NASA, Other

Briefly noted: Rutan’s clarification; other criticism and praise

Some people were surprised earlier this week when the Wall Street Journal reported that Burt Rutan submitted a letter to Congress critical of the administration’s move to commercialize human spaceflight. “That would be a very big mistake for America to make,” according to a brief excerpt of the letter quoted by the Journal.

However, Rutan has since issued a statement, published by Flightglobal, claiming that the newspaper “chose to cherry-pick and miss-quote” his comments. While the text of his letter to Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), ranking member of the appropriations subcommittee with oversight of NASA, hasn’t been released, his statement made clear he is not opposed to NASA supporting commercial human spaceflight. “In short, it is a good idea indeed for the commercial community to compete to re-supply the ISS and to bring about space access for the public to enjoy. I applaud the efforts of SpaceX, Virgin and Orbital in that regard and feel these activities should have been done at least two decades ago,” he writes. He is concerned about “a surrender of our preeminence in human spaceflight”, but is not a supporter of Constellation because of its lack of “technical breakthroughs”. “I do not think that NASA should ‘give up’ on manned spaceflight, just that they should be doing it while meeting” two criteria: achieving technical breakthroughs through basic research, and providing inspiration for students to pursue careers in science and engineering.

A day after the article about Rutan’s criticism, the Journal published a short op-ed from Buzz Aldrin in favor of the agency’s new direction, in part because of its apparent long-term focus on Mars:

The new direction that Mr. Obama has set in this budget is the kind of bold initiative we have needed for many years. Mankind must explore and America must lead—in all aspects of space exploration, not least manned space exploration. But we must be willing to embrace real vision and reach for Mars with the patience that leadership has always required.

Another supporter is John Carmack, the founder of Armadillo Aerospace. “[H]onestly, I thought the program was going to drag on for another half decade and piss away several more tens of billions of dollars before being re-scoped due to failure to deliver,” he wrote in an essay on VentureBeat. “I don’t really blame NASA — hey, building rockets is fun! It just isn’t the best organization to do it.” Turning to the commercial sector for transportation to LEO of cargo and crews “may be the most beneficial thing NASA has ever done”.

Kendrick Meek, a Democratic candidate for the Senate in Florida, would disagree. “Establishing commercial spaceflights is critical to maintaining our nation’s leadership in space, but we cannot rely on private expeditions to take the place of NASA-administered spaceflights just yet,” Meek wrote in an op-ed in TCPalm.com. “It will take decades to build a safe and functioning commercial program.” He adds that the thousands of jobs expected to be lost in Florida with the retirement of the shuttle is “simply unacceptable”.

However, KSC director Robert Cabana is providing some tough love to local politicians. “Commercial space and low-Earth orbit is our future. It’s time to transition,” he told the Brevard County Commission earlier this week, as reported by Florida Today. Local officials, he said, can choose to embrace the change and find out how to make the best of it for the region, or argue it’s not what they want “and we’re going to get left behind.”

179 comments to Briefly noted: Rutan’s clarification; other criticism and praise

  • Robert G. Oler

    Yet another something Whittington and all the “stay the course” folks got excited about that turned out “not to be true”. Should have stopped with those WMD’s Mark

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    Nothing against the Flight Global website, but Rutan should have the WSJ print a correction or letter to the editor to ensure that the record gets set straight.

    FWIW…

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Rutan and I seem to be in agreement. Support for the commercial space initiative, opposition to the abandonment of space exploration.

    By the way, Oler’s obsession with me is becoming embarrassing. Not to mention his frequent miss-statement of my position.

  • Just for clarification – where exactly does NASA build rockets? Last I checked they had contractors who did that sort of thing, right? And those contractors are private… aren’t they?

  • googaw

    John Carmack: Turning to the commercial sector for transportation to LEO of cargo and crews “may be the most beneficial thing NASA has ever done”.

    I strongly support the new direction, but I’m afraid too many people are believing their own hype about a supposed radically distinct “commercial sector”. 100% of DreamChaser’s revenues come from NASA. 100% of Blue Origin’s revenues comes from NASA. 100% of Dragon’s revenues come from NASA. 100% of Cyngus’ revenues come from NASA. No private customers have put down any money on any of these systems.

    COTS is not really “commercial”, it is not market magic, it is simply a better way of government contracting. I support expanding its scope in the future. If the Shuttle-derived folks are serious about producing real value instead of make-work jobs I’d like to see them compete on the same COTS playing field that Orbital Sciences and SpaceX are playing on. They should put some of their own private investment money at risk and they should own the hardware. But please let us not get carried away by mere language like “commerce” and “privatization”. Those are euphemisms. This is still quite thoroughly government contracting, and most of the waste and market distortion and political strategems involved in government contracting still come with it.

    Yesterday, BTW, Bolden opined that every single HSF launch the U.S. has ever done has been “commercial”, because it was done by government contractors. So apparently “commercial” now can be used to mean any kind of government contracting, not just COTS. ATK and Ares are just as “commercial” as SpaceX and Falcon. There’s euphemism inflation for you.

  • Major Tom

    “Rutan and I seem to be in agreement. Support for the commercial space initiative, opposition to the abandonment of space exploration.”

    No, you’re not in agreement with Rutan. Per Mr. Foust’s first post, Rutan “is not a supporter of Constellation because of its lack of ‘technical breakthroughs’”.

    Read and understand what other individuals have actually said before falsely claiming that their statements align with yours.

    And at least read the first post in a thread before posting yourself.

    Lawdy…

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ February 26th, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Rutan and I seem to be in agreement. Support for the commercial space initiative, opposition to the abandonment of space exploration. ..

    the problem is that your view of “space exploration” is the “Bush vision” or some arbitrary date or destination far in the future.

    as for misstating your position…this is the conclusion that you drew with not complete information about Rutans position…this is on your web site

    “Burt Rutan, of all people, hates the Obama space plan.”

    it seems you followed the Bush doctrine of overstating and overhyping.

    “hate” is a bit of hype isnt it Mark? LOL

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    If the Shuttle-derived folks are serious about producing real value instead of make-work jobs I’d like to see them compete on the same COTS playing field that Orbital Sciences and SpaceX are playing on. They should put some of their own private investment money at risk and they should own the hardware..

    that is an interesting statement.

    there were various (and serious) Plans in the 80′s to do just that with the STS system…I dont recall the companies name (Space Trans? something like that) which tried to get the a orbiter that they would use to launch satellites in some sort of private/public venture…sort of competing with Ariannespace.

    At the time I thought it was pretty cool…but as I learned more about the shuttle system…the question kept coming “how could they afford it” based on the man hours needed to make the shuttle “go”.

    One wonders if somewhere along the line that could have changed…if some intellegent use of management could have moved the shuttle closer to affordability. My impression is “no” but it would have been interesting to see.

    As it is no one will try using shuttle components in a true commercial system…they are just unaffordable.

    Robert G. Oler

  • “100% of DreamChaser’s revenues come from NASA. 100% of Blue Origin’s revenues comes from NASA. 100% of Dragon’s revenues come from NASA.”

    You might be technically correct on the first two, and very, very wrong on the last one.

    Dreamchaser and Blue Origin have been quietly going about their business assuming NASA would never send a dime their way. We don’t know who, if anyone, has booked with either of them because they aren’t as open about their plans as SpaceX. But given that they didn’t burn their blueprints and declare chapter 11 when they missed out on COTS (like RpK did), I’m betting they have at the very least some interested parties if not a few paid commitments. And I suspect if the current FY 2011 is canned tomorrow they will keep quietly humming in the background until they have something on a launcher.

    Dragon, on the other hand, has booked DragonLab flights and a long history of negotiations with Bigelow for resupply of the Bigelow modules. Furthermore, Musk has made it plain and clear that SpaceX was a manned program before the company had a name, and certainly before COTS or commercial resupply.

    In all three of the prior cases, NASA money will likely be the bulk of their revenues for a while, but ultimately NASA is not essential to their business model. Could they be commercially viable sans NASA? That’s a totally different debate which has taken up a lot of the comment space around here already. But none of those company’s plans hinged entirely on NASA.

    Orbital, to my knowledge, is 100% NASA at the moment, so you have a point there, and that’s part of the reason I’m not as enthused about them. They handled their COTS offering pretty much just the same as they handled their previous contracts. When they heard there was potentially money in it, they got together a pack of companies to work with them and drafted the spacecraft for that mission and that mission only. If NASA doesn’t pay up, Cygnus is DOA, unlike the others.

  • googaw

    Let me introduce the idea of Super-COTS. (Well, I haven’t researched whether the idea is original with me): It’s like COTS, but gets much closer to actually enabling real commerce. “COTS on steroids”? Nah, let’s not call it that.

    The main problem with COTS, as Bill White and I have been arguing, is that it doesn’t solve the problem of monopsony: NASA as the only major customer. Monopsony is as bad as monopoly. What’s worse, the monopsonist here, NASA, is very bad at predicting what might actually have a real commercial market, that is to say of predicting what will attract private customers or at least the attention of other major government customers. And frankly, the space activist community is not very good at it either, so it’s not a problem that can be solved by mere political lobbying to have NASA invest in the “right” things.

    So Super-COTS adds to the current COTS investment milestone certain milestones for sales and deposits made by other customers. In particular, a requirement that $X million of private orders and $Y hundred thousand of private deposits have been made, or alternately $2X worth of orders from another federal government agency or another government.

    So for example, Virgin Galactic could pass such a milestone for NASA suborbital flight orders, and the Falcon launcher (but not Dragon) may be able to pass the test.

    Private sector orders that are funded at least half indirectly by government money count as government orders (e.g. private universities buying suborbital trips with money that originally came from NASA grants doesn’t count, and if originally from NSF or other government grants counts as half).

    Super-COTS might also look like grant-matching: NASA orders match private orders dollar-for-dollar, and match orders of other government agencies or of other governments half dollar-per-dollar. It’s hard to meet NASA needs with these exact amounts so they would be considered maximums that NASA can spend under the grant-matching variant of Super-COTS.

  • Taxpayers underwrite development of privately held space transportation systems only to be charged again and again for sending NASA’s astronauts to orbit if and when that day comes. Do I have that right? What is commercial about that? To me it looks like taxpayers are simply being asked to assume the risk — socialize risk; privatize profits.

    At least under the current ISS, Shuttle, Constellation models, Americans wind up with an asset that belongs to them. I know you can argue that we also wind up having to pay for the operations of the assets we own, but that will not change through the commercial effort. We will underwrite the operations for the commercial launch vehicles as well. It doesn’t sound like a good deal to me and to the overwhelming majority of congressional members that made statements this week.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Jim D. wrote @ February 26th, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Taxpayers underwrite development of privately held space transportation systems only to be charged again and again for sending NASA’s astronauts to orbit if and when that day comes. Do I have that right?..

    no you really dont.

    The only space system that the government “owns” is the Space Shuttle system…

    although no statement is all inclusive (so there are some loopholes here)…the “investments” that the federal government are making in private space vehicles is no different then are routinely made by the military in commercial air freighters to make them useful for military airlift…

    Robert G. Oler

  • Bill White

    There is a very simple step Charlie Bolden can take that would signal a genuine change in attitude and wouldn’t cost a penny:

    He should say (repeatedly):

    “Hey, I watched that movie about MirCorp – you know, “Orphans of Apollo” – and you know what? Dan Goldin got it wrong!

    Also, I am aware of rumors that Mike Griffin squelched a plan for an aerospace contractor to provide Mr. Bigelow an all commercial crew taxi service to LEO. I cannot conform or deny those rumors, but I can say I would strongly encourage and support such plans, regardless of what NASA does and so long as I am Administrator I will not dissuade or discourage or attempt to block efforts to create non-NASA destinations in LEO, independent of the International Space Station.”

    I also note that Representative Bart Gordon asked Administrator Bolden yesterday about whether commercial space would support customers other than NASA and I found Bolden’s answer to that question to be rather wishy-washy, at best.

    It is all about ending the monopsony. Unless that happens nothing else matters all that much.

  • @Oler, so help me out. For clarification, after taxpayers spend billions to help commercial firms like Space X and others develop launch systems will we or will we not own the asset?

  • googaw

    aremisasling :
    Dragon, on the other hand, has booked DragonLab flights

    What are the dollar amounts of the orders? The deposits? Are the customers funded directly or indirectly by NASA itself? Do the amount(s) compare in any way to SpaceX’s COTS revenue or is it just part of the rounding error?

    a long history of negotiations with Bigelow

    So what? There is a very long history of thousands of plans, diagrams, PowerPoints, negotiations, press releases and other such soft indicators regarding supposedly commercial HSF for the last thirty years. It has helped win many NASA contracts but (with the exception of Space Adventures) it has never led to any actual commercial HSF. In the realm of commercial HSF, history has proven that buzz is meaningless. Show me the money.

  • Major Tom

    “Taxpayers underwrite development of privately held space transportation systems”

    Only part of the costs. Unlike traditional FAR development contracts where the government pays for everything, private investment is required under the COTS Space Act Agreements.

    “only to be charged again and again for sending NASA’s astronauts to orbit if and when that day comes. Do I have that right? What is commercial about that?”

    It’s no different from anything else. A commercial comsat’s development costs get passed along to its users, along with its operational costs.

    “We will underwrite the operations for the commercial launch vehicles as well.”

    It’s not “underwriting” operations. The government is paying for a service, just like when it purchases air transport for civil servants, enlisted military, mail, or cargo.

    “It doesn’t sound like a good deal to me and to the overwhelming majority of congressional members that made statements this week.”

    Ares I/Orion development costs alone were projected to be between $30 billion-plus (various NASA managers) and almost $50 billion (GAO) through 2017-2019. The Augustine Committee’s (backed by independent Aerospace Corporation cost estimators) estimate of the government contribution necessary to get two commercial crew providers in place by 2016 is $5 billion. The new NASA budget provides $6 billion. Even if we add that $6 billion for commercial crew to the $9 billion already spent on Ares I/Orion (or $15 billion total), that’s $15 billion to $35 billion in budget savings (and one to three years in schedule savings) over what it would cost to finish Ares I/Orion.

    That’s $15-35 billion that could be going to build actual human space exploration hardware (HLV, transit stages, landers, etc.) instead of needlessly duplicating commercial and military ETO capabilities.

    Even if you’re philosophically opposed to commercial human space flight, from a dollar perspective, this is a total non-brainer.

    FWIW…

  • Robert G. Oler

    Jim D. wrote @ February 26th, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    @Oler, so help me out. For clarification, after taxpayers spend billions to help commercial firms like Space X and others develop launch systems will we or will we not own the asset?..

    first off at least in the case of SpaceX I dont think it is “billions”…I bet you the Federal government has less invested in spaceX and its product then they did in the Ares 1X test flight.

    second they no more own the asset then they own the Delta 767 that takes troops to Iraq or Afland.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “I bet you the Federal government has less invested in spaceX and its product then they did in the Ares 1X test flight.”

    You’d win that bet.

    Ares I-X cost $445 million:

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-19514_3-10385536-239.html

    And the COTS award to SpaceX was only $278 million:

    http://www.spacex.com/media.php?page=51

    FWIW…

  • @Oler, I hear you but I don’t subscribe to the air transport/space transport analogy. I think we had the right approach — gov/industry development of next HSF system; gov contracts to entrepreneurial space launch efforts to demonstrate cargo capability. All of this leading to a future in which you have a mix of routine government and private sector human space launch.

  • googaw

    Jim D., in case you haven’t noticed, the people in favor of private property won the Cold War and the people in favor of governments owning economic assets lost. (Well, mostly. If you favor the latter you can still move to Cuba or North Korea. Warning, you might not be able to move back). Under COTS the private sector will own the economic assets as it should under our system. Under COTS the federal government is the beneficiary of services and pays the private sector to come up to speed on how to deliver those services and then pays for those services. The result is more services for less money than under traditional government contracting. It is to be sure still not a free market transaction. It is a better way for government to contract for the services we vote for.

  • “so help me out. For clarification, after taxpayers spend billions to help commercial firms like Space X and others develop launch systems will we or will we not own the asset?”

    Why does it matter? If everything about the vehicle must be contracted out for service each time it launches, what is the benefit of ownership? Priority on the launch schedule? Do you think companies wouldn’t put NASA first on the list for launches?

    Furthermore, those billions would be pennies compared to the cost of paying for the whole vehicle from welding to launching (see Ares I). So you pay MUCH more for development costs, the same for flight costs, commercial gets no rights to use it, and government gets first pick it probably already would have gotten on launch dates? Aside from the nationalistic argument of “it’d be OUR rocket” I don’t see the benefit, especially when it’s, as STS was, a depreciating asset.

    Your argument would make more sense if we were paying the same to develop Dragon, Cygnus, Dreamchaser, etc as we are Ares I/Orion, but that’s laughably far from the truth. SpaceX already footed the bill for a huge portion of F9/Dragon’s development costs and they’d be in charge of maintenance and manufacturing costs in the future. Furthermore, SpaceX can use profits from launches of both F9 and F1 to defer the cost of developing and maintaining F9/Dragon, something the government won’t do if they own the system.

    And the real issue is that if NASA owns it, no one else will fly on it… ever. Orion would only fly twice a year because that’s the schedule NASA put it on, and no other flights would be made. No market, no benefit to the science community unless it fits within the launch’s mission, no deferral of costs from other launches, and no economies of scale resulting from higher flight frequencies, and with a fixed contract no reason whatsoever to improve on the manufacturing processes to better compete. Really it’s the best insurance to the aerospace industry the NASA will be paying the biggest bill possible per man-hour of work.

  • richardb

    I wonder when people will realize the shell game with all this talk of Mars?
    When Bolden rolled out this turkey he said the destinations will be a matter of conversation between the Congress and the Admin. This week, he rolls out Mars. Short conversation I guess. Maybe too busy talking at the Health-a-Thon to give much lip service to Nasa.
    Of course it’s so far in the future that the Obama team won’t have to fund much of it. Talk is truly cheap.
    Team Obama says Mars, yet canned VSE because it was too expensive. How will Mars be less expensive? How will it be affordable to develop all that hardware while the ISS is in orbit?

    Its a con people. Rutan is doing us all a service by stating that there is real risk this plan leaves American without a HSF in short order.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Jim D. wrote @ February 26th, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    @Oler, I hear you but I don’t subscribe to the air transport/space transport analogy. I think we had the right approach — gov/industry development of next HSF system..

    I dont think we did…I agreed with your approach 30 years ago…but no longer. on two levels

    First there is no industry in the US that is evolving that is a government managed industry developed technology. All the industries where government manages industry developing technology (thinking of the military here) have floundered in over budget, to long timelines because government no longer manages projects and industry no longer does projects like say the B-29 or WW2 or Apollo of the 60′s…ie there is no longer a unifying goal that the project must accomplish or its stopped.

    What most people dont recall is that the B-29 did not exist alone. There was an alternative to it that was developed…the B-32 Dominator…it was developed in parallel with the superfort because they needed a bomber to bomb Japan and carry the gadget..

    The 32 didnt work. The 29 did in part because of Boeing’s effort and because of the good management from the USAAC that the project had.

    but what determined work or not work is that there were deadlines and goals brought on by the war…the project had to meet.

    The history of Ares is the history of the 32. It is in all respects a failing project but you see how hard it is to kill it.

    Worse…(and part 2) there is no war.

    Whittington, Spudis, even Hickem and some politicians have tried to “invent one” in space…the Chinese.

    but there is no war.

    and absent that war that drives requirements that have nothing to do with economics (like bombing Japan with enough mass to carry the gadget)…then the history of successful technologies in this country is that we let the market place evolve them; with infrastructure help from the government.

    this is why I found comments from idiots like Vitter so repulsive…yes JFK had a goal but there was a war then and the “war” drove the requirements to go to the Moon…nothing else. JFK even acknowledged that to Webb “I dont care about space” or something like that…JFK knew he was going to the Moon as a substitute to engaging in land combat with Ivan.

    Since Apollo we have had one B-32 after another. The Shuttle/Station/ALS/NLS/X-33…../Ares. endless projects along the lines you suggest…that have consumed billions and done nothing.

    I say it is time to try another way. The Dash 80 model you might know it better as the 707;

    Robert G. Oler

  • Storm

    Googaw wrote,

    “DreamChaser’s revenues come from NASA. 100% of Blue Origin’s revenues comes from NASA. 100%”

    And that’s a good thing, because it’s going to take a while to get an aerospike to LEO.

  • CessnaDriver

    The Garver/Obama plan is clearly being rejected in congress.

    Notice Garver is not even out there to defend her own plan.

    They are struggling badly, and it’s not going to get any better.

    Folks, it’s not passing the congressional sniff test, in fact most are holding their noses!

    And rightly so.

    It’s a stinker.

  • Major Tom

    “The main problem with COTS, as Bill White and I have been arguing, is that it doesn’t solve the problem of monopsony: NASA as the only major customer.”

    Two points:

    1) In terms of the launch vehicles, that’s simply not true. Falcon 9 had satellite launch customers long before NASA COTS came along. OSC is marketing Taurus II for satellite launches, too. If EELVs become part of the Commercial Crew solution, they obviously have other satellite launch customers.

    2) In the case of the capsules, while it could happen, it doesn’t look like that’s going to be true over the long-term. SpaceX is marketing Dragons for free-flights and generating considerable interest. Bigelow has expressed a lot of interest in both Dragon/Falcon 9 and an Orion-lite launched on an Atlas V.

    3) Even in the worst case, where there are no non-NASA customers for Dragons and Orion-lites (or whatever form the capsules take), NASA still saves literally tens of billions of dollars vesus what it would have cost to develop Ares I/Orion.

    I’m not saying that this isn’t a valid concern to raise, but I think it has a relatively low probability of coming true and even if it does come true, NASA, the federal government, and the taxpayer still come out tens of billions of dollars ahead of the game. I’d argue that this is an interesting theoretical problem about how ideal future space markets will be, but it’s not a real policy problem for the government.

    “What’s worse, the monopsonist here, NASA, is very bad at predicting what might actually have a real commercial market, that is to say of predicting what will attract private customers or at least the attention of other major government customers.”

    As Shuttle and X-33 show, NASA is very bad at making such predictions when NASA designs and develops the vehicle. But when NASA acts as a customer instead of developer and industry has some flexibility to integrate NASA’s needs and requirements with the needs and requirements of other customers, then logically these vehicles will serve more than just NASA.

    Bad things can always happen, but a commercial model for developing ETO and near-Earth human space flight systems has a much better proability of success, for both the civil and commercial sectors, than what’s come before.

    “Super-COTS might also look like grant-matching: NASA orders match private orders dollar-for-dollar, and match orders of other government agencies or of other governments half dollar-per-dollar.”

    While creative, I don’t think this is a good use of taxpayer money. It’s using our tax dollars to boost profits on purely private transactions. It’s a severe distortion of the market. NASA should pay for its needs and requirements in as commercial a way as possible, and otherwise stay hands off. Let the commercial marketplace (and FAA) handle the commercial marketplace.

    My 2 cents… FWIW…

  • Storm

    Mark Whittington wrote:

    “Rutan and I seem to be in agreement. Support for the commercial space initiative, opposition to the abandonment of space exploration.

    By the way, Oler’s obsession with me is becoming embarrassing. Not to mention his frequent miss-statement of my position.”

    Oh, its not just Oler that has an obsession with you Mark. I think we’re all desperate to know what makes you tick.

    And I totally agree with you and Rutan that we do need an aggressive HSF program in conjunction with groundbreaking technological demonstration program, so to pay for it all we have to do is eliminate pell grants for art history majors so we can divert $25 Billion in more funding to NASA to give it a total of $45 Billion in the 2011 budget. How does that sound?

  • googaw

    When Bolden rolled out this turkey he said the destinations will be a matter of conversation between the Congress and the Admin. This week, he rolls out Mars. Short conversation I guess.

    You wanted an itinerary for the heavenly pilgrimage of our glorious astronauts and Bolden gave you one. Sorry about the lack of proper pomp and ritual. Bolden is a military pilot and not well versed in these matters.

    The new edition is out. It is little changed from the itinerary of yore: NASA astronauts will go — of that we are certain! — to those great shrines of the sky, the Moon and Mars. We shall not let those awful Chinese desecrate these holy places. Let us all take a moment of silence in awed reverence for these stupendously astronomical endeavors to come, and to the NASA lifetime employees who we know will bring these endeavors to glorious fruition. They are after all public servants, far superior to those greedy bastards in the private sector who are just in it for the money.

    A new invocation regarding asteroids has been added, apparently that does not interest you? I know, asteroids don’t look very much like holy places. They just look like big rocks. The vast deserts of Mars, on the other hand…

    Please let us know what rituals or vestments (did you know the new budget contains funds for a nifty new spacesuit!) you’d like in the next edition and we’ll take it under advisement.

  • “The Garver/Obama plan is clearly being rejected in congress.”

    Judging by several of the members responding positively and the negative responses being more catutious or neutral than truly opposed, I’d say that’s a pretty reactionary response to a little bluster. And if there’s one thing the congress is good at, it’s bluster.

    “Notice Garver is not even out there to defend her own plan. ”

    This has been covered multiple times. It’s not Garver’s plan. It never has been. In fact, after Vitter’s little outburst, the reaction was so strong from people inside the industry and out, congress critters have made a statement that they won’t engage in further personal attacks. My opinion? Garver is is playing co-pilot while Bolden takes the heat. Bolden has a lot of meetings, press conferences, and planning to do to make this stick, even if the result is all but a foregone conclusion.

    “They are struggling badly, and it’s not going to get any better.

    Folks, it’s not passing the congressional sniff test, in fact most are holding their noses!

    And rightly so.

    It’s a stinker.”

    The draft FY 2011, which you’ve repeatedly ignored elsewhere, strongly disagrees with you. It fits pretty much the picture we see in congress. It has some studies to try and keep pieces of Constellation if it’s feasible and change course if no commercials are online by 2016, to please the Shelby’s out there, some requests for more explicit plans to appease the broadest base of criticism, and ultimately 95% of the original budget request largely intact because it makes sense. Some of the loudest critics such as Nelson have tempered their arguments to the point of debating not the essence of the plan, but the method by which it was released.

    And pretty much every congressional hearing since John Adams was still walking the floor has been as harsh if not moreso than this one. Again, congress is great at bluster. They are all bark, but no bite on most things, especially NASA. The only thing they do well with NASA programs is cancel them so Cx is a no-brainer. In six months time Shelby will be touting the jobs he saved in Alabama with the robotic precursor missions, the HLV program, and mission support for all the commercial launches from the Cape, and running on a platform of “I fought for local jobs” for his short stint in raising a stink in committee.

  • googaw

    Major Tom:
    Falcon and Tarus II

    I agree that these have great commercial potential, and I have touted the benefits of COTS for the launcher market before. Indeed Falcon would pass a relatively easy version of the Super-COTS milestone, or under the grant-matching model, Falcon could garner considerable NASA revenue, albeit less than the dominant position NASA has as a SpaceX customer today. Super-COTS would give companies an incentive to commercialize their spacecraft more rapidly instead of so thoroughly diverting their attention and culture towards NASA contracts as they are now. Under COTS the incentive is to focus on the real NASA revenue rather than the hypothetical private customers is overwhelming. And if generating buzz about phony hypothetical markets helps them win the political support for NASA contracts they have an incentive to do that too. COTS brings significant benefits but many pathological incentives remain.

    SpaceX is marketing Dragons for free-flights and generating considerable interest. Bigelow has expressed a lot of interest in both Dragon/Falcon 9 and an Orion-lite launched on an Atlas V.

    Mere buzz. I’ve seen it a million times before. Touting hypothetical markets in order to win fat NASA contracts has been done many times before. Many markets have been touted, hundreds of billions of dollars of supposed future revenues have been projected by supposedly reputable people, and none of it has ever panned out. Maybe it’s different this time? Maybe, but the odds are against it. There is a very long history of this — go study the history of the selling of the Shuttle, Spacehab, the ISS, and many other NASA contracting endeavors. And show me the money.

    NASA still saves literally tens of billions of dollars

    Yes they do save some money, and that’s why I support COTS. Beware of comparing COTS with Ares though, because while it costs less they are also doing less. Which I’m fine with, but let’s keep it straight. If we had a “COTS-moon” it would cost less than but still most of what Constellation cost. And it would also have zero significant customers except for NASA.

    How did people who are big on the free market come to take to such an exaggerated view of the supposed miraculous benefits of a somewhat improved method of government contracting on the cost of government activities? Like me they grew up expecting the promised miracles from NASA, became disenchanted with NASA, and came to value the free market more than government-run programs even (or especially) for space. However, they have failed to recognize what the biggest problem with NASA is. The biggest problem with NASA is not that it spends too much for too little, although it certainly has and does. The biggest problem with NASA is that does the wrong things. Often extremely wrong. “Transportation systems” and “infrastructure” that no unsubsidized investor would ever come anywhere remotely close to investing in for profit. Choices of orbit, scale, and much else that are extremely different from the choices commerce has or would take.

    COTS helps fix the spending-too-much problem, but that is not nearly enough to privatize the space program in the way NewSpacers would like. Super-COTS would help fix the much bigger problem of NASA doing the wrong things in terms of commercialization. NASA is not able to predict commercial markets. NASA’s choice of orbits, scales of technology, etc. have led to preposterously distorted ideas of what actually makes economic sense to do in space.

    We can’t privatize an economic fantasy. Look at all the Soviet factories that had to be shut down after the Cold War because they weren’t economical. Those were just knockoffs of Western factories. They were usually about the right scale, in about the right location, and so on. They were only slightly wrong. NASA’s infrastructure is extremely wrong. Entrepreneurs incentivized by real private markets are far better than any government or political activist at predicting the future of commerce — or at least unlike the latter two kinds of parties they fail quickly if they don’t. Commerce will lead and NASA will follow. Or NASA will continue to lead us astray.

    the commercial model

    When NASA is the dominant customer it is not “commercial”. It is just a euphemism for government contracting.

  • common sense

    This whole thing with Burt Rutan (and I am glad he clarified his position which makes a lot more sense now) reminds me of this pathetic attempt to enroll Neil Armstrong to support Constellation.

    http://nasawatch.com/archives/2008/12/making-sure-the-workforce-gets-the-message.html

    Pretty sad all around.

  • Robert G. Oler

    CessnaDriver wrote @ February 26th, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    The Garver/Obama plan is clearly being rejected in congress.

    Notice Garver is not even out there to defend her own plan. ..

    it is not Garver’s plan to defend, the plan is that of the administrator…and perhaps to those who are more impressed with bluster then anything else…it is having trouble…but it isnt.

    A few months after “the vision” came out I predicted where we would be by about this time …and I predict Bolden’s plan sails through just fine.

    watch

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Storm wrote @ February 26th, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Oh, its not just Oler that has an obsession with you Mark. I think we’re ll desperate to know what makes you tick. ..

    The “ticking” part isnt that much of a mystery to me…

    There are groups on the left and right which belong to “ideology without facts”…The left takes “climate change” as a given and the right takes things like “The Chinese are going to take the Moon” as a given…even when the facts simply dont support those things…and they bend almost every thing that they can to that belief.

    Whittington’s piece on Rutan (and to be fair he did on his blog post a clarifying statement) is illustrative. Most people seeing the initial snippet about Rutan waited to form a judgment until they saw the entire thing…but not Mark. Mark derived from a few snippets that Rutan “Hated” the new program.

    why? Because when one is supporting something where there are little facts to back one up…then every little scrap of information must be heralded as evidence of the likely “second coming”.

    We have always had these groups in The Republic; but what was so bad about the last Administration is that it gave voice to “action without evidence”. There is nothing that would convince those who believe that the Chinese are going to the moon and are going to take it over that this is not the case. Much as nothing was going to convince the last administration that Saddam did not have WMD and was not going to use it against us (US)…because such beliefs are the only justification that they can muster to do what they want to do. As it turns out I dont think that they really cared if Saddam had WMD or not…it was just an excuse to do what they wanted to do.

    So in the case of the Reds…every little scrap of speculation is used to justify a return to the Moon, because otherwise they cannot justify it. Hence that is why every person who spoke out for “Constellation” latched on to “America losing its premier role in space”…as If a program that is not at best going to fly anyone until 2017 or go back to the Moon until 2030 was evidence of “premier leadership”. It simply sounds good.

    In order of The Omega Glory I call it “the Ron Tracey” thought process. Captain Tracey had gotten it in his head that there had to be a serum or something that could be manufactored to let people live “very long” and he had no trouble sacrificing everything he had in the search of that serum.

    a bit of overacting by Shatner but the scene where he tells Tracey “there is no serum” or something like that is how I feel about most of the left and right groups in America.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Storm

    I’m sorry Oler, but it seems there’s not enough serum available from pell grants to art history majors either.

    Its certainly not worth giving up our strategic HSF capabilities, and other exploration initiatives like HSF precursor missions to have a short-term HSF mission “on steroids” either.

    I’ve played with the thought that perhaps the US needs to redirect more funding toward pell grants to science and math majors in general, and less to liberal arts majors (which would include myself coming out of Polisci). Whats the point of having all these universities bloated with liberal studies majors while the U.S. is losing its science lead in the world, and our country has to import so much of the technically skilled labor force. Liberal arts do supply a critical need, but as I see it now our universities are bloated with majors that have no promising careers once they graduate. As a result the US Government is making a promise to students that it cannot keep. If they really want that major let them rely more on loans, while we give every incentive possible to young people to pay for their education by concentrating on science and math. For example, there are so many pursing a law degree when the need for lawyers is really not that great. It has resulted in almost all our elected politicians being lawyers who are great at arguing, but if you watched the hearings of Holdren and Bolden you can see they know very little about science and engineering. Juxtapose that with China, which has a leadership consisting of many engineers who are building the greatest industrial and transportation infrastructure in world history. Our priorities in American education need to reflect our national priorities and needs.

  • Storm

    Brad wrote @ February 26th, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    “Yes!”

    Yeah, so what – I agree with you, so lets divert the funding out of Pell Grants for liberal studies majors. Apollo was riding high on a budget that was 5% of GDP. Now NASA is .5% of GDP. How the heck do you, or Rutan expect us to accomplish comparable goals in today’s world with that kind of anemic funding. Our Politicians are bunch of lawyer’s and they don’t understand didly about engineering. Our universities are bloated with spoiled liberal studies majors while we import science and math students and skilled graduates of sci/math.

  • common sense

    “How the heck do you, or Rutan expect us to accomplish comparable goals in today’s world with that kind of anemic funding.”

    Maybe any one reasonable would not expect anything like this?

    “Our Politicians are bunch of lawyer’s and they don’t understand didly about engineering.”

    It does not matter what you understand about engineering if you’re ill advised or if you are doing stubborn engineering. Not a good point.

    ” Our universities are bloated with spoiled liberal studies majors while we import science and math students and skilled graduates of sci/math.”

    So? You cannot “force” any one into math/science in the same way you cannot impose democracy. There are incentives but it is not about education only, it is about what you do with your education. And that needs to be fixed. Until then…

  • googaw: 100% of Dragon’s revenues come from NASA.

    While the thrust of your argument is correct, this statement is wrong and unfair. SpaceX has lots of non-NASA, and even non-government, revenue, and a huge non-government backlog. Even the overall Falcon-9 / Dragon project has significant private revenue for Falcon-9 launches.

    – Donald

  • googaw

    Donald:
    [SpaceX] has significant private revenue for Falcon-9 launches.

    I myself have pointed this out and have never said otherwise. I call the Falcon a commercial product, but just barely, because much more than half of its revenue comes from NASA. But Dragon is nowhere close to being commercial: all significant revenue for that has come and very likely will continue to come from NASA.

    If I’m counting correctly and the Falcon 9 has four firm non-NASA launches contracted, with substantial deposits or contractual penalties if the customer backs out, then under Super-COTS grant-matching NASA could also buy four flights. That would be enough to goose the market but small enough to keep SpaceX from becoming a government contractor instead of a real commercial company.

  • Brad

    Storm

    “Apollo was riding high on a budget that was 5% of GDP. Now NASA is .5% of GDP. How the heck do you, or Rutan expect us to accomplish comparable goals in today’s world with that kind of anemic funding.”

    Let’s take a close look and see if NASA funding is truly as anemic as you describe. GDP% is a poor measure because of the nation’s ever increasing GDP.

    One source claims NASA funding peaked in 1965 at 33.5 billion dollars, and total NASA spending from 1962 through 1969 was 207 billion dollars. Current plans for NASA spending will total 207 billion dollars in less than 12 years. NASA during the height of Apollo took 8 years to spend that much.

    Though lower than during the era of the Apollo project, current funding of NASA is hardly anemic. The U.S. can afford manned missions of deep space exploration under current spending levels.

  • Storm

    @Common Sense

    “It does not matter what you understand about engineering if you’re ill advised or if you are doing stubborn engineering. Not a good point.”

    It doesn’t matter how good his/her advise is if the Congressman’s head is up his/her ass either. Congress is more concerned with institutionalized B.S. than critical scientific issues facing our nation. Their whole emphasis is somewhere else other than strategic technology. Leader ship that comes out of a technological workforce will gravitate their national funding and concentration on matters of the sort.

    “So? You cannot “force” any one into math/science in the same way you cannot impose democracy. There are incentives but it is not about education only, it is about what you do with your education. And that needs to be fixed. Until then…”

    Perhaps not, but you can provide incentives. That’s all I referred to. If free college funding is available to scientific related majors there will be many more students seriously considering scientific related degrees, which would also require educational institutions to alter much of their existing liberal arts studies to emphasize science. For example, provide more liberal arts background for undergrad science-related degrees to provide associate of science students with a good liberal arts background, and vise versa, gear political science courses toward science and technology policy.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Off topic

    > Feb. 26, 2010
    >
    > David E. Steitz
    > Headquarters, Washington
    > 202-358-1730
    > david.steitz@nasa.gov
    >
    > James Hartsfield
    > Johnson Space Center, Houston
    > 281-483-5111
    > james.a.hartsfield@nasa.gov
    >
    > RELEASE: 10-053
    >
    > NASA PIONEER AARON COHEN DIES
    >
    > WASHINGTON — Spaceflight pioneer Aaron Cohen, a former director of
    > NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, died Thursday, Feb. 25, after
    > a lengthy illness. He was 79.
    >
    > Cohen had a 33-year career with NASA. He was a steady hand at the helm
    > of Johnson as NASA recovered from the shuttle Challenger tragedy and
    > returned the space shuttle to flight. Cohen left the agency in 1993
    > to accept an appointment as a professor at his alma mater, Texas A&M
    > University. At the time, he was serving as acting deputy
    > administrator at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
    >
    > “Aaron Cohen was one of my early mentors here in NASA and he was
    > instrumental in the success of numerous pivotal achievements in human
    > space flight.” said NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden from
    > Headquarters in Washington. “His engineering expertise and rigor were
    > tremendous assets to our nation and NASA. Aaron provided the critical
    > and calm guidance needed at the Johnson Space Center to successfully
    > recover from the Challenger accident and return the space shuttle to
    > flight. We will miss him as a colleague, mentor, and a friend. Our
    > hearts go out to his wife, Ruth, and the rest of his family.”
    >
    > Cohen joined NASA in 1962 and served in key leadership roles critical
    > to the success of the flights and lunar landings of the Apollo
    > Program. From 1969 to 1972, Cohen was the manager for the Apollo
    > Command and Service Modules. He oversaw the design, development,
    > production and test flights of the space shuttles as manager of
    > NASA’s Space Shuttle Orbiter Project Office from 1972 to 1982. After
    > serving as Director of Engineering at Johnson for several years, he
    > was named director of the center in 1986, serving in that post until
    > 1993.
    >
    > “Aaron’s expertise was critical to NASA’s greatest achievements, and
    > his integrity, talent and passion made it a privilege to work with
    > him,” said Mike Coats, Director of the Johnson Space Center. “He will
    > be missed and long remembered by his many friends here at JSC.”
    >
    > Cohen’s many honors include the highest award given for federal
    > executives, the Presidential Rank of Distinguished Executive, with
    > which he was received in 1982 and 1988. He was presented NASA’s
    > highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal, three times. Cohen
    > was a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of
    > the American Astronautical Society and the American Institute of
    > Aeronautics and Astronautics. He was a distinguished alumnus of Texas
    > A&M, from which he earned a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering in
    > 1952. He earned a master’s in Applied Mathematics from Stevens
    > Institute of Technology in 1958. He also was a recipient of honorary
    > doctorates from Stevens Institute and from the University of
    > Houston-Clear Lake.

  • common sense

    @Storm:

    “Leader ship that comes out of a technological workforce will gravitate their national funding and concentration on matters of the sort. ”

    Not sure what you mean here. However if you assume that a Congress person ought to be engineer to be able to properly address the needs of the nation in that matter, I think you’re wrong. The only, only concern of a Congress person today is to be re-elected, no matter their background. It is believed that the best NASA Admin was James E. Webb (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_E._Webb) who was NOT an engineer. The case of Mike Griffin shows that an engineer, no matter how qualified, can run NASA into the ditch. You do not measure leadership in any disciplines by the degree one holds. Be it in Congress, NASA or anywhere. I would even argue that O’Keefe was an even better Admin than Griffin. I did not work under Webb but I did under at least the last three Admins.

    “Perhaps not, but you can provide incentives.”

    True but there is so much you can do at the “education” level. Incentives do exist but one has to question one’s future/carreer before embarking on a specific education. Today, the best talents overall tend to not go to engineering and in engineering (usually) to not go to Aerospace (a usual regular topic for AvWeek) and that is a fact. Answer why and you might be able to fix the problem no matter the incentives. Why do you want to be an engineer? In particular, did *you* want to be an engineer? If not why not? No grants available?

  • Rhyolite

    Off topic:

    I am very sad to see that Aaron Cohen passed away. I had a chance to work with him for a few months after he had retired from NASA. I came away with a high degree of respect for him.

  • Rutan has a point in emphasizing the role of R&D benefits in space programs. On this level Cx is judged to be deficient. I tend to agree but so all almost all of the COTS programs. Dragon is basically an American Soyuz. One might see DreamChaser as an advance but does that mean Rutan would have favored Cx a lot more if NASA had chosen the early LMT concept of a CEV? (I think that I might have.)

    The main problem is that we had done so little R&D on enabling technologies at the time policy makers decided that the Space Shuttle was to be retired that we could maintain HST and at the same time push technology as Rutan (and I) wants. The result is that if we we wanted to have continued HSF in the near term we have to stay with the tried and true.

    I’d like to have a reusable SSTO (perhaps including a combined cycle ramjet/scramjet/rocket engine. The technology wasn’t there in 2005 when we started Cx and it isn’t here yet. Perhaps our Earth departure stage should be based on nuclear thermal propulsion. But, could we recover the NERVA technology in time? Not to mention the terrible political difficulties that would be encountered.

    In that context I think that the Cx program wasn’t all that bad a choice. If the Clinton administration had stepped up to developing a Shuttle replacement in the 1990s we could now be transitioning smoothly to a new vehicle.

  • Brad

    I would like to point out something that Rutan said that seems to be oddly overlooked.

    “This new NASA plan will not have good optics for Americans over the next decade or two as the exploration (i.e. above low earth orbit) activity will be done by our adversaries while we look on and rerun the old films of Apollo.”

    Get it? The main problem Rutan has with the Obama NASA budget is the same problem I noted, that theres no real plan, no project, nor goal related to manned missions of deep space exploration. Sure there is plenty of R&D money, and billions to be wasted on HLV technology development, but nothing else.

    There is no manned mission beyond LEO for the next ten to twenty years, and no specific plan for mission development after that. Just ISS operations through 2020 (and possibly later than 2020). Leaving NASA stuck in LEO with only an aspiration; that someday, eventually, no specific promises now!, we might go beyond.

    Yes it’s great that NASA is speeding up commercial manned access to LEO. Rutan likes that. As for the rest? Ugh.

  • red

    John: “Rutan has a point in emphasizing the role of R&D benefits in space programs. On this level Cx is judged to be deficient. I tend to agree but so all almost all of the COTS programs.”

    The COTS programs and the similar crew efforts are not supposed to be research and development efforts to create new enabling technologies, and I doubt Rutan thinks they should be. They’re supposed to be development programs to create a new service. It’s likely that they’d use fairly established technologies – even off the shelf ones if available. The problem with NASA’s Ares-based in the area of R&D isn’t that that approach isn’t a good research and development program, since like the COTS and similar efforts it’s not supposed to be a research and development program. The problem with the Ares approach in this area is that it’s so expensive that it destroyed the budget for NASA’s research and development, as it destroyed so many other things in NASA. Technology innovation was one of the cornerstones of the VSE, and like all of the other VSE cornerstones the Ares approach demolished it. The COTS approach doesn’t suffer from this drawback because it’s much less expensive.

    John: “The main problem is that we had done so little R&D on enabling technologies at the time policy makers decided that the Space Shuttle was to be retired that we could maintain HST and at the same time push technology as Rutan (and I) wants. The result is that if we we wanted to have continued HSF in the near term we have to stay with the tried and true.”

    We would have been able to afford the types of R&D in the VSE if we had used the VSE’s approach for developing the space access and spacecraft in the VSE. The VSE instructed NASA to acquire commercial launch services, not to make new NASA rockets. In general the VSE was highly commercial-centric, and it didn’t mean cost-plus by that. See the VSE and Aldgridge Commission documents. We’ve already spent something like $9 or $10B on Ares/Orion to ISS. Augustine estimated NASA would need $3B for multiple commercial crew services to LEO/ISS … but being skeptical Augustine also suggested NASA be prepared to spend $5B. The 2011 budget calls for about $6B. Whichever number you pick, it’s way less than Constellation has already spent, and Constellation is nowhere near delivering that LEO/ISS capability. Per Augustine, after spending that $5B, we’d be done, we’d have the service, and thus we could start spending NASA’s dollars on something else.

    If the COTS approach would have been $4 or $5B cheaper than Constellation to date, we could have been spending $4 or $5B on R&D all this time, and we probably would have been lowering barriers to exploration already. We’d also probably be near the point of operational commercial crew and cargo services to LEO/ISS, we’d still have that funding wedge for R&D for later years, and we’d be thinking about how else we could spend the funding wedge that had been going to commercial crew/cargo. Robotic HSF precursors? Reusable orbit-to-orbit space-only vehicles? Technology demos?

    John: “I’d like to have a reusable SSTO (perhaps including a combined cycle ramjet/scramjet/rocket engine. The technology wasn’t there in 2005 when we started Cx and it isn’t here yet. Perhaps our Earth departure stage should be based on nuclear thermal propulsion.”

    We don’t need a reusable SSTO for the immediate problems. We need basic LEO access. That’s a well-established service with widespread markets and interested vendors that don’t have the funds to get through the barriers to entry. Therefore something like COTS is a good approach in that area.

    Reusable SSTO and all sorts of similar things are appropriate for NASA R&D, with commercial, international, and academic partnerships as possible and appropriate.

    John: “If the Clinton administration had stepped up to developing a Shuttle replacement in the 1990s we could now be transitioning smoothly to a new vehicle.”

    My guess is it would have been a Constellation-like disaster had they done so, but who knows? That was so long ago that it was already history when the decisions that are most pertinent to our current situation were made, such as Bush’s decision to issue the VSE, Griffin’s decision to discard the VSE, and the new Administration’s decision to “look under the hood” to find out why the car isn’t starting and where all the smoke and fire is coming from.

  • Major Tom

    “Mere buzz. I’ve seen it a million times before. Touting hypothetical markets in order to win fat NASA contracts has been done many times before… And show me the money… Dragon is nowhere close to being commercial: all significant revenue for that has come and very likely will continue to come from NASA”

    DragonLab had the anchor customer (a classified user) lined up for its first flight as of November 2008.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27599900/

    As of December 2008, SpaceX was working contracts “with multiple prospective customers” and had added two additional DragonLab missions due to demand from the vehicle’s first user workshop.

    https://spacex.com/press.php?page=20081202

    I’d argue that’s more than just “buzz” and demonstrates “significant revenue” beyond NASA for Dragon.

    I’m not trying to be a shill for SpaceX. Your argument might apply to another company/vehicle. But I don’t think the facts surrounding Dragon support the argument you’re making.

    “There is a very long history of this — go study the history of the selling of the Shuttle, Spacehab, the ISS, and many other NASA contracting endeavors. Maybe it’s different this time? Maybe, but the odds are against it.”

    An innaccurate and misleading comparison. You’re comparing the marketing of government-designed and -developed capabilities (or, in the case of SpaceHab, those that are reliant on government-designed and -developed capabilities) to commercially designed and developed capabilities (like DragonLab). Of course STS and ISS havn’t sold well commercially. It literally takes years to gain access to STS flights or ISS lab space and the costs involved in getting qualified to fly are enormous even if NASA gives the capability away for free. Even other federal users have failed to sign up for ISS since it was designated a National Lab (but they are apparently buying space on DragonLab missions).

    “NASA is not able to predict commercial markets.”

    NASA doesn’t need to predict anything. For example, Dragon was designed before COTS came along. When it has a need, NASA just needs to purchase commercial capabilities whenever possible (instead of needlessly duplicating them) and do so in as commercial a fashion as a government customer can. There’s no prediction involved.

    “Super-COTS would help fix the much bigger problem of NASA doing the wrong things in terms of commercialization… If I’m counting correctly and the Falcon 9 has four firm non-NASA launches contracted, with substantial deposits or contractual penalties if the customer backs out, then under Super-COTS grant-matching NASA could also buy four flights.”

    I’m not trying to be mean here, but this is a really goofy and bad idea. Using taxpayer dollars to guarantee commercial business for a privately owned company is a total distortion of the commercial marketplace. It’s the equivalent of agricultural subsidies where farmers are paid by the government to grow a certain crop when prices in the marketplace are telling them not to. When a commercial marketplace is saying that it doesn’t need (or no longer needs) a certain product, taking private money out of the marketplace via taxes to subsidize that same unneeded product only distorts an economy and makes it run less efficiently. It hurts an economy; it doesn’t help it.

    For example, what if, after a DragonLab customer pulls out, SpaceX’s capital and resources would be better spent on more Falcon 1 or Falcon 9 production to meet burgeoning launch demand? Why waste taxpayer money tying SpaceX up in unneeded DragonLab production if they could use those resources to turn a profit on launch vehicles?

    And what if NASA doesn’t need those four DragonLab flights? What does the taxpayer get out of that?

    Again, I’m not trying to be mean, but it’s just a really bad idea, for many reasons. If NASA needs crew and cargo transport, then NASA should just buy Dragons (or whatever commercial solutions win the procurement). If NASA doesn’t need that transport, and no one else does either, then taxpayer money shouldn’t be used to waste SpaceX’s capital and time producing Dragons that no one needs.

    FWIW….

  • Major Tom

    “Rutan has a point in emphasizing the role of R&D benefits in space programs. On this level Cx is judged to be deficient. I tend to agree but so all almost all of the COTS programs. Dragon is basically an American Soyuz.”

    Technology development has never been a goal for COTS. The point of COTS is to provide the government with an efficient industry solution to routine space transportation needs so that there are resources left for the government to pursue technology development programs elsewhere. The point is that instead of spending $30-50 billion to get one crew/cargo ETO solution via Ares I/Orion, the government can spend $6-7 billion to get two crew/cargo ETO solutions via COTS and CCDev and have tens of billions of dollars left over to do other things (like build actual human space exploration capabilities).

    FWIW…

  • Robert G. Oler

    John: “If the Clinton administration had stepped up to developing a Shuttle replacement in the 1990s we could now be transitioning smoothly to a new vehicle.”

    I dont have a clue why you would make those assumptions (or that assumption)…there is no indication that the NASA of the 1990′s had either the cash or any more inclination then today’s to make a shuttle replacement work.

    Why with commercial vehicles would one do that anyway?

    Robert G. Oler

  • googaw

    I wish SpaceX all the luck in the world, but if there really is a big market for them outside of NASA they hardly need you or I rooting for them. In that case nothing I can say can harm a hair on their head. So there is hardly need to get excited or take offense at somebody who points out some negative things about them. Don’t shoot the messenger.

    Major Tom:
    Using taxpayer dollars to guarantee commercial business for a privately owned company is a total distortion of the commercial marketplace.

    (1) Goosing the launch market has always been one of the purposes of COTS, however goofy you might think it is;

    (2) The market distortion occurs anyway whether it’s an intent of the spending or not;

    (3) There is far more market distortion if NASA is the dominant customer than merely another customer; and

    (4) It’s much better for NASA if their ride to space is really “off-the-shelf”, if the company they are depending on can keep going on other business if NASA has to stop buying from them for a year or two, rather than buying from a company that is dependent on continuing NASA funding to keep going. That has always been an important goal of COTS but the current COTS clauses don’t bring it about — instead the incentivize companies to focus on the dominant revenue source, NASA, and neglect other customers. A Super-COTS clause, requiring other customers orders as prerequisite to NASA orders, is required to bring the goals of COTS to fruition.

    So by your reasoning you should be a strong opponent of COTS. But of course your argument above is quite phony, it’s there only to bash somebody else’s ideas without thinking about them. You will forget about these silly arguments as soon as you start talking about COTS rather than Super-COTS. It’s all very puzzling why you have put forward such blatantly illogical argument to attack my idea. If I’ve offended you, I apologize — I am only trying to get out the truth through the noise, and I’m afraid I am sometimes blunt about it. Now please go back and actually think about Super-COTS before mouthing off.

    As for the “classified” customer, that’s interesting, but until we know who it is and how much money we paid, there is no hard evidence that NASA revenue still does not render it utterly insignificant. As for the “contracts in negotiations”, this is the canonical example of mere buzz. Seriously, anybody with long experience in the space business has seen “contracts in negotiation” and undisclosed customers come go countless times with no money changing hands. Heck, that’s true for any startup that has yet to get business, they brag about every little contract negotiation as if it was some market revolution. So yes, you are being a SpaceX shill if you repeat news about “contracts in negotiation” as if it actually means something.

    I wish SpaceX all the luck in the world, but if there really is a big market for them outside of NASA they hardly need you or I rooting for them. In that case nothing I can say can harm a hair on their head. So there is hardly need to get excited or take offense at somebody who points out some negative things about them.

  • googaw

    NASA doesn’t need to predict anything. For example, Dragon was designed before COTS came along.

    Wow, it’s amazing sometimes how people so talented in one area, here engineering, can be so preposterously off the deep end in another, here business sense. First of all, the whole idea that you need a lab in LEO comes out of NASA — it is long-standing ISS propaganda used to justify funding the ISS, and it turns out they can’t even fill up the ISS despite preposterous subsidies to any scientist who wants to fly their experiment. Second, and more importantly, with NASA funding well over 90% of the microgravity experiments in the U.S., you are utterly crazy if you think that DragonLab was not designed with this revenue source in mind. And with NASA’s ISS the only destination in LEO for human space flight, you are utterly crazy if you think Dragon was not designed with NASA in mind.

    Dragon, in other words, is entirely a creature of a world dominated by NASA funding and NASA thinking. It’s no surprise that NASA ends up being the dominant customer of Dragon, and would be very surprising if it were not. Unless you are one of these people that confuses government contracting with the free market.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Major Tom wrote @ February 26th, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    Technology development has never been a goal for COTS. ..

    thanks a lot for the price numbers…

    I dont want to get into this discussion that your post was a part of…but this did catch my eye. I slightly disagree.

    The entire idea of the Air Mail Act and I hope the COTS stuff to the space station is in my view the “goal” of various companies developing “the technology” of low (or lower cost) access to space. In my view this is its “keel”.

    What space advocates (including me for a bit in the 80′s and some in the 90′s with the DC-x) have been sold on (and one sees it in this and other threads here) is (to paraphrase) “NASA should develop a low cost (insert thing here)”…I frankly dont think that they can.

    The entire concept of private enterprise is to take or “invent” some technology or technological application that has as a balance point “affordability”. This effort goes the range from “engines” to “automation”…ie the balance between technology/humans/automation is not only “safety” but is to develop something that is affordable.

    This effort may not develop (or it might) specific technology…but the main “technology” effort is to merge something (things) that turns out into a product that 1) provides a service and 2) at a cost which can make a profit. If either end of it doesnt work, then the technology effort was a failure.

    An example. I dont know what the actual number of people that spacex uses in its “firing room” but I imagine due to the application and development of technology they use a lot less then the folks in the shuttle (there is some level of complexity difference I understand) or say the folks in the Atlas/Delta systems. There is a bit of technology development there.

    Not a big nit, but one reason I support this effort is that I have figured out that while government can put together specific resources or test technologies…its ability to do something like develop a shuttle that flies XX number of times at Y cost…is simply not possible.

    anyway as I noted a minor nit.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Space Shuttle Man

    The logical answer to this conundrum is to cancel Constellation, extend the Shuttle, and develop COTS. Financially extending the Shuttle is not compatible with developing Constellation. Also Constellation will not be available in time to prevent major gap in our manned space capability. Only the Shuttle can give up continued access to LEO in the next few years. As many of you have pointed out above a great length just how cheap COTS is. We can afford to develop it while flying the Shuttle.

    After at least one COTS provider has demonstated safe crewed launches then it would be decided if the Shuttle should be retired depending on the budget in the 2015 time period. This may slow some exotic R&D for Mars missions but everyone here seems to admit that isn’t going to happen for years.

    So sing it again to the tune of The Candy Man:

    What can take 25 tons into space, along with a seven man crew,
    Repair a space telescope and fix a satellite or two
    The Space Shuttle can, oh the Space Shuttle can
    The Space Shuttle can ’cause it’s reusable and lands on a runway real good.

  • Storm

    Googaw wrote:

    “Dragon, in other words, is entirely a creature of a world dominated by NASA funding and NASA thinking.”

    You’ve been keen on pointing out some market distortions perpetuated by NASA, but how would you do it differently? Government loans without requirements given to SpaceX? Just like the Railroads? What is the bridge to true commercialization where SpaceX is not dependent on NASA?

  • Storm

    @CommonSense:

    I’m not talking about pumping Administrators out of our Colleges. I’m figuring how we can get more science grads, because our economy needs them. Even if NASA has a lot of money to throw around there are limits to the heads that can put those programs together. But it would also be good if there was more leadership that had, at least, some kind of background in science, and good keep pace with R&D events, milestones ect. Likewise it would be good for scientists to have some background, through schooling, in humanities. That could give scientists additional assets for becoming future leaders.

  • SpaceX got Dragon to where it is, in a much shorter time frame, thanks to COTS. SpaceX would have achieved this goal after several hundred launches of Falcon 1, but it would have come eventually. COTS simply sped up its development, at bargain basement prices, might I add. What, some $300 million? Contrast that with the $6+ billion spent on Ares I.

  • Storm

    @Googaw,

    Yeah I like the idea of a “Super Cots” to design some kind of “Dragon Lite” vehicle, if such a vehicle has a market niche for private space tourists. I would be willing to see it get some kind of investment from NASA, but I think this should be done after a NASA COTS has been completed. And I don’t think NASA should have to invest as much in “Super COTS” as it did in “COTS”. But you’re right, such a “SUPER” concept could possibly be achieved at some time to ensure commercial viability separate from NASA. But I think part of the point of “COTS” is to pull the commercial sector towards NASA’s goal of safety and reliability, so that SpaceX can design future spacecraft that have some of NASA’s basic standards to ensure safety in any future crewed commercial spacecraft.

    Keep thinking out of the box Googaw.

  • googaw

    Storm:
    how would you do it differently?

    My main recommendation is for NASA to transition from COTS to Super-COTS. Or SCOTS for short. A somewhat longer description I give above, but in short the idea is to add a new kind of milestone requirement to COTS. Like COTS’ investment milestone it is a business milestone. The milestone is that the company have contracted private customers for $X million on the same or straightforwardly derivative service. This can take the form similar to grant-matching: NASA cannot commit to purchase more of a service than private customers have committed to, or pay more milestone payments for developing a service than the amount of advanced orders. Since the private customers typically don’t pay in advance, this still gives the company an up-front cash flow to develop the service as long as they’ve signed up customers. Note that unlike grant-matching donations this is a maximum: NASA obviously should purchase less if it doesn’t actually need so much service.

    Contract negotiations and other buzz doesn’t count. Customers funded indirectly by NASA don’t count. Orders from other governments or government agencies as customers count half. (If you prefer count them as full rather than half — this is just a detail).

    BTW (to answer a big misunderstanding of a different poster above) this is an added requirement of COTS. So it should be the case just as with COTS that NASA actually needs the service itself — it’s not buying for the sake of buying.

    SCOTS benefits the market because it keeps NASA from dominating the market and overly distorting our views about what a real market would look like and economical technology would look like. It benefits NASA because it gives NASA a contractor that is not dependent on NASA on an ongoing basis to stay in business. This gives NASA the option to change its mind and purchase the service elsewhere, or to stop purchasing the service when it no longer needs it, without bankrupting its contractor and preventing NASA from changing its mind and resuming purchases in the future.

  • googaw

    Storm, besides my policy recommendation of SCOTS I do have a more general cultural recommendation, and that is a paradigm reboot among space activists and people at NASA and its contractors who consider themselves to be in favor of commercial space. Take a good long hard look at real commercial space: communications satellites, GPS, recon satellites and related map software and services, etc. Learn to follow real commerce instead of following NASA. Learn to think like real commerce instead of thinking like NASA. Learn to envision the future like real commerce instead of “hallucinating” like NASA. (“A vision without resources is a hallucination” — a great quote from Bolden, I wish his people would take it to heart). And take a good hard look at how the DoD puts space to practical use. I know it’s not HSF, it’s boring, etc. etc. I’ve heard all the excuses of HSF fans to avoid looking at real practical uses of space. But real commerce and real national security are where the future is in space, not in economic fantasies that originated in traditional NASA HSF propaganda.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Space Shuttle Man wrote @ February 27th, 2010 at 1:16 am

    The logical answer to this conundrum is to cancel Constellation, extend the Shuttle, and develop COTS…

    no

    what you end up with is about 2 billion a year for 1 or 2 shuttle flights and at some point you have to restart things to keep going past to much more then a couple of flights.

    The point of the entire excersize is to ditch the workforce that is strangling human spaceflight. People should have been looking for other jobs. I wrote recommendations for people in 2006 who were going to work for USA (to fly their sabreliner) and at every interview they were told…its over in 2010.

    the plug is being pulled

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “I wish SpaceX all the luck in the world, but if there really is a big market for them outside of NASA they hardly need you or I rooting for them.”

    Agreed, but I wasn’t “rooting” for anyone. You’re the one who keeps bringing up SpaceX in support of your argument. Not me. If you claim that a company is an example that supports your argument, and another poster thinks your argument is wrong, then the other poster has to be able to talk about that company. That’s not “rooting”. It’s just addressing the argument.

    “So there is hardly need to get excited or take offense at somebody who points out some negative things about them. Don’t shoot the messenger.”

    I wasn’t excited or offended about anything. I said that, although your argument might apply to another vehicle or company, the evidence surrounding Dragon and SpaceX doesn’t appear to support your case.

    If you’re worried about who’s getting excited and offended, then you need to look in the mirror. You’re the one who jumped into personal attacks, like this one about my “business sense”.

    “Wow, it’s amazing sometimes how people so talented in one area, here engineering, can be so preposterously off the deep end in another, here business sense.”

    There’s no need to personalize the argument and disparage the other poster. I didn’t throw a personal insult at you. Discuss the argument and its facts and logic, not the other poster.

    “But of course your argument above is quite phony, it’s there only to bash somebody else’s ideas without thinking about them.”

    I did think through your idea, and as I already wrote, I realized that it’s basically agricultural subsidies for aerospace — the government guaranteeing to pay a company to produce something that the market has decided it no longer wants.

    You claim to be worried about distortions of the marketplace. But using taxpayer dollars to pay companies to produce something that no one in the marketplace wants is a much, much bigger distortion of the marketplace than the government simply purchasing what the marketplace is already offering for the government’s own needs. (In fact, the government purchasing what the marketplace is already offering only enlarges a market, it does not distort it.)

    I’m sorry, but it’s a bad idea. If you still disagree, then defend your idea on the merits, with logic and facts. If not, then admit that at least this aspect of your idea needs work.

    I’ve raised legitimate concerns. Tell me why those concerns are wrong. But don’t dismiss my concerns as a “phony… bash”. They’re not.

    “A Super-COTS clause, requiring other customers orders as prerequisite to NASA orders, is required to bring the goals of COTS to fruition.”

    How does artificially restricting NASA’s demand make COTS “Super”? That shrinks the market and reduces demand for these private sector capabilities. It’s COTS “Inferior”, not “Super”.

    As long as NASA is buying what the market is buying (Dragon missions launched by Falcon 9s, in this case), does it matter if NASA is 90-percent or 10-percent of the market? If a government agency has a legitimate need and private companies can fulfill that need, why restrict the transaction? Why artificially restrict a company’s size, revenues, and profit? Why keep a company and jobs from growing?

    I’m sorry, but it’s a goofy idea with bad effects. If you still think I’m wrong, then address my concerns and tell me why I’m wrong using facts and logic, not personal attacks or dismissive mischaracterizations.

    “As for the ‘contracts in negotiations’, this is the canonical example of mere buzz.”

    Again, SpaceX has put two additional DragonLabs into production to meet the demand coming from those contracts. That’s a lot more than just “buzz”. Significant capital is being expended.

    “First of all, the whole idea that you need a lab in LEO comes out of NASA… Dragon, in other words, is entirely a creature of a world dominated by NASA”

    No, the concept of crewed space stations predates NASA by a century, and the USAF actually pursued a Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) a decade before Skylab.

    http://www.aero.org/publications/crosslink/summer2004/02.html

    “you are being a SpaceX shill”

    Again, what’s with the personal attacks and namecalling? I havn’t insulted your integrity. Argue the post, not the poster. Please.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “The logical answer to this conundrum is to cancel Constellation, extend the Shuttle, and develop COTS… As many of you have pointed out above a great length just how cheap COTS is. We can afford to develop it while flying the Shuttle.”

    NASA _may_ be able to afford commercial crew development and Shuttle operations. But that requires several assumptions.

    It assumes that Shuttle’s annual budget can be reduced to something like $2 billion per year for multiple years. That’s never been done. Shuttle’s typical annual running budget is $4-5 billion per year.

    It also assumes that there are enough spares to maintain the three orbiter fleet for the next half decade. The costs of recreating production capabilities for those parts lines that have been shut down or destroyed is likely cost-prohibitive.

    It also assumes that, contrary to the CAIB report, that Shuttle doesn’t need to be recertified after 2010. Or that recertification will be inexpensive. I wouldn’t bet on either.

    “This may slow some exotic R&D for Mars missions but everyone here seems to admit that isn’t going to happen for years.”

    I wouldn’t call an affordable HLV or in-space cryo storage or closed loop life support “exotic”. These are things the human space program should have had decades ago.

    Under the new plan, an HLV will be ready in the 2020s. If civil human space exploration was my priority, I’d wouldn’t put that HLV off another decade for continued Shuttle flights. A couple Shuttle flights a year, when ISS needs can be met by partner vehicles, aren’t worth going back to an Ares V over-the-horizon timeline.

    Of course, your priorities may be different, but I would also argue that workforce retention shouldn’t trump programmatic progress.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “The entire idea of the Air Mail Act and I hope the COTS stuff to the space station is in my view the “goal” of various companies developing ‘the technology’ of low (or lower cost) access to space.”

    If the definition of technology that you’re using is “know how” writ large, I don’t disagree.

    But the other poster was arguing that COTS is as technology deficient — lacking in genuinely new inventions — as Ares I/Orion. While that may be true, it’s a bad argument because COTS is not a technology development program designed to create and test new inventions — e.g., a new engine cycle, a new structural material, etc. It may do some of that in the course of meeting its goals, but that’s not the purpose of the COTS (or CCDev) program. That’s what the new exploration R&D programs are intended to do.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “theres no real plan, no project, nor goal related to manned missions of deep space exploration.”

    This is a false statement.

    The plan is to invest in the capabilities necessary to open up multiple deep space destinations to human exploration.

    The projects include a program to develop an HLV by the 2020s, a program to fly robotic precursor missions to multiple targets to identify resources and test capabilities, a program develop key human space exploration technologies like in-orbit propellant transfer and storage, inflatable modules, automated/autonomous rendezvous and docking, closed-loop life support systems, in situ resource utilization, and advanced in-space propulsion, and a program to enhance ISS in support of human space exploration.

    The goal, as the NASA Administrator stated in testimony, is ultimately Mars.

    Why are folks still not getting this? There are now detailed NASA budget documents and multiple statements from the NASA Administrator. Aren’t folks bothering to read this things?

    If you don’t like the plan for what it contains or lacks, then debate those specifics. For example, if you think a date needs to be attached to a human Mars mission, then say so. Or if you think the HLV should be based on Shuttle or an LH2 engine, and not a RP-1 engine, then say so.

    But don’t claim that there are no plans, no programs, or no goals when they clearly exist in black and white. That’s just an ignorant lie.

    “There is no manned mission beyond LEO for the next ten to twenty years”

    Actually, we don’t know that. Under the new plan, the HLV will be operational in the 2020s. So the capability will be there. It’s just a question of whether the next President or two decides to use it. That’s a decision that’s not under the control of this NASA Administrator, White House, or Congress.

    And even if there isn’t a human exploration mission for the next 20 years, so what? That’s what was going to happen under the POR anyway. Ares V wasn’t going to be ready until 2028 at the earliest, and there wasn’t going to be money for a lunar Orion, transit stage, or Altair lander until well into the 2030s.

    Why are we all suddenly unhappy about this now? We’ve all known this for months (some of us years) now.

    FWIW…

  • Robert G. Oler

    Major Tom wrote @ February 27th, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    we are in agreement.

    My definition of technology would be more then say “wow we just made the best rocket engine ever…the SSME (or whatever)” to me “the DC 3″ is technology.

    technology does not exist in a vacumn unless one is just a pure research project…so for instance it is “cool” to say one has “transported” something (which I think was a story awhile back) and to someone in the far future this might be the start of Dr. McCoy’s hated transporter system…but to most of us today the effort is meaningless.

    Construct a rocket/space vehicle system that lowers the cost to orbit per person into the “tens of millions” of dollar range…well that is technology.

    Anyway nice comments on your part

    Robert G. Oler

  • Vladislaw

    richardb wrote:
    “Team Obama says Mars, yet canned VSE because it was too expensive”

    Actually, President Obama canceled the constellation program as to expensive, if you would actually read the VSE you would find that Obama is funding most of it.

    VISION FOR SPACE EXPLORATION:
    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/55584main_vision_space_exploration-hi-res.pdf

    “Separate to the maximum practical extent crew from cargo transportation to the International Space Station and for launching exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit;
    « Acquire cargo transportation as soon as practical and affordable to support missions to and from the International Space Station; and
    « Acquire crew transportation to and from the International Space Station, as required, after the Space Shuttle is retired from service.”

    This is exactly what President Obama is doing, Commercial firms were supposed to be funded to seperate the exploration from servicing ISS. That would free up exploration hardware from doing service missions.

    The VSE was to do flagship missions utilizing advanced technology demostrators, exactly was Obama is calling for in the 2011 budget:

    “The Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter is enabled by Project Prometheus, NASA’s program to develop space nuclear power and propulsion technology. The nuclear power and nuclear-electric propulsion technologies that support this mission are also key to enabling other advanced robotic missions and human missions beyond Earth’s orbit.”

    The VSE, which represented CURRENT American space policy on feb 2004, stated that:

    “NASA does not plan to develop new launch vehicle capabilities except
    where critical NASA needs—such as heavy lift—are not met by commercial or military systems. Depending on future human mission designs, NASA could decide to develop or acquire a heavy lift vehicle
    later this decade. Such a vehicle could be derived from elements of the Space Shuttle, existing commercial launch vehicles, or new designs.”

    NASA was NOT supposed to duplicate ANY launch system UNLESS it was in the criticial path like heavy lift. They were supposed to design a new CEV AROUND current systems. Not design a bus of a CEV and then turn around and say “gosh, we nothing to lift it .. so now we have to design a new launcher for it”

    Talk about a make work program.

    It also stated that NASA “could” design a heavy lift, not that they HAD to design one. If NASA could design a program without the use of a HLLV they were free to do so. How could they get around the need of a heavy lift vehicle?

    “In the days of the Apollo program, human exploration systems employed expendable, single-use vehicles requiring large ground crews and careful monitoring. For future, sustainable exploration programs, NASA requires cost-effective vehicles that may be reused, have systems that could be applied to more than one destination, and are highly reliable and need only small ground crews. NASA plans to invest in a number of new approaches to exploration, such as robotic networks, modular systems, pre-positioned propellants, advanced power and propulsion, and in-space assembly, that could enable these kinds of vehicles. These technologies will be demonstrated on the ground, at the Space Station and other locations in Earth orbit, and on the Moon starting this decade and into the next. Other breakthrough technologies, such as nuclear power and propulsion, optical communications, and potential use of space resources”

    President Bush called for Fuel depots, advanced propulsion and nuclear power, gosh, EXACTLY what President Obama is funding.

    How any sane person can read the VSE and then try and defend Constellation as if that definitively defined the VSE is beyond me.

    Read the 2011 budget, look at what it proposes to fund, then read the VSE, i provided the link, and compare them and make a note of everything the 2011 budget is proposing to fund that is listed in the VSE.

    Now take the Constellation program and compare that to the VSE and 2011 budget and you find the Constellation program is the anomoly and is the “radical” change.. the constellation violated just about the ENTIRE vision for space exploration. It got literally nothing right compared to what President Bush called for.

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/35604813

    this is worth watching…Jane Wells does a very nice job…and the video of where “Dragon” is docking is entertaining.

    I dont work for SpaceX and I hope that Boeing and Lockmart all summon themselves to the Challenge of commercial space…but to me this is just an extraordinary exciting time of the changing future.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Vladislaw wrote @ February 27th, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    well done Robert G. Oler

  • Vladislaw

    Thank you Robert, I don’t believe the supporters of the Constellation program truely understand what President Bush was calling for with the VSE.

    Look at this point by point:

    “For future, sustainable exploration programs, NASA requires cost-effective vehicles that may be reused, have systems that could be applied to more than one destination, and are highly reliable and need only small ground crews. NASA plans to invest in a number of new approaches to exploration, such as robotic networks, modular systems, pre-positioned propellants, advanced power and propulsion, and in-space assembly, that could enable these kinds of vehicles.”

    What exactly was President Bush calling on NASA to build and did the Constellation program follow American space policy?

    Well, they are refered to as “vehicles”, since this is not about the planned CEV it must have been a different system than the crew exploration vehicle that was to be used by the astronuats as transport to the vehicle. The vehicles were to be assembled in-space, be reusable and refueled on orbit.

    The “moon program” was supposed to be some cobbled together HLV that would launch the reusable EDS, commercial space would be launching the SMALL cev that would dock with the space based, reusable vehicle.

    Mars was the goal of the VSE not the moon, it was just not politically correct to say it. Witness the SEI under President Bush Sr. If any aspect of the Vision for Space Exploration was going to fail, it was SUPPOSED to be the lunar landings and architecture. The VSE was totally geared to get around the anti ‘going to mars’ group. NASA was charged with creating a space based, reusable, assembled in orbit, gas n’ go, any destination vehicles and that is what the true vision for space exploration was about.

  • Brad

    Major Tom

    “That’s just an ignorant lie.”

    Funny, Burt Rutan seems to agree with me. Is he an ‘ignorant lier’ too?

    It’s getting awfully tiresome to see you constantly cherry pick, attack strawmen, then launch into personal attack and insult. Your self-appointed role as keeper of acceptable opinion and enforcer mannerly discourse is pretty amazing coming from you.

    BTW, you seem awfully confident that a NASA “HLV will be ready in the 2020s” despite the fact that there is nothing to direct such an outcome. Of course using your style of logic, NASA should have had an operational NTR in the 1970′s after the billions spent on R&D for Kiwi and NERVA. Obama’s budget to spend R&D on HLV technology is no likelier to ever lead to any operational HLV. I think your confidence is especially amusing considering you yourself had earlier agreed that HLV is a dumb way to go.

    One last thing. Please don’t bother to respond to me, ever. You don’t know how to disagree with people without descending into ugly territory, and I have better things to do than get dragged down with you into the mud.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Vladislaw wrote @ February 27th, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    you can go back and search this board…I saw where this was going as soon as Griffin became administrator…and knew that the entire concept of “the vision” had been screwed…I didnt care much for “the vision” anyway because I really dont think we need some “program” (either in fact or rhetoric) to take the next steps in space…BUT as soon as the “apollo on steroids” started I knew it was doomed.

    A lot of people here beat up on me pretty hard predicting that…”anti Bush” (no I didnt like him) but the reality was that as soon as NASA corporate got hold of the project one could see that it was going to follow ALS/NLS/X33 etc into the crapper.

    They (NASA) always do this. The organization is just no longer functional enough to move past its institutional memory (or what they think that memory is) and move into some new world.

    I dont think that we need a “plan”…we didnt have a plan to conquer aviation/the oceans/the West or anything else…and we have to have an “industry” to do it.

    But if we were going to have the “plan” then the plan should have been something that could work. Look in the end the odd thing (for me at least) is that the last time some administrator made NASA “work” was Psycho Dan. Dan G in many respects “got it”.

    Freedom had morphed into what Constellation is now. NASA was in this “safety bee” drawing up requirements that really had no value (dual track, race track etc) year afer year the darn things was over budget and slipping in schedule…for pete’s safe we couldnt even apparantly deploy a propulsion module to keep the thing in orbit.

    Psycho figured out that he needed to narrow the scope, get something that could be done…and get it done…and amazingly enough he did.

    Had Griffin come in and said “I have to have something to replace the shuttle” and moved to Atlas/Delta well it was at least a step in the correct direction…but instead he resurrected all the old “Freedom” problems. and the entire thing is doomed.

    Off to work out in the chicken coupe!

    Thanks again for your post…it was quite informative.

    Robert g. Oler

  • Brad

    What Burt Rutan has to say

    (My apologies to Hyperbola for copying and pasting his entire article here)
    ———————————————————————————————————–
    In response to Buzz Aldrin’s article in the Wall Street Journal Burt Rutan has circulated the following:

    This sounds fine thru the lens of my friend Buzz Aldrin. However, the reality is that the new plan has no schedules, no $ and no programs to build government hardware for ANY future manned spaceflight activity.

    In 1962 we contracted North American to develop the Apollo spacecraft before we had even decided that we would need to do LOR (lunar orbit rendezvous). It was another 3+ years before rendezvous was demonstrated in earth orbit! We boldly moved forward with the assumption that the technology would be there. In contrast, NASA has, for the last 2 decades shown that they can burn thru hundreds of billions of $ without flying anything new. The new plan almost guarantees another decade or two of the same behavior.

    Many believe that failure of a research technology initiative is defined only by its test data or by its accident record. However, most Government ‘research’ programs fail in another way – spending all the $ and over-running the schedule before even having the courage to do the testing of the new, poorly-understood ideas.

    This new NASA plan will not have good optics for Americans over the next decade or two as the exploration (i.e. above low earth orbit) activity will be done by our adversaries while we look on and rerun the old films of Apollo. Buzz will continue to be our hero, but our youth may yearn to move to where the action is.
    Burt

  • Brad

    Burt Rutan statement, boiled down to it’s essence

    …However, the reality is that the new plan has no schedules, no $ and no programs to build government hardware for ANY future manned spaceflight activity…

    …NASA has, for the last 2 decades shown that they can burn thru hundreds of billions of $ without flying anything new. The new plan almost guarantees another decade or two of the same behavior…

  • The left takes “climate change” as a given and the right takes things like “The Chinese are going to take the Moon” as a given…even when the facts simply dont support those things…and they bend almost every thing that they can to that belief.

    This kind of mindless “left/right” idiocy is why I take nothing that Robert says about politics very seriously. There is no “left” and “right” in space policy (and they’re not particularly useful terms in general policy discussions — particularly the latter). It’s much more complicated than that.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Brad wrote @ February 27th, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    it is hard to find any value in this note…

    Rutan assumes something that clearly is not in evidence

    “This new NASA plan will not have good optics for Americans over the next decade or two as the exploration (i.e. above low earth orbit) activity will be done by our adversaries while we look on and rerun the old films of Apollo”

    one scans the horizon for “proof” that any of this is more then just a statement of what might be…and one doesnt see it. Almost ALL the activity that one sees “our adversaries” engage in…seems to be in LEO.

    as for the “optics”…

    there is no real evidence that the American people care at all about human spaceflight nor that the concept of people going into space on private vehicles wont be exciting (or that they will)

    Most Americans are (and will continue for sometime) worried more about their personal lives and the problems of those right now…then they are about humans in space.

    Here is a question…how many people know the names of 1) The Americans on the space station or 2) the fact that the PRC did a spacewalk?

    Most dont care (taking a break from watching the events in Hawaii…now there are optics!)

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    I would say one more thing about Rutan’s letter.

    “Optics”.

    Most space advocates (and that includes Rutan) have a short memory.

    The “experience” for them is “going out of low earth orbit” or so Rutan claims will get Americans interested. That doesnt hold true if one looks at the “race to the Moon”.

    By Gemini the networks were already starting to dump coverage of the various flights. They picked it up for Gemini VIII because of the thruster problem…but I recall in Gemini one of the networks getting a brace of phone calls because they dumped out of “Heidi” to cover the Gemini mission (it might have been 8).

    Apollo got some coverage and the first lunar landing almost non stop coverage…but then it died of very quickly (as is portrayed in the Apollo 13 movie)…only tuning in when there was something tragic to follow…Apollo 17 had almost no coverage.

    The claim that Rutan seems to embrace that Americans will be excited by ventures out of LEO seems pretty weak. It might excit space junkies…but watching NASA astronauts count screw turns is boring if you are in LEO or on the Moon.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Vladislaw

    Burt Rutan has always been about cheap access and a “runway to runway” vehicle. He is a plane designer and believes that is the way foreward.

    If you want to have a better understanding of Burt’s position I believe his speech at the TED’s is the best one illustrating his philosophy of where NASA should be heading.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwfSENkvJXY

  • Brad

    Robert

    “one scans the horizon for “proof” that any of this is more then just a statement of what might be…and one doesnt see it. Almost ALL the activity that one sees “our adversaries” engage in…seems to be in LEO.”

    I agree. But you have cherry picked the least important point from what Rutan has said. Part of the reason I posted the follow on distillation of Rutan was in the hope of avoiding just such cherry picking.

    “there is no real evidence that the American people care at all about human spaceflight nor that the concept of people going into space on private vehicles wont be exciting (or that they will)”

    Aside from the fact you contradicted yourself in a single sentence, even if either of your points are true, so what? Of course the American public has bigger fish to fry than NASA manned spaceflight. Obviously this subject only deeply interests a tiny tiny minority of the American public.

    But that doesn’t mean the issues at stake don’t matter.

  • Brad

    Vladislaw

    I think I understand Rutan just fine. So what is your opinion of Rutan’s criticism of Obama’s plan for NASA?

  • Coastal Ron

    Yikes, all this focus on SpaceX. I certainly wish them well, and I think they will do well because they are focused on building a sustainable business model, with both government and private contracts. And, they have gotten to this point by using private investment, not government largess.

    The most near-term possibilities for commercial crew launch should really be considered as Atlas V and Delta IV. I think Atlas V having a Russian engine is not really an issue as long as a crew capsule is built that can be flown on any launcher. By doing that, then normal market forces ensure that the Russians will want to continue to sell us engines, and they won’t be able to gouge ULA for the price. That being said, I also like the idea of building a new hydrocarbon 1st stage engine, because we should always be creating more efficient technologies.

    Maybe someone has already done this, but it would be nice to graphically display the Constellation timeline (including the 2015 deorbit of the ISS) versus what the new budget could provide. I believe most people defending Constellation did not really see how little it would fly over the next two decades, and what little it would mean to U.S. LEO dominance.

    Constellation would have guaranteed that we would have lost our ability to function economically in LEO, and while I weep for the $$ that will be lost, I look forward to the more robust industry that can be built.

  • GuessWho

    Oler – “The claim that Rutan seems to embrace that Americans will be excited by ventures out of LEO seems pretty weak. It might excit space junkies…but watching NASA astronauts count screw turns is boring if you are in LEO or on the Moon.”

    And yet you seem to think that some sort of manned GEO platform or space tourism will be far more engaging to the american taxpayer, enough so that they should willingly agree to fund a completely untested “commercial” company to provide it. If I had to weigh the opinions of Rutan vs. Oler about what should or shouldn’t be the US space policy, Rutan wins hands down. Rutan has produced hardware and a business. Oler is nothing but a space policy wannabe with no experience; neither in producing hardware or developing and running a business. Old sayings; those who can, do, those who can’t …. Oler is the latter.

  • Vladislaw

    brad wrote:

    “I think I understand Rutan just fine. So what is your opinion of Rutan’s criticism of Obama’s plan for NASA?”

    I believe that if Obama’s budget shifted the 3 billion for heavy lift into a HL-20 type program Rutan would have been more in favor.

  • danwithaplan

    Looks like a deja vu. Folks jumping on the new Admin’s bandwagon, and defending it without critical eye.

    Just like several times before (that I’ve seen)

    It will all end in tears again. In either 3 or 7 years.

  • danwithaplan

    But NASA has no true need for HSF.

    NASA’s is a false ‘market’ even if it’s the single one for HSF.

  • danwithaplan

    What Falcon-9 launches?

  • It also assumes that, contrary to the CAIB report, that Shuttle doesn’t need to be recertified after 2010. Or that recertification will be inexpensive. I wouldn’t bet on either.

    Since Shuttle was never “certified”: in the first place, redoing it should cost nothing at all…

  • Brad

    Vladislaw

    “I believe that if Obama’s budget shifted the 3 billion for heavy lift into a HL-20 type program Rutan would have been more in favor.”

    Uh, okay. Odd reaction considering that Rutan has spoken strongly in favor of several element of the Obama plan. Care to address more specifically ANY of the criticisms Rutan made?

  • Robert G. Oler

    GuessWho wrote @ February 27th, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    And yet you seem to think that some sort of manned GEO platform or space tourism will be far more engaging to the american taxpayer, ,….

    no I didnt say that.

    I dont think it would be engaging at all, I dont think ANYTHING short of “sex in space” or “waxed bodies in space” or “dancing with each other in the stars” or “tragedy in space” would be at all interesting to the American people.

    try paying attention.

    My statement was that an ability in GEO to build platforms that do things like 1) give 1 meter resolution to the “spooks” anytime anywhere they want it in real time or 2) making platforms that change the communications equation or a few other things would actually “pay for themselves” in terms of actually doing something.

    “Guess” you are free to follow any Tom Dick and Helen you want to in terms of who to believe…and for whatever reason you want to believe them…but at least quote or paraphrase me correctly.

    F minus for you

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Brad wrote @ February 27th, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Burt Rutan statement, boiled down to it’s essence..

    OK I’ll comment on your “distillation”

    “…However, the reality is that the new plan has no schedules, no $ and no programs to build government hardware for ANY future manned spaceflight activity…”

    and no one in the US cares other then space junkies, people who have imagined a Chinese threat to take over the Moon, or people whose livelyhood depends on a federal check.

    “…NASA has, for the last 2 decades shown that they can burn thru hundreds of billions of $ without flying anything new. The new plan almost guarantees another decade or two of the same behavior…”

    Rutan might be correct…but then what is his answer? He doesnt like the current program as best as I can tell, ,nor does he like what it is transitioning to…what does he think is going to change the game?

    By inference a “deadline” or “goal”? If so he is goofy and has not been paying attention with one goal after another having been set and missed since Apollo.

    My guess is that he hasnt been paying attention as he is just flat wrong about “the optics”. He doesnt understand American politics or apparantly what keeps the interest of the American people. I guess he is still bummed over how little people cared about Voyager. (the plane)

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    danwithaplan wrote @ February 27th, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Looks like a deja vu. Folks jumping on the new Admin’s bandwagon, and defending it without critical eye.

    not me. I thought Bush’s was a turd from the getgo. Both Bush’s…

    Robert G. Oler

  • danwithaplan

    Mr. Oler, do you think there is anything to critisize in the new NASA administration’s program? Don’t mean to put you on the spot, just curious.

  • Robert G. Oler

    danwithaplan wrote @ February 27th, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Mr. Oler, do you think there is anything to critisize in the new NASA administration’s program?..

    it still is “fleshing” out as they say (part of the political process they are going to have to offer some sweetners to some people)…and I am sure I wont like a few of those…there are a few things so far I dont like, but after 30 years of one bad space policy after another that I really badly disagreed with…and 8 years of Bush the idiot where I learned that “good” in policy (instead of best) should never be a reason for not latching onto “good”…I am pretty happy with this.

    In 1999 (on the anniversary of the lunar landing) I wrote a piece that The Weekly Standard published which (with the concurrance of Mark Whittington who asked to have his name put on the piece and the really fine edit of Rich Kolker) advocated almost all the major points of the “new” program.

    The baseline being that a human spaceflight program that had private enterprise as a “positive multiplier” just like every other successful industry in the US could hardly do worse then the 30 years of “torpor and timidity” . As we stood on the brink of 2001 (then) EVERYTHING that Clarke had predicted in his books and movies in terms of technology had become or was on the brink of becoming a multiplier in our daily lives EXCEPT human spaceflight. And the reason is that since Apollo true private enterprise has been systematically banned from human spaceflight POLICY in the US.

    The article had some specific recommendations that are essentially if not in fact taken up by the new policy…but the most important thing to me is that we are (it seems like) driving a stake through the “big government” infrastructure that has driven human spaceflight almost to its knees.

    To “me” there is no “do worse” in terms of policy. In my view human spaceflight as an endeavor that changes the nation positively has not existed in decades. And I think that a policy that has at least some hint of creating private wealth…will help The Republic in so many ways.

    Are there parts I would quibble with/change/or go a different direction if I were advocating it? Yes. I dont care for the notion of a “heavy lift vehicle” R&D…I dont see the need for it. But a few people who I think are pretty smart say we need one for something other then “exploration” so I can play along.

    I would like to see more aeronautics research and I would like to see some sort of rethink in terms of how uncrewed exploration is done..

    but all in all…like Presidents, policies are a binary set…one or the other…and I’ll enthusiastically support the one Charlie is pushing. It is the most enlightened one I have seen in my lifetime…and it has the benefit of never having been tried in human spaceflight; but is successful everyplace else in The Republic

    Robert G. Oler

  • Rutan is basically saying the same thing in a little better way that I’ve been. This new plan really get us nowhere. We can hope that at least one commercial provider is successful in providing LEO access. Beyond that it isn’t clear what will really be achieve. My follow on point is that given the coming push to fight our massive deficits with no really plan the budget gets cut.

    What he is not saying and I guess that is my difference with him is that we need to stay with as much of the establish work as we can. That would seem to me to be Ares 1/Orion perhaps in modified form but with more aggessive management.

    His alternative would be to scrap everything and define some technologically challenging goals. But if we can’t even pull of Cx, I fear that it would just lead to a bigger failure.

    The “Shuttle Man” does have a point. Scraping Cx and going with a combo of extened Shuttle and COTS is a consistant alternative. It is also the only option with continous access to LEO. That would suggest the Direct HLV approach since the necessary . I just wonder it is politically feasable. It would allow Obama to reverse another Bush policy.

  • Robert G. Oler

    John wrote @ February 27th, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    Rutan is basically saying the same thing in a little better way that I’ve been. This new plan really get us nowhere. ..

    neither you or him know that.

    going “nowhere” is the path we have been on since 1988.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Frank

    Burt Rutan says (from the article above):

    “In short, it is a good idea indeed for the commercial community to compete to re-supply the ISS and to bring about space access for the public to enjoy. I applaud the efforts of SpaceX, Virgin and Orbital in that regard and feel these activities should have been done at least two decades ago,” he writes. He is concerned about “a surrender of our preeminence in human spaceflight”, but is not a supporter of Constellation because of its lack of “technical breakthroughs”. “I do not think that NASA should ‘give up’ on manned spaceflight, just that they should be doing it while meeting” two criteria: achieving technical breakthroughs through basic research, and providing inspiration for students to pursue careers in science and engineering.”

    So:

    1. He likes the idea of commercial access to LEO, both cargo and people.
    2. He is concerned that the new plan will mean “a surrender of our preeminence in human spaceflight”
    3. He doesn’t like Constellation as it is.
    4. He does approve working on technical breakthroughs through research.

    This means that he certainly is not totally against the new plan. He is however very critical and worried about some important aspects. He also has a problem with Constellation.

    What I would like to know from Burt is what Burt’s plan would be, within the limits of the budget we have. Because I, like many others, do not believe the budget will go up, regardless of who in the next decades will be in charge of our country. So, come on Burt, tell us your idea to make it happen.

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://www.hobbyspace.com/nucleus/index.php?itemid=19013

    for all the rant and raving of the “Save our Jobs” and “Charlie Charlie I am a shrill” Precourts emails slimming Garver…

    this pretty much nails it.

    The groups trying to save the past have failed to get any sort of critical mass outside of the “pro old space” groups. What killed the F-22 and the other programs that have died is that the only people…in the end…who were trying to save them were the people whose jobs depended on them.

    in this case what makes it worse for the “save our pork” people is that the program is so badly performing.

    The F22 was over priced and a weapon system we dont need…but at least it was flying (in a fashion although they wont commit it to combat)…Ares is not

    It is a 6-9 billion dollar flop that is not going to stand well against say Falcon 9 or any of the other “low cost” solutions.

    But it is fun to watch the “save our jobs” and other right wingers (sorry Rand most of hte folks trying to save it are right wingers) thrash about. Good comedy is fun to watch.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://blogs.airspacemag.com/moon/2010/02/27/talismanic-thinking/

    What is fascinating about Spudis is that he knocks “game changer” thinking (he calls it “talismanic” thinking) and then having (he thinks) beaten up on it…then ENGAGES IN SOME HIMSELF..

    ” We should re-affirm that our mission is to use the resources of the Moon to build a transportation infrastructure whereby all can travel to wherever they choose as often as they want. ”

    Paul it is as goofy as your Chinese theories.

    Robert G. Oler

  • sorry Rand most of hte folks trying to save it are right wingers)

    You can apologize for being wrong all you want, but it’s not true. Alan Grayson is not a “right winger.” Suzanne Kosmas is not a “right winger.” The people trying to “save the jobs” are the people who think they have to do so to get reelected. Apparently, to you, a “right winger” is anyone who you disagree with, or you can’t figure out what their beliefs are. Your political analyses (which have nothing to do with space policy) remain insipid and simplistic. And not worth reading.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg wrote @ February 28th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    sorry Rand most of hte folks trying to save it are right wingers)

    You can apologize for being wrong all you want, but it’s not true. Alan Grayson is not a “right winger.” Suzanne Kosmas is not a “right winger.” ..

    if you are going to quote me at least quote the applicable context I wrote

    “But it is fun to watch the “save our jobs” and other right wingers (sorry Rand most of hte folks trying to save it are right wingers) thrash about.”

    one could have improved the syntax a bit…so “…and other right wingers”) could have been “…and right wingers”…

    but the statement is clear to all but those who purposly distort it…

    there are two groups of people trying to save the “program of record”…people whose jobs depend on it (like Congress people from the district) and right wingers.

    I dont know a single “left winger” who is not associated with “save our jobs” who is for the program of record. The vast majority (OK there might be one somewhere…there are doubtless some blacks and other minorities in the tea party movement) are right wing “nation over all” people.

    I know that you are right wing and yet against it…and that to me is impressive how at least on this occasion you have parted with right wing ideology.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Storm

    Can’t this Administration sugar coat anything?

    Sure it was logistically correct and realistic for the Administration to NOT propose a specific HSF beyond LEO mission, but was it politically realistic? Past Republican Administrations have always been politically realistic by offering unrealistic goals to pacify American ambitions. Of course this was damaging to the U.S., but it was politically rewarding in the short term.

    Why can’t Obama learn a little from the devil and throw Congress a bone to chew, and sword to thwart off Republican attacks?

    What I would suggest, as I have already, is that the Administration provide a specific HSF mission to L1 to test a radiation-hardened module with cryogenic propulsion and refueling in 2017. Such a mission could be labeled a human precursor mission to Mars. The propulsion mechanism would be suitable for Earth/Moon/NEO missions while the radiation shielding would be labeled as a radiation study for a Mars Mission. Of course this propulsion system wouldn’t be suitable for a trip to Mars, but such propulsion systems should be developed in accordance with HLV development in the 2020′s anyway. Such a proposed mission would be totally expendable to later administrations who could take all the R&D for the mission and apply it to any other mission that such a future administration would propose. So perhaps it wouldn’t be such a costly mistake to propose.

    Although such a short-term mission would be costly and unecessary to test cryogenic refueling and a radiation-hardened module should it actually happen, it would, at least, get Obama out of this political mess, allowing ignorant legislatures a chance to smack their lips on pork and Republicans with no weapon to hurtle at Obama.

    Obama needs to learn how to work within the confines of this Catch22. Being a political maverick: providing only cold, hard honesty is not always rewarding. But I will say that it is this Catch22 that is the most damaging aspect of our government. This along with America’s appetite for meaningless entertainment and self indulgence is the biggest reason for the decline of our nation.

  • I know that you are right wing and yet against it

    Is any more proof of Robert’s incoherence and lack of political sophistication required?

    that to me is impressive how at least on this occasion you have parted with right wing ideology.

    How can I have “parted” with something with which I never associated myself?

  • Storm

    Ok Rand Simberg, then tell us your ideology and how it shapes your vision of space exploration.

  • Like the founders of the US, my ideology values human liberty and individualism over collectivism, and I see space as an ultimate safety valve off planet to allow humanity to preserve those values, just as the New World was a haven for those seeking freedom from oppression in Europe.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Storm wrote @ February 28th, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Can’t this Administration sugar coat anything?..

    I am enormously mystified about how this administrations political machine works…on health care it is just one stupid move after the next.

    But on space policy (and probably a few other things) there are some realities.

    First nothing is going to stop the “local yocal” Congress people from going into the death spiral rhetoric over toasting home town programs. No new program is going to keep the old guard going and keep as many on the federal dole…and the numbers on the federal dole have to shrink or no money is available…so the reality is that the local yocals are going to yell no matter what.

    Second…nothing is going to stop the folks like Whittington/Spudis etc from going incoherent in their opposition to the new plan. In some cases (like Whittington) it is a reaction to all things Obama. It just is how the right wing (there is that term again) of the party is going…you can see it is affecting even semi normal (grin) people like McCain (because he has a right winger oppossing him in the primary). I dont know what folks like Spudis are into he has just gone sort of crazy with his opposition to the new way.

    then there are the people whose rice bowel is affected and well see #1.

    3. It wont matter. With some modest “gives” for political niceties this is going to go through the Congress. Constellation is dead.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg wrote @ February 28th, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Like the founders of the US, my ideology values human liberty and individualism.

    when people associate themselves and their beliefs with “the founders” that is one test of extremism.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Brad

    Storm

    “Sure it was logistically correct and realistic for the Administration to NOT propose a specific HSF beyond LEO mission, but was it politically realistic?”

    In actuality, sugar coating is exactly what the Obama administration is trying to get away with. They are in effect canceling beyond LEO manned space exploration while throwing a bone to those who want it, with pie in the sky promises of magic rocket technology that will get us to Mars in 39 days. Just don’t try to hold them to ANY date when that magic day would arrive.

    The Obama administration doesn’t have the balls to admit the plan is to return to the Clinton era of manned spaceflight. ISS forever. Forget exploration.

    “What I would suggest, as I have already, is that the Administration [provide] a specific HSF mission to L1 to test a radiation-hardened module with cryogenic propulsion and refueling in 2017.”

    And here we come to the crux. There is no spacecraft in the Obama budget for such a mission, nor could there ever be one under the Obama budget limits.

    The Augustine committee made it clear, that if ISS is kept up to 2020, then the only way a vigorous HSF program of exploration could be continued is with a 3 billion a year increase of budget. Instead Obama increased the budget by 1/3 of that, and only a fraction of that increase is for HSF, as opposed to ‘Earth sciences’.

    In addition, much of the Obama budget that is relevant to human exploration is going to be wasted on HLV technology R&D. There might have been a slight justification for an HLV if it was a quick and simple derivation of existing systems, such as an unmanned sidemount cargo pod that replaced the Shuttle orbiter in the existing STS stack. But to cling to a clean sheet HLV? That’s lunacy.

    No, the path that Obama has chosen is to keep ISS flying indefinitely at a cost exceeding 3 billion a year, while only giving lip service to manned missions beyond. ISS will become the new white elephant, replacing the STS in the role that the STS previously held, keeping NASA HSF trapped in LEO for the foreseeable future. What a shame.

  • Brad

    I think it’s hilarious that no dissent over the Obama NASA plan can be tolerated. It’s all or nothing as far as some are concerned, that means you Oler.

    Sober and respected voices, heck even sainted ones like Burt Rutan, laud much of the Obama budget. But shockers! There is much they don’t like too.

    So those voices must be mocked and belittled, or at the least ignored. For the Obama worshippers can not abide anyone questioning the one true faith.

  • Storm

    Rand Simberg,

    You must like Andrew Jackson. Was there a greater populist who lead the expansion of the West?

    There will always be a crowd on the right and left that advocate certain ways in which we utilize space. I think on the left you have a strong view to explore with robotics. On the right you largely have a view that we should send humans and drill. I’m advocating we do both. I’m frustrated by both extremes, and it certainly isn’t the rule that you must follow in line with these opposing crowds. You should however, realize they are there. I think that is what Oler was alluding to.

    My ideology thinks there is a time and place for anything, but that our main duty is to explore the universe so “we can help the universe know itself” (Carl Sagan, Cosmos). On the one hand I love Carl, but he had an infatuation with micro bacteria to the point that he wouldn’t probably set foot on any dead body that hosted some kind of bacterial existence, even in the most remote areas like deep under ground, or ice. My policy would be to not worry about micro bacteria, but to mind much more advanced organisms, especially highly intelligent ones that displayed culture like humans.

    So Simberg, we have ways of gauging our political side of the fence. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, and Oler has many of his exceptions as so do I, but its important to try to understand where you are in relation to the left, right and middle.

    So that gives you some idea of my leaning. It’s mainly left leaning, but with conservative sensibilities. You are right that there is a very strong bipartisan element to space exploration, but that’ not the whole picture. But if I didn’t know better I would think you lean a little to the right. Your mind seems so sure about what you are saying, even though you are not taking everything into account. A liberal tends to take a long time to think things out, and will even argue with him/herself, whether they eventually come up with the right answer, or not.

  • Storm

    “I think it’s hilarious that no dissent over the Obama NASA plan can be tolerated”

    You see? Brad is your perfect example of a conservative. He’s completely sure how he thinks, and that what he thinks is true. I on the other hand I will just get confused by what he said and go into a deep diatribe to unlock the truth long after Brad has had his dinner and gone to bed, dreaming of men in space suits hopping in low gravity, and holding jack hammers.

  • Storm

    Brad,

    I think Major Tom is the only die-hard Obama supporter besides myself. Oler is not. You must not be following all the threads.

  • Storm

    Oler is mostly a commercial space advocate. If Alexander Haig (RIP) was a big commercial space supporter, then I imagine Oler would vote for him. I can’t say for sure because I’m not Oler, but that’s the indication I get.

  • What killed the F-22 and the other programs that have died is that the only people…in the end…who were trying to save them were the people whose jobs depended on them.

    What killed the F-22 was George Bush, Gordon England, Robert Gates, an unfortunate mishandling of a nucear weapon, the firing of the Air Force Chief of Staff (an F-15 pilot) and his replacement with a C-130 pilot, a very conflicted prime contractor that had the contract for the alternative, i.e F-35, John McCain and a group of 15 Republican Senators, and of course Barack Obama. It was a bad decision.

    The F22 was over priced and a weapon system we dont need…but at least it was flying (in a fashion although they wont commit it to combat.

    If we have produce more F-22s and at a higher production rate the cost would have been lower. New F-15s are running at $70 million each. Gates didn’t allow it to be depolyed to the Persian Gulf region because he thought to would be too provotive to the Iranians. If we had to do combat with the any country that had an air force or suface-to-air missile it would be used.

    I remember all of the people who said the same things about the F-15 and F-14 or even the M-1 tank. The B-2 is the same type of thing. It cost about $2 billion each because they made only 20 at a rate of about 2or 3 per year.

    This is off topic but you (Mr. Oler started it again.)

    As far as the opponents all being right wingers, gee, is Sen. Bill Nelson a right winger? Is Gabrielle Giffords a right winger? As for as the Congress is concerned it is the presents of jobs in their states/districts that drives positions not party or ideology.

    I do agree that we shouldn’t over emphasize the jobs dimension of the changes. The issue is what is good for our space program given that we are going to spend $19 billion in FY 2011 and a little more in following years.

    Anyway COTS is a right wing idea! It just one isn’t ready to hatch yet.

  • Brad

    Storm

    You may be right about Oler. His intolerance of dissenting opinions about the Obama NASA plan may not be because he worships at the shrine of “The One!” It might be because he worships himself. And since he agrees with everything about the Obama plan he can not tolerate anyone who disagrees with any part of it.

    BTW, I am not a conservative.

  • Robert G. Oler

    John wrote @ February 28th, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    As far as the opponents all being right wingers, gee, is Sen. Bill Nelson a right winger? Is Gabrielle Giffords a right winger?..

    I was tempted to engage on the bogus stuff you said about the F-22 and the attempt to compare it to other weapon systems (although the B-1 was probably appropriate…it and the F-22 are weapon systems without a reason)…

    but then I came to the quoted line above and its clear you just dont read.

    What is bizzare is that you had to miss a couple of post…where I make it clear that there is other opposition to the change in plan and at least one of the categories I noted explain the two politicians (and almost all the others chirping for Constellation).

    But then again since you either cannot read or cannot pay attention or cannot understand or some combination of it all…then well what is the use.

    when you pay attention or I am more bored I might engage.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Brad wrote @ February 28th, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Storm

    You may be right about Oler. His intolerance of dissenting opinions about the Obama NASA plan..

    it is because the dissenting opinions so far are just barely above the 10th grade level.

    other then the outright “save our jobs” they consist of…

    1. fiction “The Chinese, INdians, Russians, someone are going to go take our Moon”

    2. outright lies “Ares is high technology/proven technology/essential to our well being”

    3. idiocy “without Constellation we are going to become a third class power”.

    Argue something that is coherent and I wont show so much disdain and contempt for the points of view.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Storm wrote @ February 28th, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Oler is mostly a commercial space advocate. If Alexander Haig (RIP) was a big commercial space supporter, then I imagine Oler would vote for him. I can’t say for sure because I’m not Oler, but that’s the indication I get…

    I would at least support the space policy. I did not vote for Obama did vote and work for “the other guy” and think Obama is screwing up one oppurtunity after another…he seems to be McClellan when something else is needed…(someone else came up with that comparison)…

    but so far I like his space policy.

    Robert G. Oler

  • when people associate themselves and their beliefs with “the founders” that is one test of extremism.

    I think that lunacy like that is a better one.

  • I think it’s hilarious that no dissent over the Obama NASA plan can be tolerated.

    I think it even more hilarious that anyone would think that “no dissent over the Obama NASA plan can be tolerated.” What people find objectionable is not dissent (there is a lot to legitimately complain about — I have complaints, but haven’t had time to voice them because I’ve had to spend too much time defending it against fantasists) but the lunacy of saying that it “ends human spaceflight.”

  • You must like Andrew Jackson. Was there a greater populist who lead the expansion of the West?

    I’m not a populist, sorry. I believe in the Constitution.

    Of course there are exceptions to the rule, and Oler has many of his exceptions as so do I, but its important to try to understand where you are in relation to the left, right and middle.

    There is no such thing in politics as “left, right and middle.” It is mindlessly simplistic to think that political beliefs can fit on a simple one-dimensional scale.

    A liberal tends to take a long time to think things out, and will even argue with him/herself, whether they eventually come up with the right answer, or not.

    [laughing]

    You’re not a liberal. You’re just someone who (unknowingly) stole the label from real liberals, like me.

    You may be right about Oler. His intolerance of dissenting opinions about the Obama NASA plan may not be because he worships at the shrine of “The One!” It might be because he worships himself.

    I think that (like Obama) the latter is Robert’s real problem.

  • Major Tom

    “Funny, Burt Rutan seems to agree with me. Is he an ‘ignorant lier’ too?”

    I don’t know either of you personally, so I wouldn’t call either of you “ignorant liers”. I have no clue what kind of behavior you normally engage in. But your earlier statement has no basis in fact, and anyone should know that by now given all the budget documents and statements that are available. Your statement is an ignorant lie.

    I would say the same thing to Rutan about his statement that “the new plan has no schedules, no $ and no programs to build government hardware for ANY future manned spaceflight activity.” The Exploration section of NASA’s FY 2011 budget request clearly lays out the following programs with the following budgets and schedules to build human exploration hardware:

    Exploration Technology Demonstration — $7.8 billion for Flagship Technology Demonstrators, each with an expected lifecycle cost in the $400 million to $1 billion range, over a lifetime of five years or less, with the first flying no later than 2014. Targeted technologies include: In-Orbit Cryogenic Propellant Transfer and Storage; Lightweight/Inflatable Modules; Automated/Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking; Closed–loop Life Support System Demonstration at the ISS; and Aerocapture, and/or Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) Technology. Using this budget, NASA will also initiate in FY 2011 smaller demonstration projects in the areas of In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), Autonomous Precision Landing and Hazard Avoidance, and Advanced In-space Propulsion.

    Heavy Lift and Propulsion Technology — $3.1 billion for First-Stage Launch Propulsion to develop a fully operational U.S. core stage liquid oxygen/kerosene engine equal to or exceeding the performance of the Russian-built RD-180 engine by the end of this decade (earlier with DOD cost-share) for use in a future heavy-lift rocket. Using this budget, NASA will also develop and test in space a liquid oxygen/methane engine and potentially also a low-cost liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen engine for upper stage and in-space applications.

    As much as I respect him as an engineer and innovator, for Rutan to claim that there are “no schedules, no $ and no programs to build government hardware for ANY future manned spaceflight activity” in the face of these programs, budgets, and schedules in NASA’s FY 2011 budget request is an ignorant lie. He may not agree with the specifics, but he should argue those specifics, instead of making false blanket statements.

    (And, BTW, you and Rutan don’t agree. He admits that there is a “plan” while you deny such.)

    “It’s getting awfully tiresome to see you constantly cherry pick, attack strawmen,”

    I didn’t cherry pick or create a strawman. I took your statement and refuted each part of it. You wrote “theres [sic] no real plan, no project, nor goal related to manned missions of deep space exploration”. Clearly, as the excerpts above show, there are plans, projects, and goals related to manned deep space exploration in NASA FY 2011 budget. I’m not cherry picking any part of your statement — I addressed each part of it. And I didn’t create a strawman — that’s your statement word for word.

    Don’t blame other posters for your false statements. When you’re wrong, admit that your statement was in error. And if you don’t want to do that, then just don’t post a reply.

    “then launch into personal attack and insult.”

    Where did I throw an insult at you? Or attack you personally?

    I wrote that your statement was an ignorant lie. You’re the one who called yourself (and Rutan) an “ignorant lier”. Not me.

    “BTW, you seem awfully confident that a NASA ‘HLV will be ready in the 2020s’ despite the fact that there is nothing to direct such an outcome.”

    Aside from the NASA Administrator, who has repeatedly stated that’s his goal.

    Duh…

    “Of course using your style of logic, NASA should have had an operational NTR in the 1970’s after the billions spent on R&D for Kiwi and NERVA.”

    Of course not. NERVA was an Apollo-era project started when NASA planning assumed human Mars missions after Apollo. When the Nixon Administration refused to fund those missions, there was no need for NERVA and the project was terminated.

    “Obama’s budget to spend R&D on HLV technology is no likelier to ever lead to any operational HLV.”

    There are no guarantees. The next NASA Administrator, White House, or Congress could cancel the HLV work started under this NASA Administrator, White House, and Congress.

    But getting actual HLV hardware underway in 2011, instead of goofing around with Ares V paper studies while Ares I/Orion sucked up nearly all of Constellation’s budget through 2017 or longer, has a much higher likelihood of surviving future political cycles and resulting in an operational HLV.

    “… you yourself had earlier agreed that HLV is a dumb way to go.”

    I never wrote that an HLV was “dumb”. Don’t put word in other posters’ mouths.

    I wrote that, were it my decision, before developing an HLV, which historically is very expensive, I’d pursue lower cost options for getting large amounts of propellant into space. And if I had to go the HLV route, I’d rely on an EELV derivative to spread the cost across as large an industrial and customer base as possible (versus the Shuttle infrastructure where NASA foots the whole bill by itself). My preferred approach is actually fairly consistent with the LOX/kerosene engine (above) and the separate Space Technology Program (not covered above) in the new budget.

    “The Obama administration doesn’t have the balls to admit the plan is to return to the Clinton era of manned spaceflight. ISS forever. Forget exploration.”

    That was not the Clinton Administration’s “plan”. The Clinton policy was that NASA had to get ISS costs under control and assembly completed before moving onto exploration.

    And why would the Obama Administration propose billions of dollars to develop human space exploration capabilities if their plan was to “forget exploration” and stick civil human space flight with “ISS forever”? Especially in an era of historic budget deficits?

    Goofy…

    “The Augustine committee made it clear, that if ISS is kept up to 2020, then the only way a vigorous HSF program of exploration could be continued is with a 3 billion a year increase of budget.”

    No, the Augustine Committee wrote that “Human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit is not viable under the FY 2010 budget guideline.” They went on to suggest (but this statement was not a concluding remark) that “human exploration is possible under a less-constrained budget, ramping up to approximately $3 billion per year in real purchasing power above the FY 2010 guidance”.

    Moreover, there was no “vigorous” exploration program to “continue”. The Augustine Committee argued that PoR was non-viable and not sustainable, not that it should be continued.

    Don’t make things up.

    “… only a fraction of that increase is for HSF, as opposed to ‘Earth sciences’.”

    No, less than one-third of the increase was for Earth Science. The vast majority of the increase is for human space flight, including: Shuttle extension to 2011, ISS enhancements for extension to 2020, commercial crew, and exploration hardware development.

    “But to cling to a clean sheet HLV?”

    First, NASA hasn’t chosen an HLV design. You’re making a claim about a “clean sheet HLV” for which there is no evidence. Don’t make things up.

    Second, a LOX/kerosene engine is evidence that NASA likely plans to pursue an EELV (possibly Falcon 9) derivative for an HLV. That wouldn’t be a clean sheet HLV.

    Third, a Shuttle-derived HLV carries many of the costs of the Shuttle infrastructure with it, which NASA has to shoulder by itself. As Ares I/V showed, that may leave little for actual human space exploration hardware. As the Augustine Committee showed, the HLV option that leaves the most dollars on the table for actual human space exploration hardware is commercial.

    “No, the path that Obama has chosen is to keep ISS flying indefinitely”

    A blatantly false statement. The Augustine Committee recommended extending ISS to 2020 and that’s what the new budget supports. It’s not “indefinite”.

    Don’t make stuff up.

    “while only giving lip service to manned missions beyond.”

    Billions of dollars in actual exploration hardware development is not “lip service”, especially in an era of historic deficits and especially when the prior budget proposed to spend only tens of millions of dollars on studies on the same.

    Don’t make stuff up.

    “For the Obama worshippers can not abide anyone questioning the one true faith.”

    What’s with all the political axe-grinding? Civil space is not a partisan issue.

    The President wasn’t my pick for the White House, either. But any supporter of human space exploration can read the new budget and see that this Administration and this NASA Administrator are proposing to spend billions more on actual space exploration hardware development now than what’s been proposed in NASA’s budgets over the past five years (despite the direction given in the VSE).

    If you’re here just to call the voters for politician X or the members of party Y names, then take it elsewhere. This is a site for space policy discussions, for which there are very few. There’s plenty of bash Obama and bash Democrats (or bash Palin or bash Republican) websites that you can visit and engage in that kind of ugliness instead.

    Argue the substance and details of the new budget and plan. The extent to which your fellow U.S. citizens who voted for the President are “worshippers” or not is needlessly inflammatory and totally irrelevant to this site.

    “Please don’t bother to respond to me, ever.”

    Grow up. If you don’t want other posters to criticize your arguments, then don’t base those argument on ignorant lies, blatantly false blanket statements, and inflammatory political namecalling.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “when people associate themselves and their beliefs with ‘the founders’ that is one test of extremism”

    “A liberal tends to take a long time to think things out, and will even argue with him/herself”

    “he worships at the shrine of ‘The One!’”

    Folks, this is a site for substantive discussions about space policy. Can we please refrain from the irrelevant, inflammatory political stupidity?

    Someone isn’t an extremist just because they think highly of the Constitution’s writers.

    Liberals don’t possess a fundamentally different psychology than conservatives.

    And no one is worshipping any politician like a god here.

    Tone it down or take it elsewhere. Please.

    Some of us would actually like to get to the point where we can discuss some of the substance of the new NASA budget plan, instead of wasting all our time on this site refuting needlessly and blatantly partisan falsehoods.

    Ugh…

  • Storm

    Brad, Simberg,

    I feel you guys aren’t arguing very fairly. I am beginning to feel like the man in that Montey Pithon skit who paid to have an argument.

    Congrads! both of you have achieved a miracle by writing so much garble that it took up all my time. Because neither of you have said one thing except a small bit about a safety valve, and how populism violates the Constitution, which fairly amusing, I must say, to hear. It certainly doesn’t make me feel very confident in the way our world is headed.

  • Some of us would actually like to get to the point where we can discuss some of the substance of the new NASA budget plan, instead of wasting all our time on this site refuting needlessly and blatantly partisan falsehoods.

    Sadly, I think you’re asking too much from some of the participants…

  • Storm

    Ok Major Tom. What was your problem with Super Cots?

  • .Because neither of you have said one thing except a small bit about a safety valve, and how populism violates the Constitution, which fairly amusing, I must say, to hear.

    Sorry to drift off topic, but the Constitution gave us a Republic, which was an antidote to populism. Apparently you don’t understand the meaning of either word.

  • I was tempted to engage on the bogus stuff you said about the F-22 and the attempt to compare it to other weapon systems (although the B-1 was probably appropriate…it and the F-22 are weapon systems without a reason)…

    I was trying to explain the economics that planes that were produced at low production rates tend to cost a lot. If you produced more they would be a lot less expensive. Better yet with a multi-year contract.

    F-22 has the same mission as the F-15Cs that are being retired due to life limits. You should know that. Most Air Force fighter pilots don’t agree with you at all about the utility of the F-22.

    As far as the politics go space is bipartisan. The far left doesn’t like it because they want to spend the money on social programs. The far right does like because they’d like to cut taxes. The people that support it are special group. Frankly in Congress all of the real support is about money into the districts of the committees that write the bills. So don’t know it or you won’t have COTS either.

    The specter of foreign HSF competition is a good way to get the public to support funding. So quit knocking it. It’s mostly a prestige issue but it does count for something in getting funding.

  • Storm

    “Folks, this is a site for substantive discussions about space policy. Can we please refrain from the irrelevant, inflammatory political stupidity?”

    I don’t blame you for not following the thread, but I was merely trying to flesh out an argument from these people, but they don’t seem to have an argument. They just want to make vague attacks. Did you see what Simberg said about Populism? What kind of joke is this? I don’t even think space policy is on his mind. He thinks Populism is anarchy. Lol. I’m sorry I even went down that road.

    As for this quote Tom:

    “Liberals don’t possess a fundamentally different psychology than conservatives.”

    That certainly is not a fact you stated.

  • Storm

    John,

    The F-22 melts in water ok? The F-35 doesn’t. That really does it for me. Do you think the new Russian Stealth plane melts in the rain? I can assure you not.

    John, you also have no idea the reason why the F-15 may, or may not be stationed in the Persian Gulf near Iran. Have you ever thought that we might be holding our cards under the table for a while? There’s going to be an awfully long escalation up the staircase in the war with Iran. If you work out the Nash it wouldn’t be wise to have “kick down the door capabilities” in theater until we’re actually prepared to fight

  • Brad

    Major Tom

    You always succeed at living up to my lowest expectations for you. Bravo!

  • Bilderburg Club

    Storm,

    Just quit paying attention to these guys. Just by responding you are inviting more drabble on this site. Maybe best to give it a rest until tomorrow.

  • He thinks Populism is anarchy.

    This is the nuttiest misinterpretation of what I wrote that I’ve seen yet. Were you ever taught to read for comprehension? Or is English not your first language?

  • Bilderburg Club

    Rand Simberg,

    I am sorry but there have to be some standards for this site. If you can’t argue space policy then dont do it at all.

  • Oh, great.

    Now I’m being ungrammatically lectured to on the relevance of the topic to space policy by some Internet troll that calls itself “Bilderburg Club.”

  • googaw

    Brad:
    ISS will become the new white elephant, replacing the STS in the role that the STS previously held, keeping NASA HSF trapped in LEO for the foreseeable future.

    Given this track record, and given that Constellation was following the same path of cost increases and functionality reductions, what makes you think that Ares or the rest of Constellation would turn out any different?

  • Brad

    googaw

    What makes you think I prefer Ares or the rest of Constellation?

  • Major Tom

    “Ok Major Tom. What was your problem with Super Cots?”

    See earlier posts in this thread. As the idea was written up above, by using taxpayer dollars to guarantee commercial business, it would create perverse incentives for companies to build capabilities that the market does not want (just as agricultural subsidies encourage farmers to grow crops that the market does not want). In addition, by artificially limiting NASA demand, it also shrinks the market, constraining revenue growth, jobs, and profit available for investment in new commercial space capabilities.

    “He thinks Populism is anarchy.”

    That’s not what he said. Furthermore, he was dragged into the conversation when he was trying to correct a blatantly false blanket statement about conservatives.

    “That certainly is not a fact you stated.”

    Show me a peer-reviewed article in a respected national or international journal of psychology that finds fundamental differences in the brain structure, behavior, personality defects, etc. of people ascribing to different political philosophies or parties. I doubt it exists.

    FWIW…

  • Martijn Meijering

    ISS will become the new white elephant, replacing the STS in the role that the STS previously held, keeping NASA HSF trapped in LEO for the foreseeable future.

    Excellent! It’s like the WWII infantry tactic: find ‘em, fix ‘em, flank ‘em, finish ‘em.

  • Major Tom

    “Major Tom

    You always succeed at living up to my lowest expectations for you. Bravo!”

    How long are you going to keep up this imagined personal vendetta before discussing something of substance and reality in space policy?

    Oy vey…

  • Major Tom

    “Now I’m being ungrammatically lectured to on the relevance of the topic to space policy by some Internet troll that calls itself ‘Bilderburg Club.’”

    Probably Elifritz.

    FWIW…

  • googaw

    Brad:
    What makes you think I prefer Ares or the rest of Constellation?

    Because you keep making the arguments the pro-Constellation people are making against the new direction. If you don’t like either please tell us what you do prefer then, instead of just arguing against the new direction.

  • Robert G. Oler

    John wrote @ March 1st, 2010 at 1:03 am

    I was trying to explain the economics that planes that were produced at low production rates tend to cost a lot. If you produced more they would be a lot less expensive. Better yet with a multi-year contract…

    the problem of course is that you launched into some diatribe bringing in left of center (but not much in Nelson’s case) politicians who have a job interest in their district and then coming to the conclusion that “not everyone who supports “constellation” is right wing”. …when I had several times made the “condition” that this did not necessarily apply to those politicians who were trying to “save their phoney baloney jobs” by saving other “phoney baloney jobs”.

    as to your statement above low production rates make “ANYTHING” not just airplanes or tanks or submarines or whatever “expensive” on a unit measure particularly if development cost are factored in…ie total program cost divided by numbers of units.

    So what that leads to almost uniquely among defense and space projects is the “we have to spend more money to make what has already spent not be wasted” argument. which is a non starter and is only used when the program will not self justify.

    The F-22 (and a few other weapon systems) and Ares (and I am being kind here…Ares is just a clusterscrewup) is the Spruce goose of its era and the Ares is the B-32. The F 22 just took to long and got to expensive to buy and maintain (that is really why it is not overseas…the maintaining issue) in terms of other systems that can do the job and the threat.

    An interesting study is the Midway class carrier. They were originally conceived in the mid part of the war as “Battle Carriers” (CVB) but as the war drew on FDR put the squashs on all but two (and there was one other built which got his name) for a couple of reasons which should be looked at today. !) they took to many resources compared to the Essex and its derivatives 2) there was (at the time and actually for the forseeable future) No post war use for them that the Essex could not do 3) they cost a lot (and that was in the war when almost anything went).

    The decision to limit the build was a good one, even though two of the class got a very long life…and eventually the Navy went to “supercarriers” …the reality is that the operational experience post war that lead to the supercarriers that were far different then the Midway Class and was mostly the result of the 27 series modification of Essex…not Midway. And the Essex class more then “held the line” while that experimentation was going on. There are many in the Navy who are arguing that the Forrestal development has run its course…

    In short my point was that The F-22 doesnt today nor will likely have in the future a mission that other planes far less expensive cannot meet. The B-2 is barely NOT in that category.

    As for space…it is not bipartisan and has not been for sometime. The “kill human spaceflight:” memme is so retro. Where the divide is and has been for sometime (since the early 80′s) has been between using human spaceflight as a jobs program and having it as an economic effort to change the direction of The Republic.

    My side (the latter) is finally winning!

    Robert G. Oler

  • googaw

    Major Tom:
    [SCOTS] by using taxpayer dollars to guarantee commercial business, it would create perverse incentives for companies to build capabilities that the market does not want (just as agricultural subsidies encourage farmers to grow crops that the market does not want).

    This market distortion is of course doubly true for COTS. And triply true for traditional government contracting. It’s hardly a good argument for favoring COTS over SCOTS. SCOTS would have the least market distortion of all these alternatives.

    , by artificially limiting NASA demand, it also shrinks the market,

    NASA demand is artificial. It is not market demand. Government contracting is not the free market. You are confusing COTS with real commerce. Taxpayers are not really the IRS’s “customers” either, even though there was once a fad among the bureaucrats to call them that. Stop confusing euphemism with reality.

  • Major Tom

    “This market distortion is of course doubly true for COTS.”

    No, it’s not. COTS doesn’t guarantee commercial business that the market does not want. COTS doesn’t artificially restrict the size of the market. It only pays for government needs in the marketplace.

    “It’s hardly a good argument for favoring COTS over SCOTS.”

    No, it’s an argument against the latter, period.

    “SCOTS would have the least market distortion of all these alternatives.”

    Artificially limiting NASA demand, shrinking the market, and constraining revenue growth, jobs, and profit available for investment in new commercial space capabilities is not major “market distortion”?

    Creating perverse incentives for companies to build capabilities that the market does not want is not major “market distortion”?

    “NASA demand is artificial. It is not market demand.”

    Since when is NASA demand (or other government demand like USAF, NRO, etc.) not part of the aerospace market?

    Since when does United Airlines consider tickets purchased by the government for civil servants on business or military personnel going overseas “artificial” and “not market demand”?

    Since when does FedEx consider government documents “artificial” and “not market demand”?

    FWIW…

  • Martijn Meijering

    @googaw:

    What if NASA can’t find suppliers who are able to sell as many seats to commercial clients as to NASA?

  • Probably Elifritz.

    Nah, it’s too polite. Not his style.

  • googaw

    Major Tom:
    COTS doesn’t guarantee commercial business that the market does not want.

    Make up your mind, are NASA contracts to purchase services “commercial” or not? In any case, you are tilting at windmills and completely misunderstanding, or deliberately sowing confusion about, the SCOTS proposal. SCOTS does not guarantee business any more than COTS does, indeed less so. In the case of both SCOTS and COTS NASA is only purchasing “what it needs”, i.e. what politicians and bureaucrats demand it to purchase. Both distort what a free market would have purchased. The arguments you are making against SCOTS are also arguments against COTS and against other kinds of government contracting. You magically forget your own arguments when it comes to COTS.

    The real problem you have against SCOTS is that it would put the lie to scammers and daydreamers who claim to be pursuing hypothetical markets of the future when in fact they are just pursuing, or in the latter case just end up with, fat NASA contracts. You favor using COTS to take NASA-inspired and NASA-funded economic fantasies and pretend that they are “commerce” . SCOTS with its requirement of a real market wold put a lie to these economic fantasies. It would sort out the wheat from the chaff. It would burst your bubble. That is the real problem you have with SCOTS.

    Martin:
    What if NASA can’t find suppliers who are able to sell as many seats to commercial clients as to NASA?

    If it’s not primarily science or technology research, i.e. if it is “infrastructure” or the government-funded space tourism that goes under the euphemism “exploration”, and if there is insufficient real market demand, NASA should not being doing it. SCOTS is a very useful tool for making sure that NASA does not squander further vast sums funding gigabridges-to-nowhere: if forces NASA to take a back seat to the free market when it comes to infrastructure and HSF.

  • Make up your mind, are NASA contracts to purchase services “commercial” or not?

    Of course they are. “Commercial” is a function of the nature of the contract, not the customer. If NASA buys airline tickets for its employees, it’s clearly commercial. Why wouldn’t the same be true of spaceline tickets?

  • googaw

    Martin, a concrete example: under SCOTS NASA could research but not fund the development of an HLV, unless HLV has some latent market demand that I am not seeing. Because HLV is an “infrastructure” or “exploration” project, not primarily a science or research project, SCOTS would apply. NASA would have to wait for private proposals and investment in HLV (as with COTS), but on top that NASA would have to wait until there were private orders before it could make orders. NASA would be restricted from funding infrastructure or exploration until there was sufficient private demand for same.

    Under COTS, daydreamers and companies fishing for NASA contracts could convince politicians that hypothetical markets would abound if only we’d develop their pet project, the HLV. Investors could invest, not in anticipation of future private business, but simply in anticipation of future NASA business. And for that NASA business they would lobby. NASA managers would see PowerPoint presentations full of stuff that is economic nonsense, but not obviously so. Under COTS there would be no requirement for any real market, just a blizzard of press releases and rumors sufficient to win the votes of naive politicians.

    Under SCOTS, by contrast, HLV boosters (pardon the pun) would actually have to get contractual commitments and deposits from private customers before NASA could order their own HLV flight for exploration. SCOTS provides a much better test than COTS for sorting out the infrastructural wheat from the economic fantasy chaff.

  • common sense

    @googaw:

    Why don’t you take your SCOTS idea to NASA/WH/Congress? Put it to the test. It does not seem to catch here but you never know.

    BTW “COTS doesn’t guarantee commercial business that the market does not want. ” means that hmm COTS does not guarantee commercial business that the market does not want.

    It does not mean that COTS contracts are not commercial contracts.

  • Under COTS, daydreamers and companies fishing for NASA contracts could convince politicians that hypothetical markets would abound if only we’d develop their pet project, the HLV.

    I’m not aware of any COTS contenders foolish enough to fantasize that there would be any commercial demand for an HLV.

  • Martijn Meijering

    @googaw:

    I was hoping you would say that. I could support SCOTS, but I don’t share your aversion against COTS.

  • Vladislaw

    “What if NASA can’t find suppliers who are able to sell as many seats to commercial clients as to NASA?”

    The program of record is talking about two lunar launches per year for a total of 8 people. The ISS would be gone. So NASA only needs two commercial launches for crew twice a year under a future lunar program that followed constellation . I believe Bigelow is looking at 8 crew flights per year based on a 5 seat vehicle. BA has not even approached the individual or corporate markets yet, in the last interview I heard him talking about they are only going after the sovereign customers right now.

  • googaw

    Rand:
    If NASA buys airline tickets for its employees, it’s clearly commercial. Why wouldn’t the same be true of spaceline tickets?

    First, COTS is not primarily about “purchasing tickets”, it is primarily about up-front NASA funding for the development of new infrastructure. Second, there are already airliners and already large numbers of people buying airline tickets. If NASA funded nearly all the cost to develop a hypersonic airliner, with few or no orders from actual commercial airlines coming in, that would clearly not be real commerce, just a preposterous distortion of the market. If NASA funds the development of a space capsule for which few or no private orders have come in, that is not real commerce, it is a huge distortion of the market. There is a vast economic difference between real commercial off-the-shelf purchases and COTS contracts.

    SCOTS would reduce this market distortion by preventing NASA from funding the development infrastructure or HSF until such time as there was sufficient market demand for them. COTS does not do that, indeed it has several pathological effects:

    (1) It tends to lead to monopsony: to a market dominated by NASA’s highly distorted view of space economics.

    (2) It ties NASA’s hands to have a contractor that depends on ongoing NASA funding to maintain the service. NASA is much better off if it has the option of cutting orders or even discontinuing a service while retaining the option to resume it later, with other customers’ orders to keep the company and the service funded in the meantime.

    (3) It incentivizes the contractor to focus on the easier NASA money and cut back on seeking and servicing other customers. So it stunts the very market development it seeks to enhance.

  • Martijn Meijering

    1) It tends to lead to monopsony: to a market dominated by NASA’s highly distorted view of space economics.

    This could happen, but it’s far from a certainty. Leaving aside the question of whether NASA ought to do this, if it does, I’m hoping for the emergence of small RLVs, which could serve both as propellant launchers and a space tourism vehicles. If this is successful, it would lead to an explosion of new customers. It could certainly fail, but it could succeed too.

  • googaw

    Martin:
    [Monopsony] could happen, but it’s far from a certainty.

    The incentives of COTS drive it to happen. And as with almost everything it’s the probability of a bad outcome that is the problem, not the certainty of it.

    I’m hoping for the emergence of small RLVs

    I’m afraid that hope is not evidence of a market. Virgin Galactic has, however, demonstrated with real customer orders and deposits that there is a market for suborbital RLVs. ELV launchers have long demonstrated a real market for their services. So I suggest we work on perfecting the technology in the real suborbital market, and on evolving ELVs towards reusability, instead of waiting for future hypothetical markets or proclaiming such hypotheticals with false certainty in order to win NASA funding for our particular favorite projects.

  • evolving ELVs towards reusability

    Despite hopes for SpaceX, that’s a very unlikely route.

  • common sense

    “So I suggest we work on perfecting the technology in the real suborbital market, and on evolving ELVs towards reusability, ”

    I am always baffled at the “re-usability” myth. So what is reusable? Is an airliner reusable? Like what 100% reusable? 90% reusable? How is Shuttle doing? Anyway, reusability may or not help in the costs. You see sometime, like for Soyuz, expendable is better especailly when you have a simple, robust system that flys often. They are being built on a chain so to speak and that lowers the cost, not “custom” made. Re-usable without proper context does not mean anything.

  • Robert G. Oler

    googaw wrote @ March 1st, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    First, COTS is not primarily about “purchasing tickets”, it is primarily about up-front NASA funding for the development of new infrastructure. Second, there are already airliners and already large numbers of people buying airline tickets. ..

    I’ve tried to follow this discussion, it is interesting…but a few points.

    First it was not always a true statement that there were “airliners” and large numbers of people buying airline tickets. The federal government invested, even in the early part of the last century even during the depression a lot of money in the infrastructure of commercial aviation; while the investment was different I dont know that the quibble is all that much.

    Second I am not for sure that the new plan calls for investing “all that much ” money. Particularly in light of the billions already spent.

    Robert G. Oler

  • How is Shuttle doing?

    Shuttle is only partially reusable, and that part is more like rebuildable. And it always had far too low a flight rate to get much benefit from the reusability in terms of cost. But the reusable part is the most reliable one — it’s never caused the death of a crew.

    Anyway, reusability may or not help in the costs.

    Reusability only makes sense with a high fllght, rate, otherwise fixed costs (and amortization) dominate the average per-flight costs.

  • common sense

    “Shuttle is only partially reusable, and that part is more like rebuildable.”

    It is very much rebuildable. When you look at all the constraints such a vehicle has to undergo a requal of flight components, sometimes, cost as much if not more than new ones. I’d like someone to show us the cost of “reusing” the SRBs vs. their cost new.

    “Reusability only makes sense with a high fllght, rate, otherwise fixed costs (and amortization) dominate the average per-flight costs.”

    It also depends which side of the cost you’re in. As a user reusability makes sense as you may be able to ammortize your cost. As a developer reusability means extra cost to you which you will pass on to your customer (companies need to make a living). In the end it still is not all that clear. Now, if you develop and operate the vehicle it may make some sense. A lot of trade studies have shown that an expendable quite often is less “costly”. Indeed flight rates etc. So basically it also depends on the mission.

    In the end, reusable is a matter of “opinion”: If I can reuse say the avionics of my reentry vehicle, it may not sound “reusable” to some, yet these are very expensive subsystems… We could go on and on like this for ever.

  • I think SpaceX will be able to effectively reuse parts of Falcon, which will lower costs somewhat. But it’s not going to cut it in more than a quarter or so, imo. But it won’t save taxpayer money, because NASA doesn’t want reused Dragon modules, they won’t want reused tanks or frame parts.

    As far as SCOTS is concerned, I agree with the basic premise, though I think we have to just wait and see what happens in the long run. You can’t just expect NASA to stop being the biggest user of private space for the foreseeable future.

  • common sense

    “because NASA doesn’t want reused Dragon modules, they won’t want reused tanks or frame parts.”

    Indeed very likely. But there still may be a market for “others” who will want access to space with a “second hand” LV/RV. How much will the cost be of the reused hardware vs new? 75%? 50%? So in the end some reusability will lower the cost for access to space overall. But the reused part(s) may not look like en entire vehicle.

  • I’d like someone to show us the cost of “reusing” the SRBs vs. their cost new.

    At the current flight rate (or really, almost any flight rate the system has ever seen) it makes more economic sense to toss them. The recovery fleet alone adds hugely to per-flight turnaround.

  • common sense

    “At the current flight rate (or really, almost any flight rate the system has ever seen) it makes more economic sense to toss them. The recovery fleet alone adds hugely to per-flight turnaround”

    And that is notwithstanding the propellant which on its own is probably the most expensive part of the SRBs… And that, you still have to do, i.e. refill the SRBs.

  • Storm:

    The F-22 melts in water ok? The F-35 doesn’t.

    Not true … none have melted yet! Lol.

    John, you also have no idea the reason why the F-15 may, or may not be stationed in the Persian Gulf near Iran.

    How do you know what I might or might not know? And, what do you mean my “know”? I the case of Sec. Gates and the F-22 it is a matter of public record.

    In short my point was that The F-22 doesnt today nor will likely have in the future a mission that other planes far less expensive cannot meet.

    But only with higher loss rates. The point is that be the time Bush had the anti-F-22 movement underway we had already spent all of the fixed costs. The marginal flyaway was in the $140 million range at 20 per year starting some where around unit 120. Any alternative like new F-15s upgraded to 4.5 gen fighters would require a few billion in development cost and run $100M each. It might have made since in the 1990s to have made that choice but not in 2005.

    And, so if that show your level of judgment you might just be as wrong about Ares I.

    Storm:

    The NASA budget is .5% of the Presidents budget proposal not the GDP which is more like .14% of GDP.

    To All:

    On the general issue of reusability, I sadly agree that on a whole vehicle level we aren’t ready for that yet. But, space will never be economical until we can get beyond the one flight are throw the vehicle away model. What I think could be done at this point is to develop a reusable first stage that uses RP-1/LOX propellant. You can achieve orbit with an expendable LH2/LOX second stage. And, potentially with the orbital fuel depots some of second stages could be refueled and used as an Earth departure stages. The first stage should be 75% of the rockets cost.

  • I sadly agree that on a whole vehicle level we aren’t ready for that yet.

    That’s not true. We simply aren’t ready for it with a vehicle the size that NASA has previously insisted on. Smaller vehicles will have sufficiently high flight rates to make it work,a nd make the business case close. And propellant is almost infinitely divisible…

  • Robert G. Oler

    John wrote @ March 1st, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    I wrote:
    In short my point was that The F-22 doesnt today nor will likely have in the future a mission that other planes far less expensive cannot meet.

    You responded…
    But only with higher loss rates..

    but only if one faces an airforce/air arm that is on a capability level near say the Chinese (Red) or Russians…a possibility that is so unlikely as to be absurd.

    for every one else…and I mean everyone else…the F-15 or something else will do just fine.

    The trick in the acquisition of military hardware is to deal with reality and expected reality. One can imagine a threat (from say North Korea) to the extent that one goes nuts and puts interceptor missiles in the ground in Alaska…that dont work (oh we did that)…or one can look at the reality of the situation and deal with what is reasonable.

    The F-22 is an example of a project that took so long that its opposition vanished. And when it did the weapon system should have vanished.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    The F-22 melts in water ok? The F-35 doesn’t.

    …it just has a problem maintaining its small RCS out in the field.

    Plus everyone is afraid of what happens if one goes down, like in the FRY and the “stealth fighter”.

    Robert G. Oler

  • but only if one faces an airforce/air arm that is on a capability level near say the Chinese (Red) or Russians…a possibility that is so unlikely as to be absurd.

    But, that’s what we have to plan for is a major threat. The others we can deal with someway. Also, the issue is 2010 the issue is 2025-2030 as we aren’t going to have a new first line fighter until after 2030. We also have to deal with the surface to air missiles that Russia will sell to other countries in that time period.

    Rand Simberg:

    I have my doubts that whole reusable whole vehicles are cost-effective right now. I think that reusable first stages have a lot of promise. We could also make a reusable orbiter like the HL-20/DreamChaser, etc. But getting the second stage back and usable? We could use an aerobrake perhaps.

  • I have my doubts that whole reusable whole vehicles are cost-effective right now. I think that reusable first stages have a lot of promise.

    I’m not really interested in getting into theological discussions.

  • Robert G. Oler

    John wrote @ March 1st, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    But, that’s what we have to plan for is a major threat. The others we can deal with someway. Also, the issue is 2010 the issue is 2025-2030 as we aren’t going to have a new first line fighter until after 2030. We also have to deal with the surface to air missiles that Russia will sell to other countries in that time period…

    no.

    First off we should be able to have a fighter enter development and then get to the “fleet” (or the USAF) in under a decade. The F-4 Phantom went from an “internal idea” to a fleet fighter in under 8 years…the entire point that Mr. Gates is making is that we should be able to do something like that…otherwise the entire episode is an effort in stupidity (my words not his).

    Second…the fact that the PLA and Russians have nuclear weapons and in my view MAD (ie a counterstrike) would indicate to me that conventional war is very very unlikely. And if it is going to be fought it will not be fought by F-22′s…they wont even play a real role in it.

    you need to think out of the box. We wont deal with SAM’s the way we did in North Vietnam…we will deal with them the way the IDF did (with our help I believe) when they penetrated Syrian Air Defense and the Syrians did not even know the IDF was there.

    There is the smart way and the Rummy way; He is retired.

    Robert G. Oler

  • googaw

    common sense:
    “because NASA doesn’t want reused Dragon modules, they won’t want reused tanks or frame parts.” Indeed very likely. But there still may be a market for “others” who will want access to space with a “second hand” LV/RV.

    In a mature commercial transportation system, the traveler or person transporting cargo generally wouldn’t care. The customer generally cares about things like cost, timeliness, reliability, and whether insurance can be purchased. Whether or not various parts of the vehicle are new or used is an implementation detail, a matter for discussion between for example the airline and the airplane builder, not something cargo shippers or airplane passengers often worry about.

    So the real long-term question is what effect reusability has on costs, timeliness, uninsured risks, and insurability, as desired by cargo shippers and travelers. Since the cost savings of RLVs depend on high flight rate, which in turn depends on hypothetical markets, it seems to me that timeliness (e.g. DoD’s demand for responsive space) and greater reliability (by e.g. using more expensive parts, by flying more sensors on the rocket and gathering more data) may be better ways to use the early orbital RLVs to improve the transportation service. Cost reductions may come later after commercial orbital RLV technology has matured.

  • common sense

    “Whether or not various parts of the vehicle are new or used is an implementation detail, a matter for discussion between for example the airline and the airplane builder, not something cargo shippers or airplane passengers often worry about. ”

    Hey look, we agree! But the original statement was that NASA would not want a re-used LV/RV. And I “believe” it is true. Now I can not say for sure nor do I have available documents, just my experience. I also believe that NASA may come around once the re-usability has proven itself but it is far off in the (possibly not so distant) future and especially for crewed vehicles.

    “Cost reductions may come later after commercial orbital RLV technology has matured.”

    Absolutely.

    I think I was trying to address somehow the difference between the technological aspect of reusability and whether there is a financial case for reusability. We can “always” come up with a reusable system if we put enough cash in it, yet does it make sense to the users/developers? Today I think the market is limited but it may expand quickly if reusability (of some sort) can be shown to be cost effective.

  • Major Tom

    “Make up your mind, are NASA contracts to purchase services “commercial” or not?”

    COTS does not employ government contracts. The program employs Space Act Agreements that are designed to emulate commercial contracts. It’s an agreement to fund, in a commercial manner, the development of a capability that can meet both commercial and government needs.

    “SCOTS does not guarantee business”

    You said it does above. Here’s your quote:

    “the Falcon 9 has four firm non-NASA launches contracted, with substantial deposits or contractual penalties if the customer backs out, then under Super-COTS grant-matching NASA could also buy four flights.”

    Having NASA “grant-match” commercial deposits or contracts in case a commercial customer “backs out” _is_ using taxpayer money to guarantee commercial business. It’s just like agricultural subsidies, and it incentivizes companies to produce things that the marketplace doesn’t want, rather than spending their capital on things that the marketplace does want.

    “what politicians and bureaucrats demand it to purchase.”

    Politicians and bureaucrats don’t determine ISS demand. ISS demand is what it is. ISS requires so many crew and so much cargo per period of time to remain operational and productive. It’s not something that’s arbitrarily voted on in Congress or arbitrarily changed by bureaucrats.

    “Both distort what a free market would have purchased.”

    Since when are government purchases of commercial goods or services not part of the free market? When a NASA secretary goes to Staples or Office Depot to restock her office’s supply cabinet using a government credit card, she’s making purchases on the free market. She may be meeting a government need, but she’s doing so via the free market.

    “The arguments you are making against SCOTS are also arguments against COTS and against other kinds of government contracting.”

    No, they’re not. COTS doesn’t guarantee commercial business. COTS doesn’t arbitrarily limit the market.

    “The real problem you have against SCOTS is that it would put the lie to scammers and daydreamers”

    Where did I say that I want COTS to support “scammers and daydreamers” (or anything of the sort)? Don’t put words in my mouth.

    I’ve repeatedly raised the same two concerns. Please respond to those concerns, instead of pretending that you can read my mind and making up arguments that I’ve never .

    “It would sort out the wheat from the chaff.”

    COTS does that already. There’s a two-stage selection process, and on top of that, if a company doesn’t meet its milestones, they’re removed from the program and their funding is recompeted.

    We’ve already seen this work successfully with Rocketplane Kistler. They couldn’t meet their milestones for private fundraising. Because the private sector wouldn’t fund them, NASA wouldn’t either.

    There’s no need to arbitrarily limit government demand or guarantee commercial business to determine whether a COTS company has a viable business case. COTS already terminates Space Act Agreements with companies if the private sector won’t fund their business case.

    “That is the real problem you have with SCOTS.”

    Look, over multiple posts you’ve failed to respond to the two concerns I’ve raised about your idea. Either respond to those concerns or admit that your idea has flaws (or just don’t respond).

    But don’t tell me what I’m really thinking. You don’t know.

    FWIW…

  • but only if one faces an airforce/air arm that is on a capability level near say the Chinese (Red) or Russians…a possibility that is so unlikely as to be absurd.

    Or, if they have the latest Russian missiles. I know that the S-300 really scares Israel.

    you need to think out of the box. We wont deal with SAM’s the way we did in North Vietnam…we will deal with them the way the IDF did (with our help I believe) when they penetrated Syrian Air Defense and the Syrians did not even know the IDF was there.

    I would guess that most of our involvement was with Intelligence. Perhaps some help with getting Turkey to cooperate. Israel develops their own ECM and it pretty good I hear. The real trick was that they came at the Syrians through Turkey and the they weren’t expecting an attack from that direction.

  • googaw

    COTS does not employ government contracts.

    In other news, the U.S. does not employ a Constitution, Congressional statutes are not really laws, and property deeds are really just the funny papers.

    It’s an agreement

    Oh I see, it’s not a contract with the government, it’s an agreement with the government. I learn something new every day! :-)

    Politicians and bureaucrats don’t determine ISS demand.

    They don’t determine the tax rates either, right? You’re such a splendid source of information I didn’t know. An agreement is not a contract, and Munckins rather than politicians determine how NASA spends its money. I feel so educated now!

    you’ve failed to respond to the two concerns I’ve raised about your idea.

    If you raise an intelligible concern, I’ll respond to it. As it is, you lack basic reading comprehension, having preposterously misinterpreted the SCOTS proposal. I responded to your objection by clearly correcting your gross misunderstanding and you still persist with it. You also lack extremely basic legal knowledge that would be necessary to understand COTS (no contract there, just an agreement!), so any sane person will feel free to ignore your ramblings on that subject. Stick to engineering.

  • Idiot Alert

    Stick to engineering.

    You could try to EDUCATE yourself. You might learn something.

  • Major Tom

    “Oh I see, it’s not a contract with the government, it’s an agreement with the government. I learn something new every day!”

    No, you havn’t learned anything. You apparently don’t know the difference between a standard FAR contract and a Space Act Agreement executed under NASA OTA. These things are readily found on the web. Instead of wasting your time on ignorant replies, educate yourself.

    “They don’t determine the tax rates either, right?”

    Politicians do determine tax rates. They’re passed in legislation.

    But ISS crew size, upmass, and downmass requirements are not.

    Duh…

    “I responded to your objection by clearly correcting your gross misunderstanding”

    Where?

    On my first concern, I quoted to you your own language about taxpayer money being used to guarantee commercial business, and you still havn’t corrected that statement or explained what you really meant.

    And on my second concern, you’ve never responded to the issue of arbitrarily limiting government demand and the resulting market, company revenues, and jobs.

    “You also lack extremely basic legal knowledge that would be necessary to understand COTS (no contract there, just an agreement!)”

    They are legally very different things with very different flexibilities in terms of what the government can agree to do (or not do). If you don’t know the difference between the FAR and OTA, then you don’t even know the two major bodies of contractual law that NASA operates under, nevertheless any of the differences between the two or the details contained in either.

    “Stick to engineering.”

    Where did I say that I was an engineer? How do you know I’m not a contract specialist at NASA or an aerospace firm? Or a scientist that works on NASA missions? Or a businessman or an economist?

    Don’t talk about things you know nothing about.

    FWIW…

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