Congress, NASA

Would Congress object to an Orion demo flight on an EELV?

Lockheed Martin has gotten some attention this week with a proposal to conduct an unmanned Orion test flight as early as 2013. The test flight, using a Delta 4 Heavy launched from Cape Canaveral, would put the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit; the Orion would later splash down off the California coast. This is not the first time Lockheed Martin has talked about being ready to do an Orion test flight circa 2013, but this time they’ve provided more details, including identifying the launch vehicle.

However, a Wall Street Journal article Thursday (subscription required) suggests that Lockheed’s proposal could run into Congressional opposition. “[T]hose plans may run into flak as Republican lawmakers take control of House committees and subcommittees that oversee NASA,” the article claims, citing unnamed industry sources (at least some of whom, according to the article, work for Lockheed competitors). The article goes on state that those members of Congress “may view the proposed test flight as circumventing congressional language to quickly develop a new heavy-lift NASA rocket able to transport astronauts past low-earth orbit.”

The Journal article cites a couple of members in particular, Reps. Pete Olson (R-TX) and Frank Wolf (R-VA), the likely new chairs of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee and House Appropriations Committee CJS subcommittee respectively, as likely opponents, although neither provide any comments to the newspaper suggesting they would oppose such a test. The article goes on to state that “biggest battle” may be whether an improved Delta 4, “packing more power and certified safe enough to carry astronauts”, could be a candidate for the heavy-lift launcher outlined in the new authorization act. That, however, may conflate two separate issues: human-rating the Delta 4 to carry Orion (as proposed by ULA in its Augustine Committee testimony last year) and upgrading the Delta 4 (or Atlas 5) for cargo-only heavy-lift missions.

121 comments to Would Congress object to an Orion demo flight on an EELV?

  • Major Tom

    I was able to access the article without a subscription:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703572404575635504110337016.html

    The proposal is appallingly wasteful. It’s for an “unmanned test flight as early as 2013″ on “a heavy-lift version of the U.S. military’s Delta IV rocket.” It may only be a suborbital flight as the head of LockMart’s space programs is quoting as saying that the “capsule’s emergency launch-abort system” will be tested.

    To get to 2013, NASA will have “to invest $1.1 billion… to $1.4 billion” per year to keep Orion’s “phased program” on track.

    That’s $3.3 to $4.2 _billion_ of taxpayer money to get to a lousy uncrewed, possibly suborbital, test flight _three years_ from now.

    Dragon is scheduled to conduct an uncrewed test flight _next month_ for less than $300 _million_ in taxpayer funding.

    Cripes…

  • CharlesHouston

    One question us enquiring minds have is: where would the money come from? An Orion test flight on Delta makes a lot of sense, that is the most reasonable path forward. Of course no specific language in any authorization or appropriation bill could be found at this early date, but a lot of prep work would have to start really soon. We would have to make mods to the pad (almost certainly) and no engineering has been started for that, etc etc.

    So NASA would have to divert money (which it has none of, right now, anyway) to get started. They would likely have to issue contracts for which we need competitions, etc. No contracts could be in place until late summer at this rate.

    Maybe Lockheed would pay for a significant part????

  • NASA Fan

    Into the void steps another loopy proposal.

    Lockheed must be hurting for business.

    So who is leading the ‘filling of the void’? Who is in charge at NASA these days?

  • Martijn Meijering

    An Orion test flight on Delta makes a lot of sense, that is the most reasonable path forward.

    The most reasonable path forward for Orion, not for the space program, and even then only if EELVs are used not only for test flights but for operational flights as well. But it would make even more sense to cancel Orion and to start with an XM-like in-space transport vehicle. It could reuse work done on Orion and LM could spin off other work as a smaller crew taxi.

  • I’m not sure what such a flight would demonstrate since the RS-68 engines still would have to be man-rated in order to launch humans. And man-rating the Delta IV heavy does not appear to be too much cheaper than the Ares I.

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/377875main_081109%20Human%20Rated%20Delta%20IV.pdf

    But at least the Lockheed’s Orion might be competitive with Boeing’s CST-100 capsule by being able to be launched on more than one type of vehicle. And that’s a good thing!

  • Martijn Meijering

    Still spreading misinformation I see. Work on an EDS for the EELVs and potentially other launchers is progressing as we speak, funded by NASA under CCDev. Orion will not be competitive since it can only be launched on an EELV Heavy, or perhaps an Ariane. CST-100 on the other hand is being designed to be compatible with both EELVs and Falcon 9, and perhaps Ariane some time in the future.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I am celebrating it at an Army Fort in Kansas (ie away from home)…but it is a wonderful year! Be thankful for what you have and what the future is…we are on Earth to make it better.

    Robert G. Oler

  • pathfinder_01

    No marcel, it can not launch on more than one rocket unless lockheed martin build the heaviest version of the Atlas V. Granted you can order such a rocket and it can be ready in three years. Orion is pretty much stuck with the more expensive delta or SLS(if they build it)

    CST100 would be able to fly on Falcon 9(cheapest option),Atlas(next cheapest), Delta. Orion needs the heaviest rockets just to make it to LEO!

  • Larry M

    Sounds like progress is being made. NASA is catching up to Space-X. The 2013 flight does not sound like it would be an all up flight; just some of the major systems to show progress on Orion; an early prototype test flight, roughly the equivalent of an Apollo Saturn 1 mission in 1964 or 65. The same sort of test that Dragon is poised to send up within the next few weeks. Use of the Delta-4 seems like a reasonable idea. How much does a Delta-4 cost?

    About the time Orion comes on line in five or six years, (7 or 8 years if Mr. Augustine was correct) Dragon should also be in operation and then the question is whether it is worthwhile and can be afforded to be building and launching a 1-2 billion dollar throwaway spacecraft mission every four to six months; my math says it will be between $3 and 6 billion per year. The alternative would be a $250 million commercial mission that can carry as much or more.

    The real issue here is just what are NASA’s long term plans and what are the tactical measures to get there? What is the rationale for this plan and for these goals? Based on past spending, as long as ISS continues (no end in sight) the post ISS program should be counting on about $3 billion per year. So the Orion flight program might be affordable-it would cost about the same to keep going as Shuttle has. That is not great news since the rationale for Shuttle being eliminated was to use its money for something else. We would be able to have a something else, but I’m not sure we’d have enough money to do very much with it.

    The Constellation approach was not going to make it since their plan was to throw away all the spacecraft and rockets every few months. If the deep space spacecraft are maintainable in space, and if we either get away from the throw away reentry spacecraft or can build them on the cheap and in bulk, then potentially we would have a chance. How does Orion fit into this picture?

  • Major Tom

    “One question us enquiring minds have is: where would the money come from?”

    The Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) budget in the FY 2010 NASA Authorization Bill.

    “We would have to make mods to the pad (almost certainly)”

    Certainly not. It’s an uncrewed test flight. No elevator or gantry to the capsule is needed.

  • Major Tom

    “I’m not sure what such a flight would demonstrate since the RS-68 engines still would have to be man-rated in order to launch humans.”

    It’s an _uncrewed_ flight test. No human-rating is needed. The point of the flight is to test Orion, not Delta IV.

    “And man-rating the Delta IV heavy does not appear to be too much cheaper than the Ares I.”

    Per the study you linked to, it’s $3-6 billion cheaper. That’s a huge amount of money. Orion has cost $5 billion to date and Falcon 9/Dragon have cost taxpayers less than $300 milllion to date.

  • Joy K

    “The proposal is appallingly wasteful. ”

    Anything EXCEPT spaceX is wasteful according to you.

    This is the best proposal yet put forward. The capsule is big because that is what is required for several months in space- the escape system has been tested, the rocket is powerful enough (unlike falcon) and centaur is available. You are really really letting your obsession with private space show. It showcases your true loyalty to a single plan and not to HSF.

  • DCSCA

    “Lockheed Martin has gotten some attention this week with a proposal to conduct an unmanned Orion test flight as early as 2013. The test flight, using a Delta 4 Heavy launched from Cape Canaveral, would put the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit; the Orion would later splash down off the California coast.”

    The proposal is about half a decade too late. It is obtuse rationale that does not fit in with the economic realities of the Age of Austerity.

    @Major Tom wrote @ November 25th, 2010 at 10:06 am
    “…Dragon is scheduled to conduct an uncrewed test flight _next month_ for less than $300 _million_ in taxpayer funding. Cripes…”

    Which means nothing given their ‘schedule’ has slipped repeatedly– something good, profit driven, private sectored organizations strive to avoid, especially from newbees. Investors frown on it. But then, as Cernan noted, SpaceX is learning what the government-run space agency has known and demostrated for half a century. All the more reason not to subsidize commercial space ventures in the Age of Austerity. And in this era, a ‘true test flight’ is to launch, orbit and safely return a crewed Dragon, not an empty can, regardless of cost, especially if it turns out to be a deathtrap. It remains to be seen if SpaceX is capable of repeating what NASA first did nearly half a century ago.

    Cripes, indeed. The future of commercial HSF is with Branson. That’s where it will finally take root.

  • DCSCA

    @Joy K wrote @ November 25th, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    It would be if it was 2002. It’s a waste now. The United States cannot afford this kind of wasteful expenditure when the cost of it requires borrowing 40 cents of every dollar spent on it. No go.

  • I’m not sure what such a flight would demonstrate since the RS-68 engines still would have to be man-rated in order to launch humans.

    No engine is “man rated.” There is no such thing as a “man-rated engine.” Comments like this do nothing but display ignorance of what human rating means.

  • Martijn Meijering

    The proposal is about half a decade too late.

    To think that similar proposals were in fact made half a decade ago by O’Keefe and Steidle, before Griffin embarked on his disastrous shortcut-to-mushrooms.

  • Robert G. Oler

    There is no purpose in this test flight, unless some purpose can be identified for Orion……otherwise it is just more technowelfare.

    It will never get funded…there is no money for it.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Rhyolite

    The shorter Lockheed: We need to get flying soon so we’re not left in the dust by SpaceX. We’re cancellation bait if we have to wait 6 to 10 years for SLS. Delta IV is the only game in town for us.

    The shorter congress: We don’t care about flying Americans in space. We only care about pork in our districts. We won’t let an actual space program get in the way of that.

  • Scott Bass

    Can someone give a short essay on man rating….. I understand redundancy but do not understand the length of time and cost, Obviously the launch escape system for Orion works and do not really see why it could not be adapted to work with other vehicles. I would fly on top of a delta or atlas tomorrow, they seem pretty reliable to me as long as you have a good launch escape system in place.

    Obviously this is something a member of John public would say but I seriously do not see why it has to be so complicated

  • Scott Bass

    Btw…….starting from scratch except for the engineering data still available and a full scale Saturn v to take apart and replicate……..how many billions would it take to build a saturn v exactly….. Nevermind the advancements of today, just the plan old model t that we all know worked well.

    It just makes me wonder if mike griffen was told to rebuild Apollo instead of reinventing it…… How far down the road would we be

  • Vladislaw

    Joy K wrote:

    “You are really really letting your obsession with private space show. It showcases your true loyalty to a single plan and not to HSF.”

    So being 100% totally for a NASA only space program is not showcasing your true loyalty to a single plan?

    With commercial we can have MULTIPLE companies providing access to LEO.

    With NASA we are once again held captive to a single plan and a single string fault system. If for whatever reason ( like the multiple reasons the last shuttle has failed to once again launch on time) that system fails to fly or an accident occurs the Nation has to once again go hat in hand to the Russians.

    Can you please explain why it is important for the Nation to be held hostage by one single system with no domestic human launch services?

    Why is it so important for America to support a commercial Russian human launch service?

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    @ MT,

    As far as I know, the proposal is basically a conceptual equivalent of the SpaceX test flight coming up: To test the spacecraft’s systems through all elements of ascent, descent and recovery. The LAS test will be a nominal LAS jettison. The purpose is to gather as much data as possible about how the Orion’s systems respond to the experience at being shot into space and then run TPS-first into the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds.

    I am suspicious of this being labelled as ‘new’ because I don’t think it is. I’m pretty sure it is one of the later Constellation test flights moved from Ares-I to Delta-IVH.

  • NASA Fan

    “The real issue here is just what are NASA’s long term plans and what are the tactical measures to get there?”

    NASA has no long term plans. Strategically and tactically, it has always been about ‘survive the moment’. Which is also the strategy of our elected officials, thus the never ending budget deficits. Democracy: got to love it.

    While Major Tom points to the ‘MPCV 2010 NASA Authorization Act’ as a source of funding, even Major Tom knows that what counts is what is in the appropriations bill.

    I’m with Robert here: There ain’t no funds for this. And wait till the JWST overruns have to be dealt with. Look for someone other than Science to take a hit on that. Unless Sen. B. Mukulski can add to NASA’s top line budget in the FY 11 appropriations process, look for JWST to eat someones lunch big time….and thus kill of ideas like the one Lock Mart is putting forward (another survival idea)

  • alexw

    An Atlas V 552 could just about lift it (20.5mT), if the service module wasn’t fully fueled (as was done for Apollo/Saturn IB during Skylab?). Interesting that Lockheed Martin is proposing Boeing’s Delta instead, for a “mere” test flight. One can guess that they see it as a foot-in-the-door, a stepping-stone for future acceptance of (mildly upgraded) EELVs being used for Orion in general.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Actually there is a source of money for this. Congress could cut off the corporate welfare for SpaceX/Boeing, get a way to access to ISS, and then a way to explore beyond LEO. Of course this is provided that LockMart can do what it says it can do.

  • Coastal Ron

    Well you have to give Lockheed Martin their due, because they are trying to get Congress excited about doing things in space, and in a reasonable timeframe. Unfortunately, using Orion may not be the right vehicle to get anyone excited about space.

    For the test, the current Delta IV Heavy is just fine if it will be un-crewed. When the time comes for crew to fly on a Delta IV Heavy, the CEO of ULA testified in June 2009 that it would cost $1.3B to “man-rate” the vehicle and facilities, and then cost $300M/flight. However they said it would take 4.5 years to do that, so that leaves out 2013 for crew (could make 2016 though).

    Someone was wondering why Lockheed Martin would propose Delta IV Heavy, since it was originally built by Boeing, but Delta IV and Atlas V are now part of ULA, and LM & Boeing own that 50/50, so it doesn’t matter which vehicle they use, they both benefit.

    Regarding an LAS test, I don’t see that happening, because they probably won’t have time to build a Delta IV Heavy/Orion LAS. Why not use the Ares I/Orion LAS you say? That bone-crusher was made for an SRB that won’t shut off, so it would be over-built for a liquid-fueled rocket like Delta IV. Orion is going to need a new LAS, which means more time and money.

    I think the LM proposal is partly serious, but partly to keep the funding going for Orion. Personally, I don’t see Orion as being needed for very long once we get a commercial crew capability going. Once we can get crew to/from LEO, then we’ll want real space ships to travel around in, not glorified taxis (spam in a can for long trips).

    Oh, and Marcel, the Orion will never compete with the CST-100 or Dragon. Orion is a government built vehicle, which will never be allowed to compete in the open market. Why? After spending more than $4B in R&D (and who knows how much per unit), NASA would have to fly it at a loss each time in order to compete with commercial vehicles – it would be cheaper for the American taxpayer to finish building it and send it directly to a museum.

    My $0.02

  • red

    “One can guess that they see it as a foot-in-the-door, a stepping-stone for future acceptance of (mildly upgraded) EELVs being used for Orion in general.”

    Now if we could just get everybody threatened by overly-expensive heavy lift (Science, Education, Space Technology, Commercial Space, Aeronautics, Research, Robotic Precursors, and yes, Orion) to unite politically, we could take care of, or at least put a serious dent in, the various NASA funding problems (Orion itself, Orion on EELV in general, shielding Science from JWST overruns, underfunded commercial crew/robotic precursors/space technology/exploration demos/human research) …

  • Frank Glover

    “Nevermind the advancements of today, just the plan old model t that we all know worked well.”

    Quite apart from the reason for doing it at all, how hard is it to get ‘Model T’ parts today? Saturn was pre-microprocessor, pre-Large Scale Integration. The avionics alone would havve to incorporate ‘advancements of today,’ because the selection of discrete transistors of the late 1960′s isn’t there any more…

  • Dave Huntsman

    This article is a little misleading, especially from the business angle – mainly by what it leaves out.

    For one, as a proud member of the space shuttle program team for twenty years, it’s necessary to remind those here that President Bush ordered the space shuttle program terminated 6 years ago in part because we couldn’t afford to operate it any more; it’s the most expensive space system to own in history. To suggest that there are serious, knowledgable people who think space taxi service to orbit for humans can most inexpensively be done by derivatives of that system, as proud as I am of it, is simply wrong.

    Secondly, in my personal opinion the LockMart proposal clearly violates the law. Several acts supporting the develop of truly commercial space launch industries expressly prohibit the government to spend (billions) developing government-owned systems when commercial systems can be used instead; this applies to the transportation of both cargo and crew. The LockMart proposal would not only violate this – many companies, including SpaceX, Boeing, and others, are vying to bring their own money to the table in such developments right now – but the LockMart proposal would almost certainly kill any chance of those firms getting financing for their proposals. Potential investors have told NASA repeatedly that the single biggest reason for their not investing in commercial space systems is NASA’s consistent habit of developing government-owned competition, which they can’t win against. In fact, that may among the reasons for LockMart making their proposal – to eliminate the chance for private financing of commercial earth orbit taxi service to protect their Orion contract.

    Incredibly for those of us who have supported Republicans in the past, many Republicans today – especially those receiving campaign donations from certain government contractors – argue against the creation of commercial earth orbit services. President Obama’s decision to get NASA out of routine orbital transport, hand it over to the private sector, and focus NASA on true exploration beyond Earth, is the right decision, and worthy of Republican support, if they truly believe in the principles they espouse.

    Dave Huntsman
    Bay Village, Ohio

  • @pathfinder_01

    “No marcel, it can not launch on more than one rocket unless lockheed martin build the heaviest version of the Atlas V. Granted you can order such a rocket and it can be ready in three years. Orion is pretty much stuck with the more expensive delta or SLS(if they build it)

    CST100 would be able to fly on Falcon 9(cheapest option),Atlas(next cheapest), Delta. Orion needs the heaviest rockets just to make it to LEO!”

    If Lockheed’s Orion vehicle can fly on a man-rated Delta IV plus a man-rated NASA HLV then I think that’s more than just one vehicle.

    There were also some thoughts about the Orion flying on top of a European Ariane 5 several months ago.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • red

    Mark: “Actually there is a source of money for this. Congress could cut off the corporate welfare for SpaceX”

    I assume by “corporate welfare” you mean the COTS cargo funds SpaceX won in an open competition to develop fixed price services for NASA during the Griffin era? Isn’t it a bit late for that? Also, even if they could do that, how could they do that without doing the same to Orbital?

    “/Boeing”

    I assume by “corporate welfare” you mean the CCDEV funds Boeing won in an open competition to begin an early phase of developing commercial cargo services for NASA? Isn’t it a bit late for that?

    Or do you mean the future commercial crew competition to be run similar to the Griffin era COTS cargo competition? What was wrong with that competition that would justify getting rid of commercial crew and relying on the Russian Soyuz?

    How would any of this be “corporate welfare”? It’s all open competitions, fixed price skin-in-the-game contracts, and delivering services NASA needs. None of it is sole source, cost plus, delivering unneeded services, or any other variant of “corporate welfare”.

    “get a way to access to ISS”

    Ummm, how are they going to get a way to access the ISS without commercial cargo and commercial crew? The Russian Soyuz? Orion on Delta IV? Orion on Delta IV would be way too expensive for ISS operations. It’s probably even too expensive for BEO missions, but at least there it would have a chance to be justified.

  • @Coastal Ron

    “Oh, and Marcel, the Orion will never compete with the CST-100 or Dragon. Orion is a government built vehicle, which will never be allowed to compete in the open market. Why? After spending more than $4B in R&D (and who knows how much per unit), NASA would have to fly it at a loss each time in order to compete with commercial vehicles – it would be cheaper for the American taxpayer to finish building it and send it directly to a museum.”

    NASA is providing nearly all of the funding for the Orion, not Lockheed. So Lockheed really doesn’t have to worry about huge development cost (only the tax payers).

    Plus NASA currently prefers vehicles that could potentially be used by NASA, the military, and private industry. So I doubt if the Federal government would prevent Lockheed from marketing its capsule to the ULA or to other private and even other government space launch companies.

  • @Martijn Meijering

    “Still spreading misinformation I see. ”

    Sorry the report destroyed your fantasies:-)

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/377875main_081109%20Human%20Rated%20Delta%20IV.pdf

  • red

    This one is interesting, too. It’s an LM version of Flexible Path to Mars:

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

    “Orion Stepping Stones Handout”

    2016: Crew/Cargo to ISS
    2017: Lunar Flyby or Upgrade and reboost Hubble
    2018: Earth-Moon L2
    2019: Asteroid 2008 EA9 (195 days)
    2023: Artificial gravity testbed in LEO (looks like a tether system)
    2029: Asteroid 2000 SG344 (450 days)
    2031-2035: Deimos

    I’ve always thought it interesting that the Orion folks didn’t (until now) play up the importance of the early Flexible Path missions (e.g.: the three 2017-2018 missions mentioned above). I tend to think there’s a lot of use that could be made of those destinations, regardless of the subsequent steps (e.g.: lunar surface or Flexible Path to Mars) – a lot more than the 3 suggestions above. I’d probably be trying to come up with ideas for filling in those 202x years in the list above with cislunar space Orion missions if I were them.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ November 25th, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Actually there is a source of money for this. Congress could cut off the corporate welfare for SpaceX/Boeing, get a way to access to ISS, and then a way to explore beyond LEO…

    to claim that the SpaceX contract is corporate welfare is wrong and should be countered whenver it is made.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    DCSCA why do you keep coming up with Branson? Evidence that his organisation is experienced in space leo or beo please? Not fluff, facts!

  • DCSCA

    red wrote @ November 25th, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    The United States government has to borrow 40 cents of every dollar it spends. Which makes any Orion ‘stepping stones’ proposal by a cash starved civilian space agency– or any mid to longer term space projects planned- pretty hard sells in the Age of Austerity. Time to calibrate your dreams to the resources available in this era.

  • Byeman

    Williams,

    ““Still spreading misinformation I see. ”

    The report that you list has been discredited many times. Also, NASA has changed “manrating” requirements so the report is invalide.

    Know something before posting.

  • Dennis Berube

    First you guys, Orion isnt meant to compete with commercial. Orion is for deep space ventures. A Delta test would be good and give we Americans once again something to be proud of. It would show our ability to once again go where no man has gone before. Yes Im a Star Trek freak. Most of you guys have been yelling for NASA to go with a Delta, and now the proposal has been made, your yelling it isnt needed either. Give me a break. NASA needs to get on with the space endeavor and quit clowning around. A Delta flight would be a good step in that direction, plus it would be sooner rather than later. That flight would also be a good time to test the heat shielding for high speed re-entries, like they did in the days of Apollo, with an unmanned flight.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Sorry the report destroyed your fantasies:-)

    It did not. This is the report that wants to push a new upper stage and assumes the Delta would have to carry the cost of the 5 seg boosters because they still wanted to develop an HLV.

    You were wrong about the man-rating, you were wrong about the multiple rockets (the argument actually went the other way!), you were wrong about hydrogen being more environmentally friendly than hydrocarbons and this has been pointed out to you by many posters. And yet you keep repeating these myths. There’s a word for knowingly repeating falsehoods, it’s called lying. Do you want to be known as a liar?

  • red

    DCSA: “Which makes any Orion ‘stepping stones’ proposal by a cash starved civilian space agency– or any mid to longer term space projects planned- pretty hard sells … Time to calibrate your dreams to the resources available in this era.”

    Those Orion stepping stones missions aren’t my dreams … if you check my previous post you’ll see that I’m skeptical of Orion’s ability to do BEO missions affordably enough to be worth it. I’m just surprised the Orion people haven’t made the sort of pitch that I described.

    I’d like to see the sort of cislunar space astronaut missions that are more affordable than even more difficult missions like lunar surface, Mars, or NEOs for jobs like satellite servicing and many other things, but justifying those sorts of missions depends a lot on the missions themselves being affordable. There’s no point in doing a GEO satellite servicing mission if it’s cheaper to just launch a new satellite. But if they’re done in a cost-effective way, then they’re easier to justify regardless of the overall budget situation.

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ November 25th, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    NASA is providing nearly all of the funding for the Orion, not Lockheed. So Lockheed really doesn’t have to worry about huge development cost (only the tax payers).

    Plus NASA currently prefers vehicles that could potentially be used by NASA, the military, and private industry. So I doubt if the Federal government would prevent Lockheed from marketing its capsule to the ULA or to other private and even other government space launch companies.

    I don’t think you understand how government contracting works.

    Lockheed Martin was selected by NASA to build the Orion with U.S. taxpayer money. LM does not own Orion, and would not necessarily have anymore rights to market it than SpaceX or Virgin Galactic would.

    Also, you seem to be implying that it’s OK for us taxpayers to spend $4B+ so a company can benefit from the revenue it generates. Corporate welfare indeed!

    Lastly, SpaceX and Boeing would be more than willing to sell, lease or rent their capsules & services to Uncle Sam, and they have not stated otherwise. Don’t create false arguments.

  • Frank Glover

    “A Delta test would be good and give we Americans once again something to be proud of. It would show our ability to once again go where no man has gone before.”

    How’s that, when you acknowledge yourself that it would be unmanned? (Nor would it go any farther out from Earth than humans have done, it would purely be an engineering exercise. Not that that’s wrong in and of itself, but…)

    “That flight would also be a good time to test the heat shielding for high speed re-entries, like they did in the days of Apollo, with an unmanned flight.”

    Which might be nice…but unlike the first two Saturn 5 launches where this was done, there’s no Apollo-like momentum behind it. (nor do we really want that particular kind of cost-ineffective, time-oriented ‘momentum’ again) It’s not clear if, when, or how this would be followed up on, if successful. (and if it’s not…well, all the more reason to be unmanned)

    “Yes Im a Star Trek freak”

    As am I. So? In that Universe, Starfleet exists at least as much for territorial defense and protection of commerce (Kobayashi Maru? The Deep Space 9 station?) as it does for ‘sexier’ pure exploration and first contacts…

  • Coastal Ron

    Dennis Berube wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 6:47 am

    Orion isnt meant to compete with commercial.

    No, it was meant to support short missions for the Moon. However, now NASA has been talking about using it for another purpose (crew to ISS), which would compete with potential commercial services.

    A Delta test would be good and give we Americans once again something to be proud of.

    Delta IV Heavy just launched the heaviest satellite every – didn’t that make you proud enough?

    I don’t get satisfaction out NASA spending my money, I get it from effective results from spending my money. For instance, I thought the Ares I-X launch was a waste of my money, whereas the Mars rovers have been good uses of my tax money. It’s not the effort that counts, but the results.

    That flight would also be a good time to test the heat shielding for high speed re-entries, like they did in the days of Apollo, with an unmanned flight.

    That could be a valid test, but it’s way too early. We don’t have a funded program for going beyond LEO, so any testing would be money spent too early. By the time we do fund a BEO program, Orion might not even be the vehicle we use, especially since Orion is only a short-term occupation vehicle, not long-term.

    I’ve mentioned this to you before Dennis – Orion is only a Crew Return Vehicle, not an exploration vehicle. Orion is like a minivan, and though a small crew could survive in one for an extended period, studies have shown that they would barely survive the return to Earth (muscle deterioration from lack of exercise).

    And since you’re a Star Trek freak, you should know that Captain Kirk and crew live & explore in the spaceship, not the shuttle. Reorient your frame of reference.

  • Martijn Meijering

    LM does not own Orion, and would not necessarily have anymore rights to market it than SpaceX or Virgin Galactic would.

    I’ve read that LM did in fact negotiate the rights to do that in the Orion contract. But it’s unlikely to be economical if it requires an EELV Heavy. An Orion Light would be another matter, which is part of the reason why I would like to see Orion split into an Orion Lite developed by LM with no more NASA involvement than with the other crew taxis, and an initially unmanned Altair precursor run out of JSC, perhaps with LM involvement. If JSC needs something to do, we might as well get something useful out of it, as opposed to something that competes with commercial space or simply wastes money.

  • Major Tom

    “Anything EXCEPT spaceX is wasteful according to you.”

    I don’t care who the comparison is against — SpaceX, LockMart, JSC, or little green men from Alpha Centauri — anything that is going to cost NASA and the taxpayer ten times what a near-identical effort is going to cost is wasteful.

    It would be one thing if getting Orion to an unmanned flight test was going to cost 2-3 times the $278 million that NASA has spent on Falcon 9 and Dragon. Orion is a bigger capsule than Dragon, it has suffered from Ares I underperformance, and it’s being built under an old Constellation contract that doesn’t have the streamlined efficiency of the COTS agreements. I could understand the cost to get to an unmanned Orion flight test being $600 million, maybe even $1 billion.

    But another $3.3 to $4.2 billion just to get to a lousy uncrewed Orion flight test three years from now?!?! After we’ve already spent upwards of $5 billion and six years on Orion?

    Really?

    Forget the comparisons to SpaceX/Dragon. NASA didn’t start designing and developing the Apollo Command Module until 1964. Yet the Apollo CM had its first unmanned orbital test (Apollo 4) less than three years later in November 1967. Again, I could understand if it took Orion a couple years longer than the Apollo CM to get to its first unmanned orbital test. But for Orion to take nine years from design start to first unmanned orbital test — _three_ times longer than Apollo — is inexcusable.

    Orion is a broken project. Worse, if it ever becomes operational, just running Orion will cost NASA $1 billion per mission, per Augustine. Four missions per year, and you’re back into Space Shuttle budget territory just to get a few, four-person crews up and down. (And we havn’t even included the costs of the launch vehicle yet.) Kill Orion now and design a clean sheet human BEO vehicle that makes economic sense and can also get to unmanned flight test in the 2013-2015 timeframe.

    “This is the best proposal yet put forward.”

    It’s pathetic, regardless of whether it’s the “best proposal yet put forward”.

    (And if it is the “best proposal yet put forward”, that’s really pathetic.)

    “The capsule is big because that is what is required for several months in space”

    Orion is undersized for multi-month BEO missions. It’s designed for multi-week lunar excursions, not multi-month BEO missions. Orion’s lack of volume is why LockMart’s multi-month “Plymouth Rock” NEO mission has to use two Orions.

    If you want to undertake multi-month BEO missions, you’re better off starting from scratch with a true BEO vehicle with the appropriate volume. That probably means putting the Earth reentry function on a small, efficient ETO vehicle (like Dragon) and using modular/inflatable elements on the BEO vehicle.

    “the escape system has been tested”

    And failed.

    gizmodo.com/5039573/nasa-tests-orion-parachute-result-spectacular-failure

    “the rocket is powerful enough (unlike falcon)”

    Since when is Falcon 9 not “powerful enough” to lift Dragon? You do realize that this summer’s Falcon 9 flight test put a Dragon qualification unit in orbit, right?

    “and centaur is available.”

    Delta IV and Centaur are good options. I never questioned the launch vehicle. Personally, I’d like to see Centaur further developed for more powerful upper stages (instead of NASA spending seven more years going back to the drawing board on J-2X) and in-space propellant depots.

    The problem here is Orion and the huge opportunity costs (in dollars, time, and capability) that it imposes on NASA’s human space flight program.

    “You are really really letting your obsession with private space show.”

    I could care less whether the cost-effective option is private, public, or Martian. I don’t want NASA’s limited human space flight budget and schedule getting eaten by duplicative projects that cost 10x and many years more than the near-equivalent project.

    “It showcases your true loyalty to a single plan”

    I’m loyal to effectiveness and efficiency. The Orion “plan” (such as it exists) is neither. I’ll take any alternative plan that is.

    “and not to HSF”

    Human space flight is not defined by Orion or any other project.

    Sigh…

  • Major Tom

    “Which means nothing given their ‘schedule’ has slipped repeatedly– something good, profit driven, private sectored organizations strive to avoid… The future of commercial HSF is with Branson.”

    Let me get this straight. You think SpaceX sucks because their Falcon 9/Dragon test flight schedule _to orbit_ has slipped a couple months (partly due to Shuttle slippage). Yet you want to hold up Virgin Galactic as an exemplar of commercial human space flight, despite the fact that Virgin Galactic _suborbital_ flights have repeatedly slipped several years?

    flightglobal.com/blogs/hyperbola/2009/03/virgin-galactic-slips-to-2011.html

    parabolicarc.com/2009/03/18/virgin-galactic-space-tourism-flights-delayed-2011/

    Really?

    “And in this era, a ‘true test flight’ is to launch, orbit and safely return a crewed Dragon, not an empty can, regardless of cost, especially if it turns out to be a deathtrap.”

    You don’t put crew in a vehicle until you know whether it’s a “deathtrap” or not. That’s why there are uncrewed flight tests.

    C’mon, let’s think before we post.

  • Major Tom

    “Actually there is a source of money for this. Congress could cut off the corporate welfare for SpaceX/Boeing, get a way to access to ISS, and then a way to explore beyond LEO.”

    The entire NASA/SpaceX COTS agreement is only $278 million. NASA’s CCDev award to Boeing for CST-100 is only $18 million. Together, they total only $296 _million_.

    Orion needs $3.3 to $4.2 _billion_ to make it to 2013. Orion needs _11 to 14 times more_ money than what’s available from cancelling NASA’s SpaceX and Boeing CST-100 agreements.

    Don’t make idiotic statements out of ignorance.

  • Ronny W

    A few corrections:

    Joy K wrote:
    The capsule is big because that is what is required for several months in space-

    This is nonsense.

    The vehicle, in this case a capsule that should have been optimized for launch aborts and earth return, could have and should have been not much different in size or mass than an Apollo CM which was sized to fit 6 people in a time when electronics and displays accounted for 1/3 of the interior volume. If you need additional living space for long duration missions, that should have gone into an optimized mission module or compartment. Right now in Orion you are living in a storage room for the beginning of the mission and with your excrement once the mission starts. The large size and mass compromises abort capability and off-nominal return contingencies, and it inflates all of your costs, and it means you have few options when it comes to launch vehicles and it has already meant that the crew size had to be returned to no more than 4 and some missions like the Plymouth Rock asteroid encounter are being planned for a crew of only 2.

    To wind up with such a non-optimal solution, the program’s system engineering and integration must have been non-existent and program control must have been asleep when it came to requirements and costs. Amazing the program management could have been this poor to have allowed such lame decisions.

    Major Tom wrote:
    “…Dragon is scheduled to conduct an uncrewed test flight _…Which means nothing given their ‘schedule’ has slipped repeatedly– something good, profit driven, private sectored organizations strive to avoid, especially from newbees. Investors frown on it”

    Orion (CEV) was supposed to have been flying in 2008 and operational in 2011 when the program was given the go-ahead in 2004. These were dates that Griffin and the Program management committed to and said were eminently doable given the initial requirements were for a Gemini-like transport capability. Gemini was put together in less than 3 years from program start to first launch, at a cost of about $1 billion ($5 billion in today’s money). So don’t talk about Dragon/Falcon schedule slips. Orion has cost far more than Dragon or Gemini and its schedule has slipped far more than anything else in work now and more than any prior successful program.

    Dennis Berube wrote:
    First you guys, Orion isn’t meant to compete with commercial. Orion is for deep space ventures.

    This is only meaningful if your plan and architecture is for an Apollo-like system in which you throw away your spacecraft after every mission. This is ruinously expensive and shortsighted. The deep space spacecraft should be optimized for continuous maintenance and operation in space. If you need a launch and return space vehicle then it ought to be optimized for launch and return from orbit, which Orion is not (see the comment above). That Orion and Constellation were never optimized for a sustainable program was exactly the reason the program was cancelled earlier this year.

  • Bennett

    @RonnieW

    Major Tom wrote:
    “…Dragon is scheduled to conduct an uncrewed test flight _…Which means nothing given their ‘schedule’ has slipped repeatedly– something good, profit driven, private sectored organizations strive to avoid, especially from newbees. Investors frown on it”

    Actually, Major Tom was quoting that passage prior to refutation. You are both on the same page in regards to this issue.

  • Major Tom

    “Major Tom wrote:
    ‘… Which means nothing given their ‘schedule’ has slipped repeatedly– something good, profit driven, private sectored organizations strive to avoid, especially from newbees. Investors frown on it’”

    Just to be clear, that quote is from another poster. I was criticizing that quote, and I agree with your argument.

    “Orion (CEV) was supposed to have been flying in 2008 and operational in 2011 when the program was given the go-ahead in 2004. These were dates that Griffin and the Program management committed to and said were eminently doable given the initial requirements were for a Gemini-like transport capability.”

    I’m nitpicking, but you’re using the dates and capabilities of CEV baseline under Steidle/O’Keefe. Griffin came along a year later, threw that plan in the trash, enlarged the CEV to six ISS crew, added lunar requirements, and renamed it Orion. I wouldn’t compare the performance of today’s Orion program against the Steidle/O’Keefe CEV dates and capabilities — I’d compare against the Griffin Orion dates and capabilities.

    That nitpicking aside, I think the thrust of your argument is correct and you make a lot of other good points.

    FWIW…

  • @Byeman wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 5:46 am

    “The report that you list has been discredited many times. Also, NASA has changed “manrating” requirements so the report is invalide.

    Know something before posting.”

    Please present your references sir and we’ll see how valid your studies on the matter are:-)

  • @Martijn Meijering

    It did not. This is the report that wants to push a new upper stage and assumes the Delta would have to carry the cost of the 5 seg boosters because they still wanted to develop an HLV.

    You were wrong about the man-rating, you were wrong about the multiple rockets (the argument actually went the other way!), you were wrong about hydrogen being more environmentally friendly than hydrocarbons and this has been pointed out to you by many posters. And yet you keep repeating these myths. There’s a word for knowingly repeating falsehoods, it’s called lying. Do you want to be known as a liar?”

    So you think putting hydrocarbons into the atmosphere is good for the Earth’s environment? Interesting:-)

  • Martijn Meijering

    So you think putting hydrocarbons into the atmosphere is good for the Earth’s environment? Interesting:-)

    That is precisely what you would be doing if you used hydrogen, since it is produced from hydrocarbons. Theoretically hydrogen could be produced by nuclear power in a CO2 neutral way, but so could hydrocarbons. Hydrogen has zero environmental benefit (even if you believe in global warming) and you know it. Kindly stop repeating statements you know to be false.

  • Dean

    What is the rational for Orion? Cislunar missions, such as ULA propossals to send Orion to earth-moon L2 for teleoperated exploration of the lunar farside and to earth-sun L2 for service of the James Webb Telescope. As prior posts have pointed out, Orion does not pose a competitve threat to commercial LEO carriers like SpaceX Dragon or Boeing CST100 due to the necessity of launch by a Delta IV Heavy. Orion could be sent unmanned to ISS, removing the requirement of a launch abort system. Refueled at ISS by an Atlas V Centaur, crewed by Astronauts delivered by Dragon or CST100, it would then be sent on missions to the Legrange points, the Moon or various NEOs.

  • Seems to me we have different creatures in the Orion, Dragon and CST100.

    Orion being a deep space craft and the other two being earth to LEO craft. That Orion can do the shorter run is not cost effective and it won’t be utilized that way but rarely.

    LM is just spouting it’s diversity of application to ensure its seen in that light by appropriators and their constituents. Couple of months ago it was twin-Orions to an asteroid, yesterday it’s a month-long test to L2, today it’s a 2013 test launch.

    Now they’ve clouded the argument; not the funding for Orion but for the type of rocket that will launch it; a smooth political move if it works. Is Orion to become a standardized deep space craft? Will they be cheaper by the dozen?

  • Scott Bass

    I know I interrupted the conversation several post back but I have been checking back to see if anyone had posted a primer for me on man rating and why the estimates of billions to man rate a delta or atlas. Part be of my inquiry was why a company can’t build a one size fits all launch escape system….ie tower attached to shroud….shroud could be manufactured to fit any spacecraft design. Would it not be economical for all the Boeing, lockheed,spacex space craft to purchase a off the shelf escape system as opposed to designing one for each individual space craft.

    If someone could take a minute to explain why to these questions I would really appreciate it.

  • Major Tom

    “Please present your references sir and we’ll see how valid your studies on the matter are”

    Why are you asking the other poster to present his “references” when you can’t even read the source you provided? Per page 9 of the PDF you linked to, going the Delta IV route saves NASA $3-6 billion (with a “b”) over Ares I. Your source doesn’t support the argument you’re making.

    Read (especially your own sources), comprehend, and think before you post.

  • Dennis Berube

    Ronny W, originally Orion was to have been a reusable system, but apparently that idea was cut due to cost. Sad to say it would have been a much better spacecraft. Change out the heat shield and away you go again. Not really that simple, but the idea had merit. Who knows what the final configuration will turn out to be. Look at the original designs for the shuttle, and then what we got, due to cost cuts. You are correct on the idea of sustaining a vehicle in Earth orbit for deep space missions. I do agree with that concept, however, I really dont think the govenment will go for it.

  • GroundControl

    This is funny, Tom can no longer keep spouting “Orion has no launch vehicle” since it has one…

    Even though Byeman called this out weeks ago…

    Also, you are not just getting “this launch” out of this. You are paying for continued development of systems & tech that are getting developed right now that will be in the final vehicle, unlike I-X. You are paying for a set of the real Orion, with a test at a certain point of progress of completion…

    I’m glad to see LM put more of their own cash into this and take on risk (thats the new thing, right?). LM says no intentions of using D4 past this test, but if the momentum from this test carries over to using D4 crewed, I wonder if it could possibly surpass support of using the new SLS…

  • Louis Silver

    I am quite certain that the 2008 and 2011 dates for CEV were laid out in the original Vision, or in the report that accompanied it. Griffin did talk about the Orion being a Gemini-like capability that could be delivered reasonably quickly and inexpensively.

  • Joy K

    “Orion has cost $5 billion to date and Falcon 9/Dragon have cost taxpayers less than $300 milllion to date.”

    You are leaving out the fact that Falcon and Dragon has been using NASA technology, engineers, labs, research, and facilities gratis. That is the big lie; that SpaceX is cheaper- it just gets everything for free while NASA is damned for every penny.

    “Since when is Falcon 9 not “powerful enough” to lift Dragon?”

    You constantly accuse others of making things up when you are the guilty party. I never said that. Dragon is worthless for BEO and still has no escape system. Falcon is worthless for lifting any meaningful BEO payload (like Orion).

    Ugh.

  • Martijn Meijering

    why the estimates of billions to man rate a delta or atlas.

    Politics. Those are estimates inspired by rival organisations who want to justify their own projects by making the competition look bad.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Dragon is worthless for BEO and still has no escape system.

    Dragon is being designed for beyond LEO and Orion doesn’t have an escape system either. Dragon is very close to its first real test flight, while Orion is two to three years away from its first flight. Don’t make things up.

    Falcon is worthless for lifting any meaningful BEO payload (like Orion).

    Falcon is just fine for launching Dragons and propellant. It could play a major role in manned activity beyond LEO, which is what Musk intended to do with it all along.

  • Part be of my inquiry was why a company can’t build a one size fits all launch escape system….ie tower attached to shroud….shroud could be manufactured to fit any spacecraft design.

    Because a launch abort system design is specific to a launcher and capsule. The Orion LAS was designed to pull a very heavy vehicle away from a very dangerous rocket in terms of explosive potential (Ares I). It would be far too costly and heavy for anyone else to use. Also, both SpaceX and Boeing think that a pusher design is both safer and more efficient than an Apollo-like tractor, and their abort systems are thus integral with their vehicles. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” abort system.

  • You are leaving out the fact that Falcon and Dragon has been using NASA technology, engineers, labs, research, and facilities gratis.

    What difference does it make? Those are sunk costs, and both NASA and SpaceX have the benefit of them, and yet NASA still is spending over an order of magnitude more than SpaceX, so that can’t be the explanation.

    Dragon is worthless for BEO and still has no escape system. Falcon is worthless for lifting any meaningful BEO payload (like Orion).

    Dragon is designed to do BEO missions. SpaceX has it scarred to be lunar capable. And Falcon can lift as many payloads as needed for BEO missions.

    Again, where do you come up with this misinformation?

  • Joy K

    “Politics. Those are estimates inspired by rival organisations who want to justify their own projects by making the competition look bad.”

    LOL. Well Martjin, I guess we can all just quit believing anything anyone says.

    “Dragon is designed to do BEO missions”

    LOL. Have you seen the seating arrangement? BEO automatically means MONTHS away from earth, and Dragon has nowhere near the space inside needed for even two astronauts for that length of time.

    “-as many payloads as needed”

    LOL and lots more laughs. How many would that be? How many centaurs are you going tie together with bunjee cords?

    Idiot.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Again, where do you come up with this misinformation?

    Adding to what Rand said: and why do you persist in spreading more misinformation after you’ve been shown to be wrong in your previous claims? It suggests you are simply trying to discredit commercial space, the facts be damned.

  • Joy K

    Falcon and Dragon has been using NASA technology, engineers, labs, research, and facilities gratis.

    “What difference does it make?”

    It makes a big difference to me. It is my money being spent to make a profit for SpaceX shareholders. If you do not understand the difference between our space agency goal of accomplishing missions and a private business making a profit then you are a fool.

  • Major Tom

    “This is funny, Tom can no longer keep spouting “Orion has no launch vehicle” since it has one…”

    It still doesn’t. This is one uncrewed test flight. We still don’t know what Orion’s operational launch vehicle will be.

    “Also, you are not just getting “this launch” out of this. You are paying for continued development of systems & tech that are getting developed right now that will be in the final vehicle”

    What “final vehicle”? Orion’s requirements and operational launch vehicle remain up in the air. Without them, there is no “final vehicle” to design and develop towards. Just one uncrewed test flight with an undefined capsule configuration in 2013.

    And according to LockMart’s Larry Price (Orion’s deputy PM) on the SpaceShow, the $1.1 billion MPCV budget in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act isn’t even enough to support that test date. So we’re actually looking at the first uncrewed test flight in 2014 — four to five years after the Dragon uncrewed test flight next month.

    “You are paying for a set of the real Orion”

    What “real Orion” are you talking about? The stripped down Ares I version? A rebeefed version for ISS transport via, what, Delta IV? A undefined SLS? A version with redundancy and radiation shielding restored for lunar missions? Again, launching on an EELV or undefined SLS? Or two Orions for a NEO mission? Again, launching on an EELV or undefined SLS?

    Look, even if there was a final, approved Orion configuration with a known launch vehicle, it’s still going to cost many more billions of dollars to get it developed. And it will still be unaffordable for more than one or two missions per year at a cost of $1 billion per Orion, and it will still be oversized for ISS transport, and it will still be undersized for most BEO missions. And competitors like Dragon will have their development costs behind them, been operating much more cheaply for years, and been providing the same basic ETO function with heat shields and scarring for lunar and Mars return trajectories.

    Why are we wasting time and money on this egregiously expensive, slow, and duplicative capsule? While Dragon and the rest solve the ETO last-mile, let’s focus NASA’s resources on a real and cost-effective BEO vehicle.

    “I’m glad to see LM put more of their own cash into this and take on risk (thats the new thing, right?).”

    This is not a knock against LockMart, but it’s not new. LockMart is just putting up a refundable deposit for a launch reservation with ULA. LockMart will either get paid back by NASA if a Delta IV launch becomes part of the MPCV program, or LockMart will get its money back from ULA by backing out of the reservation before the deposit is no longer refundable. This is no different than what LockMart does when it builds and launches a unmanned spacecraft for NASA (or any other customer). Unless LockMart is stupid enough not to back out of the reservation before it’s no longer refundable, LockMart is not risking their own capital in Orion, and they’re not even going to tie up their capital for any significant length of time. (I bet the deposit even earns interest.)

    “LM says no intentions of using D4 past this test”

    Then what’s the point? Why are we spending billions and billions of taxpayer dollars on a test that, like Ares I-X, likely isn’t technically relevant to the (undefined) operational launch vehicle? Especially when other new capsules and launch vehicles are conducting operationally relevant tests for a tenth or less of the same cost to the taxpayer starting next month?

    Enough with these useless bread-and-circus tests of expensive and unneeded architecture elements.

    Sigh…

  • Major Tom

    “You are leaving out the fact that Falcon and Dragon has been using NASA technology, engineers, labs, research, and facilities gratis. That is the big lie; that SpaceX is cheaper- it just gets everything for free while NASA is damned for every penny.”

    Baloney. Even when they’re doing work under NASA contracts or agreements, companies have to reimburse NASA for the use of resources like wind tunnels and computation facilities. These fees come under review every few years, as mentioned in this archived article:

    articles.dailypress.com/2005-06-12/business/0506120002_1_wind-tunnels-nasa-langley-nasa-glenn-research-center

    Don’t make idiotic statements out of ignorance.

    “You constantly accuse others of making things up when you are the guilty party. I never said that.”

    Yes, you did. You wrote:

    “the rocket is powerful enough (unlike falcon)”

    Don’t make stuff up, especially about your own posts.

    “Dragon is worthless for BEO”

    No, it’s not. Dragon’s PICA-X heat shield is built to handle reentry from lunar and Mars return trajectories and the vehicle is scarred for those kinds of missions.

    Don’t make idiotic statements out of ignorance.

    Dragon is the type of small, efficient capsule you want to take care of the ETO function so your BEO transport doesn’t have to carry a large, expensive heat shield or be constrained by the dimensions of said heat shield.

    “Falcon is worthless for lifting any meaningful BEO payload (like Orion).

    If payload size is your measuring stick (and it’s a stupid one given the fungibility of propellant for transit stages, which is the mass driver on BEO missions), then there are Falcon X and XX variants that could launch many times what the Delta IV Heavy can launch.

    “Have you seen the seating arrangement? BEO automatically means MONTHS away from earth, and Dragon has nowhere near the space inside needed for even two astronauts for that length of time.”

    And Orion does?

    Really?

    You do realize that Orion is so small that even LockMart’s own “Plymouth Rock” architecture requires two Orions to create a bare minimum volume for that multi-month NEO mission, right?

    “How many would that be? How many centaurs are you going tie together with bunjee cords?

    Idiot.”

    Why are you calling the other poster an idiot when you think that Falcon 9 uses Centaur upper stages?

    You do realize that the Centaur is an EELV upper stage, right?

    Look in the mirror before your throw names through your glass house.

    “It is my money being spent to make a profit for SpaceX shareholders.”

    You do realize NASA money spent on Orion makes a profit for LockMart shareholders, right?

    C’mon, no one is that big of an idiot.

    Sigh…

  • Joy K

    We have a launcher- Delta IV heavy.
    We have a crew vehicle- Orion.
    We have an escape system- and a parachute system.
    We have an earth departure system- Centaur.

    SpaceX has cheap rocket that cannot lift much and a capsule that……..has no abort or parachute system yet. The cheap rocket has flown once with a dummy capsule.

    We are paying Russians to fly our U.S. astronauts into space.

    So we should keep paying hundreds of millions in tax dollars to a company whose CEO wants to retire on Mars and a private Russian company?

    You musk worshipers need a dose of reality.

  • Martijn Meijering

    We still don’t know what Orion’s operational launch vehicle will be.

    Only because of pork considerations. Delta-IV Heavy is suitable for all missions you want to do with it. Of course, the fact that Orion itself is still on the table is also a matter of pork.

  • Martijn Meijering

    It is my money being spent to make a profit for SpaceX shareholders.

    Why do you prefer USA or LM shareholders over SpaceX shareholders?

  • Coastal Ron

    Scott Bass wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    I have been checking back to see if anyone had posted a primer for me on man rating and why the estimates of billions to man rate a delta or atlas.

    Rand already addressed the LAS part somewhat, and I’ll contribute what I know about launchers. Here is a link from the testimony that the ULA CEO gave to the Augustine Commission last year, and they have some details about their part of the cost and what it goes for:

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/361835main_08%20-%20ULA%20%201.0_Augustine_Public_6_17_09_final_R1.pdf

  • wintermuted

    @joy K

    Last time I checked, BEO meant beyond earth orbit. As far as I can tell, any mission which leaves Earth orbit would qualify, whether you return in a few days or a few months. I don’t think anyone has suggested that Dragon could be used for months-long missions into deep space. However a loop around the moon wouldn’t be impossible.

    On the topic of using NASA’s technology, isn’t that actually a big part of the purpose of NASA? There are thousands of commercial products from golf balls to bathing suits that have been developed using NASA technology. NASA research is made available for this very purpose, that’s where the benefit to the US taxpayer comes from – so US companies can provide products and services based on research that they may not have been able to afford otherwise.

    Here’s a bigger list of all the industries that benefit from NASA technology:
    http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html

  • Martijn Meijering

    LOL. Well Martjin, I guess we can all just quit believing anything anyone says.

    Not at all. ULA has presented a detailed case why “man-rating” its launchers will be much cheaper than that as well as an exploration architecture into which it would fit. Its currently being paid by NASA to build an EDS which is the main missing piece needed to “man-rate” the EELVs. And the more realistic ~$1B figure for “man-rating” the EELVs that has been mentioned includes building a brand new dedicated pad for crewed launches so as not to conflict with DoD payloads. That has nothing to do with the reliability of the launchers.

    BEO automatically means MONTHS away from earth, and Dragon has nowhere near the space inside needed for even two astronauts for that length of time.

    More disinformation. Neither Orion nor Dragon is suitable for months long missions. Both are suitable for short missions. For transfer to Mars you need, you guessed it, a Mars Transfer Vehicle. Something like Bigelow’s BA-330, which is based on NASA’s TransHab concept.

    How many centaurs are you going tie together with bunjee cords?

    There is no need to tie Centaurs together. An ACES upper stage would be desirable but not necessary provided you use Lagrange rendez-vous as you should. Propellant transfer will take care of the rest.

    Idiot.

    Idiot? Rand Simberg is an experienced aerospace professional. You on the other hand, in addition to being rude, have seen all your baseless accusations refuted. When you’re in a hole, stop digging.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joy K wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    You are leaving out the fact that Falcon and Dragon has been using NASA technology, engineers, labs, research, and facilities gratis.

    Do you have specific examples you want to provide, or you just assuming?

    SpaceX is like any other aerospace company, and NASA, being a government funded agency, would provide some assistance to any American company. SpaceX may have even paid for some of NASA’s assistance, like for high-speed wind tunnels.

    But the bulk of the work SpaceX has done appears to have been done in-house. For instance, SpaceX started work on the Dragon capsule well before the COTS/CRS program had been announced, and they were funding that in-house. Same with their Merlin engines, which were designed, built and tested in SpaceX facilities. They may have used NASA public data, but NASA doesn’t have too many aerospace engineers that have recent experience building things, so I don’t think NASA would have much to contribute.

    Dragon is worthless for BEO and still has no escape system.

    Dragon was built to survive re-entry from Mars or Moon trajectories, so in that case it would be the equivalent to Orion. But you’re ignoring the fact that capsules are really only useful as lifeboats once you get in space, and crew return vehicles when you’re returning to Earth – no one is going to be living in them, and that goes for the Orion too.

    Regarding the Dragon LAS, SpaceX hasn’t needed one yet, so it’s silly to criticize them for something they had no plans to do yet. They have been quite public about their desire to eventually add crew to Dragon, but they have also stated that it will come sometime after the cargo version of Dragon is operating. As my daughter would say – CHILLAX!

  • Joy K

    “Why do you prefer USA or LM shareholders over SpaceX shareholders?”

    Why do you keep making things up? I would prefer not having anyone’s hand in my pocket.

    The problem is that Reaganomics is still at work after wrecking our economy with massive deregulation. The commercial space act gave away billions in taxpayer owned technology to private business. Massive theft- and everyone just takes it for granted now that tax dollars can be funneled into the private business pockets.

  • Vladislaw

    Joy K wrote:

    “You are leaving out the fact that Falcon and Dragon has been using NASA technology, engineers, labs, research, and facilities gratis. That is the big lie; that SpaceX is cheaper- it just gets everything for free while NASA is damned for every penny.”

    As both the CBO and the GAO have stated in numerous reports 40% – 60% of NASA facilities are currently under utilized. So why is it is problem for an American commercial aerospace firm, that creates high pay, high tech jobs for Americans using facilities that are not being used at all in the first place?

    In the second place have you ever bothered to read what NASA’s mandate is and what EVERY president has said since Reagan that commercial firms should be used more by NASA?

    Here is a little refresher course on NASA 101.

    DECLARATION OF POLICY AND PURPOSE

    Sec. 102. (c) The Congress declares that the general welfare of the United States requires that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (as established by title II of this Act) seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space.”

    The National Aeronautics and Space Act

    NASA is MANDATED to help commercial space firms grow. The facilities were paid for by American taxpayers for the express purpose of promoting American commercial companies and to help them expand.

    I guess in your world it is better to let those under utilized facilities, paid for by American taxpayers, to rot into the ground rather than allow them to be used by American companies to create American jobs for Americans aerospace workers.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Why do you keep making things up? I would prefer not having anyone’s hand in my pocket.

    How am I making things up? If you want Orion, then you want something for which NASA pays USA and LM on a cost-plus basis. That means profit for LM and USA shareholders. NASA is getting a much better deal from SpaceX, which only gets paid if it meets milestones.

  • Martijn Meijering wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 11:56 am

    So you think putting hydrocarbons into the atmosphere is good for the Earth’s environment? Interesting:-)

    “That is precisely what you would be doing if you used hydrogen, since it is produced from hydrocarbons. Theoretically hydrogen could be produced by nuclear power in a CO2 neutral way, but so could hydrocarbons. Hydrogen has zero environmental benefit (even if you believe in global warming) and you know it. Kindly stop repeating statements you know to be false.”

    What do you mean theoretically? We’ve been producing hydrogen through electrolysis for several decades– even commercially.

    Unfortunately, even hydrocarbon fuels from carbon neutral resources can still contribute to global warming from the soot from hydrocarbon fuel combustion. And by the end of the century, there could be hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions of private commercial spacecraft taking off from the Earth’s surface. So even carbon neutral hydrocarbon fuels could still contribute to global sea rise.

    Since rocket fuel is only a minor factor in the cost of a space launch, I see no reason why it shouldn’t be mandated that the sources for such fuels should be totally carbon neutral within the next 20 years (the US military is already moving in this direction). If the US doesn’t move almost completely from a fossil fuel economy to a carbon neutral nuclear and renewable energy economy within the next 30 or 40 years, our economy will be doomed and the Earth’s future environment– catastrophically changed.

    The Federal government should stay completely away from using hydrocarbon fuels for space vehicle stages used within the Earth’s atmosphere. It makes no sense for NASA to spend billions studying global warming while contributing to it by building or helping to fund hydrocarbon rockets. This sends the wrong message!

    Hydrogen/oxygen rockets work just fine and should have no impact on global warming once the US has moved to a nuclear and renewable energy economy within the next few decades.

  • Major Tom

    “We have a crew vehicle- Orion.”

    No, we don’t. If we did, we’d be able to launch crew in it.

    In fact, we don’t even have an uncrewed test version of this vehicle. Unlike the uncrewed Dragon test flight next month, we have to wait three to four more years, at a rate of $1.1-1.4 billiion per year, before an uncrewed version of Orion will fly.

    “We have an escape system”

    No, we don’t. If we did, we wouldn’t have to test Orion’s LAS jettison on a Delta IV launch three to four years from now.

    “and a parachute system.”

    Which experienced a test failure.

    nasaspaceflight.com/2010/02/unlucky-orion-crashing-space-program-drop-test-fails/

    And is a critical element of the launch abort sequence.

    “SpaceX has cheap rocket”

    Why would anyone want an expensive rocket?

    “that cannot lift much”

    The Falcon 9 family can put 10-32,000kg in LEO. That’s actually more than the Delta IV family at 9-23,000kg.

    Don’t make stuff up.

    “and a capsule that……..has no… parachute system yet.”

    Dragon does have a parachute system. (And unlike Orion, Dragon didn’t experience any parachute test failures.)

    spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=31477

    Don’t make stuff up.

    “We are paying Russians to fly our U.S. astronauts into space.”

    If you want to minimize the time that NASA will be reliant on Soyuzes, then you should capitalize on the capsule that’s scheduled to conduct an uncrewed test flight _next month_, not the capsule that’s scheduled to conduct an uncrewed test flight _three to four years from now_.

    Try really, really hard to think before your next post. I know you can do it.

    Sigh…

  • Major Tom

    “Why do you keep making things up? I would prefer not having anyone’s hand in my pocket.”

    Then you should oppose any spending on Orion. The Orion project will be in your pocket to the tune of $1.1-1.4 _billion_ per year. NASA funding for SpaceX’s entire COTS agreement to date is only $278 _million_.

    “The problem is that Reaganomics is still at work after wrecking our economy with massive deregulation. The commercial space act gave away billions in taxpayer owned technology to private business. Massive theft- and everyone just takes it for granted now that tax dollars can be funneled into the private business pockets.”

    What are you talking about, DCSCA? The Commercial Space Act dates from 1998. Reagan served as President during the 1980s.

    Moreover, no section of the act gives away “technology to private business.”

    Take your pills and stop using multiple screennames.

    Ugh…

  • Frank Glover

    “SpaceX has cheap rocket that cannot lift much and a capsule that……..has no abort or parachute system yet”

    Define ‘much.’

    Parachute system?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-p1ZuxjvfSM

    …You’re welcome.

    “The cheap rocket has flown once with a dummy capsule. ”

    So obviously it lifts ‘enough.’

  • William Mellberg

    With respect to Lockheed Martin’s proposed 2013 lunar mission, perhaps Orion could be renamed Zond. It would seem to be following a similar type of mission — using a manned spacecraft for an early unmanned trip around the Moon. On the other hand, NASA could be getting more bang for the buck with such a mission as it would certainly produce more results (hopefully) than a simple Earth-orbiting test. And it might help to focus public attention on the notion of getting humans out of Low Earth Orbit once again. I give Lockheed Martin credit for suggesting the idea, but I’ve reached no conclusions as to its worth.

    As for the Delta IV Heavy, I’m looking as I write this at a cover story in Aviation Week & Space Technology titled: “Is This the Next Manned U.S. Launch Vehicle?” Senior Editor Craig Covault wrote glowingly about the Delta IV Heavy’s capabilities and potential to launch a new generation of manned spacecraft. The article is dated … September 8, 2003!

    There is one item on Lockheed Martin’s list of Orion missions that I would like to see advanced (i.e., launched sooner) — or undertaken by another team …

    “2017: Upgrade and reboost Hubble”

    A servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope by 2014 or 2015 — in time to replace aging batteries and gyroscopes, and keeping the space observatory operational through 2020 — would be a real headline grabber. Moreover, it’d be a big boon to science.

    A 2017 mission would probably accomplish no more than to attach a rocket package to deorbit the defunct Space Telescope. It’d be too late to keep the observatory operating.

    But a “commercial” servicing mission to save Hubble by 2015 could do much to gather public attention and Congressional approval — all the more so if the mission could be mounted as a totally “commercial” venture (with NASA and ESA paying a fixed fee to keep their popular telescope operational for another five years or more). The mission would require an added work module (or platform) to secure the telescope and complete the repairs.

    Of course, what I’d really like to see is a pair of astronomical observatories (optical and radio) located on the far side of the Moon. But that’s not something any of us will likely see anytime soon!

  • guest

    Did you ever take a look at the size of the components that were replaced on each Hubble servicing mission ? Did you ever stop to think that the Shuttle had a robotic arm and a platform where the Hubble could be mounted during servicing ? Where do you think Orion would carry the replacements? How do you think the Orion would maintain proximity and stability with the Hubble?

    The likelihood of an Orion being able to service a Hubble is slip to none.

  • Martijn Meijering

    We’ve been producing hydrogen through electrolysis for several decades– even commercially.

    Electrolysis is not a cost-effective way of producing it and most of the power would come from burning fossil fuels, which is why I said it was a theoretical possibility. Technically. electrolysis + nuclear power would work. So would nuclear power + algae farms.

    And do you seriously expect us to believe you’re pushing this because you are concerned about the environment instead of pushing SLS?

  • GuessWho

    Martijn Meijering wrote – “There is no need to tie Centaurs together. An ACES upper stage would be desirable but not necessary provided you use Lagrange rendez-vous as you should. Propellant transfer will take care of the rest.”

    ACES doesn’t exist – it is a paper study. Prop transfer (for an ACES) doesn’t exist. It is a ULA paper study. I wouldn’t be betting the BEO farm on either of those at this point.

  • Martijn Meijering

    ACES doesn’t exist – it is a paper study.

    Which is why I pointed out it wasn’t necessary, merely nice to have.

    Prop transfer (for an ACES) doesn’t exist. It is a ULA paper study.

    True, but that too is merely a nice to have. Storable propellant will do from a Lagrange point onward. Not optimal, but more than good enough. A fully fueled Centaur is enough to get the individual pieces to L1/L2 from LEO. And a Centaur can be launched on a Delta-IV Heavy just as everything that can be transported by Centaur from LEO to L1/L2 can be transported to LEO on a Delta-IV Heavy too.

    I wouldn’t be betting the BEO farm on either of those at this point.

    I’m not advocating we should bet the farm on those since they are merely nice to haves.

  • William Mellberg

    guest wrote:

    “Did you ever take a look at the size of the components that were replaced on each Hubble servicing mission?”

    As a matter of fact, I’ve stood next to several of those units, including the original Faint Object Camera and Faint Object Spectrograph — both of which were the size of telephone booths. But I’m not talking about replacing large cameras and instrument packages. I’m only interested in those components which will require replacements to keep the telescope operating (i.e., batteries, gyros and solar arrays).

    “Did you ever stop to think that the Shuttle had a robotic arm and a platform where the Hubble could be mounted during servicing?”

    Yes, of course, I have. The easiest way for Orion to service the Hubble would be to dock with the telescope’s Soft Capture Mechanism (installed on the last servicing mission). That unit is compatible with Orion’s docking system. As for a robotic arm, it might not be necessary if Orion simply docks with Hubble, although an arm would be useful as a foothold for the astronauts doing the work. If needed, a robotic arm could be attached to Orion’s Service Module, or to the Work Module (described below).

    “Where do you think Orion would carry the replacements?”

    One option would be to carry them in the unpressurized cargo bays of the Service Module (similar to the SIM bays on Apollo). But if you go back and read my previous comments, you will notice that I mentioned a “work module (or platform).” Such a Work Module (WM) would be similar to the Docking Module (DM) used on Apollo-Soyuz. It could be carried atop the launch vehicle (under Orion) and extracted once the spacecraft reaches orbit — just like the DM was attached to the top of the S-IVB and extracted during Apollo-Soyuz. The unpressurized Work Module would have a docking mechanism to attach itself and Orion to Hubble. Inside the Work Module would be the replacement units, as well as extendable fixtures and platforms to help stabilize the telescope and the astronauts repairing it. Being unpressurized, all you’d really need is a sturdy frame with docking units mounted at each end.

    “How do you think the Orion would maintain proximity and stability with the Hubble?”

    By docking with it (see above).

    “The likelihood of an Orion being able to service a Hubble is slip to none.”

    Not really. I talked about such a plan two years ago with the outgoing Chair of the NASA Advisory Council. It was something the space agency was thinking about for an early Orion mission. Which is why Lockheed Martin lists a Hubble mission on their proposed timetable. I simply want to advance that mission by a couple of years to ensure that the Space Telescope’s life is extended, rather than using the mission to deorbit Hubble.

    Of course, such a mission would also grab headlines for “commercial” space if they pursued it. But it would take some real derring-do to pull it off.

    It would also take the commitment of the Obama Administration and the new Congress to start planning such a mission in the coming year if it is to happen by 2015. The funding and the planning need to start ASAP. But what a way to prove the capabilities of whichever launch vehicle/spacecraft combination is used!

  • Joy K

    “What are you talking about, DCSCA? The Commercial Space Act dates from 1998. Reagan served as President during the 1980s.”

    You are all screwed up. I am not DCSCA. And the commercial space act dates from 1984. When Reagan gave away all of we the peoples tax paid for technology to big business.

    And the Delta IV heavy lifts more than falcon 9; there is no falcon 9 “heavy.”

    You keep making things up and accusing others- ridiculous.

  • William Mellberg

    @guest:

    P.S. If the new generation of manned spacecraft (Orion, Dragon or whatever) can’t bring up a few replacement parts to the Hubble Space Telescope, how will they ever support the sort of “commercial” activities in Low Earth Orbit that the NewSpace proponents keep talking about? How can they earn profits when their payload capabilities are so limited? How will they keep the International Space Station operational through 2020 (or beyond)? I know. Unmanned cargo spacecraft will do the job (hopefully). But the Space Shuttle’s capabilities will be missed.

    Speaking of replacement parts … unlike the Space Shuttle, Orion would not be able to return the old batteries, gyros and solar arrays from a Hubble servicing mission. The Work Module that I’ve described should probably include some basic thrusters and guidance systems that would enable it to put itself and those heavy old parts into a controlled re-entry.

  • Bennett

    William Mellberg wrote @ November 27th, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Great comment, thanks for the clear “how to” explanation. On your more recent comment, Dragon does have significant downmass. But is it enough for the crew plus old parts? (6,614 lbs)

    Joy K wrote @ November 27th, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    I was intrigued when MT suggested that you were yet another screenname for DCSCA, because although he gets many things very wrong, I think that you surpass DCSCA by an order of magnitude. You may be a very nice person, but you’re clueless when it comes to how and what SpaceX is doing.

  • Byeman

    By looking at their post, Joy K and Gary Church are one and the same. They make the same idiotic and incorrect statement that Reagan through the Commercial Space Act of 1984 “gave away” technology to business.

    The Act did no such thing. The act only allowed the use of unused or excess gov property by commercial companies. The US govt was no longer using Delta and Atlas, so McDac and GD were to fly them. Anyways there was no real transfer of intellectual property, the contractors already had it.

    And anyways, what is your point in always bringing up ? Do you think NASA should still be operating launch vehicles? That isn’t the way govt should work. It should be transferring items it “develops” to the commercial sector. NASA gained by giving this up. Also, do you mistakenly think NASA should be “reimbursed” for this? That would be wrong, because it was the USAF that developed the basic vehicles.

  • William Mellberg

    Bennett wrote:

    “Great comment, thanks for the clear ‘how to’ explanation.”

    Thanks for your positive reaction. When I suggested that it would be a good mission for “commercial” space to prove itself, I did not mean to suggest (in case anyone misunderstood) that it should be paid for by the private sector. Hubble belongs to NASA and ESA, and they should pay the bills if the telescope’s life can be extended for another five years. But what an opportunity to prove the new commercial hardware … or Orion. Whoever does it, I think it would be a mission worth doing. The question is: would the new Congress and the Obama Administration think it’s a mission worth doing — especially given the cost overruns on the James Webb Space Telescope? But one of the advantages Hubble has is that it images objects in visible light. JWST does not. Thus, Hubble could go on taking more spectacular pictures for another five years or more — something the public seems to appreciate. The public reaction to a “commercial” Hubble servicing mission could be very supportive.

    “On your more recent comment, Dragon does have significant downmass. But is it enough for the crew plus old parts? (6,614 lbs)”

    Off the top of my head, I think not. However, we don’t really need to bring those old parts back. We just need to make sure they don’t hit somebody after they re-enter. The batteries and solar arrays would probably burn up, but I suspect the gyros could be a potential problem. Attaching the old parts to my proposed Work Module and sending the whole thing down on a pre-planned trajectory would take care of it.

    BTW, one thing against a robotic arm … it would be making a one-way trip on such a mission. That’s a very expensive piece of equipment for one mission. Thus, I’d prefer some sort of extendable framework that could be attached to the Work Module and suspended over the telescope. The astronauts could use it to access the hatches on Hubble and to give themselves a foothold while they work. With the Work Module docked to the back of the telescope, the astronauts wouldn’t have far to go to reach those hatches (which wrap around the bottom section of the telescope, below the main mirror). I don’t see the EVAs as being unduly difficult since we’d only be replacing batteries, gyros and solar arrays.

  • DCSCA

    @Bennett wrote @ November 27th, 2010 at 8:32 pm
    MT was wrong. No surprise there and no apology forthcoming most likely. The fact your opinions may be in opposition with wiser perspectives doesn’t make you wrong– just disagreeable. No surprise there, either. As to SpaceX, JoyK has it pretty much clued in on what SpaceX is doing based on what they have done with respect to HSF: nothing.

    Master Musk’s latest quote, per Marcia Dunn of AP: “We’re at the point now where it’s either commercial human spaceflight or no human spaceflight in the U.S.” – Elon Musk 11/26/10

    Rubbish, of course. A strawman argument from a fella desperately trying to syphon off any trickle of government subsidies to finance his venture as budgets get slashed in the Age of Austerity. Meanwhile, as of December 1, 2010, no crewed Dragon spacecraft has been successfulyl launched, orbited and safely recovered from orbital flight. And the chances of seeing that occur within three years appears dim at this rate. Musk continues to slip schedules and makes excuses through press releases. Not very admirable traits to see surface from a private enterprised firm, driven to show quarterly profits. A turnoff to investors. And we already have a government space agency good at slipping schedules. Meanwhile, that same the government has been successfully flying crews into and back from space for half a century. There is no operational commerical human spaceflight currently in the U.S.– certainly on the level and scale of orbital operations to compete with government space agencies. Musk’s minimal credibility continues to shrink to the amusement of observers and the chagrin of his champions. It’s just exaggerated grandstanding by Master Musk for his Musketeers– like that retirement on Mars quip of his. And, of course, SpaceX needs government subsidies and government contracts to grow and compete. The future of ‘commercial’ HSF will take root with Branson and his incremental approach, not Musk.

  • Vladislaw

    Joy K wrote:

    ” And the commercial space act dates from 1984. When Reagan gave away all of we the peoples tax paid for technology to big business.”

    Do you even know what the hell the space act in 1984 was about?

    “B. The Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984

    The United States commercial launch industry is regulated by the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (OCST) under the authority of the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984 (the Launch Act). [FN77] The Launch Act and the regulations promulgated under it by the OCST serve as the cornerstone of domestic regulation of the private space transportation industry.

    The Launch Act proclaimed two objectives for the DOT: 1) to encourage, facilitate, and promote commercial space launches by the private sector, and 2) to develop licensing requirements through consultation with other Government agencies. [FN78]

    One of the most important changes which resulted from the Launch Act was the creation of a single Government agency responsible for the regulation of this nascent industry. [FN79]In the early 1980s, small entrepreneurial companies made initial attempts to provide commercial launch services via low- cost ELVs. [FN80] Unfortunately for these first companies there was no single Government agency with the responsibility for regulating the private launch industry, and several Government agencies jumped in to fill the void in areas they perceived to be under their jurisdiction. As a result, private launch companies had to wade through an immense bureaucratic licensing maze created by 17 different Government agencies prior to obtaining government clearance for launch operations. [FN81]

    The Launch Act ameliorated this problem by providing the Secretary of Transportation exclusive authority over the commercial space transportation industry and granted the DOT’s newly created Office of Commercial Space Transportation (OCST) the authority to establish governing regulations. [FN82] Specifically, the Launch Act and the resulting regulations addressed three substantive areas: licensing and regulation, [FN83] liability insurance requirements, [FN84] and access of private launch companies to Government facilities. [FN85] Each is discussed in detail below. “

    http://www.law.berkeley.edu/journals/btlj/articles/vol3/fought.html

    What was all this technology that was given to private businesses?

    Can you list all that that tech that was given away?

    What commercial products and services were generated from the give away?

    How many jobs were created by companies that got all this technology?

  • Dennis Berube

    Hubble is on the block for replacement. The James Webb tele is supposed to lift off here in the next few years. No more Hubble repair missions.

  • Musk continues to slip schedules and makes excuses through press releases. Not very admirable traits to see surface from a private enterprised firm, driven to show quarterly profits. A turnoff to investors.

    Yes, it is such a “turnoff to investors” that they just raised another fifty million.

    What a maroon.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ November 28th, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Per your source, $50 million from existing investors, Musk’s crowd of Silicon Valley buddies [Existing investors include Musk himself, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and the Founders Fund. That's all.] Not fresh sources of capital. In an industry than measures costs in BILLIONS, $50 million is a pathetic. You should have red on. The very same article you source says: “This latest funding brings the total capital put into SpaceX to $200 million, which is a lot for a startup, but really not that much for building a rocket company. Many billions have been wasted on efforts to get to space more cheaply than currently possible.” The artcle further states: “There is no proven business model in space other than government contracts and low-earth-orbit satellite launches. Going after new markets in space is definitely a long-term play, and … it is going to take many more infusions of capital to get to where Musk wants to go.” And SpaceX depends on the government: “SpaceX already has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to supply the space station, among other projects. [Americans need to remember that 40 cents of every dollar it spends, including the monies contracted to SpaceX, are borrowed.] The government borrowed it– not Musk and SpaceX. It also has several large commercial deals in the works worth hundreds of millions of dollars and claims to be slightly profitable.” Claims. Slight profits.

    You’re easily wowed by small numbers, aren’t you. $50 million is in the ball park for what Russia plans to charge to loft just one passenger in a Soyuz up to the ISS. Will help him meet overhead through the end of the year most likely. But with $50 million, perhaps Mr. Musk can now repay the American taxpayers a small percentage the tax monies rec’d under the stimulus package for refurbishing the launch facilities he uses– of which 40 cents of every dollar spent was borrowed by the government to keep him in business.

  • William Mellberg

    Dennis Berube wrote:

    “Hubble is on the block for replacement. The James Webb tele is supposed to lift off here in the next few years. No more Hubble repair missions.”

    Hubble is “on the block” because most people assumed that an Orion mission could not be launched in time to service the observatory before its batteries and gyros fail (around 2015). What I’m suggesting is an accelerated effort to mount a servicing mission by that time.

    The James Webb Space Telescope is designed to work only in the infrared spectrum. It cannot image objects in visible and ultraviolet light like Hubble. JWST will be terrific for studying very distant stars and galaxies. But we won’t be getting the dazzling visible light images of nearby objects such as Jupiter and Saturn that Hubble has provided. (Remember the role Hubble played when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 plunged into Jupiter?)

    Think of it this way. The Hubble Space Telescope is an orbiting observatory about the size of the historic 100-inch Hooker Telescope atop Mount Wilson near Los Angeles. But given its position above the atmosphere (as well as its modern instrumentation), the Hubble is far more capable than the Hooker ever was. It has cost billions of dollars to design, build, launch, service and operate the Hubble Space Telescope. Extending its life for another 5-7 years would be a much better mission than simply revisiting the HST after it has failed to attach a deorbit rocket to the rear end.

    That said, you are correct. There are no funds in the NASA budget to service Hubble one more time. But the mission could be accomplished by Orion or a commercial spacecraft. And it would certainly be a feather in the cap of commercial space if they were to take the mission on and pull it off.

    Imagine shutting down the observatories atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii simply because of a worn out battery. That, in effect, is what we’re doing with Hubble. After the last servicing mission, it has the most up-to-date cameras and instruments available. What a pity to let the observatory die simply because we can’t get a Space Shuttle to it anymore.

    Hubble has produced some tremendous results during the past 20 years. Indeed, it has revolutionized astronomy; and it is hard to imagine a NASA spacecraft that has produced more scientific results. Hopefully, it will still be operating on its 25th anniversary. But after that …???

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 4:23 pm
    You are leaving out the fact that Falcon and Dragon has been using NASA technology, engineers, labs, research, and facilities gratis.

    “What difference does it make?”

    The difference is the government is paying for it with 40 cents of every dollar borrowed including the costs of refurbishing the launch facilities throguh the stimulus package. Tax dollars, not private investment capital. They’re not static facilities and incur costs to operate and maintain.

    “Those are sunk costs, and both NASA and SpaceX have the benefit of them, and yet NASA still is spending over an order of magnitude more than SpaceX, so that can’t be the explanation.” Have you ever paid your own way or do you assume others will always be paying the tab? Good grief.

  • Dennis Berube

    Mr. Mellberg, I agree 100%, with regards to Hubble. I understand for a short period of time, considerations were tossed about maybe utilizing a Soyuz flight to service Hubble. Perhaps if one of the commercial services were capable. I dont see it happening though and that is a sad thing. Indeed Hubble has opened up astronomy for many many people. A person cannot look at a Hubble pic, and not be ah inspired by it. I especially like the deep space pics of all those Galaxies, that stretch beyond what we can see.

  • You’re easily wowed by small numbers, aren’t you.

    Yes, because small numbers are what it takes to make space affordable. I’m very impressed with how much SpaceX and Boeing have accomplished for very little money, relative to Constellation.

    Have you ever paid your own way or do you assume others will always be paying the tab? Good grief.

    What a stupid comment. It has absolutely nothing to do with what I wrote. Apparently you aren’t capable of understanding the point I was making. Good grief.

  • William Mellberg

    Dennis Berube wrote:

    “I especially like the deep space pics of all those Galaxies, that stretch beyond what we can see.”

    Yes, Hubble is uniquely capable of taking those deep field images in visible light. Awe-inspiring, indeed. Despite its early problems, the Hubble Space Telescope has to rank as one of NASA’s greatest achievements during the past 50 years.

    As for a Soyuz servicing mission …

    That would be a bit more challenging owing to payload limitations. You’d have to send up the aforementioned Work Module and replacement units separately (unmanned). I don’t see it happening. My suggested Orion (or commercial) mission is doable. But I don’t see that happening, either — not without a public campaign to encourage Congress and the White House to support such a mission. However, in the current political/economic climate …

  • Coastal Ron

    Joy K wrote @ November 27th, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    And the Delta IV heavy lifts more than falcon 9; there is no falcon 9 “heavy.”

    No one is arguing about the lift capability of Delta IV Heavy vs Falcon 9, but the capability of Delta IV Heavy versus other med-heavy lifters like Atlas V Heavy and Falcon 9 Heavy.

    Both Atlas V Heavy and Falcon 9 Heavy are real products, but no one has needed them yet, so there are no orders. However, ULA states that Atlas V Heavy can be available 30 months after it is ordered, and SpaceX advertises the Falcon 9 Heavy on their website for the low price of $95M. Both can lift far more than Delta IV Heavy (50,000 vs 64,000 vs 70,000 lbs to LEO).

    Atlas V Heavy and Falcon 9 Heavy are both triple-core versions of their single core launchers (just like Delta IV and Delta IV Heavy), so in that case they are more real than Ares I or Orion. And in the case of Falcon 9 Heavy, $95M is the only price you or NASA would have to pay to get 70,000 lbs of mass to LEO for the low cost of $1,357/lb – that’s 8-15 times less expensive than what the Shuttle could do.

    Bottom line #1 – Commercial companies like ULA and SpaceX are a bargain compared to government-run launchers like Shuttle or Ares I.

    Bottom line #2 – The lack of orders for Atlas V Heavy and Falcon 9 Heavy, which are low-risk upgrades of existing launchers, shows that there is no market for HLV’s yet.

  • Alex

    A commercial servicing of Hubble might make sense, but Orion? How much did the full bill on the last Shuttle servicing run? $500 million?

    Taken together these servicing missions have cost far more than simply building and launching another Hubble-sized telescope. When do we draw the line?

  • Martijn Meijering

    Both Atlas V Heavy and Falcon 9 Heavy are real products, but no one has needed them yet, so there are no orders.

    I think it’s a bit premature to call Falcon 9 Heavy a real product.

  • Dave Huntsman

    ‘ “We’re at the point now where it’s either commercial human spaceflight or no human spaceflight in the U.S.” – Elon Musk 11/26/10

    ‘Rubbish, of course. A strawman argument from a fella desperately trying to syphon off any trickle of government subsidies to finance his venture as budgets get slashed in the Age of Austerity. ………..It’s just exaggerated grandstanding by Master Musk for his Musketeers………….”‘

    Not at all. Elon is grandiose and verbose oftentimes, but in this he’s right: Without a commercial human spaceflight industry being started, we will never have other than a few dozen very expensive astronauts flying into space. It’s been 50 years and that’s the best we can do, decade after decade, in leaving it totally up to governments. How many decades does this have to happen before the realization dawns that this has to change? That no matter how many hundreds of billions of dollars government spends in the same old way, we’ll keep getting the same non-result?

    We need to add true competition, innovation, and entrepreneurship to help create sustainable space industries; just as we’ve found we need to do with terrestrial industries. That’s what COTS, commercial crew, and the CRuSR programs do.

    “The future of ‘commercial’ HSF will take root with Branson and his incremental approach, not Musk.”

    They are not either-or. NASA’s approach on this – to fund COTS, commercial crew, AND CRuSR (Commercial Reusable Subsonic Research) flight opportunities is the correct one. Right now, there is no one flying even ELVs to orbit regularly than the approximately 11 per year of Proton. RLVs don’t get real until someone can reasonably show they can get up to flight rates closer to 40/year. So after 50 years and hundreds of billions of $$, no one on Earth has even shown that high-flight rate ELVs can be handled as economically as possible.

    Elon’s business plan, if it works, will do that for ELVs. He also has a secondary but not in-line plan to see how much of even an ELV can be made reusable – something I have my doubts about, but I hope he proves me wrong.

    Meanwhile, over in the subsonic world…….
    An RLV industry has already started itself up – albeit subsonically – just with tourism. NASA’s CRuSR program takes that one step further: instead of purchasing hardware, it aims to help broaden the markets for for subsonic RLVs by paying for flight opportunities for microgravity, aero research, and several other areas. By helping to enable new markets for these nascent subsonic RLVs, it serves the broader strategic goal – which the Obama Administration explicitly supports – of eventually creating an orbital RLV industry – but starting with suborbitals first. That is going to take some time. But once they show that they can get anything with humans and rockets flying 40, 50, or more times a year, we’ll have a better feel of how to take the next step which has eluded us for so long, orbital RLVs flying very high flight rates at much lower cost. But, that’s not tomorrow.

    COTS, commercial crew, CRuSR – these are what NASA should be doing. In fact, we should be doing more of it, expanding into other areas that will create whole new areas of a high-tech jobs creating space economy.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “But we won’t be getting the dazzling visible light images of nearby objects such as Jupiter and Saturn that Hubble has provided.”

    That’s simply dumb.

    We’ll get dazzling and awe inspiring near infrared images from JWST, just as Spitzer has provided for mid and far infrared, and Chandra has provided for X-rays. In fact, the images will be MORE dazzling than Hubble, because of the much higher resolution. Yep, you’ll put a JWST image of Jupiter next to a Hubble image of Jupiter, and the former will blow the latter away. You want visible light images? Why? The “visible light” images that Hubble produces are often made at wavelengths that we actually don’t really quite see at, such as near UV and deep red. Maybe you didn’t realize that the iconic Hubble Deep Field image was made with four filters, out of which only two were “visible light”. JWST will actually be capable of imaging at 600nm, which IS visible light. So although it isn’t as scientifically useful, JWST will do some visible light imaging.

    What servicing of Hubble will do is retain a wonderful observatory that has become of limited scientific use, and force large amounts of ops money to be spent on it that could be used for more scientifically productive instruments that can produce dazzling images themselves. Yes, Hubble was an amazing, wonderful telescope, but even amazing, wonderful telescopes eventually get obsolete. Even with servicing for Hubble, JWST will do what Hubble could never do.

    “Imagine shutting down the observatories atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii simply because of a worn out battery. That, in effect, is what we’re doing with Hubble.”

    No, it’s not. imagine shutting down observatories on Mauna Kea because they are no longer as scientifically productive as they used to be. The CFHT and UH telescopes are to be removed to make room for TMT. Your comparison with the Hooker telescope is amusing. That telescope HAS been shut down for most scientific purposes. The list of telescopes that used to be among the worlds largest and most productive, but are now obsolete, is a long one. The astronomical world wants to spend money on new, better, telescopes that we’re now spending on Hubble.

    If you want to think about the impact that human space flight could have on astronomy, you might pay some attention to the concepts for construction and servicing of large telescopes that would be deployed to Earth-Sun L2. In fact, one might have hoped that JWST would have been developed as a serviceable observatory. Look, in most cases, astronomical telescopes don’t really belong in LEO. LEO is a lot better than the ground, but it’s pretty crappy compared with other places further from the Earth where Hubble can’t go.

  • William Mellberg

    Alex wrote:

    “A commercial servicing of Hubble might make sense, but Orion? How much did the full bill on the last Shuttle servicing run? $500 million?
    Taken together these servicing missions have cost far more than simply building and launching another Hubble-sized telescope. When do we draw the line?”

    Alex, I appreciate your point. But the mission I suggest (via Orion, Dragon or whatever) would be (should be) less expensive than a Shuttle flight, and it is the sort of thing that ‘commercial’ space is supposed to do anyhow. What better way to prove their capabilities than to have a minimum cost Hubble servicing mission? I say “minimum cost” as only the batteries and gyros (and maybe the solar arrays) would need to be replaced. And the Work Module that I’ve suggested would be an open-frame truss affair (unpressurized) — the most expensive parts being the docking equipment at either end. If Orion and/or some commercial spacecraft can’t pull off that mission, then we might as well give up on human spaceflight.

    As for Hubble itself, as I said previously, would we shut down the Keck Observatory atop Maune Kea for the lack of a battery? Yes, Hubble has gobbled up lots of money. But with all of that money sunk into the telescope, why not sink a little more to get five more years of use out of it? Hubble is the world’s greatest astronomical observatory and worth saving if the mission can be done at a reasonable cost. What a way to demonstrate the value of “commercial” space.

    As for the cost of building and launching another Hubble telescope …

    May I point out that the current Hubble Space Telescope is not the same HST that was launched 20 years ago. Each of those servicing missions has upgraded the instruments and cameras so that the current Hubble Space Telescope is essentially “new” in that the technology is new. Only the tube and mirror remain the same. Servicing the HST was always a part of the program for the very reason that it would be cheaper in the long run than building and launching a new telescope every five years. Hubble is being abandoned not because it’s outlibed its uselfulness, but because the Space Shuttle is being retired.

    Other than the Apollo Program and some of the unmanned planetary missions, it is difficult to imagine any NASA program that has produced more genuine science than the Hubble Space Telescope. It is, as I said, the world’s greatest astronomical observatory — in part because it HAS been ungraded with each of the servicing missions.

    How much is pure science worth to society? That’s for the taxpayers to decide. But they’ve gotten a lot more bang out of their buck with the Hubble Space Telescope than they have with the International Space Station (in terms of scientific return).

    Personally, I think Hubble is worth saving. But that’s just my opinion.

    For the record, I’m a lifetime amateur astronomer. So I guess I’m biased.

  • William Mellberg

    William Mellberg (yours truly) wrote:

    “It is, as I said, the world’s greatest astronomical observatory — in part because it HAS been ungraded with each of the servicing missions.”

    Oops! ‘Ungraded’ should have read ‘upgraded’ … an obvious typo, although ‘n’ isn’t near ‘p’ on my keyboard. Butterfingers, I guess.

  • William Mellberg

    Doug Lassiter wrote:

    “Your comparison with the Hooker telescope is amusing. That telescope HAS been shut down for most scientific purposes. The list of telescopes that used to be among the worlds largest and most productive, but are now obsolete, is a long one. The astronomical world wants to spend money on new, better, telescopes that we’re now spending on Hubble.”

    I figured someone would nail me on that one. But I like to mention the Hooker telescope since its objective (100-inch) is similar in size to the Hubble Space Telescope, and since Hubble (Edwin) did so much important work with it. Of course, one of the reasons the Hooker is no longer useful is its location overlooking Los Angeles. There wasn’t quite as much light pollution (putting it mildly) when George Ellery Hale first climbed the trails to the top of Mount Wilson a century ago.

    As for the Hubble Space Telescope’s usefulness, I cannot deny that the JWST will be a superior instrument — even if it cannot be serviced should it fail. But what if it does fail? Wouldn’t it be nice to still have Hubble working? And my proposal was meant partly as a test mission for either Orion or a commercial spacecraft. There will be orbital test flights in any case. Why not send one of them a little higher to extend the life of Hubble?

    If, on the other hand, extending Hubble’s life would eat up operational funds for newer and better telescopes … well, I guess that’s a call for the scientific community to make. But I know at least one professional astronomer (from UC-Berkeley) who would like to see Hubble’s life extended through 2020 — which my proposed servicing mission could do. That said, I do not deny that operating Hubble would be costly. And, as I mentioned previously, the funding isn’t there for extended HST operations or another servicing mission.

    Yet, I’m reminded that the decision to retire the Space Shuttle in 2010 was made, in part, by the decision to have Orion and Ares I operational by 2014. The Space Shuttle was being sent to pasture to free up funds for Constellation. After this coming year, we’ll have neither.

    The James Webb Space Telescope cannot be serviced. If it fails — and if Hubble isn’t serviced one more time — we’ll have neither.

    Of course, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that JWST is a great success and that the treasure trove of discoveries it returns will be even grander than the ones we’ve had from Hubble.

    Finally, as for my comments about Hubble’s visible light images, the public is largely unfamiliar with Chandra and Spitzer. It’s the Hubble images that have grabbed their attention and wound up in coffee table books. But your point about the superior resolution of Webb images is a good one, and I’m looking forward to seeing its view(s) of the Universe!

  • DCSCA

    Dave Huntsman wrote @ November 28th, 2010 at 8:33 pm
    Wrong. Governments have been flying people into space for half a century. Musk has flown nobody. He has not launched, orbited and safely returned a crewed a spacecraft to earth. And it appears he won’t be for several years to come– if at all. He’s tilting at windmills and his statement is simply bogus.

  • DCSCA

    William Mellberg wrote @ November 28th, 2010 at 10:52 pm
    HST has shown itself to be a good investment, save the costs of on orbit repair flights. But it has been nicely upgraded and given its rocky start, has shown to be worth the investment for the science community. Might as well ‘run it into the ground’ as it were. Webb is a victim of bad timing. It’s an obtuse project to be drawing off increasingly limited resources in the Age of Austerity.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “The James Webb Space Telescope cannot be serviced. If it fails — and if Hubble isn’t serviced one more time — we’ll have neither.”

    Your point about JWST failing is an excellent one, though the answer may be to invest in ambitious new telescopes that will see new things, rather than prop up old ones. Hubble isn’t exactly an antique, but given the advancements in our technology, we can do a lot better. Spending hundreds of missions of dollars per year to “run it into the ground” is laughable. As to running Hubble until 2020, sure. That would be great. Except it’s a zero sum game. What you spend to make that happen, you don’t spend on doing new things that offer more scientific return.

    JWST is hugely expensive, and very complicated. Has JWST crossed a line of complexity for telescopes that offer no recourse in case of failure? Many think so. You’d think the astronomy community would have learned it’s less with Hubble. But equally ambitious telescopes have been proposed, and almost none have considered human servicing.

    Now, with that said, it should be understood that human space flight has, thus far, offered no credible capabilities for servicing telescopes outside of LEO. Grand plans do not equal credible capability. When the human space flight community gets its act together the astronomy community will probably take notice. When JWST was going to cost $1B, human servicing would have looked expensive. When it’s a $10B project that fails, it might not look that way anymore.

  • William Mellberg

    @ Doug Lassiter:

    Let’s just keep our fingers and toes crossed that all goes well with Webb’s launch, insertion and deployment. If it all works as planned, JWST will obviously be the world’s greatest observatory. Your point about its resolving power is quite exciting — especially when I think about the difference between my old 3-inch Newtonian (that I used as a kid) and my 8-inch Meade SCT (which is vastly superior to that first telescope). Yes, the Webb Telescope will give us an extraordinary new view of the Universe — looking deeper into Time and Space than we have ever seen before. I can appreciate your enthusiasm!

  • Coastal Ron

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 8:17 am

    Now, with that said, it should be understood that human space flight has, thus far, offered no credible capabilities for servicing telescopes outside of LEO.

    I would agree that we’re still a ways away from doing that, but there are alternatives to consider – there are a number of capabilities being debated that could provide a solution.

    For the JWST, if it were serviceable (too late now), then a future tug could be sent out to grab it and return it to LEO for servicing. That servicing could take place at the ISS (attached or floating nearby), or at a “construction shack” type facility in LEO. LEO servicing would be doable using the ISS commercial crew capability, and only a work platform (like Mellberg’s suggested Work Module) would need to be built for the task.

    So the capabilities for servicing just about any satellite would entail:

    - ISS LEO commercial crew transport
    - Satellite Tug (based on existing technologies)
    - Repair Work Module (based on existing technologies)

    In fact, I would think that the Soyuz might even be a better crew transport for such a mission, because it has it’s own airlock. However, if a Repair Work Module was to include some sort of airlock off the docking port, then CST-100 or Dragon would be just fine.

    Although there is no need for this type of servicing yet, it is the type of work that the commercial crew industry will count on to help expand the market for their services, and the overall demand for more and more people in space.

  • I would like to provide a more accurate summary of Lockheed Martin and NASA’s proposed goal for a 2013 Orion flight test. The flight test is designed to test Orion for exploration mission capability beyond low Earth orbit (LEO) and is in no way a launch vehicle test. In fact, the launch vehicle that would be used is as close to a standard launch service configuration as possible and there is no NASA objective for this Orion flight test that would require any human rating modifications to the launch vehicle. Its focus is on testing the multipurpose crew vehicle (MPCV) capabilities and systems only and capturing valuable data for NASA’s test objectives for the MPCV. Targeting 2013 for this Orion flight test allows us to fully support Orion IOC as called for in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 approved by Congress and signed by the President. Ultimately, Orion will fly on the launch system determined by NASA. As Orion progresses, it’s absolutely vital for the nation to move forward on a NASA-developed heavy lift vehicle as a goal for 2016, called for in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. The HLV is critical to supporting space exploration missions beyond LEO and is key to maintaining U.S. leadership in space if we are to advance technology and explore destinations beyond LEO, such as Earth-Moon Lagrange points, asteroids, and Mars.

    John Karas
    VP & GM for Human Space Flight
    Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company

  • Martijn Meijering

    Well, that’s an interesting surprise, a LM VP finding the time to enter a discussion on a space blog. I’m not sure if this is a good sign or a bad one… Mr Karas, if it is indeed you (we’ve had some wacky types using false names), then your presence is most welcome.

    As Orion progresses, it’s absolutely vital for the nation to move forward on a NASA-developed heavy lift vehicle as a goal for 2016, called for in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010.

    I would respectfully suggest the onus is on you to explain exactly why the HLV is necessary, let alone vital.

    The HLV is critical to supporting space exploration missions beyond LEO and is key to maintaining U.S. leadership in space if we are to advance technology and explore destinations beyond LEO, such as Earth-Moon Lagrange points, asteroids, and Mars.

    If this is true, then much that has been written by space visionaries going back as far as von Braun and Tsiolkovsky is wrong. The Decadal Planning Team must have been wrong, the OASIS team must have been wrong, the IAA report by Huntress et al must have been wrong and ULA’s exploration architecture must have been wrong. A simple rocket equation level analysis suggests that propellant transfer combined with existing EELVs is more than enough to do extensive exploration inside the Earth moon system, including the lunar surface. If there are subtle snags that have escaped the notice of many eminent aerospace professionals then it seems prudent to investigate the matter closely before rushing headlong into a very expensive launch vehicle development program.

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