Congress, NASA

Senate to examine NASA and its new authorization act

Tomorrow marks just one month since the President signed into law the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, but it’s apparently not too soon for Congress to see how the agency is implementing it. The full Senate Commerce Committee has planned a hearing next Thursday morning titled “Transition and Implementation: The NASA Authorization Act of 2010″. The listing doesn’t provide any other details about the hearing, but according to a Florida Today report the witnesses will include NASA CFO Beth Robinson, OSTP director John Holdren, and an unidentified official from the Government Accountability Office.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who chairs the committee’s space subcommittee, told Florida Today that he will ask Robinson in particular how the agency would comply with the new authorization act if the Congress simply funds NASA at FY2010 levels for the new fiscal year. “We want to know: Is she going to follow the law instead of them going off on their own making decisions that are contrary to the law?” he asked. NASA received about $18.7 billion in 2010, but is authorized for $19.0 billion in 2011 under the new authorization act. One potential conflict is that, under the FY2010 appropriations bill (and the current continuing resolution funding NASA into early December), NASA cannot cancel Constellation programs or begin new ones, but the new authorization effectively dismembers Constellation, ending Ares 1 and instead starting development of a new heavy-lift vehicle.

69 comments to Senate to examine NASA and its new authorization act

  • NASA Fan

    So now NASA will waste billions as lawyers try to determine what is and isn’t legal given the authorization act of 2011, and funding at 2010 levels.

    The dysfunction junction is alive and well!

    Time to end Government funded HSF. (And any robotic mission over a billion – see JWST Independent Comprehensive Review Report at http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=35294)

  • amightywind

    Time to end Government funded HSF. (And any robotic mission over a billion – see JWST Independent Comprehensive Review Report at

    The Hubble Space Telescope, now in the 20th year of a 10 year mission, was similarly over budget. Many in (a democrat) congress were screaming for its cancellation. Yes JWST is over budget. It is an ambitious mission that defies the fiscal and schedule obsessions of people who don’t understand technology development. Compare the value of the scientific return of a JWST to that of another big ticket item, like ISS for instance, and you realize it is well worth the risk. JWST is a great example of what NASA should be doing. Time to properly fund HSF and space science and prune NASA’s non-core functions.

  • Ben Joshua

    “We want to know: Is she going to follow the law instead of them going off on their own making decisions that are contrary to the law?”

    Nelson is putting public pressure on NASA’s second tier administrators. He wants to push HLV development despite budget limitations, and lock in a design which relies on, and therefore preserves, LC-39.

    LC-39 / Apollo was surely impressive, and the facility remains an extant resource, but the expense of adapting it and the expense and inefficiencies of the crawler system just soak up operational budget dollars compared with more current pre-launch approaches. A greater emphasis on distributed networking at Launch Control could make the pre-launch capability more “gainly” and 21st century.

    “Time to properly fund HSF and space science and prune NASA’s non-core functions.”

    NASA’s founding documents are at odds with what some are sure are NASA’s “core functions.”

    “The dysfunction junction is alive and well!”

    We are still in the flux time, caught in the maelstrom of FY 2010, CR, FY 2011, possible deficit cutting measures, and the mind boggling lobbying behind closed doors by contractors.

  • CharlesHouston

    Certainly Sen Nelson’s question was retorical – likely NASA officials would not disregard the authorization bill. But stepping back, he question is amazing stupid – it would consume enormous time and effort to try to fit the previous year’s funding into the next year’s authorization! Many of the programs did not carry directly over, and would you just fund proportionally or what?? The American people need Congress to make a decision or get out of the way.

  • Coastal Ron

    CharlesHouston wrote @ November 11th, 2010 at 10:33 am

    The American people need Congress to make a decision or get out of the way.

    I don’t always agree with you, but on this I do. I was not a big fan of Constellation when it was announced, but it was a plan. I did not start advocating for it’s demise until it was clear the plan was failing.

    Same with the current plan – we can all advocate for what we want, but once Congress has passed the laws and funded them (still waiting for that funding), then NASA needs to move forward forcefully. I want action, not words, and any program that performs within it’s budget will get a congratulation from me, even if it’s the SLS and MPCV.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ November 11th, 2010 at 8:30 am

    overbudget is overbudget no matter what the project and a consistent year after year inability to work the budget correctly (or even come close) indicates something dysfunctional in the engineering/management organization

    Robert G. Oler

  • John Malkin

    There is an old saying “The Fish Stinks from Head to Tail”. Congress is the head since they both authorize action and appropriate money for NASA. All the politics flow down hill and directly impact the budgeting process which impacts engineering and performance. I would say that when NASA has a good day it’s because the tail (Engineers, Astronauts, Scientist and support staff) gets it done despite the head.

    CAIB and Augustine Committee pointed at Congress but they are mostly listening to Corporate Executives and Lobbyist.

  • Vladislaw

    Robert, hasn’t that been a consistant problem for NASA? Telling congress the project will cost X knowing they have underpriced the project just to get being funding and than believing they can keep coming back to the well for more.

    That report that came out in 2008 I believe that reported on the last 9 major projects and they all had cost overruns.

    Part of the problem that I see is that NASA so overbuilds the systems last longer than their design life and it keeps getting funded.

    The mars rovers are an example, they were supposed to last 90 days and instead they last 6 years and that extra funding then gets pulled from other projects making them over budget.

    Not that I think the rovers should have been shut down after 90 days, but the budget should have been formed around the possiblity of a longer life.

    I believe I saw a report that NASA is operating like 19 systems now that have performed longer than the design life and have pulled funds from other projects.

  • amightywind

    work the budget correctly (or even come close) indicates something dysfunctional in the engineering/management organization

    I would recommend that NASA restructure the program then. But it is a worthwhile scientific project.

    Consider this, as cost conscious and management driven as a company like Boeing is, they came within 30 days of the scheduled first flight of the 787 before admitting that the program was 3 years (!) behind schedule.

    After 20 years of watching young suits run around with Gantt charts I have reached the following conclusions:

    Theorem. The accuracy of a project schedule/budget is bounded by previous, related, actual project performance.

    Corollary. If there is no historical precursor, a highly refined project schedule can be no better than a SWAG.

    After hundreds of years of government procurement we should all understand this. Weed out the non-performers, move on.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Vladislaw wrote @ November 11th, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    I dont know about the Webb because I have not followed it, although the fact that I have heard Hanley is on the webb project now makes me suspicious.

    NASA projects (and DoD ones as well) that get out of hand all have the same footprints…its not so much the “buy in” although that is a factor…it is that the projects start by promising to do “leap frog” technology development instead of evolved technology development…and then as the leaps are more difficult then imagined, the cost goes up on the leap and then after that the cost goes up on the management to make sure that the “leap” is going to work as the program starts operational.

    The textbook case of handling “leapfrog” technological development is the AEGIS radar/ship development. The ships are virtually useless without the AEGIS and the AEGIS was something of a leap based on the missile defense systems of that era.

    The person who managed the program didnt come in under budget, but he came in within the “growth margins” that were predicted in early development…because he set up technological milestones which predicated cost prediction as the program went on, and kept the project on track to do what it was suppose to do…and not much more.

    For instance there were no automated battle systems in use in that era…so the Navy built “the cruiser in the corn field” complete with missile launchers and heavily excersized the system…that is why the lead ship, Ticonderoga worked out OK.

    NASA never does that and they always build things that really require solid end to end testing before they are deployed. And that is why the cost mount. In the end the Webb problems were predictable.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Doug Lassiter

    This hearing is of some interest to me. It really isn’t clear how NASA intends to respond to the authorization bill, especially in the event of a CR that just extends the FY10 appropriations. That is, does a CR extend just the FY10 appropriated *dollar numbers*, or does it also extend the *language* in the FY10 bill, which directs expenditure on Constellation? FWIW, the auth bill language (which is the legally binding part of that bill) doesn’t refer to Constellation, and calls for expenditure on a crew vehicle and a “space launch system” (which includes, but is not clearly restricted to, a HLV somewhat less capable than an Ares V). So NASA could look at this bill language and say, OK, looks close enough to Constellation that we’ll just keep doing that, like the FY10 approps bill told us to do.

    Now the report language that accompanies the auth bill is much more specific about the cancellation of Constellation but, again, it isn’t the legally binding part.

  • What a sad state of affairs our government-funded space program is in …

    All this silliness proves we need to go commercial and get Congress out of the way.

  • MichaelC

    “All this silliness proves we need to go commercial and get Congress out of the way.”

    The “silliness” is believing we will go anywhere BEO without an HLV.

    The hydrogen fueling facilities, the crawler and pad, the VAB, the 5 segment SRB’s- they are the only tools available that can put man in deep space for several decades to come.

    Note Deep Space.
    1st Identified 100 ton payload; A dual nuclear reactor generator module, able to supply power to a spaceship for a multi-year mission. Not only power for oxygen garden light and heat, but for hi-temperature reformers to incinerate metabolites and recover water. And the biggest power user- a nuclear electric propulsion system.

    2nd Identified 100 ton payload; Nuclear electric propulsion system and fuel such as argon or xenon ( many tons of it for multi-year mission)

    3rd Indentified 100 ton payload; Plastic radiation sancuary with inner and outer hulls- with water between as a radiation shield and used as a growth medium for oxygen producing and carbon dioxide scrubbing algae. Also a tether reel system for artificial gravity.

    Those are your first three “identified” 100 ton payloads.
    The difficulties involved are

    1. Where do we get the water for the radiation shield/closed loop life support? (The moon I guess- I do not know how much water but the sometimes reported 5 feet in every direction means several hundred or thousand depending on crew size)

    2. How do we boost the vehicle out of orbit without wasting months of electric propulsion time? ( Another 100 ton HLV payload- an EDS?)

    3. Where do we get the money? (DOD for planetary defense, just like we bought Apollo with cold war currency)

    So we launch some robot HLV missions to the polar regions of the moon to acquire this all important water and get it into lunar orbit to fill up our spaceship. (A depot that actually makes sense)

    We build our spaceship out of 3 modules- nuclear, propulsion and sanctuary, then we send up a third EDS to get it to the moon to fill up with water.

    Then we go to Ceres for a couple years, leaving a small reactor and manned outpost- which means another spaceship will come and relieve the outpost and bring equipment to expand it in the next mission.

    This makes as much sense as your commercial space schemes guys.

  • MichaelC

    Forgot some details;
    This ship spins on a tether several thousand feet long in space- Reactor and propulsion modules at one end and the water filled sanctuary at the other. The sanctuary thus provides approximately sea level radiation levels, earth gravity, and air and water for several years.

    Consider the necessary living space for a crew of three or four for 3+ years; then surround it with an envelope of water sufficiently thick to shield out heavy cosmic nuclei and also provide oxygen and scrub CO2 with algae. It also has to be engineered to withstand the 1 G centrifugal tether loads.

    Consider mating in orbit these 3 components- the nuclear module, the propulsion module, and the sanctuary- which is attached with a tether reel system.

    Now consider trying to build such a ship using 25 ton payloads.

  • MichaelC

    One more detail:

    Plenty of variations on this plan; but the variations that use smaller lift vehicles become so complicated it quickly becomes impractical.

    Could just use lunar water to make the nuclear electric fuel possibly, and this would increase propulsion module payload and could be used to balance the ship better. (a couple hundres tons of reactors and propulsion at one end and a thousand or more tons of radiation sanctuary at the other is not going to spin very well)

    The sanctuary could made out of empty plastic fuel stages or be inflatable like Bigelow modules, or a hybrid.

    The most important device carried on such a mission would probably be some smaller version of this:
    http://www.projectcamelot.org/underground_bases.html

    Get the idea?

  • common sense

    @Stephen C. Smith wrote @ November 11th, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    “All this silliness proves we need to go commercial and get Congress out of the way.”

    Yes. It is the only chance for HSF today. I wish other would understand that but…

    Oh well…

  • Coastal Ron

    MichaelC wrote @ November 11th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    3. Where do we get the money?

    Ding, ding, ding!

    Your proposal sounds just as good as anyone else’s, but as your question #3 points out, who is going to pay for it?

    Compare what you are proposing to what Constellation was supposed to do, and you’ll see that it is probably 10X bigger & more costly, and likely a 20-40 year program. In an age where we’re talking about slashing budgets, your proposal won’t even get a serious look.

    It would be like proposing to build an A380 in the 1940′s – it’s too big of a technological leap, and the demand/payoff is too far down the road.

    We need to focus on the incremental improvements to our space infrastructure before we can tackle any large engineering projects. Come back in 20 years…

  • Robert G. Oler

    MichaelC wrote @ November 11th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    The “silliness” is believing we will go anywhere BEO without an HLV. …

    the silliness is in thinking that there is any political support for a voyage BEO…

    your logic goes down hill from there

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    MichaelC wrote @ November 11th, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    The most important device carried on such a mission would probably be some smaller version of this

    Which did you mean?

    - laser-drilling machines that can drill a tunnel seven miles long in one day

    - unidirectional maglev trains that travel at Mach 2 to 2.8

    - nuclear subterrene tunneling machines

  • common sense wrote:

    Yes. It is the only chance for HSF today. I wish other would understand that but…

    Yeah, it takes your breath away how some people posting here delude themselves in the fantasy that Congress will blow the federal budget in an era of trillion-dollar annual deficits to do a rerun of Apollo. Ain’t gonna happen.

    The only way will be a multi-national effort of spacefaring nations to share the cost. That’s a key element of Obama’s National Space Policy and the only approach that will save human exploration beyond Earth orbit.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    ‘ Robert G. Oler wrote @ November 11th, 2010 at 12:09 pm
    http://www.spacenews.com/satellite_telecom/101110-orbcomm-switching-falcon9.html

    SpaceX just keeps on rolling up the future Robert’

    Yes it does indeed. SpaceX is continually held up as the seemingly only commercial company in existence. Good thing it’s continuing to move forward and prove that it can deliver. Other commercial companies are supporting them with business – the best measure you can get.
    As mentioned to some of the nay-sayers on this blog, SpaceX doesn’t need NASA, NASA actually needs SpaceX and I’m sure they realise it. It’s just the politics that muddies the waters.

    A couple of interesting things in the post. The proposal to combine COTS flight with the first ORBCOM flight using the secondary payload concept, (makes Dragon the world’s most expensive shroud LOL) and the move to an F9 flight which ORBCOM see as reducing risk even though F1 has had 2 successful flights while F9 has had only the one so far and suffered from a roll anomoly on the second stage (although to be fair SpaceX have said they’re pretty sure they have identified and fixed it).

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi Michael –

    Give it up.

    There is no way anyone is going to launch any large nuclear payloads after Challenger and Columbia.

    There are other ways to Mars that are more feasable, but even at a low cost I don’t think the public is really all that interested in flying to Mars right now.

    What the Russians finally found after multiple trade studies was that non-nuclear architectures could be re-used.

    The easiest way to a large radiation shielded structure is to take an inflated hemi-sphere, cover it from the inside with concrete, and then cover it with dirt. But the really easy way is just to cover a module with dirt, er, regolith, er,soil.

    While it is a lot of fun fantasizing about such things, back here in the real world…

  • NASA Fan

    The “silliness” is believing we will go anywhere BEO without an HLV.

    Folks, once the lifetime of ISS is up, its the end of American HSF.

    The republic is going to hell in a hand basket and the urgency to resolve the issues that will spring forth from the forthcoming economic meltdown will render HSF moot, unaffordable, a luxury we can no longer afford, etc. etc. etc. Thus will come to an end HSF.

  • Byeman

    “The “silliness” is michaelc believing there is money for the 100 ton payloads

    Fact: NASA’s budget is not going to increase beyond 20 billion if at all. NASA’s budget is independent of any military or social spending. Cutting these is not going make money available to increase NASA’s budget.

    Hence an HLV is not needed nor can be afforded. It is why depots and smaller launch vehicle are more viable. They are available, cheaper and the smaller payloads are cheaper. Exploration can be done incrementality in smaller pieces.

  • Scott Bass

    It is almost enough to make me just take a year long nap and come back to see what happened, this past 18 months has been agonizing and It looks like the next 12 will be too. But on the bright side I do believe we are half way through this long dark tunnel, by this time next year I do think the path forward will be brightly lit and we will have dates set for engineering reviews etc. God I hope so anyway

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    MichaelC wrote @ November 11th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Gee Michael, what planet are you living on. Have you ever heard the expression ‘crawl before you can walk’. I’m taking you seriously, well relatively, but on the other hand, producing something like above could well be interpreted as coming from someone who is definitely inhabiting another place.
    You really are spouting here. You’ve a snowballs chance in Hell of convincing anyone you’re serious. There’s no money for starters. Think about that!

  • Martijn Meijering

    Those are your first three “identified” 100 ton payloads.

    Only by including the reactor radiation shielding, propellant and water/polyethylene GCR shielding, all of which are easily divisible. In other words you have not identified 100mT must-have payloads.

  • Dennis Berube

    First, I dont think spaceflight will go away. To many nations are not invested in it. A commercial side will probably arise, but NASA will survive. There is movement with the concern of Earth being struck by asteroids, and what could be done about it. This alone will keep spaceflight, with regards to NASA alive. If Orion is completed, then quite probably an asteroid mission will happen.

  • Dennis Berube

    That should have read: To many nations are now invested in spaceflight.

  • MM_NASA

    I believe the HLV program is very important. We may not be able to fund it at maximum levels, but I think we should start technology and research development for this future launch vehicle in FY2011. This is critical for HSF to asteroids, moon, Mars, the moons of Mars, etc. NASA was built on research and technology development for the human race to explore other worlds. We can do this steadily depending on how our economy is doing. I do not think the commercial sector has the patience or the desire to expend numerous dollars on research and development for HLV (after all their whole goal is for profit). Hence, this responsibilty should be placed on NASA’s shoulders with MSFC as the lead. With the development of the Saturn V, we were able to goto the moon. Now with better technology and more research, we may be able to venture out further! Testing is critical for up-coming technologies and we have learned a lot through the Ares 1-X test flight. We need to continue documenting and presenting our ideas – that is key for NASA and the future of HSF.

    According to AAAS, NASA could be considered “renewed” priority for the U.S. Government. Science, technology and exploration are the future of this country. HSF provides many benefits to our country such as security, economic prosperity, education and leadership.

    These are just my two cents…

  • David Davenport

    Testing is critical for up-coming technologies and we have learned a lot through the Ares 1-X test flight.

    Please tell us what we have learned from the Ares 1-X test flight.

  • Vladislaw

    “This is critical for HSF to asteroids, moon, Mars, the moons of Mars”

    No, you would have to prove why we need heavy lift. What payload has to be launched that needs more that an Atlas V heavy can launch.

    “NASA was built on research and technology development for the human race to explore other worlds”

    No NASA was formed to beat the russians to the moon.

    “I do not think the commercial sector has the patience or the desire to expend numerous dollars on research and development for HLV”

    Do you take your hard earned dollars and invest them in companies who do R&D for products no one wants to buy? Explain to me why a commercial company should divert profits to doing research for a product no one is demanding? No one is ordering the AtlasV heavy or the Falcon9 heavy because no one has a payload that requires a launch vehicle that big.

    “Hence, this responsibilty should be placed on NASA’s shoulders with MSFC as the lead.”

    That responsibilty was already placed on NASA’s shoulders once already, have you forgotten that NASA blew through 10 billion dollars and couldn’t even build a medium lift launch vehicle, and now you think they should get 30-50 billion to do it again?

    “Testing is critical for up-coming technologies and we have learned a lot through the Ares 1-X test flight.”

    What did we learn? That the parachutes failed? That the launch destroyed part of the launch platform. That the “test” didn’t use any hardware that would actually fly on the Ares 1?

  • Coastal Ron

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ November 12th, 2010 at 8:17 am

    Only by including the reactor radiation shielding, propellant and water/polyethylene GCR shielding, all of which are easily divisible.

    It is interesting that people keep saying we need these honking big rockets to lift massive construction segments, when they forget that the largest buildings in the world are built using the same sized trucks that are used for building small buildings. Even nuclear power plants are built from parts that can be transported down roads.

    The need for HLV’s continues to be fictional…

  • No NASA was formed to beat the russians to the moon.

    No, the decision to go to the moon happened three years after NASA was created. There is nothing about going to the moon (or even about human spaceflight) in NASA’s charter.

  • Martijn Meijering

    The need for HLV’s continues to be fictional…

    Or psychological.

  • Vladislaw

    I stand corrected, thank you Rand, but it was born from the cold war as a way to compete against the Russians:

    “On January 14, 1958, NACA Director Hugh Dryden published “A National Research Program for Space Technology” stating:[11]

    “ It is of great urgency and importance to our country both from consideration of our prestige as a nation as well as military necessity that this challenge [Sputnik] be met by an energetic program of research and development for the conquest of space… It is accordingly proposed that the scientific research be the responsibility of a national civilian agency”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasa

    The language of the day used “conquest” of space by America instead of Russia, not as an agency for all of humanity. I would argue it was the aging of the cold war and closer ties to Russia that softened that view over time and later additions to the original act.

    It was Dryden along with Webb that suggested to Kennedy that a moon shot would be the ticket on how to one up the Russians.

  • I would add that the early NASA was basically the NACA extended to space technologies, which had been very effective in growing the aviation industry. It was Apollo and its urgency that distorted the agency into what we now think of as the only way to do space exploration, though it was never intended for it to do it in that manner. We need to abandon the Apollo Cargo Cult and return it to its charter and original purpose, and have it provide needed technology to the private sector. The new commercial crew and technology development policy is a small step in that direction.

  • MichaelC

    “It is interesting that people keep saying we need these honking big rockets to lift massive construction segments, when they forget that the largest buildings in the world are built using the same sized trucks that are used for building small buildings. Even nuclear power plants are built from parts that can be transported down roads.

    The need for HLV’s continues to be fictional…”

    Ah yes, the pick up truck to space argument. That is what the shuttle was supposed to be. You regulars love to use these worthless analogies. The requirement for HLV’s is clear while the schemes using smaller launchers continue to be fictional.

    It is space, it is not like earth.

  • Martijn Meijering

    We need to abandon the Apollo Cargo Cult and return it to its charter and original purpose, and have it provide needed technology to the private sector.

    Isn’t that an outdated model too?

  • Coastal Ron

    MichaelC wrote @ November 12th, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    That is what the shuttle was supposed to be.

    Right goal, wrong approach. The problem with the Shuttle wasn’t necessarily that we tried it out, it was that we didn’t shut it down or evolve it quicker.

    HLV proponents want HLV’s to be the cargo carriers of the future too, so don’t get too uppity about the concept. The problem is that HLV’s don’t have enough cargo’s to justify their existence, where current launchers can survive with the current mix of commercial and government work.

  • Isn’t that an outdated model too?

    In what way?

  • Vladislaw

    “Isn’t that an outdated model too?”

    Doesn’t the model have to be first implemented and utilized first before it can become outdated?

    When has NASA actively worked to push certain elements into the private sector? Has NASA utilized commercial cargo to the ISS or skylab? Did NASA push technology into the private sector to implement commercial crew to LEO for skylab or the ISS?

    Before the model can be called outdated, why don’t we, at the very least, try it for a decade or two first. If commercial falls on its face and can not provide the sevices that NASA requires, then yes, I will agree with you, the model is outdated.

  • Martijn Meijering

    In that allocation of money to R&D should be based on demand, not set by government.

  • To some degree, NACA R&D was based on demand — from the aviation industry. Since Apollo, though, the customer/client relationship got reversed.

  • Martijn Meijering

    I see, and I agree the old unreversed model was better. But wouldn’t it be better still if nearly everything was channeled through the market? Buy transportation services, first to LEO then beyond and the necessary infrastructure will develop “automatically”, at a level consistent with sustainable demand, private and public.

  • Byeman

    “The requirement for HLV’s is clear ”

    Wrong.
    You nor anyone else has validated the requirements for HLV, other than being a jobs program. Your 3 fictitious aren’t any justification. There is no requirement for 100 ton payloads. A true system engineering approach in deriving requirements (which includes cost effectiveness) for an architecture would not result in an HLV.

    Also, there is no and won’t be any requirement for HSF BEO, the country and NASA can’t afford it.

    There is no money for 100 ton payloads.

  • David Davenport

    It was Apollo and its urgency that distorted the agency into what we now think of as the only way to do space exploration, though it was never intended for it to do it in that manner.

    It was also the perceived urgency of getting a man into orbit in response to the Rooskies being first to do so that led to the cancellation of Dynasoar.

    Ah yes, the pick up truck to space argument. That is what the shuttle was supposed to be. You regulars love to use these worthless analogies. The requirement for HLV’s is clear while the schemes using smaller launchers continue to be fictional.

    One of the macro-level flaws in the Shuttle design is simply that it is too big. It’s as if somebody took an eighteen wheel tractor trailer, enlarged the sleeper compartment to seat six people, and then proclaimed the vehicile to be the all purpose cargo and people transporter.

    I suggest that NASA’s Heaavy Lifter is about to repeat this Shuttle system mistake — putting all NASA eggs into a launcher that is too big and is supposed to be the one size that fits all missions.

    Dynasoar, which in its final proposed form would have seated six with not much room for cargo, was a better size. There would have also been a one or two seat version of Dynasoar with some cargo space. — about the right cargo capacity for present day space station re-supply trips.

    Dynasoar already had a launch missile — the upsized Titan, so perhaps enough money would been available to have both Dynasoar and additional Saturn missiles and Apollo missions.

    This is an alternative American space history that never happened.

  • I’ve posted this link before from time to time, but will do so again.

    Click here for the National Aeronautics and Space Act as amended.

    Nothing in the Act requires NASA to launch astronauts, to explore other worlds, or to own its rockets. It does require NASA to make commercial space access a priority.

    At best, it requires NASA to “contribute materially” to at least one of many categories. The idea was that NASA would help do R&D for other federal agencies and the private sector.

    The whole “Let’s beat the Russians to the Moon” thingie was dreamed up by JFK to show the world that American technology was superior to the Soviet Union. JFK was not an explorer and made it very clear his sole interest was demonstrating American technology to the world.

    I wrote about it last May at this link:

    http://spaceksc.blogspot.com/2010/05/jfk-im-not-that-interested-in-space.html

    In his own words, JFK was very worried that the Moon program was going to wreck the federal budget. Had he not been assassinated, one could reasonably speculate that the program’s urgency would have been less to complete it by the end of the decade to satisfy his legacy.

  • David Davenport

    Had he not been assassinated, one could reasonably speculate that the program’s urgency would have been less to complete it by the end of the decade to satisfy his legacy.

    So, you don’t like it that the USA beat the Commies to the Moon?

    One can very reasonably speculate that putting the USA there first was very much the sainted JFK’s wish and intent, and that fretting about busting the budget was merely a politician’s effort to appease the anti-space Left, or anti-space Ron Paul-ish Uncle Scrooge Right.

    I can’t discern which side you’re coming from. … American Left and isolationist pinch penny Right sort of curving around and overlapping to some extent.

  • David Davenport

    To return to my alternative space history:

    Dynasoar would have happened, Skylab I would have been saved, or else there would have been a Skylab II, Space Shuttle and the ISS would not exist.

    My hunch is Mir and Skylab I or II would did or would have picked most of the low-hanging space station scientific fruit, as that figure of speech goes.

    American-Soviet cooperation? They could have visited each other’s Mir or Skylab, and maybe swapped crew members. ISS is an orbital white elephant. Oh wait, ISS may yet become the Hotel Simberg for affluent space tourists. Its true destiny …

    Saturn would have evolved into a modular set of missiles suitable for launching Dynasoar, Skylab II, or an Apollo lunar mission set. Further evolved Saturn would still be with us today.

    Bizarro world alternative space history.

  • I see, and I agree the old unreversed model was better. But wouldn’t it be better still if nearly everything was channeled through the market?

    Sure, but that day is still a ways away. Getting NASA back to the NACA model would be an improvement.

  • MM_NASA

    Dear David and Vladisaw,

    Good that you asked what we learned from the Ares 1-X test flight. Below are the areas that we learned for a 2.6 million pound thrust launch vehicle. FYI, this is the highest thrust launch vehicle tested in quite a long time (it is about three times the thrust for the Falcon 9 which had MANY initial failures).

    We learned the following in high fidelity and resolution:
    1. Thrust oscillations
    2. Roll response
    3. Vehicle response
    4. Stage separation
    5. GNC
    6. Structural dampening
    7. Control systems performance
    8. Detailed J-2X engine characterization in flight
    9. Ground systems – effects of rocket plume on launch pad and surrounding regions
    10. All parameters recorded by 700 sensors were compared to numerical simulations.
    This provides an outstanding insight on how this class launch-vehicle behaves from a fluid dynamics, flight dynamics, structural dynamics and controls point of view.

    When a commercial sector derived medium/heavy-class launch vehicle performs these types of tests in such high fidelity and success, please do let me know. The failure of full deployment of the parachute was not NASA’s initial concerns – there were other more complex parameters (noted above). This was a huge accomplishment by the Ares 1-X team and it should not be undermined.

    I apologize, but I am a firm believer that the commercial sector will not be able to build a human rated launch vehicle without the HEAVY involvement of NASA engineers and scientists. They have the experience and the flexibility to really look into various issues. In my opinion and in particular, the heavy-lift human rated launch vehicle should be designed and developed by NASA.

    I commend the commercial sector in starting the wave of their own launch vehicles.

    Just my two cents…

  • Martijn Meijering

    I apologize, but I am a firm believer that the commercial sector will not be able to build a human rated launch vehicle without the HEAVY involvement of NASA engineers and scientists.

    How can that be true given that the commercial sector has far more expertise with developing launch vehicles than today’s NASA? It would be like the B-team giving pointers to the A-team.

  • Byeman

    MM-NASA, your list is BS. The Ares I-X data was not worth than 1/2 billion dollars. Also you do not know what you are talking about.

    1. Delta IV heavy is a commercial sector derived medium/heavy-class launch vehicle
    2. Falcon 9 did not have many failures

    3. Falcon 9 achieved orbit unlike Ares I-X

    4. What you believe is not the truth, commercial space does not need NASA to manrate a vehicle.

    Ares I-X was not a huge achievement but an embarrassment. Especially when people like you try to pump up its feeble and useless accomplishments. Spacex developed an orbital launch vehicle and launch site for a fraction of the cost. Ares I-X was an admiral’s test. The idea to launch something came first and then people tried to figure out what data could be collected, not the other way around.

    Ares I-X was the world’s largest model rocket and nothing more. Ares I is dead, which means I-X was even more useless.

  • Byeman

    MM NASA, I going to throw the BS flag and discredit most of your points on Ares I-X data.

    1. Thrust oscillations. It was a 4 segment and not a 5 segment SRM and the shuttle flies 2 of these each mission. Not a justification for I-X
    2. Roll response, see later
    3. Vehicle response
    4. Stage separation – That didn’t work out
    5. GNC – was Atlas avionics.
    6. Structural dampening – Not a 5 segment, dummy segment was filled with inert propellant and did not deplete. Not a valid test
    7. Control systems performance – again Atlas avionics
    8. Detailed J-2X engine characterization in flight – no J-2 flew
    9. Ground systems – effects of rocket plume on launch pad and surrounding regions – not a justification for a test flight. This is afterthought cya reasoning. Anyways more than 100 shuttle flights along with Titan and other launch vehicles could supply the data.

    2 &3 are not justification for a 1/2 billion dollar model rocket flight.

  • Coastal Ron

    MM_NASA wrote @ November 13th, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Falcon 9 which had MANY initial failures

    You obviously are not familiar enough with SpaceX to be speaking about them, either for good or bad.

    the commercial sector will not be able to build a human rated launch vehicle without the HEAVY involvement of NASA engineers and scientists. They have the experience and the flexibility to really look into various issues.

    NASA has never built their man-rated vehicles, so why would NASA have the expertise in house? Sure NASA has some input for human spaceflight, and they are the repository of all the HSF research. But to say they only they can build a vehicle ignores reality.

    In my opinion and in particular, the heavy-lift human rated launch vehicle should be designed and developed by NASA.

    Who says an HLV needs to be human rated? The CAIB and many others have stated that cargo and crew should be kept separate for safety reasons.

    The only reason to co-mingle cargo and crew is when you’re talking about Apollo-type missions, where you don’t want to assemble anything in orbit. But we are past that era, and we now have the knowledge and ability to build vehicles in space, and then add the crew.

    If an HLV is built, maximizing it for cargo would be the best use for it.

  • Martijn Meijering

    If an HLV is built, maximizing it for cargo would be the best use for it.

    I disagree, since it would rob commercial launchers (including future RLVs) of their payloads. In my opinion it would be better to use an HLV for launching crew straight to L1/L2 in a single launch. Everything else can go on smaller launchers, either in a single launch or with EOR, whichever proves more convenient / cost effective, decided on a case by case basis. Not optimal, and not a good reason for building an HLV, but better than using it for cargo.

  • If MSFC wasn’t a dysfunctional mess they could easily shove together *existing* hardware and get a heavy lift vehicle up and running in a short amount of time… but never as a crew launcher. Not that it’d be useful for anything that NASA actually does or is planning to do, but hey, for an HLV to no-where the cargo only option is the way to go. Not that any sort of logic matters when it comes to NASA.

  • Coastal Ron

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ November 13th, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    I disagree, since it would rob commercial launchers (including future RLVs) of their payloads.

    Government monopolies like a NASA HLV are going to be a huge disruption to any market it enters, so there are no right answers (except killing the beast before it’s born).

  • MichaelC

    For all it’s faults, Ares vehicles were correct in separating crew and cargo functions. This was one of the fundamental mistakes with the shuttle. It is funny that no one seems to realize SpaceX is making the same mistake man-rating their dragon as a cargo vehicle. The commercial fans defend this space shuttle cost cutting measure when they should realize what it did to the shuttle and not support it.

    A launch vehicle carrying people should carry people and nothing else resulting in a medium lift vehicle that is easier to inspect, test fire and modify over time; this is safer. But before the screaming starts, it must be realized this effect reverses itself with cargo- we want the biggest unmanned vehicle possible to put up as much into orbit at a time.

    When talking about “losing LEO” it might be good for everyone posting here to agree to disagree on a few things.

  • For all it’s faults, Ares vehicles were correct in separating crew and cargo functions. This was one of the fundamental mistakes with the shuttle.

    There were a lot of mistakes with the Shuttle, but that wasn’t one of them.

    It is funny that no one seems to realize SpaceX is making the same mistake man-rating their dragon as a cargo vehicle.

    If no one seems to realize that, it’s probably because it’s not true. It makes a lot of sense to have a pressurized capsule that can carry either crew or cargo. It would be stupid to design two separate systems.

    it must be realized this effect reverses itself with cargo- we want the biggest unmanned vehicle possible to put up as much into orbit at a time.

    No, we should want a vehicle that gets cargo up at the lowest possible cost, so that the program is affordable. You want one with exactly the opposite characteristics. Which is why your foolish ideas will go nowhere.

  • Martijn Meijering

    There were a lot of mistakes with the Shuttle, but that wasn’t one of them.

    I don’t understand. The Shuttle forces you to send up a crew even if all you want to do is to launch cargo. There’s nothing wrong with adding cargo if you wanted to send up crew anyway, but sometimes you don’t. Or did you mean something else?

  • MichaelC

    “There were a lot of mistakes with the Shuttle, but that wasn’t one of them.

    I don’t understand. ”

    Neither one of you do.

  • Or did you mean something else?

    I meant that the notion that we “we must separate crew and cargo” means that they must be of two different vehicle designs is a crazy thing to conclude from Shuttle experience. We don’t send cargo on uncrewed airplanes, and there’s no reason to demand that we do it with space transports. If people want to send their cargo up on unreliable uncrewed launchers, that’s their business, but the notion that SpaceX is making some kind of mistake with their design on that basis is nutty, or that it implies that NASA needs to develop two separate launch systems is nutty.

  • Martijn, the only thing that forced NASA to send a crew up with Shuttle was NASA.. and more specifically, the refusal of MSFC to do the work to get automated flights of shuttle cleared (they knew it would de-emphasize Shuttle-C which has been their driving motivation for 30 years now). The actual vehicle is capable of it..

  • MichaelC

    The list of wrong directions promoted by the regulars here is long.
    They have argued endlessly that:

    Clustered engines were not a bad idea at all and the falcon 9 heavy would be a great machine.

    Hydrogen is really an inferior propellant compared to kerolox.

    The problems of chemical propulsion for deep space flight would all be solved by fuel depots.

    Radiation, zero G, and life support are not that big a problem for BEO and can be solved with inflatable space ships and “innovation.”

    But the biggest flub is the sacred idea that NASA HLV’s are the ant-thesis of the American spirit of space exploration.

    All of this is wrong headed promotion but the “experts” here defend these proposals to the death- well, to the point of calling anyone who disagrees stupid or a liar without actually saying so.

    As another poster put it, they are just trying to make excuses for smaller launchers.

  • Coastal Ron

    MichaelC wrote @ November 14th, 2010 at 11:59 am

    It is funny that no one seems to realize SpaceX is making the same mistake man-rating their dragon as a cargo vehicle.

    Why not use the same capsule for crew and cargo? Where is the danger?

  • the refusal of MSFC to do the work to get automated flights of shuttle cleared (they knew it would de-emphasize Shuttle-C which has been their driving motivation for 30 years now).

    A lot of things are Marshall’s fault, but not this. It was driven by a strong resistance from the astronaut office for them to be made redundant on the system.

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