Events, NASA

Augustine Committee’s southern tour starts today

Three days! Three cities! It’s not a rock band tour but the Review of US Human Space Flight Plans Committee (aka Augustine Committee) schedule this week: they are holding public meetings today in Houston, tomorrow in Huntsville, and Thursday in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Today’s meeting starts at 10 am CDT (11 am EDT), according to schedules released last week, and features presentation by JSC director Mike Coats, a “Congressional perspective”, overview of Constellation, and a briefing by the committee’s ISS/shuttle subcommittee, chaired by Sally Ride.

On that last point, NASASpaceFlight.com reported this morning that Ride’s group is looking at shuttle extension options that would stretch the current manifest and/or add more missions, and that “draft NASA authorization language is currently being worked on behind the scenes in Congress” for the latest NASA authorization legislation that would appear to endorse an option to extend the shuttle into 2012.

49 comments to Augustine Committee’s southern tour starts today

  • richardb

    Bolden is on record as saying he has a “sense of urgency” to get going with a new manned launcher to LEO. Spending money on shuttle does little to deal with his “sense of urgency” unless Nasa gets a big fat raise. I think that won’t happen in the era of unprecedented Federal budget deficits for the next 8 to 10 years, provided by the Obama Administration.

    I can’t wait for media reports on A-team’s panel’s proposal on the cheapest way to LEO using all American hardware. That is where my money is for the ultimate Obama direction.

  • Major Tom

    “the era of unprecedented Federal budget deficits”

    The deficit projections are large, but not unprecedented. The U.S. ran as large or larger deficits as a percentage of GDP during WWI and WWII.

    “provided by the Obama Administration”

    While the Recovery Act has exacerbated the national debt, most of the projected deficits are due to Medicare and Social Security decisions made over the past half century by prior Administrations and Congresses, along with the unavoidable demographics associated with the Baby Boomers. It’s up to the Obama Administration to solve the problem — and they havn’t taken steps yet to do so — but the current Administration didn’t create the problem.

    “proposal on the cheapest way to LEO”

    Why do you want the Augustine Committee to recommend an expensive means of ETO transport? So there’s no budget left over for ISS utilization or activities beyond Earth orbit?

    Goofy…

  • Annon

    Extending Shuttle to 2012 will get Obama past the next election cycle. After that it doesn’t matter to him if there is a space gap. Or a space program.

  • Ferris Valyn

    To quote House:

    Oh snap!!

  • Ferris Valyn

    Annon – except, you know, that he does see its in the nations best interest to have a viabrant space program, and vibrant space sector

    Yea, Obama will just ignore it all.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Actually, Ferris, Obama will do whatever is politically expedient. That might actually consist of doing the right thing. After all, with health care “reform” and cap and tax going down in flames, along with his approval numbers, doing a JFK might just start to look attractive.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Mark,

    Your delusions concerning Obama are well noted

    Nothing to see here, move on

  • Rhyolite

    Shuttle is likely to get extended if only because it is unrealistic to finish the planned flights before the end of 2010 at the rate they are going.

    If a shuttle side mount cargo carrier or Direct is the preferred alternative to Ares V, then extending shuttle flights and maintaining the ET production line until at least 2014 would make sense.

    A scenario where the shuttle is extended until an EELV derived crew launcher comes online, followed soon after by a shuttle side mount cargo carrier, would eliminate the costly and redundant development of Ares I and would minimize the cost of developing a new cargo HLV. It would also have a relatively short manned space flight gap. I wouldn’t be surprised if something like this is recommended by the Augustine Committee.

    Some version of a propellant depot is probably better than developing a new cargo HLV from the standpoint of promoting the commercial development of space but it seems like a long shot at this point.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Rhyolite, I hope you are right, but I am not as optimistic as you are. Today’s meeting on beyond LEO should be very interesting.

  • Major Tom

    “Obama will do whatever is politically expedient… doing a JFK might just start to look attractive.”

    President Kennedy did not set the manned lunar landing goal for reasons of political expediency. It was a Cold War response — war by other means — to a series of Soviet successes (Sputnik, Gagarin, etc.) in space in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In a memo, Kennedy specifically challenged a group of advisors led by Vice-President Johnson to identify a space competition with dramatic results which the U.S. could win. See:

    http://history.nasa.gov/Apollomon/apollo1.pdf

    Johnson’s memo identified a manned lunar circumnavigation or landing as the two activities in which the U.S. might win. See:

    http://history.nasa.gov/Apollomon/apollo2.pdf

    Although political expendiency was a factor in how Apollo was implemented, particularly where certain NASA field centers were located, domestic politics had little to nothing to do with the decision to pursue Apollo.

    FWIW…

  • It was a Cold War response — war by other means — to a series of Soviet successes (Sputnik, Gagarin, etc.) in space in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

    It was also partly an attempt to distract from the recent fiascos of the meeting with Khruschev in Vienna and the Bay of Pigs.

  • richardb

    Major Tom, you love to distort don’t yous?
    Going for the cheapest at the expense of a strategy for 30 years is the problem. Even the A-Team has addressed that problem. I believe Obama will go for the cheapest. Strategy for the future 30 years be damned. Its a given, now follow closely here, that the ISS will circle the planet for at least another 10 years with US funding, so the cheapest solution is simply to provide a ride to the ISS. That is what I think the Obama Administration will do. No depots, no moon, no Mars, no heavy lift under his Administration….cheap is what they want.

    As for your deficit argument, pure hogwash. At the basic level WWII we were fighting for our lives seeing as we had been attacked by the Japanese Empire and Adolf Hitler had declared war on us. Now its a financial crisis that has clearly subsided. Not comparable in anyway to a rational mind. Once the WWI and II ended, so did the deficit curve start trending down, in less than 4 years for WWII and 2 years in WWI Not so here, our gigantic, unprecedented deficits continue for the next decade and possibly beyond. Even the CBO has said the deficits under Obama are “unsustainable”.

  • Major Tom

    “Major Tom, you love to distort don’t yous [sic]?”

    No, on the contrary, I think it’s important to correct false statements.

    You stated that we are entering an “era of unprecedented Federal budget deficits.” This a false statement. As this and other graphs show, the U.S. federal deficit as a percentage of GDP was higher during WWI and WWII and nearly as high during the Civil War:

    http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/downchart_gs.php?year=1792_2014&view=1&expand=&units=p&fy=fy10&chart=G0-fed&bar=0&stack=1&size=m&title=US%20Federal%20Deficit%20As%20Percent%20Of%20GDP&state=US&color=c&local=s

    I’m no fan of the Recovery Act or the current high deficit, but there are precedents for federal deficits to be as high as (and actually higher than) they will be in the FY 2009 and FY 2010 budget.

    You also stated that these “unprecedented Federal budget deficits” will continue “for the next 8 to 10 years”. This is also a false statement. As this and other graphs show, the U.S. federal deficit is projected to start falling in FY 2011 and will fall lower than the Reagan and Bush I Administration deficits as early as FY 2012:

    http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/downchart_gs.php?year=1980_2014&view=1&expand=&units=p&fy=fy10&chart=G0-fed&bar=0&stack=1&size=m&title=US%20Federal%20Deficit%20As%20Percent%20Of%20GDP&state=US&color=c&local=s

    Again, I’m no fan of the Recovery Act or the current high deficit, but these “unprecedented Federal budget deficits” are expected to end in the next couple of years, not the next eight to ten years.

    Don’t blame me for your false statements. If you don’t like being corrected, then either do your homework before you post or don’t bother posting at all.

    And when another poster does correct you, act like a adult, and admit your mistake. Blaming the other poster when the facts clearly don’t support your statement is the worst kind of “distortion”.

    “As for your deficit argument, pure hogwash. At the basic level WWII we were fighting for our lives seeing as we had been attacked by the Japanese Empire and Adolf Hitler had declared war on us… Not comparable in anyway to a rational mind.”

    See my earlier post. I never argued that WWII and the current economic crisis are equivalent threats to the nation. That’s your argument, not mine.

    Please don’t put words in my mouth. If you can’t participate in a discussion without putting words in the other poster’s mouth, then don’t bother posting. It’s a waste of your time and the other poster’s time.

    My argument is much simpler. Your statement about unprecedented deficits is simply false based on the actual numbers.

    “Now its a financial crisis that has clearly subsided.”

    Has it? Then why are the unemployment figures still going up?

    http://www.google.com/publicdata?ds=usunemployment&met=unemployment_rate&tdim=true&q=unemployment+rate+graphs

    Again, do your homework before you post or don’t bother posting at all.

    “Going for the cheapest at the expense of a strategy for 30 years is the problem. I believe Obama will go for the cheapest. Strategy for the future 30 years be damned.”

    This is a barely comprehensible statement, but I think it’s a reference to the Space Shuttle. If so, you do realize that the Space Shuttle is by far the most expensive launch vehicle in the world, right?

    NASA needs an inexpensive means of ETO transport so there’s actually some funding left over in the civil human space flight budget to pursue a strategy beyond Earth orbit (30-year or otherwise).

    “Its a given, now follow closely here, that the ISS will circle the planet for at least another 10 years”

    That may be your assumption (and a reasonable one), but it’s not a given. No decision has been made on the lifetime of the ISS, and the Augustine Committee hasn’t presented formal options or recommendations to the Administration on the future of the ISS. You’re jumping the gun.

    Again, do your homework before you post or don’t bother posting at all.

    “so the cheapest solution is simply to provide a ride to the ISS. That is what I think the Obama Administration will do.”

    Then why did the White House ask the Augustine Committee for options “supporting missions to the Moon and other destinations beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO)” in the committee’s charter? See:

    http://www.nasa.gov/offices/hsf/about/charter.html

    Do you really think the current Administration (or any other White House) would ask for options it doesn’t want?

    And do you really think someone of Augustine’s stature (nevertheless the ex-astronauts, industry leaders, and leading scientists that make up the rest of the committee) would waste hundreds of hours of their time if anything other than ISS transport was off the table?

    Goofy, goofy, goofy…

    Again, do your homework before you post or don’t bother posting at all.

    “No depots, no moon, no Mars, no heavy lift under his Administration….cheap is what they want.”

    You do realize that there were presentations this morning from members of the Augustine Committee advocating propellant depots, exploration paths that include options for both the Moon and Mars, and potentially heavy lift in the 75mT range, right?

    Again, do your homework before you post or don’t bother posting at all.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    Correction:

    “… and potentially heavy lift in the _50 to_ 75mT range, right?”

    FWIW…

  • Al Fansome

    RICHARDB said: “Going for the cheapest at the expense of a strategy for 30 years is the problem.”

    That assumes that the our strategy should not be to build in a system that intentionally, and with forethougth, creates intense ongoing competition to drive down costs, year over year, for the next 30 years.

    Such a strategy would likely produce a much different result than a strategy that locked in one expensive system for 30 years, which had zero competition for its niche.

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • common sense

    All of these comment would assume that there is a strategy as some claim. There is no such thing. There is a policy, the VSE. There is an implementation: Constellation. It is quite clear that Constellation is not a strategy. A lot posters here like the military anlogy. So what kind of a strategy is this? Over budget and behind schedule. Would have it worked back during WWII or any war? Please post a link to the 30 year strategy.

    As to the Obama deficit… Oh well.

  • Al Fansome

    Common Sense,

    What do you mean by “strategy”? How do you define it?

    If you read the White House policy statement that came out with the VSE there are clear statements of long-term strategy. There are specific “Goals and Objectives”.
    http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/space/goalsandobjectives.html

    There is a document that presents a strategic plan to meet those goals and objectives called “Bringing the Vision to Reality”.
    http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/space/vision.html

    Now, I might agree with you that this strategy was flawed, primarily because it allowed a NASA Administrator to come in and redirect the entire nation’s civil space agenda towards his personal pet approach (without any adults around to veto his pet approach). But it is still a strategy.

    What is missing from this strategy, which you would add to meet your definition of strategy?

    I am being serious — if you have something specific, this is a lesson learned.

    Regards,

    - Al

    PS — For instance, the VSE did not state that the overarching goal was to “expand human civilization into the Solar System”. This was an important “missing” (or flaw) for me for the VSE, which is something that the Augustine committee addressed today.

  • common sense

    Al,

    I was (poorly maybe) trying to make a point. I’ve been corrected before on the VSE so I am ready to be.

    I think Marburger only started a real enunciation of a strategy, see http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=1116.

    A REAL sustainable strategy MUST address national interests such as, but not limited to, energy independence, national security, education, international relations (related to national security), and possibly more.

    The VSE was essentially stating what and when we would do it, with artificial deadlines based on I don’t know what. ESAS/Constellation provided the how. But where is the “why”? The “why” is what make your vison sustainable, it is the reason good strategies work and bad fail.

    Until I see something along the lines above I will say there is no strategy and NASA will be adrift with little effective support from the public. And no it does not matter the public actually likes NASA. Bluntly, I like some people but I would not give them my money…

    The Augustine panel is reviewing the how and what and when possibly. Someone MUST work the why.

    Hope this helps.

    PS: “expand human civilization into the Solar System” is nice and I adhere to it but try to get anything done with this line – read get budget.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    ‘President Kennedy did not set the manned lunar landing goal for reasons of political expediency.

    “Major Tom” I never said JFK did that, though I think the Bay of Pigs debacle had something to do with it. Do read for comprehension next time.

  • Major Tom

    ““Major Tom” I never said JFK did that”

    Yes, you did. You stated that:

    “Obama will do whatever is politically expedient… After all, with health care “reform” and cap and tax going down in flames, along with his approval numbers, doing a JFK might just start to look attractive.”

    But as the memos linked in my earlier post show, JFK didn’t set the human lunar goal for reasons of international competition, not domestic political expendiency. If President Obama was “doing a JFK”, he would justify his civil human space flight goals by identifying one or more foreign competitors that could be beaten in a space race, not by setting civil human space flight goals as a distraction from problems with a domestic policy agenda.

    “… though I think the Bay of Pigs debacle had something to do with it.”

    The theory that Apollo was a reaction to the failure of Operation Zapata has been put forth by members of the civil space program, specifically Science Advisor Jerome Wiesner, NASA Administrator T. Keith Glennan, and later Carl Sagan, all of whom had little to no insight into the relevant national security decisions or processes. No evidence has come to light to support their suppositions. (This should not be read as a knock against any of these individuals, but we should understand that they’re just guessing without any knowledge of what President Kennedy or his national security advisors were thinking.)

    And regardless, even if the failure of Operation Zapata had something to do with the Apollo decision, it would have in the context of foreign competition — the free world versus the communist world during the Cold War — not as a distraction from problems with a domestic policy agenda.

    “Do read for comprehension next time.”

    Charity starts at home… with your own posts.

    FWIW…

  • “Obama will do whatever is political expedient.”

    “JFK challenged the NASA to land humans on the Moon to distract Americans from the fact that the Commies beat the crap out of us at Bay of Pigs.”

    Obama will destroy the space program.”

    “NASA has no strategy.”

    “NASA is adrift. The Constellation program is a disaster.”

    “I know so much more about rockets and how to run a space program than Michael Griffin.”

    “My space program will be cheaper, faster, and better than the other guy and NASA’s.”

    Sigh. No not all of these are direct quotes, but they are pretty much the sum of what I read on here and at NASA Watch everytime I am online. There are so many damn armchair quaterbacks out there ready to naysay anything and everything. And then people have to throw politics in just for the heck of it. How about chilling out and letting the HSF Review do their work and release their report? Then stake out your position and fight like hell. Of course, Congress and the President are ultimately going to decide in what direction NASA policy and operations will proceed.

  • How about chilling out and letting the HSF Review do their work and release their report?

    Perhaps because we’d like to help influence the HSF Review? It’s a lot easier to get it right in the first place than to fix it after it’s out. Based on today’s results, that seems to have been a good strategy. Had we not complained, or submitted any input, how likely would it be that they identified propellant depots as a key to the solar system?

    Why do you want people to “shut up” in a supposed democracy?

  • Lol! Rand do you really think that you are influencing the HSF Review by commenting on this blog? How much of the discussion in this thread was devoted to what was actually said at the public hearings? If all that is posted on here is nothing but negative, fruitless criticism and whining, then yes please shut the hell up. I have written to HSF Review and have expressed my opinion, but contructively by discussing the merits of the program that I support rather than detracting other programs or making baseless claims about politics. And pray tell me how whatever motivations JFK had for announcing the Apollo programs have to do with influencing HSF Review. I am sure that will be interesting.

  • Rand do you really think that you are influencing the HSF Review by commenting on this blog?

    No, but I don’t think it hurts. Why do you?

    …pray tell me how whatever motivations JFK had for announcing the Apollo programs have to do with influencing HSF Review.

    Because it provides them some historical perspective for their decisions.

    I am sure that will be interesting.

    I suspect that is sarcasm. But whether or not you find it interesting, others, more informed, will.

    You didn’t answer my question. Why do you want people to “shut up,” in a supposed democracy? Perhaps, like the president, you don’t find democracy to your liking?

  • You didn’t answer my question. Why do you want people to “shut up,” in a supposed democracy? Perhaps, like the president, you don’t find democracy to your liking?

    At what point did I say that people should shut up in a democracy? I checked my first comment and could not find that anywhere. My main point was for people to quit making political attacks, baseless accusations, and inane speculations. It is one thing to have a discussion about whether the US should extend the space shuttle program to reduce the “gap” and what are the pros and cons for such a move. It is another to engage in the kind of silliness that is going on here which is ‘much ado about nothing’. People have already made up their minds on what HSF Review is going to do. Everybody from Keith Cowing and Dennis Wingo to Michael Huang have already made their predictions on the outcome of the panel report. I find this laughable on both ends. Argue all you want, but on the merits, not engaging in personal, vindictive attacks or political assassinations.

  • BTW, that last comment, is exactly the kind of cheap shit that I am refering to.

  • At what point did I say that people should shut up in a democracy?

    What, you’re asking for an exact quote? We got the picture from the “chill out” comment, your own political hyperbole (“…engaging in personal, vindictive attacks or political assassinations…”) aside.

    “Political assassinations”?

    And you’re asking us to tone down the language? Hilarious.

    Or scary.

  • Major Tom

    “’Obama will do whatever is political expedient.’

    ‘JFK challenged the NASA to land humans on the Moon to distract Americans from the fact that the Commies beat the crap out of us at Bay of Pigs.’

    ‘Obama will destroy the space program.’

    ‘NASA has no strategy.’

    ‘NASA is adrift. The Constellation program is a disaster.’

    ‘I know so much more about rockets and how to run a space program than Michael Griffin.’

    ‘My space program will be cheaper, faster, and better than the other guy and NASA’s.’

    No not all of these are direct quotes, but they are pretty much the sum of what I read on here and at NASA Watch everytime I am online.’”

    I’d argue that you’re mixing apples and oranges.

    You’re right that false statements and political statements with no basis in fact are useless at best and spread disinformation at worst.

    But statements about the poor performance of the Constellation Program and various NASA management and White House/Congressional oversight mistakes are important to point out for the sake of government accountability and to learn from. They are well recorded in NASA’s own documentation, GAO reports, CBO reports, and press articles — we don’t have to rely on other folks’ blog posts to verify them. Even setting aside alternate policy goals and architectural preferences, it’s been clear for a couple years now that Griffin & Co. were not as smart as they credited themselves to be, and downright overlooked multiple critical systems engineering and launch vehicle issues.

    And, although there’s entirely too little of it, new and old ideas should be brought to the fore and critically discussed at any time, regardless of what reviews may or may not be ongoing. Although the signal-to-noise ratio can get low at times, there are a good number of well-connected, experienced, innovative, and smart folks who visit this and other sites. We should learn from their insights and comments rather than dismiss them simply because they’ve never held the position of NASA Administrator or civil servant.

    My 2 cents… FWIW…

  • Rand, I realize putting words into other people’s mouths that they never uttered is a favorite pastime of yours and you derive particular pleasure out of slamming Democrats and President Obama (and I only have to peek at your blog for a glimpse at that), but your comments are simply unproductive and irrelevant. Sally Ride and her committee discussed extending the space shuttle program to 2012 or 2014. What would be the pros? What would be the cons? What is the best architecture for establishing a spacefaring nation and why? Should we extend ISS cooperation to China? These are the topics that are worth discussing. This particular blog post was about the latest hearings of the Augustine led review and yet it seems that the discussion thread is talking about anything but. I am not talking about toning down the language, but I would like to see people tone down the boring rhetoric, especially the political and personal attacks, and focus on the issues concerning our space program. Most of us who are engaged in the EELV v. Constellation v. Direct debate agree that a fuel depot and transfer vehicle would be the best way of setting up a lunar based infrastructure. Jim Muncy, Dennis Wingo and I have had several discussions regarding that debate without engaging in political sniping. And when Jim Muncy urged other commenters to quit engaging in political attacks I supported him. NASA is not a partisan issue and engaging in political attacks is counterproductive.

  • Rand, I realize putting words into other people’s mouths that they never uttered is a favorite pastime of yours and you derive particular pleasure out of slamming Democrats and President Obama (and I only have to peek at your blog for a glimpse at that)

    Perhaps you can provide examples, from there or otherwise, where I put quote marks around things that none of the people with whom I have political differences actually said, as you did?

    I am not talking about toning down the language, but I would like to see people tone down the boring rhetoric

    Perhaps you can enlighten all of us how we are to distinguish “language” from “political rhetoric,” so we can meet your lofty standards for political discourse, which you yourself seem unable to meet? Then we might all, including you, be able to live up to them?

    I won’t hold my breath.

  • Sorry, that was supposed to be “boring rhetoric,” not that it makes much difference to the point, other than that unlike Gary, I don’t want to misquote people.

  • @Major Tom

    I certainly agree with you that offering constructive criticisms of our current program and offering realistic alternatives is a worthwhile pursuit. But it is another thing to call the Constellation program a disaster, most well-informed critics have acknowledged that the technical problems are fixable and the Ares I and Ares V can be produce if given sufficient funding and time. And that really is the key ‘if’. The root of this debate is funding, or simply money. And I discuss that issue often. However, as I have pointed out several time, every single technical problem with Ares I, whether little or big gets blown way out of proportiong to the reality. Failure is a part of any technical program. The Saturn V had violent thrust oscillation problems too, but von Braun had the acumen to know that failure was a part of that progress and James Webb had the mojo to head off political threats trying to use those technical failures to kill the Apollo program in the early days.

    Whether you like the Constellation program or not, there is a great deal of bipartisan political support for it in Congress, especially since Texas, California, and Florida have big stakes in the program as well as many jobs that are affected by it. But, that is not what naysayers talk about. They say the Constellation program is going to get killed, that HSFR is going to end the program providing unsubstantive reasons why. Just look at the Orlando Sentinel story about Ares I that Norman Augustine directly refuted several days later. I have read a lot and I do not see any substantive evidence to support that conclusion about Constellation. What I do see a lot of is news that more contracts for Ares I production and development being awarded or funded which is a fairly strong indication that Ares I/Orion is going to continue.

  • @Rand Simberg

    I rest my case.

  • The Saturn V had violent thrust oscillation problems too, but von Braun had the acumen to know that failure was a part of that progress and James Webb had the mojo to head off political threats trying to use those technical failures to kill the Apollo program in the early days.

    The Saturn V had TO problems that were fixable, and fixed, from one flight to the next (Apollo VI to Apollo VIII, (Apollo VII was on a Saturn IB)). Ares I has TO problems that won’t be understood for years, until we actually fly a five-segment solid with a dummy payload, billions of dollars later. Do you really not understand the difference? Do you really think all development issues equivalent? Do you have any experience whatsoever with aerospace program management, as many of us do in spades?

    What I do see a lot of is news that more contracts for Ares I production and development being awarded or funded which is a fairly strong indication that Ares I/Orion is going to continue.

    The fact that programs have tremendous political support and inertia tells us nothing about how likely they are to open up space. If the past forty years teaches us anything, it teaches us that.

  • I rest my case.

    Let me more accurately rephrase: “I have no case.”

  • As usual Rand you ignore the context of my argument, which was about whether the Constellation program was going to be killed or continued not about whether the program will lead to a spacefaring society. And Rand you are right, you have no case. Sigh.

  • And Rand you are right, you have no case.

    Gary, when you come up with non-sophomoric (to put it politely, they’re more like Junior High (I know you are, but what am I?)), please come back and provide them.

  • Major Tom

    “But it is another thing to call the Constellation program a disaster, most well-informed critics have acknowledged that the technical problems are fixable”

    Who, besides Griffin, current managers, and others with a vested interest in the program, has stated that all of Constellation’s technical problems are fixable?

    I’m not trying to pick a fight. I just don’t know of anyone with independent technical credentials who has stated (or believes in my day-to-day professional dealings) that the negative lunar margin, launch abort, thrust oscillation, thrust vector control, interstage structure, upper stage redunancy, Orion redundancy, Orion radiation protection, and Orion landing issues are all fixable. The program just has too many technical problems — several of which are potential showstoppers — that are putting the design into a box that it can’t fit into.

    “Failure is a part of any technical program.”

    It depends on what type of failure you’re talking about. A testing failure is one thing. An operational failure is another. And project/program failure is yet another. Some of the former is usually a good thing. Too much of the latter is a very bad thing.

    “The Saturn V had violent thrust oscillation problems too”

    True, but this obscures the differences in how easy or hard it is to deal with the problem on liquid versus solid engines.

    On liquid engines, because it’s a liquid, the propellant itself can help depress the oscillations if relatively minor additions are made to the propellant feed lines. In the case of Saturn V, the solution was simple gas LOX accumulators.

    On solid engines, because it’s a solid, the propellant can’t be used to depress the oscillations. Instead, the structure or forces on the vehicle have to be changed to depress the oscillations. As the ongoing Ares I travails demonstrate, this is a much more difficult engineering problem, involving massive isolators that add lots of weight to the vehicle, springs that make the vehicle’s structure weaker and/or countervailing thrusters that make the vehicle’s propulsion and attitude control systems much more complex.

    [Note: This is not intended to be a liquids versus solids argument -- there are many other considerations. But oscillations are much easier to mitigate on liquids than solids.]

    This also ignores all the other potential Ares I showstoppers, including the negative lunar margin, launch abort, thrust vector control, and interstage structure issues. Saturn V did not have to deal with those problems.

    “and the Ares I and Ares V can be produce if given sufficient funding and time.”

    And how much funding is enough? Ares I/Orion development has gone from $28 billion and to more than $40 billion. NASA’s own estimates for Constellation through first lunar landing have almost doubled — tens of billions of additional dollars — according to CBO. This nation and other countries around the world have been developing equivalent launch vehicles — some for just a few billions of dollars — for decades now. There’s no excuse for this kind of cost growth on this kind of development — especially when NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate has received $2.5 billion MORE over the past five fiscal years than what the Bush II Administration promised in the first VSE budget in FY 2004.

    And how much time is enough? When ESAS and Griffin redirected Constellation in 2005, Ares I/Orion was suppossed to be operational in 2012 (7 years into the future) and the first lunar mission was to occur in 2018-20 (13-15 years into the future). Five years of Constellation development have passed. What schedule progress do we have to show for it? Well, the Aerospace Corporation told the Augustine Committee earlier this week that an operational Ares I/Orion system isn’t likely until 2017 at the earliest (8 years into the future) and that the first lunar mission isn’t likely until 2028 at the earliest (19 years in the future). Not only has Constellation not made any progress against its major milestones, those milestones are farther — YEARS FARTHER — into the future than they were five years ago. Again, this nation and other countries around the world have been developing equivalent launch vehicles — some in under a handful of years — for decades now. There’s no excuse for this kind of schedule slippage on this kind of development — especially when NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate has received $2.5 billion MORE over the past five fiscal years than what the Bush II Administration promised in the first VSE budget in FY 2004.

    I’m not trying to be mean, but it’s silly at best and downright stupid at worst to argue that Constellation just needs to be given adequate time and money. The program has actually received more funding than it was promised and has no progress to show for it (unless you count multi-ten billion dollar cost increases and negative schedule progress as progress). If that’s not a waste of taxpayer dollars not deserving of additional funding and time, then I don’t know what is.

    “The root of this debate is funding, or simply money.”

    Yes and no. Money is an issue, but it’s due to cost growth, not funding.

    And even if cost or schedule were no object, Constellation has multiple technical issues that may be unresolveable, several of which would be program showstoppers.

    And even if we didn’t care about that, there are legitimate concerns that Constellation does little to meets the policy goals set by the VSE.

    “bipartisan political support”

    Congressional support for Constellation is more parochial (and narrow) than it is bipartisan (or broad). It’s not principle-based agreement; it’s every NASA human space flight field center for itself.

    “But, that is not what naysayers talk about. They say the Constellation program is going to get killed, that HSFR is going to end the program providing unsubstantive reasons why.”

    Can you point to where such a statement has been made? Since it’s the program of record, Augustine has stated that he has include Constellation in the options forwarded to the White House. Moreover, the Augustine Committee is only going to present options (and maybe recommendations). They can’t “end” anything. There’s probably a blog comment from someone somewhere, but I honestly can’t think of anyone who has stated otherwise that the Augustine Committee is certain to kill the Constellation program.

    “Just look at the Orlando Sentinel story about Ares I that Norman Augustine directly refuted several days later.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Augustine hasn’t said anything about any Sentinel articles. And although the Sentinel has reported that NASA managers and contractors are pulling personnel from Constellation because they think the Augustine Committee is going to recommend a different program, the Sentinel has not stated that the Augustine Committee will kill Constellation. In fact, the Sentinel quotes one contractor as saying that “it’s still too early to pronounce Ares I dead”.

    “What I do see a lot of is news that more contracts for Ares I production and development being awarded”

    Huh? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the only Ares I contract awarded this year was a subcontract from Boeing to ATK for the upper stage ullage motor. That’s not “a lot… more contracts”.

    And Ares V and other Constellation competitions and contract awards have been put on hold pending the results of the Augustine Committee’s report.

    FWIW…

  • Rhyolite

    Major Tom,

    Thank you for you very thorough posts.

    Do you know where one could find a breakdown for the $40 billion Ares I/Orion development cost? I am astounded by that number and would like to understand what is driving it.

  • common sense

    @Gary,

    I am a little perplexed here of what I read from you. There is an on-going government appointed self proclaimed public review of HSF. Whether I like others’ opinions or not does not matter. What matters is that they express their opinions and if they have a case then be it, hopefuly based on facts not wishful thinking or delusion.

    I would not discount the fact that HSF review members may read this and other sites. Some people who post here are very well informed but may not have the opportunity or time to go to any of the public meeting. I am sure though that some may have already posted on the HSF review site. And btw if the HSF review decided to have a website I would surmise that it is probably to attract those people who actually are on the Internet.

    As to whether Constellation is or is not the way to go, we will know soon. I think the premises of Constellation were flawed at the very least: Easy, soon and affordable. It is neither. And if you have worked from up close or from afar on CEV/Ares you MUST know that. Am I saying that any program would come easier or more affordable? I don’t know for sure and the HSF review hopefully will tell.

    Note I would love though that at least the HSF review includes workforce issues in their options and be upfront about it with the public. It would be ludicrous to provide technical-only options. We shall see.

  • Major Tom

    “Do you know where one could find a breakdown for the $40 billion Ares I/Orion development cost?”

    Sorry, I am not aware of any publicly available document that I could point you to that breaks down the current costs.

    As far as I know, the jump from $28 billion to $40 billion was first reported back in early May, in articles like these:

    http://articles.latimes.com/2009/may/06/nation/na-shuttle6

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2009180675_nasa06.html

    But as early as April, the Associate Administrator for ESMD was quoting a figure of $36 billion:

    http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_space_thewritestuff/2009/07/what-are-the-real-costs-of-nasas-constellation-program.html

    And after those reports, in early June, the Ares I program manager quoted a figure of $35 billion for the Augustine Committee:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/18/science/space/18nasa.html?_r=1

    The bottom line is that NASA probably doesn’t have a good handle on what the specific, total development figure or breakout is given the program’s multiple technical issues, shifting requirements, lack of completed PDR, and slipping schedules. Given the above, it’s likely somewhere in the $35-45 billion range if the program delivers by its target date of 2015, but more like $55-65 billion (my guesstimate) if the program doesn’t start flying operationally until 2017, which the independent Aerospace Corp. told the Augustine Committee is much more probable.

    The cost growth on Ares I/Orion is consistent with an independent CBO report from earlier this year which noted (on page 17) that NASA’s cost estimate for Constellation through first lunar landing has risen from $40-57 billion to $92 billion:

    http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/100xx/doc10051/04-15-NASA.pdf

    CBO estimates the Constellation figure will more likely be $110 billion through first lunar landing.

    “I am astounded by that number and would like to understand what is driving it.”

    Usually the biggest driver of cost growth in any engineering development project is schedule slippage. The longer it takes to build something, the longer you have to keep the development team together, and the longer you have to pay them. The operational date for Ares I/Orion has slipped from 2012 to 2014 to 2015 and now likely 2017. Ares I-X, Orion PDR, Ares I PDR completion, and and Ares I and Orion CDR dates have similarly slipped. To first order, that is what’s driving the costs through the roof. (See the cost increase on the Mars Science Laboratory that resulted from slipping its launch date from 2009 to 2011 for another example of schedule slips and workforce driving total program costs.)

    Of course, you have to ask why the schedule is slipping, and that goes to the technical issues on the project. I won’t point you towards the dozens of press articles on thrust oscillation, launch abort, mass margin and other issues, but for a couple years now, GAO has warned that many of these issues would come back to bite the program. Here’s one such report:

    http://gop.science.house.gov/Media/hearings/space08/april3/chaplain.pdf

    Finally, some press reports have repeated NASA management complaints about budget reductions being the driver of the schedule slips and cost growth on Constellation. This is simply not true. Between FY 2004 (the first fiscal year for the VSE) and FY 2009 (the last budget of the Bush II Administration), NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD — the division within NASA responsible for building Constellation) received almost $2.5 billion more than than what the Bush II Administration promised in the FY 2004 budget.

    Here’s what was promised in the FY 2004 budget:

    FY 2004 $1,646.0M
    FY 2005 $1,782.0M
    FY 2006 $2,579.0M
    FY 2007 $2,941.0M
    FY 2008 $2,809.0M
    FY 2009 $3,313.0M

    Total $15,070.0M

    And here’s what ESMD actually received in each fiscal year:

    FY 2004 $2684.5M
    FY 2005 $2209.3M
    FY 2006 $3050.1M
    FY 2007 $2869.8M
    FY 2008 $3299.4M
    FY 2009 $3505.5M

    Total $17,618.6M

    The total difference is $2,458.6 million. So the Bush II Administration and prior Congresses provided almost $2.5 billion more for ESMD than what the Bush II Administration promised to develop systems and technologies to return to the Moon. This doesn’t include the $400 million that ESMD received in the Recovery Act (passed after the Bush II Administration), which would increase the total difference to $3 billion.

    There is no way that budget reductions or deferments are the cause of the schedule slips in Constellation/Ares I/Orion because there have been none. Other parts of the NASA budget have been cut, but not ESMD. In fact, ESMD’s budget has been larger than the Bush II Administration’s original VSE budget commitments.

    Like most engineering development projects, the cause of Ares I/Orion cost growth is schedule slippage brought about by an underestimation of the technical challenges involved in the selected design.

    Not exactly what you were looking for, but I hope it helps.

    FWIW…

  • @Major Tom

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Augustine hasn’t said anything about any Sentinel articles. And although the Sentinel has reported that NASA managers and contractors are pulling personnel from Constellation because they think the Augustine Committee is going to recommend a different program, the Sentinel has not stated that the Augustine Committee will kill Constellation.

    Here are some links for you to goto. The first is for the Orlando Sentinel post written by Robert Block. Interestingly this post is no longer listed on their archive website. I had to pull this through a cached link.

    http://74.125.95.132/search?q=cache:OHKqH3o_r10J:www.orlandosentinel.com/news/space/orl-nasa-ares-moon-mission-changes-071409,0,2316961.story%3FFORM%3DZZNR6+orlando+sentinel+constellation+ares+I+augustine+robert+block&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

    Here is a direct quote from the story written on July 14:

    Members of the presidentially appointed panel reviewing the future of America’s manned-space plans have asked NASA to design a new way to send astronauts back to the moon.

    The request could result in NASA ditching the controversial Ares I rocket design that the agency has spent the past four years and more than $3 billion creating and defending. And any redesign would almost certainly delay NASA’s first-launch deadline of 2015, though most critics no longer consider that deadline realistic.</blockquote?

    I can also cite Michael Huang’s opinion columns written in The Space Review that has made claims that the intent of the Augustine led HSF Review was to rubberstamp President Obama’s intention of killing the Constellation program and human spaceflight altogether. Do you want me to give those links? There are plenty of other articles I can pull off of Google anytime stating that the HSF Review will likely call for ending the Constellation program as well as hundreds of comments made on this blg and over at NASA Watch that make those claims. I am not the one making the claims or intimating that Augustine panel will be directly responsible for what happens to the Constellation program. You are right that they will be providing Congress with several sets of options and the Constellation program will be among those options.

    Here is a link to Norman Augustine’s comments he made on July 17 that directly refuted such insinuations as made by Robert Block, and no he did not specifically name Mr. Block but there is little question as to who he was refering to:

    http://www.floridatoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090718/NEWS02/907180320

    and here is a quote from that article made by Norman Augustine:

    We’ve looked at various versions of Ares, derivatives to Ares, alternatives to Ares, and I think it would be a totally incorrect characterization to describe it in any way as dead in the water, or modified, or alive at this point,” he told reporters Friday during a conference call. “We’re looking at a whole bunch of possibilities.

    So yes in fact Mr. Augustine felt that was what was being implied and that people were jumping to the wrong conclusions.

    “It depends on what type of failure you’re talking about. A testing failure is one thing. An operational failure is another. And project/program failure is yet another. Some of the former is usually a good thing. Too much of the latter is a very bad thing.”

    Since Ares I is currently in testing and development, you should be able to figure that one out when we are talking about failures. Since Ares I is currently not operational such failure is nonexistent at this point as is program failure since program has not yet been completed and current law requires NASA to complete Constellation program development.

    True, but this obscures the differences in how easy or hard it is to deal with the problem on liquid versus solid engines.

    The Saturn V did not happen overnight. That rocket was the result of over 30 years of liquid fuel rocket development. It is a descendent of the A-4, also known as V2, created by Wernher von Braun’s rocket team. And over that time, that team experienced no less than hundreds of development and testing failures. Wernher von Braun was even arrested and threatened with execution for the delays caused by Germany’s rocket program. General Herman Goering had to step in and save von Braun’s ass several times.

    “And how much funding is enough? Ares I/Orion development has gone from $28 billion and to more than $40 billion. NASA’s own estimates for Constellation through first lunar landing have almost doubled — tens of billions of additional dollars — according to CBO. This nation and other countries around the world have been developing equivalent launch vehicles — some for just a few billions of dollars — for decades now. There’s no excuse for this kind of cost growth on this kind of development — especially when NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate has received $2.5 billion MORE over the past five fiscal years than what the Bush II Administration promised in the first VSE budget in FY 2004.”

    Here is another quote from another article about Norman Augustine:

    “The budget at this point is clearly driving the program, without question,” Augustine told reporters after a hearing Thursday in Cocoa Beach, Fla.

    There is enough money in next year’s budget request for a “conservative” crewed program beyond low Earth orbit, but that would require immediately scrapping the space shuttle and International Space Station, Augustine said.

    Here is the link:

    http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n0907/30augustine/

    Augustine clearly was acknowledging that the budget is affecting the space program. Sally Ride is also on record over this last week as saying that one of the biggest problems with Ares I development was underfunding. You keep claiming this 2.5 billion, where do you get this from? The increase from stimulus funding? Cite me the links that show this. NASA funding from 2006 was frozen in 2007. John Glenn has said that the program was underfunded putting much of the blame on President Bush. Here is a link to another article which includes both Harrison Schmidt and Norman Augustine:

    http://khaleejtimes.ae/displayarticle.asp?xfile=data/todaysfeatures/2009/July/todaysfeatures_July24.xml&section=todaysfeatures&col=

    here is a quote:

    Astronaut Harrison Schmitt, part of the last Apollo mission to the moon in 1972, told AFP that the Constellation was conceptually “excellent” but had been underfunded.

    “The underfunding is massive. It’s not the program that is wrong, it’s the way that has been funded,” he said.

    Meanwhile, a group of active and retired NASA engineers who are critical of the Constellation project, have been working in their spare time on a parallel project dubbed DIRECT Jupiter.

    It envisions using the Orion capsule but replacing the Ares launchers with a family of launchers with common components based on existing shuttle technology.

    The group has presented proposals to Obama’s commission on human space flight saying their project would cost less to develop and get astronauts back to the moon more quickly.

    The commission chairman, respected former Lockheed Martin chief executive Norman Augustine, said it comes down to money.

    “With a few exceptions, we have the technology or the knowledge that we could go to Mars if we wanted with humans. We could put a telescope on the moon if we wanted,” he said.

    “The technology is by and large there. It boils down to what can we afford?”

    TBC…

  • Oops! Apparently I missed a bracket when using html script. My apologies.

  • @common sense

    @common sense

    I cannot be sure if you read the first section of comments posted but most of them were nothing less than partisan snipes having nothing to do with the ongoing review. That nonsense does little to foster any real discussion about current issues. Dennis Wingo, Paul Spudis, Keith Cowing, Jim Muncy, and many others have made critical assessments of the Constellation and even thought I do not agree with them on some of that I can respect them because they are willing to put their names on the comments and stand behind what they say. What is more they do not engage in the partisan mudslinging even though they differ politically. In fact, they make efforts to avoid. Keith Cowing does engage in frivolity from time to time, but then who doesn’t? ;-) But too many commenters put stuff out there that is simply made up or provide no basis for their claims and what is worse are not willing to put their names to their statements. It is hard to accept anything that they say. I am more than aware that a number of people within the industry read these blogs and perhaps even some members of the review panel though given the amount of work and pressure that they are under I find it hard to believe that panel members would have the time. I used a blog name at one time too, but I realized that using my real name has advantages as well. If you want to be taken more seriously, then be willing to use your real name. It shows that at least you stand by what you say which may not be realistic or sensible but at least those panel members may be willng to take you more seriously.

  • common sense

    @Gary,

    I know what you mean but (un)fortunately that is how an open process has to work: The informed and the uninformed, the believers and non-believers must participate. Believe me, I do fume too quite often about some of the nonsense posted here and there. On the other hand as you say, I myself had very polite and constructive arguments with those you mentionned and most of the time those who know just don’t brag or don’t try to mislead but rather tend to listen and argue well constructed thesis.

    However I disagree when it comes to anonymity as not everyone of us can afford to have their names in the open; goes to say on how sad it is to have an opinion that may be contrary to potential employer/manager/etc. Also an argument must stand on its facts and logic; if it does then it really does not matter who you are.

    Maybe the HSFR panel read this to think about somethiong else… ;o

  • Ron Carlson

    Given America’s current financial crisis, I think consideration should be given to

    1) Extending the Shuttle as long as possible,

    2) Dumping Ares I and substituting a human rated Delta IV Heavy for trips to the ISS,

    3) Use a Shuttle derived heavy lift vehicle ( the “Shannon Shuttle”) for a cargo carrier,

    4) Immediately institute serious studies on how to mitigate lethal space radiation hazards to our astronauts and cosmonauts for long term deep space travel.

    Just saying . . .

  • Gary,

    Buzz Aldrin and Harrison Schmitt are two gentleman who got FREE RIDES to the moon 40 years ago, and now feel free to use their celebrity status to make public anti-science statements about things they know nothing about, in support of further unsustainable and unaffordable jaunts back to the moon and Mars for no good reasons at all. Among scientists, physicists and engineers who do know what they are talking about, and do understand the challenges and costs of these kinds of vanity human space flight missions, the giggle factor and behind their back snickering is palpable. If you want to join these cranks in discussing things you are intellecutally and educationally ill prepared for, by all means, feel free to do so. This is America. Stupidity is legal, and encouraged, apparently.

  • Mr. Elifritz,

    The debate about human versus robotic exploration is long past. I do not know what you have been reading of late, but the far majority of those who have been discussing human spaceflight in scientific, engineering, and political circles have supported moving beyond low Earth orbit. And they are every bit intelligent and well-informed. Your characterization of Buzz Aldrin and Harrison Schmitt is rather maladroit. I may not agree with Buzz Aldrin’s view of Mars, but that does not mean I think he is and idiot or a crank. Harrison Schmitt is a scientist and he performed rather brilliantly on the last manned lunar mission, so to say that his ride to the Moon was free or that he uses his celebrity status to push for more manned spaceflight is rather disingenuous. Perhaps your circle of friends snicker at the concept of human spaceflight, but that simply shows how small your circle is and how small-minded they are.

  • Rhyolite

    Major Tom,

    Thank you for the links.

    To gauge the cost of Ares I we need to subtract Orion development costs out of the ESMD totals. I believe that Lockheed’s 2006 contract for design, development, testing, and evaluation (DDT&E) contract was for $3.9 billion. This contract runs through 2013 so only a portion of the funds have been spend so far. There were also pre-contract study funds and internal NASA expenditures for Orion that I don’t have figures for. However, unless I am missing something major, that still leaves well over $10 billion in ESMD funds to date after Orion is subtracted off.

    To put the Ares I costs in perspective, the Air Force’s total research and development expenditures for EELV (both Atlas V and Delta IV) came to $1,837.2M as of August, 2007. See page 75 of the following:

    http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA479603&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf

    I think that Lockheed and Boeing may have self funded a portion of their development in anticipation of a robust commercial market but I can’t find any data on this. The total procurement funding for EELV as of March, 2008 was $25,155.1M but that included the cost for 109 vehicles.

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