

    Second, and more importantly, Ares I does not exist. The first orbital flight isnt scheduled until 5 years from now. Same goes for the first flight test of the 2nd stage engine. And based on NASA’s track record for hitting milestones on schedule, 5 years is probably optimistic.

    How many Delta IV Heavies will have flown by then? The Falcon 9 Heavy will probably beat the Ares I to orbit.

    Im sure there are lots of brilliant, well-meaning engineers working on the Ares I, but as a practical matter the US public is not going to tolerate development cycles that are this long. The Ares is supposed to be a reuse of existing technologies, infrastructure, skilled employees – yet it will take at least 3x as long as the manhattan project took. Not okay.

  • Dennis Wingo

    Im sure there are lots of brilliant, well-meaning engineers working on the Ares I, but as a practical matter the US public is not going to tolerate development cycles that are this long. The Ares is supposed to be a reuse of existing technologies, infrastructure, skilled employees – yet it will take at least 3x as long as the manhattan project took. Not okay.

    Yep and yea verily. This is why the Shuttle C is a good alternative. It is close enough to the existing design that the infrastructure changes are minimal, the development time is short, and it provides a smooth transition between today’s STS and the Shuttle C.

    The J2-X is probably the best thing to survive out of the existing program as a good upper stage and if you want to keep Pratt happy just say the heck with it and build more SSME’s. Yep they are expensive but you can buy a hell of a lot of them for the $35 billion that they want to waste on Ares (and now the Ares is looking at SSME’s to close their performance shortfalls).

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