NASA

One other note about shuttle extension

On the recently hot topic of shuttle extension, I recommend that people review the comments to yesterday’s post on the topic, where shuttle program manager John Shannon has provided his insights to clarify what’s been reported on the topic. In addition, David Radzanowski, deputy associate administrator for program intergration in the Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD), discussed shuttle extension during a panel session at yesterday’s Goddard Memorial Symposium in Greentbelt, Maryland, alongside the heads of the Aeronautics, Science, and Exploration Systems directorates.

“SOMD believes that if the nation told us to extend the space shuttle, we could do it technically,” he said. “But the reality is that we can do anything if we’re given enough money and enough workforce.” He said that “enough money” would be “well over $2.5 billion a year” to keep flying the shuttle. “That additional money would probably have to come from their directorates,” he said, referring to his fellow panelists. “It’s highly unlikely in the budget environment that we’re in that we’re going to get additional dollars.”

He also noted that not everyone agreed that flying the shuttle beyond the remaining four missions was wise. “Our own Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel has essentially said that they don’t support extending the shuttle beyond its current manifest. Essentially they said that the point to make the decision to extend the shuttle has passed.”

“If we’re directed to do so, and if the money actaully shows up, and if we bring the workforce and the suppliers onboard that we need to move forward, there would still be a two- to three-year gap between the last flight and the new additional flights,” he concluded. “That’s just the way it is, folks, that’s the way it is because it takes us that long to build an external tank.”

141 comments to One other note about shuttle extension

  • No_extension

    The fact of the matter is that not only is the last External Tank (ET) not flight certified (because it is a very old tank with old foam that is suspected to fall off during ascent) but there are absolutely no External Tanks available for future Shuttle launches. Furthermore, according to the guys at MAF (ET Plant in New Orleans) it would take almost two years to resurrect and recertify the tooling, re-hire the qualified employees (if they were willing to come back, which I doubt) and process another ET.

    P.S.
    According to my friends at ATK (they refurbish the SRBs) they have already processed the last flight set, shut down the SRB casting pit facilities and laid off over 300 experienced employees.

  • Robert G. Oler

    It seems Garver was correct

    Robert G. Oler

  • [...] external tank is already in production. It’s not so easy to restart the lines. As reported in Space Politics this morning, NASA estimates it would take two to three years to get the line moving [...]

  • jml

    Sure, everyone please pay no attention to the partially-built ET-139 and ET-140 in MAF, or to the continued estimate from LM of less than 1 year from a go-ahead given today to complete these two tanks. Just ignore that, and concentrate only on the 2 year lead time required for building new tanks from scratch beyond those two.

  • Oler- stop reading with just one eye, you may find the whole story does not comply with your wishful thinking.

  • tps

    jml: You have two tanks but how much does it cost to keep the whole launch system on standbye for those 2-3 years it takes to ramp up things? Then to add in the costs of the new launch cycles to it.

    NASA becomes the shuttle program and that’s it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Max Peck wrote @ March 11th, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    when the story line is “we need more money” and ” we need sometime”…then Garver is substantially correct

    Robert G. Oler

  • jml

    tps: Honestly, I’m not sure I’d advocate a full restart of production with new tanks for flights in 2012 and an ongoing STS program out to 2015 or 2020. I think what was referred to last year as “Bounding Case 1″ makes more sense – ie fly STS-135, 136, and 137 as ISS resupply missions in 2011 using using ET-122, 139, and 140 to take care of the negative upmass margins that the ISS program is currently expecting and to bring up as many spare ISS components as possible. This would essentially mean adding a full $3 billion year of STS funding and flights as a bridge to whatever comes next, and push out some of the “advanced technology development” programs for another year.

    If one really wanted to keep STS going (as proposed by the Hutchison bill), one would fly these missions but stretch out the schedule a bit, then use the less complete tank domes for ET-141 as the next tank, bridging to newly-started tanks for missions in 2012 and 2013.

  • great idea

    IF they fly the remaining missions as scheduled (complete in Sept) and then Congress passes a two year shuttle extension (the time it would take to manufacture more tanks) the workforce would be doing nothing for those two years… BRILLIANT IDEA

  • Robert G. Oler

    great idea wrote @ March 11th, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    this is why this entire debate is much ado about nothing…they are going to fly the remaining flights as advertised and when the word gets out that there is a lot of money needed and no flights for X number of years (or XX number of months) that is the end of it.

    I find the rest of the show…funny…

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    I’d say even better: The rest of Congress will agree to spend even $5B for people doing nothing while of course they need cash for their own whatever project? It will certainly happen.

  • Stop letting reality get in the way of our parochial interests!!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSChW9HxAvI

  • Jan

    For safety reasons alone, I don’t think it should be extended. Those shuttles are disasters just waiting to happen. Every time one comes back safely, I breathe a great sigh of relief and think of how relieved I will be when it’s over. Now they’re talking about actually trying to keep those garbage heaps running a bit longer.

    NASA has a marvellous unmanned exploration program going on right now with spaceships like Cassini and New Horizons. That’s what I’d like to see more of.

  • If safety was an issue then we would most certainly not be attempting to turn human spaceflight over to companies that have never launched humans into space before. Space X has a 40% successful launch rate as an unmanned vehicle. So they have a long long way to go to even approach the level of safety aboard a space shuttle as a man rated vehicle.

  • common sense

    “If safety was an issue then we would most certainly not be attempting to turn human spaceflight over to companies that have never launched humans into space before. Space X has a 40% successful launch rate as an unmanned vehicle. So they have a long long way to go to even approach the level of safety aboard a space shuttle as a man rated vehicle.”

    Shuttle is NOT man-rated. Such is life. As to the rest same old same old giberish. Sorry.

  • G Clark

    This argument over commercial companies makes me want to howl at the moon and tear out my hair. In what way are LockMart and Boeing not safe/experienced? Can we please stop concentrating on SpaceX already?

    (Snarl, gnash teeth, etc)

  • Ferris Valyn

    G Clark – with the proviso that we do it using firm fixed price contract, and not cost-plus, I’ll join you on the in that howl

  • Marcel F. Williams, we’re turning manned flight over to a privately owned company called Energia for at least 3 years. If you don’t think American companies can do what Russian companies can do, then I am afraid that is a very anti-American view.

    The sooner American companies can be allowed to prosper the better.

  • “In what way are LockMart and Boeing not safe/experienced? Can we please stop concentrating on SpaceX already?”

    ULA has the experience and has demonstrated an ability to innovate and implement forward thinking concepts. ULA has already proposed a deep space oriented manned space program based around existing Delta and Atlas boosters. I find it very unfortunate that Space-X with far less experience, capablility, and a vision limited to LEO ISS and splash down capsules has become the poster company for “new space”. Lets not make the same mistake Griffin did and ignore the talents, innovation and experience vested within or premiere commercial company ULA. Constellation “Ares” and Flex “Space-X are the extreme opposites. ULA is the transitional middle ground where we need to be now.

  • NASA Fan

    Why would American taxpayers agree to pay $2.5B per year for extending STS, when they can pay $50M/year, maybe $100M/year to launch a few astronauts on Soyuz.

    And, I am going to make sure I get down to KSC to see one of the last three flights. Not in my lifetime will I ever see such a space vehicle again.

  • Space Shuttle Man

    NASA Fan:

    The Space Shuttle is the most advanced space vehicle ever made. It has capabilities far more than just transporting people to the ISS. We need start making new orbiters in order to extend the STS for the long term.

  • Real World

    I kind of think early 2004 was the time to complain about shuttle retirement.

  • @Robert Oler

    The discussion concerning shuttle flights was not a matter of who was right or wrong. Lori Garver was discussing the shuttle extension from a space policy point of view, John Shannon was discussing shuttle extension from a technical point of view. Both have said that there will be a significant gap between current manifest and any extended shuttle flight. This is as much of what John Shannon was commenting about in previous post.

    @Josh Cryer

    The venerable Soyuz launch system of which you seem talking about was developed under a government program, not by commercial space companies. Energia was formerly a government agency until the early 1990′s and Russia still owns about a third of the company. Thus, there is no reason why the Ares I/Orion could not eventually be turned over to commercial interests. In fact, its design came from ATK and Lockheed Martin.

    @G Clark and Ferris Valyn

    SpaceX is simply the most visible NewSpace company to date and it gets picked on quite a bit. A lot of the discussion is based on differing views of what ‘commercial’ really means. Boeing, LM, and ULA are essentially viewed as government contractors. Boeing has a successful commercial airplane manufacturing business obviously. But outside of that, none of these companies have what one would call entreprenurial spirit. The bulk of their revenue comes from defense contracts. Yes, they have collectively a great deal of experience in rocket launch systems. But they have done precious little to expand into the human spaceflight arena beyond the NASA contracts they currently are working on.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Gary – I will grant that, historically, LM Boeing & ULA have a history of being contractors, rather than commercial. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t do it.

    And if they can’t, and SpaceX can, then we’ll know just how out of practice LM, Boeing, and ULA are. That said, I don’t believe it’ll come to taht.

  • Rhyolite

    “historically, LM Boeing & ULA have a history of being contractors, rather than commercial”

    Both LM and Boeing have substantial commercial space interests:

    LM has historically been active in selling Altas launches for commercial satellites and has a healthy commercial satellite manufacturing business.

    Boeing (formerly Hughes) has historically been the global leader in commercial satellite manufacturing, though they are lagging at the moment. Heritage Boeing was also heavily involved in Sea Launch.

    The commercial space revenue of LM and Boeing is probably much larger than the revenue of the new space companies. While these companies are not know for their entrepreneurial spirit, they still have significant pockets of commercial space activity – don’t count them out.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Gary Miles wrote @ March 11th, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    @Robert Oler

    The discussion concerning shuttle flights was not a matter of who was right or wrong. Lori Garver was discussing the shuttle extension from a space policy point of view, John Shannon was discussing shuttle extension from a technical point of view…

    Well I dont mind going with that…but Shannon is lucky he works for NASA…if he worked for almost any other agency of the US government and clearly for the US military…his butt would be on tongue depressor duty (or in the Navy ‘rivet watch’) almost immediatly.

    After the shuttle is done, in my view he should be fired.

    Robert G. Oler

  • shuttle


    you can discuss the future of the US spaceflight in this “Florida Space Summit on April 15″ Facebook Group

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=356261201268

  • Robert, well, if he was actually prohibited from expressing his opinion, sure. But, as it turns out, NASA actually asks him to go to press conferences and answer anything the press asks.. and he’s free to answer anyway he wants. Obviously this is very bad PR control, but that’s not Shannon’s fault.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Trent Waddington wrote @ March 12th, 2010 at 2:27 am

    Robert, well, if he was actually prohibited from expressing his opinion, sure. But, as it turns out, NASA actually asks him to go to press conferences and answer anything the press asks.. and he’s free to answer anyway he wants. Obviously this is very bad PR control, but that’s not Shannon’s fault.

    I dont believe that he operates under those rules…no other manager in the federal government of his rank does

    Robert g. Oler

  • danwithaplan

    There is nothing commercial about HSF untill a firm unassociated with NASA runs a profitable (i.e. successful) business.

    There are none thus far.

  • Robert, straight from the horse’s mouth in the other thread.. btw, it’d be awesome if you could somehow indicate that you are quoting me… say, by using quotation marks.

    danwithaplan, chicken, meet egg.

  • silence dogood

    @Common Sense-

    You’ve piqued my curiosity by your comment that the Shuttle is not man rated. Tell us more.

  • Thus, there is no reason why the Ares I/Orion could not eventually be turned over to commercial interests. In fact, its design came from ATK and Lockheed Martin.

    There is a huge reason. It will be horrifically expensive to operate, compared to commercial alternatives.

    You’ve piqued my curiosity by your comment that the Shuttle is not man rated. Tell us more.

    Man rating is a meaningless and archaic phrase, and the sooner people who don’t understand it (i.e., almost everyone) stops using it, the better off we’ll be. No vehicle has been man rated, or needed to be, since the sixties. Instead, they’ll be designed to be reasonably safe.

  • Robert G. Oler

    ” Trent Waddington wrote @ March 12th, 2010 at 4:45 am

    Robert, straight from the horse’s mouth in the other thread……”:

    sorry about the quote marks…using I use the “periods” and some cr but was a tad tired when I wrote that..

    As for the horses mouth…Jeff Shannon has carved out for himself a niche that no other federal manager has.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “silence dogood”

    Is that you, Rocketman?…

  • silence dogood

    @ Rand: Pardon me, I meant “human-rated.” Sometimes, my political correctness can slip. I refer you to NPR 8705.2B. Effective until 2013:

    http://nodis3.gsfc.nasa.gov/displayDir.cfm?Internal_ID=N_PR_8705_002B_

    @ Common Sense: Shuttle was G’fathered in before the 8705.2B, ergo not man-rated (oops, “human-rated” See, my political correctness keeps slipping)

  • Dave C.

    The Hatch Act states:
    Federal employees …”May not knowingly solicit or discourage the political activity of any person who has business before the agency. “

    What John Shannon is quoted as saying:
    “”From a personal standpoint, I just think it’s amazing that we’re headed down a path where we’re not going to have any vehicles at all to launch from the Kennedy Space Center for an extended period of time. To give up all the lessons learned, the blood, sweat and tears that we’ve expended to get the space shuttle to the point where it is right now, where it’s performing so magnificently,” said NASA shuttle program manager John Shannon.”

    “Shannon, the Shuttle program manager, said it could be done it’s just a matter of money then went on to say how much it will cost. ”

    Seems like pretty think ice…

    On another topic, Shannon stated: “We were asked during the transition team meetings to provide alternative crewed and uncrewed options that had been studied over the years – and there have been a lot of them. We did update the design, costs and schedules for a modified Shuttle-C to the transition team”.

    I’m curious as what transition meetings Shannon is referring to, who authorized the Sidemount study, how much it cost (since 2007), what program(s)’s funds were used to pay for it, and to whom and when was this presented. Maybe that could be the NASA CFO’s and CIO’s first topic of transparent government.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Dave C. wrote @ March 12th, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Well…what has surprised me a “tad” (not all that much most of the NASA management is tone deaf politically) is the lobbying in the press the JSC people mostly have done which is in complete opposition to the stated policy of the agency and The President that they serve under.

    It would be like Obama getting up and saying “we are going to cancel the F-XX” and the project manager of the F-XX General “Turgidson” getting up in a press conference on a test flight of the F-XX and saying “Wow From a personal standpoint, I just think it’s amazing that we’re headed down a path where we’re not going to have any vehicles at all to launch from the USAF fighter squadrons for an extended period of time.”

    That General would barely get the words out of his mouth until an aide would come to him with a cell phone and you would hear Mr. Gates demanding his resignation.

    Shannon crossed a line with that.

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    @silencedogood:

    Okay then read this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human-rating_certification and this http://nodis3.gsfc.nasa.gov/displayDir.cfm?Internal_ID=N_PR_8705_002B_&page_name=Chapter2 and tell us when Shuttle was designed/built.

    Good reading!

  • common sense

    “It would be like Obama getting up and saying “we are going to cancel the F-XX” and the project manager of the F-XX General “Turgidson” getting up in a press conference on a test flight of the F-XX and saying “Wow From a personal standpoint, I just think it’s amazing that we’re headed down a path where we’re not going to have any vehicles at all to launch from the USAF fighter squadrons for an extended period of time.””

    Ah! Yep I’d like to see anything like that happen. That’d be quite a show actually if it were it be recorded…

  • Major Tom

    Guys, I think you’re making way too much of Shannon’s comments and whether they perfectly align or not with other NASA management and Administration statements. On the substance of the debate, whether Shuttle can be extended, these statements all agree that Shuttle can’t be extended — only restarted two or three years down the road.

    FWIW…

  • Pardon me, I meant “human-rated.” Sometimes, my political correctness can slip. I refer you to NPR 8705.2B. Effective until 2013

    I wasn’t talking about political correctness. Everything I wrote applies to “human rating” as well. It’s a useless and meaningless phrase. Yes, NASA has published something that it calls human rating. No vehicle has ever met those standards, and probably no vehicle ever will. It’s an archaic concept that should have been abandoned in the sixties (and functionally was), which was the only time that it was useful, when we had to adapt munitions to carry people.

    If I were administrator, I’d purge the phrase from the agency vocabulary, in a very loud way. All it is useful for is to NASA, as a false barrier to entry to competition.

  • common sense

    @Major Tom:

    Beside the possible insubordination what really is annoying is that it feels like he added oil to this ongoing fire. And I find that it is very, very inappropriate especially for someone in his position. Rather I believe he should strive to put the fire down at this stage especially again since the decision was made in 2004. The current WH is undergoing a lot of fire barrage that does not make any sense. The notion that opposing everything and anything is a smart position upsets me especially when not justified. As I said John Shannon may have spoken out of total sincerety but it was not appropriate for him to take a position in public like this. And for all that matters he does not need to make up with me, if Charles Bolden and Lori Garver are happy with all this then fine. I suppose. I still don’t like it but so what?

    Oh well…

  • JASW

    “Shannon crossed a line with that.”

    It’s a shame that he was right.

  • silence dogood

    @Rand-Humor is such a precious thing. Look for it where you can.

  • I got the humor, but you seemed to be missing my point.

  • @commonsense

    Indeed, it is Bolden/Garver’s call and they don’t seem to mind.. but the public should still look at what this apathy does to the agency and decide if they like it. There is a reason why corporations have a “no talking to the press” rule. It’s not just because of proprietary secrets, it’s also because corporations need to look unified and project an image of intentional action or the public just starts to see them as a menace.

  • common sense

    @Trent Waddington:

    Therefore it is up to the executives to decide what will happen. As I said, I, a private citizen, am not happy with this and I voiced my concern but it is as far as I can go. I think. And I don’t want to make him a scapegoat. He is just a reflection of what is going on. Up to the executives, again, to find out what to make of all of this. They have the power, they should use it wisely.

  • common sense

    Off Topic but I had an exchange once, can’t remember if it was with googaw. Anyway, FWIW:

    http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2010/03/orion-removed-nasa-control-mod-positioning-commercial/

    “Unfortunately, General Bolden has already noted that the commercial carriers are under no contractual obligation to hire NASA or MOD contractors – and that he can only “ask” them to look into taking the cream of the current stable of engineers and controllers.”

  • NASA is like a truck stuck in the mud.

    Come to think of it there’s a song about it.

    link here:
    TRUCK GOT STUCK by Corb Lund Band

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wA4VBNxltBc

  • common sense

    I find this more and more “strange”: Mr. Gary E. Payton is the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space Programs, Washington, D.C. (http://www.af.mil/information/bios/bio.asp?bioID=8046) appointed in 2005 (therefore under GWB) warns of increased launch costs: http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2010/03/airforce_launch_costs_031210w/

    “Early information shows the price of rocket propulsion systems for the military and NRO “might double” as a result, Payton said.”

    “At the Senate Armed Service Committee hearing Wednesday, Vitter asked Payton: “Was the Air Force explicitly asked the impact on you of canceling Constellation before the decision was made?”

    “No sir,” Payton said. ”

    Now call me an alarmist or whatever pleases you but I don’t like this at all. What do you make of this Robert? More insubordination? A coincidence?

  • What’s the logic behind that anyway?

    From the article: “The military and intelligence community rely on the same manufacturers as NASA to build the rockets that launch their satellites, but the White House plans to turn to commercially owned rockets to launch astronauts following retirement of the shuttle later this year.”

    uhhhh.. what does ULA’s boosters have to do with Constellation? are they trying to say that ULA may double their prices because LockMart won’t be working on Orion anymore? Boeing, ULA and other military contractors are exactly the “commercially owned rockets” the White House plans to turn to… again, what is this article talking about?

    The way I heard it, they were talking about ATK. How does NASA declining to buy more SRBs from ATK impact upon the Air Force exactly though?

  • Space Shuttle Man

    I just want to say that I fully support John Shannon statements. I think we need more people speaking up against bad policies.

    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.

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ March 12th, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    It doesnt surprise me that the USAF was not contacted what I would like to see Gary Payton explain is why there is some “thought” that launch cost would double.

    There is no history of that happening..when Gemini used Titan…

    Robert G. Oler

  • poorboy

    The only way Constellation cancellation could increase NRO’s costs is if they never intended to go to the moon and Constellation money was really being funneled to NRO. As it stands, the cancellation frees up many skilled workers which should lower the costs of launching EELVs.

    What is really going on here is that Payton is a former Shuttle astronaut and Deputy Associate Administrator for NASA and his judgments on matters relating to astronauts are rather biased.

  • common sense

    I would imagine at the very least that Robert Gates was aware of the plan, right? So if he did not deem necessary to tell the AF what the heck is this again? I realize the question was asked to him but please tell me he did not know it was coming… This whole thing seems to be getting out of control. I don’t like it and neither should the WH.

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ March 13th, 2010 at 12:53 am

    I would imagine at the very least that Robert Gates was aware of the plan, ..

    might be but I dont think that the DoD cares a twit about the plan…or anything with NASA.

    If Constellation goes away ATK will continue to make or refurbish solids for the Navy and USAF…smaller workforce but due to the nature of government contracts and the fact that the SRB’s have little or nothing in common with weapon systems…I cannot see the link

    Robert G. Oler

  • @Space Shuttle Man

    I you were paying attention you would have seen by now that Shannon does not see Shuttle Extension as workable.. it was simply the way he phrased it that caused the media to misinterpret him. He should have started his comments with “As Lori Garver said…” but he didn’t.. so the half-wit media repeated whatever they thought was the best story.

    As for the Shuttle itself, it’s a dangerous kludge of a vehicle that was designed by committee and should have been retired in 2004, if not 15 years earlier.

  • On TheBall

    I just want to say that I fully support John Shannon statements. I think we need more people speaking up against bad policies.

    Then you should have stood up twice already, once in February of 2004 and again in September of 2005. Since you didn;t speak up then, we can only assume that you are and were completely ignorant of the facts on the ground.

  • silence dogood

    @ Rand- I got your point. I like cheap laughs. But rules (or NPRs) are rules when those who make them want them to be enforced…I’m not the enforcer, so it pays to know the rules.

  • silence dogood

    and anyway, who would continue to drive a 30 year old car off-roading, or better yet, through the equivalent of a yearly dash in the Paris-Dakar rally?

  • Dave C.

    NPRs are not rules. They are requirements that NASA can tailor to conduct business. The rules, under which something like this falls, are laws that were written and passed by Congress (like the Hatch Act, Title 5, Rules of Ethics, etc). However, most of the senior management at JSC (and I hope JSC is the worst) is above these laws. Individuals have reported violation after violation to HR, and nothing happens to the senior managers (except maybe a small slap on the hand). I wonder where JSC draws the line for their senior management. What act would finally get them removed from their position…apparently it is none of the above, which makes for a pretty hostile work environment.

  • GuessWho

    Oler wrote – “If Constellation goes away ATK will continue to make or refurbish solids for the Navy and USAF…smaller workforce but due to the nature of government contracts and the fact that the SRB’s have little or nothing in common with weapon systems…I cannot see the link”

    Once again you display your ignorance about business in general and defense business in particular.

    ATK fabricates a wide range of solid rocket motors including the GEMS used by the Delta IV launch vehicle, the Minutemen and Trident missiles, GMD missiles, TOWs, etc. etc. All of which are DoD commodities and most are USAF commodities. While each solid rocket may use a different mixture, the fixed infrastructure (bricks and mortar) and labor costs (i.e. finance and busn ops costs, legal, HR, etc.) behind their manufacture are shared by all of the product lines. When ATK quotes the USAF a price for a lot buy of XX rocket motors, that price reflects their current best guess of workload over the duration of that order. Remove a large percentage of that base revenue and those fixed costs are shared by a smaller pool of programs and the costs go up across the board. This applies to any business and is particularly felt in highly specialized industries where the “public” use of the product is extremely limited. So yes, I would expect the USAF to see a price rise in many of their products from ATK (in the near term), including those associated with EELV’s given ATK’s support role to Delta. Since Bolden and crew haven’t yet turned to EELV for their HSF needs, there is no offsetting revenue that would keep those infrastructure costs down on a product to product basis. In the future, NASA may end up purchasing more EELV’s than they currently do and the unit cost to the USAF will drop accordingly.

    This is basic business stuff Robert. Try educating yourself before spouting off.

  • Vladislaw

    ” While each solid rocket may use a different mixture, the fixed infrastructure (bricks and mortar) and labor costs (i.e. finance and busn ops costs, legal, HR, etc.) behind their manufacture are shared by all of the product lines. ”

    It was my understanding that ATK was already planning on this as they have already laid off 300 workers relating to the large motor production for the SRB’s.

  • Robert G. Oler

    GuessWho wrote @ March 13th, 2010 at 9:46 am

    that is laughable.

    you dont have a clue how government contracts are billed.

    “Remove a large percentage of that base revenue and those fixed costs are shared by a smaller pool of programs and the costs go up across the board.:”

    that assumes that the fixed cost associated with all the ATK programs are shared in a significant amount by those programs.

    Yes I agree that the company cafeteria (if they still have it) might be shared from all contracts…but there is almost nothing shared between the SRB’s and any other “solid” that the organization pours.

    In any event the cost will not double.

    thanks for the amusment this morning

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://spaceflightnow.com/falcon9/001/status.html

    looks like SpaceX got their hot fire

    Robert G. Oler

  • Why is it that we’re supposed to be concerned about better transparency in the actual cost of maintaining the solid infrastructure, and that we are no longer subsidizing the Pentagon from the NASA budget?

  • GuessWho

    Oler – “that is laughable.

    you dont have a clue how government contracts are billed.

    … that assumes that the fixed cost associated with all the ATK programs are shared in a significant amount by those programs.”

    Will all due respect, I have intimate knowledge of Govt. contracting having led dozens of proposal efforts targeted at both DoD and NASA customers. With all major Govt. contractors, only about half of the man-hour costs are direct labor costs. These vary from contract to contract based on type of work performed and the range of labor grades that work that project. The remainder is G&A. G&A covers benefits, indirect labor costs associated with support organizations (legal, F&BO, etc.), site services, security, etc. G&A also has to cover O&M associated with facilities as well as the amortization of large capital assets owned by the Contractor. Finally, the Contractor is allowed by law to set aside up to a defined percentage of revenue for purposes of IR&D. This IR&D pool is also booked against the G&A pool. The more IR&D you set aside, the higher your rates. Note also that both labor and G&A rates (and the various labor grades that work on a given project) are audited by the Govt. to ensure that Contractors are not overcharging the Government or substituting high labor grade performers for lower ones (or vice-versa) in order to artificially inflate/deflate contract charges. Each contractor has slightly different splits between direct costs and G&A costs depending upon size and range of labor grades but they aren’t all that far apart among the major aerospace firms.

    Again, educate yourself before spouting off. Your ignorance is appalling.

  • GuessWho

    Simberg – “Why is it that we’re supposed to be concerned about better transparency in the actual cost of maintaining the solid infrastructure, and that we are no longer subsidizing the Pentagon from the NASA budget?”

    First of all, both DoD and NASA are Govt agencies, one doesn’t subsidize the other. Subsidies are a form of financial assistance paid to a business or economic sector, usually by the Govt. The fact that any agency enjoys a lower unit cost because multiple agencies purchase goods from a common provider ought to be applauded by the taxpayers as an efficient use of their taxes if large bulk buys are cheaper than 1000+ individual purchases.

    In my opinion, the fact that NASA is no longer being held to full cost accounting practices is a bigger concern. This is a huge step backward in terms of transparency. Yet another 180 from this admin’s promise to be the most transparent administration in history. Change and hope ….

  • The fact that any agency enjoys a lower unit cost because multiple agencies purchase goods from a common provider ought to be applauded by the taxpayers as an efficient use of their taxes if large bulk buys are cheaper than 1000+ individual purchases.

    Yes, as long as one agency isn’t buying something they don’t really need to reduce another’s budget. But if the Air Force needs solids, and NASA doesn’t, that’s not a justification to force NASA to continue to buy them just because it gives the Air Force a lower cost. That is subsidizing one agency’s budget with another’s.

  • Gabe Kampis

    Shannon should have more faith in his product.

    If he were in a corporate environment he would be fired … he has in effect said that the shuttle has been ‘too expensive’ .. since when?

    Since the beginning.

    Put this straight. THE SHUTTLE IS BEAUTIFUL. THE MOST WONDERFUL FLYING MACHINE EVER BUILT. It does the job it was designed for.

    Shannon is weak on his facts … ISS support involves MPLMs going upstairs twice a year with standard racks and the BRINGING THE SCIENCE RACKS BACK HOME. No other paper space object from the hobbyist commercial sector can do that even if they EVER come into reality.

    EVERYBODY… the choice is not between NASA and the commercial sector.

    It is between the US and RUSSIA !!!

    It is between SHUTTLE and SOYUZ !!! (With ORION down the line if it hadn’t been canceled.)

    TELL OBAMA YOU WON’T TAKE IT.

    He just rolled out a 3 1/2 Trillion $ Federal budget.

    NASAa share is equal to the PINK TOILET PAPER BUDGET!

    TELL OBAMA YOU WON’T TAKE IT.

  • GuessWho

    Simberg – The question is whether or not USAF (DoD) will potentially see increased costs associated with their launch services and other missile based procurements. If ATK isn’t making solids for NASA, whether for Shuttle or ARES, but USAF (DoD) is still buying solid rockets from ATK, then I would fully expect there to be a cost increase, at least in the near term. This is a case where secondary (or unintended) consequences of the decision this Admin has taken relative to NASA will impact other agencies. Does it justify keeping ARES, not in my opinion. But many on this site will criticize the USAF for wasting money when their rocket motor costs go up and forget/ignore that NASA decisions do have impacts outside of the agency. This last is my opinion.

  • Major Tom

    “In my opinion, the fact that NASA is no longer being held to full cost accounting practices is a bigger concern. This is a huge step backward in terms of transparency. Yet another 180 from this admin’s promise to be the most transparent administration in history.”

    Agreed that the loss of full cost accounting at NASA is a big step backward and harms transparency, cost control, and good management decisionmaking. But Griffin made the decision to stop full cost accounting at NASA. Unless you’re dinging them for not bringing full cost accounting back, that decision has nothing to do with the current Administration.

    FWIW…

  • Robert G. Oler

    GuessWho wrote @ March 13th, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    yawn.

    none of that explains why there is any credibility to the charge that either the solids the USAF/USN (and others) will buy (which are far more substantial then the SRB’s) or the Atlas Delta systems (which ever one Peyton meant) are going to “double”.

    Robert G. Oler

  • GuessWho

    Oler – Nice deflection of the argument.

    No one said definitively that the cost was going to double. From the article “Early information shows the price of rocket propulsion systems for the military and NRO “might double” as a result, Payton said.”

    I see a statement of what might happen. Learn the difference Oler.

    From the article – “At the Senate Armed Service Committee hearing Wednesday, Vitter asked Payton: “Was the Air Force explicitly asked the impact on you of canceling Constellation before the decision was made?”

    “No sir,” Payton said. Six studies are now underway together with NASA and NRO to examine price questions, workforce issues and reliability concerns, he said.”

    I see a statement that studies are underway, not completed. That would imply no firm answers are to be had yet. Learn the difference Oler.

    From the article – ““We don’t have answers yet. What we do have is a potential concern,” Kehler said during the hearing.”

    I see a statement that there is a concern but no firm answers have been generated. No one has made a charge that costs will double. Learn the difference Oler.

    Note: Delta uses GEMs from ATK, ATLAS uses SRMs (solid rocket motors) from Aerojet. Learn the difference Oler.

    Again, once you have educated yourself on the subject matter, please feel free to comment further. Otherwise, go work on your shed or whatever it is that you seem compelled to drivel on about.

  • GuessWho

    Major Tom – Afraid you are wrong on the full cost accounting point. It was Obama/Bolden. See:

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=33403

  • Major Tom

    “Major Tom – Afraid you are wrong on the full cost accounting point. It was Obama/Bolden.”

    The letter you pointed at referenced “full cost recovery”, not “accounting”, and claims that NASA will be moving to a “unified labor account”. I’m not sure what “recovery” is, but the letter is in error about the labor account. This was done back in FY 2009 (not FY 2011) when the Cross-Agency Support account was created, with Center Management and Operations and Agency Management and Operations budget lines totaling a little over $3 billion.

    nasa.gov/pdf/210020main_NASA_FY09_Budget_Estimates_Summary.pdf

    Griffin and the Bush II Administration deserves credit (or criticism) for this. I don’t understand why IFTPE is giving the credit to the Obama Administration.

    And it goes back further than FY 2009. Griffin started by taking facilities out of full cost accounting in 2005:

    “Griffin, who assumed the administrator’s job in April, pledged to take facility costs out of the full-cost equation to help NASA centers offer competitive prices for their services.”

    nasa.gov/centers/dryden/news/X-Press/stories/2005/061705_griffinVisit.html

    Of course, if we don’t know what facility costs of our project, we’re not fully accounting for the costs of our project.

    And Griffin went to a single overhead rate for all field centers in 2008:

    “Beginning in FY07, we are simplifying our full cost accounting practices. We are managing all of our Federal centers at a single overhead rate…”

    spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=23234

    Of course, if we’re getting a break on the higher overhead at our field center because other field centers have lower overhead rates, we’re not fully accounting for the costs of our project.

    With facilities and overhead taken care of, Griffin’s last step was gathering up salaries and benefits in a single account in FY 2009, as already mentioned.

    FWIW…

  • Robert G. Oler

    GuessWho wrote @ March 13th, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Payton is the person who threw up the “double” number…it is that which drives the discussion

    Robert G. Oler

  • GuessWho

    Oler – Payton said “might double”. At least quote him correctly.

    You are the one who stated “… the fact that the SRB’s have little or nothing in common with weapon systems…I cannot see the link”. I merely pointed out that indeed there is a link and that what ATK does with (or without) SRBs does have impacts to the rest of their cost structure. A notion that you claim is “laughable”. That is what drove this discussion. Once again you are trying to deflect the discussion because you have no real understanding of how commercial contractors in aerospace operate.

  • googaw

    Gabe Kampis:
    [Shuttle] does the job it was designed for.

    Not even close.

    * It was sold as being $100/lb. to orbit, instead it’s well over $10,000/lb.

    * It was sold as having a flight rate of several dozen per year, instead it’s often been less than a half dozen.

    * It was sold as being able to launch satellites with their upper stages, but Centaur and eventually all upper stages ended up being banned from the Shuttle for the sake of astronaut safety.

    * It was sold as being a cost-effective way to launch satellites, but practically all ELV systems proved to be less expensive and more timely.

    * It was sold as being safe, but has killed over a dozen astronauts.

    The Shuttle is a classic case of NASA “infrastructure” gone awry at great cost to our national security as well as to the commercial space sector.

  • GuessWho

    Major Tom – “Recovery” is cost recovery for direct expenditures associated with each NASA program. Hence it is essentially the same as full-cost accounting. But you are correct that Griffin started the process of taking the bite out of FCA by reverting to an agency wide common overhead rate (see G&A discussion above related to my response to Oler) and thus hiding a fair portion of the overall program cost on a center-to-center basis. Sort of leveled the playing field asa each center tried to compete with the others for work. I suspect this was driven by his “ten healthy centers” approach to managing work across the agency.

    Per Senate Report 111-034 – DEPARTMENTS OF COMMERCE AND JUSTICE, AND SCIENCE, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS BILL, 2010 – “The Cross-Agency Support account funds Agency management, including headquarters and each of the nine NASA field centers, as well as the design and execution of non-programmatic Construction of Facilities and Environmental Compliance and Restoration activities.”

    This is the language for FY2010 (introduced in 2009) and is essentially a continuation of the language from the FY2009 appropriations bill (which was much more verbose). But CAS isn’t a replacement of FCA, it looks like it is just a defined budget line for collecting the indirect costs associated with center management (Directors and their support Staff who don’t work specific programs) as well as the facilities related stuff referenced directly. An example is per the NASA website; “Cross Agency Support are funds to restore NASA-owned facilities damaged from hurricanes and other natural disasters occurring during calendar year 2008.”

    But in general I agree with you that FCA has been slowly eroded away. I still submit however that Obama/Bolden are responsible for sweeping any remnants completely off the table. Either way, transparency at NASA no longer exists.

  • Rhyolite

    Gabe Kampis:
    [Shuttle] does the job it was designed for.

    googaw:
    Not even close.

    The sad thing is that it was apparent in 1981 that the shuttle was never going to meet its objectives…and yet, here we are, 30 years later still trying to figure out a replacement.

  • Al Fansome

    The politics of this issue are very interesting. I understand that there are studies taking place, but I seriously doubt that the cost of solid rocket based systems — at the systems level — would double.

    First, this presumes that there are no dynamic responses to dealing with facility costs, nor any “substitution” decisions, based on the increase in the amount of fixed overheard applied to a smaller set of products.

    Second, while I have not looked at the numbers — I have been told by those who know — the primary cost of these national security products is not the solid rocket materials. Design, development, quality control, etc. are much higher percentage of the total “system level” cost.

    If “materials” are 10% of the total cost of the system, and you double the cost of the “materials”, then the increase in cost at the system level is 10%.

    This is pure speculation, but I believe Payton may have had the “may double” number in his mind because somebody briefed him that the “materials cost may double”.

    More speculation. It would be typical ATK tactics (e.g., desperate) to brief Payton that “the cost may double” without clarifying that they were talking about “materials cost” as opposed to “total system cost”.

    FWIW,

    – Al

  • Major Tom

    “But in general I agree with you that FCA has been slowly eroded away. I still submit however that Obama/Bolden are responsible for sweeping any remnants completely off the table. Either way, transparency at NASA no longer exists.”

    Fair enough.

    FWIW…

  • common sense

    I still believe there is an ongoing campaign to discredit the current NASA plan. Payton may have been played by ATK but it is no excuse at his level. He should have checked the facts. NASA should indeed not subsidize any, any other government agency, be it the USAF or NOAA. They may if their programs allow it help each other, it is understood. BUT designing an entire system on a technology BECAUSE another agency (with order of magnitude larger budget) has a need does not make any sense. The result is what y’all see today. Blame whoever you want it won’t change a thing. Payton, possibly to a lesser extent, is making a similar mistake as John Shannon.

    Again if it were that important to the nation, Gates would have been informed. If informed he did not care to tell the USAF then so be it. He Gates was not informed it means it is not that important.

    The USAF works for the DoD, NASA does not. For once, follow your proper chain of command and be happy. Darn it!

  • common sense

    SHould have said:

    Payton, possibly to a similar extent, is making a similar mistake as John Shannon.

  • Robert G. Oler

    GuessWho wrote @ March 13th, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    I dont see the way (the link ) that they would double…

    The “might double” is the worst thing of all. It is designed to leave someone “an out” (we really didnt say that Saddam was going to nuke us)…it is an attempt to obfuscate in behalf of a goal when really his job was to provide clarity.

    It is simply despicable. To defend it is particularly on “a word bomb” is worse.

    Robert G. Oler

  • GuessWho

    Oler? – I can always tell when you have no rational argument. Out comes the Iraq/Bush/Afland rant right on cue. Just LOL. This debate is obviously over.

  • Over at my blog, people are speculating that what Payton is actually referring to with his “double” comment is concern about the cost impact on EELV of “human rating” them. I think it’s overblown, but if so, it has nothing to do with the solids.

  • googaw

    Rand, the cost impact of NASA requirements could be quite large, but the problem is even worse than that. It’s also about the availability impact of exposing the EELVs to Exploration Directorate politics, in particular the risk of Shuttle-like delays when EELVs kill astronauts and become the whipping boys of Congressional politics and the SSS (“Symbolic Safety Syndrome”) mafia (h/t to David Gump for that phrase). The Pentagon has put a big firewall between themselves and the E.D. and it is unacceptable for the Exploration Directorate to try to break down that firewall and impose requirements on the DoD’ launchers. The Pentagon will fight hard to keep that firewall and I and all others who care about national security will support them the whole way.

    If astronauts want to fly EELVs they should be prepared to fly them as is, regardless of what risks this might pose to their safety, and they better not demand a single screw or bit be changed in the DoD’s EELVs in order to enhance their safety. And they especially better not demand it in the event that astronauts get killed by the EELVs. If they make demands on the EELVs they will have the strong opposition of all of us who want national security to trump Exploration Directorate irrationality.

    Astronauts must be willing to take big risks and if they don’t like that they should stay on earth and star in video games instead. And if astronaut fans don’t like it they should turn off the NASA Channel and play those video games. Its not PC for them to say, but the Pentagon is sick and tired of astronaut fans interfering with our national security and I fully share their disgust.

  • I agree that NASA should not be allowed to demand any changes to the EELVs for reliability improvement,, and that whether or not to continue flying in the sake of an accident should not be NASA’s to make (other than whether or not they’re willing to risk their own payloads and personnel). They will require FOSD, though. I suppose that it could be a “kit” or “factory option” only for crewed flights. I don’t see why maintaining such rules should be difficult.

  • That should have been “in the wake of an accident…”

  • googaw

    In theory it would be very nice if the EELVs got more NASA business and SpaceX got more DoD business, as this would greatly reduce the monopsony DoD exercises over the the EELVs and the growing monopsony of NASA over Falcon and Taurus II. In practice, though, astronaut politics has to change radically if we are to avoid NASA (and Congressmen and astronaut fans) demanding changes to EELVs for safety purposes, especially in the event that astronauts are killed on an EELV.

    Rand, it’s easy enough for you and I to agree that the firewall should remain in place, but how do convince aggrieved families and fellow astronauts and their grieving fans that this firewall must remain in the event astronauts are killed? The irrational reality is that astronaut deaths become spasms of national weeping and gnashing of teeth and persecution of scapegoats, and all other considerations be damned. We can’t afford to let national security come anywhere near this process.

  • Frank

    Couldn’t they start a parallel production line for the EELV parts that are to be used for manned flights?
    Just like there are standard cars and special editions with extra’s / alternatives not available in the standard model.
    Why build a human rated EELV for a cargo flight?

  • googaw

    BTW, I’d like to extend and revise my earlier proposal of having a separate organization to make (or as Rand suggests customize) and operate EELVs for the Exploration Directorate. It should also be a completely new brand. Leave “Atlas” and “Delta” for naming the unmanned EELV launches and come up with something completely different for the manned EELV.

    While we’re at it, the new company should be participating via a COTS-like Commercial Crew rather than via traditional contracting.

    A new company with a new brand may sound silly, but astronaut politics is silly. A new brand will help maintain a firewall, a line that shall not and need not be crossed, in political perception between the DoD’s EELVs and the Exploration Directorate’s rockets. Having a new company also can create a legal firewall. I don’t know if this is sufficient to satisfy the risks of Exploration Directorate politics to national security, but something like it does seem necessary.

  • googaw

    Frank:
    Why build a human rated EELV for a cargo flight?

    NASA also has safety requirements for the cargo vehicles because they dock to the ISS and astronauts enter them to unload cargo. Another difference from normal satellites is that they can carry live cargo, e.g. experimental animals.

    BTW, we don’t need any more cargo vehicles — we already have the Japanese H-II, the European ATV, the Russian Progress, and soon probably Dragon and Cygnus. The real issue as far as Exploration Directorate is concerned is Commercial Crew.

  • We have to be pro-active in changing this foolish safety mindset on the part of the public. As I wrote a few weeks ago:

    If our attitude toward the space frontier is that we must strive to never, ever lose anyone, it will remain closed. If our ancestors who opened the west, or who came from Europe, had such an attitude, we would still be over there, and there would have been no California space industry to get us to the moon forty years ago. It has never been “safe” to open a frontier, and this frontier is the harshest one that we’ve ever faced. But, fortunately, we have sufficiently advanced technology to allow us to do it anyway, and probably with much less loss of life than any previous one. But people die every day doing a lot less worthwhile things than opening a frontier. I think that part of the angst of the nation over the loss of the Columbia astronauts was because they seemed to be dying in such a trivial pursuit—performing science experiments in low Earth orbit for children, rather than expanding our nation’s reach to the solar system.

    A frequent commenter on my blog has suggested that to avoid future national sob parties, such as occurred after Challenger and Columbia, we should set aside a special cemetery like Arlington, in a well-publicized ceremony, and declare that this is where all those who lose their lives in our planned opening of the solar system will be laid to rest. There is in fact an astronaut memorial mirror at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center, with the names of those lost so far, and plenty of squares for more. A visionary president would point that out with the announcement of the new policy.

    Don’t hold your breath, though.

  • googaw

    Perhaps I misread Frank’s question and his “cargo” refers to normal satellites rather than ISS cargo. I certainly agree with Rand’s proposal that NASA’s EELV be a customization that does not directly impact the design of EELVs built for the DoD. This is necessary, but is it sufficient?

    If we are to get the cost savings from sharing EELVs they have to share almost all their parts. Building new tools and factories just to make the same parts for NASA EELVs would be extremely expensive (and the Pentagon fears that politicians will demand that it shoulder much of these costs for NASA).

    The problem is that in the event of astronaut deaths (or in anticipation to try prevent them), Symbolic Safety Syndrome will impose requirements over the entire vehicle, not just customized mods to the unmanned vehicle. With almost mostly shared parts the kind of flaw that is most likely to kill an astronaut is not the customization but a shared EELV part or process. When this happens the political pressure to find scapegoats, for commissions to recommend overhauling the entire EELV program, to shut down the entire EELV assembly line until the problems are fixed, and so on will be overwhelming. As with the Challenger disaster this will have severe impacts on national security but as then, national security be damned, we have to save our precious astronauts. The Pentagon wants to steer very far from this kind of risk.

  • Robert G. Oler

    GuessWho wrote @ March 14th, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Oler? – I can always tell when you have no rational argument. Out comes the Iraq/Bush/Afland rant right on cue. Just LOL. This debate is obviously over…

    the debate was over with the content of your first reply (a little humor)…

    but I will say this about the Iraq comparison.

    There have been others in American history and some in the last 10 years..but for “misstating” and “purposely” misleading by statements the Iraq war takes the first prize.

    What the “double” charge does is precisely in that light. It is at best a “guess” masquerading as the truth and stated as that…with some qualifiers that allow the person who said it later, if what he/she said turned out not to be accurate the same thing every Bush toady says about Iraq “we did not state (this or that) as a fact”.

    It is about like you coming to my house to buy my VW (which is not for sale BTW) and me hawking it to you as “almost new”. Instead of using the qualifier which actually describes it “used”, “almost new” tries to make it something it isnt….with just enough out to later say “I didnt say it was new”.

    The argument/exchange whatever was over the moment no one supporting GP’s position could explain 1) what he meant and 2) where he got the data from.

    and nothing you babble is going to change that.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://selenianboondocks.com/2010/03/visit-to-spacex/

    this is a very good read…well written and informative.

    key paragraph (in my view)

    “I looked around at the employees that would walk by. Almost all of them were younger than me (35) and I couldn’t help but contrast that with the demographics I experience at NASA, where I’m practically a baby compared to my co-workers, most of whom are in their 50s and 60s.

    There was an excitement and buzz in the air at the SpaceX facility. People are designing, building, and testing rockets. They’re going to launch soon. And I think they’re going to succeed. Even if it doesn’t happen at first–I think they’re going to succeed.”

    honest to The Creator…as oppossed to the “save our jobs” crowd it is refreshing..

    Robert G. Oler

  • danwithaplan

    “…There was an excitement and buzz in the air at the SpaceX facility. People are designing, building, and testing rockets. They’re going to launch soon. And I think they’re going to succeed. Even if it doesn’t happen at first–I think they’re going to succeed”

    Big deal, I’ve seen it at other outfits. Including LM and Bo during the OSP years. ATK or USA, ULA during Constellation.

    To cash in on the NASA’s dollars. Like many have before.

    What is different with this company (SpaceX)? That still has no HSF customers other than NASA? Why this affliction with a single *LAUNCH* company from the New Space cheerleaders?

  • Robert G. Oler

    danwithaplan wrote @ March 14th, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    What is different with this company (SpaceX)? ..

    SpaceX has a plan to make money from sources which are not government. ATK has been dead in terms of capitalism for a long time

    Robert G. Oler

  • googaw

    SpaceX has a plan to make money from sources which are not government.

    Two bucks and dreams of privatizing HSF will buy you a latte at Starbuck’s. After decades of such plans the HSF “market” is still over 99% funded by government space agencies. Not by other government agencies using space for useful things, but by the space agencies themselves, astronauts for the sake of astronauts.

    We can’t privatize an economic fantasy. We can only shut it down when people become tired of subsidizing it.

    Commercial satellite launches from Falcon are a better matter. SpaceX could survive as a satellite launcher albeit with much lower revenue and profits than to be had from COTS and CRS. Uncle Sugar is such a sweet source of revenue that SpaceX has a financial incentive to neglect its private customers in order to focus on its dominant one.

    Nevertheless, I am a big fan of SpaceX’s quasi-BDB approach and I wish them great success.

  • Ok… googaw, we’ve already had the argument over the commercial market for HSF.. Rather than just go and cut and paste my argument over, I’m going to acknowledge that you actually made some good points. But you missed what some would say is a good thing and others would say is a bad thing: Elon Musk is a little crazy. I for one like his style. There’s something awesome about honestly believing people are willing to pay their life’s savings for a one-way ticket to Mars.. and actually say that on stage with a straight face.

  • Let’s do the math shall we.

    COTS: $3.5 Billion delivering 40mT to ISS – Cargo only= $87,500/kg

    Shuttle (4 Flights/year): $2.4 Billion delivering 64mT to of cargo to ISS ‘plus’ crew rotation at ‘no’ extra charge = $37,500/kg

    Shuttle (2 Flights/year): $2.0 Billion delivering 32mT of cargo to ISS ‘plus’ crew rotation at ‘no’ extra charge = $62,500/kg

    I thought COTS was supposed to save us money vs the Space Shuttle?

    Any guesses as to how much lower the $/kg number gets vs COTS under a SDHLV Jupiter/Orion scenario? Hint it’s at least four times lower than COTS with a full crew rotation and large volume heavy-lift beyond Earth capability thrown in at no extra charge.

    So just when is it that the ‘alt’ space lobbyists say we are supposed to be saving all this money with COTS again?

  • Frank

    Stephen,

    A question in return:
    The Direct plans were presented to the Augustine committee and NASA. Why were they not convinced?

  • Counter Culture

    We’re saving ‘development costs’ while developing real commercial space infrastructure, Stephan. Direct is just Ares warmed over, still way too costly with no discernible real term market., and it will stifle the commercial sector.

    And Elon Musk is putting his own money down for his own round trip flight to Mars; his commercial space launch business is designed to support the large development costs for that personal goal. Surely he’s not betting on commercial Mars flights in the foreseeable future.

    You guys need to learn how to think critically, because spin is failing you.

  • Frank, DIRECT (SDHLV) was represented in 2 of the 5 viable options, Option 4B and 5C.

    In addition, the Commission found only one option that could eliminate the gap (i.e. option 4B, STS Extension + SDHLV). Option 4B is also the one favored by Congress based on the recent authorization bill.

    Ironically, the Alan Ladwig plan isn’t even among the Augustine options. All Augustine options shared the elimination of Ares-1, Commercial Space, and Advanced Technology. All options also began the construction of a Heavy Lift Vehicle now. It was only a question of which flavor, Ares, EELV, or SDHLV and whether the destination should be the Moon or Flexible path.

  • Frank

    Thanks for the information Stephen,

    I’m going to read the Augustine review report once more.

  • googaw

    Stephen deftly switches from a multi-year total figure for COTS to a per-year figure for Shuttle.

    The problem here is that $2 billion per year (which sounds to me like a big underestimate to get the Shuttle lines restarted, but let’s buy it for now) is far too much to be spending just for transport to and from the ISS. The ISS is a white elephant and we don’t need nearly that much transportation for it. (Constellation fans admitted as much when they decided to let the ISS fall into the Pacific in 2016). So the Shuttle would be mostly filled with payload that we can’t afford to fly — or to put it another way, it would make much more sense to fly other payload to other places on other rockets, or to do technology research, or to reduce the deficit to help maintain the U.S.’s AAA rating (which Moody’s has warned could be cut for the first time in history) with that $2+ billion per year.

    Even COTS/CRS is being overfunded in this regard. We already have the Japanese HTV and the European ATV to get cargo to the ISS. We could extend the crew stays, reduce crew sizes, and substantially reduce the upmass needed to maintain the ISS and perform the experiments on which so much hype was once expended.

  • common sense

    “What is different with this company (SpaceX)? That still has no HSF customers other than NASA? Why this affliction with a single *LAUNCH* company from the New Space cheerleaders?”

    They do not hire whiners and complainers. Only people who want to do the job and make things happen quickly under tremedous pressure. Unlike the Alabama support crowd.

  • Googaw, I suggest you read the GAO reports produced in June and November 2009.

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=33078

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=31529

    Then get back to me on how we are to support the ISS if ‘both’ SpaceX and Orbital don’t show up on time? The ability to speed up ATV and HTV was also study by the Augustine commission and found not to work within the near term, i.e. the next two years.

    Also bear in mind that the new Presidential policy (one that is also supported by Congress) is to ‘increase’ the utilization of the ISS plus ‘extend’ its life 2020. Both of which significantly increase the ISS logistics requirement immediately beyond the 80mT assumed in the GAO report which was based on 50% utilization and no life extension.

  • Common Sense, no instead of complaining they hire lobbyist that managed convinced everyone (included a few smart people) that paying $87,500/kg (COTS-CRS) is somehow less expensive than $37,500/kg (STS) (which also included a crew rotation at no extra charge).

    From what the Russian’s looked poised to charge America, that represents an $80 million dollar value per seat or almost half a billion dollars for six seats rotations a year for America and the International partners we are committed to provide ISS access for. Yep, no STS extension and destroying the SDHLV workforce and infrastructure just keeps getting better and better.

    Leave it to the beltway bandits to convince our elected representatives that it’s a ‘good’ idea to replace something that is already too expensive with something that is even more expensive with a lesser strategic value. And to think all we need to do in order to achieve this better deal is to destroy $40 Billion dollars worth of proven HLV infrastructure and hardware and layoff 23,000 experienced people. Still not convinced this is great deal? Why not throw in the fact that we can’t utilize the $100 billion dollar ISS at even a 50% until the ‘both’ SpaceX and Orbital achieve their CRS contract obligations.

    Meanwhile a solution that maximizes the utilization of the ISS, increase the payload delivery four fold over STS, for lower operational cost than STS, that also so happens to increase crew safety ten fold over STS, produces a high volume heavy lift launch system unequaled in the world with a beyond Earth orbit spacecraft (what VSE was all about BTW not CRS to ISS), is somehow cast as the bad idea waste of money.

    By all means don’t let the facts above get in the way of what you believe.

  • common sense

    @Stephen Metschan:

    So what, they may hire lobbyist? What is wrong with that? Please tell others don’t. Tell me further that if DIRECT could afford it they would not. These are the rules established in our country/govt to do business. You, others, don’t like them, think about it next time you vote. Now, my remark was directed towards you but rather towards the Constellation huggers who don’t lack any lobbyists even government officials (outrageous!) going way out of line to defend their businesses: Coats, Shannon and now Payton that I found out about. We’ll see how many more will come to light. I am not going to cut them any slack sorry.

    My real issue with you guys at DIRECT are 2 fold: You did not show, or not well enough, how your system is differnt in terms of cost from that of the Ares brotherhood. And I am not talking about parts and pieces but rather workforce. Second, you (seem to) insist on having a crewed version. I already told you that I have issues with your escape scenarios. And it’d help make your case to show that you can actually run safe aborts. Until I see this I say the crewed version is not safe. No more than Ares I.

    “And to think all we need to do in order to achieve this better deal is to destroy $40 Billion dollars worth of proven HLV infrastructure and hardware and layoff 23,000 experienced people. ”

    This is preecisely what is holding you all back with Shuttle derived haardware. As in any market there is bound to be correction(s). Today is one in terms of workforce. One would have hoped it be done by attrition which the Constellation program was supposed to do. It did not happen. Too bad. Go blame those people who put us there. The new plan is about trying something new. And it is not going to be business as usual. It could have been they messed up it won’t be.

    I don’t “believe”. I know. I know your approach is too expensive, maybe better than Ares but still too expensive. You should have lobbied harder at the time of ESAS. Opportunities come and go… Sorry.

  • common sense

    Edit: “my remark was NOT directed towards you”

  • Common Sense, The simple fact is that the STS is less expensive than COTS-CRS and we need the additional up mass in order to achieve the new life and utilization targets within the President’s own plan. If we intend to starve the ISS of needed supplies then we also need to reduce ISS research spending not increase it as well. We have serious policy mismatch at present.

    The arguments against STS extension are built on three suppositions that clearly false.

    Supposition 1) STS is more expensive than COTS-CRS – False for just the value of ISS cargo delivery alone let alone crew rotation, oversized cargo and downmass.

    Supposition 2) We don’t need the additive capability of STS Cargo and Crew – False see above plus read the GAO reports of June and November 2009.

    Supposition 3) We will have a gap due to ‘new’ tank manufacturing anyway. The key word in John Shannon’s statement is ‘new’. We have the enough spare parts to begin construction of three tanks right now. This when combined with a slow down to 2 flights per year more than covers the gap.

    Concerning PoR lobbyist and Griffin apologists, they unfortunately (for America) seem to be poised to reap what they have sown. After all it was less than three years ago that this cabal manufactured from whole cloth the false claim in front of Congress that the Jupiter voliated the laws of physics. Unfortunately the SBU portion of the ESAS (appendix 6a) said otherwise. Yet another inconvenient fact of how we arrived at this point in time. A law may have been violated but it sure wasn’t one based on physics.

    And for the record we lobby before, during and after ESAS, I still have the PowerPoint I showed at the NASA-HQ meetings in 2004 and 2005. Bottom-line: if it didn’t ‘require’ the Ares-1 it was DOA. The EELV guys received the same message for the same silly reasons. Personally I always liked the joint EELV/SDHLV approach we promoted back in 2004. They really worked well together. In fact they worked so well they can still beat the PoR even today. What an opportunity lost. Imagine where we would be today.

    I’ll address Jupiter/Orion safety next after your response to the above.

  • common sense

    “The arguments against STS extension are built on three suppositions that clearly false.”

    See here is my problem with that. When the decision was made back in 2004 no one complained: They were going to move to Constellation afterward, right? It is somehow very arrogant to think that Constellation could not fail. It did and not even with a bang but financially, so far. I am against STS extension because the vehicle is not safe enough and an accident would definitely cripple HSF for years if not decades. I oppose it because today it sounds like political maneuvering against the current NASA plan. I don’t even care it can be done. I don’t want it to be done.

    “And for the record we lobby before, during and after ESAS, I still have the PowerPoint I showed at the NASA-HQ meetings in 2004 and 2005.”

    I thought you were criticizing SpaceX for lobbying in your earlier post??? Anyway.

    “Personally I always liked the joint EELV/SDHLV approach we promoted back in 2004. ”

    I believe the contractors’ bid on Phase 1 CEV were along those lines too. As I often said, what could have been… Oh well. I don’t just imagine, I know very well where the whole thing might have been. In my eyes now there is just no or very little trust in this whole system. COTS is the “future”. If I were you btw, since I do believe ther is a good chance (justified by politics mind you) for a SD-HLV, I would lobby for the HLV and make friends with the COTS/CCDev providers. Just a thought. Better to join forces than not. And your “fight” against the commercial is pointless. Be smart and move on! You may have another opportunity but if you go against commercial I think you’re toast. My opinion only.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ March 15th, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    The arguments against STS extension are built on three suppositions that clearly false….

    no…you are masquerading assertion as evidence for truth

    1) STS is more expensive than COTS-CRS – ..

    it is. According to John Shannon on this forum the shuttle takes 200 million a month if it does not fly. that doesnt include the dollars to fly it. Just take the 200 million a month. Even if a crew or resupply module and its launcher cost 200 a launch…we get 12 of them for the price of just having the folks on the shuttle workforce sit around and surf the net.

    It is a Hubble proposition. Hubble has cost about 5 billion dollars once one factors in STS servicing…a LOT of earth and space based astronomy could have been done for that.

    There is no evidence that “downmass” is all that important…none

    2 falls as soon as the fallacy of 1 is recognized

    3 makes the shuttle system even more expensive then it is now.

    Sorry there is no good reason to fly Shuttle anymore…and it wont…it is going to die. embrace the death panels.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ March 15th, 2010 at 3:09 pm
    And to think all we need to do in order to achieve this better deal is to destroy $40 Billion dollars worth of proven HLV infrastructure and hardware and layoff 23,000 experienced people…;

    now you are getting the picture.

    First off 23,000 people to do ANYTHING is just to many people…particularly when it involves launching less then 10 people into orbit. The Pharaohs had that teeth to tail ration.

    23K is where the cost are…to be competitive human spaceflight has to drop to a ratio of operation somewhere near what a commercial or military plane has…and there is no reason that it cannot “get there”…and a good start is to drop it to under oh 2300!

    What I find amazing about the “DIRECT” people is this.

    They save the most expensive infrastructure in the world (the shuttle system), try and use that infrastructure in a manner that it was never designed for…and somehow think that they are going to control cost…particularly when the big cost risers…are the infrastructure.

    And then you want to fly that infrastructure into the next 20 years…that dates back to 1970?

    there is nothing “simpler,safer or sooner” about DIRECT…it is another shuttle dead end.

    The future is coming…dont be its enemy

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “The simple fact is that the STS is less expensive than COTS-CRS… paying $87,500/kg (COTS-CRS) is somehow less expensive than $37,500/kg (STS)”

    On a per unit of payload basis, maybe, and that assumption is sorely tested by the fact that the Shuttle program can no longer be extended, only restarted in two to three years. Before first flight, we’re looking at a cost of $4.1B ($170M carrying cost per month over two years, per Shannon’s lower-bound per-month estimate) to $8.6B ($240M carry cost per month over three years, per Shannon’s higher-bound per-month estimate and Radzanowski’s three-year estimate), which will do great damage to Shuttle’s cost per unit of payload, even if amortized over a handful of flights over the few years following restart.

    On an absolute cost basis, this is not true. The $3.5 billion in total CRS awards through 2016 to SpaceX and OSC are much less than two years of Shuttle carrying costs ($4.8B to $5.8B) while waiting to restart Shuttle operations and considerably less than one year of Shuttle operations (~$4B to $5B) prior to current drawdown. Although there is no doubt that the CRS vehicles are less capable than the Shuttle, NASA can buy several years of ISS resupply via CRS versus one year of ISS resupply via Shuttle. Within a relatively fixed NASA budget and especially when we’re trying to do other things with that fixed budget besides resupply the ISS, absolute costs are much more important than the cost per unit of payload.

    Even if one argues that CRS resupply is inadequate to support ISS research, the cost of adding another CRS flight is probably a rough wash with the marginal cost of an additional Shuttle flight. And if the flights are added onto the end of the CRS contract/Shuttle program, the marginal cost of a CRS flight wins hands down over the cost of extending the Shuttle program another couple months.

    Finally, even if the costs were exactly the same, when one considers the Columbia experience, having a couple domestic ISS resupply (and/or crew transport) providers is preferable to relying on one domestic source of ISS transport.

    “… destroy $40 Billion dollars worth of proven HLV infrastructure and hardware and layoff 23,000 experienced people”

    Unfortunately, that HLV infrastructure and workforce is not terribly efficient, and even if it was, it’s costs are carried by NASA alone. Per the Augustine report:

    “The Committee used the EELV heritage super-heavy vehicle to investigate the possibility of an essentially commercial acquisition of the required heavy launch capability by a small NASA organization similar to a system program office in the Department of Defense. It would eliminate somewhat the historic carrying cost of many Apollo- and Shuttle-era facilities and systems. This creates the possibility of substantially reduced operating costs, which may ultimately allow NASA to escape its conundrum
    of not having sufficient resources to both operate existing systems and build a new one.”

    Within modern budget levels, NASA hasn’t been able to both retain the old Apollo/Shuttle infrastructure/workforce and also undertake the development of new exploration systems (in-space, landers, etc.). Unless NASA sheds that Apollo/Shuttle infrastructure/workforce and leverages the launch infrastructure/workforce that the other space sectors (U.S. military and commercial) use, it’s not clear that will change in the future (absent another externally driven, Apollo-like budget ramp-up).

    “Personally I always liked the joint EELV/SDHLV approach we promoted back in 2004.”

    I’d also note that baselining Orion for ISS crew transport, whether on EELV or a SDHLV, is also, per Augustine, a very expensive way to go.

    There is no doubt in my mind that the options developed by the DIRECT/Jupiter team were vastly superior to Constellation, if for no other reason than they didn’t waste billions of dollars and several valuable years trying to very poorly replicate an intermediate-lift capability that the nation already has in spades. But reading the Augustine report and thinking through the history of Shuttle, NLS, SEI, and now Constellation, I have considerable doubts that it would have been efficient enough to free up the resources necessary to enable a sustainable civil human space exploration program. Although the (mostly) NASA team that put DIRECT/Jupiter together at some risk to their own careers should be commended for their efforts, an exploration solution with the necessary efficiencies likely requires the NASA workforce to take itself out of the equation. (Apologies if that sounds cold-hearted.)

    My 2 cents, of course. FWIW…

  • common sense

    @Robert:

    Justified or not I think that the SD-HLV crowd may have yet another chance (!) for purely political reason (sigh) and I have said so in numerous posts. It all depends on the likes of Nelson, much more so than Shelby. I think Shelby is toast: Billions of dollars and no show! Goes to tell you how his State is using federal money. But Nelson is flip-floping all the time and seems to have the WH ears some how. I wonder why but hey… If he has enough push and the KBH bill may help him as weird as it may sound they may go for a SD HLV. They won’t be able to revive Shuttle. Too late. Ares is a dead end. But wow! Suddenly some one is going to say: Here is the savior: DIRECT. It preserves the Shuttle workforce for a while and is on the path to an HLV. BEO is saved along with the workforce! Hooray! Then the years are going to go by, attrition will take its toll. By the time NASA is done fooling around and the employees have retired, if there a need for an HLV, and this last one is not operational, then the privates will make one. Face is saved and COTS efficiency further demonstrated: We had to make sure blahblahblah. See what I mean?

    So SD HLV? Very, very possible. How? DIRECT goes to say they support commercial crew and have a cheaper more direct solution to HLV than Ares V. Then they will get something. Sidemount? Nah, yuk!

    Politics, politics…

  • common sense

    http://nasawatch.com/

    “Keith’s 15 Mar update: Sources now report that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has become personally involved in some of the discussions related to this Space Summit”

    See? Compromise may be coming…

    Oh well…

  • Major Tom, an altered repost of the above but I’d like your comments,

    COTS: $3.5 Billion delivering 40mT to ISS – Cargo only= $87,500/kg

    Shuttle (4 Flights/year): $2.4 Billion delivering 64mT to of cargo to ISS ‘plus’ crew rotation at ‘no’ extra charge = $37,500/kg

    Shuttle (2 Flights/year): $2.0 Billion delivering 32mT of cargo to ISS ‘plus’ crew rotation at ‘no’ extra charge = $62,500/kg

    I thought COTS was supposed to save us money vs the Space Shuttle?

    Any guesses as to how much lower the $/kg number gets vs COTS under a SDHLV Jupiter/Orion scenario? Hint it’s at least four times lower than COTS with a full crew rotation and large volume heavy-lift beyond Earth capability thrown in at no extra charge. What is one fourth of $37,500/kg? (ie Four Jupiter/Orion flights per year assuming ‘no’ cost reduction from STS).

    Concerning an STS extension providing too much up mass, what is your take on the GAO reports produced in June and November 2009?

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=33078

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=31529

    How we are to support the ISS if ‘both’ SpaceX and Orbital don’t show up on time? The ability to speed up ATV and HTV was also study by the Augustine commission and found not to work within the near term, i.e. the next two years.

    Also bear in mind that the new Presidential policy (one that is also supported by Congress) is to ‘increase’ the utilization of the ISS plus ‘extend’ its life 2020. Both of which significantly increase the ISS logistics requirement immediately beyond the 80mT assumed in the GAO report which was based on 50% utilization and no life extension.

    STS extension will not result in any gap. We have the spare parts for three new tanks right now which can get under way right now. Add to that a stretch of the existing schedule (either by design or due to facts on the ground, ie AMS delay, roll backs from problem parts, Hurricanes etc.) plus converting the LON mission to flight mission and bang even a two year gap goes away. My hope is that we wouldn’t need the additional missions beyond what we can pull together right now since we should be up and running on Jupiter test flights in the FY13 time frame if we use STS flight boxes (ie the tent pole in the Jupiter schedule is software and electronics, not engines and hardware). But it’s nice to know we could extended STS if we needed to beyond FY12 or when COTS is able to support ISS. Besides we need to use a few of the Russian seats we already paid for anyway :)

    We can do this because Jupiter and STS tanks can be processed on the same line, ditto for SRB, engines, transport, launch infrastructure and workforce experience. STS gets one bay and launch pad and Jupiter gets the other.

    Option 4B has a number of advantages.

  • red

    Stephen Metschan: “I thought COTS was supposed to save us money vs the Space Shuttle?

    Any guesses as to how much lower the $/kg number gets vs COTS under a SDHLV Jupiter/Orion scenario?”

    As others have noted, your comparison is of multiple COTS years vs. single Shuttle years. Let’s say the COTS figure is for 4 years of service (I don’t recall how long it really is, so this is just an example). That’s $3.5B for those 4 years. The comparable Shuttle costs over 4 years of service would be $9.6B and $8B for your 2 options. The Shuttle delivers more payload, but perhaps exceeds what ISS actually needs. That’s setting aside whatever the costs are for restarting Shuttle production lines.

    Jupiter/Orion is a different scenario, but that scenario comes with a long development time and substantial costs. You can’t just ignore those costs. It’s not clear to me that this option is affordable at all, given that we don’t have the big budget boost envisioned in the more ambitious Augustine options. We seem to be in a sort of hybrid between “ISS Focused” and “Flexible Path with EELV-derived HLV”, based on the NASA’s funding boost that wasn’t up to Augustine’s $3B, especially considering that some funds went to non-HSF accounts.

    I looked at your budget spreadsheet that showed how we might be able to afford DIRECT in your recent Space Review article. I made a comment on the Space Review article page because I had a number of questions on how much was taken out of certain accounts. I’m not convinced that the spreadsheet is realistic, but it would be interesting to hear your point of view on it. I had to make some assumptions on what you were thinking when making the spreadsheet.

    Given the tight NASA budget, I wonder how such a budget would compare to one that tries to extend the Shuttle (like yours), and at least attempts to keep the key 2011 budget items somewhat intact (like yours), but then switches to a minimum-cost SD-HLV, like a block 1 side-mount with no intention of ever making it support crew launches. If the NASA budget doesn’t support DIRECT, but does support that with some compromises all around, maybe that could let you meet some of your goals, at least.

    Getting back to the COTS cargo/Shuttle comparison, COTS cargo also brings other benefits. We might get some non-NASA business activity, which will be good for our economy and space capabilities. Taurus II and Falcon 9 will be available for other NASA (and other government) missions, too. It’s not clear how quickly Falcon 9 would be going without COTS cargo. The commercial crew funding might present us with different ISS cargo options, too. It will be interesting to see, for example, what SpaceX or Orbital ISS cargo costs will be once the development phase has been paid off, once those vendors start getting non-NASA business for those services, and once they have competition from commercial crew vendors (if different from SpaceX and Orbital). I guess we’ll have to wait for the next cargo service round to find out.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ March 15th, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Any guesses as to how much lower the $/kg number gets vs COTS under a SDHLV Jupiter/Orion scenario? Hint it’s at least four times lower than COTS with a full crew rotation and large volume heavy-lift beyond Earth capability thrown in at no extra charge.

    ridiculous

    you have no idea how much a “jupiter/Orion scenario” cost. none…because it is a photoshop rocket/capsule combination. You have no idea what the development cost of the rocket are, you have no idea what the ops cost are (but they are going to be high with shuttle hardware)…

    all you are trying to do is a Charlie Precourt on tossing out a lot of stats and hoping that people get confused.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ March 15th, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    @Robert:

    Justified or not I think that the SD-HLV crowd may have yet another chance (!) for purely political reason (sigh) and I have said so in numerous posts…

    my guess is not particularly, if the White House COS has come into the arena.

    There are three realities here.

    First the “revolt of the porkers” has not spread past the pork barrel groups. It just has not. The porkers have tried everything but saying the future of The Republic depends on it (oh wait Spudis and Whittington tried that)…and nothing is really pushing out.

    Second…the cost are extremly high to continue shuttle and shuttle infrastructure…and they are just to high. Americans dont like people losing their jobs but they also dont like jobs that just take to much money to maintain…the word that it takes 200 million to simply pay the shuttle workforce…and the thought that it would take about 2.5 billion to fly two missions (that is what KBH was told today) a year after they crank back up production is just to much.

    “DIRECT” Jupiter whatever one wants to call it is a paper (or photoshop) rocket. The cost to develop it would be as high or higher then Ares no matter what all the “shadetree” folks say …and then there is three.

    3…most Americans just dont care. The people who claim that Americans do care about going back to the Moon, dont live in the real world…

    In the end Nelson might get his last shuttle mission, there are going to be a couple of studies that are going to doom Ares and Shuttle and then its layoff time.

    Space junkies need to study Obama and his health care program…he is going to get exactly what he wants. He iis going to do that on Space as well.

    Robert G. Oler

  • red

    Here’s my amateur version of a “lowest-cost” extended Shuttle and SD-HLV option, from 2011-2015.

    $170M/per month for lowest-cost Shuttle extension (single Shuttle) * 60 months = $10.2B

    Shannon’s Block 1 side-mount using Shuttle components (presumably plenty available with Shuttle extension): $2.6B from 2011-2015

    That’s $12.8B total for minimal Shuttle extension and minimal side-mount.

    This doesn’t include crew support, additional mass per launch, etc. It doesn’t include Orion, or any other payload for that matter. Presumably some affordable payload could be found based on other NASA directorates, international partners, etc.

    For comparison, the DIRECT “NASA Compromise Budget” includes a line “Shuttle Derived Heavy-Lift and Beyond Earth Spacecraft Development and Operations”: $14.8B from 2011-2015. Could the rocket and the spacecraft be done on this budget? I don’t know; I’ll set that discussion aside. The DIRECT budget also includes a line “Space Shuttle (4 Additional ISS Life Extension Missions)” – $6.25B. That’s $21B total for these 2 items.

    I’m going to try to gather $12.8B from the 2011 NASA budget as a “Compromise Budget”, using what I think are very optimistic assumptions and very aggressive compromises, some of which I wouldn’t choose to make:

    In billions:

    $0.6 – Space Shuttle Contingency
    $1.5B – 21st Centure Space Launch Complex – This leaves $400M+ for commercial enhancements at KSC and/or Canaveral, but leaves KSC generally on its current path.
    $3.0B – Heavy Lift and Propulsion Technology – This eliminates this line almost entirely in favor of side-mount.
    $1.5B – This is extracted from the Constellation closeout costs, on the assumption that switching to the side-mount won’t require certain “wasted” transition expenditures.
    $1.6B – This is about a 10% cut out of Cross Agency Support. I’m going to justify this by noting that Innovative Partnerships was taken out of Cross-Agency Support without a corresponding dip in that budget in 2011 (IPP is in “Agency Management and Operations”, and that took a $100M loss, not close to IPP’s $175M), by noting that “Center Institutional Capabilities” got a big boost in 2011 (over 10%), by supposing that many of the new programs will require less Cross-Agency Support (eg: additional commercial cargo, commercial crew, and commercial technology developments and demonstrations should require less oversight and NASA infrastructure support like IT if they simply involve buying commercial services or commercial partnerships where the commercial side has “skin in the game” and thus presumably self-motivation), and simply noting that “desperate times call for desperate measures”.
    $1.8B – This comes from cutting at the heart of the 2011 budget: 10% off of each of the following items:
    Exploration Technology Demonstrations ($7.8B), Robotic Precursor Missions ($3B), Space Technology ($5B), and ISS Increase ($2B)

    That brings the total to $10B or so. That’s pretty far short of $12.8B, let alone $14.8B. It seems that a budget increase would be needed, or sacrifices in the 2011 budget that go too deep. If $12.8B for minimal Shuttle extension and side-mount doesn’t work with the current budget in a reasonable compromise, I’m not sure how the DIRECT $21B would work.

  • Stephen,
    I’m somewhat amused by your arguments. First off, the 40mT CRS delivery number was the *minimum* delivery amount to capture the full value of the contract. SpaceX was awarded an IDIQ for up to 12 Dragon flights. Each Dragon flight carries up to 6000kg at a price of ~$130M, or a price per kg of $22,170/kg…which is several times better than shuttle. [Admittedly, Orbital is a quite a bit more expensive per pound pretty close to your $90k/kg number].

    Second, and more importantly, the feedback I got from most ISS researchers I spoke with was that they wanted *more* frequent *smaller* deliveries instead of big once or twice a year deliveries. Trying to do research when you can only access your facility once or twice a year is insane. Sure, if you can somehow predict everything ISS will need for the next six years, you could almost get a better deal by stretching shuttle out a bit…but that’s not how reality works.

    Also, the finishing costs for just Orion are more than the cost of extending CRS out into the 2020s…I have a hard time believing that somehow DIRECT plus Orion (made by the same NASA centers who brought us the Ares-I debacle) is going to be cost competitive for cargo delivery to the station, or even crew delivery for that matter.

    You can make arguments that DIRECT is better for keeping the existing NASA workforce employed. But overall, I’m with Major Tom and red. DIRECT may be a much less crappy approach than the PoR, but it still just doesn’t make sense in the budgetary environment we’re looking at.

    ~Jon

  • Robert G Oler, get help, the sooner the better. Reading like Math is fundamental.

    Jonathan, usually you are right on the money, but not this time. Please download the GAO reports from the links below and get back to me. Until then my point stands COTS-CRS is significantly late and much more expensive than STS extension regardless. Besides the ISS needs the extra support in FY11 and FY12 time frames anyway due to the serious delays virtually guaranteed by Orbital even if SpaceX gets ‘back’ on schedule at this point in combination with the President’s new plan to ‘fully’ utilize the ISS (note GAO assumes only 50% utilization from the Griffin era of who cares about ISS). Regardless this minor STS extension will give a good stock up push to enable the 100% utilization of ISS thru the COTS only bottleneck before the Jupiter/Orion is online. Unless what the GAO calls a mT isn’t equal to 1,000 kg or a Billion dollars isn’t equal to 1,000 million dollars.

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=33078

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=31529

    Elon is not coming on cloud to save us all from the evil government contractors. Sorry to burst your bubble but using fifty year old technology featuring better mood lighting, lower performance and at a higher cost than what we can buy from Russia today isn’t going to save the day. If Elon had invented a truly new form of propulsion it would be different but this is not the case. This is why I strongly support the ‘true’ research in the President’s plan starved out of existence by Mike’s Apollo on steroids PoR. But, please do not confuse these warmed over fifties tech Kero/LOX engines of COTS or what is called ‘heavy-lift’ research put in by Alan in a vain attempt to placate MSFC as ‘advanced’ technology. If we are going to advance something then advance it, don’t mess around at the edges. Until then I suggest that we use what is paid for, available and works vs. wishful thinking based on caviar dreams of the rich and famous.

    Red, send me your email at stephen.metschan@teamvisioninc.com and I’ll send you the latest round of the detailed compromise budget that attempts to thread the policy/politics/budget needle. No small accomplishment I might add.

    All, the Jupiter/Orion systems will be ‘at least’ ¼ the cost of STS on a $/kg basis based solely on removing the dead weight and cost of the Orbiter so let the bidding begin post STS and COTS phase 1 (2010-2015). The starting bid must be lower than $10K/kg to ISS with a full crew rotation thrown in for free. Anything over $5K/kg for cargo only will be considered unresponsive. To go from $87,500/kg to $5,000/kg will be very impressive, most impressive indeed.

    ….and yes DIRECT is much less crappy than the PoR :) In fact its so much less crappy that it has crossed the line to actually being the best plan all things considered.

  • googaw

    Stephen, nothing in those GAO reports indicates that (a) “full utilization” of the ISS is necessary to achieving the ISS’s science objectives, (b) that major economies are not available without substantial loss to science by reducing crew size and increasing crew duration on orbit, (c) that the combination of ATV, HTV, Progress, and Soyuz, all of which are operational, are incapable of allowing the achievement of all important ISS experiments, (d) that Shuttle levels of payload per launch, much less HLV levels of payload per launch, are anywhere remotely close to necessary, or indeed are anything but highly detrimental to the ability of ISS to economically perform its science.

    Even COTS and Commercial Crew are luxuries, largely matters of (in this case misplaced) nationalistic pride. They are not necessities for doing the important ISS experiments. Having some U.S. transport to and from the ISS is desirable but there is no need to get carried away into spending several billion dollars a year just on this one minor element of our overall space program. Remember, just a few months ago NASA was happy to let the ISS crash into the Pacific in 2016. That’s what it thought of the importance of ISS science: for NASA ISS was a big construction project for the sake of learning how to construct big things, and the science was and is only justificatory hype and afterthought. The construction having been completed the main purpose of the ISS for NASA is finished.

    I think the science and astronaut shows do have some value, but not anywhere close to enough to justify Shuttle, Ares, or DIRECT levels of spending. My recommendation would be to cap total U.S. spending on the ISS, including our share of the transportation to and from, at $3 billion per year. This leaves plenty of room for COTS/CRS but is nowhere remotely near enough funding for Shuttle or DIRECT.

    Shuttle extension by itself would eat up nearly that entire budget, and that’s before adding the huge costs of bringing the Shuttle tooling and workforce back on line and far before adding in the monstrous R&D costs of DIRECT. COTS/CRS on the other hand comes in at less than $1 billion per year, leaving more than $2 billion per year to spend on experiments (remember those?) and the crew support cargo itself. CRS costs could easily be scaled back to $500 million per year once the current contracts are satisfied. Falcon/Dragon and Taurus II/Cygnus give future NASA planners the extremely valuable option of scaling down or up our trips to and from the ISS with reasonable granularity, rather than all-or-nothing Shuttle/DIRECT approach of having a massive standing army or nothing. Here too flexible path thinking is greatly superior to locking in rigid plans that can only be canceled wholesale.

    And as Jonathan points out Dragon and Cygnus will fly much more frequently than the Shuttle, giving an experiment turnaround time that is of great importance to effective science. And Dragon cost is actually much lower per kilogram than Shuttle as well as more importantly being up to an order of magnitude lower in cost per year.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ March 16th, 2010 at 12:18 am

    Robert G Oler, get help, the sooner the better. Reading like Math is fundamental…

    oh wow was that clever!

    when people run out of answers or logic the first thing that they do is to start personal attacks.

    You have a photoshoped launch vehicle whose cost are unknown both to build and operate…and has no mission that the American people are willing to pay for.

    When you can answer that, then people who are making decisions on national space policy…might think about taking you seriously.

    Until then…nice viewgraphs

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ March 16th, 2010 at 12:18 am

    All, the Jupiter/Orion systems will be ‘at least’ ¼ the cost of STS on a $/kg basis based solely on removing the dead weight and cost of the Orbiter..

    there is no data to support that statement. You have no clue what the processing cost of “Jupiter/Orion” is… and “dead weight” differences is not a valid analysis…

    Robert G. Oler

  • Space junkies need to study Obama and his health care program…he is going to get exactly what he wants.

    Even if the legislation passes this week (they still don’t have the votes as of yesterday), he’s not getting anything close to what he wants. He wants single payer. More political foolishness from Robert.

  • Jonathan, in a follow-up, the GAO-09-618 “NASA’s COTS Project” uses 1.7mT for Pressurized and 0.85mT for Un-pressurized cargo to ISS as a typical load. Within the report you will also see the issue with ‘volume’ being an important limiting factor for Dragon. I’m sure the 6,000 kg to ‘LEO’ number quoted in the Dragon specification sheet is based on stuffing Dragon with water since Falcon-9 can most likely place that much mass into LEO. Once again the oft ignored issue of volume keeps coming up.

    Anyway the $1.6 Billion for SpaceX is for 12 flights of Dragon x 2,550kg = 30,660kg or $52,287/kg. Orbital gets $1.9 Billion for 8 flights of Cygnus x 2,700kg = 21,600kg or $87,962/kg. Collectively the COTS contract based on the number above is $3.5 Billion/52,260kg or $66,972/kg for cargo only capability.

    This number is conservative though because the same GAO report also shows 20 flights for $3.5 Billion that delivers 36,900 kg or $94,850/kg? It’s not clear what the correct price is for COTS is but it must be between $87-94K/kg based on the GAO report.

    The Authorization Bill puts the cost of 2 STS flights per year at $2 Billion dollars. These two flights can deliver 32,000kg of payload to ISS which based on the more COTS-CRS friendly price of $66,972/kg above is worth $2.143 Billion dollars. Let’s also not forget that the Russians have now given us a market price for a crew seat to ISS at around $80 million dollars, with slim assurance that it won’t climb still higher if we should foolishly get rid of their only competition at this point. So if we rotate four crew members (American + International Partners we are on the hook for) on each Shuttle mission that is worth $640 million dollars in terms of crew rotation cost avoidance per year. Further that crew rotation money is spent right here employing Americans who just so happen ‘thanks to ITAR’ not to be helping Iran improve the range of its missiles until they can hit our cities….so we got that going for us under this compromise plan….which is nice. After all its really hard to put a value on a city full of millions of happy tax paying citizens.

    So the combined ‘value’ of an STS extension is equal to $2.783 Billion dollars or $231 million dollars per month.

  • googaw

    Besides the severe flaws in your analysis already mentioned, you’re comparing the unpressurized cargo capacity of the Shuttle to the capacity of Dragon which is mostly pressurized cargo. Pressurized is far more costly per kilogram, but also far more useful for the already-built ISS.

  • Googaw, (loud buzzer) Wrong Again – please read.

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/167126main_Transportation_Logistics.pdf

    The 16mT per flight of the useful pressurized dry mass the STS can deliver to the ISS (plus a free crew rotation at no extra charge) is based on the ability of the Space Shuttle to deliver the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module. That is unless you think the ISS astronauts are somehow holding their breath as they remove supplies.

    Again, STS is in fact less expensive (even at only two flights per year) than COTS-CRS. The President’s own policy significantly expands the ISS support requirements well beyond the prior policies logistics level. A prior logistics support level we cannot achieve even now due to serious COTS-CRS delays. So shutting down STS is equal to shutting down ISS, until such time COTS delievers at about 2x the orginal rate they are currently planning on.

    It just makes too much sense to use the STS to give the ISS a logistics back push into the future before we shut STS down at this point.

  • Space Shuttle Man

    The COTS stuff is bad policy. When you look at all the alternatives extending the Shuttle is the best. Bush was wrong and Obama is wrong. The cancellation of Cx provides a good chance to reverse course. Why waste a lot of money developing obsolete systems? Let’s build more orbiters for the future!

  • googaw

    Stephen, before you buzz me you actually have to discover something I said that is wrong. As it is, you are hoping readers will forget what figures you used in your comparison above: 32 mT unpressurized cargo, not the alleged 16 mT pressurized cargo.

  • Okay, Googaw, their is a MPLM design modifcation that are being considered for Jupiter that could also achieve the full Orbiter Shuttle Bay capabilities (well above the MPLM) but let’s run the numbers based on existing pressurized volumes alone.

    http://www.spacex.com/dragon.php
    Pressurized Volume (Dragon) = 245 ft^3

    http://www.orbital.com/NewsInfo/Publications/Cygnus_fact.pdf
    Pressurized Volume (Cygnus) = 660 ft^3

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/167126main_Transportation_Logistics.pdf
    Pressurized Volume (Space Shuttle’s MPLM only, not including the Shuttle Cab) = 1,095 ft^3

    COTS-CRS Contract $3.5 Billion for 12 (Dragon) + 8 (Cygnus) = 8,233 ft^3 or $425,632/ft^3

    Four STS Flights $2.4 Billion = 4,380 ft^3 or $547,000/ft^3

    ……but wait STS also enables crew rotations at $80 million per seat. Assuming 2 crew rotations per flight that is a $640 million dollar value lowering the effective $/ft^3 to $401,826/ft^3 which is lower than the price we are paying in the COTS-CRS contract

    Again my point isn’t that we shouldn’t have COTS, my point is that the STS isn’t the big money pit everyone is making it out to be. It is actually more cost effective than COTS-CRS however you want to measure it.

    Given the gap in COTS logistics support facing us, due to understandable development delays in COTS, in combination with new policies of ISS logistics and life increase over what the GAO assumed last year a modest extension of the STS is good idea.

    That is why the Congress wants the STS retirement to be based on the effective utilization of the $100 billion ISS. If we aren’t going to be able to utilize the ISS there is little value in COTS-CRS as well.

    Many of wish that we had retired the Orbiter two decades ago and had begun the development of the Jupiter/Orion once it was clear we were never going to get to the airliner like cost structure. Had we done that the ISS could have a been large ground integrated system (a close proto-type of the deep space Mars transit hab) launched in one shot using the Jupiter avoiding the combined high costs of an RLV and modular in space construction. We would likely be landing on Mars right about now for the same money we have spent up to this point. But that did not happen.

    Regardless, it’s still not too late to follow that path. If we should destroy the existing $40 billion dollar HLV industrial base though, the HLV path will be shut and we will need to wait for a technology breakthrough approaching the dreams of the science fiction writers (nothing would make me happier) or until we have recovered fiscally from the baby boomers. Re-warming of a (Kero/Lox) HLV (ie a Modern Day SaturnV) is simply not going to generate any lifecycle cost savings over just using the (SRB/LOX/LH2) HLV that we already have.

    I wish we hadn’t foolishly destroyed our first Kero/LOX HLV (ie the SaturnV) but at least our generation can learn from their mistakes and stop chasing low cost rainbows.

    http://despair.com/mis24x30prin.html

    I’m all for funding ways to find low cost approaches but lets wait until they prove themselves before we destroy what works.

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