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Commercial crew, EELV, and avoiding repeating history

Many people who are opposed to the administration’s proposal to invest up to $6 billion over the next five years to develop commercial crew transportation capabilities insist that they’re not opposed to the concept of commercial crew, only the approach. If a company develops a commercial crew system on their own dime, they argue, they’d be happy to support buying services from them—they just don’t want their development subsidized by the federal government. However, one industry official warned last week that such an approach threatens to repeat the history of another program.

George Sowers, vice president of business development for United Launch Alliance, noted during a panel session at the AIAA Space 2010 conference in Anaheim, California, last Thursday that the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program had a mixed outcome. The program was a technical and programmatic success, he noted, and “an even bigger success” for the US government, in that it invested $1 billion into the program ($500 million each to Boeing and Lockheed Martin), while the two companies put about $4 billion of their own money to develop the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 launch vehicle families. However, it was “a business failure” for the two companies, he said, as they failed to recoup their investment into the vehicles, especially as anticipated commercial launch demand failed to materialize. He noted that at one point in the 1990s Lockheed had a conservative forecast of 19 Atlas 5 launches a year; current launch rates are instead about five a year, virtually all for government customers.

Sowers noted the parallels between the EELV and commercial crew debates are “kind of eerie”. Because of that, he argued, repeating the same approach of the EELV program, with private ventures picking up most of the costs of developing systems on the basis of capturing promised commercial markets, is unwise. “Assuming the existence of a commercial market to entice or extort the companies to invest is the wrong way to go,” he said. Having the government invest in developing commercial crew capabilities is better for several reasons: the government needs the capability, a commercial approach can reduce costs over an all-government system, and the government can get a long-term benefit as commercial markets do emerge and cost go down as flight rates increase. “The government should invest” up front, unlike the EELV case, he said, “and if the government does invest, then a commercial market can be established and then the government can get its return on investment.”

114 comments to Commercial crew, EELV, and avoiding repeating history

  • Who would have thought the “Big Guys” would see commercial for what it is and how easy it is to kill a good thing. Commercial needs US government funding of the initial infrasructures, even their competitors know it and appreciare where it will take America!

    The return on investment is long term but yields as high a return as any US tax dollar spent.

    Maybe Obama’s latest stimulus package will include an extra billion or two to fully fund NASA?

  • Robert G. Oler

    This is pretty good, but there is an alternate plan…and it seems both SpaceX and OSC are giving it a go…develop a product that is commercially viable AND does the governments business.

    I’ll use Falcon9 but the same could be said of OSC’s product. The essence of the 9 is that it has been developed on far less money then (certainly NASA and Ares) the EELV’s.

    If the development cost can translate into product cost, meaning that Musk can make his numbers on cost…then the entire equation is recast. That is what we (along with the 9′s performance of course) are waiting to see.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Until we move beyond government only customers, does it really matter what launchers we use?

  • Coastal Ron

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ September 5th, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    This is pretty good, but there is an alternate plan…and it seems both SpaceX and OSC are giving it a go…develop a product that is commercially viable AND does the governments business.

    This is certainly true for launchers, but adding the cargo and crew capability needs skills, capabilities and standards that are not needed just for launchers.

    SpaceX may have developed it’s DragonLab on it’s own, but they would not have built the systems needed for the ISS without the need to deliver to the ISS. For Orbital, I doubt they ever would have developed a cargo capability on their own, because there is no market for it, and who knows if they would have even gone forward with Taurus II.

    For crew, the LAS is the biggest sticking point, especially because there are no set standards or certification levels to be “man-rated”. A company could do what they think is prudent for commercial crew, but miss out on NASA contracts because it doesn’t meet NASA’s standards when they finally publish them (whenever that is). You have to have deep pockets to gamble on something like that.

    Lastly, right now NASA is the only source of demand for cargo and crew, so it makes sense for NASA to help develop the market providers. And like ULA’s Sowers noted, NASA ends up with many long-term benefits, including lower overall costs and better industry capabilities.

  • Dennis Berube

    Just maybe Space X would have built a supply line to space anyway, as the Bigelow hotel will need supplies for its customers, will it not? Also it has been said that Bigelow and NASA are in talks to see if they can dock an inflatable to the ISS as a test run. Good idea, but what is holding them up?

  • Martijn Meijering

    Until we move beyond government only customers, does it really matter what launchers we use?

    When will you stop playing dumb, Bill? You know exactly why proponents argue commercial launchers are important.

  • Just maybe Space X would have built a supply line to space anyway, as the Bigelow hotel will need supplies for its customers, will it not?

    Yes, but it will take longer if NASA doesn’t want to provide a market.

    Also it has been said that Bigelow and NASA are in talks to see if they can dock an inflatable to the ISS as a test run. Good idea, but what is holding them up?

    Who knows? Ask NASA.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    So if the government is bot the investor and the customer, can it really be called “commercial?”

  • Coastal Ron

    Dennis Berube wrote @ September 5th, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Just maybe Space X would have built a supply line to space anyway, as the Bigelow hotel will need supplies for its customers, will it not?

    Bigelow will definitely need crew services – they haven’t really detailed out their logistics yet, and maybe that depends on the customer’s needs.

    But Bigelow has been quite vocal about wanting redundant suppliers, and if you’ll notice, he has been publicly working with Lockheed Martin and Boeing for a capsule, not so much SpaceX. I think this is smart, because if he can’t make a business case using a company like Boeing, then he shouldn’t start the business (i.e. lack of redundancy).

    What we’ve been talking about here, however, is not the capabilities of one company (like SpaceX), but establishing an industry that has multiple providers. I wish SpaceX well, but I also advocate for Boeing and others to be included, otherwise commercial space won’t be able to expand past just launch services.

  • So if the government is bot the investor and the customer, can it really be called “commercial?”

    I’m assuming ‘bot’ = ‘both’ in this statement Mr. Whittington.

    So can this be applied to the railroads, to the air-mail contracts?

    I understand the pertinent language applies to the method of procurement.

  • Martijn Meijering

    So if the government is bot the investor and the customer, can it really be called “commercial?”

    Why should we care what it’s called?

    “If you call a tail a leg, how many legs has a dog? Five? No, calling a tail a leg don’t make it a leg.” – Abraham Lincoln

  • Coastal Ron

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ September 5th, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    So if the government is bot the investor and the customer, can it really be called “commercial?”

    Not in the classic sense, but if the providers are able to market their services to non-NASA customers, especially non-government ones, then that is when it becomes commercial. Right now you can’t buy a seat to fly on the Shuttle, but you should be able to buy one on commercial crew capsules.

    Soyuz was “commercial” for a while, and really it’s only because they lack capacity that they are no longer selling seats (i.e. capacity at a certain price). If commercial crew starts visiting the ISS, I think Soyuz will have available capacity to sell again, but I don’t know if they’ll have any takers (high training time, low comfort level, etc.)

  • What we’ve been talking about here, however, is not the capabilities of one company (like SpaceX), but establishing an industry that has multiple providers. I wish SpaceX well, but I also advocate for Boeing and others to be included, otherwise commercial space won’t be able to expand past just launch services.

    That is the end-game here; the creation of redundancy in the HSF industry.

    Why are so many against this, other than pork or just plain political ideology?

  • Martijn Meijering

    Soyuz was “commercial” for a while, and really it’s only because they lack capacity that they are no longer selling seats (i.e. capacity at a certain price).

    They have recently expanded (doubled I think) their capacity.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    I’m not sure that anyone here really understands the implications of the statement that Jeff has quoted. It is an admission that private industry cannot develop a space faring capability without massive government subsidies and even then commercial markets may not be created.

    I happen to disagree with that assessment. The problem is, can private industry develop a commercial launch sector within a time frame that would be useful for ISS without the government being the prime investor? If not, then it seems to me that the advantage of “commercial” somewhat diminishes when compared to building a launch system in house.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    “So can this be applied to the railroads, to the air-mail contracts?”

    Private markets already existed for railroads and air travel.

  • Private markets already existed for railroads and air travel.

    Only on the very local levels, not on the national.

    It took direct government bonds, contracts and subsidies to propel them to the national levels and helped bring prices down so ordinary people could utilize them for transportation.

  • amightywind

    then a commercial market can be established and then the government can get its return on investment.

    The market’s reluctance to fund commercial space signals the real value of providing ISS resupply. It is not the job of government to ‘invest’ in order to line the pockets of a well connected newspace oligarchs. Its job is to explore space. Constellation does that. While the NASA leadership continues to piss around, the clock is ticking on the shuttle program. Shame on the failure of leadership that has brought us to this point. Lets hope the GOP cleans house soon.

  • I say Walt Anderson took a wrong turn with his MirCorp project.

    Here is an excerpt from Jeffrey Manber’s outstanding book, Selling Peace (see page 268/269):

    From the start of the project Walt [Anderson] recoiled at the idea of Mir as an entertainment platform.

    . . .

    Mike [Macmillan] finished the thought. “This is not about a space station; it’s about creating a brand that is a cutting edge, twenty-first century consumer product!” Added Mike, “It’s an American brand but it pretends not to be.”

    I ran the idea past [Rick] Tumlinson who let out a yelp. “Oh man! That’s so retro. It’s exactly what I’ve been thinking.”

    Anderson hated it. “I’m not investing millions of dollars to create a new pair of jeans. MirCorp is for the scientific community,” he scornfully lectured.

    Anyway, what Jeff’s piece suggests (and it matches what Andrew Aldrin said last spring) is that EELV may be no less susceptible to cost-plus bloat than SDLV. Especially if Boeing and Lockheed Martin decline to put any significant skin into the game.

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Or maybe Quisp v. Quake.

    Do we want lean, efficient cost effective human spaceflight? Get off Uncle Sugar’s intravenous feed.

    = = =

    In the short term, entertainment (of which tourism and advertising are subsets), could well be the only business model for humans in space that closes, if we rely primarily on non-tax revenue streams.

  • dad2059 wrote @ September 5th, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    People traveled between New York and San Francisco before the railroads and mail was already being delivered to everywhere in the United States before the Air Mail Act.

  • It is an admission that private industry cannot develop a space faring capability without massive government subsidies and even then commercial markets may not be created.

    Nonsense. It is a statement by one company about its acceptable level of business risk. SpaceX has already proven that “massive government subsidies” are not required to develop a space-faring capability, because its management is less risk averse.

  • Freddo

    So if the government is bot the investor and the customer, can it really be called “commercial?”

    Sure, according to the national space policy:

    The term “commercial,” for the purposes of this policy, refers to space goods, services, or activities provided by private sector enterprises that bear a reasonable portion of the investment risk and responsibility for the activity, operate in accordance with typical market-based incentives for controlling cost and optimizing return on investment, and have the legal capacity to offer these goods or services to existing or potential nongovernmental customers

    Things like “reasonable portion” are big enough to drive an EELV through, but there’s nothing in the policy that prohibits the government from both helping fund some portion of development costs as well as being a customer.

  • Vladislaw

    “Also it has been said that Bigelow and NASA are in talks to see if they can dock an inflatable to the ISS as a test run. Good idea, but what is holding them up?”

    In President Obama’s proposed 2011 budget there was funding provided for testing inflatables, as you know, a lot of those budget priorities have been gutted by the house and senate. If there is a continuing resolution rather than a budget it will take even longer to see this.

  • DCSCA

    “It is an admission that private industry cannot develop a space faring capability without massive government subsidies and even then commercial markets may not be created.” <- Agreed. That's why they've flown nobody.

  • Space2030

    So Mr. George Sowers wants the federal government to pay all the development costs of commercial crew capabilities for commercial companies. Then those commercial companies will sell to the federal government this capability. Great private enterprise system. How about an alternative? Let’s have the federal government build its own crew and rocket capabilities (since NASA is the only or major purchaser) and call it the Constellation program.

  • @ Vladislaw

    Bigelow Aerospace has already tested two inflatables and they remain in orbit, as far as I know.

    Mr. Bigelow also was recently interviewed in the AIAA monthly magazine and reports are he expressed his eagerness for an HLV sooner rather than later to permit the flying of a few very large inflatable modules.

  • CharlesHouston

    We have (at least) two discussions here, all mixed up.

    Will Commercial Space “take off”?? People say YES because the Bigelow inflatable will need to bring people up to it!! People say YES because the tourist industry is going to need lots of seats. This may be true one day, but the EELV was partly justified due to the large number of flights that were going to be needed for the many satellite voice/data networks. Iridium, Globalstar, OSC, I have forgotten some of them already. They were all gonna need dozens of satellites and were all gonna be needed for all of the communications demands. They all went bankrupt, we even talked about deorbiting the Iridium constellation. The tourist industry may be a huge business one day but I am not gonna buy any at the IPO!!! It might just be a few dozen people that fly on the Virgin Galactic flights – and do not go to any Bigelow module, which may never get into space.

    Would commercial development of a capsule be more efficient than the government development?? Almost certainly. The commercial firms do not have to put a certain part of their project in various states, they do not have to allow managers to gold plate the capsule. They can depend on rich billionaires (to some degree) spending 100 million dollars in development, in exchange they get one of the first seats.

    Commercial development of a capsule would be more efficient – but almost certainly the only destination for the next ten years or so will be the ISS. And no one is going to want to have the ISS crew distracted daily by tourist after tourist! The crew is trying to keep the cranky hardware working, they are trying to do some science. A tourist once in a while is great but we can easily kill this goose, and so get no more golden eggs.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    “Nonsense. It is a statement by one company about its acceptable level of business risk. SpaceX has already proven that “massive government subsidies” are not required to develop a space-faring capability, because its management is less risk averse.”

    Not insofar as human space flight is concerned.

  • Coastal Ron

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ September 5th, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    The problem is, can private industry develop a commercial launch sector within a time frame that would be useful for ISS without the government being the prime investor?

    Actually I think you have that backward. I look at the question from this perspective:

    Would NASA save money by co-investing with the commercial space industry to develop cargo and crew transportation for the ISS?

    NASA (Bush/Griffin) already decided to risk the cargo portion, and so far the COTS program has been operating as planned (milestone payments, replacing under-performing participants, etc.).

    For crew, SpaceX and ULA have already stated that $2B between them would put in place two launchers for commercial crew (Falcon 9 and Atlas V), one launcher for a Orion-class capsule (Delta IV Heavy) and one commercial crew capsule (Dragon).

    Add in whatever cost your think it would take for Boeing to build their CST-100 (less than $1B?), and that equals the total amount it would cost NASA to develop a minimum & redundant commercial crew industry. Add money for a third crew vehicle (Dream Chaser?), and that really provides redundancy.

    Let’s say that’s $4.5B total. Lockheed Martin is saying that it would take $4.5-5.5B to finish Orion – and that’s without a launcher!

    Now you tell me – which one is the least expensive option for NASA to have a redundant crew delivery system?

  • Coastal Ron

    CharlesHouston wrote @ September 5th, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    but almost certainly the only destination for the next ten years or so will be the ISS. And no one is going to want to have the ISS crew distracted daily by tourist after tourist!

    I don’t see a tourist market for commercial crew, and the advocates on this forum for commercial crew don’t seem to be promoting it either.

    I see commercial crew as being the sole U.S. provider of ISS crew services. But because of the ability for any of the ISS partners to buy passage, I think there will be more crew flights than the minimum planned. Remember, the ISS could host more crew, and it is also underutilized science-wise. Both of these could be overcome by 7-passenger commercial capsules plus more CRS deliveries.

    Will Commercial Space “take off”?? People say YES because the Bigelow inflatable will need to bring people up to it!

    Bigelow is not going to start his business until there is commercial crew – period. So his business is an outgrowth of commercial crew, not the other way around. His market is also undefined, so I don’t factor that into my view of the potential commercial crew market.

    But no market will develop unless there is redundant, available crew systems for hire – ISS partners, Bigelow customers, or whoever. So if you want a market for commercial crew, NASA is the fastest way to get it going – and NASA saves money at the same time. Win-win.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ September 5th, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    “I’m not sure that anyone here really understands the implications of the statement that Jeff has quoted. It is an admission that private industry cannot develop a space faring capability without massive government subsidies and even then commercial markets may not be created.”

    No it is not. Simberg is correct on this and you are just flat wrong (which makes the point about Krugman and truth)…

    and it illustrates the problem in Human spaceflight (and in large small measure spaceflight in general) in the US. It also illustrates how far you have come in becoming anti commercial.

    None of the legacy companies (Boeing/Lockmart) are willing to do what Musk has done with Falcon..invest their own money, design to their tunr and satisfaction a brank new launch system where price is a component of the operation of the vehicle.

    Sowers quote it nothing MORE THEN AN ADMISSION OF THAT. Thanks to years of NASA and DoD, what you use to call “crony capitalism” ULA and Boeing and Lockmart as individual companies wont put a DIME of their own money in either rocket or satellite/spacecraft design.

    Think about that for a moment.

    You and a lot of other people who would rather have “exploration” in some decade long timespan done by people who are government employees…are critical of a person a self made wealthy dude (grin) who is investing his own money and trying to develop a product to sell to government to provide a service that 1) government wants and 2) government has shown it cant do for any efficient price (or now do at all)…

    ULA/Boeing/Lockmart (particularly the later two) are all great at coming up with viewgraph rockets (the Boeing SDV is the latest) but put their own money into it (other then some modest company funds to do viewgraphs).

    Not a chance.

    And yet Musk does and has some success on it…at far less money then your government technohandout Ares…and you beat up on it.

    As best I know there were no private or non government customers for the Boeing 299…and yet it clearly was a commercial product developed commercially by a commercial firm.

    That you cannot see Musk is doing essentially the same thing…shows how blind you are by simple hate of the current administration and its killing of another Bush effort that was not going anywhere.

    Robert G. Oler

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ September 2nd, 2010 at 4:17 pm “First I really dont care that we (the US or humanity or whatever) goes to the Moon or Mars or an asteroid in the next 10-20 years. I dont think that there is any need to send people we have good robotics which can do the job at far lower cost.” <– 'Nuff said.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    As I’ve noted previously, Bigelow may have started his venture on instinct but there’s no doubt in my mind that he now has customers. It’s just a matter of proving out his life support and other issues with his inflatables and having a reliable STS up and running.
    I think the latter is what’s currently holding things up for him not his internal issues or a lack of customers.

  • DCSCA

    @CharlesHouston “Commercial development of a capsule would be more efficient – but almost certainly the only destination for the next ten years or so will be the ISS.” Which is essentially as dead end for commercial as Apollo was. Little wonder private capital markets would shy away from investing in such an expensive ventures That’s why governments do it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Coastal Ron wrote @ September 5th, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    the notion that we can go from a (to borrow a phrase) “soviet design bureau” system to free enterprise all in one turn of the page is nuts.

    The reality is however that the system that started 50 years ago has floundered. Despite 10 billion dollars it could not complete the design and build of a simple vehicle to resupply/crew the ISS.

    that is how bankrupt the system Whittington et al support…

    Robert G. Oler

  • DCSCA

    @Ron… How many flight ready ‘DragonLab’ vehicles exist– because none have flown..

  • DCSCA

    @JF: “Many people who are opposed to the administration’s proposal to invest up to $6 billion over the next five years to develop commercial crew transportation capabilities insist that they’re not opposed to the concept of commercial crew, only the approach. If a company develops a commercial crew system on their own dime, they argue, they’d be happy to support buying services from them—they just don’t want their development subsidized by the federal government.” <- Precisely.

    Well said.

  • Robert G. Oler

    “Many people who are opposed to the administration’s proposal to invest up to $6 billion over the next five years to develop commercial crew transportation capabilities insist that they’re not opposed to the concept of commercial crew, only the approach. If a company develops a commercial crew system on their own dime, they argue, they’d be happy to support buying services from them—they just don’t want their development subsidized by the federal government.”

    but of course subsidizing complete programs even with the evidence of failure is fine.

    no problem with 10 billion for Ares which is no where near to flying but gee 1/10th of that for commercial ops is wrong?

    goofy

    Robert G. oler

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ September 5th, 2010 at 11:11 pm “First I really dont care that we (the US or humanity or whatever) goes to the Moon or Mars or an asteroid in the next 10-20 years. I dont think that there is any need to send people we have good robotics which can do the job at far lower cost. – R.G. Oler.’ ‘Nuff said.

  • Space tourism is the market that private commercial companies need to focus on, not the meager manned traffic to the ISS ( a program that should actually be terminated after 2015). The Federal government can help promote space tourism without even having to use any tax payer money by simply starting a space lotto system.

  • CharlesHouston

    Bill White talked about MirCorp – we should all remember what a deathtrap the Mir was. It had been poorly designed, poorly maintained. The MCC Moscow was poorly run and ignored safety. All we can say is that we were all really lucky to not lose several people up there.

    Coastal Ron says ISS could host more than 6 people – not with the current configuration. The place is stuffed – there are bags of stuff everywhere and it is real crowded. Also the systems are close to the margins – oxygen generation, power, carbon dioxide removal. We can host a Shuttle crew mostly since they bring a Shuttle with them. We could not have many tourists visit and none of them can stay long.

  • Matt Wiser

    So Oler finally came out and put it on the table: complete and total opposition to human exploration. He’d be very welcome at the L.A. Times editorial board and that pack of Luddites: they’ve had anti-HSF editorials for a number of years, ever since the Columbia accident.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ September 5th, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    How many flight ready ‘DragonLab’ vehicles exist– because none have flown..

    Hmm, you complain about SpaceX so much, you should know the answer.

    You also excel at the obvious (i.e. “because none have flown” comment), so it’s obvious that all you want to do is play word games.

    If you’re not going to discuss, debate or contribute, maybe you should go back to watching “Destination Moon”…

  • Robert G. Oler

    Matt Wiser wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 12:17 am

    So Oler finally came out and put it on the table: complete and total opposition to human exploration…

    no I didnt…words are important and I have explained it here a few times.

    There is now no value for human exploration of space that meshes with its cost. I am quite confident that the cost will come down over the years to come, particularly with the new commercial policy;

    but if human exploration of space is 200 billion dollars to send a few NASA astronauts to the Moon…nope not worth it.

    its technowelfare

    Robert G. Oler

  • Bennett

    …all you want to do is play word games.

    CoastalRon, He isn’t interested in anything other that posting the ugliest repetitions of his own ugliness. There are no ideas there, only bitterness and deliberate obtuseness. It’s not worth responding to. Post your own ideas and comments independent of anything the DC troll has to write and let him waste away in his own sad misery.

  • Robert G. Oler

    CharlesHouston wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 12:07 am

    “Bill White talked about MirCorp – we should all remember what a deathtrap the Mir was. It had been poorly designed, poorly maintained”

    I am on record as having oppossed the Mir joint flights and I am quite sure that they taught NASA HSF nothing…but

    “poorly maintained” I can agree with. The Soviets/Russians were out of money and the space station was in severe need of “upgrades”.

    Poorly designed…hmm not so much. All designs have their weakness and Mirs’ did…but it and ISS suffer some of the same problems…indeed since all the “rescue” vehicles are on one end of a single end stack…well that could turn out to bite everyone. ISS neatly violates all the objections that lead at one point to the “racetrack” design…objections which were wiped away with a stroke of “its to expensive and we have to have the Russians”.

    ISS was designed with microgee in mind and well I bet with all the Russian parts hanging on (and they are essential) thats “less” now..

    to expand past the six folks…well is going to require major rethinks…

    Mir was in its design no more a death trap then ISS is.

    Robert G. Oler

  • I like the idea of “MirCorp” rather more than I believe Mir itself was a particularly good or safe facility. That said, Jeffrey Manber’s book is a “must read” at least IMHO

    Anyway, without an alternate non-ISS destination (Bigelow?) I see no incentive whatsoever for co-investment of private money in commercial crew. Also, ISS by itself cannot possibly sustain multiple independent providers of commercial crew.

    AND

    Without the cargo modules that a Jupiter 130 could launch together with Orion, its not clear that COTS cargo will be sufficient to adequately sustain ISS in terms of total up-mass and large volume fairings.

    As for an EELV program to sustain ISS, George Sowers certainly is not saying the kinds of things that might help persuade Congress to go all-EELV. Is anyone from ULA trudging the halls of Congress to fight for EELV rather than SDLV?

  • Coastal Ron

    Bill White wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 1:25 am

    Without the cargo modules that a Jupiter 130 could launch together with Orion, its not clear that COTS cargo will be sufficient to adequately sustain ISS in terms of total up-mass and large volume fairings.

    Why is it “not clear”? Are you saying that the current NASA plan to supply the ISS is woefully inadequate? For supplies, they already have five different cargo vessels delivering supplies for them (Progress, ATV, HTV, Cygnus & Dragon). And as CharlesHouston correctly pointed out, the ISS is currently sized for six people (the current crew), so we shouldn’t need more supplies than planned.

    For more ISS segments, we don’t lack the ability to loft additional 5m payloads – Delta IV Heavy can lift all the payloads the Shuttle has transported to the ISS so far, and Atlas V Heavy and Falcon 9 Heavy could be brought online fairly quickly (vs some new launcher) to loft even heavier payloads.

    If we need something with a larger fairing, both Atlas V Heavy and Delta IV Heavy have the ability to accommodate larger & longer fairings (up to 7.2m x30m+), but no such payloads are planned as of yet.

    Where is the current logistics capability failing? And if there is a shortfall, why not just launch more CRS missions?

  • Frediiiie

    The thing is that NASA has essentially failed. It’s program, Constellation, was so horribly over budget that it was never going to get anywhere. The only option the government (any government) had was to kill it.
    So how do Americians get to the ISS?
    There is only one way in the short term.
    On Soyuz.
    Now the recidivists may get their way and a new NASA HLV may be started. But if the Senate and House bills are any indication the program will be under funded and will thus, inevitably, be doomed to cost over runs and schedule slips.
    Can you really imagine NASA doing a full HLV development on a cut down budget?
    Meanwhile two years from now cargo will be flowing to ISS on commercial Dragon and Cygnus capsules.
    Even at the most optimistic NASA HLV will still be years away, and congress persons and Senators, probably the very same ones now assuring us business isn’t ready or able to perform commercial crew safely, will be screaming and demanding to know why NASA hasn’t funded commercial crew and why NASA is still paying so much to the Russians.
    Remember Falcon 9 has flown.
    The first Dragon is now at the cape.
    Taurus II is 18 months away.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    Once Dragon is undertaking it’s CRS contract, the whole issue of commercial crew goes away. Why? Because all Dragon will require to become a Dragon Lifeboat is seats and maybe upgraded environmentals. Dragon Lifeboat becomes another product for the government to purchase off the shelf from SpaceX. And that’s when – oh 2011 probably. Then you’re only one step away from total crew services. No need for Orion, Soyuz or Ares. And Shuttles gone anyway.
    Cheers.

  • DCSCA

    Coastal Ron wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 12:21 am <- In other words, you don't know.

  • DCSCA

    Matt Wiser wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 12:17 am <- LOL yeah, he has no credibility on manned spaceflight. He's an aeroplane guy. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 12:25 am “…it’s technowelfare.” <- No, it's how the art and science of space technology has developed and progressed since the early 1930's because private enterprise cannot absorb the largess of scale of the costs and risks for space exploration in this period of human history. Nothing has stopped privatge enterprise from venturing into this field from the start but the lack of a perceived market, the high risk, costs and any measurable return on investment. Space exploitation is not space exploration.

  • DCSCA

    @Bennett: A successful, a suborbital manned test flight by SpaceX would verify their hardware and systems, ‘man-rate’ them on SpaceX’s terms; validate any loan guarantees or subsidy requests from the Treasury for commercial space and broaden public support for those requests. The cost of a successful manned suborbital launch would be returned many times over by those guarantees. A ‘loss-leader’ launch by Musk, savvy marketer that he is, would bolster confidence within the general space community as well as the investor class– and go a long way in silencing skeptics in Congress and other critics as well. It’s a smart idea, given the economic pressures of this era. Per Chris Kraft, when NASA flew Shepard, the reliability of rocket-propelled systems was roughly 60%. It should be much better today, 50 years later. Yet SpaceX seems reticent to conduct such a manned test flight which only fuels speculation that they don’t know how to do it or fear the loss of vehicle and crew which would set back commercial space for a decade or more. That’s the risk commercial space has to be willing to make to reap the benefits. Given the tone of Musk’s endless press releases, you’d think it’s a risk he’d jump at taking.

  • Byeman

    “A successful, a suborbital manned test flight by SpaceX would verify their hardware and systems, ”

    It would be a needless test flight, it would not provide any benefits and is not a smart idea. Spacex does not want to do it because would be just as much as waste of money just at Ares I-X was. All the systems for a manned orbital flight (except ECS and LAS) will be validated on each Spacex cargo flight.

    Gemini, Apollo and shuttle did not require suborbital tests, and neither will any future missions.

    Only clueless people would make such a suggestion or even postulate that Spacex “reticent to conduct such a manned test flight which only fuels speculation that they don’t know how to do it or fear the loss of vehicle
    and crew ”

    DCSCA wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 6:48 am < Just stop talking.
    It is better for you to be thought of as a fool than for you to post something and remove all doubt.

  • GuessWho

    Whittington – “I’m not sure that anyone here really understands the implications of the statement that Jeff has quoted. It is an admission that private industry cannot develop a space faring capability without massive government subsidies and even then commercial markets may not be created.”

    I would rephrase that to say “It is an admission that private industry will not develop a space faring capability without massive government subsidies”. SpaceX aside, large, publically held companies like Boeing, LM, NG, will not invest heavily on a speculative market. That is a risk their shareholders will not accept. As Sowers noted, both Boeing and LM took that risk with EELV and lost. Corporate memories are long.

    Oler – “Sowers quote it nothing MORE THEN AN ADMISSION OF THAT. Thanks to years of NASA and DoD, what you use to call “crony capitalism” ULA and Boeing and Lockmart as individual companies wont put a DIME of their own money in either rocket or satellite/spacecraft design.”

    As usual, Oler doesn’t know what he is talking about. Setting the case of EELV aside for a moment, Boeing, LM, and NG each invested significantly in the original development of their respective “CEV” designs. I have heard numbers in excess of $50M for both Boeing and LM. I also know that after winning, LM has invested more than $60M in “Orion” related R&D. Thus for a $1B-ish initial contract, LM has invest more than 10% of its own money in related design and development work. I think that is a little more than “DIME”.

  • Artemus

    Sowers’s parallels between EELV and commercial crew may have the opposite effect from what he intended. He’s trying to warn people away from EELV-style arrangements, yet ULA is still in business, with the greatest captive market imaginable. SpaceX would be more than happy to do business EELV-style; in fact, they made a big stink about not being allowed to compete on EELV terms a couple of years ago. An EELV-style arrangement with NASA would be considered an incredible success by any new players.

    I have not heard the $4 billion figure for Boeing/LM investment before. Conventional wisdom, maybe wrong, was that it was more like $1 billion. Saying it was $4 billion makes others think there is no way Boeing/LM have made money overall, but is that really the right figure? Sowers said the government “assumed” the existence of a commercial market to “extort” private investment. That’s rich. Didn’t Boeing and LM have their own market forecasts? Didn’t Hercules and Rockwell go after a piece of the same pie? I think they all knew how it would come out – the winner would get paid, and continue to get paid, no matter what happened in the commercial market. The idea that the government outfoxed poor naive little Boeing and LM is hilarious.

    It is the taxpayers, not the new entrants who should be wary of a commercial HSF plan. The government will end up bargaining away their control over the program, yet they’ll end up paying all the bills anyway, just like with EELV.

  • Artemus

    The more I think about Sowers’s comments, the madder I get. EELV was set up as commercial at the behest of industry. It was a natural outcome of acquisition “reform”, another great achievement of Democratic machine-style politics with defense contractors as the clients instead of trash haulers. The contractors wanted commercial contracting, they got it, and as happens sometimes in business, their investments didn’t pay off quite as expected. Now they want to blame the government for “enticing” them into it. Boo fricking hoo. This is a perfect illustration of the mindset at the top of these huge, established corporations – they expect nothing but winning, day after day, like the Harlem Globetrotters, and if they don’t win, it’s the taxpayer’s job to make it all better. They must belong to the same country club as the big financial firms.

    The big contractors seem to have thought “commercial” contracting meant no oversight, plus guaranteed profits. And they still seem to think that. I hope NASA is paying close attention.

  • Robert G. Oler

    GuessWho wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 10:07 am

    you are laughable.

    investing 60 million by lockmart in the Orion effort to win a what…oh 4-10 billion cost plus contract…are you joking or what.

    Lockmart and company probably invested more in “information suites” and the bimbo’s that go with them then they did engineering.

    Musk will ultimately invest about 1 billion of his own dollars…get a life

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Byeman wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 8:09 am

    I agree with what you say…but a minor nit…Gemini did have a suborbital test..the main purpose was to test theheat shield.

    Gemini 1 had been launched on an orbital test with holes drilled in the heat shield to make sure it did not survive reentry..

    Gemini 2 did the sub test twice as I recall…the first was this and the second was the MOL test…it did fine both times.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 6:48 am …

    SpaceX would be foolish to do a suborbital test. It would prove nothing that they need to know before they do a full up orbital test sometime in October or Nov of this year.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 6:19 am

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 12:25 am “…it’s technowelfare.” <- No, it's how the art and science of space technology has developed and progressed since the early 1930's because private enterprise cannot absorb the largess of scale of the costs and risks for space exploration in this period of human history. …

    finally you have stumbled onto some fashion of reality…and when you understand why the fact that this part is accurate "because private enterprise cannot absorb the largess of scale of the costs and risks for space exploration in this period of human history. …"

    you will have learned why human space exploration of the solar system does not have value for cost.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    GuessWho wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 10:07 am

    I also know that after winning, LM has invested more than $60M in “Orion” related R&D. Thus for a $1B-ish initial contract, LM has invest more than 10% of its own money in related design and development work.

    Just from a math standpoint, the $60M would be 6%, not 10%+, and the initial Orion contract was for $3.9B, not $1B-ish. That would make the LM $60M outlay 1.5% of the initial contract.

  • Byeman

    “I have not heard the $4 billion figure for Boeing/LM investment before. ”

    Been stated many times on many forums.
    The 4 billion went into two launch sites, 4 pads, over 15 vehicle configurations and two production facilities.

    Mercury, Gemini and Apollo all had suborbital manned tests, I was referring to manned test flights for Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle.

  • Artemus

    Been stated many times on many forums.
    The 4 billion went into two launch sites, 4 pads, over 15 vehicle configurations and two production facilities.

    Fair enough, I see $3.9 billion in the RAND report. But no business is entitled to a guaranteed return, no matter how large the investment.

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Space tourism is the market that private commercial companies need to focus on, not the meager manned traffic to the ISS ( a program that should actually be terminated after 2015).

    Space tourism is more entertainment related, meaning it is a discretionary activity (a “nice to have”), and the entertainment value of sub-orbital or orbital flights is unknown. Sure, Virgin Galactic has taken deposits for future flights, but no one knows whether the customers will determine the price was worth the trip, or that the “buzz” generates enough follow-on customers to support or validate the market.

    Services to the ISS are more commerce related. The ISS demand for cargo and crew is quantifiable (i.e. X amount of crew flights, X amount of supplies per year), so companies can make decisions about the prices they want to bid for competitive contracts. A crew version of the COTS/CRS program would be a business decision, not a marketing risk. It’s also a complementary service to their existing capabilities, so it’s not that big of a leap business-wise.

    Maybe you want to suggest a business plan for orbital tourism? Perhaps you could lay out a scenario that would allow them to make money?

  • Martijn Meijering

    But no business is entitled to a guaranteed return, no matter how large the investment.

    No, and NASA is not entitled to assume suppliers will show up under any set of commercial conditions. Whoever does the work will have to get paid for it, whether it is MSFC + JSC + USA or SpaceX + ULA + Boeing.
    Competitive procurement is cheaper and less risky and has more benefits and should therefore be preferred unless there are very strong reasons not to. So far no such reasons have been offered by SDLV proponents.

  • Coastal Ron

    Artemus wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 10:29 am

    The more I think about Sowers’s comments, the madder I get. EELV was set up as commercial…

    You get pretty worked up about this particular attempt at lowering launch prices, but do you care about the ATK’s of the world not taking any risk and taking in tons of sole-sourced contracts? Is ATK better or worse for NASA and the taxpayer?

    Maybe the EELV program didn’t turn out the best way it could have, but maybe you’re also ignoring the alternative – that if they hadn’t tried, you and I would have been paying much higher prices. I do know that the prices for 21,000 kg payloads have been going down, and that the Delta IV Heavy costs far less than the Titan IV it replaced. Now that’s not to say prices couldn’t go lower, but at least it’s the right trend.

    I think the EELV experience was an experiment for Boeing, LM and the U.S. Government, with some good and bad results. The next experiment has already been taken with the COTS/CRS program, and though we’re not far enough along to declare victory or defeat, it holds great promise. I think a crew version would also be good, and both create the opportunity for non-U.S. Government customers to use them, something the Shuttle did not offer.

  • Martijn Meijering

    The more I think about Sowers’s comments, the madder I get. EELV was set up as commercial at the behest of industry.

    Why does this matter? Boeing and LM risked their own money, lost a lot of it and would have exited the launch business if the USG had not decided they needed assured access to space. That assured access was then commercially procured. Perfectly fair, legal, honest etc. It’s a pity the rosy scenarios didn’t work out, but that’s life.

  • DCSCA

    Byeman wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 8:09 am <- space for yourself. In other words, they can't do it.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 10:58 am <- Wrong, as usual. A successful, suborbital manned test flight by SpaceX would verify their hardware and systems, ‘man-rate’ them on SpaceX’s terms; validate any loan guarantees or subsidy requests from the Treasury for commercial space and broaden public support for those requests.

    It would bolster confidence within the general space community as well as the investor class– and go a long way in silencing skeptics in Congress and other critics as well. It’s a smart idea, given the economic pressures of this era. But then given your statement of September 2, your musings on the future of manned spaceflight, be it government funded space exploration or commercial space exploitation, are fairly null: "Robert G. Oler wrote @ September 2nd, 2010 at 4:17 pm– First I really dont care that we (the US or humanity or whatever) goes to the Moon or Mars or an asteroid in the next 10-20 years. I dont think that there is any need to send people we have good robotics which can do the job at far lower cost.” Nuff said.

  • DCSCA

    Byeman wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 8:09 am <– You'll find Gemini and Apollo did conduct unmanned suborbital test flight and Apollo (Apollo 3) as well, in 1966. Given the different configuration of shuttle, its LAP drop tests were manned but its first four test flights were orbital in nature and manned with… 'test pilots.' Imagine that. Suggesting/Recommending SpaceX conduct a suborbital flight similar to Shepard is actually demanding less of their systems than a manned orbital flight would require but it would go a long way in verifying confidence in their flight hardware, environmental control systems and recovery systems from high altitude to splash.

  • DCSCA

    @Oler”… human space exploration of the solar system does not have value for cost.” Except it does- Cernan intangibles et al. The fact that you cannot assign value to it in your personal universe is a given based on your well documented distain for human spaceflight. The history of rocketry over the past 80 years shows us that the scale of these projects plus the and largess of the costs, and risks involved are too much for private enterprise to absorb. That’s why governments do it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    @Oler”… human space exploration of the solar system does not have value for cost.” Except it does- Cernan intangibles et al….

    Cernan knows as much about that as he does Boeings…

    to use a phrase from a friend of mine who was the former chief of staff to a Texas Senator “Intangibles are what you justify projects that cost millions with…for billions and tens of billions you need hard facts”.

    Human spaceflight has loafed along since the floundering of the end of the “race the Soviets” era with intangibles…and that dog isnt hunting now.

    and how I know is that there is no real hue and cry outside of the normal save our space program groups that the Moon landing 20 years from now is off…lol

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 3:05 pm
    drop tests were manned but its first four test flights were orbital in nature and manned with… ‘test pilots…

    goofy the shuttle orbiter has never once flown without a Test Pilot at both controls.

    Robert G. Oler

  • DCSCA

    @Oler- “SpaceX would be foolish to do a suborbital test. It would prove nothing that they need to know before they do a full up orbital test sometime in October or Nov of this year.” <— Nice try, except the focus of this commentary is on a manned suborbital test flight. SpaceX is not 'planning' a manned suborbital nor manned orbital test flight in October or November. And, of course, if they did it would prove a great deal, not only to SpaceX, but the space community, the skeptics in Congress, the investor class and the public. SpaceX has not risked doing neither because they either don't know how to do it or can't afford- or absorb– the catastrophic loss of a vehicle and crew. It's a risk. But in '61, NASA accepted that risk and launched test-pilot Shepard w/a a 60% success reliability rate for propelled rockets for missiles in that era. That's why governments do it. And that success rate should be much higher today than it was half a century ago, for private commercial space ventures to build upon.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 3:25 pm <- WE know that. Goofy, indeed. But then your commentary on manned spaceflight activities has essnetially been nullified by your own words.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    I will go back to ignoring you but this statement proves you are not much of an engineer

    “And, of course, if they did it would prove a great deal, not only to SpaceX, but the space community, the skeptics in Congress, the investor class and the public.”

    nope. If the Dragon that is going to launch does its thing “intact” then the debate over humans flying on commercial is just about over. There is really no fundamental difference between the DRagon cargo and the Dragon people vehicle…there are going to be seats and some human interface stuff…all pretty trivial in todays world.

    I give them about 60 percent chance of success…but if they make it from launch to reentry and recovery then its more or less over…as far as the debate goes on humans being carried by commercial carriers. The “save NASA” group will linger for a bit, but all the trends are against them.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    I give them about 60 percent chance of success…but if they make it from launch to reentry and recovery then its more or less over…as far as the debate goes on humans being carried by commercial carriers.

    I think those are reasonable odds, and I agree too about the debate being decided at that point (but not recognized until later for the losers).

    And what most people keep forgetting is that NASA/Congress is paying for this capability, which is why SpaceX can be ready for commercial crew so much faster than anyone else. Oh the irony… :-)

  • GuessWho

    Oler – “investing 60 million by lockmart in the Orion effort to win a what…oh 4-10 billion cost plus contract…are you joking or what.”

    Reread my post. They invested $50M+ to win the contract. They have invested $60M+ for the initial Phase B activities associated with Orion. Since Phase B typically accounts for no more than 20%-25% of the overall contract value, I stand by by $1B-ish number. And again, Oler, you were stating they didn’t invest a “DIME”.

    Oler – “Lockmart and company probably invested more in “information suites” and the bimbo’s that go with them then they did engineering.”

    Proof? Or is this your standard libel bombshell you like to drop and run away from?

    “Musk will ultimately invest about 1 billion of his own dollars…get a life”

    Proof? How much has Musk invested to date versus how much in future contract $’s he hopes to win? Does it compare to LM (or Boeing for that matter) investing $2B+ each in their LV designs on the bet that future launch contracts will come? What is so “goofy” about you Oler, is that you know so little about how aerospace companies work yet you continually blather the same posts over and over again in the hopes that if you repeat it often enough, someone might take you seriously. Like SpaceX, “you don’t know what you don’t know”.

  • Robert G. Oler

    GuessWho wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    a few points “who”

    If you want to win a debate by turning on the rhetorical or literal dime…wow feel like you have conquered the world.

    Second Lockmart and Boeing and ULA got a very very good deal with the EELV’s. At least they thought so at the time or they would not have made it…and so far events have turned out that they have a very good deal.

    First they got (at least until now) an almost exclusive lock on “large” DoD payloads. I suspect that they thought they were getting it to the rhetorical “end of time” but if Musk does develop a viable Falcon 9 line and it works and does so for less then the cost then they are well in business. At the time it seemed like a very good bet (to have DoD locked in business) because it seemed unlikely that there would be any real private launcher development and the DoD sure is not going to launch on Russian or European boosters…as Beal Aerospace failed they must have thought “here we are on the gravy train”.

    They dont really care about commercial launches; those are hard and are not like the checks from Uncle (or UNCLE).

    Third…Musk is investing his own money. That is a fact. I have no doubt he has invested more by now then anything Lockmart or Boeing has invested in their non EELV space “programs”.

    If NOT then the collolary is accurate as well…he (Musk) is getting a lot of bang for the buck.

    Finally as for knowing about aerospace companies…you are the thunderhead who is turning his argument on “a dime”.

    You seem to reflect a short persons personality on line…HMMM

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Coastal Ron wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    “I give them about 60 percent chance of success…but if they make it from launch to reentry and recovery then its more or less over…as far as the debate goes on humans being carried by commercial carriers.”

    you wrote:
    I think those are reasonable odds, and I agree too about the debate being decided at that point (but not recognized until later for the losers)….

    this is the irony of it. To the established aerospace companies Musk (like Beall) has to fail or they are either toast or have to figure out when to abandon the status quo and try and recompete. If Musk works he is the SWA of rocket building.

    There is no trick to operating the 737…the piggy has X number of cost per hour no matter if flown by SWA or UAL…but the trick is to get productivity out of it and the people flying it…and SWA has the formula (incentive high pay) ..Musk might have reinvented that.

    If and when Dragon goes around for a bit and reenters it is just about like when the builder of the Navion saw a Bonanza…

    Robert G. Oler

  • DCSCA

    @Oler “There is really no fundamental difference between the DRagon cargo and the Dragon people vehicle…” <– Of course there is. A pretty basic difference: one is manned and the other unmanned. A catastrophic loss of vehicle and cargo is quite different from losing a crewed vehicle. But then your disdain for human spaceflight is well known. And oddly chilling– or to coin a tern you are strangely comfortable with- 'goofy.' Still if you want to applaud if SpaceX ever successfully lofts cargo like the Soviet Union accomplished with Progress over 32 years ago, clap away. That's 'goofy' as well.

    "I give them about 60 percent chance of success…but if they make it from launch to reentry and recovery then its more or less over…as far as the debate goes on humans being carried by commercial carriers." <- ROFLMAO as if your personal assessment even matters. Given your disdain for manned spaceflight to begin with, it's void and irrelevant to the discussion. Only the desperate would try a spin equating cargo flights with manned spaceflight operations (<- neither of which SpaceX has accomplished to date), which is why your position and accompanying statements are easily dismissed to begin with– and, indeed, to be ignored.

  • DCSCA

    “Third…Musk is investing his own money. That is a fact.” <– So? It is also a fact that launch facilities for Falcon operation were upgraded/modified using taxpayer funds through the stimulus package.

  • DCSCA

    @Oler ““….And, of course, if they did it would prove a great deal, not only to SpaceX, but the space community, the skeptics in Congress, the investor class and the public.” “nope.””

    Uh, Yep. 1+1=2, not 11. But you go on trying to spin it and believe otherwise. It’s amusing– indeed, comical.

  • DCSCA

    Coastal Ron wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 5:28 pm <- the' debate' may be decided in the minds of commercial space proponents but not in the real world. 'Almost' only counts in horseshoes and hand granage practice. Commerical has to successfully launch orbit or sub-orbit a crew and land them safely. Any attempt at a substitution for same is weak spin…. and laughable.

  • DCSCA

    ^ grenade- typo, sorry.

  • Jason

    “Commerical has to successfully launch orbit or sub-orbit a crew and land them safely.”

    Define: Commercial

    Who are you speaking of? SpaceX? Xcor? Boeing? Orbital? Bigelow? If SpaceX launces a “crew”, does that then validate Armadillo? What about the other way around?

    Define: Crew

    How many is a crew? Previously you’ve stated SpaceX need only put up Bowersox? Is one person considered a crew?

  • Coastal Ron

    Artemus wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    But no business is entitled to a guaranteed return, no matter how large the investment.

    But that is what cost-plus contracts essentially are – guaranteed return. And unless the future SLS design is opened up, then it’s hard to see anyone bidding on it without over-bidding. Why? Because any launcher designed by Congress is going to need lots of design changes (think Ares I, maybe worse), and a lot of that could be cost-plus work.

    Now if the goal of Congress is to get people to LEO, then I say a better way would be to go with the original NASA budget proposal – open competition for low & high risk solutions, and use a COTS-like program that requires co-investment. Unless contractors share the risk, they won’t feel motivated to watch costs.

    And instead of focusing on profits, you should really be focused on costs and end results. A company that is more innovative in their solutions, and delivers the same end product at a lower cost than their competitors should reap higher profits – it’s the American way (i.e. capitalism).

  • Byeman

    “Suggesting/Recommending SpaceX conduct a suborbital flight similar to Shepard is actually demanding less of their systems than a manned orbital flight would require but it would go a long way in verifying confidence in their flight hardware, environmental control systems and recovery systems from high altitude to splash.”

    That is totally bogus and without merit.
    It would be more demanding. The crew have to go from ascent to descent ops immediately.

    The Dragon will be checked out as an launch, orbital and reentry vehicle on its many cargo mission. The ECS may be checked out on the same missions.

    Hence, there is nothing to gain from a suborbital manned mission, just like there wasn’t for a suborbital first shuttle launch

  • Major Tom

    “It would bolster confidence within the general space community as well as the investor class and go a long way in silencing skeptics in Congress and other critics as well.”

    No, it wouldn’t.

    The Ares I-X suborbital test flight didn’t “bolster confidence within the general space community”. Ares I is still dead in the Administration’s proposed and Congressional versions of NASA’s FY11 budget. And no investor has put any money into it.

    Why would SpaceX waste its resources on a similar, nearly useless test?

    “You’ll find Gemini and Apollo did conduct unmanned suborbital test flight and Apollo (Apollo 3) as well, in 1966.”

    This is an idiotic argument for an LV that’s successfully launched to orbit. It makes no sense for Falcon 9 to step backward to Gemini/Apollo/Ares I-X suborbital tests. That’s not going to convince anyone of anything other than that SpaceX is wasting money on unnecessary activities.

    “would go a long way in verifying confidence in their flight hardware, environmental control systems and recovery systems from high altitude to splash.”

    No, it wouldn’t.

    The exposure to the space environment is uselessly short for testing “environmental control systems” needed to support flights to ISS so it won’t qualify Dragon’s life support systems in the least.

    The reentry speeds involved are many Machs in difference so it won’t test Dragon’s “recovery systems” during the most challenging portions of Dragon’s reentry profile.

    The thermal environment isn’t demanding in the least so it won’t stress Dragon’s TPS at all.

    And there will be practically no opportunity to test on-orbit maneuvering systems, communications, and other in-space “flight hardware”.

    And, unlike Orion, Dragon has already executed a successful “high altitude to splash” test.

    news.softpedia.com/news/First-Dragon-High-Altitude-Drop-Test-Successful-153305.shtml

    Don’t waste this forum’s time with posts on things you know nothing about.

    “… the focus of this commentary is on a manned suborbital test flight… Commerical has to successfully launch orbit or sub-orbit a crew and land them safely.”

    “Commercial [sic]” has successful executed a “manned suborbital test flight.” Several times.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceShipOne_flight_15P
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceShipOne_flight_16P
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceShipOne_flight_17P

    Stop making idiotic arguments out of ignorance.

    “Any attempt at a substitution for same is weak spin…. and laughable.”

    Coastal Ron isn’t the poster making an “attempt at a [sic] substitution” in this argument. You are, genius.

    Think before you post.

    Ugh…

  • For anyone who is sick of the unmoderated trolling on this site, I recommend moving the discussion over to Clark’s site. He regularly links here and morons like DCSCA and almightywind will not be tolerated.

    Here’s the link for this thread.

    http://www.hobbyspace.com/nucleus/index.php?itemid=23315

    Please post there instead, and keep it civil.

  • GuessWho

    Oler – “If you want to win a debate by turning on the rhetorical or literal dime…wow feel like you have conquered the world.”

    This is your “DIME”. I merely was pointing out the fallacy of your arguments. Either own up to the fact that you were either exaggerating or lying and move on.

    “They dont really care about commercial launches; those are hard and are not like the checks from Uncle (or UNCLE).”

    Exactly why are commercial launches hard? And where is your proof that they don’t care about performing commercial launches? Or are you going to just change subjects again because you have no real answer?

    “Third…Musk is investing his own money. That is a fact. I have no doubt he has invested more by now then anything Lockmart or Boeing has invested in their non EELV space “programs”.”

    But isn’t the EELV a launch vehicle and one that both Boeing and LM invested significant internal funds to develop, like the Falcon and SpaceX, in hopes of winning future launch contracts? Sounds like an apples-apples comparison to me. Or since you are so clearly uninformed, perhaps you prefer to make apples-to-oranges comparisons instead to divert attention away from your ignorance. Just a suggestion, maybe you ought to look at what private industry invested to submit and hopefully win any number of recent “space programs”. Look at GOES (R being the latest), look at GPS III, look at TSAT, look at CEV (I already gave you numbers for this so it shouldn’t be too hard for you), look at Advanced EHF. I would wager (and win) that any three (perhaps even two) of these efforts resulted in a greater internal investment in developing space hardware than Musk has brought to the table with Falcon.

    “If NOT then the collolary is accurate as well…” Hard to say what a collolary really is. Must be an Oler “love me wall” thing. Harder still to tell whether one can be accurate or not…

    Besides you still haven’t substantiated your statements on “information suites” and bimbo’s. Any proof yet?

    “You seem to reflect a short persons personality on line…HMMM”

    Ahh, a sure sign of a frustrated poster who has run out of arguments – ad hominem attacks. DCSCA in this thread and William Mellberg on previous threads have nailed you accurately, you repeat the same tired comments and rants over and over again, laced with long dissertations on aircraft history that add nothing to the discussion. You cling to a flawed understanding of how aerospace companies operate and how aerospace engineering is accomplished in general. You haven’t the faintest clue what it takes to bring a launch vehicle, robotics spacecraft, or manned space vehicle from concept to operation. From my vantage point, your input is background noise to be filtered out and discarded.

  • DCSCA

    Jason wrote @ September 6th, 2010 at 7:32 pm <- Take your pick. Up around and down safely. Once that's accomplished, government funded and managed manned spaceflight will, indeed, then finally be challenged– or complimented, depending on your POV.

  • DCSCA

    @Major Tom– “No, it wouldn’t.” Yes, it would, and when you and Oler agree, there’s validity in what this writer posted.

    “Why would SpaceX waste its resources on a similar, nearly useless test?”

    You say useless. Oler says pointless. A successful, suborbital manned test flight by SpaceX would verify their hardware and systems, ‘man-rate’ them on SpaceX’s terms; validate any loan guarantees or subsidy requests from the Treasury for commercial space and broaden public support for those requests. And the cost of the flight would be well worth these returns at this point in time. Of course, this writer suggests a suborbital flight mainly to cut SpaceX a break, and have them accomplish what should be easier today than it was for NASA when it lofted Shepard w/a 60% success reliability rate for propelled rockets for missiles 50 years ago.

    A suborbital manned test flight(s) would bolster confidence within the general space community as well as the investor class– and go a long way in silencing skeptics in Congress and other critics as well. Musk is a savvy marketer and given the economic pressures of this era, it’s a smart move to make.

    Finally, Tom this phrase of yours, “Stop making idiotic arguments out of ignorance.” really has to come to an end. It’s rude and the arrogance actually reveals a high level of insecurity coupled w/a low level of maturity and– poor manners. Applying your own standards to your own postings, your credibility is already fairly low given your errors on earlier threads, particularly those relating to history. Try being polite.

  • DCSCA

    GuessWho wrote @ September 7th, 2010 at 12:01 am <- Mellberg's commentary is the gold standard. This writer bows to his expertise and welcomes enlighten commentary and conversations with him.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ September 7th, 2010 at 12:25 am

    I don’t have a clue why you think it is so important for SpaceX to demonstrate their crew ability before they have a customer, but I’ll address some of the issues you think are important (but aren’t):

    suborbital manned test flight by SpaceX would verify their hardware and systems

    In order for them to do a manned test flight, they would have to spend $300M. That is the public quote Musk has stated to create & validate an LAS, and add the last three major crew-related items. Besides, COTS pays them to validate just about everything related to crew except for the LAS.

    ‘man-rate’ them on SpaceX’s terms

    The gold-plated standard that any crew system will be shooting for is one that is “NASA Approved”. Without that, commercial companies and non-U.S. countries will be less likely to risk their people. It’s less risky to wait until NASA defines what it is to be “man-rated”.

    validate any loan guarantees or subsidy requests from the Treasury

    There are none, so this is not a reason to do it.

    broaden public support for those requests

    The “public” does not decide these things, various public officials do, and there are no requests to support.

    the cost of the flight would be well worth these returns at this point in time.

    Please show us, in dollars, how it would be worth it. Remember to include the $300M SpaceX would need to spend.

    bolster confidence within the general space community” and “and go a long way in silencing skeptics in Congress and other critics as well.

    There will always be skeptics. Just like with pickups, some people just hate Fords, and some hate Chevy’s. You have to be more specific – who & why?

    as well as the investor class

    The “investor class” is the general public that buys public stocks (look it up). SpaceX is privately held, and does not trade it’s stock on the public market. They also have not announced an IPO, or even said if an IPO is something they will be doing, so the “investor class” is not a factor.

    Musk is a savvy marketer and given the economic pressures of this era, it’s a smart move to make.

    And yet he’s not doing that, so therefore it must not be a smart move.

    The other factors that play into this that you have not touched on:

    1. NASA is the only known customer for crew, but the market for ISS services does not open until after the Soyuz contract runs out at the end of 2015. That’s four years away, and SpaceX says they can have Dragon ready in 2-3 years, so there is no rush.

    2. I mentioned this already, but NASA has not defined crew standards. Though they could use their best judgement, why risk it? Many have speculated that LM and others will try to stack the crew standards in such a way that makes it harder for Dragon to qualify. Even if there is only a remote chance of that happening, why risk it when the only known customer does not need your services yet?

    The answers to these questions are pretty easy if you look at them from the standpoint of SpaceX (i.e. as a businessman). They don’t have an unlimited amount of funding, and they are doing just fine growing their company with their current backlog. Also, as I stated, NASA COTS pays them to get very close to their crew capability, and they have a HUGE lead on any potential competitors.

    There, I used specifics. Please use specifics in your response.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    Hi DCSCA.
    SpaceX planning hasn’t included any sub-orbital flights because they’re focused on orbital which is where they’ve always been. No point wasting time on something as easy as sub-orbital compared to orbital when it doesn’t achieve anything for you other than make unnecessary expenditures, on the way to orbit.
    I’d say winning a slice of the COTS program and going for COTS-C as opposed to A or B (like Orbital who were the 2nd round winners) changed their plans since there was a likely contract down the road for cargo to ISS, so the plan became:

    1. Get to orbit – done with F1
    2. Get to orbit with a payload – done on F1
    3. Get to orbit with F9 and Dragon Test Article – done
    4. Get to orbit with a payload as part of COTS-C – Dragon Demo 1
    5. Complete COTS-C Demo 2 & 3 or combined as is now the plan
    6. Commence meeting CRS contract deliveries.

    At this point the argument about commercial crew is a no-brainer.
    Once SpaceX has got to the point of making CRS cargo deliveries, then we have a SpaceX Dragon lifeboat – proven safe return to Earth. It’s then only one small step (for man – whoops sorry – SpaceX) to full-up crew services. Don’t forget, Dragon was on the boards before any contracts were available however there’d been plenty of discussion about commercial cargo to the ISS so this possibility probably made the decision to get going with Dragon easy.

    End of NASA provided leo crew services.

    At the end of the day, I think you well and truly know all this. In DownUnder Land we’d just call you a ‘stirrer’. Someone who ‘stirs’ people up for the sake of it. Not interested in the issues, just the emotive responses. Windy’s probably the same although I suspect some sincerity in his posts – LOL.

    Cheers.

  • Major Tom

    “You say useless. Oler says pointless. A successful, suborbital manned test flight by SpaceX would verify their hardware and systems, ‘man-rate’ them on SpaceX’s terms”

    No, a suborbital flight wouldn’t verify anything on anyone’s terms. Since you failed to comprehend it the first time, repeating from the earlier post, system by system:

    Life Support: The exposure to the space environment during a suborbital flight is uselessly short for testing life support systems on a capsule that has to keep crews alive during multi-hour flights to and from the ISS.

    Thermal Protection: The reentry speeds and thermal environment involved in a suborbital flight aren’t demanding in the least compared to orbital reentry so the flight won’t stress Dragon’s thermal protection system at all.

    Orbital Maneuvering, Communications, Tracking, Etc.: There is obviously (at least to anyone except you) no time or opportunity during a suborbital flight to test on-orbit maneuvering systems, communications, tracking, and other systems.

    Parachutes, Landing, and Recovery: Unlike Orion, Dragon has already executed a successful high altitude drop test verifying its parachutes, landing, and recovery systems. It doesn’t need a suborbital test for these systems.

    news.softpedia.com/news/First-Dragon-High-Altitude-Drop-Test-Successful-153305.shtml

    Stop wasting this forum’s time with posts on things you know nothing about.

    “validate any loan guarantees or subsidy requests from the Treasury for commercial space”

    No one has to validate anything to the Treasury. The Treasury just writes the checks that the White House and Congress tell it to write.

    As for the White House and Congress, if SpaceX took a step backward at this point and conducted a suborbital test of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle after that vehicle has successfully launched to orbit, the White House and Congress would accuse SpaceX of wasting taxpayer resources.

    Think before you post.

    “and broaden public support for those requests.”

    How? The Ares I-X suborbital test did not “broaden public support” for Ares I funding. Ares I is dead in the FY11 White House proposed and Congressional budget bills for NASA.

    “A suborbital manned test flight(s) would bolster confidence within the general space community as well as the investor class”

    The “investor class” (whatever that is) doesn’t need its confidence bolstered. SpaceX has already received two rounds of VC funding from the Founders Fund and Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

    Keep up.

    And if SpaceX took a step backward at this point and conducted a suborbital test of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle after that vehicle has successfully launched to orbit, investors would accuse SpaceX of wasting their money.

    Think before you post.

    “Musk is a savvy marketer and given the economic pressures of this era, it’s a smart move to make.”

    What “economic pressures”? SpaceX has won the largest commercial launch contract in history. They have a backlog of dozens of launches. They’re under no economic pressure at all.

    “Finally, Tom this phrase of yours, “Stop making idiotic arguments out of ignorance.” really has to come to an end. It’s rude and the arrogance”

    It’s not rude or arrogant. It’s accurate. You have repeated, yet again, the same idiotic argument out of ignorance. See directly above where you are ignorant on multiple points, leading you to make an idiotic argument. Stop it.

    “actually reveals a high level of insecurity coupled w/a low level of maturity and– poor manners.”

    You know what really demonstrates insecurity, a low level of maturity, and poor manners?

    Resorting to ad hominem attacks and baselessly accusing other posters of insecurity, a low level of maturity, and poor manners.

    Argue the post, not the poster.

    If you’re not secure, mature and civilized enough to do that, then go away.

    “Applying your own standards to your own postings, your credibility is already fairly low given your errors on earlier threads, particularly those relating to history.”

    What? Where? Specifically.

    Ugh…

  • Former Regular Reader

    This place used to allow real discussions. Now it is just another Internet troll magnet.

  • Current Regular Lurker

    This place used to allow real discussions.

    Can you point out to me where exactly Mr. Faust disallowed you from having a discussion? Because I must have missed it. Perhaps you need to construct better signal filters. Also, the internet, like the electromagnetic spectrum, is wonderful in that it allows you to change frequency or channels when you don’t hear what you want to hear, and physics itself is wonderful in that it allows you to construct your own equipment based upon your own models, knowledge, skill and experience so that you can detect what you want to see.

  • Coastal Ron

    Current Regular Lurker wrote @ September 7th, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Can you point out to me where exactly Mr. Faust disallowed you from having a discussion?

    The devil you say (i.e. “Faust” sold his soul to the Devil)!

    I don’t think of Jeff Foust in that way, but certainly some of the people posting on his blog seem to have sold their soul out to one side other other… ;-)

  • Wodun

    People on this forum should be encouraging outsiders to post instead of flaming them off the page.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    ‘Wodun wrote @ September 7th, 2010 at 6:01 pm
    People on this forum should be encouraging outsiders to post instead of flaming them off the page.’

    Yep that would be good provided the posts contained factual data where it exists however that’s not the case for several posters who persist in posting absolute BS that has been refuted on numerous occasions. After that’s happened several times, it gets tiresome and those interested in useful discussion become irritable.
    Some examples: Ares 1-X was an orbital flight or was the same as Ares 1; F9 never made orbit; SpaceX is dependant on government assistance to remain viable; SpaceX isn’t commercial; Cx will still deliver; SpaceX is the only firm to be considered when talking about ‘commercial firms’; et al.

  • DCSCA

    Major Tom wrote @ September 7th, 2010 at 2:35 am “No…”

    Yes, it would. And persistent excuses to avoid manned test flights is oddly disturbing. It only fuels the suspicion that the risk to commerical space of a catastrophic loss of vehicle and crew out weighs the obvious political and economic rewards of a success at this point in time. And, of course, a parachute ‘drop test’ from a chopper at 15,000 of an unmanned boilerplate is hardly a test on par with an integrated systems test from velocities from a ballistic reentry. But you know that. The smart move is to fly some one and validate the systems on your own terms. It would take the wind out of the sails of skeptics in Congress and obstructionists to subsidies and loan guarantees.

  • DCSCA

    @MajorTom – “Finally, Tom this phrase of yours, “Stop making idiotic arguments out of ignorance.” really has to come to an end. It’s rude and the arrogance” “It’s not rude or arrogant.” <– It is. And only serves to betray a level of insecurity in your position which is lessened further by surprising historical inaccuracies– errors which are easily exposed. We know your position on commerical space. The smartest thing to do is direct your energies into getting someone up, around and down. That singular milestone will put commerical space in the big leagues.

  • DCSCA

    @ Beancounter from Downunder wrote @ September 7th, 2010 at 1:43 am – “SpaceX planning hasn’t included any sub-orbital flights because they’re focused on orbital which is where they’ve always been. No point wasting time on something as easy as sub-orbital compared to orbital when it doesn’t achieve anything for you other than make unnecessary expenditures, on the way to orbit.” <- In other words, to date, they can't do it.

    A successful, suborbital manned test flight by SpaceX would verify their hardware and systems, ‘man-rate’ them on SpaceX’s terms; validate any loan guarantees or subsidy requests from the U.S. Treasury for commercial space and broaden public support for those requests. And the cost of the flight would be well worth these returns at this point in time. It should be easier today than it was for NASA when it lofted Shepard w/a 60% success reliability rate for propelled rockets for missiles 50 years ago.

    A suborbital manned test flight(s) would bolster confidence within the general space community as well as the investor class– and go a long way in silencing skeptics in Congress and other critics as well. Musk is a savvy marketer and given the economic pressures of the leading edge of the Age of Austerity, it’s a smart move to make.

  • common sense

    @ DCSCA wrote @ September 8th, 2010 at 4:37 am

    It is unfortunate but you really don’t know what you’re talking about. And here, look since you are suggesting the suborbital hop, please tell us in what way it validates systems for LEO reentry. Please do. Show us all that you have good knowledge of these systems. Especially a system designed for LEO reentry. It looks to me you only care about stunts. Prove me wrong. You are just throwing words and hoping they will catch. If I were a SpaceX investor and they’d go for a stunt I’d probably take my money back. Stunt is not a good commercial move. Investors and entrepreneurs alike are adults, businessmen.

    Oh well…

  • Coastal Ron

    common sense wrote @ September 8th, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    @ DCSCA wrote @ September 8th, 2010 at 4:37 am

    It is unfortunate but you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

    He doesn’t care. All he wants to do is mock SpaceX and Musk. He has no interest in debate or discussion, and he would rather copy/paste his arguments than respond.

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ September 8th, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    “He doesn’t care. All he wants to do is mock SpaceX and Musk. He has no interest in debate or discussion, and he would rather copy/paste his arguments than respond.”

    I realize that but I am afraid DCSCA might reach out to other people using some techno babble. I would love to see a real sound argument as to why it might be a good idea. You never know. Again, DCSCA seems to associate with others on the various threads, somehow. I am not interested in most what they claim since most of the time it is unsubstantiated but they seem to have reached out to more, say, credulous people that have similar inclination towards space policy. So until DCSCA comes up with a real argument to me it is just noise but some time loud noise prevails. Unfortunately.

  • Coastal Ron

    common sense wrote @ September 8th, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    I realize that but I am afraid DCSCA might reach out to other people using some techno babble.

    Well he tries, but then he starts talking about Conestoga I, sixties type sub-orbital flights and “Destination Moon”, at which point people just get blurry-eyed. Notice how no one joins in to agree or support him.

    If you can elicit specific answers to specific questions, more power to you. So far he has avoided them like the plague, since he thinks of himself as “above the fray”, and will “Gaetano-like” copy/paste his non-debatable ideas, with no questions answered.

  • Wodun

    If you are interested in a useful discussion, the “knowledgeable” people should scale back their forum wars. The same people are arguing in circles about banal minutia that has little to do with any larger picture or even the topic of the blog entry.

    The best part of forums like this. is that many of the people who post are industry insiders. The worst part of forums like this, is that many of the people who post here are industry insiders.

  • Coastal Ron

    Wodun wrote @ September 8th, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    The best part of forums like this. is that many of the people who post are industry insiders. The worst part of forums like this, is that many of the people who post here are industry insiders.

    I did not get involved in the space debate until earlier this year, so I guess I’m rather new in this area in that respect, and I’m a space enthusiast, not an insider. I do agree that insiders have their pro’s and con’s, but I guess that could be said about anyone with a point of view.

    I have stated that I see these forums as a place to discuss, debate and learn, and I have certainly done all three. I have even changed my views on a number of key areas during this year, mainly because I was persuaded by facts I did not know about earlier.

    So I guess it depends on the insider, and it depends how well the insider wants to persuade. Links and verifiable facts count a lot for me, as you never know who is behind most of the names (like mine) – the old “trust, but verify”.

    In the end though, there are points of view that can’t be changed, no matter the current facts, and I have just tried to scroll past those, as I’m sure they do mine. Free speech rocks!

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