NASA, Other

Deficit commission quietly edits a recommendation

Most readers are familiar with a proposal by the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to cut NASA’s commercial crew development program, saving $1.2 billion a year. That generated criticism in some circles, including a strong response from the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. However, it appears the commission co-chairs (or, more likely, their staffs) have quietly edited that proposed cut.

The original version of the recommendation, as seen in this cached copy of the original document listing all the proposed cuts, reads as follows:

24. Eliminate funding for commercial spaceflight. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans to spend $6 billion over the next five years to spur the development of American commercial spaceflight. This subsidy to the private sector is costly, and while commercial spaceflight is a worthy goal, it is unclear why the federal government should be subsidizing the training of the potential crews of such flights. Eliminating this program would save $1.2 billion in 2015.

The same recommendation in official version of the document, on the commission’s web site, now reads as follows:

24. Eliminate funding to private sector for spaceflight developments. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans to spend $6 billion over the next five years to invest in private sector development of space transportation capabilities, which NASA plans to competitively purchase once available. Eliminating this program would save $1.2 billion in 2015.

The title of the recommendation has changed (from “for commercial spaceflight” to “to private sector for spaceflight developments”). The text of the revised recommendation is also much shorter, and is missing the odd rationale of the original (claiming that the funding would be “subsidizing the training of the potential crews”; the funding was actually proposed for vehicle development). The header of the official document indicates the update was made on November 12, two days after its initial release, but no other details about the change (or even that this particular recommendation had been changed) are posted.

The overall recommendations were made by the commission’s co-chairs, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. The full 18-member bipartisan commission is due to vote on a final report no later than this Wednesday, although any report released by the commission requires the votes of at least 14 commission members.

89 comments to Deficit commission quietly edits a recommendation

  • amightywind

    It doesn’t matter. It is a silly game. The deficit commission is a charade that continues because the 111th congress and the President abdicated their budgeting responsibility.. Its makeup by party is not representative of the new congress. There are too many democrats. The proposed 75% spending cuts and 25% tax increases are not good enough for Tea Partiers out for blood. The budget should be balanced on spending and entitlement cuts alone. My guess is the ISS resupply mission will be preserved in some form, sadly. It is not that program that I find irksome as much as the frivolous waste that is ISS itself.

  • These guys still don’t get it. The $1.2 billion is to reduce the gap in which we’re reliant upon the Russians and Soyuz to reach the ISS. If Soyuz has an accident, we have no other way to go to/from the ISS.

    Perhaps they’d prefer the Bush Administration’s plan which was simply to decommission the ISS in 2015 and be done with it. Then we have no human spaceflight at all and the $100 billion in the ISS was wasted.

  • Bennett

    Why do I smell ATK in the air?

  • Coastal Ron

    Well at least they corrected the description – that should eliminate at least some FUD from Windy-like posters.

    However their recommendation is still like spending a dollar to save a nickel, in that they don’t understand that the goal is to lower NASA’s overall costs, which can only be done by creating a competitive commercial crew industry. Stopping the creation of the crew industry will only lock NASA into higher costs going forward, and with less money leftover for actually doing things in space.

    Oh well, two steps forward, one step back…

  • Gregori

    Degenerates.

    Eliminating this program will result on increasingly sending money to Russia for crew transportation because there is no way in hell the Orion/SLS will be ready to launch in 2016!!

    Being the only game in town, Russia will jack up its prices. That’s not xenophobia. Anybody in such a good position would do the same. Unless the US decides to play Russia against China for crew transport to reduce costs, but that has its own problems.

    They’re killing a nascent industry that has shown good successes for relatively small amounts of money in order to reward the failure of a huge program that’s been a total disaster, that people should have been fired for or at least demoted. Its pretty depressing. The lion’s share of the commercial spaceflight will probably be outside of the US if they’re allowed to cut this.

    What would you rather, a really expensive program that produces one launcher/capsule very very late that can only be used by NASA or several different providers with different launchers/spacecraft that are cheaper, competing and can share assets with military/commercial space?

    Before anybody chimes in that its commercial space… and it should support itself from loans and investments…NO!!! That’s a nice ideology, but of no actual use in the real world. Some industries need to be jump started because very few individual private interests would try something so insanely risky. Rob Bigelow and Elon Musk happen to be lucky to be die hard visionaries with billions to throw at this, because its a personal quest for them….. but even they’re trying to get government funding to help this along. Spare capacity not bought by governments can then be sold to other interests… like other governments, corporations, universities, tourists, explorers.

    Besides, its not a fair charge since commercial companies currently make loads of money out of NASA, through different contractual arrangements already. Government “subsidizing” of private companies is not changing and is not likely to change in the near future. Merely what will be changing is who designs the systems, who operates them and what type of contracts are signed. The whole point of the exercise is to use competition to lower prices. If we want to do great things in space, we’re going to have to start lowering the prices, dramatically.

    The private space experiment could be a total failure, but its never been really done before so its worth a try, just to see.

  • William Mellberg

    Someone on the staff obviously realized the errors in the original text and corrected them. But I was surprised to see one phrase removed:

    “While commercial spaceflight is a worthy goal …”

    Even though I’m a bit of a skeptic, I do believe commercial spaceflight is a worthy goal (if premature).

    Actually, the new wording makes commercial spaceflight sound even more worthy:

    “The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans to spend $6 billion over the next five years to invest in private sector development of space transportation capabilities, which NASA plans to competitively purchase once available.”

    That one sentence does a better job of explaining “commercial” space in a few words than anything I’ve heard from the Obama Administration or NASA HQ. At least it makes commercial space sound good to me! The proponents ought to latch onto that line — even if it’s being used by opponents to defund commercial space.

  • DCSCA

    “This subsidy to the private sector is costly, and while commercial spaceflight is a worthy goal, it is unclear why the federal government should be subsidizing the training of the potential crews of such flights.”

    The word play means little. The trial balloon has been floated and the truth tied to it has been heard. Don’t kid yourself– this is a lavish luxury Uncle Sam cannot afford to subsidize. Private capital markets are the place to source funding for commercial space ventures, not the U.S. Treasury. The subsidies are in play and the government will be increasingly forced to justify what it spends as long as it is borrowing 41 cents of every dollar spent.

  • Anne Spudis

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ November 28th, 2010 at 8:35 pm [Perhaps they’d prefer the Bush Administration’s plan which was simply to decommission the ISS in 2015 and be done with it. Then we have no human spaceflight at all and the $100 billion in the ISS was wasted.]

    The Bush’s Administration’s plan was not to let the ISS drop into the ocean. Rather, our control of ISS would be transferred to international partners, as well as leaving commercial interest with a good target for their pursuits of space access and development. There would be time prior to the 2016 transition over to the Moon program for experiments to be completed.

  • NASA Fan

    Commercial space flight is a worth goal. And should be funded by commercialists, not the US taxpayer through NASA.

    Industry sometimes needs a jump start, Yes. But not with HSF. While tourism in space holds promise, it is not generating substantial investments by commercialists to develop human space flight worthy LEO systems, such that we see HSF LEO commercial capability on the horizon.

    Only because NASA has the ISS up and in need of resupply, with the Shuttle ending, is there a market for commercial HSF. But once ISS goes splash, there is no market beyond that.

    Pay the Russians for a few flights of US Astronauts till 2020, end the ISS, and be done with HSF funded by the U S taxpayer.

    Meanwhile, let commercialists seek out their own capital to develop HSF capability for space tourism.

    The deficit cutting crowd won’t make a difference with what they are up to, no matter the language or text in their plans. It’s a poor band-aid on a life threatening wound.

  • amightywind

    Perhaps they’d prefer the Bush Administration’s plan which was simply to decommission the ISS in 2015 and be done with it. Then we have no human spaceflight at all and the $100 billion in the ISS was wasted.

    Deorbiting ISS was the best part of the Bush plan. Preservation of ISS is the most destructive consequence of Obamaspace. The $100 billion is already wasted. There is no research that those silly astronauts marooned there can do to change that. We now have a zombie program with neither a space transportation system nor meaningful activity in space.

  • Jeff,
    Yeah, I saw that when I tried to dig up a quote a week or two ago for a thread on NASASpaceflight.com. Now that they ditched the language that make them look like totally clueless idiots, I’d be interested in knowing what their current argument for ditching commercial crew is.

    ~Jon

  • I read again last night through the Aldridge Commission report which was issued in June 2004. This was the commission appointed by President Bush to explain how to implement and finance his Vision for Space Exploration.

    The report is very loud and clear about the need to transfer government-financed Low Earth Orbit access to commercial, as well as the need to fundamentally restructure how NASA does business.

    There’s no doubt the government needs to reduce the deficit, but before they cut they need to understand what they’re cutting and why. The deficit pruners will be looking at low-hanging fruit first, and NASA is definitely low on the list of national priorities. All this recommendation will do is keep us beholden to the Russians for a few more years. The commercial sector will continue quite nicely, with or without NASA.

  • Vladislaw

    Anne Spudis wrote:

    “The Bush’s Administration’s plan was not to let the ISS drop into the ocean. Rather, our control of ISS would be transferred to international partners, as well as leaving commercial interest with a good target for their pursuits of space access and development. There would be time prior to the 2016 transition over to the Moon program for experiments to be completed.”

    Where did you come up with that Anne? The space station program manager seems to disagree with you.

    “In the first quarter of 2016, we’ll prep and de-orbit the spacecraft,” says NASA’s space station program manager, Michael T. Suffredini.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/12/AR2009071201977.html?hpid=topnews

  • Justin Kugler

    The proposal is still wrong, though, because its numbers are based on the original FY2011 budget proposal, not what was in the 2010 authorization act.

  • Space Cadet

    The idea to transfer the station to the international partners was floated. But the partners were not interested, as their agencies lack the budget resources to maintain the station without the US.

  • amightywind

    Nice related article by Foust on SpaceReview. There is clearly reluctance on the part of the NASA leadership to comply with the SDLV development. The question persists into another year. If Ares I is gone (and I’m only 50% sure it is) how will the US launch Orion? Will the NASA leadership survive the transfer of power in the House?

  • Will the NASA leadership survive the transfer of power in the House?

    Fortunately, there’s nothing the House can do about NASA leadership. Orion can be launched on a Delta IVH, if it survives (not that it should).

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 2:06 am

    “The word play means little. The trial balloon has been floated and the truth tied to it has been heard. Don’t kid yourself– this is a lavish luxury Uncle Sam cannot afford to subsidize”

    if that is accurate then the simple reality is that there is NO human spaceflight. Commercial ops for NASA personel is the cheapest and only really affordable alternative. If thats not affordable then no HSF is affordable.

    Robert G. Oler

  • byeman

    There is no “if”, Ares I is gone. SDLV does not have to use solids.
    The power transfer in the House has no bearing on NASA leadership. The NASA leadership works at the pleasure of the President and not Congress. Congress can not “fire” the NASA administrator.

  • Vladislaw wrote:

    Where did you come up with that Anne? The space station program manager seems to disagree with you.

    A quick Google shows Mr. Suffredini said that to the Augustine Commission, but I found other articles which clarified that the working agreements between the ISS partners expire in FY 2016.

    In any case, if you look at the Bush administration’s Vision Sand Chart from January 2004 you see that they project the end of ISS funding to pay for Constellation. Under Bush, the optimistic scenario appeared to be that we’d simply walk away from our investment and let the other partners do with it what they want. The only access would be via Soyuz.

  • Vladislaw

    Space Cadet wrote:

    “The idea to transfer the station to the international partners was floated. But the partners were not interested, as their agencies lack the budget resources to maintain the station without the US”

    I had read an article on a russian web site where the russians and europeans were looking at disconnecting their modules and just allowing the U.S. part to deorbit and use theirs for a spaceship construction platform.

    I dug around but couldn’t find the article but here is the site link
    http://www.russianspaceweb.com

  • Justin Kugler

    It wouldn’t be quite that simple, though, Vladislaw. The US owns Zarya, which would be required for Columbus to dock with the Russian Segment.

  • Vladislaw

    “Under Bush, the optimistic scenario appeared to be that we’d simply walk away from our investment and let the other partners do with it what they want. “

    I highly doubt that was ever a real consideration, there is no way the U.S. would donate hardware to Russia that we spent 50 billion for and another 50 billion to launch it into LEO. America would have deorbited it before giving it to anyone.

  • amightywind

    Under Bush, the optimistic scenario appeared to be that we’d simply walk away from our investment and let the other partners do with it what they want.

    The decision showed wisdom and courage. ISS is useless a research platform in a bad orbit. The technological challenge of assembling it is over. Its use as a vehicle for international cooperation has failed. All of the naive, Clinton era hopes for Russia political reform are dashed. And yet ISS it still consumes 25% of NASA’s budget and hobbles our future exploration plans. Lunacy.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    @ almightywind,

    In terms of the plan in the authorisation bill, the Orion (or MPCV as it is now known) would be launched on the SLS, which would be a 70t IMLEO medium-heavy lift rocket. Nothing similar to the Ares-I in concept is envisaged as Orion will be exclusively for BEO and won’t need a LEO-only launch vehicle.

  • Anne Spudis

    Vladislaw wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    I don’t see the word “Constellation” on the sand chart. Note the sand chart is titled: “Strategy Based on Long-term Affordability.”

    Mike Griffin decided to go with his preferred architecture the Ares rockets, which threw VSE affordability out the window.

    We shouldn’t throw the baby (VSE) out with the bathwater (Constellation/Ares).

  • Anne Spudis

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    [Replied to wrong poster earlier]

    I don’t see the word “Constellation” on the sand chart. Note the sand chart is titled: “Strategy Based on Long-term Affordability.”

    Mike Griffin decided to go with his preferred architecture the Ares rockets, which threw VSE affordability out the window.

    We shouldn’t throw the baby (VSE) out with the bathwater (Constellation/Ares).

  • Coastal Ron

    Anne Spudis wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    We shouldn’t throw the baby (VSE) out with the bathwater (Constellation/Ares).

    As usual, you are myopically focused on only 1/4 of the VSE – the part that mentions the Moon. As it turns out, that part (returning to the Moon by 2020) cannot be attained in today’s budget environment, so President Obama and the Congress are wisely ignoring that part of the VSE. And don’t get too emotional about it, because Bush ignored the 2020 date too.

    But President Obama is proceeding with the rest of the VSE goals and objectives, which since you seem to forget them, are:

    - Implement a sustained and affordable human and robotic program to explore the solar system and beyond;

    - Develop the innovative technologies, knowledge, and infrastructures both to explore and to support decisions about the destinations for human exploration; and

    - Promote international and commercial participation in exploration to further U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests.

    Without the first two, any trips to the Moon will never be affordable, and the third helps to spread the costs even more, so in reality, the President’s goals are the right ones for now, and the right ones for the hard economic times we are in.

  • John G

    The commercialization of space makes it possible for individuals with fat wallets to get a flight, certainly, but the space industries real focus now days only seems to be creating the best satellite cameras to be able for people to access Google, zooming in on one’s own backyard and determine whether the grass needs to be cut or not. It’s more like “taking space down to the humans” rather than “Taking humans up to space”. Where are the grand visions?

  • amightywind

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    - Implement a sustained and affordable human and robotic program to explore the solar system and beyond;

    How tiresome. The solar system is crawling with US robotic missions. More are being launched all of the time. The robotic exploration program is in relatively good shape by any measure.

    - Develop the innovative technologies, knowledge, and infrastructures both to explore and to support decisions about the destinations for human exploration; and

    The ‘game changers’ again. Obamaspace was resoundingly rejected by congress and the public. What do you think has changed?

    - Promote international and commercial participation in exploration to further U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests.

    What US interests have ever been served by international cooperation in space? It is a canard, and an expensive one.

  • Martijn Meijering

    If it is true, as some have suggested, that a CR would allow NASA to exercise its existing SpaceX COTS-D option, then doing so as soon as possible would allow NASA to salvage something of the commercial crew option even if the commission’s recommendation becomes law.

  • Justin Kugler

    “Useless”? We’ve done over 600 experiments so far.

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/List.html

    This team doing research on muscular dystrophy would seem to disagree about the ISS being “useless.”

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/jaxa_gcf.html

    So would the researchers developing new method of delivering cancer-fighting drugs with increased accuracy.

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/pfms.html

    And I know the team working on the first human vaccine trials resulting from microgravity research would definitely disagree because we’ll be continuing the NLP-Vaccine and NLP-Cells series out through at least 2012.

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/nlpv2.html

    We haven’t even yet launched AMS or stood up the Non-Profit Organization that will administer the ISS National Lab, all of which is coming over the next year. We are just now entering the era of utilization on the ISS. It would be an incredible waste to throw away the only viable destination for human spaceflight in the foreseeable future right as it begins to come into its own.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Anne Spudis wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    We shouldn’t throw the baby (VSE) out with the bathwater (Constellation/Ares).

    this is what you, Paul, Mark Whittington and a lot of other people dont grasp.

    there is NO POLITICAL SUPPORT for VSE or anything that spends billions to try and explore any other planetary body with humans.

    One “might” could sell the effort if the equation were balanced toward something like “ten or more people go to the Moon and stay for under 2 billion a year”…and the total cost is in single billions tops…

    I dont even think one could sell that in the declining state of the US economy; but one surely cannot sell a multi decade hundred billion dollar effort to send a few folks to the Moon (or anywhere else) to do things that have no obvious payback to the American people.

    Who killed this was Bush the last. The right wing hero. If the US were in the same financial position it was in when Bush the last took office (ie surpluses, economy growing, almost full employment) then there might be a case for it. But tax cuts for millionares, two wars that have been done badly and cost a lot of money, an economy that is floundering…all killed the kind of spending that you folks advocate…ie spending without any real payback.

    When you figure that out you will have learned a lot.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Justin Kugler

    The laws of physics are what haven’t changed, amightywind. We cannot affordably explore the solar system with humans using chemical rocket propulsion alone. That’s why Apollo ended the way it did and that’s why Constellation was canceled.

    Besides, Ron is quoting the very VSE that Constellation was supposed to fulfill. This isn’t about Obama. It’s about learning how to get the most utility out of the relatively limited resources NASA has available. That is precisely why the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 included provisions for the very Space Technology research you so deride.

  • Jerry

    Instead of wasting taxpayer monies on Constellation, NASA should have already developed a reliable and cost effective crew and heavy lift vehicle before the Shuttle was retired. But instead NASA continues the reinvent game to essentially avoid responsible behavoir and then sheepishly pass that responsibility on to private/commercial entities who are barely off the blocks requiring just as much money (taxpayer) in developing the same thing.

  • byeman

    “The robotic exploration program is in relatively good shape by any measure.”

    No, it is not. We are in the middle of the “Griffin” gap. No missions have been launched since January and the gap will extend to August of next year for the east coast. The gap was due to Cxp sucking up all of NASA’s money

  • DCSCA

    byeman wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 3:02 pm
    “ We are in the middle of the “Griffin” gap.” No, we are ‘through the looking glass’. When the U.S. government has to borrow 41 cents of every dollar it spends, you’d better come up with a smart, persuasive position to justify your existence to the people who pay the freight. Because esoteric space probes the satisfy the curiosity of the few at the expense of the many are a luxury the U.S. cannot afford for the next few decades in the Age of Austerity.

  • Who killed this was Bush the last. The right wing hero.

    George W. Bush is a “right wing hero”? The George Bush who talked about “compassionate conservatism,” signed campaign finance, pushed through Medicare D, wrote an education “reform” with Ted Kennedy, ran up huge budget deficits, nominated Harriet Meiers for the Supreme Cour, tried to get amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants, etc.? That George Bush? Who knew?

    If the US were in the same financial position it was in when Bush the last took office (ie surpluses, economy growing, almost full employment) then there might be a case for it.

    When Bush took office, the economy was going into a recession, caused by the popping of the Clinton dot-com bubble. The tax-rate cuts helped, though, particularly after the blow to the economy of 911.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Not necessarily. And there’s always the Russian ride available. If NASA and/or its assets and space operations are consolidated and eventually absorbed into DoD down the road, the ‘wild blue yonder’ awaits. There’s always the possibility of adapting Orion to existing LVs once man-rated may survive but the window is closing on that pretty fast. Branson may be conducting the only commercial HSF operations from the U.S. in the near term. That’s where it will take root. But the cash crunch has begun. Wage freeze on U.S. civil servants announced by the WH today. Expect more cost cutting to come.

  • DCSCA

    byeman wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 12:02 pm
    “The NASA leadership works at the pleasure of the President and not Congress.” NASA leadership works? LOLOLOLOL It has no leadership. Justify your existence as an independent agency in the Age of Austerity now that the Cold War has been over for 20 years. Because consolidating space operations under the auspices of the DoD can save taxpayers a bundle.

  • For Justin Kugler … THANK YOU for posting the links to those ISS research pages. I’ve looked and looked and looked for a comprehensive list. Something like this should be on the front page of the NASA web site so people know what’s been accomplished there. Instead you have to tunnel way down and pretty much know where it is to find it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    no, that is far to gloomy. Musk and probably Boeing are in the short term going to fly humans to space…Virgin is going to fly humans suborbital and soon (5 years) to orbit.

    watch Robert G. Oler

  • Branson may be conducting the only commercial HSF operations from the U.S. in the near term.

    This is stupid. XCOR and Armadillo will probably be flying people into space before VG. There’s still no solid evidence that SpaceShipTwo has an engine.

  • Vladislaw

    “Because esoteric space probes the satisfy the curiosity of the few” and educate the many.

  • Coastal Ron

    Jerry wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    But instead NASA continues the reinvent game to essentially avoid responsible behavoir and then sheepishly pass that responsibility on to private/commercial entities who are barely off the blocks requiring just as much money (taxpayer) in developing the same thing.

    You alleged a lot in that, so I’ll break it down and address it in smaller chunks:

    sheepishly pass that responsibility on to private/commercial entities

    There is no sheepishness in what Obama/Bolden want to do. They want to move forward on getting NASA out of the LEO transportation business, and starting a commercial transportation industry to rely upon. We have always relied on the Russians for ISS crew transportation (Shuttle can only stay for 2 weeks max), so the problem has been in front of us for 10+ years. But only now does NASA have room in their (effectively) fixed budget to fund an alternative.

    who are barely off the blocks

    You must be alluding to SpaceX, because ULA (Boeing/Lockheed Martin) have been around forever. I can understand the skepticism for SpaceX, but I look at what they have done and are doing, and I think the trend is positive.

    For ULA, no one should doubt their ability to do what NASA needs, as they are the premier rocket entity in the U.S. – far more so than NASA, who hardly has any real employees involved in the nuts & bolts of launching rockets these days (mainly handled by USA – Boeing & LM again).

    Maybe you should just cheer for ULA/Boeing/LM, but don’t diss the race just because you don’t like one of the competitors.

    requiring just as much money (taxpayer) in developing the same thing.

    I have to say that that is an ignorant statement. NASA was going to be spending close to $40B to develop a “man-rated” competitor to Delta IV Heavy (Ares I), whereas all ULA says they need to “man-rate” Delta IV Heavy is $1.3B.

    For resupplying the ISS, NASA will be paying Orbital Sciences and SpaceX far less per pound than what the Shuttle cost for the same supplies. Yes, the Shuttle can deliver much bigger loads, but the supplies it takes up in the MPLM max out at 8,000 kg. As a comparison, the Shuttle costs at least $93,750/kg, whereas Dragon (6,000 kg capacity) will cost $22,222/kg.

    If NASA wants to replace Soyuz with an American alternative after 2015, then SpaceX has stated that with $300M they can add the features to “man-rate” Dragon, and they would charge $20M/seat to LEO. Doing some simple math, and assuming that NASA rents out a Dragon for the full price for just 3 crew ($140M or $46.7M/seat), SpaceX would be the same cost to NASA as Soyuz after 5 years, and even cheaper if the Soyuz price goes up after 2015 (likely). So in this case SpaceX would be far less expensive than Soyuz, because the costs would be the same, but the dollars would stay in the U.S. and generate jobs and tax revenue domestically.

    In no way can NASA build and operate a transportation system that would be less expensive than commercial alternatives. If you disagree, maybe you could provide some specific details like I provided.

  • Justin Kugler

    Stephen, we’ve been working on that. The Station front page has recently been redesigned to make it easier to navigate and get to those links, at least. :)

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 3:49 pm
    Stop issuing press releases. Musk has flown nobody and Dragon remains unproven having never been successfully crewed and launched, orbited and recovered safely. Boeing has a nothing ready to fly as well. Branson wil lbe flying people first. He’ll be putting folks suborbitally up into space (which Musk should have done to expand his investor base) soon and both his space vehicles and carrier craft are are ready. His orbital ops are forthcoming as well. He knows his market and has an incrimental approach that is sound and wise. Commercial HSF will take root with him. The DoD will absorb NASA eventually and government space ops will consolidate there- including future HSF ops.

  • Justin Kugler

    DoD will not absorb NASA. That would be contrary to law and require the military to take on tasks that it is neither suited for nor that it wants.

  • DCSCA

    @Jerry wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 2:54 pm
    What NASA should– and could- have done is built Orion first and flown it on existing LVs while winding down shuttle, minimizing any ‘gap’ or simply overlapping programs as shuttle wound down and Orion ramped up. It would have been difficult to terminate it then and the battle would have centered on HLV development instead. But Orion would have been flyin’. Just another example of poor managment at weak planning at NASA.

  • Egad

    @Justin Kugler

    A suggestion for the ISS science page(s): Break out a list of the station science activities that have resulted in papers published in peer-reviewed journals, presentations at professional society meetings or patents.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    you can believe what you want to believe, it is still a free country, but if you really believe what you are saying about Musk, you dont have a very mature notion of technology and corporate product development.

    Musk is late, he is repeatedly late on his deadlines, that would be of consequence if the product did not eventually get there…and it does. Musk is going through with his Falcon 9 series almost the same development blueprint that Boeing went through on the Model 299…and that blueprint is typical of people who are developing a product AND a company structure at the same time.

    This is not (thankfully) a unique event. Rutan, Armadillo, Masten and some others are going through, at different orders of magnitude the same pattern; which is reaffirming my faith in the American R&D cycle.

    You are free to be gloom and doom and a naysayer, but in the end; you will be wrong and I correct and thats what almost always happens ….sorry…Imperial Hubris! (grin)

    Robert G. Oler

  • amightywind

    Justin Kugler wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 4:02 pm:

    Stephen, we’ve been working on that. The Station front page has recently been redesigned to make it easier to navigate and get to those links, at least.

    The cost of the ISS is misaligned with the value of research projects conducted on it by orders of magnitude.

    2010 Total NSF Budget: ~$7 billion
    2010 ISS Budget: ~$5 billion

    ISS makes Amtrak look like a thriving enterprise. It is a fiscal outrage.

  • Justin Kugler

    You’re not making an apples-to-apples comparison and you know it, amightywind. It is a fundamental microgravity science, space environment, and exploration technology research platform. There’s nothing else like it. We’re still figuring out how to get the most value out of it. You’d rather throw that opportunity away on an even more expensive repeat of the Apollo program. You’re no fiscal conservative.

  • Vladislaw

    amightywind wrote:

    “2010 ISS Budget: ~$5 billion

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/344612main_Agency_Summary_Final_updates_5_6_09_R2.pdf

    If you look at page 4 the ISS budget is 2.267 billion, I don’t know where you are getting your numbers.

  • Justin Kugler wrote:

    Stephen, we’ve been working on that. The Station front page has recently been redesigned to make it easier to navigate and get to those links, at least.

    Thanks … This is been a big concern of mine (and others). There needs to be a page right up front on the NASA web site that makes it clear what has already been discovered on the ISS, what are the benefits, have there been “cures” or technological breakthroughs or whatever else is tangible enough so the taxpayer sees a monetary benefit. “We found a planet around a star” is nice but the average person more easily relates to “we found a cure for cancer.”

    We all know the other reasons, e.g. learning all about the consequences of long-term human presence in space, but the average person doesn’t care because it doesn’t affect their lives.

  • William Mellberg

    Robert G. Oler wrote:

    “there is NO POLITICAL SUPPORT for VSE or anything that spends billions to try and explore any other planetary body with humans.”

    Mr. Oler, America’s commitment to Human Space Exploration beyond Low Earth Orbit was directed by Congress in the NASA Authorization Bills of 2005 and 2008. Congress was controlled by the Republicans in 2005 and by the Democrats in 2008. Both parties supported America’s return to the Moon. And unless I heard him wrong on April 15th, President Obama’s new space policy supposedly commits this country to manned asteroid missions and human trips to Mars. Of course, there is no firm commitment from the Obama Administration to any specific goal or target. But there was certainly the suggestion in his remarks that humans should explore other planetary bodies with humans. Unfortunately, those dreams have been dashed by others who have their own dreams of flying into Low Earth Orbit … at taxpayers’ expense. Clearly we have lost what Bush 41 used to call “the vision thing.”

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 4:47 pm
    Re-Musk-”…you dont have a very mature notion of technology and corporate product development.” Speak for yourself, and take a hard, sober look at SpaceX is at, particularly with respect to his public statements versus his non-existent human spaceflight record and static investment pool. It’s going no place fast. Branson is the future of commercial HSF.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    none of those things are very important. Whats important is what happens on or about Dec when at some point Musk will give it a go to orbit and return. He does that…its all over for the naysayers.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Bush the old never really had the “vision thing”, his predecessor and successor did…but in Human spaceflight there has not been much of a vision since Apollo and that vision was a one horse pony…land a man on the moon and return him safely and then its done.

    Sorry, you might see a grand Robert McCall vision of humans zipping around space; but few others do…and that includes me.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Branson is the future of commercial HSF.

    Why do you continue to repeat this idiocy, and ignore the companies that are building vehicles that actually have engines?

  • DCSCA

    William Mellberg wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 7:06 pm
    RE- ‘the vision thing.’ Was reviewing old videotapes recently from 1988- STS-26 material specificly. Same lament was being broadcast 22 years ago. There has been no coherent course set for America’s space program for decades. It’s been rudderless and adrift. And now that the resources are drying up, and government is borrowing 41 cents of every dollar it spends, the time has arrived to start scaling dreams ot match resources at hand for this era. Armstrong/Cerman/Lovell/Kranz/Kraft/Lunney et al., have enunciated the correct approach, but the funding is simply not on hand and their approach has to be reworked for the Age of Austerity. Orion should have been developed and flying now on existing LV instead of wasting resources on Ares.

  • Vladislaw

    I believe Elon Musk had the same “static” investment pool for Tesla Motors until he took it public and raised 800 million. I wonder what he will raise if and when he takes SpaceX public.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    DCSCA wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Pot calling the kettle black!!

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    DCSCA wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Musk has no interest in suborbital space and didn’t see the need to use it as a stepping stone since it would provide no useful data.
    There is no evidence whatsoever that Branson will be flying anybody beyond suborbital space in the near future.
    If anyone has any then feel free, but apart from a statement that they’re interested in CCDev Rd2, Virgin are focussed on getting their SS2 operational. SS3 was once touted as an orbital vehicle but that now looks like going to point to point suborbital.
    Cheers.

  • someguy

    DCSCA wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 3:35 pm
    DCSCA wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Would you stop talking thread after thread about folding NASA into the DOD?

    No such thing is going to happen, and even if it did, there would be no “wild blue yonder” awaiting after such an action.

    For unmammed space probes, in general these are a civilian scientific endeavor, not military, so the DOD has no interest, or even charter in law, to even do such a thing. How does Cassini studying Saturn help soldiers or national security at all? What would the DOD even do with JWST or the Mars rovers?

    As for manned missions, the military already gave up on that a long time ago: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manned_Orbital_Laboratory

    “The program was canceled by Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laird in 1969 after the estimated cost of the program had risen in excess of 1 billion dollars, and had already spent $300 million. It was determined the capabilities of unmanned spy satellites met or exceeded the capabilities of manned MOL missions.”

    If unmanned spy satellites were better than humans in 1969, how would people be any better than spy satellites that are built now with 40 more years of technological improvements?

    So, NASA projects in general have no applicability to the DOD at all. The ones that do have nothing to do with opening the frontier for manned exploration or settlement, or even robotic exploration in general. The only items that would be folded into DOD would be those parts that actually address a national security need, like the space weather satellites that monitor for solar flares that could affect spy satellites, and such things like that.

    Any parts folded into the DOD would not have any “wild blue yonder” awaiting, but would just be absorbed and pretty much never heard from again. Maybe they would just be internally cancelled.

    HSF would be outright ended.

    So, option 1, NASA can be a good first customer and help pay for development of the product they want anyways, in which case everybody benefits. NASA gets what they need faster and cheaper, and private sector HSF can develop faster. There is ample precedent for this type of first-customer relationship in industry, and it is successful.

    Or, option 2, NASA can be a bad customer, and try to continue with their own super-expensive systems and long development times which are constantly subject to termination because of those two reasons, and the private sector suffers because they have to move slower because not as much money is available.

    Those are pretty much your two choices. Pick anything but those two, and there is no HSF at all. Pick option 2 (i.e., Constellation), and there is no HSF at all either because no one wants to pay a quarter trillion dollars for 4 people to go “somewhere”.

  • DasBoese

    For those who are in favor of abandoning the ISS (or at least the USOS)…
    I’m curious as to how you propose the technological and medical research needed for sustainable BEO operations take place without it?

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Unfortunately, those dreams have been dashed by others who have their own dreams of flying into Low Earth Orbit … at taxpayers’ expense.

    Well that was an enlightening statement.

    If you consider lowering the cost to access space as “dashing your dreams”, then maybe that’s a good dream to dash. Because if you don’t find a way to make space travel affordable, then you’ll never get enough money from the American Taxpayer to fund your Moon dreams.

    Concerning the part about “at taxpayers’ expense”, the only commercial funding proposals being talked about are related to the Congressionally supported International Space Station. And those proposals deal with how to lower the cost to support the ISS. Do you think that is bad?

    Honestly, you “Moon First” groupies don’t seem to realize how much money it’s going to take to get humans back to the Moon. You seem to forget why Constellation was enthusiastically cancelled by Congress. It had nothing to do with the worthiness of the goal, but everything to do with what it was costing.

    Until space transportation costs can be brought down to a reasonable level (and no one knows what the level is), then any effort by NASA to go BEO will never receive enough votes in Congress – not in today’s economic environment.

    Time to stop dreaming, and wake up to reality…

  • red

    William Mellberg: “Unfortunately, those dreams have been dashed by others who have their own dreams of flying into Low Earth Orbit … at taxpayers’ expense.”

    If you’re talking about potential customers of commercial crew vehicles, that’s bogus. Those exploration dreams were dashed by Griffin when he came up with Ares and Orion, and wiped out the Vision for Space Exploration plan: technology innovation, strong commercial and international participation, a line of robotic precursors, and so on. Unfortunately, Griffin tried to drag down other NASA areas like Aeronautics and Science in the process, too.

    The commercial crew effort has nothing to do with fulfilling the dreams of people who want to fly into Low Earth Orbit at taxpayer expense, no matter how many times the amightywinds and DCSAs of the world repeat things like that. The commercial crew effort is about developing affordable crew transportation services for NASA’s needs, such as accessing the ISS. Without affordable commercial crew operations, we are stuck with paying for the Russian Soyuz, and in some distant time in the future, paying outrageous amounts to fly the SLS and Orion to the ISS. In other words, we can’t afford those exploration missions unless we have commercial crew. Even Griffin said as much in the context of Ares I/Orion. The Vision for Space Exploration, Aldridge Commission, and Augustine Committee were all pretty clear about this.

    It’s possible that rich space tourists might be one of the commercial crew customers that end up helping NASA by sharing the costs to maintain affordable LEO access. However, I’d look first at other markets, like satellite and similar traditional launches for the rockets, ISS commercial cargo, “mini lab” flights on the spacecraft, cargo and crew transport for “sovereign client” commercial space station missions, and satellite servicing.

    In addition, even setting aside the possibility of those shared costs, commercial crew has a big edge over traditional NASA development because of the commercial “skin in the game”, fixed price contracts, and removal of certain types of cost plus oversight waste. Ares and Orion have already spent far more than the entire proposed NASA FY2011 commercial crew budget … you could even add the proposed NASA FY2011 robotic precursor mission budget through FY2015 for numerous Moon, NEO, and Mars missions, plus the NASA commercial cargo budget, and still not match the expense of Ares I and Orion so far … and after all these years and billions of dollars Ares I/Orion are still nowhere near operational flights.

  • DCSCA

    @someguy wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    You don’t get it. Your ‘civilian’ space program is dying before your eyes.

    NASA is a relic of the Cold War that ended over 20 years ago. It’s just not a luxury a nation so deep in debt can afford to maintain in its present form. The point is, per your example, try proposing a new space probe to study Saturn or whatever and it will be terminated if planned through the civilian space agency in the near future because it’s not justifiable in this economic climate. Military space ops at least have a chance of survival with the added shield of ‘national security’ and the DoD does what it is told to do by civilian authority. The point is, it’s probably the only chance to save any possibility of initiating the kind of space projects you covet. If DoD is instructed to operate space science research and HSF activities out of a consolidated division absorbed as a ‘NASA’ under its protective wing, it will do as its told. Recall the military believed it was going assume a large part of missile and space research in the late 50′s before NASA was created and those projects were taken from them. (Von Braun was Army and not keen on joining NASA at all initially; the Navy lofted Vanguard and the AF was conducting high altitude research throguh its famed X-series at the time.)

    High time you accepted the fact that the United States can no longer afford multiple space ops under different agencies duplicating facilities, research and personnel when it is borrowing 41 cents of every dollar it spends. The country can’t afford this anymore and the longer the nation waits to address this, the less chance any viable civilian space projects, which are a luxury, not a necessity, have of surviving deep, deep cuts or just elimination. Consolidation is the only way proponents of these costly projects- in work or proposed- have any chance of saving them from economic oblivion. It’s time space advocates from all points of the compass start scaling their dream to match the available assets at hand. The kind of costly, long term projects proposed under the current auspices of the civilian space agency in this economic climate appear increasingly obtuse or out right disconnected from the realities of the Age of Austerity.

    As to MOL, – it was a manned spy satellite project and the USAF didn’t ‘give up’ on it– it was cancelled due to its cost and the simple fact that automated spy satellites being built by ‘a competitive agency’ could deliver the same data cheaper and without risking crews.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 8:01 pm
    Nonsense. The only ‘flight test’ in this era that literally and figuratively carries any weight with savvy investors and ‘naysayers’ alike is launching a crewed Dragon, orbiting it successfully and returning crew and space vehicle safely to Earth. And the best estimate on that occurring is three years from now. NASA did it in 1962. Gagarin in ’61. To date, as of Nov. 30., 2010, SpaceX has flown nobody. And as we’ve seen, he keeps slipping schedules- something our government space agency already does quite well. As Cernan wisely noted, the don’t know what they don’t know yet… but it’s clear they’re learning– the hard way.

  • DCSCA

    @ red wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 11:33 pm
    “The commercial crew effort is about developing affordable crew transportation services for NASA’s needs, such as accessing the ISS.”

    Fine. The private capital markets await your pitch to investors. But asking the U.S. government to subsidize the luxury of ‘commerical’ space ventures when it has to borrow 41 cents of every dollar it spends is going to be a hard sell. We have two wars to pay for, decaying infrastructure in need ore rebuilding and then you’ll have to sell granny on why she is denied a COLA for Social Security and may have to take deep cuts in it along w/her Medicare, while space projects which satisfy an elite few remain flush. It’s a tough sell in the Age of Austerity.

  • DCSCA

    @amightywind wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 4:54 pm
    The ISS is the only turkey Americans have ever seen fly.

  • Brad

    Re Bush space policy:

    Bush had the balls to call for the end of the Shuttle in 2010 and the Space Station in 2016 rather than let those tar babies continue to trap NASA perpetually in LEO. NASA wouldn’t have a realistic budget for going beyond LEO as long as Shuttle and ISS continued to bleed NASA money.

    On the other hand Griffin most definitely drove NASA off the rails with his Project Constellation ATK porklauncher. Bush failed in his executive oversight of Griffin. Though one irony of Project Constellation was creation of the COTS cargo project to plug the gaps that the Constellation delays were creating. Griffin was counting on COTS to make up for the Constellation shortfall.

    Re Obama space policy:

    Rather than make real choices between alternative visions, Obama’s plan is a retreat to political euphemisms and unrealistic budgeting. The new plan includes absurd ambitions for BEO manned exploration without any significant money or programs to sustain those plans. Whereas the real money is now budgeted for LEO operations and projects including keeping ISS flying way beyond 2020.

    If the Obama plan had openly proclaimed abandoning manned BEO plans in favor of hunkering down in LEO for the indefinite future, that would at least be an honest policy position. And the merits of such a change in policy could be honestly debated. Instead the Obama plan pretends NASA can have it all, and for hardly any increase of money at that!

    NASA can fly ISS forever, and have HLV by 2020, and do a manned asteroid mission in 2025! All powered by Obama faerie dreams and pixie dust.

    The irony is the popular press, in the manner of the broken clock which is right twice a day, got the essence of the story right when it first reported the new Obama space plan; Obama cancels return to the moon! The Obama plan was rolled out in such a ham handed and incompetent manner that the papers didn’t see the subtlety of the Obama plan. The new plan really does abandon manned space exploration for the indefinite future, even though in theory, on paper, and on flights of moonbeams, the plan still says were going to some Asteroid. Real soon. Honest!

  • red

    DCSA: “The private capital markets await your pitch to investors”

    Why would private capital markets make investments to solve NASA’s problems? NASA’s the one that has the problem, not investors. NASA’s current management, the Vision for Space Exploration authors, the Augustine Committee, and so on all realize that a COTS-like commercial crew effort is the only way NASA can solve its problem.

    If NASA shows it’s serious about solving its Soyuz dependency problem with substantial skin in the game, then we can start thinking about investors.

    “But asking the U.S. government to subsidize the luxury of ‘commerical’ space ventures when it has to borrow 41 cents of every dollar it spends is going to be a hard sell. …”

    Commercial space isn’t a luxury for NASA. It isn’t a subsidy, either. It’s a service NASA needs, just like a government need to buy the addition of a new module to a commercial orbital mechanics software package or many similar situations. NASA is spending lots of money on Russian Soyuz rides. That’s unseemly, as Dr. Griffin would say.

    “Age of Austerity”

    NASA is still funding MSL. It’s still working on JWST. It’s planning extremely expensive SLS and MPCV efforts. Because of Congressional nonsense, It’s still wasting boat-loads of money on Constellation, even though that program is in effect dead. When NASA stops doing those things, then I’ll take the “Age of Austerity” seriously as far as NASA is concerned. But unless we also get rid of the ISS, NASA will still need commercial crew.

    If you get rid of MSL, JWST, SLS, MPCV, Constellation left-overs, and ISS, then sure, I won’t have any complaints about getting rid of commercial crew, too.

  • Brad

    “For those who are in favor of abandoning the ISS (or at least the USOS)…
    I’m curious as to how you propose the technological and medical research needed for sustainable BEO operations take place without it?”

    After 2016 (when the ISS should be abandoned) lease space on a Bigelow space station for such research. Or is sustaining the great white elephant ISS more important than supporting private LEO space ventures?

  • MM_NASA

    I agree with canceling all funds for commercial spaceflight. We make it seem like that private sector is the only solution toward HSF. The whole premise of private aerospace companies is to make a PROFIT – so costs will be high whether it is LM/Boeing/SpaceX. NASA should be the only entity for HSF. They should be the main leaders in designing, developing and manufacturing all the space vehicles for HSF. Of course, some of the funds definitely need to be contracted out to private companies, but NASA should be the main overseers. This is one of the Space Agency’s main goals when it was first developed. They also have a LOT of experience in this area. I think it will be a tragedy for us to soley depend on commercial spaceflight and this may cost the lives of our future crew.

  • Dennis Berube

    NASA did some research years ago on using inflatables for space. I wonder how come they didnt figure it as working way back then, and costing less? they would have already been there, done that and moved on!

  • Justin Kugler

    Brad,
    When Bigelow actually builds and flies something that you can put people in, I’m sure NASA would be happy to lease space. Until then, the ISS is the only game in town and a Congressionally-designated National Laboratory. 2016 was an arbitrary date driven by the Constellation budget, not any analysis of needs and capabilities.

    Dennis,
    NASA was actually prohibited by Congress from continuing with the TransHab work because of lobbying from companies that wanted to catch up or saw the in-house inflatables work as competing with their own habitation module proposals. They’ve continued with research into alternative methods of developing inflatables, but there simply hasn’t been any money to build flight-spec modules.

  • Dennis Berube

    If the Delta is utilized to launch an unmanned Orion in a few years, the plan is to execute a test run of the heat shielding with a high speed re entry, as was done in the days of Apollo. Lets go for it!

  • Bennett

    MM_NASA wrote @ November 30th, 2010 at 7:28 am

    The whole premise of private aerospace companies is to make a PROFIT – so costs will be high whether it is LM/Boeing/SpaceX.

    1) The whole premise of LM, ATK, Boeing, ULA, and every other NASA contractor is to make a profit. Costs have BEEN high for the last 40 years.

    When NASA signs a fixed price contract with LM, Orbital, SpaceX, Boeing etc., the same engineers, welders, electronics techs, and fabricators do the work that delivers the product. NASA relies on these contractors to build what they develop. As far as LVs is concerned, NASA has FAILED to build a workable LV with cost-plus contracting.

    NASA should be the only entity for HSF. They should be the main leaders in designing, developing and manufacturing all the space vehicles for HSF.

    See #1 above.

    Of course, some of the funds definitely need to be contracted out to private companies, but NASA should be the main overseers. This is one of the Space Agency’s main goals when it was first developed.

    Nonsense. Stephen Smith has posted many times NASA’s Charter and nowhere does it charge NASA with “overseeing” Human Space Flight. Quite the opposite, actually. But you know that, Gary.

    They also have a LOT of experience in this area. I think it will be a tragedy for us to soley depend on commercial spaceflight and this may cost the lives of our future crew.

    They have more experience with killing astronauts than any other agency, company, or organization. So until CCDEV or COTS-D chalks up 14 kills, NASA really has no reason to point fingers, or to try and play the “fear card”.

    If given the choice between riding the Shuttle, or a CST100/Delta IV, I’d go with the one that hasn’t killed anyone yet.

  • Vladislaw

    MM_NASA wrote:

    “NASA should be the only entity for HSF. They should be the main leaders in designing, developing and manufacturing all the space vehicles for HSF.”

    According to a recent blog post of Wayne Hales, when NASA ordered the gemini capsule they gave the commercial aerospace contractor 2 1/2 pages of requirements that was the sum total of their “designing, developing and manufacturing” of that capsule.

    When they ordered the apollo capsule they gave the commercial aerospace contractor 24 pages of requirements that was the sum total of their “designing, developing and manufacturing” of that capsule.

    30 years ago they worked on the shuttle… so where is all this modern experince you think NASA has to “build” spacecraft? They don’t build much of anything when it comes to human spacecraft and never have.

    Using your logic, my chevy car dealership should be in charge of designing, developing and manufacturing cars, not any GM plant.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    Bigelow is currently human-loop testing their Sundancer Module for launch sometime in 2014. But they won’t launch until they’re assured of a crew service by someone, at this stage they’re betting on Boeing. Boeing needs gov’t funds to close it’s business case for the CST-100. Bigelow preferably wants 2 crew providers. The other logical one is SpaceX. SpaceX says gov’t funds would help reduce the timeline but they’re going ahead with or without those funds.

    When the above happens, then NASA is essentially out of the LEO HSF business. They can do whatever they and they’re international partners like with the ISS ’cause nobody will care. If they’re smart, they’ll put all they’re efforts into BEO and leave the LEO business to commercial.
    As Bigelow once said when asked about his competition, ‘no-one’. The Bigelow modules will be available for lease, have better performance and pricing than the ISS and essentially countries that have been locked out of the existing ISS setup due to the huge funds required, will be able to go to space and have a space program of their own. Bigelow doesn’t want one or two up there, he reckons on 10 to 20 and says he has the interest to justify that. He has EOIs from 6 countries already and he hasn’t got anything that’s human-rate flying yet. What will he get when he has??!! This will fire up interest in HSF all over again – like it hasn’t since Apollo days.

    SpaceX F1/Dragon flys in about 7 days. Elon reckons 60-70% chance of success. I’ll bet higher simply because they have delivered on everything so far. Maybe not on time, maybe for higher cost, but they have put new hardware in orbit. Something NASA failed to do over the last 30 years.

  • someguy

    DCSCA wrote @ November 30th, 2010 at 5:43 am

    You don’t get it. Your ‘civilian’ space program is dying before your eyes
    The point is, it’s probably the only chance to save any possibility of initiating the kind of space projects you covet.

    I don’t “covet” any space projects. I haven’t said anything about what I support in space.

    I am only addressing your point about NASA being folded into DOD, since you keep bringing it up, topic after topic after topic after topic after topic.

    NASA will become something like ESA or JAXA long before it becomes part of DOD.

    Any such projects like JWST or Hubble would be viewed as a waste of DOD resources that should go towards warfighting, and so they wouldn’t survive under DOD any better than now. All such projects would be cancelled to divert funding towards actual national security issues. There is absolutely no way to add a “national security” sticker to Cassini.

    So, even in this crazy alternate universe you speak of, folding NASA into DOD offers no hope to anyone of keeping robotic exploration or HSF alive.

    Military space ops at least have a chance of survival with the added shield of ‘national security’ and the DoD does what it is told to do by civilian authority.

    “Military space ops” have nothing to do with Cassini and friends.

    Also, there are some Constitutional limits on what the military is allowed to do. So, the civilian authority can’t just give the military any random task. It has to be related to national security somehow, and Cassini and friends in no way can be classified as national security assets.

    Recall the military believed it was going assume a large part of missile and space research in the late 50′s before NASA was created and those projects were taken from them.

    What’s your point? These were all defense-related items, which is why the military was doing it at all. But it is not going to go the other way, from NASA to DOD, unless it is defense-related somehow. Cassini, JWST, etc are not defense-related, so will not survive under DOD any better than at “luxury NASA”.

    As to MOL, – it was a manned spy satellite project and the USAF didn’t ‘give up’ on it– it was cancelled due to its cost and the simple fact that automated spy satellites being built by ‘a competitive agency’ could deliver the same data cheaper and without risking crews.

    Cancelling the one manned project the military had and then not starting another one for 40 years and counting sure qualifies as “giving up” to me. They gave it up because there was no point to it for them.

    And if by ‘competitive agency’ you mean NASA, NASA doesn’t build or operate any spy satellites. That is the job of the NRO, which is part of DOD.

    From http://www.nro.gov/index.html: “The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), located in Chantilly, Virginia, is one of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies. It designs, builds, and operates the spy satellites of the United States government…A DoD agency, the NRO is staffed by DoD and CIA personnel.”

  • Brad

    “When Bigelow actually builds and flies something that you can put people in, I’m sure NASA would be happy to lease space. Until then, the ISS is the only game in town and a Congressionally-designated National Laboratory.”

    For years now the Bigelow station has outpaced development of the private manned spacecraft that would serve it. Outpacing the very same spacecraft which supposedly will serve the ISS and which so many are now counting on.

    “2016 was an arbitrary date driven by the Constellation budget, not any analysis of needs and capabilities.”

    Nope.

    The 2016 date was driven by the limited future budget of NASA and international commitments NASA was obligated to follow. Project Constellation didn’t even exist when the decision was made that the ISS should end. Ending ISS was to help NASA prosper and not done for the sake of Constellation costliness.

    The fact is ISS absorbs a major fraction of the NASA manned space budget and it’s foolish to make ISS some kind of sacred cow. But sadly that seems the course both Obama and Congress are pushing for. Moo!

    Tragic.

  • Justin Kugler

    Brad, I work on the ISS program and know the people evaluating the Bigelow module. Several of my friends worked in the Houston Bigelow office before he got what he needed out of JSC and canned everyone. The module they are proposing to fly on the Station will be little more than a flight demonstrator, maybe useful for extra storage. There is no Bigelow station, not yet or for quite a while.

    I also worked on the Constellation Program before I took my current job. Constellation was a “program,” not a “project.” Ending ISS was planned precisely because of the costs of the follow-on program, whether it was called “Constellation” at the time or not. Remember the now-infamous “sand chart?” Beyond that, analysts at HQS estimated years ago that CxP costs would exceed those of Shuttle and Station and were ignored.

    The ISS is not a sacred cow. The fact remains, though, that it is the only viable destination for human spaceflight for the visible future and the only existing platform for long-duration microgravity research. I think it is penny-wise, pound-foolish to sacrifice that capability until we have a sustained exploration initiative underway and commercial platforms that can fill the niche.

    I used to think like you about ending ISS when I worked Constellation, but that was because I didn’t know how much we’re actually learning on the Station and the capabilities that are really only coming into their own just now. As soon as Constellation went off the rails, the assumption that ending the ISS was for NASA’s own good went out the window. You’re not looking at the bigger picture.

  • DCSCA

    @someguy wrote @ November 30th, 2010 at 11:18 pm
    You don’t get it. It’s a way of saving it. NASA is a vulnerable now as a turkey near Thanksgiving. DoD does what its told- and if it is told to operate space research and HSF to save $, it will salute and press on. Review the history of it in the late 50′s. They assumed they’d be doing it all then anyway. You’ll find the MOL program was cancelled by the Sec. of Def. at the direction of the WH. The AF was still planning for it literally as it was cancelled. PBS ran a piece on it a while back and soem of the pilots found in the press, others in middle of meetings.

  • byeman

    You don’t get it.

    1. The DOD would not take it. They would let it languish and die.
    2. MOL was canceled because the NRO found that it was not viable and unmanned systems were cheaper. To help you better understand this, MOL was an NRO program.

  • DCSCA

    @byeman wrote @ December 2nd, 2010 at 9:43 am
    You don’t get it- or you will have to learn a hard lesson. The Age of Austerity has begun. Civil Service wage freeze proposed. The DoD will salute and do as it’s told.

    You best review the origins of the programs which began your civilian space agency and do a little homework on the early days. Army, Navy and AF projects chiefly, with the budgets that go along with them and the DoD wasn’t too happy losing it all to NASA. Even Von Braun was an Army guy and balked at first at having to go to NASA and lose the resources available from DoD. MOL was an AF program. NRO pressed the satellites due to costs. Much is public record now- even PBS did a programme on it. Context matters- Vietnam was costing a fortune at the time as was MOL. It had to go– and did. Apollo budgets were slashed as well after 11.

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