Congress, NASA

Senate approves NASA authorization bill

The big vote in the US Senate on Thursday was on the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, but the Senate also took care of some legislation as well, including the NASA authorization bill, according to a press release issued by the Senate Commerce Committee Thursday evening. (The press release doesn’t explicitly state it, but most likely the bill was approved under unanimous consent, as there was no recorded vote on the bill on Thursday.)

“By embracing this bipartisan vision for the future of NASA, the Senate has spoken with a unified voice,” Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said in the release. “I encourage my colleagues in the House to take up this crucial bill in order to get NASA on track to continue its proud heritage of innovation and exploration.” The House, of course, failed to get its version of a NASA authorization bill–which has a number of key differences with the Senate’s version–to the floor before the House went on recess. The House will be returning from recess briefly next week to vote on a Medicaid and education bill, but it seems unlikely they’ll also find the time during that brief session to also take up the NASA legislation.

94 comments to Senate approves NASA authorization bill

  • Coastal Ron

    Just as a reminder of what is in the bill, here are a couple of summaries from one of the links provided:

    Commercial Cargo and Crew. The bill would:

    o Continue to support commercial cargo development and provide additional funds to meet launch infrastructure requirements and accelerate development activity; and

    o Expand the Commercial Crew Development Program in 2011 for concept development and supporting activities, while requiring a number of studies to ensure effective oversight of the potential initiation of a commercial crew capability procurement program no earlier than 2012.

    Human Space Flight. The bill would:

    o Provide a sustainable exploration program to incorporate new technologies and in-space capabilities;

    o Require immediate development of a heavy-lift capability and continued support of an exploration crew vehicle to be capable of supporting missions beyond low-Earth orbit starting in 2016; and

    o Support a sound performance and cost framework by maximizing use, where possible, of the workforce, assets, and capabilities of the Space Shuttle, Constellation, and other NASA programs.

    Shuttle Retirement and final “Launch on Need” Mission. The bill would:

    o Authorize an additional Shuttle flight, contingent on a safety review, to provide necessary support for the extension of the ISS.

    Rescoping and Revitalizing Institutional Capabilities. The bill would:

    o Require NASA to examine alternative management models for NASA’s workforce, centers, and capabilities, while enforcing short-term prohibitions on major center displacements and reductions-in-force until the study is completed.

  • Robert G. Oler

    o Authorize an additional Shuttle flight, contingent on a safety review, to provide necessary support for the extension of the ISS.

    this could be the out for the end…

    Robert G. Oler

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    o Support a sound performance and cost framework by maximizing use, where possible, of the workforce, assets, and capabilities of the Space Shuttle, Constellation, and other NASA programs.

    Sound performance and cost framework won’t be possible if they’re required to utilise Shuttle et al. I gues the get out of jail card will be ‘where possible’!!

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    o Expand the Commercial Crew Development Program in 2011 for concept development and supporting activities, while requiring a number of studies to ensure effective oversight of the potential initiation of a commercial crew capability procurement program no earlier than 2012.

    That’s a bit disappointing. The gap will widen beyond what would be necessary since I think COTS-D would probably fit the bill instead of more studies.

  • The gap will widen beyond what would be necessary since I think COTS-D would probably fit the bill instead of more studies.

    Hafta agree with the Beancounter here, we don’t need anymore “YAS” (Yet Another Study), we need more COTS-D. More YAS will only increase the gap further.

    When people look back at the history of the US in this era, they will wonder why a supposed capitalistic nation was actively working against one of its industries in order to support a “socialist” program.

    Yeah, I expect the usual characters to answer “NASA = a branch of the military”, but that’s just a BS answer to cover for the more likely “more pork please” to pay for a jobs program.

  • Jim

    It isn’t “more studies”. NASA has to put together a program office, determine its requirements for commercial crew, which includes the conops, procurement strategy, oversight/insight levels, “specifications”, RFP development, etc. There is a whole lot of work that needs to be done before NASA can start putting companies on contract

  • Robert G. Oler

    What is great about the Senate Bill is that while it is long on rhetoric about another final shuttle flight and a HLV with shuttle/ares parts, the “outs” on both of those are good enough for a clever administrator to simply walk past.

    What is also quite clear…

    1. Shuttle is gone
    2. Ares is gone
    3. Human exploration of space ie more Apollo or Apollo on steroids or whatever is gone.

    Commercial is here…

    major course change

    Robert G. Oler

  • amightywind

    When people look back at the history of the US in this era, they will wonder why a supposed capitalistic nation was actively working against one of its industries in order to support a “socialist” program.

    I fail to see what is capitalist about SpaceX. Elon Musk has his eyes on government largess like any other special interest. He is making a killing on two fronts, stoking the liberal imagination. He is doing it at Tesla, home of the Obama approved $100K electric car. He is doing it at SpaceX making extravagant promises about HSF with a 1960′s hobby rocket. I am a little surprised he hasn’t gotten into solar power and magnetic trains.

  • Dennis Berube

    Mr. Oler, you must be reading this differently then I am. I see a SDHLV being developed, and Orion continuing as planned. I also see more effort from NASA to help commercial crew transport come into the 21st Century. I think most of you see this as something running parallel to our postal system problems, who you always hear has money shortages. What happened there is not only the Web hurt them, but too commercial companies like UPS and Fed X. I guess you see the same things happening with SpaceX? I truly do not see an end to HLV development and the end to Orion. This will roll over into the next run for President and if and when the big OB is replaced, then NASA can indeed get back to space exploration at its best.

  • Derrick

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  • Robert G. Oler

    Dennis Berube wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Mr. Oler, you must be reading this differently then I am. I see a SDHLV being developed, and Orion continuing as planned. …

    I dont see an SDV. I see some sort of effort at a heavy lift, but I dont see it using Shuttle hardware. Why? The shuttle is going to die, the infrastructure is being mothballed and the only people who want a SDV oro an Ares Derived vehicle are the ones who dont have to pay for it or have any hardware to fly on it.

    there are no payloads for such a vehicle.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Dennis Berube

    Mr. Oler, I think here is Congress is pushing for a timeline on HLV development. That means an already existing system, that can evolve into heavy lift will be attempted. You may be right in that it wont be a shuttle derived machine, but eithe Atlas or Delta. However with the drive to keep jobs and talent within NASA, a shuttle derived vehicle would do that. Again NASA is in some ways a jobs program too. I see nothing wrong with that. As to what will fly on it, well whatever direction is taken, Orion will be flying on one of these vehicles. I am very happy that the Orion in its original form has been kept throughout all of this. We need a spacecraft that can fly in deep space, especially if as Obama claims he wants, an asteroid mission is to take place. An asteroid mission will take a HLV of sometype.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Dennis Berube wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 8:37 am
    This will roll over into the next run for President and if and when the big OB is replaced, then NASA can indeed get back to space exploration at its best………………

    it is statements like this by those who are exploration/Apollo junkies that really tells me “I’ve won”.

    “We will fix it in the next administration which we are sure will 1) replace the current person even if we dont know who it is and 2) will do our policy that we love so dear.”

    Human exploration of space is one of (but certainly not the worst) casualty of the economic disaster brought to us by years of the GOP cutting taxes for the rich (and some middle class tax cuts) but unable or unwilling to cut spending, indeed spending increases on things (wars) which did nothing to help our economic situation. And the race over the next 10-15 years is going to be trying to dig out of that hole and restart a new economy that is competent for this century with our political values.

    The only people who think that means human exploration of space solely because we are a great power or because we are afraid of the Reds (or Iranians according to Whittington)…is nuts. The dollars and political will are just not there.

    The pivot point in the 12 campaign is likely to be (assuming and that is a big assumption even now but one that is somewhat makeable that Obama’s economic agenda fails) how to dig the US out of a near depression.

    Not “wow we have to send NASA astronauts to the Moon”. YOu are free to believe otherwise but I am confident that you will be wrong.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Dennis Berube wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Orion will never fly. It might build for another year but it wont ever fly.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Dennis Berube

    Thats interesting. History will be revealed to us, as to what will take place. So what you are attempting to say here, is that as money has already been spent on Orion, and obviously more is headed that way, that in the end it too will be wasted? Apparently even in Congress there is still a drive for something taking place BEO. A craft that can sustain astronauts on missions to those destinations, is needed to accomplish those goals. Nothing commercial is evenin the works. The CST-100 is only for LEO, and unless modified in a big way, will not leave LEO. If Orion is built, and it appears it will be, astronauts will fly it.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    The Senate bill is an imperfect attempt to fix the damage wrought by the Obama regime on the civil space program. It underfunds everything, does not ensure commercial access to space, and preserves the bare minimum of Constellation. But it does preserve options for the next President when he (or she) is called to clean up the mess.

  • amightywind wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Bwahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!! ROTFFLMAO!!!!!

    Damn, almost peed myself there! *sniff*

    I gotta admit Windy, you’re sure “windy.”

    *phew*

  • amightywind

    Robert G. Oler wrote:

    Human exploration of space is one of (but certainly not the worst) casualty of the economic disaster brought to us by years of the GOP cutting taxes for the rich (and some middle class tax cuts) but unable or unwilling to cut spending

    Sigh. The economic disaster was brought upon us by years of mortgage fraud encouraged by congress, abetted by HUD, large investment banks, and the bond rating agencies, and fueled overly loose monetary policy and stupid money from abroad. President Bush’s tax cuts rescued America from the Clinton/Greenspan .com bomb recession. Raising taxes on the ‘rich’ during double digit employment is a 1930′s recipe for depression. When was the last time you were offered a job by someone making less than you? You see the model for the fiscal solution in New Jersey. Draconian budget cuts, public employee RIFs.

    The pivot point in the 12 campaign is likely to be… how to dig the US out of a near depression.

    Palin/Romney/Gingrich/Thune will just dust off Reagan’s playbook.

  • wintermuted

    @amightywind:
    Maybe you’d like to list for us the other “hobby rockets” with ~1 million lbf takeoff thrust that have reached orbit on their first launch?

  • Again NASA is in some ways a jobs program too. I see nothing wrong with that.

    I suppose there’s nothing wrong with it, as long as you don’t care about the costs, or actually accomplishing things in space.

  • amightywind

    Rand Simberg wrote:

    I suppose there’s nothing wrong with it, as long as you don’t care about the costs, or actually accomplishing things in space.

    Will you please end the pointless Mobius loop reasoning about costs? NASA’s budget is a pittance.

  • Will you please end the pointless Mobius loop reasoning about costs? NASA’s budget is a pittance.

    While NASA’s budget is a pittance, I don’t foresee “Mama Grizzly” Palin asking for more money for NASA, do you?

    Yeah, I know, cut everything but HSF. But NASA’s charter doesn’t put HSF at it’s center, so you might have a problem with that train of though Windy ol’ pal. Even a so-called neo-con Congress might have issues with that.

  • I love watching you Obama Zealots squirm as your child president fails- the only thing “gone” about Ares will be the name. And when the Orion does fly, Oler will be on here, mindlessly posting that it did not actually happen. ObamaSpace has gone down the tubes… period.

    Please feel free now to myopically rant on with more leftwing dribble- it is TOO funny.

  • MECO

    Dennis:
    You’ll have to learn to take “Mr Oler” with a grain of salt like the rest of us. He sees no need for manned spaceflight so that colors the rest of his thinking. He also seems to be stuck in the past of airplane history. I guess when all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.
    He also has a great need to “win” so it’s best to just humor him.

    The Senate authorization is a turning point for NASA. A shuttle derived HLV and the Orion capsule can be built in the time frame and budget allotted but it will require a new working relationship with it’s contractors. This will mean more of a partnership arraignment. NASA will need to work more as a business paying very close attention to costs and schedules. Many on this site don’t think that can happen but I do.
    I think NASA management realizes that the days of mega-projects and and unlimited resources are long gone.
    This also gives commercial a chance to step up and show that they can support manned activities in space. I also have no doubt they could do it, I’m a little dubious about the stated price and time lines put out by SpaceX. If they can do it great, but I wouldn’t consider it a failure if they come in 20% over their projections.

    So this is the best that either side can hope for. Neither side has “won”. Now we can work together to get the best return from our investments both past and in the future or we can continue this useless feud and continue to waist both public and private funds with little to show for it.

  • I believe one focus now should be to get that on-orbit propellant transfer demo included in the final bill to be passed by the House and Senate and signed by POTUS.

    POTUS / NASA can use the House/Senate reconciliation process to add the funding needed to fly a prop transfer demo by 2015.

    Sources suggest a total budget for this program in the range of ~$500 million and if spread over a few years, that would be a very feasible addition to the Senate bill.

    This is very feasible, IMHO, provided NASA management is willing to be pragmatic rather than ideological.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    @ dad2059,

    Boeing certainly seem to be making rapid progress. They must have a lot of confidence in Robert Bigelow’s business plan!

    I wonder what the chances are of the CST-100 flying before NASA gets around to working out the commercial crew taxi specification? That might raise a few eyebrows.

  • Coastal Ron

    dad2059 wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Boeing “cutting metal” on CST-100

    That is certainly good news. I wonder if they are budgeting only CCDev money ($18M), or if they will use some internal funds too. That would be telling, as Boeing risking some of it’s own money would be a sign that they really are serious about entering this market.

  • Dennis Berube

    Why do you guys badger amightywind. He is just stating his respective views on these things. Like all of this, sometimes he is right and sometimes he is wrong. You all sound like a bunch of high school bullies! We are here to talk our differing views and areas of interest, Not call names and indicate that people are less inferior than yourselves. No one knows everything.

  • Justin Kugler

    My best source indicates that there has been an agreement between the House and Senate committee leadership to have “pre-conference” negotiations during the recess, with the Senate’s unanimously passed bill as the basis.

    The fact that the White House has said they will accept the Senate bill and it passed so cleanly has put pressure on the House to play ball. Their goal is to have this wrapped up by the end of September and on the President’s desk by October 1st.

  • Dennis Berube

    Notice I said less inferior than yourselves, I ment it. Your belittling simply shows your inferior. I have noticed that amightywind gets prodded a lot here and for no apparent reason. Cant we talk without the name calling. I think I asked this before, but apparently no one was listening. Maybe I ll just go back to my sailing page where talk is kept on an even keel, and no one is considered stupid.

  • MrEarl

    Ben; dad:
    Don’t overlook this very important paragraph.
    “Although the survival of the program depends entirely on uncertain government funding — Boeing hopes provisions will be made for it in upcoming Congressional appropriations bills — ”

    It seems more likely to me that Boeing intends to win one of the crew contracts from NASA and that Bigalow would only be icing on the cake.
    Overall, Boeing has had some very interesting ideas on launchers and capsules and I see them as the leading contender for both commercial crew and partnering with NASA for development of an SDHLV.

  • POTUS / NASA can use the House/Senate reconciliation process to add the funding needed to fly a prop transfer demo by 2015.

    It would be very dangerous to allow anything resembling the House bill into a conference. Better to kill it and not have an authorization at all. The Senate bill has already done its job — provide guidance to the appropriators.

  • Coastal Ron

    Ben Russell-Gough wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 11:26 am

    I wonder what the chances are of the CST-100 flying before NASA gets around to working out the commercial crew taxi specification?

    I don’t have any insight into this, but I would have to believe that there is enough information out there to make reasonable decisions about designing for “man-rating”.

    Certainly they can look at the specs for the Shuttle, and I’m sure they can access relevant data about Soyuz. Boeing would already have the crew related specs from working on the ISS for human interfacing and environmental issues. I would also imagine that they could get the Orion specs, which would give them as much as NASA has figured out.

    The issue you allude to is that there is no set-in-stone spec that covers crew systems, and that there is a plethora of specs and requirements that each crew system has had to wend it’s way through. They used equivalency with the Soyuz, and Bolden made it seem like there could be some of that for commercial crew too – but it would better if NASA came out with a small spec that outlines the end result desired, as opposed to detailing every little thing.

  • Dennis Berube

    Just maybe Obamas goal was meant to get NASA to indeed turn some of its talents toward helping the commercial sectors advance with LEO manned missions. He probably knew he would not get everything he wanted, and gladly he didnt. NASA was meant to be an exploration type administration, pushing the boundaries for space missions, not only civilian but too military. I hope that he will readily sign on with the Senate bill and NASA aims for an asteroid mission within my lifetime.

  • Ben Joshua

    The House bill is one part Draco and two parts micro-management. It seems to be back burnered till a path is cleared for either a kinder gentler version by floor amendment or by conference.

    The Senate bill appears to have enough conditional wording to allow for sensible HLV design work, but full development will need more bucks than are offered.

    Boeing eyeing a commercial niche for themselves is very interesting, as their past pioneering of new markets (eg. B-17, 29, 47, 52, 707, 747) has been a bit of business daring, but calculated for success.

    The disposition for commercial and robotics awaits a final (appropriations) bill on the President’s desk, and that could be awhile.

    The old theoretical argument of a blank check for NASA vs. lowering launch costs through market motivation may finally be about to step on stage, with real companies, vehicles and fees leading the way.

  • NASA was meant to be an exploration type administration, pushing the boundaries for space missions, not only civilian but too military.

    No, it wasn’t. Go read the Space Act.

  • Coastal Ron

    Dennis Berube wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Why do you guys badger amightywind.

    1. Because he dishes as good as he gets, so he’s not the victim here.

    2. He is a provocateur, using slander against those that are not his political ilk.

    3. He has a visible agenda, and goes out of his way to knock down those that he does not like.

    Don’t worry Dennis, some day you’ll feel his wrath too…

  • amightywind

    Dennis Berube wrote:

    Why do you guys badger amightywind.

    That’s what I’d like to know. I’m the victim here. My opinions are shared by a majority in congress. I feel that the muzzy thinkers on this forum need to be reminded of reality once in a while.

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    2. He is a provocateur, using slander against those that are not his political ilk.

    I resent that! The proper term is ‘libel’.

  • HLV launches Orion someday. Then what? What 70 ton payloads will we be launching?

    We don’t have enough Heavy Lift demand to utilize the Delta IV & Atlas V heavies we’ve already developed. Delta IV of 100 ton capacity is already being theorized.

    If HL is going to built it has to have some sort of commercial appeal to be more than a one or two launch wonder. We’re planning to sacrifice a lot of other opportunities for this vehicle.

  • Jim

    “My opinions are shared by a majority in congress”

    Which is not a good endorsement.

  • MrEarl

    sftommy:
    “HLV launches Orion someday. Then what? What 70 ton payloads will we be launching?”
    Not this old argument again?! There will be plenty of things to launch that will require the volume and heft of an HLV once it’s available. HLV’s are expensive to design and build and will require a government funded program to do it.

    This vehicle will be the enabler of many opportunities and the things that you say are “sacrificed” are only delayed.

  • GaryChurch

    Sidemount is on the way.

  • This vehicle will be the enabler of many opportunities and the things that you say are “sacrificed” are only delayed.

    Yes, they are delayed by an unnecessary new vehicle.

  • Coastal Ron

    MrEarl wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    There will be plenty of things to launch that will require the volume and heft of an HLV once it’s available.

    Now who is peddling the myth of “if they build it, they will come”? At least with commercial crew there is an existing requirement for crew services to the ISS starting in 2016. That is a market that many of us hope jump starts additional demand, but at least the ISS demand is real.

    Certainly the current launcher market has not seen demand for anything bigger than Delta IV Heavy, and that product is not being ordered very much as it is.

    ULA has the Atlas V Heavy up to it’s CDR, and is just waiting for a market to materialize before it decides to proceed. Atlas V Heavy can lift about 20% more than Delta IV Heavy, and ULA has stated in the Atlas V users guide that fairings up to 7.2M can be accommodated. Certainly this would be cheaper and more incremental for satellite companies to use for planned satellite growth, but none seem to be advocating for it.

    This leads me to believe, like others, that a government run HLV will only be used for government payloads, and most likely NASA-only. Because of this, the number and size of the payloads will be dictated by the amount of funding that can be squeezed out of Congress, and since Congress likes to hold NASA’s budget relatively flat year-to-year, then these payloads will replace any research and development that NASA needs for future exploration – Congress will be eating NASA’s feed corn, which is exactly the opposite of what they wanted to accomplish. What irony…

  • red

    amightywind: “[Musk] is making a killing on two fronts, stoking the liberal imagination. … He is doing it at SpaceX making extravagant promises about HSF with a 1960′s hobby rocket.

    SpaceX hasn’t gotten any money from Obama, so I assume you’re talking about Bush’s COTS award to SpaceX.

    “I am a little surprised he hasn’t gotten into solar power”

    You should check out Solar City:

    http://www.solarcity.com/media-center/management-team.aspx

    I’m not sure why you focus on SpaceX. The “socialist” big government rocket program dad2059 mentions doesn’t just harm SpaceX. It harms the whole commercial space industry, not just 1 particular commercial company. It harms a lot of other space interests as well (e.g.: U.S. military space, NASA science, …) by taking away funding from work that would be useful to those interests.

  • “This vehicle will be the enabler of many opportunities and the things that you say are “sacrificed” are only delayed.”

    This is the sort of wistful answer ATK pays its congress people to blind America with.

    Delta IV heavy would enable as many opportunities with fewer sacrifices.

  • red

    Mark: “The Senate bill … underfunds everything, does not ensure commercial access to space, and preserves the bare minimum of Constellation.”

    I actually agree with Mark on this particular point, at least for the funding areas that seem to be up for debate. Those are:

    - commercial crew: The funding here is drastically cut. The Senate talks about funding it all by 2016, but that would require a huge boost after the 3 years they covered, which I extremely unlikely to happen with the HLV and Orion heading for budget overruns.

    - robotic precursor missions: These are needed if you want to go to rocky destinations. You need to assess hazards, scout for resources, try processing the resources, do engineering tests, and so on so you know what to do with you HSF missions, and you need to do it a long long time before those missions happen. The robotic precursor budget doesn’t given enough money for anything but an instrument or 2. Don’t expect another LRO/LCROSS launch. The fact that these missions are not funded suggests to me that, as far as Congress is concerned, the lunar surface, NEOs, Mars, and Mars moons are out of the picture for multiple decades.

    That might be acceptable if we do other useful things with HSF, like satellite servicing, mission assembly, remote observations of rocky bodies, telerobotics (do your robotic precursor missions during the HSF missions and leave it at that), and so on. The Senate includes favorable language on cislunar in-space capabilities. However, I don’t think it’s what the people that call Flexible Path “Look but Don’t Touch” have in mind.

    - exploration technology development and demonstration: The budget here is insufficient, too. It’s only a tiny fraction of what was intended. That means no flagship technology demonstrations: no propellant depot demonstration, no space tug, no inflatable module on the ISS, no solar electric propulsion demonstration, no closed loop life support demonstration, no aerocapture demonstration, and none of the less-well-defined missions that would have followed. The budget might allow some small technology development efforts, and maybe some small technology demonstration missions on the ISS or tacked onto robotic science missions, but that’s about it. Again, forget about going to those rocky worlds. Forget about distant Flexible Path deep space destinations, too. Forget about giving commercial space a prod on the inflatable habitat front, helping to diversify our space station assets. Expect the out-year budget increase projections for this to be raided by the HLV and Orion, too.

    - HLV: As we’ve discussed here, the schedule for the HLV is probably too tight if it’s Shuttle-derived, and the budget is too low for such expensive infrastructure.

    - Orion: This has similar problems to the HLV in the Senate bill.

    - Shuttle: The Shuttle gets another mission at great expense, but with little benefit to that program or to space interests in general.

    - Space Technology – Again the increase is not profound, especially when you consider that it’s just repairing earlier raids by Constellation. Out-year projections are subject to HLV/Orion budget raids that will squash this program while doing little to help the HLV/Orion meet their schedule or become affordable in the long term.

    It’s too bad because it wouldn’t take a dramatic increase to make some of these areas viable. A reasonable budget boost could allow you to do maybe 3 robotic precursor scouts and 1 regular-sized mission. … or … a reasonable budget boost would make commercial crew viable even though delayed to 2016. A reasonable budget boost could allow the first 2 exploration technology demonstrations to happen (improved solar electric propulsion, propellant depot, and space tug) along with some technology development. Then the 3rd and 4th exploration technology demonstration missions (inflatable module, closed-loop life support, aerocapture) could be assigned (with more limited objectives and scale) to the ISS and a NASA science mission with modest help from ETDD. You could make 1 or 2 of these lines viable, if limited, with funding from the HLV and Orion that would make no difference to the giant budgets of those programs.

  • An extra Shuttle launch is “authorized” but not mandated. Sounds like it will probably not happen. That money will languish around until an amendment is slipped into some other legislation to transfer it elsewhere.

  • red

    “An extra Shuttle launch is “authorized” but not mandated.”

    I wonder how the independent safety review for the mission would go. Who would do this review? The ASAP doesn’t seem too thrilled about more Shuttle missions.

  • MrEarl

    The need is there for an HLV. That is the one thing I agree with the Augustine committee and the rest of you don not.
    The argument that there is nothing to use that capacity NOW so we don’t need it is just silly. Payloads are designed and built to fit the existing launchers.
    I’m not talking about an exclusively government run HLV. A NASA and Boeing partnership could bring about a family of vehicles based on the 8.5m ET core, RS-68′s or RS-25′s, SRB’s and GEM’s that will be able to lift payloads from 18mt to 118mt. The best that the Delta IV heavy and Atlas V heave can lift is between 25 and 30mt. Fairings for the Delta and Atlas are approx. 5m where as a SDHLV would have a fairing of 8.5m or more.
    Denying the usefulness of a SDHLV is shortsighted and shows a definite lack of imagination.

  • Philosophically, I want to want a Heavy Lift.

    Practically, NASA is probably stuck with it and another decade of rocket building rather than rocket flying. Unless commercial survives and finds a way to save the missions NASA won’t be able to do.

    Florida voters may yet tell their House candidates they want commercial fully funded, despite their Senators ‘wisdom’ in preferring to save jobs in UTAH. FL+OH+CA Reps could make commercial funding happen in a meaningful way as President Obama intended.

    The Senate ain’t the House and the the House ain’t Bart Gordon

    Is everyone ready for another Florida election to be the great hinge on which a major US policy issue hangs?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Dennis Berube wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Orion wont fly for a variety of reasons (at least in its capsule form) but mostly because it is not needed.

    Orion the capsule assumes a Apollo mentality of trashing (expending) the “deep space vehicle” every step of the way with the only thing remaining is the capsule and its crew…

    that is not how human exploration of space past LEO will occur.

    The systems on Orion are somewhat useful hence I dont mind building them and working some of the bugs out. But when we head out for deep space (or even GEO) we will do it in vehicles where little or no parts are “dropped off” and almost everything is reused…aka a space station with propulsion.

    This is why ISS will eventually prove to be worthwhile even though little other use will be made of it.

    One has to break out of the “dump it as we use it” mentality or nothing is going to happen.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    sftommy wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Is everyone ready for another Florida election to be the great hinge on which a major US policy issue hangs?..

    it wont be space that is the issue and I doubt it will be FL. The great movement in American politics is to the center away from fringe (left or right) candidates. In FL the GOP thought it would just take off nominating a tea party person who is doing better then the Dem but worse then the Independent.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    red wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 3:01 pm and Stephen wrote right above him.

    Stephen…
    “An extra Shuttle launch is “authorized” but not mandated.”

    Red
    I wonder how the independent safety review for the mission would go. Who would do this review? The ASAP doesn’t seem too thrilled about more Shuttle missions.

    Me.

    I agree with both of you. This wont happen. What will occur is that the money wont be there, the hangup will be the cost that Ivan wants for the two other Soyuz. And without that the genius at JSC will get cold feet because they dont trust the vehicle all that much…and four crewmen stuck on the space station with the shuttle system dead because another vehicle is toast and the line is essentially shut down will sink the station.

    The entire LON effort is like “the pole” an exercise in stupidity by the folks at JSC.

    Imagine this scenario. A shuttle has just launched and something hits the leading edge (or someplace else) and wow no one wants to reenter with the orbiter. So we are now going to see JSC managers who have made yet another bad decision to launch a shuttle screw up their courage and launch yet another one where the exact same issue can occur.

    Yeah thats gonna happen.

    Now replace “we launch another shuttle” with “we have to wait for the Russians to build two more Soyuz…To paraphrase one of the opening line in 2010 the movie “a few poor Americans looking for a ride home after their shiny vehicle broke”

    And then of course that moment where the orbiter takes its Wagnerian plunge back into the atmosphere…with everyone in politics going “who the hell had this bright idea”.

    Not to mention the supply problem…MRE’s in space anyone?

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Well there is always hope…as you note on your web site

    “I think this yammering by Ahmadinejad about Iran putting a man in space is all bluster. However, if I’m wrong, and the Iranians do put someone in space, the reaction here will make Sputnik seem like a mild anxiety attack considering the wreck Obama is leaving our space program.”

    LOL

    yeah just like he (and Saddam) are/were on the verge of a “gadget”.

    Always hoping for that cold war moment arent you?

    Robert G. Oler

  • Gary: “Sidemount is on the way.”

    Not from what I know. I think the word you are looking for is Jupiter-130 or what Boeing labeled as the A-130. The big debate among those who will actually decided this is do we go for the entry level inline SDHLV or go for the heavy (5-Seg SRB) or heavy stretch (4-SSME with a stretched tank to the 5-Seg attach points) variants.

    I for one agree that it’s going to be sometime before we exceed the capabilities of the entry level inline SDHLV let alone the higher performing variants. So why spend the extra money in both development and recurring now to say nothing of the political/budget dangers of any protracted development schedule regardless HLV flavor.

    We are going to need every dollar we can find to develop and fly the new missions and technologies this bird will enable. Arriving at a point in time where the entry level Jupiter-130 75mT 12m diameter capability is becoming a major mission constraint, if it ever occurs as I have high hopes for propellant depots and other tech, is likely decades away given the fiscal realties in front of the country.

    Long story short I would be more than happy with something that is nearly indistinguishable from the presentation and details on the DIRECT plan we gave to the Commission a little over a year ago :)

    I also think those who claim the Shuttle era is over based on this bill are a bit premature as well. The language specifically keeps the Shuttle up and running ‘until’ it is determined that the ISS expanded mission (100% utilization + 2020 Life) can be supported ‘without’ the Shuttle. Basically the Shuttle is under a one fiscal year stay of execution under this bill.

    Domestic crew access aside, this one year delay in crossing the Rubicon concerning the Shuttle will also give SpaceX and Orbital a little more time to deliver on the ISS CRS. ISS CRS is absolutely essential for having any activity on the ISS let alone 100%.

    All and all I think our elected representatives have forged a very good compromise that looks forward ‘without’ abandoning wholesale everything we have built and learned thus far.

  • mr. mark

    Come next year, Both Spacex and Orbital will start flying cargo. At that point….what’s the justifacation for the House based plan with ares 1? Logically there is none. It becomes a jobs program and nothing more. Also I don’t see Ares 1 even being completed until well after 2020 and at the expense of a government based HLV. The House plan puts us right back to where we were. A long timeline and a funded operation that could be cut anytime along the way.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 3:59 pm ..

    the fix is in already. Its a DDV…Delta Derived Vehicle.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Derrick

    @ what GaryChurch wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    You’re a sidemount.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    I also think those who claim the Shuttle era is over based on this bill are a bit premature as well. The language specifically keeps the Shuttle up and running ‘until’ it is determined that the ISS expanded mission (100% utilization + 2020 Life) can be supported ‘without’ the Shuttle. Basically the Shuttle is under a one fiscal year stay of execution under this bill.

    not under the Senate bill. The surviving orbiters will all be museum pieces or being prepped for that by this time next year.

    The people are being tossed as we speak.

    The study that says the shuttle isnt needed for the extended mission is being written as we speak.

    its over

    Robert G. Oler

  • MrEarl

    Oler:

    You keep deluding yourself with delusions of worth.
    You’ve been wrong about everything else so far so it’s hard to imagine toy would have anything useful to offer now.

  • MrEarl

    Steve:
    A Jupiter 130 or A130 would be a great starting point. The best part is that there is so much room for expansion when needed.

    I would agree with you that they have come to a surprisingly good compromise.
    I guess it’s true, even a blind squirrel can find a nut every once in a while, unless your last name is Oler.

  • Jerfy

    Support a sound performance and cost framework by maximizing use, where possible, of the workforce, assets, and capabilities of the Space Shuttle, Constellation, and other NASA programs.

    this sounds like “pork” :)

  • Jerfy

    I wonder what would have happened if Defense got their chance back in days to further develop X-33 or venturestar…

  • Robert, you may be right. I’ve seen cooked studies from NASA before.

    But their will be hell to pay if we retire the Shuttle and then the same NASA management comes back a year or so later and says to Congress opps our bad we can’t support the policy requirement of expanded ISS utilization or deliver parts need to extend its life due to logistics limitations, quantity and/or size, after all. In addition, as we saw recently stuff can break and some of the stuff that may break can’t be brought up without the Shuttle at the present time.

    Long story short I really hope that NASA takes Congress seriously and sees fit to do a serious assessment of the ISS logistic and long term support situation/risk before pulling the plug. There will be no going back as you know once those who know how to process this exceedingly complex spacecraft are dispersed to the four winds.

    Then again a number of people (inside and outside NASA) could care less about the ISS mission (expanded or otherwise) so the issue of ISS support is not important. In their mind they are killing two birds (ie ISS + STS) with one stone. Which ironically could also take out ISS CRS since an ISS that is not being utilized makes little since to supply.

    Then again I could easily see this sorry state of affairs above becoming a political face saving stability point; an ISS mission that only gets enough CRS logistics to keep a few people alive and little more. An ISS that gradually decays in capability and becomes increasingly dangerous to the crew as systems that can’t be lifted up any more fail.

    That is until we hypothetically have another bad day, at which point we ask the same questions we did after Challenger and Columbia. People have died going up and coming down but so far not in Space. God forbid but there is always a first time for anything and Space doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

  • I wonder what would have happened if Defense got their chance back in days to further develop X-33 or venturestar…

    X-33/V* was not a defense program, and the Pentagon had no interest in it. It made little technical or business sense.

  • red

    “We are going to need every dollar we can find to develop and fly the new missions and technologies this bird will enable.”

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this amounts to finding dollars by funding raids.

    As it is, I’m skeptical that the SLS or Orion will be done on anything like the schedule or budget the Senate envisions, even if you count the extras like the KSC upgrade money the Senate uses for the SLS infrastructure. Even if they are built, I expect the SLS and Orion operations and infrastructure costs to be alarmingly high, too. That means few or no missions and technologies for the SLS.

    It probably does mean launching Orion once or twice a year to the ISS to crush commercial crew if any commercial crew survives the budget raids that have already started with a vengeance, and maybe after many years an Orion trip to a Lagrange point or lunar orbit with no capabilities to do anything except go on the trip because there’s no budget for added features.

    There would be no robotic precursors because there’s no money for them.

    There would be no exploration technology demonstrations because there’s no money for them – or at least nothing on the scale that the SLS would warrent. The somewhat larger out-year exploration technology demonstration budget will probably get raided when we actually get to that time.

    Science missions would not be able to use the SLS, because, although you’d like them to be able to lower mission costs by taking advantage of mass and volume, there are technical and management factors that would discourage that, and actually would likely result in huge missions budgets and overruns. Such a mission would knock out whatever SMD area did it for a decade.

    It looks like payloads will have to come from international partners. Using a computer analogy, that’s like being the experts in mainframes (SLS/Orion) while your competitors are the experts in PCs (small launchers) and payloads (software). It’s not a good place to be.

    “given the fiscal realties in front of the country.”

    That’s another reason to forsee trouble with the large development and operations costs of the SLS and Orion.

    “All and all I think our elected representatives have forged a very good compromise that looks forward”

    Unfortunately, all the looks forward are tiny unwilling peeks followed by eyes sqeezed shut. I think the kind of SLS you’re talking about plus Orion could be workable with a couple billion dollars/year added to the planned NASA budget and spread around technology demonstrations, commercial crew, robotic precursors, SLS, Orion, and general space technology. At least it’s possible to imagine pieces of it surviving in some form, unlike Constellation/ESAS which never had a chance to produce any results at all from the very beginning. It would also give some prospects for useful payloads for the SLS (e.g.: ambitious technology demonstrations, ambitious robotic precursors, an Orion that can actually do something or have some infrastructure to go to besides the ISS to crush commercial crew/cargo) However, there are lots of reasons to expect grim results given the budget we have and will likely get in the future.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Robert, you may be right. I’ve seen cooked studies from NASA before.

    I see you have never worked for the federal government. All studies are cooked, if “cooked” is defined as having a decision path that is the preferred way given all the variables by the elected class. The studies are usually open minded, ie if they find something really bad they will “rethink” the entire operation, but rule one of a bureaucracy that is run by elected officials, is that the policies eventually go the way that the elected officials want it to go.

    When you understand that basic rule, then you understand 1) the genius of the US (ie elected leaders who are answerable to the people are policy makers), 2) the perils of the US system of government (get bad leaders and you get bad policies) and 3) why NASA has acted how it has since JFK’s speech…including today.

    There are several good non space examples of this. When we were reving up to invade Iraq (almost the moment Bush the last was sworn in) it was clear in the Pentagon that if you were not for the invasion, could not come up with good reasons for it, then you were persona non grata.

    That is why in all the list of things that compelled us to invade Iraq the case of a long dead Naval Aviator (who ironically Dick Cheney helped leave behind) was all of a sudden front and center, Saddam had balsa wood airplanes that could launch from oil tankers and distribute his gas and chem weapons, Al Queda planned 9/11 from Baghdad et, once again we were revisiting the poor Kurds being gassed, even though at the time we were not all opposed to it…

    It is all as good or bad as the political leadership and NASA is no different.

    They (the current administration and really most of Congress) want to end the shuttle and Constellation. It cost to much, dangerous, is a dead end and has made NASA the laughing stock of a federal bureaucracy that moves badly anyway.

    People like KBH and Nelson cant come right out and say so, so they inserted pet language to “make possible” little conciliation prizes…..one more shuttle mission maybe, and to whatever extent possible use Ares/Shuttle hardware in an HLV…

    but both of them and everyone else know really that this is not going to happen…there is no money to do this. If Nelson really wanted DIRECT or Ares renamed he would have made sure that there was the money in terms of test flights or ground test or something that kept the infrastructure alive to make sure it was used. Ergo the B-1 which always seemed to have money for “something” in the Carter years even after Harold Brown etc killed it..and hence it returned.

    As it is Charlie B and his folks can come up with 9000 reasons why it is unsafe to fly the LON as a dedicated mission; and KBH can be “sad” but heck she doesnt want the responsibility on her shoulders if the darn thing goes sour so there is the “dodge” language.

    All the smucks who are constituents hoping for a change or who are to stupid to know real politics can then curse Bolden etc and still be out of a job and Kay and others can give these great speeches.

    As for the station, it has and can survive without the shuttle…if they have three people on the station they will be doing “world class science at 17,500 mph” and pretty soon there will be commercial resupply and then people. And in the interim as many people will care as do now, meaning no one.

    As my friend (who Whittington has met) father once told us (the Dad was the COS to Olin Teague) “politics is a magic act making the people in the district think you are doing all you can for them even when it doesnt go your way”…and most of the “space community” has been had. They are all caught up in their own little fantasy world about how human spaceflight is the most important thing that the creator has put forward.

    In politics you can always tell which side is losing, they are the ones who are always claiming “after the election we will fix this”. Peruse this forum and its obvious.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    and next year when there is no shuttle, no sdv, no plans for exploration you can keep telling me this.

    see I am winning. I love it

    Robert G. Oler

  • Martijn Meijering

    Yes, they are delayed by an unnecessary new vehicle.

    A harmful vehicle even.

  • Alas, it looks as if NASA is once again caught in a political web not of its own making.

    While China is intent upon visiting the Moon (albeit at the literal expense of their people), NASA can only dream about it due to its inability to influence its budget to actually fulfill its ultimate goal of conquering the solar system.

  • Bennett

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Damn Robert, are you going through some form of post partum depression?

    They are all caught up in their own little fantasy world about how human spaceflight is the most important thing that the creator has put forward.

    It may not be the most important thing, but (to me and many others) it IS one of the most exciting things. I hope you pull out of your funk. Between you and Red, I’m getting a tad depressed when I should be feeling pretty darned excited at the amazing changes (if they stand) and possible advancements that will happen over the next five years.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I have never seen doors open for real progress quite like they have since February 1st of this year.

    :-)

  • Matt Wiser

    Mr. Oler seems to be putting himself as a candidate for the vacant position of Astronomer Royal; those who occupy that slot have a very spotty record on HSF, and spaceflight in general.

    MECO: good post. I concur with your assessment. ObamaSpace is dead and buried. Constellation will be revamped, but not officially terminated. Just “restructured.” Heavy-lift and Orion will be developed, the commercial zealots will get some money, but not what they were dreaming originally. And since the Senate bill mandates use of legacy hardware from both Shuttle and Constellation, at least “some” of the work done on the latter won’t be wasted. The high and mighty Augustine Commisson reccommended an Ares V light as heavy-lift should that route be taken, and that’s one of the few things I actually agree with them on. (the wholesale transfer of LEO ops to commercial, otoh, I vehemently disagree with). Obama gets his NEO mission included, but there’s multiple destinations BEO, but a succesor administration will go to the moon at some point before shooting for Mars-even the Augustine Commission recognized that lunar before Mars was the preferred option under the so-called “Flexible Path.”

  • Justin Kugler

    Before I taught myself better habits, I used to justify eating everything put in front of me so it wouldn’t “go to waste.” All that did was make me overweight and unhappy.

    When I learned to control my portion sizes, eat healthier, and only eat what I needed to be full, my weight dropped, I found myself healthier, and I began to exercise more.

    The sunk costs fallacy is just as poor an excuse in planning for spaceflight as it is in planning a diet.

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ August 7th, 2010 at 12:12 am

    Constellation will be revamped, but not officially terminated. Just “restructured.”

    Considering that the stated goals of CxP were gaining significant experience in operating away from Earth’s environment, developing technologies needed for opening the space frontier, and conducting fundamental science, it doesn’t look like that survived as a cohesive program. Pieces and parts maybe, but not as a unified effort, and no stated goals or dates for anything BEO. Sorry.

    the wholesale transfer of LEO ops to commercial, otoh, I vehemently disagree with

    Matter of opinion I guess, and one that I don’t share (as well as many others). I guess I see commercial crew as nothing different than any other transportation system, and commercial companies operate those with government blessing and cooperation just fine. In fact, what I see as the most immediate benefit to NASA is the ability to reclaim budget from government-run transportation systems that they were being forced to build and run, and using that for BEO exploration (or other things as good).

    NASA can never run a transportation system as cost efficiently as the commercial industry can, and Congress will never give NASA extra funds for running one. So those infrastructure and operations funds for the barely used HLV’s will directly impact programs that would have taken us out of Earth’s orbit using existing commercial heavy launchers. That to me is what I vehemently disagree with.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Justin Kugler wrote @ August 7th, 2010 at 12:27 am

    well said Robert G. Oler

  • GaryChurch

    “They are all caught up in their own little fantasy world about how human spaceflight is the most important thing that the creator has put forward.”

    Take a look at what is going to allow humans to explore the solar system.
    http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/shuttlec.htm

  • DCSCA

    Commercial is here… <- It's been 'here' for 30 years and going no place fast. Another day dawns and dies and still no Dragons cross our skies.

    "major course change" meaning making bigger circles in the sands of Cocoa Beach which still look like goose eggs from the proper perspective. Commercial space is a ticket to no place- a follow along for the few who are profiteers, not rocketeers. It will never lead the way into space in this era of human history.

  • DCSCA

    “They are all caught up in their own little fantasy world about how human spaceflight is the most important thing that the creator has put forward.” <- Actually, it is, Waldo. But then, you naysayers could rationalize that even ants have their own space program which humans have named the Empire State Building.

    "In politics you can always tell which side is losing, they are the ones who are always claiming “after the election we will fix this”." Peruse this forum and its obvious. Yes, it is. Government funded commercial space advocates have been slapped down hard– and rightly so.

  • DCSCA

    Darnell Clayton wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 8:33 pm <- yes, and don't be surprised if a large percentage of the American public simply shrug and say, "who cares– John Glenn andTom Hanks have been there… and we've saw Michael Jackson moonwalk on MTV… now who's the new judge on American Idol."

  • DCSCA

    amightywind wrote @ August 6th, 2010 at 8:28 am <– Yes, well, he certainly has borrowed from WC Fields- 'Never give the suckers an even break or smarten up the chumps." He may have shown a little too much leg, though, when he set himself up as the visionary savior of 'space exploration' while making a pitch for government funding of comemrical space ventures.

    Bud and Lou had his type pegged:

    Costello: "What makes a balloon go up?"
    Abbott: "Hot air."
    Costello: "What's holdin' you down?"

    Best thing Musk can do is stop talking and start flying. And yet another days dawns and moves to dusk; still no manned Dragons flown by Musk.

  • DCSCA

    “Orion wont fly for a variety of reasons (at least in its capsule form) but mostly because it is not needed.” <- It is. It will. But you go on and keep trying to convey otherwise. And while you're at it, pitch the sound rationale for Americans rejecting the English measurment system and fully adopting the metric system. That'll be a good show, too.

  • Red: “Science missions would not be able to use the SLS, because, although you’d like them to be able to lower mission costs by taking advantage of mass and volume, there are technical and management factors that would discourage that, and actually would likely result in huge missions budgets and overruns.”

    Red, how is that JWST working out for you?

    http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/space/os-webb-telescope-problems-20100809,0,6146702.story

    I have to say you clearly don’t understand spacecraft design or even engineering 101. Tight margins always drive geometric increases in cost as you approach those margins. Margin is your friend with regards to time, cost, risk, complexity and capability.

    Given that technically you are wrong, just what are the management issues that prevent us from going with higher margin, lower cost, lower tech, more capable missions enabled by the SLS again?

    The fixed cost (ie zero flights per year) for the SLS should be around $900 million, with the incremental cost of each launch being about $300 million. Given all the benefits of new breakthrough Commercial, Civilian and Military mission that the $900 million buys us, I think a nation that is asking the US taxpayer to spend more than all other nations combined on Space deserves more than flying warmed over missions with slightly better sensors, don’t you? I also know for a fact that the US will be second to none in national security with the SLS.

    You continue to ignore that most of the cost of spaceflight is ‘not’ launch cost it’s the cost of the spacecraft and flying the missions. Therefore even if launch cost was free we would still have to deal with the other 80% of the cost. The 80% you continue to ignore.

  • Byeman

    False logic.

    1. The military is not going to use SLS.
    2. the US can not afford unmanned spacecraft that could fly on SLS.
    3. Most spacecraft don’t have tight margins.

    “prevent us from going with higher margin, lower cost, lower tech, more capable missions ”

    because there is no such thing. Cassini didn’t have tight margins. They could always off load propellant. Same goes for MRO, Juno, MSL. A larger launch vehicle would not make these cheaper.

  • Byeman

    “continue to ignore that most of the cost of spaceflight is ‘not’ launch cost it’s the cost of the spacecraft and flying the missions. Therefore even if launch cost was free we would still have to deal with the other 80% of the cost.” and “prevent us from going with higher margin, lower cost, lower tech, ”

    So where are all the Delta IV heavy missions if this were true. The US is not even using all the capabilities of existing vehicles, so why should it need a bigger one.

    The JWST issue is volume and not lift capability. Existing vehicles can be fitted with larger fairings. SLS is not need to fix JWST

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ August 8th, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Given all the benefits of new breakthrough Commercial, Civilian and Military mission that the $900 million buys us…

    As Byeman pointed out, the commercial satellite market is not demanding bigger launchers at this point, and are not utilizing the capabilities of the largest launchers either.

    Last year the 12th World Market Survey of satellite construction and launch trends, produced by Euroconsult of Paris, had this to say:

    Taking all markets – commercial, civil government and military – combined, the average satellite mass is likely to drop by 5 percent, to 4,166 pounds (1,890 kg), in the coming 10 years compared to the previous period, Euroconsult concludes.

    But while the average satellite built in the next decade will lose weight, the number of satellites will increase. The study concludes that 1,185 spacecraft will be launched in the next 10 years, a 47 percent increase over the 10 years ending in 2008.

    The average satellite price over the next decade will be $99 million, compared to $97 million in the past 10 years. The per-satellite launch price is predicted to remain flat, at $51 million, according to Euroconsult.

    I saw a similar study that was released by the U.S. government covering the same period, and it was pretty close, especially about the predicted satellite size.

    So a couple of points:

    - Launch costs are not insignificant WRT to the total cost of the satellite.

    - Satellite makers are not going to rush to produce larger satellites if an HLV is available.

  • Look, I’m not suggesting for one minute that existing launch systems aren’t useful and won’t be the dominate access point to space for the vast majority of ‘existing’ missions which will also very likely dominate launch system demand. All I’m suggesting is that there are some astounding opportunities for truly breakthrough missions with the SLS. I think that these breakthrough missions are worth the $900 million per year we will need to spend long term in order to enable them. I also think that in the end the $900 million dollars will be paid back in the form of lower spacecraft costs and more capable, though less frequent, missions. I would happy with a breakthrough mission every few years or so vs. sixteen been their done that missions every year.

    I mean do we really need to map every rock in our solar system down to 1mm resolution? Is that what the next fifty years of space exploration is going to be about? Having significantly higher resolution images of other bodies in the solar system than our own sea floor? I think the two most profound questions that we should and can answer in the next fifty years will be has a second genesis occurred in our solar system and is there life on other planets in our galaxy. Answering these questions will require more volume, larger diameters and higher throw masses than launch systems, optimized to put up communication/earth remote sensing satellites, can deliver. It’s entirely understandable as to why launch service providers think their systems are adequate because this is the mission type that dominates their demand. I would suggest though that just because you sell hammers doesn’t mean everything a nail.

    The entire worldwide space industry is about $250 Billion dollars. The launch services industry worldwide is about $20 Billion. What more do you need to know than that with regards to where to look in order to find out why space is so expensive? I’m being generous when I say that launch cost is less than 20% of the total lifecycle cost.

    If anything what drives for profit users of space crazy is getting bumped by late national security launches that can also then interact with time critical civilian launches. Adding an extra 6 months to their cash flow projections (ie the other 80% of their business case) can make the difference between making and losing money on their investments.

    Seems to me to be perfectly good reason as to why commercial users of launch systems should be paying only the incremental cost and not the fixed cost since the government will and should have bumping rights. The government pays the premium price (fixed plus incremental) because they have priority when push comes to shove.

  • Martijn Meijering

    All I’m suggesting is that there are some astounding opportunities for truly breakthrough missions with the SLS.

    Let’s hear about them. And note that the same goes for existing ELVs, which have the advantage of well, existing. And being paid for already.

  • You continue to ignore that most of the cost of spaceflight is ‘not’ launch cost it’s the cost of the spacecraft and flying the missions.

    You continue to repeat this as though it’s relevant to human deep-space exploration. It is not. When the vast majority of your payload is propellant, launch costs become very important.

  • Martijn Meijering

    When the vast majority of your payload is propellant, launch costs become very important.

    And with reusable spacecraft it would be. Stephen is merely describing why using expendable manned spacecraft is such a bad idea. A bad idea that his favourite launch vehicle requires in order to get enough payloads.

  • Martijn Meijering

    You continue to ignore that most of the cost of spaceflight is ‘not’ launch cost it’s the cost of the spacecraft and flying the missions.

    Even if this were true for manned spaceflight (which it wouldn’t be, unless you stupidly used expendable spacecraft), it would merely state that the precise launch vehicle isn’t important, which means we should prefer competitive procurement with multiple simultaneous suppliers, not a dedicated vehicle. The nonsense people come up with when they have an agenda…

  • GaryChurch

    “The nonsense people come up with when they have an agenda…”

    You are a perfect example of that.
    The reason spaceflight has “stupidly” been done with expendable vehicles- like Soyuz- all these years is that you cannot build something lightweight that will survive the vibration, stresses, extremes of temperature, and working pressures and be in any condition to be used again. Not without spending more money tearing it apart, inspecting, and rebuilding it again for more money than it cost to make brand new.
    Like a soda can.
    Scratched, dented, the pop top popped, residue inside, thrown onto the road. You can recover the can, carefully (very carefully) repair the dents, completely scrape off the paint and repaint it, meticulously clean and sterilize the inside, replace the pop top by removing, brazing, and pressing a new one on, etc.
    Or you can just forget about it and continue to punch out new ones at the factory.

    You might not agree with this analogy but the weight factor is not debatable. The weight of recovery devices, even simple parachutes, eats into the payload. Making a capsule reusable may have advantages, but sticking wings, control systems, airframe and landing gear on it so it can land like an airplane has been proven to be a dead end. And unless some unobtainium is found in regards to propulsion or the laws of physics change, it will stay this way.
    The precise launch vehicle is all important, and your competitive procurement is inherently flawed because it does not choose the best, it accepts the cheapest.

  • GaryChurch

    By the way Martijn, I am a believer in reusable- I hate to see things get dropped in the ocean (or on the steppe) as junk. But I also understand that the space shuttle was a big mistake. Using that heavy lift system to put an airliner up has crippled space flight for decades. The best combination has to be found. I like Von Braun’s original wet workshop concept.

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