Congress, NASA

Seeking “adequate” budgets that are matched to “a worthy mission”

While Congress is on summer recess this month, some members are keeping an eye on the Augustine committee’s deliberations and making public comments about them. On Monday Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), chair of the space subcommittee of the House Science Committee, issued a statement on “threats to NASA’s budget”, citing the comments by the Augustine committee last week that human exploration programs weren’t possible on the current schedule with the current budget. In it, she said the nation needs “a sustained national commitment, including adequate funding” to realize a “robust initiative” of exploration. “The Obama Administration and Congress have a singular opportunity to ensure that America remains a preeminent space-faring nation over the coming decades. The rest of the world is watching, and my hope is that we step up to the challenge.”

Giffords’ statement comes a day after an op-ed in TCPalm.com by Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL), whose district includes part of the Space Coast. In it he, too, calls for funding sufficient to carry out the nation’s exploration goals. “Budgets are a reality, but proper leadership can and should match the budget to a worthy mission – not the mission to the budget,” he writes. He said he asked the Augustine committee “to think outside the arbitrary budget numbers placed on NASA – $18.8 billion out of a total $3.6 trillion budget, less than half a percent of the federal budget.”

78 comments to Seeking “adequate” budgets that are matched to “a worthy mission”

  • Michael

    After analyzing NASA, it’s time for the committee to put the spotlight on OMB and OSTP.

    Why did OMB/OSTP give the committee a budget line inadequate for any option outside LEO?

  • Why did OMB/OSTP give the committee a budget line inadequate for any option outside LEO?

    They didn’t. There is plenty of money to get out of LEO, but NASA chose to spend it instead on getting into LEO.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    “They didn’t. There is plenty of money to get out of LEO, but NASA chose to spend it instead on getting into LEO.”

    Ah, NASA has to spend money to get into LEO in order to get beyond LEO. That would be true even for a purely commercial Earth to LEO solution.

  • The solution is simple, allocate 3% of the stimulus package ($20B) to match the budget to the proven needs namely; accelerating Constellation and covering the gap with one or two STS missions per year until Ares I/Orion is operational. Extend ISS until its cost exceeds its research benefits, and give science and advanced technology a big boost. All this will productively stimulate industry, technology, science and education. NASA is one of the world’s leading technology and science centers, don’t cripple it, fund it!

  • MrEarl

    What we are witnessing is the dismantling of the worlds pre-emanate human space program.

  • aremisasling

    Moon Mars Beyond,
    I agree on all counts except for continuing STS. I like the shuttle and it has done a decent job, even if it didn’t come close to it’s original specs. I grew up in the shuttle era and attended a space camp designed entirely around the shuttle program as a kid. But I can’t help but realize the sobering reality that the STS program needs reworking and revitalizing to add any launches beyond what they already have on the manifest. As it is, the AMS experiment is going to fly with a tank originally intended as a backup. The supply line is dead, as are many of the people who built it. Restarting STS manufacturing is only slightly more feasible than restarting Apollo. Throwing money at that option is just financially chasing our own tails.

    Aremis

  • John Malkin

    @MrEarl

    I think it’s more likely that we will see a commitment not only by the President but congress to commit to a long range robust American space program that will change space access forever. The congress has been bi-partisan about space and a large number of them really want to see something big and the Presidents needs something big. This moment could change everything if two Presidents from two different parties support a strong space access program including supporting new companies as well as NASA.

    Lockheed Martin’s dual Orion mission is a compromise we can’t afford. It will be like Apollo-Soyuz or Skylab with a few missions and done for another 40 years. Large aerospace don’t address the big picture.

  • Terrestrial muse

    Maybe these good members of Congress should talk to their colleague Mr. Mollohan about the funding issues since he cut exploration funding by hundreds of millions.

    He says he’ll put the money back, but he already spent those funds on other programs.

    He’ll now get pressure to keep the elevated funding levels in other places and now will have to disappoint someone somewhere.

    The House might as well start with the problem in their own back yard.

    Best of luck.

  • Obama needs to choose the cheapest and the fastest architecture that can return us to the Moon to establish a permanent human presence on the lunar surface. And that’s obviously the SD-HLV. He also needs to raise the annual NASA budget by $3 billion annually so that the Shuttles can continue to fly until then Orion HLV is ready. The SD_HLV vehicles should be ready for full scale testing by 2014 or 2015.

    There should be plenty enough funds to start to fully fund the Altair lunar lander so that we can be back on the lunar surface by 2016.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Marcel

    I disagree – We can do deep space cheaper, if we acknowledge that we don’t need heavy lift.

    Its time to start talking about in-space infrastructure

  • Ah, NASA has to spend money to get into LEO in order to get beyond LEO.

    Not as much as they were planning to spend, to build their own custom-designed system.

  • Extend ISS until its cost exceeds its research benefits…

    Too late.

  • @Ferris Valyn

    The problem with any long deep space venture is the requirement for heavy mass shielding from solar and galactic radiation and the ability to transport such heavy mass shielded structures through interplanetary space. That’s going to require the development of light sail technology, IMO.

    We already know how to manufacture ultralight light sail material on Earth from carbon nano tubes. The question is, can we manufacture such material and assemble them at an L1, L2, L4, or L5 launch point. A 20 km light sail, for instance, with a support structure should weigh less than 36 tonnes but should be able to transport at least 2500 tonnes to Mars in less than a year. Such a reusable interplanetary transport system could totally open up the solar system for human colonization and asteroid exploitation.

    The mass shielding for manned interplanetary space craft could come from lunar regolith if it were transported into lunar orbit by lunar mass drivers. However, liquid hydrogen would be the lightest mass shield and would probably add only a few hundred tonnes to the mass of a small manned interplanetary vehicle. The moons of Mars could eventually be the cheapest source for hydrogen shielding to protect humans during long interplanetary journeys.

    I’d like to see a light sail manufacturing facility launched by a few SD-HLVs to L1 at least by the year 2024 so that we could begin to establish a human presence on Mars by 2026 (10 years after I believe we should establish a permanent presence on the lunar surface).

  • MrEarl

    Boy, some of you guys are really dreaming! Solar/light sails, beyond LEO without Heavy Lift. Congress and the Obama administration coming together with an extra 3 billion a year for human space flight. Why don’t we just click our heels together three times and say, “There’s no place like Mars, there’s no place like Mars”, and maybe we’ll get there before the end of the 21st century!

  • Ferris Valyn

    MrEarl – You can do the beyond LEO without Heavy Lift, and stay in budget. In fact, its the Heavy lift that puts you out of budget, particularly if it is a Shuttle Derived vehicle

    Marcel – I don’t actually disagree with you, but Cis-lunar is deep space, and we are going to start with simpler systems – chemical prop, capsules, and the like. Light sails are definitely a possibility, but I’d consider them not on the critical path, because of the required mass, and tech levels involved.

    So, for the foreseeble future, we are looking at visiting NEOs, and lunar orbit, utilizing chemical propulsion, and prop depots

  • It’s beginning to look like NASA is still in LEO-the astrological LEO!

    People get real. As soon as NASA lifts the ban on use of nuclear propulsion for space access the U.S. and other space faring nations participating could actually have a space based industry that participates in their respective economies. Chemical rocketry has reached its ceiling at 450 Isp that’s it. No amount of marketing or “Side Show Bob” sales pitches can change physics.

    If you want a limited space program for elites to crow about; fine…carry on. But if you want to build space infrastrucure for the vast majority to particpate in for the long run you have to go with the nuclear science family of space technologies.

  • @Ferris Valyn

    The SD-HLV could place nearly 48 tonnes of net payload into L1. A 20 kilometer in diameter light sail should weigh less than 36 tonnes, the light sail material itself would weigh only 12 tonnes. So light sails don’t weigh very much.

    Building a kite in space that big might seem daunting. But how hard is it to build a big kite in a microgravity environment? A kite should be a lot simpler to build than any rocket. Robots could tie the sail sheets together by remote control from Earth.

    Manufacturing the carbon sheets at L1 is going to be the hard part since the carbon sheets would probably be too fragile to launch from Earth. So a solar powered automated carbon sheet factory that would have to be designed that weighs less than 50 tonnes.

    Once a light sail is built, it should have a life time of at least 30 years or more, should require very little maintenance, and of course would require no fuel.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Mr. Behrhorst

    Lets assume that, tomorrow, NASA could utilize all of the space nuclear propulsion it wanted – would anything change? I submit that it wouldn’t, for a number of reason – cost to orbit still incredibly high, no actual vehicle that can utilize nuclear propulsion, no actual working nuclear rocket, and so on.

    Now, I have no problem with nuclear rockets, but don’t view them as some sort of panecia.

    Mr. Marcel Williams,

    The same thing applies to light sails – show me one that is close to flight ready, or a space craft that can interface with it. And show me a cheap method of getting said light sail into orbit. Because any shuttle derived is too expensive to fit in budget. The only heavy lift that could concievably fit within budget is an EELV derived vehicle.

    Furthermore, while something like lightsails woudl be good for distance travel, it doesn’t necessarily alter our relationship with space – it doesn’t bring the price to orbit down, it doesn’t directly give us access to new resources, it doesn’t create a new market.

    @both

    I am a firm believer in the need for a tech development program, and I would love to see some work done on these thigns. But we need something that can fundementally alter our relationship with space, so we can become a spacefaring society.

    This is more than just the need for a new technology – we need something that can grow, and expand, and bring in new players, and engage with new sectors of funding. The best hope for this is the commercial sector. And the best way to do this is to introduce markets into the system. Therefore, what we need is a plan/program that can organically grow, and bring in new partners, that attack the high fixed operational costs.

    A prop depot based architecture is the best option that does this.

  • Light sails are space manufactured solar sails. I proposed that a carbon nanotube light sail factory be placed at L1 in the year 2024 (15 years from now).

    Light sails would dramatically reduce the cost of interplanetary space travel since the fuel is free and the light sail space craft could operate for several decades with very little maintenance. So you only have the capital cost to worry about.

    If light sails start to be mass produced in space then the capital cost should fall dramatically. If the source material for the sail material comes from asteroids or from the Moons of Mars, then the capital cost will fall even more dramatically.

    The current cost estimates for the development of a SD-HLV is only $6.6 billion (~the cost of a couple of weeks of military occupation in Iraq). That, however, does not include the cost of the Orion and Altair vehicles or the EDS upper stages for translunar injection.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Mr. Willaims,

    I am well aware of what a light sail is.
    Light sails are space manufactured solar sails. I proposed that a carbon nanotube light sail factory be placed at L1 in the year 2024 (15 years from now).
    1. Do we even have the manufacturing technology to make carbon nanotubes on this scale? I don’t know, but I’d be surprised if we did

    Second, there is a lot of time between no, and 2024 – this might be beneficial, but lets consider what we are doing between now and then first

    Light sails would dramatically reduce the cost of interplanetary space travel since the fuel is free and the light sail space craft could operate for several decades with very little maintenance. So you only have the capital cost to worry about.
    Fuel, as a rule, isn’t that expensive. And the capital cost involved in this project is not small

    If light sails start to be mass produced in space then the capital cost should fall dramatically. If the source material for the sail material comes from asteroids or from the Moons of Mars, then the capital cost will fall even more dramatically.
    Those are 2 huge ifs. Not necessarily bad for planning in the future, but lets consider the first 5-10 years, before we consider the first 15

    The current cost estimates for the development of a SD-HLV is only $6.6 billion (~the cost of a couple of weeks of military occupation in Iraq). That, however, does not include the cost of the Orion and Altair vehicles or the EDS upper stages for translunar injection.
    1. Forgetting for the moment the development costs, SD-HLVs have huge operating costs – as was pointed out during the last A-com meeting, if Santa delievered a working SD-HLV, vehicle, and a EDS and ALtair and Orion, it woudl be well beyond the scope of the budget.

    We need something that minimizes operating costs, and limits development costs. Shuttle derived will never do it

  • Fred

    GAO 2007 forcast for the cost of Ares 1 was $30B. SpaceX, a private company has built their Falcon 1 LV, their Falcon 9 LV AND their Dragon capsule for a total cost of somewhere south of half a billion.
    That’s 1/60 the cost of Ares 1 alone. 1/120 the cost if you include Orion.
    Could it be that there is something badly wrong with the way NASA does business?

  • Annon

    What Obama will do is use the Augustine recommendations to keep the Shuttle flying to 2012 at so it will be available for his Florida campaign photo ops for the next election. Approve “development” of the SD-HLV to keep votes in Florida and Alabama. And make a speech about going to Mars to sound futuristic and pull in the space cadet vote. But the NASA budget won’t change and SD-HLV along with human spaceflight will be allowed to quietly die in his second term consistent with his first space goal.

    To Obama space (i.e. Apollo) is just an example to use of how a government program is able to accomplish anything. If America could go to the Moon America could…. Which is why I don’t expect money for COTS-D, it would be inconvenient for Obama to have a private program succeed where a government one failed.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Annon,

    Given how much the SD-HLV is a piece of crap, I’d rather it never fly.

    As for your second paragraph, well, I would hope that there would be a medical procedure to remove your head from your rectum, but so far I haven’t seen one

  • Terry S

    As to Mars, a few words

    Bigelow habitat for the trip; Sundancer is big enough at 175 cu/m and can be launched on a Falcon 9 (this combo is on SpX’s manifest for 2011 in fact)

    Orion CEV; if NASA can finish it, that is. BTW: why carry the CEV there and back? Take the crew up however, do the mission, then have an Orion or other return vehicle rendezvous for the landing. Saves a load of mass and makes the trip faster.

    A lander/RV; don’t over think this one – KISS. Just big enough to do the job.

    12-25 MWe space nuclear reactor; this is possible using uranium nitride in about the volume of a hot tub. Look up Hyperion Power.

    an array of VASIMR thrusters; underfunded for ages and our best bet for high SI space power

    and connecting bits.

    A Mars hab; launched first with O2 generators. Think Bigelow’s 330 cu/m lunar hab concepts.

  • common sense

    My friends I have a real problem with some comments here. So. I am a little slow and I would hope someone to explain it to me in layman’s terms if at all possible.

    Solar sails, SD-HLV, L1-5 way stations and manufacturing plants, array of VASIMRs… Okay.

    Question: NASA was not able to manage a program based on EXISTING technologies (Ares/Orion) which has blown its budget. Can any of the posters lay down a simple yet realistic approach, budgetary wise, as to how NASA will accomplish any of that above?

    Note: If any one actually can, please send it quickly to Augustine, Bolden and the WH!!! Really! Hurry!

  • NASA’s problem right now is that it is being asked to:

    1. Continue funding the ISS at $1 to $2 billion annually
    2. Continue funding the Space Shuttle at $3 billion annually
    3. Develop a totally new replacement for the shuttle from scratch
    4. And develop a heavy lift vehicle plus a lunar landing vehicle and a lunar base architecture from scratch

    And to do all of this– all at once with a budget about half that given to NASA during the Apollo program in today’s dollars, a program that was focused on just doing one thing– not 4 or 5 things at once.

  • common sense

    @Marcel F. Williams:

    I am not sure whether you are/were part of this program at any time, Constellation that is. But I can tell you this. It is not a problem of budget, at least not entirely. It is more profound than that. So let me repeat, the technology for Ares exists (Shuttle SRBs), for Orion exists or existed (Apollo). This being said, NASA requires 10s of Billions (BILLIONS!) of dollars to make it happen in much longer than it took Apollo to do the whole thing including Saturn from SCRATCH.

    How can you believe they can do what you want? And how long do you give them? The second question being much more important. If you tell me NASA can do it I am all with you. If you tell me 15 years from now then I say you are DREAMING. Note that it’s good to dream a little BUT it is difficult to get a budget passed with dreams.

    In order for it to happen within 15 years the changes would be so drastic at NASA and THE WHOLE SYSTEM including the WH/OMB, Congress, Industry relation that I still think it is a DREAM. Proof: The SYSTEM is afraid of letting private space have a go, so far. Talk about risks and innovation…

    We shall see.

  • @common sense

    Its about fastest and most economical choices. I don’t see any way that NASA is going to stop the development of the Orion (CEV). And there’s no reason why the Orion should not be ready in 5 or 6 years since its currently being fully funded.

    But I think the Ares 1 (some funding) and probably the Ares V (practically no funding) are doomed.

    We already have a heavy lift vehicle in the current shuttle except most of the heavy lift architecture is used to lift the reusable orbiter. That’s I favor the Side-mount since it uses the same basic architecture that we already have. So you’re not changing the ET and you’re not changing the SRBs and your not changing the SSME except they’ll be expendable and permanently fastened to the ET. But there will be no more fragile thermal tiles to maintain and no more winged vehicle.

    There’s no one stopping private industry from doing anything. Private industry exist in the US and around the world and are already developing their own lowly financed space programs– even though they have access to far money than NASA’s manned space program could ever dream of. Private industry just hasn’t figured out a way (or doesn’t want to figure out a way) to make money from manned space travel without trying to get government contract guarantees and tax payer money. The best thing private industry can do is to stop trying to get corporate welfare from the tax payers and just invest their own private money to do what they want to do in space– if they think they can make a profit out of it!

  • Terry S

    What about man/hours and the infrastructure costs vs. a BDR like one of the higher block ULA’s? Might be worth a look at the long term costs.

  • John Malkin

    I agree with Mr. Williams that private industry has taken little risk when it comes to manned spaceflight except in recent years with the space entrepreneurs like Scaled Composites, Bigelow and others. Boeing, Lockheed are addicted to government contracts.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Mr. Williams

    The problem remains – we don’t have the budget to do things on that scale, utilizing a Shuttle Derived vehicle. All of the options that utilize a shuttle derived system, require a 3 billion increase.

    Further, your’s and Mr. Malkin’s comment about “private industry not taking risk” – let me offer up a comment here, that I tihkn gets to the heart of what is really being discussed. From Jeff Greason,

    NASA in my view, this is a personal view and not a consensus, NASA should not just go out and buy things from the private sector for the sake of having a private sector industry but NASA has to buy a lot of things and if we buy them, if instead of developing them in a way that NASA is the sole supplier and customer of those capabilities, if we procure them maybe is a better way of doing it, in a way that they can be competitively supplied by capabilities that also have other customers, that is a good thing for the nation.

    When people say “private industry needs to stop asking for corporate welfare”, they are ignoring the current reality – NASA ALREADY spends billions of dollars to private contractors (in this case United Space Alliance, a Boeing/Lockmart joint venture). The question is, does NASA need its own individual market, because that is what they have right now – nobody else is utilizing the shuttle systems, in a commercial sector.

    If NASA demands its own personal market (which is what shuttle is) then we don’t have the money to go beyond LEO, without a major budget increase in NASA – the numbers don’t work.

    Shuttle derived, of any level, is too expensive.

  • Martijn Meijering

    There’s no one stopping private industry from doing anything.

    There’s no one stopping private industry from working for free. Guess what, there’s no one stopping MSFC from working for free either. Why should MSFC be given free money when everybody else has to compete? Double standard much?

  • Martijn Meijering

    What about man/hours and the infrastructure costs vs. a BDR like one of the higher block ULA’s? Might be worth a look at the long term costs.

    EELV Phase 2 or 3 isn’t much better than SDLV. EELV Phase 1 is all that’s needed, maybe even less, but you need an EDS anyway and why not have it do double duty as the EELV Phase 1 upper stage?

  • common sense

    @Marcel F. Williams:

    ” That’s I favor the Side-mount since it uses the same basic architecture that we already have. ”

    Well yes and no. You are actually changing the vehicle OML therefore the aerodynamics and aerothemal environment (not to mention the mass). When such changes are made you cannot predict the impact on your infrastructure since the vehicle will not fly in the same way. The wings provide some lift on ascent, if you don’t have them you will have to adapt your trajectory at the very least. If you can’t since it is a system design (i.e. SRBs, ET and Orbiter were designed together to ensure a certain mission, flight profile, etc) then you have to change the infrastructure. See for example the Ares and SRB issues. Even though Ares was initially supposed to be a Shuttle SRB they no longer are and you have to change the entire design of the booster. Said design is not highly visible (save for the 5th segment) it actually is inside the booster that most changes occur and they are the most expensive (propellant design). When propellant is changed all changes as well, you cannot throttle a solid to adapt the trajectory. I’ll stop now. But do you see it now? And I am not even addressing the crewed sidemount monstrosity with all the LAS associated issues. As for the tiles, maybe so but you will have to deal with the sidewall TPS of Orion and ET TPS to account for plume heating from the LAS. Make sure you don’t just take Shannon’s or anyone’s words for it, check the facts on your own.

    “And there’s no reason why the Orion should not be ready in 5 or 6 years since its currently being fully funded”

    Oh yes there are. See above. But just in case. Orion is not a stand alone design. It is designed to fly on Ares following a certain trajectory. On said trajectory there are LAS abort scenarios that are not the same if you put Orion on an EELV for example. The failure modes of a liquid booster, say an explosion of some sort is not the same as that of a solid which impacts the structural design. Etc.

    So is it feasible. Yes I am sure it is. But what kind of budget do we have to actually do it?

    About private industry. You are missing the point here. LMT, ATK, BA are all supposedly “private” companies. The point is how NASA in particular and the government in general get them going. It is called “cost-plus”. The current private industry we are talking about use the COTS scheme. Please make sure you understand the difference and you will see whether NASA would benefit more from COTS or cost-plus.

    I truly hope this helps and if anyone else who actually understands those things here wants to comment it’d be great:

    We need people to get truly informed if we want a one-front space community. Otherwise the old way will always use the “divide and conquer” approach and status quo will always be.

  • GuessWho

    Common Sense – “The point is how NASA in particular and the government in general get them going. It is called “cost-plus”. The current private industry we are talking about use the COTS scheme. Please make sure you understand the difference and you will see whether NASA would benefit more from COTS or cost-plus.”

    With all due respect, the jury is not only still out, but hasn’t even been formed in terms of judging the success or failure of a NASA COTS approach. Cost-plus contracts exist because the contractor is being asked to deliver a product that has not been produced before, to a set of requirements and performance specs that aren’t fully defined. Hence the “real” costs to produce this item are unknown. Cost-plus protects the company (and more importantly, their shareholders (i.e., all the mom/pop, grandma/grandpa, etc.) mutual fund holders) from seeing their investment thrown down the toilet. COTS (as in NASA COTS) is a firm-fixed price contract (with up-front payments to subsidize the contractor btw). Whether that contractor (SpaceX or Orbital) can actually realize a profit when his contract expires remains to be seen. Right now the grass is greener, but only because we are in the very early spring and the rainfall has been abundant. Just my $0.02, your mileage may vary.

  • Ferris Valyn

    GuessWho – the issue is whether its correct to assume that if there isn’t a pre-existing, cost-plus is the only option, particularly if we assume that a market will develop. Further, I would submit that it is established that the status quo is unsustainable.

    Finally, I think it would be a false assumption to believe that large aerospace companies aren’t willing to embrace fixed-price contracting.

  • Annon

    Fixed price is not new, it was the standard method used in the 1930′s. But it burned a lot of aviation companies and left America ill prepared for World War II. That is why cost plus contracts were developed for projects with high technical risks and/or critically needed systems not available off the shelf. The traditional aerospace companies remember those bad old days and are not about to go back there. After all they have a legal duty to their shareholders to be financially responsible.

    The New Space companies are learning about the drawbacks. RocketPlane Kistler is a prime example of how a COTS style fixed price contract has the capability to kill a company who is lucky enough to “win” one. Give the New Space a decade of fix price contracts, COTS and a trail of broken companies and the survivors will wise up as well.

    As a side note. Does anyone here really doubt that if the X-33/Venture Star had been a traditional cost plus contract for a Shuttle replacement it would be flying today in place of the Space Shuttle? There were no technical show stoppers, like the composite tanks, that couldn’t have been fixed with additional funding.

    And yes, space launch is hard, expensive and has little tolerance for error. Look at how long and the huge amount Branson has sunk in taking the SpaceShipOne technical demonstrator to operational status. With luck it should be finally flying by the end of this year, SIX years after SS1 first flight. And money wasn’t the problem as Branson has poured in all that was requested.

  • Annon

    Ferris,

    You may not like my assessment of the likely outcome of the Augustine review, but I feel its the most probable one given the history of similar commissions and how NASA has been used for presidential politics since it creation. There is nothing to indicate Obama will be any different then any of the other presidents in his use NASA for political purposes.

  • Does anyone here really doubt that if the X-33/Venture Star had been a traditional cost plus contract for a Shuttle replacement it would be flying today in place of the Space Shuttle?

    Yes, I doubt that very much.

  • common sense

    @GuessWho:

    “With all due respect, the jury is not only still out, but hasn’t even been formed in terms of judging the success or failure of a NASA COTS approach.”

    I do agree to some extent. HOWEVER, and even though the current cost-plus approach may somewhat protect companies it is turning in the most ineffective way to actually do anything. The incentive with cost-plus IS NOT to actually finish anything. You believe it or not here does not matter. It is a FACT. Regardless of whether the worker-bee actually wants to see a finished product or not. There are other forces at play that require the constant injection of cash ion those companies. But you know that very well since you mentioned shareholders whose interests are quite obviously to see cost-plus going for ever. It is not the same as national interests you see. Not the same at all. Or is it? But if it is then let’s stop the hypocrisy of reaching for the Moon and all the other bs, let’s just give money to the shareholders. Anyway…

    “with up-front payments to subsidize the contractor btw”

    Yes indeed but what amount are we talking about? Compare that again to a cost-plus approach where you keep funding no matter what. At least with COTS you always have the ability to pull the plug. To the detriment of the company, you bet! But maybe just maybe we would see more realistic proposals with a given amount of money. Further, yes cost-plus might still be used for out-there programs. Constellation is NOT. It is supposed to be built on EXISTING technologies, right? Or was this bs again? Anyway…

    “Whether that contractor (SpaceX or Orbital) can actually realize a profit when his contract expires remains to be seen.”

    Yes. I agree. We shall see then.

  • common sense

    @Annon:

    “that is why cost plus contracts were developed for projects with high technical risks and/or critically needed systems not available off the shelf.”

    Back to my comment about Constellation. This was NOT supposed to be such a program!!! Make sure you read the advertisement to the industry or ask those who know.

    “After all they have a legal duty to their shareholders to be financially responsible”

    What about the legal duty to the USA? Again see my comment above, but I would assume that national security would trump all other interests. Looks like not according to you and others.

    ” RocketPlane Kistler is a prime example of how a COTS style fixed price contract has the capability to kill a company who is lucky enough to “win” one.”

    Sorry but their system was likely to not work, especially the re-entry part. Cost-plus would have funded it for ever until someone would have pulled the plug with far more dramatic consequences.

    “There were no technical show stoppers, like the composite tanks, that couldn’t have been fixed with additional funding.”

    I agree to some extent BUT X-33 was WAY out there. Orion/Ares is not.

    “Branson”

    He took a LOT of risks in his approach. I believe that with all due respect Burt Rutan is known as a risk taker. I have nothing against it, quite the opposite actually. BUT Branson assumed those risks. These are actual risks worth taking. And if he is successful then what? There will always be detractors. I wish Branson and Rutan the best of luck. I hope they make it and make tons of money. This is way closer to capitalism and entrepreneurship than any of the current LMT, BA, NGC, ATK, whatever. Also Ares/Orion has been 5 years in the making and the only thing they may have is to launch a single SRB. Tell me about the budget again.

    I would love people to try and embrace new/different ways especially those who claim cutting edge but I know better sorry. Solar sails?… L1-5 manufacturing plants?… Marcel Williams you better start reading those posts carefully and you will understand why these guys will NEVER do it.

  • Annon

    Common Sense

    “What about the legal duty to the USA? Again see my comment above, but I would assume that national security would trump all other interests. Looks like not according to you and others.”

    If this was a socialist economy that would be true. But its still a free market economy. In a free market economy the company’s responsibility is to maximize wealth for its shareholders not save taxpayer dollars by providing charity to the government.

    Since New Space companies are not publicly traded its nice their billionaire owners are interested in subsidizing risk for the government. But I expect they will learn that is not a sustainable long term business model.

    If the government wants a private company to gamble on risky technology to meet a government need to assume that risk, which is what a cost plus contract is about, the government paying for the risk reduction.

    As for national security, exactly what national security is at risk if the United States no longer has a civilian space program?

    As for RpK, it appears that technical feasibility was not considered an important factor which appears to be another weakness in the COTS approach. But then when you are using other people’s money to reduce risk, in this case the government using the entrepreneurs limited resources, I guess its OK to be sloppy on the technology part.

  • Annon

    Rand,

    I will put the opinion of engineers working for major aerospace firms against those of start-ups anytime. And the Lockheed engineers felt strongly it was a good design. But there just was no commercial market large enough to cover the cost of developing an orbital RLV so they couldn’t get the financing needed for it.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Annon – I believe there is reason to believe this will be different. I submit that a candidate does not evolve over the course of the election, and offer up a space policy as complete as Obama did, without having some intention of reforming it into a capable program. Further, it wasn’t your dismissal of the proposed policy that really inflamed me. It was your second paragraph

    To Obama space (i.e. Apollo) is just an example to use of how a government program is able to accomplish anything. If America could go to the Moon America could…. Which is why I don’t expect money for COTS-D, it would be inconvenient for Obama to have a private program succeed where a government one failed.

    The fact that there was money in the stimulus package for Commercial crew, and that it was specifically mentioned in his proposed policy, that his nominee for NASA administrator specifically mentioned commercial space, that A-com had in its charter, from day one, engage and grow commercial space, would seem to demonstrate that he has real interest in the commercial sector, as it relates to space.

    Obama has struck me, from day one, as being a left-of center pragmatist – he isn’t interested in replacing a functioning, working private sector institution with a government run institution, and he is willing to replace bad government programs with something that does work, even if its in the private sector.

    Just because someone thinks that government programs can deliver and do good, doesn’t mean that they believe that all private sector programs are evil, or bad.

    As for the Cost-plus vs fixed price, the question that needs to be asked is this – is there a viable market, in the near term, for human spaceflight, or at a minimum, regulat access to and from space, that has the potential to stand on its own? Associated with that, is there enough technology developed, that just needs to be put together properly, so that it can operate at a price point that the private market can sustain it on its own, within rough 5-10 years?

    If the answer to those questions is no, then you are right, fixed price probably won’t help you. But, if that is the case, Constellation as is is still a poor investment, since if the ultimate goal is to make you a spacefaring society, you need such a market. Therefore, the primary investment you should be working on is dramatically lowering the price point to get into and utilize space, and Constellation doesn’t do that.

    As to your claim that big aerospace will never get into it – I submit that the fact that Boeing actually participated in the 2nd COTS round, and that LM was acting as a partner for another second round bid, suggests that they are more than prepared to consider fixed cost (and given that they have expressed interest in Commercial crew, well, again…)

  • I will put the opinion of engineers working for major aerospace firms against those of start-ups anytime.

    Many engineers working for major aerospace firms (including me, at the time) didn’t think that Lockheed Martin’s approach made much sense. I suppose it’s possible that given sufficient taxpayer money on a cost-plus contract, something called “VentureStar” that bore a vague resemblance to X-33, except with bigger wings, and probably first-stage boosters, and perhaps a more conventional engine and aluminum tanks, might have flown, at as great or greater cost per flight as the Shuttle.

    No thanks.

  • common sense

    @Annon:

    “If this was a socialist economy that would be true. But its still a free market economy. In a free market economy the company’s responsibility is to maximize wealth for its shareholders not save taxpayer dollars by providing charity to the government.”

    I am sorry but this is rather lame: socialist? Do you actually know what you are talking about? Sorry to be blunt but I see no other way. The defense contractors we are talking about have a DUTY to the US government (i.e. the people of the USA by definition) when they take money from it. Some of this duty is reflected in the security clearances awarded not only to the individuals but also to those companies. Charity? Are you really serious?

    “Since New Space companies are not publicly traded its nice their billionaire owners are interested in subsidizing risk for the government. But I expect they will learn that is not a sustainable long term business model.”

    What do you know about that? What do you think will happen if and when they become publicly traded which btw can only happen if they offer a more competitive product, don’t you think? So if they are successful at what they claim I can tell you that ULA, USA, and the likes can kiss good bye their contracts with government, since by law the government must give the contract to the lowest bidder, if quality is identical. As to their business model what do you know about it to be so sure?

    “If the government wants a private company to gamble on risky technology to meet a government need to assume that risk, which is what a cost plus contract is about, the government paying for the risk reduction.”

    Ares/Orion WAS NOT A RISKY TECHNOLOGY per NASA’s instructions. Too bad I don’t have a link to the TRL requirements for the proposals. To be fair, I will add also that I cannot remember whether those requirements were in writing or only verbal. So you are free to not believe me.

    “As for national security, exactly what national security is at risk if the United States no longer has a civilian space program?”

    What does Wall Street have to do with national security is the right question to ask. “Those corporations have legal duties to their shareholders” whose shares are negotiated on Wall Street. So were you awake recently when the whole Wall Street smarts collapsed? It has everything to do with national security. Running the US into almost bankruptcy to make it slave to its creditors has everything to do with security. Do you think that this and the previous WHs only gave money to Wall Street to satisfy their good friends there? You are free to live in a nice bubble isolated from the rest of this world but this is the world you and I live in. Sorry. Free market? Getting really tired of this “free market” nonsense. Free market Wall Street, free market GM, free market Chrysler, free market what else?

    “As for RpK, it appears that technical feasibility was not considered an important factor which appears to be another weakness in the COTS approach. But then when you are using other people’s money to reduce risk, in this case the government using the entrepreneurs limited resources, I guess its OK to be sloppy on the technology part.”

    No it is not okay to be sloppy on the the tech part. What about LMT that promised composite cryo tank when the technology was not mature. How do you call that? Irresponsible? Misguided? Do you have a term? But in any case RpK DID NOT WIN and the case is closed as far as I know. So let’s focus on the others. How much government money did they actually get? Do you have a number? How much did LMT, BA and ATK get? Do you know?

    Any transition is tough to anyone but the most you fight it the worst it is going to get. The old way was given yet another chance and BLEW it yet again. Too bad.

    PS: FWIW: X-33 cost: “NASA has spent to date $912 million on the X-33, with another $205 million expended on the X-34 project.
    In the case of the X-33, Lockheed Martin had invested $356 million of its own monies in the effort to create a single-stage-to-orbit vehicle, Stephenson said.” http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/missions/x33_cancel_010301.html

    PPS:Where do you think the engineers working for private space come from? Off the street?

  • common sense

    @Ferris Valyn:

    “As to your claim that big aerospace will never get into it – I submit that the fact that Boeing actually participated in the 2nd COTS round, and that LM was acting as a partner for another second round bid, suggests that they are more than prepared to consider fixed cost (and given that they have expressed interest in Commercial crew, well, again…)”

    If any of those contractors get COTS that will be it for this business model. They ABSOLUTELY have NO INTEREST in COTS when compared with cost-plus. They would have to trim their workforce to the bare bones to make it work. See most of the cost of those companies are in the overhead. Yes just like the government, just a little better but not much.

    Conspiracy theory? Well think it over and tell me (you or anybody else) why they would go for a COTS approach, where is the benefit to them… I’d like to learn. Read the shareholders argument above I have with Annon for example…

  • Ferris Valyn

    common sense –

    There is a benefit to them – it all comes back to the question I posed to Annon. If you believe there is a larger market, that can sustain itself, that can bring money in for its shareholders, then it behooves you to consider whether you can tap into that market. And if the government believes in said market, and is investing in said market in some fashion (to build an industry rather than a program), and you have the existing technology to be a player in that market, it would be a mistake for you to dismiss going after that money, unless you had a very good reason.

    Boeing has a great history of this, at least when it comes to commercial aviation – how many of us have flown on the various Boeing commercial aircrafts? Boeing has absolutely made money on the 747s, the 767s, and so on (at least in general it has) – that is a market that Boeing is unlikely to get any help from the government, and I’d be damned surprised if there were any cost-plus contracts involved.

    I would also submit that it depends on the amount of development and effort that is required to win such a contract – if its minimal, and the payoff is decent, again, I would submit that a CEO or President of such a company would not be doing his job if he were to dismiss such an option, simply because its not cost-plus. At the end of the day, if the company comes out ahead on the balance sheet, why wouldn’t you go after such a contract.

    Now, let me add a caveat to my statement – its important to remember that companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing are big companies, and by their nature, are moving in more directions than one, and can be both pro and anti about the larger question – whether there is a viable larger market out there. Due to various stories and interactions it appears, at least to me, that ULA is being forced to evolve and move in some direction like a NewSpace company. OTOH, you have Lockheed Martin, which owns half of ULA, bad mouthing commercial crew.

    But it all goes back to the question – is the market fundamentally shifting, with a viable private sector industry, that isn’t dependent upon large scale government funding.

  • GuessWho

    @Ferris – I did not make the assumption that cost-plus is the only option. In fact, there are numerous business and contractual models that can be applied to technology development rich programs, ARES/Orion being one of these despite the “spin” NASA put on it at the outset to convince Congress to go along. Cost-plus is just one of these. These include cost plus incentive fee, fixed price with incentive fee, etc. The problem with trying to do firm-fixed is that you have no basis from which to generate a cost estimate and a resulting price quote that you can have any confidence in. Couple that uncertainty with a Govt. customer who really doesn’t know exactly what they want and/or need. If a firm-fixed is mandated by the customer (NASA in this case), then the resulting business model has to build a significant over-estimation of the actual cost to cover the known-unknowns and the unknown-unknowns. Second, I do not make the claim that large aerospace firms will not accept firm-fixed contracts. For example, Lockheed, through their commercial space company, does this on a regular basis with their A2100 line. But this is a known spacecraft where >95% of the non-recurring cost associated with the development phase has been retired and they know what it costs to produce N units. This is not to say they are necessarily competitive with other satellite manufacturers. A strong argument can be made that they are not. The issue is risk, in terms of cost, schedule, etc. Shareholders, and thus the company, are very risk adverse for what is considered a large-cap company (as most major aerospace firms are) where stable, predictable growth is valued.

    @Common Sense – Don’t blame the contracting vehicle for the ineffectiveness of the program. Blame the customer who doesn’t clearly define (via requirements) what they want developed and fielded, blame the customer who spends 60 days defining a desirement and then issues a RFP that has as one of its tasks to work with the customer do develop the actual system requirements after contract award, often starting from an inferior conceptual design (e.g., ARES I) that at its core is considered sacrosanct. Second, cost plus has just as much incentive to finish as any other contracting vehicle. The contractor does not make profit on the “cost” portion. They make profit through the negotiated fee either as a straight award fee based on mission success or periodic award fees based on defined milestones throughout the program. In either caase, they have to finish a milestone to receive any fee. Further, to claim that the managers, engineers, and technicians working those programs have no desire/incentive to produce a flight system at the end is insulting at best. Finally, any contract, be it cost-plus or fixed price can be terminated at any time for non-performance and both suffer termination fees. As far as whether Constellation is off-the-shelf, get real. ARES 1 is a new vehicle despite the claims by NASA in the beginning. Anyone with experience in aerospace knew that from the beginning. Congressmen and voters wouldn’t and that was the point.

    @Common Sense – Legal duty to the USA? Not sure what you are really trying to get to with this one. The contractor signs a legal contract with the US Govt. in each and every case. They must execute to this contract. The Govt. also has the right to modify that contract (scope increase, change in requirements or deliverables, etc.). This more often than not results in a cost increase. From a business interest standpoint, any large contractor is first and foremost accountable to the people that own the company, i.e. shareholders. Second, they are responsible to meet their contractual obligations to their customers. They also have to perform both of these functions within the legal framework defined by the US Govt. in terms of financial regulations, business practice regulations, contracting regulations, etc. My interpretation may be off, but I got the impression that you think defense contractors take Govt. monies and then just spend it however they wish instead of what they were contracted to do. Where is you evidence for this? If I read between the lines correctly (and correct me if I am wrong), you appear to be making the argument that private industry has a higher, moral, obligation to society to operate in a way that benefits society first and shareholders second. If that is true, I have to say that I am 180-degrees opposed to your view. Read “Atlas Shrugged” and tell me whether you identify with the producers or the looters/moochers.

    You will have to educate me as to how any private entity, Wall Street firms included, can run the US Govt. into bankruptcy. Only Congress and the Executive Branch can commit the USG financially. If that results in bankruptcy, then I would suggest you replace those officers. Given the current set has increased our debt from <$2T to over $9T in a matter of 8 months, I would submit we need to replace this particular group sooner rather than later

    Miscellaneous items – Yes, Boeing and LM both do COTS, just not in manned spaceflight where there only exists one customer, NASA. They do COTS where the delivered product is well known, the development costs are nearly fully retired and the recurring costs can be well quantified, and there is sufficient profit to be realized that it is worth it to continue to operate and invest. If they could get a better return on their money by investing in morning coffee and donuts, they would. And no, most of their costs are not in overhead (unless you consider salaries overhead).

    I can only guess that based on your comments, you have never really been involved with a large company, be it aerospace or some other industry. Thus I think your perspective is a bit skewed.

  • Annon

    Rand,

    I take those engineers against Venture Star success and match them with others that believed it will work. In rocket technology it seems engineers have a wide range of opinion on what will work. But that was not the relevant point I was try to make.

    The relevant point is the money was never there to find out because the commercial market was not viable to rise funding and since NASA was fooling around with experiments in procurement there was no money to cover the technical problems that came along. As for the operational cost, that is another point that could be argued about forever, but like arguing about the number of Angels able to dance on a pin, one that will never have an provable answer. You belief that it would be more expensive then the Shuttle is just that, a belief.

    The key point I tried to make was that IF NASA wanted a RLV to replace the Shuttle in the 1990’s it could have got one with a traditional cost plus contract. It still could do so today instead of the Orion. Or COTS if they stopped trying to save money in procurement experiments and allowed industry to decide the design.

  • common sense

    @Ferrys:

    I am not questioning Boeing commercial airplane division. The whatever division that gets contract from NASA most likely at least in the Space business is not commercial but rather what is it now Defense Systems? Not sure of their actual name(s). Note how difficult it is for Boeing airplanes to make a real come back with the 787. Now don’t get me wrong. I am all for Boeing to stay in this market as I believe in competition. Anyway. I am only addressing those divisions living off cost plus procurements. AND these are not limited to NASA but DOD as well. I agree that any CEO would go where there is a market but you just said what Lockheed is doing. Now why would they do that? Are the new entrants such a threat to them? I strongly believe that these “old” companies have no interest in COST like programs.

  • Ferris Valyn

    GuessWho

    I agree with the way you have characterized the various contracting options. I would only add the caveat that, at least traditionally, the majority of contracts are of the cost-plus variety, which is why I offered the point of cost-plus is the only option.

    The problem with trying to do firm-fixed is that you have no basis from which to generate a cost estimate and a resulting price quote that you can have any confidence in. Couple that uncertainty with a Govt. customer who really doesn’t know exactly what they want and/or need. If a firm-fixed is mandated by the customer (NASA in this case), then the resulting business model has to build a significant over-estimation of the actual cost to cover the known-unknowns and the unknown-unknowns. Second, I do not make the claim that large aerospace firms will not accept firm-fixed contracts. For example, Lockheed, through their commercial space company, does this on a regular basis with their A2100 line. But this is a known spacecraft where >95% of the non-recurring cost associated with the development phase has been retired and they know what it costs to produce N units. This is not to say they are necessarily competitive with other satellite manufacturers. A strong argument can be made that they are not. The issue is risk, in terms of cost, schedule, etc. Shareholders, and thus the company, are very risk adverse for what is considered a large-cap company (as most major aerospace firms are) where stable, predictable growth is valued.

    First a point of clarification – I never claimed you said that Lockmart wouldn’t accept a firm-fixed price contract – Annon said that. I do agree that they can be and are risk averse.

    However, the issue ultimately boils down to this – Is there likely a near term market (or an already existing market) to be served by human spaceflight, that has significant private customers in it? The answer to that question should determine which model is used for NASA contracting.

    A great example is arguably Hubble – outside of the science astronomy community, there is no market for space telescopes, and so there isn’t really money for pursuing that market, outside of cost-plus (or cost-plus derived).

    OTOH, you can look at transport of crew and persons to ISS (and potentially other stations) and come to the conclusion that this is a viable market, which would work better as a fixed-price derivative, rather than a cost-plus.

    Given the current set has increased our debt from <$2T to over $9T in a matter of 8 months,

    a point of clarification – a good chunk of that money had been spent years before (by the prior administration), and the jump happened because we actually had a full accounting. Whether you balance your check book the day you spend the money, or years later, you still spent the money then.

    Yes, Boeing and LM both do COTS, just not in manned spaceflight where there only exists one customer, NASA.

    Um, hello, COTS had a manned component – it was called COTS-D. BTW, in case there is any confusion, I am talking about Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (which had a human transport part), NOT Commercial off-the-shelf.

    The pseudo son of that is Commercial Crew Development (also known as CCDev, which sounds like it will be funded at around $2.5 Billion, and yes, Boeing has expressed interest, ULA has expressed interest, Lockheed Martin has expressed interest – here, you can go look at it yourself – http://procurement.jsc.nasa.gov/ccdev/

  • Annon

    Ferris,

    It will be interesting to see if Obama is more then a politician. I hope so but no longer expect miracles from political leaders.

    In terms of a viable market for commercial manned flight, no I don’t think there is one. Let me try to illustarte why with a what if. You are the CEO of Boeing. You have the potential to develop a new commercial launch system which if successful would provide tourist seats for 1 million dollars each to an orbital hotel. So you look at your market.

    According to Wkipedia the number of Multimillionaires world wide is 95,000

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millionaire#Multimillionaire

    Survey always show that about half of those polled would like to fly into space. So half of 95,000 is 47,500. At a million dollars a head that is 47.5 Billion dollars. Sounds like a huge market, but not everyone will want to fly at once. Many will wait until its safe. Also its probably a once in a life time purchase for the majority of the multimillionaires who are interested. So let’s distribute that 47.5 billion over a generation, 25 years. That comes out to an annual market of 1.9 billion a year. Sure it may bubble early due to pent ip demand and then slide down. But bubbles are not good as Wall Street has learned

    BTW as a reference point Boeing’s revenues in 2008 were 61 billion dollars so the annual market would be equal to only a couple weeks of revenue. Or to about equal to the price of 10 Boeing 787 airliners. As a further reference point their back order for commercial airliners is about 350 billion dollars. Put in that perspective even a 50 billion dollar Ares I/Orion program seems modest in costs.

    Now it is a market of a couple of billion potential, but remember it’s a highly speculative market. Maybe only a quarter will actually want to fly into space. That would drop it even more, down to a billion a year.

    And as a commercial market its open to competition. While a million dollars a seat is probably cutting your margins to the minimum. In short it’s a lot of risk for very little reward. Not really an attractive market to invest billions in to develop a launch system for.

    Now compare that to what NASA spends on human spaceflight, which is about twice as much, 4-5 billion a year. Contracts are cost plus. Guaranteed revenue for as long as the system is operational. Sure its only a fraction of the annual revenue of Boeing, but it’s a very stable and predictable cash flow.

    So you are the CEO of Boeing? Where are you going to invest? Serving an existing market of 4-5 billion a year where you are the sole provider? Or in developing a system for a commercial market half that size, or less. One that is pure speculation? And subject to competition slicing your market sharer smaller if successful. Which would you be able to justify to financial analysts?

    Yes, I know Boeing is only a partner in USA and ULA, but it still illustrates the point. Any market for commercial manned flight is mostly speculation. And far less then the current NASA market even if you are wildly optimistic. Whereas NASA is a solid and predictable market. Which would you select? NASA of course. And since they are your only customer its not unreasonable to go to a cost plus contract to cover any risk in estimating the cost.

    Also Airmail and airlines are poor analogies for space markets. Mail was already going from Washington to San Francisco for 60 years before the first airmail flight. The volume was known accurately and large enough to be financially attractive given the cost of airplanes in the 1920’s. People had been traveling from Washington to San Francisco even longer. The volume was also known and predictable. So if you developed a faster way to get there you knew exactly how large your market would be. Commercial human space flight by contrast is largely an unknown market. There is a percentage that will want to go for the adventure, just as some want to climb Mount Everest. But the number is a guess since it’s a pure luxury item. Not like sending a letter to friends in San Francisco or traveling there on business. In short it has the potential to be very erratic once the initial fad element wears off.

    So no, I don’t see a viable market for a commercial RLV, not large enough to justify the risk to develop it. So its either NASA paying for it or it won’t get built since there is no logical reason for a company to invest in it. New Space companies are pursuing the market based on faith, not logic. IF they are lucky COTS will be successful for them. But luck is not supposed to be part of a business model.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Common sense – I understand your point about the divisions that live off of cost-plus contracts. As I said though, (and you seemed to agree) the issue comes back to that of the marketplace, and how its changes – are there new entrants? Is there a new customer and a new customer base (which has to go into consideration as well – after all, the emergence of space tourism as an actual industry has to be causing some discussion at some level at big companies).

    As for whether they will have an interest – First, as I said, because of their nature, they go in more directions than one, thus my point about Lockheed. Second, I go back to my other point to Annon – Boeing put in a bid for COTS 1.5, and both have expressed interest in Commercial Crew Development (check the list of interested parties on the website). And any way you slice it, $2.5 Billion is a lot of money for Commercial crew (and it looks like that is likely to happen)

    It all comes down to what they think is happening to the market.

    BTW, its Ferris with an i, not Ferrys with a y

  • common sense

    @GuessWho:

    “Don’t blame the contracting vehicle for the ineffectiveness of the program.”

    I did not say that the contractors were the only ones to blame. Again read my post. I said that in an environment like cost plus there is no incentive etc. However is it not the ethical thing to do to point out the weakness of the process to the customer? I am a naive idealist I know.

    “In either caase, they have to finish a milestone to receive any fee.”

    Yes and said milestones are moving targets when the customer has no clear requirements or they change them all the time. So yes of course it makes sense for a company to have some protection but where is the rigor in all that?

    “Further, to claim that the managers, engineers, and technicians working those programs have no desire/incentive to produce a flight system at the end is insulting at best. ”

    I don’t remember ever saying that. I said that the companies work within a system that creates no incentive to finish the work. But in most what you said above that comment you just say what I said in a slightly different way. The real difference is that you say it is okay and I say it is not okay.

    ‘As far as whether Constellation is off-the-shelf, get real. ARES 1 is a new vehicle despite the claims by NASA in the beginning. Anyone with experience in aerospace knew that from the beginning. Congressmen and voters wouldn’t and that was the point.’

    Yes. Everyone knew save NASA, Congress and the public. I suppose it is okay?

    As to where I’ve worked, you’d be surprised.

    Gotta go but I’ll be back and try to clarify. Nice talking with you.

  • Annon

    Commonsense

    In a free market economy the only legal duty corporations have is to their stockholders. Now IF they decide to bid on a contract, and win, they do have a legal obligation to fulfill it, but they have NO duty to bid on it if it doesn’t sound like a good deal for the corporation and its stockholders.

    The government stated offering cost plus contracts because that was the only way to get the best qualified companies to bid on them. Companies that actually had a chance of producing something, unlike RpK.

    Now if the Corporation is owned by the government as in a socialist economy, they do have a duty to the government :-)

    When a company becomes publicly traded, like say SpaceX, then Elon Musk is no longer the sole owner. They now have a responsibility to their stock holders who may sue him if they feel the company is not acting in their best interests. So they will not have the freedom they have now in making decisions and taking risks. Stockholders, and their lawyers, are a real pain at time which is why companies may buy out their stock and go private. My guess is that when SpaceX goes public it will change its culture and Elon may well take his cash and go as with PayPal.

    Also as a further note, contracts only go to the lowest qualified bidder if it’s a competitive contract. Look at the history of government procurement for aircraft like the SR-71 and F-117. Not all contracts are competitive. There are cases when sole sourcing is justified.

    Also risk is in the eyes of the beholder. There appeared to be enough unknowns associated with costs that the majors would not touch Ares/Orion other then by a cost plus contract.

    And Wall Street may be in the United States, but the investors buying stock are from all over the world. So are you saying French investors in Boeing have a duty to the U.S. government?

    As for the Wall Street bailout, I was 110% against that. Companies that take risks need to be allowed to fail. There is still no evidence the world would have come to an end if AIG collapsed. Both GM and Chrysler ended going through bankruptcy anyway. Economic dislocation. Sure. There would be higher unemployment and the multi-millionaires would have lost their investments. But the FDIC would have covered the average American with savings and checking accounts up to $250,000 an account. And if you are not able to afford to lose your money in stocks or are unwilling to learn the game you have no business playing it. I had no tears for those taken in by Madoff. As W.C. Fields always said you can never cheat an honest man. All the bailout did was kick the can down the road and spread the pain to future generations in the form of trillions of dollars added to the national debt. While bailing out bankers and CEOs who caused the problem with poor management. Not to mention millions of foreign investors at the expense of taxpayers. In any case that has nothing to do with your claim that major aerospace firms first DUTY is to the government.

    RpK didn’t win. They lost big time by gambling on COTS. It basically killed any chance of them building their suborbital craft.

    As for LM and the composite tank, there were a lot of technologies used for Apollo that were not mature in 1961. That is one of the purposes of a cost plus contract, to generate the money to mature the technology needed to make the system work. Look at the B-2 or F-117. Was stealth technology mature when those contracts were bid on? Lockheed’s mistake, along with McDonald and North American, was biding on a fixed price contract for X-33. They should have all walked away from it. And I expect it reinforced the risk shift in a fixed price contract for the current generation at Lockheed. Yes, they may bid on one, but they will double check the risks before doing so.

  • GuessWho

    @common sense – “I said that in an environment like cost plus there is no incentive etc. However is it not the ethical thing to do to point out the weakness of the process to the customer?” Not to belabor the point, but the major incentive in any program is to deliver a product (spacecraft, launch vehicle) to the customer that ultimately meets his requirements. You are under the illusion that this can only be done effectively under a fixed price contract. Then try this scenario, you sign a fixed price contract to develop and deliver a spacecraft that can deliver 4 crew members to ISS. You have a successful PDR and everything is going well. NASA calls you up and says they want a 6-man capable vehicle instead. You estimate it will add 40% of the existing contract value to meet this need. Under your current contract, you will only be making a 11% profit (typical of existing aerospace programs) so you will be in the hole to the tune of 29% of the contract value. Are you going to eat that additional cost because you have already signed a fixed-price contract or are you going to renegotiate the T’s & C’s of the existing contract or tell NASA to take a hike? In real programs (aerospace, aeronautics, military weapons, etc), this type of requirements change happens repeated throughout the early formulation phase of the concept. In many cases the Govt. wants this type of dynamic as they ultimately get a better, more capable product. And yes, it costs more than the original, starting system. Finally, what makes you think that both the customer and the contractor don’t already talk about how to improve the process? Whether you want to believe it or not, contractors don’t really enjoy repeated starts/stops or direction changes throughout the program as it often means they have been expelling a lot of effort only to see it go in the trash can.

    “Yes. Everyone knew save NASA, Congress and the public. I suppose it is okay?”

    I didn’t say it was Ok. To the contrary, I think those at NASA responsible for putting out a system that had no chance of performing as advertised ought to be fired. Whether this was through incompetence or worse, I will leave to you and others to decide on your own.

    @Annon – I agree with your posts. Couldn’t have said it better with respect to the market viability of “commercial manned flight” and your discussion on free-markets.

    @Ferris – “Um, hello, COTS had a manned component – it was called COTS-D. BTW, in case there is any confusion, I am talking about Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (which had a human transport part), NOT Commercial off-the-shelf.”

    First of all, COTS-D has not been exercised and no-one has delivered on cargo supply yet. So the viability of that business segment is still TBD. And yes, I am aware of the difference between what NASA is calling COTS and commercial off-the-shelf. But if you think about it, they are essentially the same. NASA is trying to buy a service, not a piece of hardware. They want that service at an agreed upon price up front much like you would want to buy delivery from UPS or Fed-Ex. Commercial off-the-shelf is the same way, you want to buy an item at a known price before you ever take delivery. The play on acronyms is not accidental.

    “The pseudo son of that is Commercial Crew Development (also known as CCDev, which sounds like it will be funded at around $2.5 Billion, and yes, Boeing has expressed interest, ULA has expressed interest, Lockheed Martin has expressed interest…”

    Expressing interest and ultimately committing large dollars to put forth a proposal are two very different things. It costs nothing to express interest and doesn’t close any doors to further options.

  • The key point I tried to make was that IF NASA wanted a RLV to replace the Shuttle in the 1990’s it could have got one with a traditional cost plus contract.

    Yes, and it would have failed financially the same way that Shuttle failed, for the same reasons.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Annon –

    There is a difference between expecting miracles from political leaders, and assuming hostility from them (which you imply).

    As to your explanation on the various markets, you are missing a 3rd option, and an additional point worth noting. First the additional point – you are assuming the sole market for private human spaceflight is tourism – I don’t believe its that simple, particularly when you have Bigelow working on additional stations, and you have the possibility of private organizations using ISS. But all of that is speculative, I will grant that. However, you missed a big point

    So you are the CEO of Boeing? Where are you going to invest? Serving an existing market of 4-5 billion a year where you are the sole provider? Or in developing a system for a commercial market half that size, or less. One that is pure speculation?

    Well, if I have any intelligence as a CEO, I would attempt to develop a vehicle that can serve both markets, at the same time.

    This is the 3rd option you missed – you assume these market segments to be so fundamentally different that a single vehicle can’t serve both. But if the government contract is structured properly, there is no reason to view the governmental purchase as not being a part of that larger market – transporting people to and from LEO. Which means that the volume, at least for the largest segment of this market, is known. Which I submit means that Air Mail is absolutely applicable. Much like CRS is a follow on to the original COTS, given that Augustine has implied that all options will utilize a commercial vehicle to take astronauts to both the ISS, and to the beyond LEO craft, this means you have a large market share, guaranteed.

    They aren’t betting on luck – they are betting that the government can nurture the market to become independent.

    RpK didn’t win. They lost big time by gambling on COTS. It basically killed any chance of them building their suborbital craft.

    Rocketplane had some problems before then, and I have to ultimately question the viability of that merger, from day 1 – an HTHL suborbital vehicle merging with a company thats working on a radically different, though somewhat traditional, rocket vehicle? If it had been OSC merging with Kistler, that might have made some sense, but to me, it always struck me as being a bit like Boeing buying GM.

    GuessWho – Your right, COTS-D has not been exercised, primarily because of the way the COTS contracts are structured. Which is why they are doing Commercial Crew Development, which is the equivalent of COTS-D.

    Also, you its worth noting that the parts of their COTS proposals have already been tested/flown (at least most of them).

    Expressing interest and ultimately committing large dollars to put forth a proposal are two very different things. It costs nothing to express interest and doesn’t close any doors to further options.

    And yet they were prepared to commit money to such a program for the original COTS.

    In point of fact, I suspect ULA will do quite nicely, with regards to Commercial Crew, regardless, because you have a more solid proposal if you only have to develop a capsule, and not a vehicle as well. And given that there are only 4 viable booster options (Falcon 9, Taurus 2, Delta IV, Atlas V), and only 2 have flown to date (Delta IV & Atlas V), it would make sense to assume that there will be capsules that are Launcher independent, and will fly, at least for a time, on either a Delta IV or Atlas V.

    SNC’s Dreamchaser is worth remembering

  • Annon

    Rand,

    “Yes, and it would have failed financially the same way that Shuttle failed, for the same reasons”

    First defined failed financially in terms of a government launch system like the Space Shuttle? Is it because the Shuttle failed to meet its cost predictions?

    Yes, the Shuttle didn’t meet early cost predictions, but then Congress cut funding so the fully reusable system envisioned was never built. And it was the first reusable space system so there was no real baseline of experience to draw on. It turns out that its a lot more expensive to turn large rocket planes around then many thought based on experience with the X-15.

    But actually there is no objective evidence that would have happened with a follow-on to the Shuttle. In fact the opposite is more likely as there were many lessons learned in Shuttle operations that could have been applied to designing its replacement.

    By your reasoning Boeing should have never built the 707 because the Comet failed to meet performance and cost target for commercial jets. So clearly commercial jets were impractical from the cost perceptive.

    Yes, the Saturn V was expensive so heavy lift is a bad idea. No more heavy lift. The Shuttle cost more then predictions so reusable space planes are a bad idea. No more RLVs like the Shuttle. Bring back the capsules.

    Really if aviation followed the same development philosophy we might well be flying airships then jet liners.

  • Annon

    Ferris,

    “There is a difference between expecting miracles from political leaders, and assuming hostility from them (which you imply).”

    Not hostility but self interest. Most politicians exist to get re-elected and to get their programs adopted. Its about power and ego especially in this age of media driven elections. Having a commercial company do better what a government agency used to do is a potential sound bite against federal programs that are focused in the opposite direction, like health care which was part of the title to this thread. Perhaps Obama won’t see that connection, nor care, but only time will tell.

    In regard to the 3rd option. Following World War II there were lots of attempts to convert bomber designs into airliners. None were successful.

    In the 1960′s there were also attempts to turn military cargo planes into commercial ones. Only the C-130 succeeded and then only when used like the military used it, for delivery of construction equipment and supplies to remote airfields like Purdue Bay. But the C-130 was never a threat to the 737 for commercial use.

    Similarly today the only time commercial airliners have worked for the military is when they have been used to deliver “normal” cargo and military personal without their equipment to traditional airports.

    So if NASA wants to turn its astronauts into space tourists then yes, the third option may work. But vehicles designed to be jack-of-all-trades are rarely master of any.

  • First defined failed financially in terms of a government launch system like the Space Shuttle? Is it because the Shuttle failed to meet its cost predictions?

    It failed in all of its predictions — payload, flight frequency, cost per flight…

    But actually there is no objective evidence that would have happened with a follow-on to the Shuttle.

    Similarly, there is no “objective evidence” to suggest that yet another cost-plus monopoly government program to replace it would have addressed the issues that doomed it, that it would have miraculously succeeded, because they were all due to the fact that it was a single-solution, cost-plus government program. Given that we have the one empirical case to go by, with abundant theoretical reasons that such a program would have failed, it’s almost certain that a repeat would have done so as well.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Annon –

    First, health care wasn’t the title of this thread – that would be in the one above this thread. This one is about adequate budgets matching worthy missions Second, exactly WHERE has Obama implied he is interested in having the government replace all existing commercial companies? Your claim

    Having a commercial company do better what a government agency used to do is a potential sound bite against federal programs that are focused in the opposite direction

    assumes a level of commitment to ideology (or out right idiocy) that the public has never shown. Most Americans can see the benefit of having both a commercial sector, and a government sector (and yes, this applies to Obama as well, despite the claim that he is some “great evil socialist”). The issue with regards to health care is whether the system is functioning adequately or not (and frankly, I am not interested in debating that here). The same issue applies to space, applies to job creation, applies to housing, applies to transportation. If you honestly think that the only message he is trying to get across is “Government good, Business bad,” and isn’t looking at the underlying results, then you are seriously mistaken.

    Going back to the 3rd option – your mistake is starting after WW2 – I would submit that most of our spacecraft are closer to WW1 aircraft, when compared to the original Wright flyer, than WW2. Secondly, you are ignoring quite a few aircraft, the big one being the DC-3, which ABSOLUTELY had both a commercial market and a military transport market. However, there were others – Ford tri-motor is another example. Because of the situation, it would be incorrect to view the current aviation industry (or even the post WW2 aviation industry) as being comparable to the current Earth to LEO market.

    Finally, you are ignoring the obvious point – we ALREADY are utilizing a single spacecraft for both professional astronaut transport, and private astronaut (ie spaceflight participant) in the form of Soyuz.

    The Soyuz doesn’t care whether its taking a dedicated scientist to ISS, or the internet millionaire who is spending a few days on ISS. Further expanding on the potential market, how or why should an earth to LEO vehicle (and I’ll stipulate that it has to include Docking capabilities & orbital maneuvering) view delivery of professional astronauts to ISS, or to a Deep Space craft (could be Orion, could be something else), or to a Bigelow station, or space tourists to ISS, or to Bigelow stations, as some how fundamentally different?

  • Annon

    Rand,

    Well matters of faith are impossible to reason with and your belief that somehow a NASA RLV replacement for the Shuttle would be more expensive is exactly that, a faith based belief based your assumptions that the engineers of NASA and its major contractors are too incompetent to learn from experience. So since you choose to base your argument on faith there is no more point of debating it then debating evolution with someone who believes in creationism. No amount of evidence, other then actually building the Shuttle replacement and seeing what the costs are will change mind.

    To me this is the great weakness of the new space philosophy. The foundation of new space is based on the faith that small private firms with limited resources and experience are smarter then major corporations and government agencies with decades of experience and resources. Its the aerospace equivalent of the football fans who think they could make a better quarterback or head coach then the NFL professionals. Well looks like those fans will get to try their hand at the majors. We will see how well they do.

  • Annon

    Ferris,

    It looks like your are too emotionally invested in the current president to see him objectively so there is little point in continuing that discussion. I still believe Obama will make his decisions on space policy based on political self-interest as`all presidents have. Time will tell if he’s the first one in history to do so differently.

    As for the DC-3. The AAF used the DC-3 as the basis for the C-47 because it was all they had. Its limitations for military airlift and airborne operations was why they developed the C-46, C-119, C-123 and C-130. Its also why they developed gliders to offset its limitations as an assault transport. Douglas also tried converting it into a bomber, the B-18, but it was a flop.

    In regards to the Soyuz remember the British tried airliners based on bombers but they never worked out financially. That is`why they ended up developing dedicated airliners. Sure you could sell seats on a B-17, its done often today at airshows, but its not an airliner and a company trying to operate it as one won’t survive.

  • [...] Seeking “adequate” budgets that are matched to “a worthy mission” – Space Politics [...]

  • common sense

    Wow this thing took off.

    I am going to read and try to get back to y’all.

    @Annon:

    “And Wall Street may be in the United States, but the investors buying stock are from all over the world. So are you saying French investors in Boeing have a duty to the U.S. government?”

    Precisely my point on national security. Those investors may force Boeing into things that are potentially againt national security/policy/etc.

    More later.

  • Annon

    @Common Sense

    Those are the realities of a free global market. There are probably Russian and Chinese stockholders of Boeing as well.

    So do you advocate laws that would only allow U.S. citizens to own stock in defense contractors like Boeing?

  • common sense

    @Ferris-with-an-i: Sorry for the typo/mispelling ;)

    @Annon and GuessWho:

    Can’t catch up ;) I’ll try though and try to answer you both.

    No I don’t advocate any such thing. I am saying the realities fo the market are such. But please stop allcing that a “free” market. It is nothing like a free market.

    I am saying that in any contract with the US government the requirements are to the US government NOT to the shareholders. When they serve the military as well as NASA they have duties to the government. Now of course since the trend is to privatize anything like the military (Blackwater AKA Xe AKA ?) I suppose this is what you mean when you say we are not socialist? But have you been to a socialist country? Would you say France, Germany or Sweden are socialists?

    A quick scenario about the national security issue: Wall Street collapses, firing their workers (WSers). The WSers cannot go shopping, pay services, etc. Shops fire their workers etc. So what is the big deal you ask? Well none of these people can pay their local/state/federal taxes. So what come next: We fire the teachers, usually the easiest target (talk about short term vision – but no choice). The chain reaction continues all of those laid-off people can’t pay their taxes and the WSers are still in the ditch. Well we can’t pay for firefighters, police, national guards. See the trend? A major collapse as we have been through as consequences. National security consequences. If Wall Street collapsed, NYC would have collapsed. And then what? Rely on the rest of NY state to save the day? The major aerospace corporation are being traded on WS therefore have a role in this scenario. I hope it’s clear enough this time at least for national security issues.

    As for F-117 and SR-71, there were competition at least for the SR-71. But these are programs where cost-plus makes sense and no company like SpaceX or Scaled or any that small will go for such a program. Well… Never say never. At least probably not fixed-price. NASA and Constellation are not better served with cost-plus. Sorry. This ongoing program yet another example.

    The fact that NASA or anyone keep changing their requirements is because they don’t know (best) or don’t understand (worst) what they want. As to firing the managers, I believe it started back in January, did it not? But when you say incompetence or worse please don take the righteous road since all those corporations have lobbyist in DC who can’t care less of a program: Not their job.

    “but the major incentive in any program is to deliver a product (spacecraft, launch vehicle) to the customer that ultimately meets his requirements.”

    Also one of you suggested I never worked in industry whatever. Did one of you actually do? The major incentive of a program is to bring cash to the company so that it can satisfy its shareholders. Go ask your CEOs… Come on you can’t be that naive? Or pretty soon you’ll join me in my rant ;)

    “Whether you want to believe it or not, contractors don’t really enjoy repeated starts/stops or direction changes throughout the program as it often means they have been expelling a lot of effort only to see it go in the trash can.”

    I don’t “believe” anything here. I know. There is a difference like between say options and recommendations. Your heart may be broken but again ask your CEO what he thinks. I mean what he really thinks when he goes in front of the shareholders meeting. Especially when asked the question that since the current program (figure of speach) is done then what is next on the company’s plate…

    Why do we keep coming back to RpK? Let’s see what those current players can do and then we’ll talk about it. I already said why RpK’s re-entry would most likely have failed in their design released to the public anyway (elsewhere on this site).

    About 707: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_707
    The prototype was conceived as a proof of concept aircraft for both military and civilian use: the United States Air Force was the first customer for the design, using it as the KC-135 Stratotanker midair refueling platform. It was far from certain that the passenger 707 would be profitable.

    “As for LM and the composite tank, there were a lot of technologies used for Apollo that were not mature in 1961.”

    Maybe so but please remind me NASA’s budget then? And now? In terms of %GDP. Come on! Please apples and oranges!

    Free global market is a total illusion. I would hope that after the current crash people would understand that. It’s nt only the US that is bailing out their banks, you know?

  • common sense

    @Annon:

    “To me this is the great weakness of the new space philosophy. The foundation of new space is based on the faith that small private firms with limited resources and experience are smarter then major corporations and government agencies with decades of experience and resources. ”

    This is not true at all. It is because you do not know how they work. And that is okay but get informed first. Limited resources and experience usually don’t let you go into orbit, now does it? So what is it? Hey, have fun finding out! ;)

  • Annon

    @Common Sense

    When a company enters into a contract with the government they do have a legal responsibility to fulfill it. That is why public corporations need to be careful on which contracts they bid on. If they bid to deliver a spacecraft at 5 billion and its costs them 7 billion, then they eat the difference, which makes for unhappy stock holders. And unhappy stock holders tend to bid down the price of stock as well as sue management.

    Again, That is why the government went to cost plus, so the major aerospace companies would have an incentive to bid on them and the government wouldn’t be stuck choosing from a bunch of lesser qualified companies desperate for money. As was the case for COTS.

    “Limited resources and experience usually don’t let you go into orbit, now does it?”

    Exactly why it took SpaceX 6 years to do what Orbital Sciences did in 3 years which was to get into orbit. Orbital Sciences actually did it with a successful launch on the first flight. Yes, I expect more experience and learning to be gained by SpaceX with their Falcon 9 launches. Elon himself admitted he made a mistake on using ablated engines which set him back.

    As for the bailout – again, I think it was a mistake. Those banks should have been allowed to go under. As for the unemployment, that could have been handled with extend benefits and unemployment insurance at far lower cost then was dumped into the banks with TARP. And a news flash for you. The banks still laid off tens of thousands of workers even with the bailout and still stopped lending to small business even with TARP. Without TARP those banks would have failed and the more successful ones would have bought them out or taken over their customers and the economy would be far better off today then with the waling dead like AGI and Citicorp still around. Yes, it was a step away from free markets down the slope to socialism.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Annon – I like how you called Rand a religous zealot, and me overly emotionally invested.

    The point isn’t whether Obama bases his policy on political self-interest – its whether his political self-interest falls into the narrow interpertation of “Government good, private industry bad” mindset. However, you have indicated your unwillingness to discuss this, so thats all I’ll say, with regards to that.

    With regards to the issue of the DC-3 – yes, you are right it had limitation, but it could, and did serve in multiple roles, The point isn’t to make it have to do absolutely everything, but is it versital enough that it can do some level of multiple things. And yes, we do see that – even today, civil airplanes will be used for both passengeres (as airliners) and as cargo transport (AFAIK, Fedex utilizes Boeing and Airbus systems, generally speaking)

    Your comment about british airliners and bombers have nothing to do with the point about Soyuz – yes, as you mature a market, better specialization will occur. These are not mature markets yet, and everyone agrees with that. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t mature technology. How many WW1 fighter aircraft started as recon aircrafts, and yet I have never seen an armed U-2.

    But lets put all of this to the side, for the moment, because implying that these operational capabilties are so incredibly different as to make it impractal for one craft to do multiple markets. So tell me, what is fundmentally different about the operations of delivering professional NASA astronauts to a beyond LEO craft, or of delivering tourists to a leased bigelow Station, or scientific researchers to ISS, or deliver nationalistic (peaceful) astronauts to a leased Bigelow habitat?

    What is so different? What are the operational parameters, the enviromental parameters, and so on, that force such a level of differentiation into these markets?

  • Ferris Valyn

    common sense – no worries, no one can be as perfect as I am, but I encourage everyone to try :D

  • Al Fansome

    ANNON said: “Well matters of faith are impossible to reason with and your belief that somehow a NASA RLV replacement for the Shuttle would be more expensive is exactly that, a faith based belief based your assumptions that the engineers of NASA and its major contractors are too incompetent to learn from experience.”

    Actually, there is plenty of objective evidence that the NASA “cost-plus” paradigm is broken, and a fixed price approach that leverages private-industry innovation and risk-sharing has a better chance of succeeding.

    One data point.

    SpaceHab developed their Hab module on a firm-fixed-price approach for approximately $200 million.

    NASA paid for a study, by Price Waterhouse, using NASA’s standard cost-plus models that estimated the cost of developing such a Hab module would be over $1 Billion.

    If you add in the GAO’s empirical based study that shows that NASA’s estimates on developing new hardware are significantly UNDERestimated — that demonstrate about an average of 100+% cost growth for NASA human spaceflight programs –> the historical data suggests that a cost-plus NASA program for the SpaceHab module would have cost over $2 Billion.

    Thus, the objective comparision is:

    A) A $2 Billion cost-plus Hab module for the Shuttle.

    B) A $200 million privately-developed module, based on a firm-fixed-price approach.

    A few data points of hard reality:

    * X-30
    * X-33
    * X-34
    * X-38
    * NASP
    * Space Shuttle
    * ISS
    * SLI
    * 2GRLV
    * STAS
    * CRV
    * CTV
    * OSP
    * OSP
    * OMV
    * ISS Prop Module
    * NLS

    As they say, trying the same thing, over and over again, and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

    Now we have Ares 1.

    It’s failure was completely predictable. Completely.

    Does that not fit the definition of insanity?

    FWIW,

    - Al

    PS — The FAITH you talk about is on your part.

  • THE CYRUS SPACE SYSTEM, which currently posted on NASA.gov (follow Augustine section to”Emails to the Committee”, last 6 entries by Daniel Sterling Sample. This is the new way to the moon, Mars, asteroid deflection, servicing the ISS, repairing and refueling satellites in geosynchronous orbit, extending the life and range of the SPACE SHUTTLE for 15 more years and doing all of this with 1/2 the current NASA budget. Sound impossible? You won’t know until you check out the CYRUS SPACE SYSTEM at: NASA.gov and http://www.cyrus-space-system.com Daniel Sterling Sample Space Designs in LA cinedog@netzero.net

  • common sense

    @Annon:

    What “disturbs” me a little here is this: It seems to me that we do not disagree that much, bail out included. However you do stick to your gun when ti comes to cost-plus and I am willing to say there are indeed programs where cost-plus might be necessary. All I say is that cost-plus at all costs is ludicrous! Not everything has to be cost plus. However the current (old?) mindest was to go cost plus even if the nature of the program did not necessitate cost plus, like Ares/Orion. Remember again Ares = SRB and Orion = Apollo in the old ESAS. And actually let me go further. If the design process had been rigorously followed I speculate that it might have worked. For example use a 3 crew Orion a la Apollo instead of 6!!! A lot less constraints would have been put on Ares and the LAS but hey we like our SUV of a capsule right? You can take it to ISS, to the Moon, to NEO, Mars and also grocery shopping! What’ss not to like?

    Again cost-plus when you need it or COTS. Not always one and not the other just because.

    Hey Orbital has a COTS contract, so good for them. Competition is on. What can I say? We’ll see who makes it first!

    As to socialism… Funny a Republican WH got on its knees (literallly) to ask for a socialist move, right? Make an effort to understand that “socialism” as you seem to understand it is a relic of the past. As much is capitalism. We saw the limits of both. The “right” way if the way that works. Sometime it requires “socialized” services (e.g. healthcare and you better “believe” it or you’ll come crying when you retire sometime) and others “capitalist” services (e.g. launch services based on existing technology) and then there is a whole shade of grays in the middle. Social vs. Capital is all long gone. Only those who fight it put us in the mess we’re in. Sorry.

  • THE CYRUS SPACE SYSTEM:
    1) Ends the use of “expendables” forever
    2) Eliminates manned spacecraft with solid propellants forever.
    3) Standardizes one non-cryogenic propellant for all spacecraft.
    4) Utilizes a balance of liquid propellant and ion plasma for all deep space missions, cutting down travel times dramatically.
    5) Upgrades the Space Shuttle, including retro-rockets to extend the range, safety and functionality of this elegant spacecraft.
    6) Eliminates all first stage rockets by providing a means of launching all spacecraft with 1/3rd the velocity to reach LEO before ground separation.
    7) Provides a method of repairing and servicing hundreds of satellites in geosynchronous orbit.
    8) Provides a method of eliminating space junk from Earth orbit
    9) Provides a system for deflecting NEO’s that threaten Earth.
    10) Provides a series of low cost, unmanned Orbiting Space Platforms around the Earth, the moon and Mars for refueling and reconfiguring deep space missions.
    11) Incorporates the ISS into the Cyrus Space System network.
    12) Restructures NASA into three completely separate divisions: Manned Space Exploration Division, Unmanned Exploration Division and
    National Security Division.
    http://www.cyrus-space-system.com cinedog@netzero.net NASA.gov (Augustine Committee Area) Daniel Sterling Sample Space Designs of Los Angeles

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