Lobbying, NASA

Still trying to close the gap

For many months one of the mantras in the space community was to “close the gap”: find money to extend the life of the shuttle, accelerate Constellation, or both, to minimize the gap in US human spaceflight access (at least by government vehicles). That battle cry has died down in recent months, particularly as the Augustine committee found evidence that keeping the current program on its current schedule may prove to be prohibitively expensive. That makes it difficult to push for trying to accelerate the current plan.

However, it hasn’t stopped some people on Florida’s Space Coast for continue to push to close the gap. Florida Today reported yesterday that a group called the Aerospace Career Development Council is calling for an increase in NASA’s budget to close the gap in the draft version of a “Federal Space Policy Agenda” document the group is completing. That means both extending the shuttle and “speeding the development of the next manned rocket system”, according to the article. It’s not clear if the draft report specifically mentions Ares 1/Orion or not, although one of the council member quoted in the article is USA’s Florida head for Constellation. The document, in its final version, will go to federal, state, and local officials “in hopes they can use it to win funding for programs that preserve space industry jobs at Kennedy Space Center”, according to the report. With sky-high (Moon-high?) funding requests like that, though, it better be awfully persuasive.

33 comments to Still trying to close the gap

  • No matter what shuttle replacement and lunar outpost concept is chosen, the NASA budget needs to be raised by at least $3 billion annually.

  • While Mr. Obama faces huge budgetary and political pressures, and many demands on the budget that he undoubtedly considers of higher priority, I’m not ready to count a budget increase out just yet. Somebody in Mr. Obama’s inner circle of political advisors is going to be thinking about the probably-outsized political importance of Florida some three years hence.

    That said, he may be able to get away with continuing Orion in some cheaper form (or even in its current form if he wants to keep more of the Shuttle workforce employed), and indefinitely deferring lunar (and more distant) ambitions. China, et al, are unlikely to be on the moon anytime in the next eight years. . . .

    In the meantime, if the WSJ is correct, I like the commercial direction being considered for NASA.

    – Donald

  • Florida is in a quandary. Extending the Shuttle only delays the gap and does nothing to shorten it. Stakeholders down here believe the gap must be closed from both sides, by extending Shuttle and also accelerating its replacement. A tough request, given the budget, but the group is compelled to ask anyway.

  • This from a letter to NASA employees from the NASA Administrator. In the list of things to keep focused on, note the lack of mention of either Orion or Ares. This does not strike me as careless use of language. . . .

    Lori and I are meeting on a regular basis with our NASA senior leadership to develop our strategy for the future once the final report is released. Additional details on the process will be shared as they become available. In the meantime, staying focused on our current missions is critical. Let’s safety fly out the shuttle manifest and complete the construction and build out of the International Space Station (ISS). Let’s continue our robust exploration of Mars through our robotic rovers and other vehicles yet to be launched. Let’s continue our superb execution of the missions of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) as we gather more data to support future human exploration of the moon. Let’s vigorously pursue the critical missions designed to enable us to gain the essential knowledge of Earth’s environment – our atmosphere, our oceans, our weather – that will enable our policy makers to make wise, informed decisions on climate change and other threats to our environment. Let’s continue our technical leadership by conducting innovative research in the development of green aviation, revolutionary aircraft designs and a safer, more efficient air traffic system with strong collaborations with other government agencies, industry, and academia.

    – Donald

  • John Malkin

    I think they don’t want to state they are fore or against Ares\Orion until the report is published and the President gives direction. I expect that Obama will have something like the VSE speech next month maybe after talking to OMB and Congress similar to Bush.

    The blame for the gap falls to Congress and they should fully fund a new craft and aggressive space systems or run out shuttle to end of space station than shut down Government Human Spaceflight and leave everything to private commercial development.

  • John: The blame for the gap falls to Congress

    Huh? Technically, this is so, since Congress is in charge of the purse. However, Mr. Bush should hold at least as much responsibility, since he consistantly proposed budgets less than his own Administration promised to NASA.

    – Donald

  • CharlesTheSpaceGuy

    Hopefully the question is not just: can we borrow enough money from the Chinese to keep Florida voters happy! With the obscene Federal deficit we are gonna have a lot of trouble finding any extra money for government space.

    We got into this fix mainly because NASA has had several X programs that it spent lavishly on, and then dropped. Then we funded them to buy a launch vehicle that is the equivalent of an economical family sedan – but they went out and contracted for a full sized car!!

    My prediction is a reduced Shuttle flight rate (to maintain the illusion of a dynamic program) while scrambling to find some inexpensive follow on launch strategy. Hopefully we are in the process of converting to a commercial space launch industry for people and cargo, that would help.

    This could shrink the Gap but will still leave us vulnerable to our Russian partners for several years. Has anyone heard if Vladimir Putin is still encouraging the radical nationalists there?

  • MrEarl

    One finding of the Committee that should not surprise anyone is that the budget provided to NASA is not adequate to much of anything.
    One plan that I thought showed promise for shortening the gap would have been the Shuttle sidemount option proposed by John Shannon in the initial public meeting in Washington on June 17th. Retiring one shuttle and continuing 2 flights per year with the remaining 2 until 2015. At that time crew deployment to the ISS would be taken over by either commercial or Orion. It would also seem that developing sidemount options would be less expensive than any other option proposed. The shuttle stack could then become an evolving system, 5 segment solids, extended tanks, various sidemount delivery systems. Development could go on as money becomes available. The extra lift of the sidemount option would relieve the weight reduction pressures of the Orion team.
    I would be very interested in finding out why that plan was dropped from further consideration.

  • common sense

    @MrEarl:

    My belief is (note “belief”) that sidemount will be as much a nightmare as any shuttle derived options.

    The crewed version hopefully was dropped because it was a ludicrous idea and would most likely not work, potentially be even less safe than Shuttle.

    However I believe that a CommercialCrew+ShuttleDerivedCargo option is still in the run, is it not? See:

    http://www.nasa.gov/ppt/378656main_04_-_Presentation4.ppt#257,2,Slide 2

    http://www.nasa.gov/ppt/378554main_01%20-%20Integrated%20Options_2009Aug12.ppt#471,11,Shuttle Derived Vehicle

  • Al Fansome

    John: “The blame for the gap falls to Congress”

    Do you really believe this?

    If “Closing The Gap” was the primary objective, doing so was quite simple in 2005, when Griffin became Administrator.

    All Griffin needed to do was to develop a capsule that could be launched by an existing EELV. This was a relatively simple and straightforward task, which could have been achieved by 2011.

    We could have had a competition started in 2005, and had a competion between two companies with the potential for a fly-off. That was the existing plan when Griffin came to NASA.

    There would have been NO gap. There need not have been any gap.

    Griffin chose to cancel that plan (which had no gap), and replace it with a paper concept for a LV — which had a mantra of “Safe, Simple, Soon”. We are now four years down the road, with billions spent, and instead of a 2011 launch we are looking at 2015 (most optimistic) and 2017 according to a presidentially appointed commission. Thus, we are on the verge of cancelling that still paper LV, and starting over.

    So, whose fault is it?

    Congress you say?

    FWIW,

    – Al

  • common sense

    “All Griffin needed to do was to develop a capsule that could be launched by an existing EELV. This was a relatively simple and straightforward task, which could have been achieved by 2011.”

    Once upon a time there was a program called OSP…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbital_Space_Plane

    Then came CEV, and then came ESAS.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crew_Exploration_Vehicle

    Oh well.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “In the list of things to keep focused on, note the lack of mention of either Orion or Ares. This does not strike me as careless use of language. . . .”

    The absence of those items is indeed noteworthy. But then again, there are a lot of important things missing in these words. Not just Orion and Ares. In all fairness to Bolden, not mentioning Orion and Ares probably isn’t a sign of lack of his own support for them, but just an acknowledgment that the fate of this architecture is really somewhat up in the air. Yes, it’s not careless use of language, but he’s between a rock and a hard place here, because I think he really doesn’t quite know what Obama will do.

    I do agree that Obama has little to lose in this game. What got us here is a plan that he didn’t have anything to do with. Whether he has anything to win is not all that clear to me either. Sustaining a national vision from a previous administration could be considered an obligation, but throwing it a $3B/yr life preserver can’t be all that high on his list of priorities.

  • MrEarl

    @ Common
    I saw those nice Power Point presentations too. The second outlines all the options as presented in the Aug 5th meeting then the metrics are applied to using a SDV in the Deep Space scenario when it should be applied as an alternative vehicle to the Program of Record.
    I’ll admit I’m not a rocket scientist, but it would seem to me keeping the shuttle stack intact, (the same solids and tank) and only developing a cargo shroud should at least give us an inexpensive heavy lift cargo capacity much cheaper than the Ares V. As for putting an Orion capsule on top, the most challenging aspect would be abort vectors.
    It’s time we stop throwing away practically everything and starting over from scratch every time! Our capabilities need to evolve not move in fits and stops.

  • kert

    the NASA budget needs to be raised by at least $3 billion annually.
    Hmm, has someone thought about taking 3 billion from NASA and giving it to DARPA for space projects instead ? Now what about that gap ?

  • kert

    We could have had a competition started in 2005, and had a competion between two companies with the potential for a fly-off.
    Steidle’s path called for fly-off in 2008, IIRC ?

  • Doug: I do agree that Obama has little to lose in this game.

    That’s not what I said, or meant to say, and, while somewhat undecided, I’m not sure it’s true. Don’t forget the probable importance of Florida and the rest of the southern NASA states three years hence, and even the forign competition.

    Not continuing Constellation in some form while giving up the Shuttle means we are no longer visibly and demonstrably ahead of the other nations in spaceflight technology and operations, but equals to the likes Russia, China, and France / Germany / Italy. We would be giving up the opportunity to be “the leader” in one of the two skills at which we have far more experience than any other nation (human spaceflight operations and planetary robotic reconnaissance especially of the outer planets, respectively).

    Are we (read the Obama Administration) really ready to settle for “equality” or less with other nations in spaceflight? Maybe so, but I expect there are some in Congress, and even in the Administration, who are not and may be expected to kick up a fight.

    – Donald

  • Doug Lassiter

    Yes, Obama could run some risks electorally in Florida and Alabama, though again, he could credibly just blame the implosion on the previous administration. But throwing a $3B+/yr life preserver to a state to continue to host a faulty human space flight plan is not going to win him a lot of votes in other states.

    I’m guessing there are other ways to placate FL, AL, and LA that would not necessarily involve human space flight, or even NASA, especially from a fairly free-spending president.

    I too very much doubt that Obama or Congress would settle for “equality” in space flight, though there are many ways to assess a comparison or, to put it more bluntly, to spin the story. If the metric is being first to return to the Moon (a somewhat baffling “first”), then we may end up being less than equal. But there are other metrics.

  • Doug: But there are other metrics.

    Are there? I agree that the human plan is faulty and should change, but I doubt that throwing clockwork robots into orbit and around the Solar System, whatever its relative value or otherwise, will be seen in the world or in the United States as “leading.”

    – Donald

  • Al Fansome

    DONALD: Are we (read the Obama Administration) really ready to settle for “equality” or less with other nations in spaceflight?

    This countries government-funded space agency spends as much on space as the next 10 most well-funded space agencies COMBINED.

    So, how is cancelling Ares 1 going to result in “equality” or less with other nations in spaceflight?”

    This is completely a false argument.

    ALL of the options outlined by the Augustine Committee — spending $80+ Billion on human spaceflight between now and 2020 — would still place the U.S. in the clear leadership role.

    The biggest threat to U.S. leadership in space in the continued insistence on a central-government controlled bureaucratic paradigm for how our nation does space.

    Our bureaucrats and central planners are no better than the bureacrats and central planners from other countries.

    But our entrepreneurs and innovators will beat the pants off those same countries any day of the week.

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • Al, if you read my comment carefully, I was not addressing Ares-1 specifically, so I don’t disagree with your statement. However, we may spend ten times as much as other countries, but, outside of human spaceflight and deep space reconnaissance, we don’t do much they don’t do. I suppose that could be a measure of efficiency. . . .

    Our bureaucrats and central planners are no better than the bureaucrats and central planners from other countries.

    Again, I don’t disagree with your wider point, but Apollo, the ICBMs from which most current launch vehicles were ultimately derived, the Space Shuttle, and the central structure of the ISS are all far, far in advance of what any other country has achieved, all but the ICBM to this date. Whether measured by technology or by operations, all were arguably far ahead of their times. While by and large none of these was a commercial success (though it is worth noting that the ISS is driving the current relative success of commercial space transportation), every single one was a product of the United States’ bureaucrats and central planners, as was the freeway you (probably) drive to work on and the infrastructure that delivers your water and some of your power and disposes of your waste.

    The free market and entrepreneurs, while vitally important to our success, are only half of the American success story this century. We ignore or belittle the other half — the half that is providing a market to SpaceX and OSC — at our peril.

    – Donald
    .

  • Doug Lassiter

    I would consider the clockwork robots we have in hardened silos, ready to be thrown precisely and effectively at distant targets around the globe are, in fact, seen in the world as us “leading”, as are seen our RPVs that increasingly displace fighter pilots in controlling the Middle East theater for us. There are many ways to pound your chest and to capture high ground without wearing a spacesuit or body armor. Modern culture that is well steeped in telepresence doesn’t buy in as readily to the exploration myths of space that necessarily presume people sitting on rockets. So throwing humans around the solar systems doesn’t strike me as being much better than throwing robots.

    But let’s not fall into that boring and increasingly irrelevant humans versus robots rut. One could still consider the ISS as an accessible and operationally somewhat affordable human “outpost” that has never yet really been used to do anything. I’m not talking about crystal gazing and bone loss research, but as a base for building, deploying, and operating new and innovative vehicles, whether or not those vehicles have humans on board, that go new places to do new things. That platform represents our leadership in engineering and technology that will simply not be approached by anyone else for a long time. Though one hopes we find a way to keep getting ourselves there!

  • Doug: ready to be thrown precisely and effectively at distant targets around the globe are, in fact, seen in the world as us “leading”,

    Today, everyone and their brother has these. I would hardly call this “leading.”

    as are seen our RPVs that increasingly displace fighter pilots in controlling the Middle East theater for us.

    Which are regularly, “accidentally” slaughtering large number of civilians, far more so than human pilots have in the recent past. Is this really the “leading” we want to do?

    So throwing humans around the solar systems doesn’t strike me as being much better than throwing robots

    I think your perception of what the rest of the world perceives is dead wrong. Nobody (or almost nobody outside of the planetary reconnaissance community) was beating their chest about the loss of nuclear power to enable outer Solar System robotics, but the potential to lose our own access to the ISS or (more remotely) for China to beat us back to Earth’s moon, has plenty beating their chests here, and in China, where interest in human spaceflight is high and charactorized by barely disguised jingoism.

    The humans versus robots debate is only boring if you insist on believing (as far, far too many do) that robots can do what humans do or can successfully answer important scientific question about the Solar System. As Apollo astronauts two generations ago and HST repairers and ISS construction engineers and our military robots are proving with extraordinary numbers of civilian “accidents” that are hardly helping our cause in Afghanistan, it is long past time for a rethink..

    That platform represents our leadership in engineering and technology that will simply not be approached by anyone else for a long time.

    Again, even if that is true, that is not the perception — but neither you nor I can prove someone elses perception.

    – Donald

  • common sense

    “The free market and entrepreneurs, while vitally important to our success, are only half of the American success story this century. We ignore or belittle the other half — the half that is providing a market to SpaceX and OSC — at our peril.”

    I think that is where lies a major problem today in the space community. It is not NASA or (exclusive) commercial! It is and (inclusive). The more they complement each other the better. We must build on each’s strength. Don’t ask NASA to be quick and get something soon. Don’t ask commercial to make it safely to Mars. Of course as capabilities change, roles do as well.

    We are currently fixated in the old ways where it is either-or that prevails. Let’s be imaginative for once, the time has come! Let commerical help NASA achieve greater goal and NASA help commercial lower cost where it can be effective.

    Let’s try a change for once that may just work! The alternative is the end of HSF.

  • Common Sense: I agree with every word. Our commercial dominance in the twentieth century has at least as much to the permenent war footing and near-unlimited government technology largesse following WW-II and throughout the Cold War, as it did the entreprenurs who commercialized the technology largely begun or matured by military technology projects.

    – Donald

  • common sense

    @MrEarl:

    “using a SDV in the Deep Space scenario when it should be applied as an alternative vehicle to the Program of Record.”

    Well the program of record is not sustainable whether we like it or not, so they are considering different scenarios. Pretty much the questions to them was (1) “identify our capabilities” and (2) “considering our capabilities what can we do inside budget?”

    The answer to (1) are the so-called options and to (2) is “no HSF beyond LEO”.

    “it would seem to me keeping the shuttle stack intact, (the same solids and tank) and only developing a cargo shroud should at least give us an inexpensive heavy lift cargo capacity much cheaper than the Ares V.”

    Unfortunately it is not that simple. See, the premises of ESAS was that using a regular SRB and an Apollo-like capsule we’d be soon somewhere. The problem is that SRB was not designed for this mission and Apollo expertise no longer exists (same essentially goes for Shuttle today – no, I am not speaking about the ops part of it). And this is where the mess we’re is originated. It only was allowed to grow to this level because there was no desire to look at other than SRBs options (see OSP link above). In the end the sidemount option may “look” like a Shuttle stack but would most likely have nothing to do with one (design, ops, architecture, etc). Looks ARE deceiving.

    “As for putting an Orion capsule on top, the most challenging aspect would be abort vectors.”

    All I can say is believe me if it were that simple we would have a current design even for Ares/Orion. There is no such thing. There is a LAS concept ann an MLAS concept both of which don’t worjk for different reasons. Adding an SRB (sidemount), aborting from the side (shock interactions affect pitch moment – there is a prelim analysis document tyou can find on NASAWatch and since it was very preliminary I disputed deriving any conclusion and never heard anything since then except it seems the concept no longer is one).

    “It’s time we stop throwing away practically everything and starting over from scratch every time!”

    Unfortunately it is what happens when decisions are not technical but rather political decisions to a design. And even if it were technical only it does not make any difference if the design does not work.

    “Our capabilities need to evolve not move in fits and stops.”

    Absolutely agreed. Again the day you remove politics out of design and capability decision you will be closer to that. And by politics I mean inside and outside NASA. Political decisions are made in DC but not only.

    People able to really open their eyes and ears knew from the start that it’d probably go nowhere. Pretty bad heh?

  • Doug Lassiter

    ready to be thrown precisely and effectively at distant targets around the globe are, in fact, seen in the world as us “leading”

    • Today, everyone and their brother has these. I would hardly call this “leading.”

    Everyone? Hardly. Everyone has rockets that can throw things, but not as accurately as we can. Certainly the two countries that can throw these things with any accuracy at all are considered “leaders”. Hey, Tom Seaver was a leader. His throwing was awesome!

    as are seen our RPVs that increasingly displace fighter pilots in controlling the Middle East theater for us.

    • Which are regularly, “accidentally” slaughtering large number of civilians, far more so than human pilots have in the recent past. Is this really the “leading” we want to do?

    I’m sorry, but I don’t have statistics on how may civilians are killed by actual fighter pilots and RPVs. I suspect the statistics are not very pretty either way. But the fact is that RPVs are being judged as an extremely efficient and economical way of doing the job that the military wants done. It’s not at all the kind of leading I myself want to see done, but it is the kind of leading that our military finds acceptable.

    •I think your perception of what the rest of the world perceives is dead wrong.

    I will accept that statement. (I’m not sure what the point is about nuclear systems, though.) I completely agree that access to ISS is critical to our future, and I thought I made that point. Yes, chests are certainly being beaten about who can be first to return to the Moon, but I suspect that this is an issue mainly because there is little else considered worthwhile doing. Augustine’s team may fix that. I suspect a lot of the chest beating is about jobs (e.g. Aerospace Career Development Council) rather than national pride.

    •The humans versus robots debate is only boring if you insist on believing (as far, far too many do) that robots can do what humans do or can successfully answer important scientific question about the Solar System.

    I think that intelligent agents are necessary to answer such important scientific questions. Take your pick how much intelligence you need, and the cost per unit intelligence. I call this debate boring because it doesn’t actually go anywhere, and is usually oblivious to the fact that such robots are rarely acting autonomously, but are being controlled by humans. It’s about human brains in different places. Larger distances require more autonomy (for both robots and humans), but often involve being places that aren’t particularly nice for people.

    Hubble astronauts and ISS assembly teams really don’t prove anything about the value of robots or lack thereof. HST was never designed to be serviced with robots and, actually, much of ISS assembly was done telerobotically, with Canadarm. Civilian casualties in Afghanistan, while tragic and regrettable, is an odd general argument to make against robotics, except that perhaps they are soulless beasts that are inherently evil. You’re not really saying that, are you?

  • There’s no doubt in my mind that there would be strong bi-partisan political support to raise the NASA budget in order to eliminate the gap and return to the Moon– to stay. There will be some Republicans and some on the extreme left that would be critical. But most Democrats and Republicans would support an increase in the NASA budget, IMO.

    But Florida is gone for Obama in 2012 if he doesn’t raise the NASA budget. The Republicans will say that Obama wasted trillions in stimulus spending on other projects yet wouldn’t support our manned space program. And they could add insult to injury by saying that Obama turned his back on the legacy of John F. Kennedy. Obama would be a fool to be penny wise but pound foolish with the NASA budget.

  • Terrestrial muse

    I seem to recall that at least Senator Mikulski and Senator Hutchison tried to add $1 billion to NASA several years running only to have the House or the Bush administration object.

    I think a justified reason for adding money to NASA would work, but Obama has to sell his choice to what is becoming a skeptical public when it comes to spending more. It would be wise if he pulled key members of Congress into the decision making process to get the right people to buy in to whatever choice is made, be it closing the gap or going another direction.

  • common sense

    “It would be wise if he pulled key members of Congress into the decision making process to get the right people to buy in to whatever choice is made, be it closing the gap or going another direction.”

    Look what happens for Charles Bolden and Sen. nelson for example… How can it be otherwise?

  • Al Fansome

    COMMON SENSE: I think that is where lies a major problem today in the space community. It is not NASA or (exclusive) commercial! It is and (inclusive). The more they complement each other the better. We must build on each’s strength.

    There is a false choice in this statement — as it presumes that serious commercial advocates are promoting “exclusively commercial”. NO serious commercial advocate is doing so.

    The fight — which has been going on for over two decades — is between an almost exclusive government approach, and a balanced partnership between the two where we leverage the best of both commercial & government.

    For the last 25 years, NASA has had to be brought KICKING & SCREAMING every step of the way — into a partnership with commercial industry. It has been resisted by the NASA iron triangle (NASA + contractors + Center politicians).

    * The DOT was given the legal authority by Congress in the 1980s to regulate commercial space transportation over the objections of the traditional status quo space powers.

    * Commercial payloads were taken off of the Shuttle after Challenger by the Reagan Administration over the active opposition of the then NASA Administrator (Fletcher).

    * The Launch Services Purchase Act of 1990 — which was the first law mandating that NASA buy commercial space transportation services — was passed by Congress over the objections of NASA.

    * Instead of partnering with the American Rocket Company in the late 1980s, NASA MSFC created a competing hybrid rocket R&D program in an attempt to put AMROC out of business. (They succeeded.)

    * The Congress passed the Commercial Space Act of 1998 that mandated that NASA should purchase ISS cargo resupply services. NASA resisted that mandate for 6 years — until Columbia happened and the Bush Administration created the Commercial/Crew Cargo services budget as part of the VSE in 2004. In December 2008, over 10 years after CSA98 passed, NASA finally signed an ISS cargo services delivery contract.

    * NASA is still resisting doing commercial crew — which was part of the original official VSE plan (it was the CREW/cargo services program in the VSE). It has taken a national commission of space experts — reporting to the White House — to unequivocably recommend (its in all the options) that NASA institute a commercial crew (instead of Ares 1).

    * NASA could have instituted “propellant depots” as part of the national strategy years ago. Why were propellant depots so obvious to the Augustine Commission as a key enable for our national goals in space, but ignored by the traditional NASA bureaucracy?

    It is not because the NASA bureaucracy is dumb. I assert the reason is that creating a depot based architecture is not in the “bureaucratic interest” of NASA, as it outsources a large portion of the supply chain for exploration to commercial providers.

    Prediction — NASA will resist creating propellant depots to the extent it is given the means to do so.

    So, I completely agree with you that we need to build on the strength of both commercial and government. But that ignores the primary challenge of getting there.

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • common sense

    @Al Fansome:

    “There is a false choice in this statement — as it presumes that serious commercial advocates are promoting “exclusively commercial”. NO serious commercial advocate is doing so.”

    I never said all “serious” commercial advocates are doing so. And any serious commercial advocate I am sure knows better. I was only referring to comments I have seen here and there about the dichotomy some are trying to make. I, as a commercial advocate, would love to see NASA go strong. And I believe that, conversely, NASA will get a lot more if commercial goes strong in today’s environment.

    “But that ignores the primary challenge of getting there.”

    I assume you refer to the “NASA iron triangle (NASA + contractors + Center politicians).” If so I do not ignore it one bit but it is our role to help them understand the benefits of having commercial space into the equation. As you pointed out we cannot somehow make them agree with that “just because”. The “just because” reason to do anything does not work today (ref. economic crisis, Ares, etc). I think they will have to come to grasp with reality sooner rather than later. I would even say further that if all goes well it’ll happen between mid and end of September if you see what I mean.

    So, no, I do not ignore the challenge. I would love to be able to reassure those in the triangles, but primarily NASA and Congress/WH, that they’ll all benefit. As to the contractors, well, they are “commercial” are they not? That means fair game right? So, best of luck to them…

  • Al,
    At least regarding propellant depots, I think that in order to be fair, it should be mentioned that a lot of the work demonstrating ways of doing inexpensive first-generation propellant depots only came out in the few years since VSE. I mean the general idea of depots has been around since at least 1928, but the concepts of settled propellant handling, and small, simple depots are a lot more recent…

    That said, I do agree that even if there are some within NASA that are actually very supportive of depots, there are also probably going to be many that oppose it for bureaucratic inertia reasons. With depots, you really don’t need much new launch vehicle development, and a lot of those improvements may be able to be left to commercial industry to do by various players trying to compete for a large new market.

    ~Jon

  • Martijn Meijering

    At least regarding propellant depots, I think that in order to be fair, it should be mentioned that a lot of the work demonstrating ways of doing inexpensive first-generation propellant depots only came out in the few years since VSE.

    Not quite true…

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