Congress, Other

Is an online poll worth a committee’s time?

On Sunday afternoon, journalist Miles O’Brien sent out a note to his over 5,000 Twitter followers inviting them to fill out a survey. The survey contains this explanation:

Veteran space journalist Miles O’Brien will testify on the Hill Wednesday, Feb. 24, regarding what the public thinks of President Obama’s space plan and NASA in general. What do you think? We appreciate your participation in this short survey. Thank you.

This is a reference to a hearing by the Senate Commerce Committee’s space subcommittee on Wednesday about NASA’s FY11 budget request. (The page, as of late Sunday, didn’t have the list of witnesses; presumably O’Brien will be joined by, among others, NASA administrator Charles Bolden.) O’Brien said he would share the results of the survey at the hearing.

The questions are pretty general, covering both high-level issues associated with the budget request (canceling Constellation, relying on commercial providers for crew access to LEO), as well as more general questions about NASA’s role in inspiration and education as well as its funding level. However, the mechanism for collecting this information is imperfect at best: not only is there all kinds of selection bias associated with online polling in general, the poll appears to allow people to complete the survey more than once (I tested it and got the same “Survey Completed” message when I filled out and submitted it again.)

Needless to say, any sort of concrete conclusions from this survey will be dubious at best, and perhaps not the best use of the committee’s time. What would be more useful would be some kind of scientific survey by a polling firm (Gallup, Rasmussen, Zogby, etc.). There haven’t been any NASA-related ones published that I’ve seen since the NASA budget came out at the beginning of the month; the most recent was a Rasmussen poll in mid-January, which found that while 64% of respondents had a favorable view of NASA, 50% wanted to “cut back on space exploration” because of the economy.

93 comments to Is an online poll worth a committee’s time?

  • Jeff – I am a big fan of your site – but I must confess this is a cheap shot – inasmuch as you have no idea how I am going to use the information – or what caveats and disclaimers I will proffer. Maybe you should make your judgment as to the relative merits of conducting this (admittedly unscientific) poll until after you have heard my testimony. Best, Miles

  • I see this “survey” not as a scientific collection of data, but as a way for interested space tweeps to be part of the conversation — participatory exploration. Nice for Miles to offer an opportunity for his followers to express their views. I assume those taking the poll are part of the space industry. But that’s just a guess.

  • I doubt a survey like this will have any impact on policy. In general this isn’t a good time to sell an expanded space program. I think space is one of those things that the general population expect the goverment to be doing. Yet when confronted with specific costs they tend to be opposed because it sounds like a lot of money. This many because of the big number rather than any though out view of the value of space exploration.

  • Major Tom

    “I am a big fan of your site – but I must confess this is a cheap shot – inasmuch as you have no idea how I am going to use the information – or what caveats and disclaimers I will proffer.”

    The poll isn’t going to produce “information”. I was also able to vote multiple times from the same computer. Even with the disclaimer that this is not a scientific poll, the data is useless — the votes don’t represent the voters.

    Garbage in, garbage out…

  • Jeff Foust

    Miles: I’m sorry that you see this as a “cheap shot”, and I admit I don’t know how you’re going to use the information, as you’ve only stated that you’ll share the results at Wednesday’s hearing. However, the concerns I voiced in this post I believe are valid: without information about the population completing the survey, the results will have limited weight.

  • Mike

    Miles, I think the intent of creating a poll is great. I agree with Jeff in that it is much to general to provide meaningful feedback. Aside from missing demographic information, the questions are much to black and white for such a complex issue.

    For example, the first question asks if I’m for or against Constellation, or don’t know. What if I’m for going to the Moon using Orion but instead on top of a SDHLV instead of Ares?

    I’m for Shuttle extension into LEO until commercial/private providers are ready.

    I think the poll is a great idea, it just needs to consider other options/alternatives or even a “other” fill in field.

  • red

    Aside from the technical and selection aspects of the poll, I think just asking “Do you approve of President Obama’s plan to cancel NASA’s Constellation Program, which would have returned human explorers to the moon?” is likely to lead to excessive “no” answers from the space-interested public that is likely to use the poll because it makes it seem that Constellation is being removed and nothing is being put in its place. The real question is do you want to fund Constellation, or the following:

    - making sure the Shuttle finishes building the space station ($600M)

    - demonstrations of essential exploration techologies like in-orbit propellant transfer, inflatable modules, closed-loop life support, using space resources to “live off the land”, in-space propulsion, automated rendezvous and docking, and more ($7.8B over 5 years)

    - robotic precursors (as opposed to robotic science missions) to search for resources and assess hazards to astronauts at various destinations (eg: local resource use demo at the Moon or an asteroid, Moon surface telerobotics) ($3B over 5 years)

    - research and development for heavy lift rockets, in-space engine technology development and demos, and basic propulsion research ($3.1B over 5 years)

    - a 42% increase in the human research program ($215M per year for 5 years)

    - fully using the space station

    - extending the space station to 2020+ instead of the Constellation plan to dump it in the ocean in 2016

    - expanding space station capabilities (eg: adding a centrifuge) (all these space station increases amount to over $2B over the next 5 years)

    - modernize the Kennedy Space Center to make it more efficient and to reduce launch costs (almost $2B over 5 years)

    - incentives for U.S. commercial operators to create services to transport astronauts to the space station ($5.8B over 5 years)

    - incentives for existing commercial cargo development efforts for the space station to add capabilities or tests (in light of the expected increase in the use of the space station) ($312M)

    - a general space technology program (about $4.9B over 5 years – this includes some existing programs but they are much smaller than this)

    - an increase in Earth observation missions (about $2B over 5 years)

    - a pretty good increase in robotic planetary science missions (but modest compared to the ones above) – There is also new funding to support NASA planetary science in the DOE budget.

    - a big increase in NASA Aeronautics (eg: new programs for fuel efficiency, unmanned aerial vehicles, aviation security and safety)

    - Constellation close-out costs ($2.5B)

    Personally, I find several pieces of this to be more important that what Constellation might do in the same time period:

    - commercial crew/cargo
    - ensure ISS is finished and stocked, full ISS use, ISS to 2020+, add to ISS capabilities
    - robotic HSF precursors, planetary and Earth science increases
    - space technology R&D
    - exploration technology demonstrations

    In other words, without hesitation I’d sacrifice Constellation for any of these 5. The decision is even easier with all 5 of these and more in the trade. However, I might keep Constellation if the alternative was nothing (leading to a different answer in the poll).

  • Doug Lassiter

    It will indeed be interesting to see how he’s going to use it. I can’t help but notice that he didn’t tell us.

    If this was intended as an information gathering exercise that would solicit ideas, views, and perspectives, I can see how that would be of interest for preparing his testimony. But the word “survey” implies some assessment of what a representative sample believes, and this is clearly not that. In fact, as far as I can tell, this isn’t an information gathering exercise at all, with just multiple choice questions that are, in fact, somewhat ambiguous. The only way to interpret the results of this are “lots of people checked this” or “hardly anyone checked that”, which is, as has been pointed out, entirely meaningless as being in any way representative of taxpayer views, since you have no idea who filled it out, nor how many times they did.

    A real information gathering exercise would have asked for text in a “what do you think about …?” kind of way.

    One ambiguous question in the survey is the one about need for destinations. I think it would have been nice if the FY11 budget had clearly given some picture of what kind of destinations might have been appropriate to our human space flight effort (yes!), but I very much do not believe (as per “flexible path”) that we need to focus on one, as we’ve been doing for the last five years (no!).

    This was an exercise that clearly didn’t have a lot of thought behind it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    I saw it on facebook. Miles is a smart guy so he must be aware of the unscientific nature of it…

    that aside…what would be interesting is to analyze the responses for “consistency”…there is some inkling of an attempt to find a train of thought in the questions.

    that said I will be interested to see how Miles uses it.

    Robert G. Oler

  • red

    I’m a little bit critical of the following survey question, too:

    “Should NASA’s exploration program focus on a destination (or destinations) beyond Low Earth Orbit?”

    I think the space community has generally defined “exploration” as being at least “beyond Low Earth Orbit”, so it seems that NASA’s exploration program, if it’s to exist at all, has to focus on destinations beyond LEO, almost by definition.

    However, does that mean NASA shouldn’t do things in or below LEO that aren’t exploration?

    Does doing a technology demonstration of propellant transfer intended for eventual use in exploration, but actually demonstrated in LEO, count as “focusing on a destination beyond LEO”?

    Does building Ares I/Orion for ISS transportation count as “focusing on a destination beyond LEO” because of eventual plans beyond LEO?

    What about robotic HSF precursors or planetary science robotic missions that actually go beyond LEO – do they count?

    What about what I think is the only achievable option in the (relatively) near term for astronaut exploration: going to GEO, lunar orbit, and/or Earth-Moon Lagrange points for various purposes (satellite assembly or servicing, lunar telerobotics and observations, exploration demos and tests, etc). Would these count as “exploration”, given that they are points or orbits in space?

    I think different people taking the poll are going to come into the survey with different interpretations of all of these nuances, and thus it’s going to be difficult to tell what the respondents actually intended.

  • ISS vet

    Miles, I’m afraid that your first question, “Do you approve of President Obama’s plan to cancel NASA’s Constellation Program, which would have returned human explorers to the moon?” is false as stated. It should read, “Do you approve of President Obama’s plan to cancel NASA’s Constellation Program, which would NEVER have returned human explorers to the moon?”

  • Alan Stern

    Give miles a break. He’s a savvy guy who knows what to do with an informal poll. And he’s got religion.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Mike Griffin was a savvy guy who had religion too. Savvy and religion do not ensure good decisions.

    But I respect his insights, and understand that his intentions are good. It will be interesting how he uses the resulting database.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Alan Stern wrote @ February 21st, 2010 at 9:37 pm ..

    it is all entertaining…Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    I dont think any testimony really matters all that much…in my view “the fix is in”.

    Partially it is the opposition, the “save our program” groups are just totally inept. They range from real whack jobs like Shleby who says diametrically oppossed things in the same paragraph and doesnt bat an eye…to well intentioned people like Hickam and Spudis who are living in another time…and the folks like Whittington are incoherent.

    Worse the companies affected except for ATK seem ready to let the thing go…

    Did anyone watch The Sunday Morning Shows (ok the Sunday Morning shows not on Fox News)? No one was talking about spending more money…they were all about cutting programs…so who out there thinks that 3 billion more is going to be available for a Moon shot in 2030?

    We are witnessing the Sarah Palin death panel at work…As I predicted in 04…we spent a whole lot of money and have nothing to show for it.

    It is about to be over

    Robert G. Oler

  • Doug Lassiter

    Does anyone know which hearing Miles O’Brien is scheduled to be testifying at? He’s not a listed witness for either of the House Space & Technology hearings this week. The one for NASA is on February 25, not February 24, BTW.

    If we’re supposed to hear his testimony to see what he’s going to do with this survey, it would be handy to have that info.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “Does anyone know which hearing Miles O’Brien is scheduled to be testifying at?”

    My apologies. It was right there in the initial post. Senate Commerce. Other side of the Hill.

  • I agree with red that the first poll question is definitely a push poll. It will be interesting to see the results, anyhow.

  • “Do you approve of President Obama’s plan to cancel NASA’s Constellation Program, which would NEVER have returned human explorers to the moon?”

    Nonsense. It would have done so with enough funding. The problem is the fund isn’t forthcoming. This more the case since the current economic situation.

    The key thing is not what Cx would really have done but rather its cancellation leaves open the possibility that it may be replaced with nothing. At a minimum it would have given us access to LEO. Nothing means that it could well be game over for US HSF. The Russian program was able to survive the collapse of the Soviet Union. Can our program survive the current political/economic situation?

    It will be interesting to see how these hearing go. I’m not at all clear that the Obama plan is going anywhere. So then what is the outcome of this clash of interests.

  • I agree with red that the first poll question is definitely a push poll. It will be interesting to see the results, anyhow.

    Why? Internet polls have no value.

    Nonsense. It would have done so with enough funding. The problem is the fund isn’t forthcoming.

    Because it wouldn’t have been worth the money.

    The key thing is not what Cx would really have done but rather its cancellation leaves open the possibility that it may be replaced with nothing. At a minimum it would have given us access to LEO. Nothing means that it could well be game over for US HSF.

    This is nutty. Do you really believe that no one is going to be taking people to orbit commercially? It’s going to happen — Bigelow needs rides to make his business work. All that the new policy will do is accelerate it.

  • Rand Simberg, to see which group has the most spammers.

  • donnie

    miles, in “new media” this isn’t a low blow, it is just a good point :) take solace friend, no one is trying to sink you here!

    this here is just a good point. and you also make a good point, that the poll could be useful. I could make the point that extremists are far-from-normal by comparing an internet poll to a scientific one!

  • “Because it wouldn’t have been worth the money.”

    That wasn’t the statement. The state was that it would have happened. The question of was it worth doing was been addressed. But, a lot of people would argue that the human space flight program isn’t worth it. We’ve doing it for nearly fifty years inspite of these people.

    “Do you really believe that no one is going to be taking people to orbit commercially?”

    The Russians will still be taking people to orbit. Beyond that there is no guarantee.

  • But, a lot of people would argue that the human space flight program isn’t worth it.

    That has nothing to do with what I wrote. One can think that human spaceflight is “worth it,” and not think that the cost of Constellation is.

    The Russians will still be taking people to orbit. Beyond that there is no guarantee.

    There are never any guarantees. But the closest thing to one is that Constellation would have been horrifically expensive, for little return, if it ever flew at all.

  • Bill White

    @ Simberg

    Bigelow needs rides to make his business work. All that the new policy will do is accelerate it.

    Perhaps and perhaps not.

    There are no guarantees that the price point NASA ends up paying for ISS commercial crew and cargo will be affordable for private sector Bigelow customers and if a promising NewSpace company likes the prices being paid by NASA why would they accept less to fly non-NASA customers?

    Has anyone except the taxpayers ever purchased a Delta II or Delta IV launch?

    NASA contracts for ISS crew delivery could end up being like heroin, something that is very addictive and crowds everything else out of one’s life.

  • REO

    I don’t see how this poll is going to be very useful. With the ability to take it more than once you will not get accurate results. Besides, the main place I found access to the survey was NASA Watch, which isn’t exactly known for its support of NASA programs. Thus, the main people being surveyed there are anti-Constellation and your results are going to be biased.

    With funding restored, Constellation can succeed. All of NASA’s big programs needed the funding to back them up. Had leaders not stepped up to the plate and provided that funding, we’d have had no Apollo, Shuttle or ISS programs. Constellation wasn’t just another visit to the moon. It was a first step into deeper space exploration.

    Personally, I don’t understand why so many are saying that NASA has not been very inspirational lately. The Shuttle has been continuing to launch and ISS construction has been on-going. These are the things that inspire. Not R&D on Earth. People are pushing the commercialization of space, which is fine, but should be at the expense of those private companies, NOT tax-payers. We’re supposed to believe that this will bring money into our ecomony. But the profit? Joy rides for the wealthy. The new administration wants to turn our nation’s space program into an investment company for creating a space playground for the rich. And people say NASA hasn’t been inspiring our youth… How utterly uninspiring is this new plan.

  • googaw

    he’s got religion.

    You got that part right. Science, technology, economics — that’s another matter.

  • There are no guarantees that the price point NASA ends up paying for ISS commercial crew and cargo will be affordable for private sector Bigelow customers and if a promising NewSpace company likes the prices being paid by NASA why would they accept less to fly non-NASA customers?

    Because it means even more revenue?

    Has anyone except the taxpayers ever purchased a Delta II or Delta IV launch?

    I don’t know, without checking. Why do you leave out Atlas?

    NASA contracts for ISS crew delivery could end up being like heroin, something that is very addictive and crowds everything else out of one’s life.

    It might, if the supply weren’t so limited. But it is, so they’ll be looking for other customers.

  • Constellation End


    the Augustine Commission’s work and report are so bad and useless that also a slot-machine can give better results! http://bit.ly/a9kVGF

  • CharlesTheSpaceGuy

    Two notes – first it is pretty surprising that Miles, an experienced news guy, has such thin skin! He hinted strongly that he was gonna connect the poll and his testimony, and what Neanderthal (sorry, GEICO) has not seen volumes of criticism of on-line polls?

    And back to the poll – sure it might be nice to know what people want!! The members of Congress forget that at their peril. But someone has to apply common sense and experience to recommend what we CAN do, what we SHOULD do, and how to proceed. I would like to see testimony about where we are, where we can get, and how to get from here to there. The Augustine Committee had thoughts about our (then) current plan and some alternatives. They did NOT make recommendations.

    Now we essentially have NO program and are scrambling to invent one. We are retiring the Shuttle, we have NO follow on vehicle, folks on ISS need supplies – and we have some people who have promised to deliver them. What happens if (GASP!!) there are delays on Falcon 9 or Dragon? The vehicles going up to ISS are booked – is that cargo to be carried by the first or second or third Dragon very important? Sure SpaceX is not gonna get paid – but that also means that people on ISS do not get something! I hope they can do without it since we are real short of alternatives.

    Certain the usual suspects will criticize me for saying we have NO program. A “program” means a vehicle and not a development program! A “program” means certification to approach/dock with ISS. Right now we have bright, enthusiastic people that promise a lot and have a steep learning curve ahead of them.

    I sure wish ESA would move a lot faster with expanding the capabilities of the ATV, but I was talking to a very senior ESA person who expressed great frustration that they are still frittering away their time on studies. ATV could develop into a cargo return vehicle and perhaps into a crew vehicle. And they have an actual flying vehicle and so a good head start on expanding it’s capabilities. Sigh.

  • Robert G. Oler

    CharlesTheSpaceGuy w

    for all the angst over human spaceflight in this country by the space groupies…the reality in my view is that the rest of the world, really doesnt care much about it.

    The Russians do human spaceflight because they have always done it and just like in the US they have an infrastructure that is all wrapped up in it. They have found a sugar daddy in the US and the billionares who do the tourist thing…and a buck goes a long way there so they can keep it up.

    The Japanese and Europeans have stretched about as far as they can go to do their resupply modules. They dont seem to be showing any interest in going much beyond that unless someone pays them.

    The chinese…what a joke.

    No one makes any real money in human spaceflight and only in the US is it that big a government dependency

    Robert G. Oler

  • Ferris Valyn

    What happens if (GASP!!) there are delays on Falcon 9 or Dragon?

  • Ferris Valyn

    crap!!

    Try this again

    CharlestheSpaceGuy

    What happens if (GASP!!) there are delays on Falcon 9 or Dragon?

    1. First, we aren’t looking for a single “replacement vehicle” – this is the mistake people keep thinking. If we only get 1 vehicle operational, the program has failed. Which brings me to point #2
    2. Because we are going to be funding multiple vehicles, then Orion-lite, or Dreamchaser, or both of those, can be ready, if Dragon is delayed.

  • Bill White

    The critical word here is monopsony (wikipedia):

    In economics, a monopsony (from Ancient Greek μόνος (monos) “single” + ὀψωνία (opsōnia) “purchase”) is a market form in which only one buyer faces many sellers. It is an example of imperfect competition, similar to a monopoly, in which only one seller faces many buyers. As the only purchaser of a good or service, the “monopsonist” may dictate terms to its suppliers in the same manner that a monopolist controls the market for its buyers.

    As long as NASA remains the sole buyer of human spaceflight I predict the “new plan” shall end up being a “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” scenario.

    George Orwell’s Animal Farm is instructive as well.

    = ==

    @ Ferris Valyn — Three questions:

    (1) Where in the new plan are multiple vehicles guaranteed? You seem to be projecting a whole lot of personal wishes into something that hasn’t been announced, yet.

    (2) Is the proposed commercial crew budget large enough to fund three or more “winners” in the commercial crew category? That seems like quite a stretch, to me.

    (3) Under the new plan, who will assume the responsibilities that would have been performed by Admiral Steidle under VSE 1.0?

    Recall that Admiral Steidle was run the CEV procurement spirals prior to the arrival of Michael Griffin and his VSE 2.0 (ESAS).

  • As long as NASA remains the sole buyer of human spaceflight I predict the “new plan” shall end up being a “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” scenario.

    Why do you keep fantasizing that this is going to happen, Bill? There is ample market for human spaceflight other than NASA. It has simply been awaiting a supply. Elon was developing crew systems before COTS.

  • Bill White

    Rand,

    Why do you believe commercially viable non-NASA spaceflight must wait for NASA blaze the trail?

  • Ferris Valyn

    (1) Where in the new plan are multiple vehicles guaranteed? You seem to be projecting a whole lot of personal wishes into something that hasn’t been announced, yet.

    We had multiple vehicles for the COTS program, and that had significantly less money than the Commercial Crew program. We managed to get 2 winners out of that. I don’t believe this is unreasonable to assume we’ll get multiple winners this time either. Also, don’t forget, the COTS competitors all had to fund new rocket development as well. In this case, all the proposed vehicles use existing (or near existing) rockets.

    (2) Is the proposed commercial crew budget large enough to fund three or more “winners” in the commercial crew category? That seems like quite a stretch, to me.

    Augustine committee said they believed a $2.5-$3 Billion investment was needed to get 2 winners, and have at least 1 winner be from traditional Aerospace. Obama budget puts up $5.8 Billion

    (3) Under the new plan, who will assume the responsibilities that would have been performed by Admiral Steidle under VSE 1.0?

    Not certain I follow you on this question

  • Al Fansome

    Has anyone except the taxpayers ever purchased a Delta II or Delta IV launch?

    Based on a quick search, it appears that Delta II has launched both 60 Iridium and 32 Globalstar satellites, in 12 and 8 launches respectively.

    An early version of the Delta also launched the world’s first commercial satellite, COMSAT I, in 1965.

    I also agree with Rand. Funny that the poster did not list Atlas V.

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • Bill White

    Is this the correct commercial crew budgetary time line?

    FY2011: 500M;
    FY2012: 1400M;
    FY2013: 1400M;
    FY2014: 1300M;
    FY2015: 1200M.

    $5.8 billion in total

    Is this development money or total money available including actual launches to ISS?

  • common sense

    @Alan Stern:

    “Give miles a break. He’s a savvy guy who knows what to do with an informal poll. And he’s got religion.”

    No can’t do sorry. I also entered the poll but there appears to be some “bias” to the poll as suggested by the questions (e.g. Constellation and the Moon). Giving “a break” to people is what led to the current debacle. And Miles is somehow part of NASA. So I think the right thing to do would be to at leats honestly tell all the caveats associated with his poll, which he might very well do. I think some of us are concerned because of the “populist” fervor against the current plan even though Constellation would never, never have put anyone on the Moon. And Miles’ poll may just add more fuel to it. The problem with the fervor is that it is baseless and mostly uninformed. There was a committee that showed every one who ared what was going on, the Augustine committee.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Bill – from budget details, on the NASA website

    The Commercial Crew Program will provide $6 billion over the next five years to support the development of commercial crew transportation providers to whom NASA could competitively award a crew transportation services contract analogous to the Cargo Resupply Services contract for ISS. These funds will be competed through COTS-like, fixed-price, milestone-based Space Act Agreements that support the development, testing, and demonstration of multiple commercial crew systems. As with the COTS cargo program, some amount of private investment capital will be included as part of any Space Act Agreement and NASA will use this funding to support a range of higher- and lower-programmatic risk systems.

    In other words, this will provide the for the Development (including test flights) of the vehicles. At the completion of the program, there will be X number of vehicles (more than one) that can provide crew delivery. There will be a follow-on contract, like CRS, for crew.

  • common sense

    “(1) Where in the new plan are multiple vehicles guaranteed? You seem to be projecting a whole lot of personal wishes into something that hasn’t been announced, yet.”

    When do you ever get any guarantee? Was Ares/Orion a guarantee to success???? Something you did not read in the Augustine report? Maybe you should give it another try.

    “(2) Is the proposed commercial crew budget large enough to fund three or more “winners” in the commercial crew category? That seems like quite a stretch, to me.”

    How do you know? Did you even run a budget for a crewed vehicle? Lockheed won the contract for about $10B. What was the overall cost recently? No one, no one has any real idea of the cost because there is no historical basis stron enough to support a basis of estimate for anything like this. But this should give you a little bit of hope, does it not? http://www.comspacewatch.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=33548

    “(3) Under the new plan, who will assume the responsibilities that would have been performed by Admiral Steidle under VSE 1.0?

    Recall that Admiral Steidle was run the CEV procurement spirals prior to the arrival of Michael Griffin and his VSE 2.0 (ESAS).”

    ???? CEV is dead, the new plan is NOT calling, so far, for a new CEV, is it? Why would you need someone in a similar position? Apples and oranges, sorry.

  • googaw

    Bill is right to observe that the COTS system falls far short of full market competition. But while market competition is a good ideal to strive for, it’s not what the current debate is about. It’s about COTS-style contracting versus the traditional NASA cost-plus contract that gave us the massive cost overruns and underperformance of the Shuttle, ISS, and Constellation. COTS is far better than what Constellation gives us, defunding our last big Constellation-like project, the ISS, after we’ve already spent $100 billion on it and letting it burn to smitherenes above the Pacific Ocean. Bill if you are against COTS what is the alternative you favor?

  • common sense

    “Bill is right to observe that the COTS system falls far short of full market competition”

    You have to start somewhere don’t you? You want investors to carry the burden of HSF you have to incentivize them. So COTS is the beginning of returning to a market based competition for HSF. Today it is the only chance for success. The cost-plus model has its merit but not for an Apollo like system as was supposed to be Ares/Orion.

  • Bill White

    googaw,

    I am NOT opposed to the current plan, I merely find the current plan insufficient to achieve what the supporters assert it will achieve.

    And it shall come at a very high political price given the massive lay-offs of workers in a very bad economy.

    Once again, space advocates are over-promising.

    While I do believe NASA can procure ISS crew and cargo (using capsules) with the following budget:

    FY2011: 500M;
    FY2012: 1400M;
    FY2013: 1400M;
    FY2014: 1300M;
    FY2015: 1200M.

    I do not believe this will be “game changing”

    The game won’t change until we end NASA’s monopsony.

  • Bill White

    @ common sense

    My question about Admiral Steidle concerns who will pick winners and losers with respect to dividing the $5.8 billion commercial crew budget.

    How will winners and losers be picked?

    How significant will “affordability” for non-NASA customers (such as Bigelow) be in deciding who wins and who loses?

  • Vladislaw

    Bill White wrote:

    “Rand,

    Why do you believe commercially viable non-NASA spaceflight must wait for NASA blaze the trail?”

    They haven’t been waiting for NASA, the xprize didnt wait for NASA, the SS2 isnt waiting. America’s space prize didnt wait for NASA, the 750 million dollar contract Bigelow offered isn’t waiting for NASA. The google prize isn’t waiting for NASA.

    Hasn’t this all occured after 1998?
    http://www.nasa.gov/offices/ogc/commercial/CommercialSpaceActof1998.html

    But as you pointed out, NASA is the 800 pound gorilla in the room until Bigelow gets a destination in LEO that can support humans.

    Griffin’s rumored rant at Lockmart for even considering commercial is why it seems to some if you DONT get NASA on board, whatever your commercial idea is, it is a non starter.

  • googaw

    Bill White: I am NOT opposed to the current plan, I merely find the current plan insufficient to achieve what the supporters assert it will achieve.

    It’s true that NewSpacers make many dubious assumptions about hypothetical markets and the like. But their arguments are not nearly as bad as the arguments for Constellation. For example the argument that canceling Constellation, which is being purposefully built with old technology and to have no commercial use whatsoever, and instead funding basic technological research, will somehow be bad for America’s technological competitiveness. The arguments I’ve heard recently to save Constellation seem insane to me.

  • googaw

    common sense:
    [On COTS] You have to start somewhere don’t you?

    Yes, and I strongly support COTS. But we need to watch it like a hawk, especially the dubious “milestone payments” business, to make sure that it doesn’t evolve back into having similar incentives to cost-plus contracts. And we also need to watch closely to make sure that SpaceX, Blue Origin, and company don’t evolve to become like Orbital Sciences, lobbying for cost-plus contracts and turning into cost-plus zombies. We will have to push hard to make COTS evolve in a more market-like direction, towards minimizing “milestone payments” and just paying for objective direct benefits, dollars per kilogram delivered.

    Bill White:
    The game won’t change until we end NASA’s monopsony.

    This I’d love to see, but how do we go about doing it?

  • Ferris Valyn

    Bill White:
    The game won’t change until we end NASA’s monopsony.

    This I’d love to see, but how do we go about doing it?

    One thing I think that should be added to the mix – a push to privatize ISS, or alternatively, a push to get private users to utilize ISS. For example, I’d love to see NASA take the position that they will actively encourage (although not PAY for) private astronauts (IE “space tourists”).

    I am also interested in the NanoRacks project that Jeff Manber is working on.

  • Robert G. Oler

    My fear for the “plan” is not that the thunderheads in DC will stop it (they wont) nor that there wont be enough vehicles…but it is the same sort of fear that the S. Connery Character in The Hunt for Red October told his XO “the big worry Vasili is that we meet the right person with the Americans if we meet some sort of cowboy ….”

    my big worry is that in the reshuffle someone from NASA who is just a survivor of the culture there is going to get in some position to encourage one wrench after another to be thrown into the commercial mix.

    It is illustrative to see why the cost climbed out of site for both Ares and Orion.

    The first is that old technology was being stretched way to far.

    The second is that Ares was underperforming (and hence Orion had problems)

    The third is the insane safety requirements that NASA was putting on the entire stack. Requirements that really the vehicle couldnt meet at any cost, but the effort to try was consuming endless dollars.

    My worry is that they jam the requirements so high that well the cost go with it.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Bill White

    @ googaw

    This I’d love to see, but how do we go about doing it?

    @ Vladislaw

    Griffin’s rumored rant at Lockmart for even considering commercial is why it seems to some if you DONT get NASA on board, whatever your commercial idea is, it is a non starter.

    One answer: Space advocates should lobby NASA (Bolden / Garver / Whitesides) to include facilitation of non-NASA destinations in LEO (and beyond) as an explicit part of the new plan.

    NASA should be explicit that the new NASA vision is intended to promote multiple non-NASA LEO destinations sooner rather than later. Explicitly repudiate how MirCorp was handled by Administrator Goldin.

    After all, 50 SpaceX flights per year to support a private LEO destination will stimulate lower cost to LEO far more effectively than 5 SpaceX flights per year to support ISS.

    We should tell Charlie Bolden and Lori Garver they need to go further with their new plan if they want our full support. The new plan is a great start but by itself it is insufficient.

    If later this week, Bolden or Garver were to say to Congress (during testimony): “We intend to end NASA’s monospsony on US human spaceflight” I will find it far easier to support the new plan.

  • common sense

    Did I ever say that the commercials should just go unchecked? That we should not put pressure on them to deliver on time and on budget. But please y’all should look at the costs involved here when compared with Constellation as it stands, er stood. There is a real opportunity here to do grand things for exploration, NASA, the US. We should stop the bickering on Constellation and actually do what you suggest, that is create visibility and accountability for all the “new” players, unlike what was going on before.

    As for the organization and the how will NASA do it maybe we should just wait a little longer as they will most likely re-org Exploration and possibly other directorates (if they are still called such) and see. There will most likely be a committee that will decide who goes on and who does not.

    But just a little comment here: NASA will have oversight of what NASA asks for. If Blue Origin decides to fly their own crew on their own budget then they will have to conform with whatever regulation is in effect, not with any NASA regulation. There is a difference.

  • Bill White

    @ common sense

    Constellation is dead. Being better than Constellation is no longer “good enough” (IMHO) to win uncritical support from space advocates.

    On February 1st a new program of record was announced and the question is should we support the new plan ‘as is” without amendment or do we attempt to improve this new program of record?

  • googaw

    Constellation is dead.

    Let’s not count our chickens before they hatch. And even if it’s dead in name, it’s not dead in spirit. Cost-plus continues to be the dominant form of NASA contracting. And NASA is still staffed with the same people who brought us Shuttle and ISS and Constellation. When the NASA workforce was through with ISS, to fund their next fraud they wanted to defund ISS completely and toss the entire $100 billion complex that was supposed to revolutionize space manufacturing into the Pacific. There are plenty of unemployed people I feel far more sympathy for than these rats.

    should we support the new plan ‘as is” without amendment or do we attempt to improve this new program of record?

    While we should certainly make suggestions for improvement, and while many unfortunate compromises will as always be made, it’s very important that we strongly support the new direction in the upcoming weeks. Arguing against it makes us look like we’re arguing for Constellation. There will be plenty of time for arguing about the (relatively fewer) weaknesses of the new course later. (Yes, I know I’ve been doing some of this myself, it’s hard to avoid, alas).

  • “the Augustine Commission’s work and report are so bad and useless that also a slot-machine can give better results! http://bit.ly/a9kVGF

    Constellation End, are you aware that the posts you pint us to look like cheapo pyramid scheme websites? The three separate but equally obnoxious highlighting schemes are painful to read and leave me thinking it’s a garbage site even if the article has a point. The constant parenthetical snarky commentary side-notes don’t help either. On top of that, your argument appears to be “The commission isn’t reliable because I say so” as there’s no evidence, even anecdotal unsourced evidence, for your statement. No analysis of their methods, no research into the members, nothing. And believe me, even though I support AC and it’s conclusions, there’s plenty to pick apart and analyze.

    I’ll also point out that Augustine was extablished to determine possible paths that would be viable, not to recommend which one to take. They made it clear from the very beginning before the panel was formulated and throught it’s entire run that they would not be offering a specific way forward, but analyzing several possibilities.

  • Bill White

    googaw: NASA is still staffed with the same people who brought us Shuttle and ISS and Constellation.

    Formally adopting the objective of ending NASA’s monopsony strikes me as a vital missing piece from the new plan.

    After all, top NASA brass can be easily replaced while the rank and file is not so easily replaced. And, we have Taylor Dinerman explicitly proposing that the next President undo everything being proposed by Bolden & Garver.

    Also Oler wrote:

    My big worry is that in the reshuffle someone from NASA who is just a survivor of the culture there is going to get in some position to encourage one wrench after another to be thrown into the commercial mix.

    In terms of NASA policy, everything that might be “won” in the next few weeks can be lost again next year or the year after.

    However, once the paradigm that NASA = human spaceflight is shattered, the monopsony ended, and non-NASA LEO destinations flying, returning to a NASA monopsony shall be far more difficult than POTUS 45 simply replacing the NASA Administrator and his top staff.

  • Vladislaw

    Ferris wrote:

    “One thing I think that should be added to the mix – a push to privatize ISS, or alternatively, a push to get private users to utilize ISS. For example, I’d love to see NASA take the position that they will actively encourage (although not PAY for) private astronauts (IE “space tourists”).”

    I thought there was already a space act to commercialize use of the ISS?

    I had written an article about this and did a poll if I remember correctly but most people didnt like the idea, and that was to add an inflatable visitors module to the ISS.

    Every NASA center has a visitor’s center, I do not understand why going straight up 200 miles to another NASA center should be different.

    It also would help lower costs for NASA crews to the ISS. Currently if a commercial launch provider has 5-7 open seats going to the ISS and NASA only needs to send 1-2 what happens to the open seats?

    With a commercial visitors center at the ISS NASA can grab just the seats it needs rather than having to let the seats go empty but still having to pay for the entire launch. It would be up to the commercial provider to try and hawk the open seats and fill them. Having a visitors center makes that a lot easier sale.

    There has already been one repeat customer for the ISS. I would imagine a true space tourist will want to visit multiple destinations in LEO. One flight to the ISS and one flight to a BIgelow Orbital Facility.

    As long as NASA is going to do an inflatable module demonstrator anyway, do a joint deal with a commercial firm to run it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Bill White wrote @ February 22nd, 2010 at 3:28 pm ..

    In terms of NASA policy, everything that might be “won” in the next few weeks can be lost again next year or the year after…

    actually it is not that bad.

    Bolden is doing what the military does when it “ends” something…he is destroying the ability to go back. Assuming (as I view all but certain…the old 99.999 percent chance) that the Bolden plan goes through with all major parts intact and only minor “edge work”.

    Then whatever course is put on, will be the course for the remainder of Obama’s first term. So assume that Obama is a one term President (and I certianly am unwilling now to predict that even though he is monumentally screwing up in my view)…that means the current policy will run through 2010,2011, 2012 and even with a new President most if not all of 2013.

    2010 is a wash because of the policy change…but that leaves three years for the “new” to become the status quo. By that time there will be industry by in (aka Boeing/Lockmart/SpaceX etc) will all be hooked up to the program which will now be the program of record…and there will likely be good solid (though not hugh) employment in the effort etc…and there (darn sure) needs to be results.

    If one or more COTS resupply are flying then the pressure is going to be on not to try something else but to give human lift a try. If that pressure has not already happened.

    That is just the space trends.

    The other trends are going to be even more supportive of the program. The big issue in the 2010 campaign is (absent some world event) going to be “cutting the deficit”. That is the death knell of “more” spending in human spaceflight…and my prediction is that this is only going to get worse as the economy either gets worse or does not recover much…and things get worse in terms of spending.

    There is no chant of “go back to the Moon and spend 200 billion” doing it. I suspect in fact that the next budget pressure at NASA is going to be hanging on to the modest increase that the Administration is proposing.

    then there will be the “surprises”. SpaceX will put it together if not on the first shot at some point this year…I would bet Boeing is going to pull a rabbit out of the hat in terms of their theories on how to resupply the space station and a “few” other things. Bigelow is like the Cylons, he has a plan and while I can guess I am not sure exactly what it is…There are some military grumblings afoot about “new ideas” (I think the GEO station is going to gain some traction)…

    The two companies I see that are in trouble are going to be Lockmart and OSC…a large chunk of their “parts” are made in the former USSR (engines) or Italy (modules for OSC) and that is going to become increasingly unpopular as buy American goes rabid.

    The problem for the “exploration junkies” (and save our job chanters) is that they are swimming upstream not against just the space current…but against national trends.

    Sadly thanks to Bush (have to bash him! grin) and a really bad first Obama first year we are headed into a decade that is going to make the last one seem “nice”.

    hold on

    Robert G. Oler

  • googaw

    Bill White:
    Formally adopting the objective of ending NASA’s monopsony strikes me as a vital missing piece

    There’s no point in making a formal proposal until we’ve figured out how to do it. Handwaving about hypothetical Bigelow markets or vague calls to privatize the ISS don’t cut it as a proposal. The ISS has completely failed to bring about any of the promised space manufacturing, so nobody’s going to take any more hype about space manufacturing or zero-g science seriously. That’s a tiny market, far smaller than the cost of a single Sundancer. And the space tourist market in LEO is both heavily subsidized and limited. Our blindly following NASA astronaut fandom has painted us in a corner. NASA made false promises about LEO and we should stop believing them. The future of space commerce lies mostly elsewhere than LEO.

    So here’s my proposal for a partial end to COTS monopsony: drop any expectation that the current COTS contracts will be anything more than monopsonistic when it comes to the Cygnus and Dragon vehicles themselves. It’s not a realistic expectation. The monopsony can be broken however in terms of the launch vehicles, Minotaur and Falcon.

    Thus we should create tax incentives for satellite operators to buy American, both for the satellite and the launch, when it comes to launch vehicles. Where NASA is the dominant purchaser we should encourage DoD purchases and vice versa. That goes for the EELVs also. So we should be encouraging the DoD to buy more Minotaurs and Falcons and we should be encouraging NASA to buy more Atlas and Delta.

    I’m sure there are many other good ideas along these lines, but you get the idea.

  • “It’s true that NewSpacers make many dubious assumptions about hypothetical markets and the like.”

    Sure, they are assumptions. However, Bigelow has modules in orbit, thoguh they are not yet man-rated. And he has stated multiple times that the major road-block to him lofting BA-330 is lack of a method to get there. I believe him on that and I don’t find his estimate overly-optimistic by any stretch. As to an actual market, as I understand Bigelow modules are useless if no one wants to go there, I’ll point you to:

    http://www.space-travel.com/reports/SwRI_Announces_Pioneering_Program_To_Fly_Next_Gen_Suborbital_Experiments_With_Crew_999.html

    http://www.comspacewatch.com/news/viewpr.rss.html?pid=30260

    It was not long ago folks in the space world were noisily complaining that no one would ever want to fly a suborbital flight and that no useful science could be performed in less than a half hour of weightlessness. And at one point suborbital flights were seen as a huge accomplishment. Now there are a handful of companies set to offer it within the next year, many of which are in the midst of active test programs.

    Yes, orbital is a much bigger deal with a much bigger price tag. But I think it also has a much bigger potential payoff if for no other reason than it offers more than a half an hour up there. We’ve got a proposed module supplier, we have proposed launchers, and both are far closer at making it happen than previous private attempts have ever been. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that the launchers will work, Bigelow will work, and a market will materialize.

  • “NASA should be explicit that the new NASA vision is intended to promote multiple non-NASA LEO destinations sooner rather than later.”

    I think, much to Obama’s discredit, that this is in the plan but poorly stated. The current plan mentions, as just one of a collection of items, that investments will be made into inflatable space habitats. The technology advisor mentioned a few days ago also commented to that effect. That either means Transhab will be revived or money will be invested into Bigelow. I hope the latter more than the former and I’m a bit disappointed that I don’t know at this point.

  • SpacePolitics, NASA has released a more lengthy overview of the budget: PDF. I am loving it. I suspect we’ll have a new post to discuss it so I won’t get in to details here.

  • Vladislaw

    Bill White wrote:

    “One answer: Space advocates should lobby NASA (Bolden / Garver / Whitesides) to include facilitation of non-NASA destinations in LEO (and beyond) as an explicit part of the new plan.”

    A visitor’s center at the ISS would be a natural and relatively inexpensive way to achieve another commercial destination in LEO. Plug in a BA 330, docking port and solar panels. When their are no current visitors at the center, NASA can offer to rent extra space on the cheap.

    This would also be a great soft power tool, for 20 million we can fly an international up for a visit, especially for smaller countries with limited or no space budgets. Brazil, Mexico, Austraila etc and allow them to conduct some experiements for the folks back home. Great presitige builder.

    Actually, this would be a great question for Miles O’Brien to put Administrator Bolden. “Did NASA make a mistake in forcing the Mir to deorbit from fears Russia would not beable to fullfull ISS obligations?”

    I agree, there is several questions Bolden should be asked, as it relates to commercial space, that I believe have not been asked.

    “NASA should be explicit that the new NASA vision is intended to promote multiple non-NASA LEO destinations sooner rather than later. Explicitly repudiate how MirCorp was handled by Administrator Goldin.”

    I have always enjoyed Miles output but never felt he asked the hard hitting questions, I don’t know if it’s a question losing access if you do but I would like to see more pointed questions.

    One question I have never heard Bolden pointedly address is a question like”

    “If I won the lottery, would the President’s plan allow me to buy a ticket from a commercial provider to travel to a Bigelow Space Facility or will NASA be purchasing every available seat and claiming a priority, in effect continuing to monopolize LEO?”

    For the cost of one shuttle flight, and a commercial provider can do a 20mil a seat cost to the ISS, NASA could launch almost 100 astronauts. So is would be relatively cheap for NASA to corner the market if they can claim national security, safety, blah blah blah as an issue on why it should only be NASA going up at this time.

  • Vladislaw

    Sorry math was wrong, I was thinking of Rutan’s claim of the 5 mil a seat cost for the air launched system. Closer to 20-30 seats.

  • Why do you believe commercially viable non-NASA spaceflight must wait for NASA blaze the trail?

    Why do you foolishly attribute to me beliefs that I do not hold?

  • Ferris Valyn

    aremisasling – Constellation End is the author of the web page he points to. Thus, his argument is as bad as the web page

    Vladislaw – in theory, that is there. But we need a better link between the goal, and the reality. For example, I’ve heard from a few people that NASA still puts up a fight when private astronauts (IE space tourists) come on board.

    Robert – I disagree that cutting the deficit is what 2010 is going to be about – its going to be about jobs & the economy.

    Googaw – but part of the reason ISS has failed is because we haven’t been spending any money on the science, in a good long time. Empty racks, because there is no funding for projects related to development, have to count towards something.

  • Oh you guys are already discussing it. I will put my thoughts in later.

  • However, Bigelow has modules in orbit, thoguh they are not yet man-rated.

    And with luck, they never will be. But they’ll be safe for human habitation.

    “Man rating” is a very specific phrase, with a very specific meaning, that is not applicable in the twenty-first century. Continuing to use it only enables those defending the status quo.

  • common sense

    “On February 1st a new program of record was announced and the question is should we support the new plan ‘as is” without amendment or do we attempt to improve this new program of record?”

    There is a fine balance between ever criticizing something and getting it to work. As a plan it is very well thoughtout. In the details well there may be room for improvement but since I haven’t seen all the details yet I don’t know. But you were arguing the likes of “guarantees”. And I am saying there never is such a thing especially in this business. I am suer there is a need to work the various legal aspects of commercial firms flying into and out of space. But first let’s make sure they can actually accomplish those things. It is also very naive (not necessarily you) to think that NASA will not have a say in flying their crews. But I assume that this NASA will come up with an org with the right people addressing all these issues.

  • common sense

    Ah “man-rating”… People throw these two words up in the air as if there was a final answer to man rating. Today it means something which was not true 40 years ago and will probably not be true in 50 years. Do you “man-rate” your car? What about airplanes? Are they “man rated”? There are of course specifics to flying humans into space as opposed to satellites but is it always true that “man rated” = safe? Some wanted the sidemount to fly with a crew. Here I say that it may eventually have been man rated, yet be a very poor and unsafe design. And if Shuttle is *not* man rated why don’t we stop flying it on this basis alone?

    Oh well…

  • red

    Bill White: “(1) Where in the new plan are multiple vehicles guaranteed? You seem to be projecting a whole lot of personal wishes into something that hasn’t been announced, yet.”

    Nothing is guaranteed, but that’s what they intend:

    “These funds will be competed through COTS-like, fixed-price, milestone-based Space Act Agreements that support the development, testing, and demonstration of multiple commercial crew systems. As with the COTS cargo program, some amount of private investment capital will be included as part of any Space Act Agreement and NASA will use this funding to support a range of higher- and lower-programmatic risk systems. Unlike the COTS program, which exclusively funded entirely new and integrated systems (launch vehicles plus capsules), this program will also be open to a broad range of commercial proposals including, but not limited to: human-rating existing launch vehicles, developing spacecraft for delivering crew to the ISS that can be launched on multiple launch vehicles, or developing new high-reliability rocket systems.

    NASA will leverage existing COTS and Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) activities to engage a broad spectrum of private industry, from emerging to established companies, with a full and open competition for
    commercial development activities at the conclusion of the CCDev activities. The competition will result in a targeted portfolio of up to four companies with a mixed risk balance consisting of launch vehicles, crew capsules, and supporting technologies, similar to the Commercial Crew Development awards from Recovery Act funds announced on February 2, 2010. The number of awardees will be based on such factors as technical competency and available funds.”

  • ““Man rating” is a very specific phrase, with a very specific meaning, that is not applicable in the twenty-first century. Continuing to use it only enables those defending the status quo.”

    True, but as a hobby linguist I can tell you any new term or phrase created would very quickly be co-opted to mean the same as man-rating does now the same way liberal and conservative used to mean simple political viewpoints and now seem to imply near-demonic overtones for those on the other side of the fence. Regardless of what our English teachers taught is, language is defined by its speakers and unfortunately the loudest speakers often end up writing the dictionaries.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Ferris Valyn wrote @ February 22nd, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Robert – I disagree that cutting the deficit is what 2010 is going to be about – its going to be about jobs & the economy. ..

    the deficit is a stalking horse (or “focus” issue) for jobs and the economy.

    the perception (rightly in my view) has grown among the land that the “stimulus” bill did really nothing constructive and all it did was add to the deficit…plus the deficit is seen as the “one thing” that is uniting a lot of groups (ie that spending is out of control)…couple that with the TARP where a chunk (6X percent in most polls) feel that the only thing it did was transfer wealth from the middle class to the companies that screwed us …

    and before long what you are going to see is that going into the 2010 election the size of the deficit and how it is growing is in my view the “focus issue” for no jobs and a badly functioning economy.

    As I have said for sometime, both Obama and McCain’s big mistake in 08 was buying into the failing Bush administrations claims about the TARP. It cost McCain (among other things and there were other things) the election…it might hurt him badly in AZ…he is now trying the “I was lied to” defense…and now it has finally caught up with Obama.

    The deficit is a stalking horse for so many issues; grid lock, out of control spending, pork, out of touch politicians, politicians beholding to special interest the list just keeps on going…that it is going to be the one thing that is going to engage (in my view) both parties.

    It is nuttery to think that NASA is going to get 3 billion more for “the vision”…and I suspect it might not even get the raise in this budget. My suscpicion is that before long we are all going to embrace the horror of trying to balance the budget…

    and the rise of Ron Paul!

    in my opinion

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ February 22nd, 2010 at 5:14 pm
    What about airplanes? Are they “man rated”?..

    yes they are…and how they are is something that is probably appropriate for human spaceflight.

    The FAA adopts a very entertaining scale for “human rating” an airplane in the FAR’s it is sort of an inverted pyramid at least in terms of federal involvement and requirements.

    Build your own plane (or fly an ultralight) and no one really cares all that much about how its built (and in the case of an ultralight) who flies it or how many die. But “produce it” for public purchase and own it yourself…the involvement of the FAR’s and Feds gets a little more intrusive.

    Rent it out…even more intrusive.

    Rent it out under some charter certificate even more so.

    Have an “airline”…big time.

    Both a 310 (since it was involved in the Tesla crash) and a B777 are twin engine airplanes.

    The 310 doesnt have to climb with one engine out, the B777 even at max gross weight (mass) has to meet a certain climb gradient AND if you operate the plane Part 121 then every runway you take off or land on has to be “cleansed” in its approach and departure path to that climb gradient.

    One breakpoint is “weight” in the US it is 12,500 lbs (that is why say King Airs are with one exception a 12,400lb airplane!) in terms of certification/performance etc…the other is what type of service the airplane is used in…pilot certification tends to follow those things.

    ultralights no license…B777 ATP with a type rating with checkrides every 6 months.

    This strikes me as appropriate to a large extent for spaceflight. A sort of sliding scale.

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    @Robert:

    I was trying to make a point with airplanes…The current man-rating of spacecraft does not do any of that, at least that I know. Rather it specifically addresses the structural margins etc of your vehicle, in essence how to design it. There is a big difference in man rating that addresses the “design” and man rating that addresses the capabilities of your design.

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ February 22nd, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    I am so sorry, my tone in retrospect was probably not appropriate…it is hard to do it in print…I was agreeing with you!

    Robert G. Oler

  • True, but as a hobby linguist I can tell you any new term or phrase created would very quickly be co-opted to mean the same as man-rating does now the same way liberal and conservative used to mean simple political viewpoints and now seem to imply near-demonic overtones for those on the other side of the fence.

    No, it wouldn’t be. It would mean what it means, which wouldn’t be what man-rating is.

    yes they are…and how they are is something that is probably appropriate for human spaceflight.

    No, airplanes are not man rated, in the NASA sense, and never have been. They are certificated to be safe, and the notion of doing something special to one to have humans fly it would have an aviation designer scratching his head. We need to make space vehicles more like airplanes, not “man rate” them as though we are still launching people on guided missiles.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Robert – The trouble with that point is that there is still a lot of support for the public options, with regards to health care, and there is quite a bit of support for a jobs bill.

    That said, I agree that we, as space advocates, can’t expect a $3 Billion increase, regardless of the program. We have to learn to make do with the current available funds.

    And I am not convinced that Mr. Paul will go that far.

    Ok, enough OT stuff.

  • Bill White, private manned flight has not even flown, so I think it’s a bit premature to say that the new direction isn’t going to end NASA’s monopsony. I agree with you that we need it to end, but even the most optimistic estimates for private manned flight are at least 3 years out, and that’s assuming COTS-D gets dispersed as early as the beginning of next year. Since only SpaceX has (mostly) passed COTS-A-C, they are the only company which is any where near achieving that capablity in a timely manner.

    I like how the budget is being distributed because it means that NASA helps build companies milestone at a time, at bargain basement prices. The development of Falcon 9, the hiring of a little under 300 new employees, the refurbishment of the old Titan pad at the cape, all under $300 million real dollars taken from COTS-A-C. This forces companies to act like real world businesses competing in the market rather than government contractors who have no competition at all.

    I take a wait and see attitude on this. As far as how winners and losers will be picked, I don’t think it’s right to frame it that way, you don’t get picked, you succeed or you don’t succeed. Milestones are chosen on a reasonable basis, so they start off relatively easy and get increasingly hard. If a company can’t pass early milestones then the tax-payers aren’t out any money. If they can pass early milestones but fall behind, then they’re out. If you look at how SpaceX won COTS-A-C (CRS), several companies bid, but SpaceX outbid them dramatically, and successfully demonstrated their ability to go forward.

    And that’s the beauty of it. If SpaceX wins COTS-D there’s still going to be 4 years of funding for COTS. That’s 2-3 more companies that have the incentive to get to COTS-D.

  • googaw

    I believe him on that and I don’t find his estimate overly-optimistic by any stretch

    I’m afraid Bob Bigelow likes to swallow tall tales, for example UFOs and the propaganda NASA used to sell Freedom/ISS. I applaud him for putting his money where his daydreams are, but his daydreams do not a sound federal policy make.

  • googaw

    That either means Transhab will be revived or money will be invested into Bigelow. I hope the latter more than the former and I’m a bit disappointed that I don’t know at this point.

    I’d love to be a fly on the wall at the negotiations between NASA and Bigelow. Of all the NewSpacers Bigelow is the one who would hate the most to see his company turned into a NASA zombie. Trouble is, NASA is his only significant market. NASA doesn’t like their tin cans being one-upped by Bigelow and wants their Transhab patents back. Sparks will fly.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Ferris Valyn wrote @ February 22nd, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Robert – The trouble with that point is that there is still a lot of support for the public options, with regards to health care, and there is quite a bit of support for a jobs bill.

    Ferris.

    We will see.

    The public option is extremly popular with Americans (and with me) plus it helps the deficit, it helps our competitive nature as a Republic and it is good for the citizenry. (as an aside it might also help Rescue Obama from the JE Carter hall of fame).

    The jobs bill is shaping up to be a jobs bill. The stimulus bill was not a jobs bill, it was a “save public employees” bill. The bulk of the cash went to states and large cities trying to stave off either massive tax increases at the local level or massive service cuts.

    Oddly had Obama pushed the stim bill to be a jobs bill I suspect the economy would be in a much better position AND he would have in the process done what FDR did…which was make a new America. The current jobs bill is almost all “brick and concrete” meaning that it goes toward things that will be useful to The Republic and local municipalities long after the spending on the project is done.

    Texas A&M with the Bush 41 library has done a study of Depression era projects as well as “true” jobs projects (meaning something of value is left after the spending is done) and the best guess is that between 20-40K jobs are created by such projects…mostly by what the “thing” does after it is built. Some of course are more then others…for instance LV Nevada is a one horse town without that big dam near it…Having been a “minor” political official in Clear Lake and having seen some real jobs spending (not NASA) I think that number is pretty close.

    In the process such spending creates “the new Republic”…so money spent on say HV power grids more then pays back what is spent, even when the interest on deficit spending is figured in. The problem with NASA of course is that nothing of value remains after the money disperses. It might all be “spent” in The Republic but what it builds usually is valueless after it is launched. (this of course is not accurate for things like the GPS system where value is easily returned).

    this is why Obama will spend billions on high speed rail in FL but wont spend money on going back to the Moon.,

    Having said that…I still predict that the deficit will be the key issue in 2010…we will see

    Robert G. Oler

  • Of all the NewSpacers Bigelow is the one who would hate the most to see his company turned into a NASA zombie.

    Except for Jeff Bezos…

  • I have already taken my public poll. In general the public is shocked to learn the shuttle will soon end and Americans will be riding to space on Russian rockets. Most I talk to are aghast that new space companies are going back to splash down capsules. This is seen by many as the ultimate irony and proof of the decline of the US man space program capability. Splash down shocks many with dismay and field’s skepticism and resentment towards “New Space” The ISS is viewed as very unpopular a waste of money. Flying to the ISS for next decade is viewed as ridiculous. Most ask isn’t NASA going anywhere? Will then cancel it why waste the money if we’re not going anywhere.

  • NASA’s Orion is a “splash-down capsule.” Why weren’t you upset about that?

    And if Dreamchaser is a “splash-down capsule,”:why does it have landing gear? And how do you know what the recovery mode for Orion light is? Or Blue Origin’s biconic?

    Do you enjoy flaunting your ignorance on the Internet?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Doug wrote @ February 22nd, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Well you and Miles can testify. None of what you relate is my experience as I talk before various breakfast clubs here in Clear Lake Tx

    Robert G. Oler

  • Ferris Valyn

    Of all the NewSpacers Bigelow is the one who would hate the most to see his company turned into a NASA zombie.

    Except for Jeff Bezos…

    Why do you say that, Rand?

  • Because, like Elon, he’s not doing this for the money. He wants to colonize space.

  • common sense

    “The public option is extremly popular with Americans (and with me) plus it helps the deficit, it helps our competitive nature as a Republic and it is good for the citizenry. (as an aside it might also help Rescue Obama from the JE Carter hall of fame).”

    It is and I cannot understand why this WH is so reluctant to push forward. They will lose anything substantial if they don’t do something about it soon.

  • Doug Lassiter

    FWIW, to my ears, Miles O’Brien didn’t mention this “survey” in his testimony today to the Senate Commerce committee. So much for that.

    His testimony was pretty good, communicating the earnestness with which the American public wants human space flight, but the influence of that “survey” was not at all obvious.

    “Maybe you should make your judgment as to the relative merits of conducting this (admittedly unscientific) poll until after you have heard my testimony.”

    OK, I’ll do that. The relative merits of your non-scientific multiple choice survey (or “push-poll”, as some have interpreted it) were sure not obvious from this testimony. If used as background information, that’s fine, but just asking people for their views and insights, in text form, probably would have been a lot more illuminating.

    There is a lesson here for those who might be prospective informal poll takers.

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