Congress, NASA, White House

Briefs: Nelson’s complaints, New York’s fear of Texas

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) got some attention late last week when he criticized the White House staff on a number of issues, including space. Nelson’s speech came a day after he reportedly “lit into” President Obama in a Senate caucus session. However, Nelson’s NASA-specific complaint, the “misconception that Obama wants to eliminate the manned space program”, as the Gainesville (Fla.) Sun reported, isn’t new: Nelson has made that statement on a number of occasions this year, as far back as mid-February, only a couple weeks after the White House released its FY11 budget proposal.

Members of New York’s congressional delegation are also expressing their concerns about NASA, but on a very different subject: where the shuttle orbiters will go once the fleet is retired next year. According to the New York Daily News, members are concerned that as Texas members of Congress take leadership positions, prospects dim that the Intrepid museum in New York City will get an orbiter. But while the article claims that New York’s odds “got way longer in an uphill fight with Texas”, Congress may not have much influence on the decision, which rests in the hands of NASA as it currently stands. Language inserted into the NASA authorization bill this summer actually improves New York’s chances, since it requests that NASA give preference to awarding orbiters to locations “with an historical relationship with either the launch, flight operations, or processing of the Space Shuttle orbiters or the retrieval of NASA manned space vehicles, or significant contributions to human space flight”; the Intrepid was involved in the recovery of Mercury-Atlas 7 and Gemini 3.

60 comments to Briefs: Nelson’s complaints, New York’s fear of Texas

  • I never thought Obama wanted to end government-funded human spaceflight. But then I actually read newspapers and don’t watch Fox News.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    That last sentence is a very strange one. The Johnson Space Center in Houston fits that criteria for the space shuttle far more than the Intrepid Museum.

  • amightywind

    The 2012 campaign is underway and Nelson must be looking in horror at the chaos at NASA and the job losses in his state. His defense of Obama is tepid. Why is the common excuse on all unpopular Obama policies is that ‘people misconceptions’? It is a dumb strategy. It got the dems nowhere in the last election. People do do understand, and they don’t like his policies. Nelson is one of 21 democrats who will have to run away from Obama to preserve their careers. Might as well start now. His Senate seat is a juicy target. This creates an opportunity for the GOP to flip some Senators to their side. Nelson would be a good candidate.

    As for the souvenir shuttles, one hopes there is a program to strip the orbiters and archive the technology.

  • Outgoing U.S. Senator George LeMieux and current Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, both Republicans, are looking at challenging Sen. Nelson in 2012. Being from the “Space Coast”, Haridopolos is criticizing Nelson’s effectiveness on space issues. This could once again make space a critical campaign issue in Florida.

    Florida has gone almost totally “red” with the 2010 elections, and Nelson is the Democrats’ last champion in a state that will be a crucial battleground in the 2012 presidential election. The Obama administration’s support for Nelson on space issues could be key to keeping both incumbents in office.

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20101123/NEWS02/11230315/1006/news01/Company+plans+flight+from+cape

    meanwhile as the technowelfare group argues about their federal handout and the genius at the shuttle ops try and figure out how to “rationalize” flying the vehicle out of specs…

    the new space folks just keep on coming. Not only has the FAA given a thumbs up to Dragon but the revolution in reusables just keeps coming on.

    What I find amazing about the “we have to go to the Moon” group is that they cannot see the real revolution taking place in front of their eyes. They are stuck in the 60′s fighting enemies that no longer exist and longing for an America that went away a long time ago.

    We have to get to a national space effort that produces jobs that are not just government dole…and dont do all that much on the dole for the dollars spent.

    Charlie Bolden’s real legacy might be that he was on watch when the tide turned.

    Robert G. Oler

  • amightywind

    meanwhile as the technowelfare group argues about their federal handout and the genius at the shuttle ops try and figure out how to “rationalize” flying the vehicle out of specs…

    I think the whole idea about the on pad repairs is to get the vehicle back in spec. It is just a repair. By your logic you would buy a new 747 because of a flat tire. Psychotic.

    the new space folks just keep on coming. Not only has the FAA given a thumbs up to Dragon but the revolution in reusables just keeps coming on.

    A small victory (microscopic, really) is a victory. Falcon 9/Dragon continues to slip right and Orbital is on their heels. The vultures in congress are lined up watching.

  • CharlesHouston

    Sen Nelson is trying to establish some distance between him and President Obama, thinking that if the economy has not seriously rebounded by early 2012 he does not want the President to drag him down. The current Administration has a track record of (during the campaign) proposing to delay all human space exploration for 5 years, of directing money away from “shovel ready” delayed maintenance at KSC (and towards other projects that were demonstrably less ready), and of changing their mind.

    So Nelson needs to put some daylight between him and Obama if he hopes to keep his job.

  • America can’t afford another failed presidency, but Obama seems to be trying his best!

    1. Obama attempted to terminate NASA’s ability to develop and fly its own manned spacecraft into space.

    2. Obama clearly wanted to delay the development of an HLV until his buddy Elon or another company was ready to provide such services through the private sector.

    3. Then he tried to fool people by proposing a mission to an asteroid and to Mars orbit (not even to the Martian surface) set far into the future with the development of no vehicles to get there.

    4. Finally he added insult to injury by going to KSC and saying: “Now, I understand that some believe that we should attempt a return to the surface of the Moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before.”

    Running against the space legacy of John F. Kennedy is not a good idea for any Democrat. And his arrogance towards NASA completely undermined Democrats running for office in Florida. Appeasing the wing of the Democratic Party that has always been hostile to manned space travel was a very bad idea. And hopping to get some credit from the Republican Party by attempting to privatize the US space program was also a failure.

    If Obama seriously wants to be President in 2012, he’s going to have to win Florida. And that means he’s going to have to embrace NASA and see the logic of establishing a permanent human presence at one of the lunar poles. But there are a lot of hurt feelings in Florida and a lot of jobs lost. And most folks seem to blame the President!

  • Major Tom

    “directing money away from ‘shovel ready’ delayed maintenance at KSC”

    False. The Administration’s FY11 budget request for NASA included $429 million in FY11 and $1.9 billion over five years to “modernize the Kennedy Space Center to increase the operational efficiency and reduce the launch costs not only for NASA, but for other users.” See slide 12 in this presentation:

    nasa.gov/pdf/420990main_FY_201_%20Budget_Overview_1_Feb_2010.pdf

  • Obama attempted to terminate NASA’s ability to develop and fly its own manned spacecraft into space.

    How could he “terminate” something that clearly didn’t exist?

    Obama clearly wanted to delay the development of an HLV until his buddy Elon or another company was ready to provide such services through the private sector.

    No, he wanted to delay it long enough for people to finally realize that we didn’t need it. And even if we did, what is so horrible about it being provided by the private sector? Are you a communist?

  • CharlesHouston

    I mentioned the delayed maintenance at KSC (other Centers have it as well) as a mild criticism of the Obama Feb 2010 budget submission.

    Major Tom wrote (though he should have reconsidered): False. The Administration’t FY11 budget request [snip] increase operational efficiency and reduce the launch costs not only for NASA but… . Major Tom has not closely followed the subject – this nebulous budget proposal appears to direct money to support future programs that are yet to be defined.

    The Nov 12, 2010 letter from the GAO again refers to the Infrastructure and Facilities Management as a challenge – perhaps the money is being directed inefficiently? The report says that the Agency wide deferred maintenance is about 2.55 billion – which was totally ignored in the “stimulus” bill. Lots of money was directed towards high speed rail, etc.

    For this reason, among others, Senator Nelson needs to show his independence from the Obama Administration if he hopes to be in the Senate in 2013.

    Don’t make stuff up.

  • Major Tom

    “I mentioned the delayed maintenance at KSC (other Centers have it as well) as a mild criticism of the Obama Feb 2010 budget submission.”

    You didn’t state which budget you were criticizing in your earlier post. Don’t make things up.

    Moreover, you’re confused in your latest post. NASA has been operating on its FY10 budget for over a fiscal year now. It’s the FY11 budget that the appropriators are still deliberating on. Learn and think before you post.

    “The Nov 12, 2010 letter from the GAO again refers to the Infrastructure and Facilities Management as a challenge – perhaps the money is being directed inefficiently?”

    No, Congress hasn’t passed an FY11 appropriations bill yet. The President has proposed to spend $429 million in FY11 and $1.9 billion over five years on KSC facilities. But NASA can’t spend that money until the appropriators pass a bill.

    “Major Tom has not closely followed the subject”

    Are you kidding? You are _still_ ignorant of proposals in the FY11 budget — whcih became public way _ten_ months ago — to spend hundreds of million and billions of dollars on KSC facilities.

    Talk about “not closely following the subject”. Cripes.

    ” – this nebulous budget proposal appears to direct money to support future programs that are yet to be defined.”

    “Appears”? “Nebulous”? “Programs that are yet to be defined”? How can you make these judgements if you havn’t bothered to read NASA’s FY11 budget proposal, especially the entries on the 21st Century Space Launch Complex?

    If you had bothered to read the budget proposal, you’d know that “efforts for the 21st Century Space Launch Complex Program are intended to benefit NASA’s CURRENT [emphasis added] and future operations” and that specific projects include “modernization activities to support safer and more efficient launch operations; enhancing payload processing capabilities; relocating the KSC perimeter to facilitate certain private sector activities and operations; environmental remediation; and supporting the modernization of the launch range capabilities.”

    Read, learn, and think before you post.

    “Agency wide deferred maintenance… was totally ignored in the “stimulus” bill.”

    No, it wasn’t. The Recovery Act included $50 million for NASA facilities rehabilitation. Don’t you know anything about the topics you’re posting on?

    “Lots of money was directed towards high speed rail”

    Your point? Lots of money was directed to lots of stuff in the stimulus bill. What do railroads have to do with NASA? This is a forum about space policy, not Amtrak.

    “For this reason, among others, Senator Nelson needs to show his independence from the Obama Administration if he hopes to be in the Senate in 2013.”

    On this “reason”, Nelson would have to be an idiot to separate himself from the Administration. The Administration is proposing to spend hundreds of millions and billions of dollars on KSC facilities. Why would any sane Senator oppose a White House proposal to spend that kind of money on facilities in their state?

    Goofy…

  • E.P. Grondine

    Nelson’s complaint is that Obama failed to get the message on his space program out. People will vote on perception, rather than reality.

    For example, on the HLV, Direct was blocked, so Obama proposed Star-Chaser, with reusable flyback stages. The problem, of course, is that we can’t get there from here.

    This is an ongoing problem that affects not just space, but every other Obama initiative and his successes. A lot of this has to do with press bias, and it is not left wing, as many pretend. In the coverage, you seldom see Obama’s actual statements, or written materials, but rather reactions, speculations, and criticisms.

    I think that Gration would have made a fine NASA Administrator, and I’m sure that Sen. Nelson must think about that everyday.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Oops. You meant “Obama attempted to terminate NASA’s inability to develop and fly its own manned spacecraft into space.” Just two letters make a big difference!

    An asteroid mission can be done with a couple of Orions and a few ELVs. Lockheed knows that. Lockheed doesn’t believe you need to develop vehicles to get there. I do agree that such a mission is unlikely to happen.

    “Finally he added insult to injury by going to KSC and saying: ‘Now, I understand that some believe that we should attempt a return to the surface of the Moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before.’”

    He got quite a bit of applause for that line. Who would have known they in the audience were injured or insulted! Of course, what he meant is that we should be able to do better than what we did forty years ago.

  • DCSCA

    So the focus of government officials who concern themsleves with the immediate future of our space program are bickering over the parameters of NASA’s garage sale of space shuttle program leftovers.

    Swell.

  • DCSCA

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ November 23rd, 2010 at 9:49 am
    “…the new space folks just keep on coming.” And are going no where fast, save Branson. The world is still awaiting Musk’s first successful Dragon orbital flight… which keeps slipping launch dates. NASA’s very good at that already but nice to see a private sectored organization, which needs NASA contracts to peddle its future, showing the characteristics of the government space agency already.

  • DCSCA

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ November 23rd, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    “If Obama seriously wants to be President in 2012, he’s going to have to win Florida.”

    Except, of course, retirees are the key constituents to woo in Florida, not NASA. In the Age of Austerity, as it comes down to saving a few NASA jobs or keeping their old folks’ social security COLAs and medicare flush, it’s faitly obvious which constiuency will be shown favor– and it won’t be NASA.

  • Vladislaw

    Marcel F. Williams wrote:

    “1. Obama attempted to terminate NASA’s ability to develop and fly its own manned spacecraft into space.”

    You say that like it was a bad thing, I have been advocating for NASA to get out of the launch business for years. They should have went commercial a long time ago. Just because you don’t agree does not automatically negate the opposing opinion. There are many Americans that believe as I do.

    “2. Obama clearly wanted to delay the development of an HLV until his buddy Elon or another company was ready to provide such services through the private sector.”

    How did he do this? Ares V was being funded at about 25 million per year and his 2011 budget called for an immediate increase to almost 500 million per year for 5 years. The President was going to spend more on heavy lift in 5 years than all the presidents since LBJ. You are starting to sound nutty when you lie about what was going to be funded.

    There was also two EELV’s that would have more than likely going to capture any heavy lift contracts for NASA as they already had previous proposals for upgrading.

    “3. Then he tried to fool people by proposing a mission to an asteroid and to Mars orbit (not even to the Martian surface) set far into the future with the development of no vehicles to get there.”

    How was he fooling anyone? Per Augustine America was not going to be returning to Luna until the 2030′s. If Both destinations were targeted for the 2030′s all he did was change the destination, but the time scale was the same as Constellation.

    “4. Finally he added insult to injury by going to KSC and saying: “Now, I understand that some believe that we should attempt a return to the surface of the Moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before.” “

    If Apollo was the Lewis & Clark mission for exploring Luna, then in that regard we have been there done that. You didn’t see the Federal government fund yearly L&C missions. ( Apollo consumed 4% of the budget, L&C cost 2% )

    The failure was not to open Luna up for commercial operations like the Louisana Purchase was.

    Visiting an asteroid pushes the envelope and forces a new way of doing space operations. I.E. we would need new technologies like aerocapture, spacebased vehicles, fuel station, closed loop life support, to name just a few. If we are serious about a push outward, lets build the tools we need first and that starts with orbital gas stations.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ November 23rd, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    If Obama seriously wants to be President in 2012, he’s going to have to win Florida. And that means he’s going to have to embrace NASA and see the logic of establishing a permanent human presence at one of the lunar poles.

    there is no data which supports that conclusion…it is something you support I know, but there is no data that says such a position on Obama’s part would help him retain the Presidency.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    ‘amightywind wrote @ November 23rd, 2010 at 10:36 am
    A small victory (microscopic, really) is a victory. Falcon 9/Dragon continues to slip right and Orbital is on their heels. The vultures in congress are lined up watching.’

    Yes watch is all they can do because SpaceX has the jump on all of them. The first commercial reentry licence isn’t a small victory, it’s historic, however your comments are hardly ever accurate so what the heh! Orbital’s slipped recently as well – just to correct any misconceptions.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    ‘Marcel F. Williams wrote @ November 23rd, 2010 at 12:28 pm
    America can’t afford another failed presidency, but Obama seems to be trying his best!’

    America can’t really afford diddly squat at the present given their deficit.
    They’ll eventually have to address it in some fashion similar to Europe but they’re leaving their run late and that deficit is building. Hence eventually even relatively small programs like NASA will feel the bite.

  • Gregori

    If there ever was a textbook example of cognitive dissonance, it has to be the Republicans claiming to love private enterprise and markets yet trying to cut commercial crew to pay for a government designed rocket.

    Trying to hold those two ideas in even my little head makes it explode and spin off its axis..

    To those complaining that SpaceX and Orbital are delayed, that’s pretty disingenuous on many levels. Nearly all space program’s public and private are late. nothing new, so no reason to solely pick on private enterprise. Constellation was meant to put people on the Moon in the year 2020, but at the pace it was going would have them arrive some time in 2035-2040. That’s a bit of a slip. NASA has less of an excuse. It has a massively bigger budget than SpaceX and most of the technology used in the Ares vehicles was not new, merely modified shuttle components. SpaceX created two entirely new rockets and a spacecraft from scratch for the cost it took NASA to put Atlas avionics on a 4 Segment booster and launch it into a suborbital trajectory (which wasn’t a perfect flight either) SpaceX have slipped recently a few months, but are likely to have launch pretty soon. Its better they slip and get it right, than rush things and cause an unnecessary failure. Shuttles slip all the time for this reason too, and they’re a pretty well established vehicle after 130+ flights.

    Some people want SpaceX to fail out of spite!! Maybe its a partisan thingy. Maybe its a fear of them actually succeeding and being better than the government space program. But its really just cutting your nose off to spite your face. If you’re a fan of space, you should want to see them actually succeed!! We actually need cheaper access to space if we ever want to achieve anything with humans there. We’re just not going to Mars if it takes 10 rockets that cost over a Billion each. Never mind the hardware itself.

    I actually want to see human spaceflight be successful so I am hoping both commercial spaceflight and the new HLV succeed!!! I think that’s what the senate resolution tried to achieve, a fair balance between both approaches.

  • mike shupp

    Let’s give retired space shuttle orbiters to JSC and KSC, since the historical links to those locations are clear. If New York wants something with equal relevence for a museum, they can post anti-manned space editorials from the past fifty years from the NY Times — which would also fill up a large room.

  • Robert G. Oler wrote:

    there is no data which supports that conclusion…it is something you support I know, but there is no data that says such a position on Obama’s part would help him retain the Presidency.

    No one in Florida outside of Brevard County gives a hoot what Obama’s position is on NASA, and Brevard County is already one of the most Republican counties in the state. In fact, after the Administration announced its FY11 NASA budget, a statewide poll showed Obama’s popularity had actually gone up.

  • amightywind

    Vladislaw wrote:

    Visiting an asteroid pushes the envelope and forces a new way of doing space operations. I.E. we would need new technologies like aerocapture, spacebased vehicles, fuel station, closed loop life support, to name just a few. If we are serious about a push outward, lets build the tools we need first and that starts with orbital gas stations.

    The ‘Plymouth Rock’ mission profile offered by Lockheed Martin calls for none of these things. All we really need are old technologies like large boosters and exploration craft like Orion. The new technologies you list are irrelevant.

  • Martijn Meijering

    The new technologies you list are irrelevant.

    No they’re not. They’re not strictly needed, but they are very desirable. Unlike large boosters, which are neither needed nor desirable. We can do asteroid missions (and moon missions) without any new technologies. It would be an excellent place to start, while new technologies were being developed in parallel, safely off the critical path. It could avoid delaying things that various groups hold dear: exploration, an ISRU/science moon base. commercial development of space, RLVs etc without sacrificing fundamental research into new technologies.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    @ almightywind,

    “Plymouth Rock” wasn’t about whether the mission was remotely feasable. Rather, it was a demonstration of what could be done with the equipment if crew safety and comfort wasn’t a priority. The actual privations suffered by the maximum of two astronauts on such a mission would make the early Gemini flights seem positively luxurious.

    This isn’t an issue of ‘the right stuff’. It is an issue of locking two men into a spacecraft smaller than the shuttle’s flight deck for as long as six months (most of the other Orion would be needed purely for consumables storage). Additionally, there is currently no guarantee if the Orion’s life support system could remain reliable over such a period of time. The ISS’s life support system gets regular maintenance and replacement parts; That wouldn’t be possible on a BEO mission. If there were any problems, rescue or even an abort of some kind would be impossible, so some degree of confidence in the LSS and environmental shielding will be required.

    At the very smallest, I envision such a mission with four crew members (2 x flight enginers, 2 x mission specialists) requiring an Orion, a shielded hab module at least as big as the Bigelow Sundancer (180m^3 internal volume) and a powerful enough propulsion system to perform a direct abort at least for the initial few days of the transfer orbit. That means a hydrolox powerplant and multiple-launch, just to get the propulsion modules assembled. For any meaningful activities, let alone science, at the other end of the transfer orbit, you will need an EVA airlock as well as external stowage for surface science packages and MMU jet packs. Depending on the size of the target object, you may even need landing gear. None of these things are simple or cheap.

    Whilst I suspect that the preliminary HEFT report represents a pessimistic worst-case scenario, it does accurately portray some of the challenges involved in this endeavour.

  • Gregori

    ‘Plymouth Rock’ shows you how you can do an asteroid mission…..not how you should do one!! Its a tiny cramped capsule approach that has is unsustainable and doesn’t expand our presense in the solar system much.

    I can walk across the continent by foot, if i really want to. Thats low tech. Doesn’t make it advisable, esp when I can do it 3 hours on a jumbo jet.

    If we’re stuck with the same old expensive technologies forever, we’re going to be doing nothing interesting in space, and at a glacial pace. Extending human life off world should be the point of the exercise. Its definetly not for the science, which is better done by robots.

  • Major Tom

    “All we really need are old technologies like large boosters…”

    You don’t even need large boosters for these kinds of missions:

    “First, Orion would be launched to low-Earth orbit on a rocket such as a Delta 4 Heavy. Then, a modified Centaur upper stage would launch on a separate rocket. Orion would dock to the Centaur stage in orbit, and the Centaur would boost Orion toward the moon.

    Using either launch method, Orion would fly past the moon for a gravity slingshot maneuver toward the L2 point. Orion would use its propulsion system to enter a halo orbit around the L2 point.”

    space.com/news/moon-far-side-astronaut-mission-101123.html

    We can spend 10+ years and tens of billions of dollars building an HLV. Or we can start exploring now with the launch vehicles we have. It’s a simple choice.

    “… and exploration craft like Orion.”

    The current Orion design lost too much redundancy and radiation shielding to Ares I underperformance to support an extended BEO mission. She’d have to go through yet another design cycle. When added to her high operational costs, you may be better off with a clean sheet design.

    FWIW…

  • amightywind

    Look like Lockmart has proposed another Constellation mission. This one to L2. All we need is a rocket.

  • Vladislaw

    That was an unsolicited approach offered by an aerospace firm for a “how to” mission that indeed was not about technology development but a sales pitch to sell some off their off the shelf products.

    You amaze me, you constantly deride SpaceX and it’s “60′s” technology as an approach not to be pursued by America and then turn around and say all we need is old technologies of the 60′s like a heavy booster. Make up your mind.

    You Apollo cargo cultists are never bothered by a little thing called logic. I am talking about how to move forward to break that unsustainable “apollo on steriods” mentality you seem to be so in love with.

    America doesn’t need to bother with aerocapture? Ya, better to launch your return capsule to LEO, drag it with you to a moon or asteroid and then by pass LEO on your return and do a ballistic drop. Hey, it worked in the 60′s, no need to advance technology. For all your “wind” you are never afraid to show your true colors.

  • Mike Snyder

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ November 23rd, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    “there is no data which supports that conclusion…”

    That folks is the definition of irony.

  • Joy K

    “Some people want Spacex to fail out of spite!!

    And some people want it to fail because they do not want their tax dollars subsidizing millionaire tourist trips.

    The sooner that company goes under, the better it will be for man (and woman) in space.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ November 23rd, 2010 at 10:36 am
    I think the whole idea about the on pad repairs is to get the vehicle back in spec. It is just a repair. By your logic you would buy a new 747 because of a flat tire. Psychotic…

    what is psychotic is to compare a flat tire on an airplane with the problems the ET has. they simply dont understand why the cracks occurr.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Joy K

    “The current Orion design lost too much redundancy and radiation shielding to Ares I underperformance to support an extended BEO mission. She’d have to go through yet another design cycle. When added to her high operational costs, you may be better off with a clean sheet design.”

    Who are you? What an idiotic assertion. It would be a tremendous waste of tax dollars to throw away Orion.

    Your complete obsession with Commercial space is plain to see.

  • Martijn Meijering

    All we need is a rocket.

    We already have rockets. Several rockets in fact. What we need is a spacecraft.

  • Martijn Meijering

    If we’re stuck with the same old expensive technologies forever, we’re going to be doing nothing interesting in space, and at a glacial pace.

    It doesn’t have to be either or, we can do both at the same time. Some people are eager to see exploration as soon as possible, others want to see commercial development of space. Both can be served by an exploration program that starts as soon as possible (which implies the use of as much existing technology as possible) and a separate technology development program in parallel. This has the added convenience of giving various field centers something to do instead of taking them all on at once.

    Personally I see cheap small lift as the one missing piece that would give us everything else, the one ring to rule them all. For that reason I would like to see commercial propellant markets as soon as possible, as I believe that would be the shortest path to commercial cheap small lift. To further that goal I would remove all unnecessary technology development from the critical path to commercial propellant launches. I believe all technology development can be thus removed. Various people have proposed pet technologies or systems that they want to put on the critical path, but I think none of them hold up to scrutiny, desirable as they may be. It is difficult to see how any of them could trump the importance of cheap small lift.

    I would also remove a second source of delays, namely constraints on destinations. I would choose the cheapest one, because even though a propellant transfer based architecture could support any destination, the budget and politics might not. I would even want to remove a strict dependence on manned exploration, though it would be wonderful if we could get that. We can get to cheap small lift through unmanned probes and that may be all the budget allows for.

    In short, I agree with your sentiment that we shouldn’t be stuck with existing technologies forever, but I see starting with existing technologies as not only not harmful to the development of new technologies, but as very synergistic, perhaps even as close to the optimal way to get them.

  • red

    amightywind: “Look like Lockmart has proposed another Constellation mission. This one to L2. All we need is a rocket.”

    That’s not a Constellation mission. It’s an E-M L2 mission or missions doing lunar sample return, demonstrating telerobotics in a mode similar to telerobotics on a Mars orbit mission, gingerly trying longer-duration deep space operations, demonstrating technologies like cryo-storage, and radio telescope deployment. It considers international participation with partner surface robotics, science instruments, and/or and L2 habitat.

    That’s classic Augustine Flexible Path.

    http://www.lockheedmartin.com/data/assets/ssc/Orion/Toolkit/LMFarsideWhitepaperFinal.pdf

    From the white paper:

    “Since the Altair human lunar lander has been cancelled, a more affordable robotic lander would be developed instead.”

    Orion could be “launched to Low Earth Orbit on a rocket such as a Delta IV Heavy …”

  • Doug Lassiter

    “Look like Lockmart has proposed another Constellation mission. This one to L2. All we need is a rocket.”

    Yep, and the rocket we need, they say, can be a Delta IV-H with a Centaur upper stage. They say it.

    I’m pleased that Lockheed would stick their neck out and endorse a mission that, in itself, doesn’t presume people being down on the lunar surface. But targeting Earth-Moon L2 is a pretty squishy proposition. If you want to do lunar science, most of the important targets are on the near side. OK, S. Pole Aitken basin is one that’s largely on the far side, but that’s about it. A kilometer-scale telescope? Well, not in my lifetime. If you want to do ISRU, you’ll do that on the near side. Why would we start an ambitious mining and refining operation on the far side? Crazy! If you want to practice telerobotics for Mars, do it at Earth-Moon L1 on the near side. If you want to exercise your abilities to go far and stay there for a while, L1 will do the job nicely as well. There are actually some nice concepts being developed for Earth-Moon L1.

    Another Constellation mission? Nah, this one actually might be affordable.

  • Robert G. Oler wrote:

    what is psychotic is to compare a flat tire on an airplane with the problems the ET has. they simply dont understand why the cracks occurr.

    STS-133 was postponed again today, no earlier than December 17, and scuttlebutt is that it may be a lot longer than that. All this suggests they don’t know why these cracks are happening and think it may not be safe to fly.

    If they decide it’s a bad tank, there’s only one spare left and that’s the one held in reserve for an emergency flight. It’s been proposed that it be used for a third flight, but if they have to use the spare tank to launch STS-133 then the third flight won’t happen.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    And worse is that the tank is supposedly brand spanking new. Who’d accept cracks say in their new car’s sub-frames as an example??!!

    As Robert woud say: goofy!

    PS Now under 2 weeks to the SpaceX COTS Demo1 launch and no delay announcement. Shuttles shifted to after SpaceX launch date so no issue with recovery ships. Could we be on the real countdown now.

    BTW nice tour of the SpaceX engine manufacturing facility by Elon on their website in case, lile me, you haven’t checked it for a while.
    By my calcs, SpaceX wil need 46 Merlin C, 5 MVac, 1 Kestral, and up to 18 Draco for their 2011 manifest. Gonna get busy!!

  • And some people want it to fail because they do not want their tax dollars subsidizing millionaire tourist trips.

    Then if they’re taxpayers, they’re cutting off their noses to spite their faces. It is quite foolish and irrational to oppose reducing launch costs for NASA just because it also reduces launch costs for millionaires as a side effect.

  • Gregori

    less people in space is not good for space at all. Spite will not be good for man and woman in space. Taxi payers are already paying billions just to put a few government employees in space. You’re never going to be one of them, so I wonder why you would want to subsidize that.

    Besides, SpaceX has said nothing about providing trips for millionaires. Its commercial crew service is aimed at NASA, and at reducing costs, which is good for NASA, believe it or not!!!

  • Bennett

    Joy K wrote @ November 24th, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    “And some people want it (SpaceX) to fail because they do not want their tax dollars subsidizing millionaire tourist trips.

    Are you a bot, or a troll from ATK? When did SpaceX start doing tourist flights?

    You may not know it, but they launch satellites, and are planning to launch US astronauts up to the ISS for less money than we are spending on Russian Soyuz launches for the same transport.

    Please learn the basics before posting!

  • vulture4

    This was a deterministic failure, due to exceeding ultimate strength, not a fatigue failure where crack propogation and stochiastic proceses are involved. The stringers and foam cracked when the intertank skin oilcanned. There’s no way for the skin to distort far enough to crack the stringers without cracking the foam as well. They simply need to do a tanking test and then check for cracks. With the doublers in place there probably won’t be any.

  • Major Tom

    “Look like Lockmart has proposed another Constellation mission. This one to L2.”

    Constellation was never going to lunar L2. By definition, this is not a Constellation architecture or mission.

    Think before you post.

    “All we need is a rocket.”

    We have one. It’s called the Delta IV. Per the article:

    ““First, Orion would be launched to low-Earth orbit on a rocket such as a Delta 4 Heavy. Then, a modified Centaur upper stage would launch on a separate rocket. Orion would dock to the Centaur stage in orbit, and the Centaur would boost Orion toward the moon.”

    Read, comprehend, and think before you post.

    Lawdy…

  • Major Tom

    “It would be a tremendous waste of tax dollars to throw away Orion.”

    No, it wouldn’t. Orion is oversized for ETO transport, will have to be redesigned (yet again) for BEO mission redundancy and radiation shielding, and will carry operational costs of at least $1 billion per mission, per the Augustine report. Why spend billions more taxpayer dollars redesigning and redeveloping a vehicle that’s going to cost too much operationally to be used effectively anyway? Put those billions into developing a cost-effective vehicle for BEO missions from the get-go.

    Think before you post.

    “And some people want it to fail because they do not want their tax dollars subsidizing millionaire tourist trips.”

    Now this is an idiotic assertion.

    First, SpaceX has no “millionaire tourist trips” on its manifest.

    Second, “millionaire” SpaceX investors are subsidizing, to the tune of something approaching $200 million, the development of a launch vehicle and capsule for NASA needs.

    Third, even if taxpayers were footing the entire bill for Falcon 9/Dragon, it’s ~80 times cheaper than the nearly $40 billion development cost for Ares I/Orion. Taxpayers are saving literally billions and billions of dollars going the Falcon 9/Dragon route over Ares I/Orion.

    Again, think before you post.

    “The sooner that company goes under, the better it will be for man (and woman) in space.

    The SpaceX manifest is chock full of commercial payloads out through 2017. NASA could disappear tomorrow and that company would continue on as before.

    FWIW…

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ November 24th, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    yeah it is pretty clear that this one has got them more rattled then normal. There are some serious problems with the tank and there is no organization in the US that would proceed in the manner that they are to determine a reason for flying…

    The clowns running the shuttle program would be laughed at (and are) in another other technical organization…imagine running nuclear reactors like they run the shuttle progrd one understands the problems at Three Mile Island.

    Happy Thanks giving

    Robert G. Oler

  • DCSCA

    @Stephen C. Smith wrote @ November 24th, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    They’ve slipped this launch date so long, the wise move would be to switch out the ET. Of course, the question is, are these cracks unique to this ET or has NASA been flying bad ones in the past as well and never realized it– or just considered it an acceptable flight risk and buried the problem. Quality control slip-ups are very American. It’s a place to cut costs and save money– something commerical firms- engineering or otherwise- have known for decades, sometimes with disasterous results. If the astronaut office has any pull left, they’d demand it be changed out.

  • DCSCA

    @MajorTom “The SpaceX manifest is chock full of commercial payloads out through 2017. NASA could disappear tomorrow and that company would continue on as before…” Through 2017, you mean, however, its future depends on NASA contracting- as does Musk’s plans for ‘retirement’ on Mars.

  • They’ve slipped this launch date so long, the wise move would be to switch out the ET.

    Yes, because they have so many ETs sitting on the shelf.

    More ignorance from the usual suspect.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Yes, because they have so many ETs sitting on the shelf.

    Depending on whether you want to help or hurt SDLV that could be either a bug or a feature. Once they’ve lost the Michoud workforce (and we may already be past the point of no return) every ET that is taken out of the running means another potential Shuttle mission that is eliminated. As I understand it they have three more tanks that do not require modifications, including one SWT (or maybe LWT).

  • Vladislaw

    DCSCA wrote:

    “They’ve slipped this launch date so long, the wise move would be to switch out the ET.”

    Or maybe the slips were planned so that it delays the retirement and holds onto employees for a few more months. The more delays on this launch could be used to push that potential last launch out more months. A way of backdoor extending the shuttle program and forstalling that last dying gasp of a program.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ November 25th, 2010 at 3:44 pm
    Two to choose from leaving months to rework the flawed one as the reserve. Unless you’re willing to risk crew and vehicle again on a piece of flawed engineering. Speaks volumes about your managment judgment– or maybe you just want NASA’s HSF program to go out w/a bang. Good grief.

  • DCSCA

    @Martijn Meijering wrote @ November 25th, 2010 at 6:08 pm
    Yes, scrub a flight as the program is ending- a flight which was penciled in anyway- due to substandard hardware. No more ‘wing and a prayer’ flights. The quicker this program is finally put to bed, the better.

  • Major Tom

    “Through 2017, you mean, however, its future depends on NASA contracting”

    No, it doesn’t. No launch company has contracts that go more than a handful of years into the future. Just because a company isn’t reliant on NASA business for the next seven years, doesn’t mean they’re suddenly going to become reliant on NASA business in the eighth year.

    Think before you post.

  • DCSCA

    Major Tom wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 11:00 am
    Yes it does, particularly as more competitors come online and especially if other firms excel in affordable HSF proposals. SpaceX needs the ISS contracting for cargo and/or HSF flights to ISS through its projected lifetime. If NASA suffers deep cuts or is abosrbed by DoD– or simply is disbanded- it most defintely will affect SpaceX’s future– and its capacity to attract private investors. Indeed, think before you post.

  • DCSCA

    Vladislaw wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 1:20 am

    That may have been a valid suspicion early on, but the hardware flaws are genuine. Once again, though, we see NASA shuttle managment processes at work, which may be as equally sub-standard as the workmanship on the ET in question.

  • Major Tom

    “Yes it does, particularly as more competitors come online and especially if other firms excel in affordable HSF proposals.”

    No, if there are lots of effective competitors cutting up the human space flight market into lots of small pieces, then SpaceX needs other lines of business, like unmanned satellites. And those are the payloads that comprise the majority of the SpaceX manifest.

    Again, think before you post.

    “SpaceX needs the ISS contracting for cargo and/or HSF flights to ISS through its projected lifetime.”

    Says who? Reference?

    And since when did SpaceX have a “projected lifetime”? How many years? Reference?

    Stop making stuff up.

    Sigh…

  • DCSCA

    @Major Tom wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    http://techcrunch.com/2010/11/09/50-million-spacex/

    Key phrase- ‘claims slight profits.’ And it is a limited market. Commercial HSF will finally take root with Branson.

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