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Senate hearing on implementation of NASA authorization act today

The Senate Commerce Committee is moving ahead with plans for a hearing this morning titled “Transition and Implementation: The NASA Authorization Act of 2010″. Presidential science advisor John Holdren is scheduled to testify initially, followed by a panel featuring NASA CFO Beth Robinson and GAO’s Cristina Chaplain and Susan A. Poling. The committee hasn’t released any other information about the hearing topics.

Florida Today is hoping that the hearing emphasizes the need to fully fund NASA in FY2011. $300 million, the approximate difference in the agency’s overall budget between 2010 and 2011, “is less than a pittance in the mammoth federal budget” the editorial claims, but for the agency “it’s a must-have down payment on its future.” However, as the Orlando Sentinel reports, “almost no one thinks NASA will get the full $19 billion” in the original budget proposal (and authorization act); the only question is how big the cuts are, and how they’re distributed.

127 comments to Senate hearing on implementation of NASA authorization act today

  • Anne Spudis

    It is difficult to measure the intent of Dr. John Holdren’s plans for the United States and NASA without commenting on his “past” writings on the U.S. as an economic powerhouse. Below he defends those positions by telling the questioner that if he had a problem with the book, he was misreading it. ????

    Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions

    Dr. Holdren said (see video linked below) that if you read it and have a problem with it, you were misreading it.

    [excerpt] Thursday, September 16, 2010 — In a video interview this week, White House Office of Science and Technology Director John P. Holdren told CNSNews.com that he would use the “free market economy” to implement the “massive campaign” he advocated along with Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich to “de-develop the United States.”

    In his role as President Barack Obama’s top science and technology adviser, Holdren deals with issues ranging from global warming to health care.

    “A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States,” Holdren wrote along with Paul and Anne H. Ehrlich in the “recommendations” concluding their 1973 book Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions.

    “De-development means bringing our economic system (especially patterns of consumption) into line with the realities of ecology and the global resource situation,” Holdren and the Ehrlichs wrote. [end excerpt]

    http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/75388

  • amightywind

    I am a little surprised the Whitehouse will let Holdren out in public. It is hard to imagine he has changed his 60′s radical stripes.

    In all likelihood NASA will be funded at 2008 levels. The agency is going to shrink. One only hopes that they will terminate unnecessary programs and not let HSF suffer any more than it has.

  • Ferris Valyn

    One only hopes that they will terminate unnecessary programs and not let HSF suffer any more than it has.

    Lets start by terminating SLS.

    there is more we can do from that,

  • “One only hopes that they will terminate unnecessary programs and not let HSF suffer any more than it has.”

    Agreed, Mighty. I think one major common ground between the Cx and the Obamaspace proponents is that a top line cut to HSF could be a disaster regardless.

    We could afford to drop the extra shuttle flight out, but that would just be cutting an expense that hasn’t been realistically put in the budget yet. There may be some room in the comspace request to trim a little without totally defeating the purpose. Cutting the HLV vehicle development would be a problem, however. I can’t see how that could be done without significantly delaying and/or dumbing down the HLV.

    “In all likelihood NASA will be funded at 2008 levels.”

    I think 2009 or 2010 levels are more likely. NASA and the White House should be able to make the case that cutting to 2008 levels would significantly hobble our space program.

    What will be interesting is to see how the battle lines are drawn. I’d expect that a lot of the critics of cutting Cx and investing in comspace will find themselves fighting for the other team to defend the top line budget.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Anne Spudis wrote @ December 1st, 2010 at 7:16 am

    all from someone (you) who cannot explain how lunar development changes the economy of the US, and yet advocates it.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Ferris Valyn

    Well, its clear

    We are watching a witchhunt in progress.

  • Scott Bass

    Wish there was a gold deposit found on the moon instead of water, we would probably be landing by next Christmas lol

  • amightywind

    What will be interesting is to see how the battle lines are drawn. I’d expect that a lot of the critics of cutting Cx and investing in comspace will find themselves fighting for the other team to defend the top line budget.

    It certainly will be interesting. A conservative congress will be embarrassed at the state of American spaceflight and will look somewhat further than the raving salesmanship of a billionaire on a lark. I predict the opposite and a return to the more traditional HSF program, hopefully cutting away the dead weight. Clearly the 2010 congressional revolt over NASA was a sign of that.

  • Ferris, you are so right, the purpose of this is to beat NASA senseless into spending on the pork, whatever the topline budget numbers, let anything actually useful go away.

  • Ferris, ha, you watching the same thing as me? Kinda seems like they’re just saying “are you going to follow the law?” “yes, we’re gunna follow the law.” over and over. And Sen. Nelson keeps saying “some people” without naming them. Yawn.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Trent – you don’t start with that question unless its an attempt to get them on record, so you can strike with a “gotcha” later.

    As for “some people” – thats anyone who supports Commercial Crew, and I can imagine some names.

  • “I predict the opposite and a return to the more traditional HSF program”

    The traditional path is a lot of things, both good and bad. What it certainly isn’t is cheaper. If we’re talking budget, and we are, we’re looking either scaled down space goals or more of the Cx era of grand promises and miniscule budgets. There is a chance commercial space will be jettisoned entirely, but given we’ve been aiming for commercial participation for literally decades under the leadership of both parties, and given that participation is literally sitting on the launchpad (at least as of tomorrow), I doubt they’ll cut it totally out.

    What really needs to be determined is where the feasibility line sits. Cx was under water. We simply weren’t giving it the funding to succeed reagardless of whether or not it was the appropriate path. Both the new HLV and commercial participation have a level where, if we go below it, they could both become rehashes of Cx.

    I’m sincerely hoping for commercial because if we get enough funding to even slightly boost commercial space we may just kick start a nascient industry. If we go with a traditional model we may or may not end up with a rocket or two, but even if we do, it will never be more than that; one or two rockets. And every single nut, bolt, and weld on that rocket will be dependent on precisely the congressional situation we’re seeing here.

    If we do get just the traditional model, I’ll do my best to view it for it’s merits and I think I’ll be at least marginally satisfied. But regardless I think we’ll be stuck with several more decades on one vehicle doing 80′s and 90′s (and 00′s) era space work. If we’re cut back to 2008 levels as you predict, we’ll be lucky to have the program we had in the 90′s.

  • I can’t see how that could be done without significantly delaying and/or dumbing down the HLV.

    Yes. Fortunately, though, an HLV is unnecessary.

  • Joe

    Ferris,
    An old quote (Will Rogers perhaps):

    “The trouble with Congress is every time they pass a bill they think it is a law.”

    The House and Senate (still overwhelmingly controlled by the Democrats) passed the Authorization Bill and President Obama signed it into law.

    In spite of that (especially Obamas signature) the administration seems to be pressing ahead with their original plan, which would include delaying any decision on whether to build an HLV until 2015 (well into the second half of a hypothetical Obama second term).

    I understand that this is the desired outcome to you, but ask yourself this question: If the situation were reversed (if a President were pushing ahead with Ares I/Ares V in spite of an Authorization Bill dictating the opposite) would you still be calling this a “witch hunt”?

    Joe

  • the administration seems to be pressing ahead with their original plan, which would include delaying any decision on whether to build an HLV until 2015

    How do you figure? NASA is prohibited from doing any “new starts” until the appropriations bill comes through.. when they get the money they can start the work, but not before.

  • Dennis Berube

    Lets just hope something gets decided, so we know which way NASA is headed in.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Joe –

    the administration seems to be pressing ahead with their original plan, which would include delaying any decision on whether to build an HLV until 2015 (well into the second half of a hypothetical Obama second term)

    The problem is that this is fundamentally untrue. So it invalidates your hypothetical.

    And the first round of questions were largely a round of “have you stopped beating your wife?”

    Its offensive.

  • Ferris Valyn

    I see what this is really about, at least for Nelson – They want to dictate the what the 2012 budget is going to be.

    For KBH this is really about getting that last shuttle flight.

  • Joe

    Trent,
    According to a recent post on NASA Watch NASA put out requests for information concerning HLV configurations.

    These were a pre Phase A level of activity and focused on a “Clean Sheet of Paper” approach. This is probably what has caused any current distrust on the part of Congress towards the Administration on this issue.

    There is no Appropriations Bill (or Authorization Bill for that matter) supporting this activity either, yet it is going forward.

    By that logic the only thing on which NASA would be allowed to work would be Ares I and Ares V. I suspect that is not what you desire.

    Joe

  • Mr. Mark

    That billionare on a lark that amightywind keeps taking about is launching on Tuesday with the first flight of Dragon. No other capsules are even close to being ready, let alone rockets. Some lark.. Really, amightywind I can’t take anything you say seriously.

  • “the administration seems to be pressing ahead with their original plan, which would include delaying any decision on whether to build an HLV until 2015 (well into the second half of a hypothetical Obama second term). ”

    You need to read some other sources. NASA has been looking rather heavily into what the HLV is going to look like and they’ve narrowed the scope considerably. But, as Trent pointed out, they won’t be able to pick one until they get the final appropriations bill defining precisely what they can afford. And keep in mind, their supposed to start answering those questions by the end of FY2011. We’re barely two months in. I think it’s pretty premature to assume anyone is attempting to kick the HLV ball down the road.

  • ISSvet

    Joe, the Will Rogers quotation you were thinking about:

    “The thing about my jokes is that they don’t hurt anybody. You can say they’re not funny or they’re terrible or they’re good or whatever it is, but they don’t do no harm. But with Congress — every time they make a joke it’s a law. And every time they make a law it’s a joke.”

  • John Malkin

    I think they just want to know if their pork was still cooking on the grill.

    This hearing makes me just want to bang my head against the wall. Did a real direction come from this hearing? What did they learn that they didn’t know already? How many of the Congressional committee members actually participated in the open hearings with the Augustine committee?

    I’m glade they all want to abide by the law. Maybe Congress should do their job and stop passing continuing resolutions and pass a real budget and a balanced one. I wish there was an automatic tax increase if the budget wasn’t balanced. I’m sure you would see some movement to avoid that increase. Maybe.

  • 2008 NASA funding levels?

    Cut the extra shuttle,
    Cut heavy lift development
    Fully fund commercial development
    Human rate Delta IV Heavy

    It’s the the way for NASA to get the most out of our Tax $$$, be fiscally responsible, and tap American innovative capabilities to our best advantage.

  • Ferris Valyn

    sftommy – you don’t even need to human rate DIV Heavy. Push Commercial crew, and just launch Orion unmanned, and use Commercial Crew as a transportation system to Orion when its in orbit

  • Joe

    aremisasling,

    “You need to read some other sources. NASA has been looking rather heavily into what the HLV is going to look like and they’ve narrowed the scope considerably.”

    Actually, I know some of the people on the JSC portion of the in house NASA HLV review team (is that a valid source?), but that is separate from the requests (and funding) that NASA Watch reported. Those new studies would indicate (and apparently did to the Congress) a longer drawn out process than the end of Fiscal Year 2011.

    Joe

  • Alex

    Ferris, that’s my thinking exactly. LM’s shown that with an Orion and a Centaur upper stage, we can do one scientifically interesting, and tech/skill base-broadening, exploration mission a year.

  • Major Tom

    “This hearing makes me just want to bang my head against the wall. Did a real direction come from this hearing? What did they learn that they didn’t know already?”

    Hearings are almost always theater to make congressmen look like they’re paying attention to an issue, being tough with a particular witness, standing up for constitutents, etc. Hearings very, very rarely result in any new fact-finding (that’s what personal staff, committee staff, GAO, CBO, the Library of Congress, agency budget submissions, etc. are for) or sworn statements that result in enforceable actions. Sometimes the theater is even kabuki, with congressmen saying one thing in hearings but ignoring the issue or doing the opposite outside the hearing room.

    “How many of the Congressional committee members actually participated in the open hearings with the Augustine committee?”

    There were 14 written congressional statements to the Augustine Committee, some of which were also delivered orally. Scroll down here for the list and links:

    http://www.nasa.gov/offices/hsf/related_documents/index.html

    FWIW…

  • Joe, that’s NASA’s procurement process.. they have to do it that way even if Congress would like them to just got to ATK and order a dozen 5-segs next week.

    You’ll note that they haven’t funded any of those studies yet.. they can’t do that until they get funding.

    BTW, don’t confuse me telling you the law with my personal desires. I wish this HLV stupidity would go away as much as you do.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “According to a recent post on NASA Watch NASA put out requests for information concerning HLV configurations. …
    There is no Appropriations Bill (or Authorization Bill for that matter) supporting this activity either, yet it is going forward.”

    RFI’s are no-cost activities. There is only so much “going forward” you can do without paying people anything. In fact, NASA isn’t doing anything at all. They’re asking industry to come up with ideas on their own dime. Pretty much just Powerpoint presentations. RFIs are how you keep the wheel turning when the grindstone isn’t engaged. In fact, ESMD already put out a raft of RFIs earlier this year for technology investments, even before the authorization legislation that killed off most of the money that was budgeted for them.

  • Major Tom

    “RFI’s are no-cost activities.”

    They aren’t RFIs. They are study contracts totalling $7.5 million.

    http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2010/nov/HQ_10-292_Heavy_Lift.html

    Even if there was no study money, given the tens of billions of dollars involved, companies would throw lots of B&P at an RFI or unfunded study.

    FWIW…

  • study contracts totalling $7.5 million.

    Which are, as yet, unfunded.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    It looks like the Senators are angry that NASA seems to think that the authorization bill is just a suggestion and does not have the force of law. Of course the Senate (and Congress as a whole) shares some blame for not coughing up funding. And Obama bears ultimate blame for making the mess to start with.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “They aren’t RFIs. They are study contracts totalling $7.5 million.”

    My apologies. They are indeed study contracts. I was thinking about the RFI’s early this summer. But RFI’s are no-cost activities to NASA, and that’s exactly right, given that these RFIs can influence very large expenditures, industry will put a lot of effort into them. Still mostly Powerpoint, but with some effort behind the slides.

    But $7.5M is a small drop, especially when distributed over thirteen study contracts. My understanding is that the $7.5M will come out of the 2010 budget line for Ares V since it is, after all, an HLV budget line. So it is funded, and being managed by MSFC. Performance requirements will be dictated by HEFT.

  • Bennett

    And Obama Griffin bears ultimate blame for making the mess to start with.

    FTFY

  • Mark, I think they’re just responding to the media – who don’t understand the limitations of CR and authorization vs appropriations.. and crazy Hatch who clearly doesn’t understand the difference.

  • eh

    They give them no money but want updates. lol

  • MM_NASA

    Can anyone speculate how NASA MSFC will do after the Congressional Hearings? Is there any hope for HLV?

  • Justin Kugler

    Nowhere does the Authorization Act mandate that NASA has to abrogate its technical decision making to the Senators and Representatives from Utah, Whittington. I have it on good authority, from the people who wrote the “to the extent practicable” language, that it was intended precisely to keep NASA from being forced into an unsustainable launch system.

  • Trent, Joe,

    I bid (unsuccessfully) on the HLV Tradestudy BAA last August, and think you guys are misunderstanding some things. My understanding was that the HLV Tradestudy BAA was being done using money set aside for preliminary work for Ares V. It is my understanding that they do have funding set aside for this study, but that they’re finalizing the contracts with the awardees. It’s pretty typical for NASA to announce awardees before they’ve actually signed the final contracts, which often involve some modifications from the specifics of what the companies actually proposed.

    Just my two cents.

    ~Jon

  • Major Tom

    TW: “Which are, as yet, unfunded.”

    No, the awards are funded with FY10 dollars. NASA (or any other federal agency) can’t make awards in the absence of appropriated funds. The Anti-Deficiency Act makes that illegal.

    DL: “But $7.5M is a small drop, especially when distributed over thirteen study contracts.”

    Each contract is limited to $625K, but again, companies (especially the major contractors) will throw single-digit millions of B&P dollars at this given the tens of billions of dollars at stake.

    “Performance requirements will be dictated by HEFT.”

    Nope. HEFT doesn’t appear anywhere in the solicitation. Rather, NASA’s internal HLLV study, which predates HEFT, is the point-of-departure. See the BAA solicitation and HLLV Study links at:

    http://nspires.nasaprs.com/external/solicitations/summary.do?method=init&solId={F5FB81E0-90F6-9466-C56C-F8E2D0B8220C}&path=closed

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “And Obama bears ultimate blame for making the mess to start with.”

    The Obama Administration didn’t create a Constellation program that was $3-5 billion _per year_ out of bed with its budget and a decade and half out of bed with its schedule. Neither did the Bush II White House, which developed the VSE but not Constellation. That buck stops (or rather it didn’t) with former Administrator Griffin.

  • Major Tom

    The GAO report from today’s hearing makes for interesting reading.

    On Constellation program performance, “NASA has already spent over $9 billion combined on the Ares and Orion projects, [but] they have yet to be baselined and therefore NASA is not required to publicly report cost and schedule data.”

    Pathetic. Yet due to the FY10 appropriations restriction on Constellation, which carries over in the CR, “NASA must carry out the recently enacted Authorization Act but without terminating or creating programs, projects, or activities of the Constellation program.”

    Sure, the agency can carry out an law that provides nothing for Constellation and creates new programs in its place — as long as the agency doesn’t terminate Constellation or create new programs in its place.

    No problem…

  • Major Tom

    Forgot the link to the GAO report:

    http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-216T

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    Even with all the contradictory idiocy in Congress, at least the Deficit Commission appears to have figured out the commercial crew is the critical (currently only) development path for U.S. civil human ETO access:

    http://spacepolicyonline.com/pages/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1250:deficit-commission-relents-on-commercial-crew&catid=83:news&Itemid=76

    FWIW…

  • Mark R. Whittington

    It is clear that Obama’s NASA is trying to slow walk the HLV. The Senate has noticed this and is reacting accordingly. Bill Nelson in particular is annoyed. He is up for reelection in 2012 and the home folks are already unhappy with him. Thus he can ill afford to go easy on the administration.

  • Dennis Berube

    Maybe todays NASA conference of an astrobiological nature, will once again bolster interest in the space program. Who knows what is coming. Here again is a perfect example of our great leaders dragging their feet. What of all those people who also are losing their unemployment benefits this week. Our leaders keep on allowing jobs to go into other countries, and now they even want to pay the Russians to take us to the ISS. Bad judgement all around.

  • Mark, what more would you have Obama’s NASA do? Can you give some specific examples of what they’re not doing that you expect they should be if they weren’t “slow walking” it?

  • Major Tom

    “It is clear that Obama’s NASA is trying to slow walk the HLV.”

    No, it’s not. The Administration can’t break the laws that Congress has passed and the President has signed. The 2010 NASA Authorization Act calls for a new HLV (the Space Launch System or “SLS”), but there is no funding to go with it until Congress passes FY11 appropriations. Moreover, the FY10 appropriations forbid NASA from terminating Constellation, redirecting its funding, or starting new programs (like SLS).

    Congress is to blame for the “slow walk” on the HLV. They havn’t provided the money necessary to start building a new HLV, and they’ve left laws on the books that forbid NASA from doing so, anyway. The White House did not create this problem, and they cannot fix it.

    Read the testimony and the GAO report presented at yesterday’s hearing before pointing your blame finger in the wrong direction.

    http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-216T

    “The Senate has noticed this and is reacting accordingly.”

    Yeah, in yesterday’s hearing, Sen. Vitter (R-LA) asked for the White House’s help in getting the Constellation language he sponsored with Shelby in NASA’s FY 2010 appropriations repealed in a CR.

    Vitter wants the White House to fix a problem he helped create. As far as “reacting accordingly” goes, that’s pretty pathetic…

    “Bill Nelson… is up for reelection in 2012 and the home folks are already unhappy with him.”

    Reference? What poll tells you this?

  • Joe

    Trent,

    “BTW, don’t confuse me telling you the law with my personal desires. I wish this HLV stupidity would go away as much as you do.’

    You may misunderstand my position. I am not opposed to development of an HLV (if you define a 70 -100 Ton lift capability as an HLV). In fact during the ESAS Architecture Study the people I know who participated were proponents of the Side Mount Configuration SDHLV and I was as well. Sadly, from my point of view anyway, the “window of opportunity” is rapidly closing on building any SDHLV (due to the Obama Administrations moves to rapidly close down all of the support contracts).

    Please note that this does not mean I am opposed to Orbital Refueling, in fact I believe that both HLV and Orbital Fuel Depots will be necessary to support the kind of Lunar development I want to see. That, however, is a technical discussion and not the real point of my post.

    My point was that the tactics used by the Administration have been self defeating (if their actual intent is to have any kind of Human Space Flight Program). You are correct that “that’s NASA’s procurement process” if they are moving to a clean sheet of paper design, but the intent of the Authorization Bill was to “leverage” existing contracts which would not require a prolonged (Phase A, Phase B, etc.) drawn out process. What the Administration appeared to me (and apparently a number of Congressmen) to be trying to do was just the opposite. This(along with numerous other actions by the Administration) is causing great harm to any kind of working relationship with both the Democrats and Republicans in the Congress and jeopardizing chances for getting anything (Orbital Fuel Depots, HLV, NTR, anything) approved. Why they are doing this is subject to interpretation, but there is no doubt that the fault lies primarily with the Administration.

    Joe

  • Joe

    Jonathon,

    “I bid (unsuccessfully) on the HLV Tradestudy BAA last August, and think you guys are misunderstanding some things”

    Thanks for the clarification. I went back and looked for the NASA Watch post before I wrote about it here, but was unable to find it (thus I was working from memory). What you report does not change (at least I don’t think) my point.

    These trade studies were intended to begin a long process to define a new HLV design (probably sometime in the 2015 timeframe to support an Obama “decision”), not use the existing contracts to expedite development of a new HLV. My point is not to get into a debate about the technical issues (although that would be fun), but to note that it appears (at least to me and apparently a number in Congress) to be counter to the intent of the Authorization Bill.

    Use of these tactics (trying to use legalities to circumvent the intent of the law) may seem clever to some (those who think they know what the Administrations intent is and approve of that perceived intent), but the fact is that is proving destructive to getting approval for any Human Space Flight Activity (Orbital Fuel Depots, HLV, NTR, anything).

    Joe

  • Doug Lassiter

    “HEFT doesn’t appear anywhere in the solicitation. Rather, NASA’s internal HLLV study, which predates HEFT, is the point-of-departure.”

    Yes, the performance requirements for the HLV studies aren’t in the BAA requirements for the proposers. So competitively, HEFT can’t have anything to do with the awards. But I think it has to be the case that the work done will be evaluated in the context of the eventual HEFT output. For better or worse, HEFT was told to focus just on HLVs. It would be odd if these two efforts were not coordinated at least after the fact.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Joe,

    The law doesn’t demand an SDLV. And congress can complain all they want, but they wrote the damn law. It says “to the extent practicalable”

    10 ton truck

  • Joe

    Ferris,
    An SDLV was the clear intent of the Bill.

    That kind of letter of the law allows them to violate the spirit of the law game playing may seem clever to you because you do not want an SDLV (Would you like it if the situation were reversed and the same tactics were being used to prevent work on Orbital Fuel Depots?), but it is what is poisoning the relationship between the Obama White House and Congress (Republican and Democrat) on this whole issue.

    That is the “20 Ton Truck” that may very well destroy any chance we have of getting anything (Including Orbital Fuel Depots).

    Joe

  • Justin Kugler

    There’s nothing clever about it, Joe. As written and explained by the people who actually wrote that section, the law directs NASA to use existing systems where it is “practicable” to do so. If Congress wanted to mandate an SDLV, they should have done that.

  • Joe

    Justin,

    If that was the intent of the “people who wrote the law” then what are “people who wrote the law” so upset about?

    If you mean you have a post someplace from someone who says they are a congressional staffer and they are claiming their bosses do not know what they are talking about please provide a link I would love to read it (I’ll bet their bosses would as well).

    Joe

  • Ferris Valyn

    Joe – they can intend anything they want, but they didn’t require an SDLV (although I don’t know that I agree, actually). And they damn well know that.

    As for “like the situation if it were reversed” – I hated it for the 5-6 years we had Constellation. So I have no qualms about playing this game.

    As for poisoning the relationship – there are many other things that have really caused it to be poisoned. Not the least of which is that Congress is more important about maintain jobs in their districts and states.

    Cause if we were really gonna be honest, part of the problem is that a good chunk of the shuttle contractors can’t find jobs in other industries, or even other parts of the space sector.

    And thats the real issue here.

  • Justin Kugler

    That hearing was political theater, Joe. It was so the Senators from ATK could look like they were protecting their state and Senator Nelson could put a little daylight between himself and the White House after the mid-term elections.

    I don’t have a post to show you. One of my mentors has written language in the past for one of the key Senators behind the 2010 Authorization Act. She got clarification via text message from one of the Senator’s staffers while we were discussing the subject.

  • Joe

    Ferris and Justin (Justin if you read the first response below you will see why I included you),

    “they can intend anything they want, but they didn’t require an SDLV (although I don’t know that I agree, actually). And they damn well know that”

    I am going to suggest that you read a set of postings on NASA Spaceflight. There is an individual who posts there that uses the screen name 51-D Mascot. It is verifiable that he is a congressional staffer who was intimately involved in writing the Authorization Bill. You will find the posts in the Forum – General Discussion – Space Policy Discussion – NASA FY 2011 Preview – page 14 (sorry about the clumsy direction, but I tried to make a link and could not get it to work). If you can read those postings and honestly conclude that the people who wrote the Bill believe that the Administration is making a good faith attempt to implement it (or are engaging only in theater) you have a vivid imagination.

    “As for “like the situation if it were reversed” – I hated it for the 5-6 years we had Constellation. So I have no qualms about playing this game.”

    So, “What goes around comes around”. People who play the game that way should remember that it implies a circle; therefore, what goes around will generally go around again. It appears that is already beginning to happen. If you read the post pointed to above you will see the Congressional reaction to the Administrations attempts to thwart the intent of the law will be to “micro-manage” the implementation of the Authorization Bill. I doubt that is what you desire (I know I don’t), but if it happens the fault will not be with the bipartisan coalition in both houses of Congress who feel forced into these extreme measures. The fault will be entirely with the Obama Administration for repeatedly dealing in bad faith with the Congress on this matter.

    “As for poisoning the relationship – there are many other things that have really caused it to be poisoned. Not the least of which is that Congress is more important about maintain jobs in their districts and states.”

    So the entire bipartisan group in the House and Senate are motivated entirely by venal motives? By the way is it possible for Obama to be motivated by anything less than pure?

    “Cause if we were really gonna be honest, part of the problem is that a good chunk of the shuttle contractors can’t find jobs in other industries, or even other parts of the space sector.”

    I do not know how to interpret this other than a “victory dance” at the thought of thousands of people’s lives being damaged for the sin of working on a program for which you do not particularly care. Therefore, I am going to hope that is not really the case and not comment on it further.

    Joe

  • Ferris Valyn

    Joe,

    I am well aware of Jeff Bingham’s postings over at nasaspaceflight.com. And Mr Bingham’s point, which is very clear, is that 90% of the problem stems from the issue of the CR language from 2010, and there not being a CJS bill that has gotten passed.

    BTW, to do the link, its not that hard

    And if Congress insists on trying to make it a pure SDLV, then we’ll end up with the same damn thing that we did with Constellation. But the point remains, they put that wiggle room in there (and Mr. Bingham actually acknowledged that, on page 13)

    If you read the post pointed to above you will see the Congressional reaction to the Administrations attempts to thwart the intent of the law will be to “micro-manage” the implementation of the Authorization Bill.

    Again, there was no attempt to thwart the law, because the law has the words “to the extent practicable.” Again, if the SDLV people were powerful enough, they would’ve put language dictating it in the law. They didn’t, so they couldn’t, so its not the law.

    So the entire bipartisan group in the House and Senate are motivated entirely by venal motives?

    First, stop acting like it was this huge group of people actively pushing it. It came from a small group of people who have NASA centers in their state. The rest of the Congress doesn’t care. Hell, the rest of the nation, by and large, doesn’t care.

    By the way is it possible for Obama to be motivated by anything less than pure?

    The reality is that Obama, by and large, probably doesn’t care, at least too much. Most president’s don’t. He wants functioning agency, thats actually doing good work, that he doesn’t have to expend much political effort on, and beyond that, I suspect he really doesn’t care. Please don’t claim that I somehow am viewing this as St. Obama. IMHO, there are people in the executive branch who aren’t doing their job, to try and make the sale to Congress (because I think there is a fairly straight forward sale to be made to Congress), but its not Obama who are falling down on the job.

    I do not know how to interpret this other than a “victory dance” at the thought of thousands of people’s lives being damaged for the sin of working on a program for which you do not particularly care. Therefore, I am going to hope that is not really the case and not comment on it further.

    This isn’t an issue of a victory dance – this is no different than whats happened with the auto companies, with the hundreds of thousands of workers who were getting hurt during the debate about helping GM & Chrysler. Of course, I seem to remember some of the same people who complained about those situations demanding we keep the people at NASA centers employed.

    I feel sorry for them – I really do. But they aren’t any more special than the 40-50 year old line workers who are getting screwed over because of the auto industry. And so they don’t deserve any special protection.

    Further, there are ways to deal with the jobs loses, if people are willing to stop engaging in claiming self-heroism, when they don’t deserve it, and if we are willing to spend money on it.

  • Martijn Meijering

    The fault will be entirely with the Obama Administration for repeatedly dealing in bad faith with the Congress on this matter.

    This ignores the fact that the “space senators” have been acting in bad faith by overspecifying what NASA needs to do in order to circumvent the FAR and the National Aeronautics and Space Act (“seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space”, it doesn’t get much clearer than that). Both sides have been using similar adversarial tactics, but the Obama administration’s strategic goals for NASA are honourable while those of the space senators are not, since they amount to no more than maximising pork.

  • Justin Kugler

    Joe, I know who you are talking about. He was one of the opponents of the New Direction from the beginning, so I can understand why he would see things that way. That his perspective is contradictory to the one expressed to me I think shows that Congress is not really as united on this subject as they may appear.

  • Rhyolite

    Joe wrote @ December 2nd, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    “If that was the intent of the “people who wrote the law” then what are “people who wrote the law” so upset about? ”

    The fallacy here is to assume that congress has a single intent. It is 535 individual with different intentions.

    Certainly some senators intended to the authorization to rope NASA into maintaining a job program in their state. But they did not have the upper hand in writing the bill or it wouldn’t have contained the language it did – a bill unequivocally requiring an ATK solution didn’t have the votes in the committee. Wiser heads prevailed.

    Of course, the losers are going to complain. This is electoral politics after all.

  • Joe

    Ferris,

    “Again, there was no attempt to thwart the law, because the law has the words “to the extent practicable.” Again, if the SDLV people were powerful enough, they would’ve put language dictating it in the law. They didn’t, so they couldn’t, so its not the law.”

    The” wiggle room” was apparently placed in the bill to allow flexibility on the part of the people actually doing the engineering if the use of some shuttle derived components became too difficult, not to allow the administration to ignore the use of shuttle derived components from the very beginning.

    “But the point remains, they put that wiggle room in there (and Mr.
    Bingham actually acknowledged that, on page 13)”

    He sure did, but not in a positive way and on page 14 in answer to a question about what comes next he also said:
    “The Committee can develop new legislative language to amend the law to both clarify intent, and remove “wiggle room””

    “First, stop acting like it was this huge group of people actively pushing it. It came from a small group of people who have NASA centers in their state. The rest of the Congress doesn’t care. Hell, the rest of the nation, by and large, doesn’t care”

    Yes sir, I promise to only agree with everything you say (and think) from now on. Is it permissible for me to note that two of these (according to you) insignificant people are the Chairman and Ranking member of the Committee, that the entire bill passed both houses of congress by wide margins and was signed into law by Obama himself. If not, I humbly withdraw my presumptuous comments and apologize for stating facts that displease you.

    Joe

  • Ferris Valyn

    Joe – and if they remove the wiggle room, they’ll insure that we completely lose space access. Because that wiggle room also can be used to deal with the other issue – not just technical, but also affordability.

    As for the bill passing the house & senate – you wanna go through the various other bills that became law?

    The reality is the 2010 Re-authorization barely happened, and its not because of widespread support or opposition – its because most people don’t care.

  • Joe

    Ferris,

    “and if they remove the wiggle room, they’ll insure that we completely lose space access. Because that wiggle room also can be used to deal with the other issue – not just technical, but also affordability.”

    That is exactly my point. If you remember where this conversation started, I do not want Congress (or any other politicians, even those in the Administration) micro-managing the process any more than you do. But the Authorization Bill left flexibility in the language in a good faith attempt to allow the engineers to make reasonable decisions and the Administration has tried to use that flexibility as “wiggle room” to ignore the intent of the law. Because of that we are likely to get the micromanagement that (I think we both agree) would be a disaster.

    “As for the bill passing the house & senate – you wanna go through the various other bills that became law?”

    If the intent of this is to say because other bad bills get passed this bill must be bad as well, I respectfully disagree.

    “The reality is the 2010 Re-authorization barely happened, and its not because of widespread support or opposition – its because most people don’t care.”

    The Bill when voted on passed handily in both houses, the reason it “barely happened” is because the House wanted a bill that continued to support Constellation Systems basically unmodified. They reluctantly accepted the Senate version of the bill which was (and is) a compromise. Now even that compromise has been placed in jeopardy by intransience by at least some in the administration.

    Joe

  • Justin Kugler

    What intransigence has actually taken place, Joe?

  • Ferris Valyn

    Joe,

    The problem isn’t the engineering. The budget isn’t there to make SLS happen in any sort of timely fashion. The numbers don’t work. We can love that or hate that, as can Congress, but they have NOT provided enough money to make a viable SDLV in the time frame. So Congress really has to decide which it cares about – stuff being delivered in a timely fashion, or spending more money.

    NASA can’t produce blood from a stone.

    And to add to Mr. Kugler’s commnet….

    What intransigence has actually taken place?

  • Joe

    Ferris and Justin,

    Okay two examples of intransience.

    First, Aerospace Daily & Defense Report (ASCII) – Dec 03, 2010 reports: Even after the compromise had been reached between the administration’s original Fiscal 2011 budget request and members of Congress worried over its drastic employment impact, White House staffers called key senators asking them to introduce amendments to the draft bill that would tilt the balance back toward the original request.
    Nice first agree to the Senate compromise language, then go behind their backs and attempt (unsuccessfully) to undercut the agreement you just made. A move obviously designed to generate trust and mutual respect.

    Second, is the already much discussed “studies” that were proposed to “widen the trade space” as the Obama appointed CFO called it, this before more detailed analysis of the preferred (at least by the Congress) design had been allowed. And yes as I have explained before I am familiar with the work done by the “in-house” NASA reviews, but these studies were to be subsequent to those. Again it obviously appeared to the Congress (and not without reason) that this was an attempt to get into yet another multi-year review of a wide variety of options and thus delay any decision on really building something for years (say 2015, when Obama originally wanted to make his HLV “decision”).

  • Joe

    Ferris,

    I know you probably will not accept this but the work done during the ESAS Study (backed up by more recent work including the NASA “in-house” reviews) indicated that the Side Mount SDHLV could be built for about $6 Billion. That would fit into the SLS Budget.

    Do me one courtesy will you please do not respond to this by questioning the intelligence and or integrity of the people who did these analysis. I know some of them and they are real experts in the shuttle systems involved and are people of high integrity attempting to give the most honest reports they can, not “shills for ATK” or whatever the insult of the day may be.

    Joe

  • I know you probably will not accept this but the work done during the ESAS Study (backed up by more recent work including the NASA “in-house” reviews) indicated that the Side Mount SDHLV could be built for about $6 Billion. That would fit into the SLS Budget.

    It won’t fit in the out-year operations budget. No NASA-developed HLV will. It will trap us into a finicky (it will use the same tanks that they’re struggling with om STS-133) and expensive infrastructure that will keep human spaceflight beyond LEO costly and rare (if it occurs at all).

  • Joe

    Hi Rand,

    Tag teaming (I love it).

    “It won’t fit in the out-year operations budget. No NASA-developed HLV will. It will trap us into a finicky (it will use the same tanks that they’re struggling with om STS-133) and expensive infrastructure that will keep human spaceflight beyond LEO costly and rare (if it occurs at all).”
    First since the problems with the STS-133 tanks have not been resolved yet it is pointless to discuss how this would affect an SDHLV, except to note that it is always a “winner’s game” to compare vaporware to hardware.

    The operational data I have seen indicates that the Side Mount SDHLV (5 segment booster version) could fly 8 times a year and deliver about 190,000 lbs. to orbit per flight (1,530,000 total) with a total infrastructure cost of $3 Billion per year. If you like that sort of accounting that is a little less than $2,000/lb.

    I have no idea what your idea of an out-year operations budget is. Maybe you would like to present some actual figures to discuss, instead of just asserting that anything shuttle derived is unacceptable by your undefined standards.

    Joe

  • The operational data I have seen indicates that the Side Mount SDHLV (5 segment booster version) could fly 8 times a year and deliver about 190,000 lbs. to orbit per flight (1,530,000 total) with a total infrastructure cost of $3 Billion per year. If you like that sort of accounting that is a little less than $2,000/lb.

    And the Shuttle was going to fly sixty times a year, at fifty million per flight. And the Ares I was going to be available in 2011. Pull my other one.

  • And what do you mean by “total infrastructure costs”? Just the fixed costs? SSMEs aren’t cheap, and if you don’t recover them, it would be a billion just to replace the engines for eight flights. ETs would be another half a billion or so.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Not to mention that the only affordable payloads would be propellant, which could be launched far more cheaply on small RLVs. And $2000/lb isn’t that impressive for an ELV either at such enormous volumes.

  • Justin Kugler

    NASA can’t do anything about the first, Joe, and it would be petty in the extreme for Congress to punish NASA for what White House staffers did.

    As for the second, I have seen nothing in the HLV studies NASA is commissioning that is out of order for preliminary work. All they are doing is trying to get an idea of what all of the options are in the technical, operational, and fiscal trade space.

    NASA is trying to be a more open and innovative agency and overcome its reputation for having “Not Invented Here” syndrome. It would be irresponsible for NASA to not get the inputs it is seeking.

    And if Congress is trying to, as Ferris put it, get NASA to draw blood from a stone, then the agency has to have the data to make technical and fiscal case that the legislators have got it wrong. As professionals and keepers of the public trust, NASA has a responsibility to be honest about what it can do with the funding available, even if it’s not what the Senators want to hear.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ December 3rd, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    The operational data I have seen indicates that the Side Mount SDHLV (5 segment booster version) could fly 8 times a year and deliver about 190,000 lbs. to orbit per flight (1,530,000 total) with a total infrastructure cost of $3 Billion per year. If you like that sort of accounting that is a little less than $2,000/lb.

    Of course, if you don’t have the funded missions to fly that many times per year, then your costs go up accordingly. What would be $2,000/lb with 8 flights, becomes more like $4,000/lb with 4 flights (still pretty high), or maybe even $8,000/lb with 2 flights per year. As a reference, a “man-rated” Delta IV Heavy would cost $6,000/lb.

    I know there are recurring and non-recurring costs that would affect those numbers, but the effect is still the same – without high flight rates, any NASA launcher would be a big drain on NASA.

    Over the past decade, the primary reason for Shuttle flights was to build the ISS, and we don’t have any programs of that size proposed, much less funded. What will the HLV take to orbit multiple times per year? A big unknown.

    Looking at this from a different perspective, $2,000/lb is still not very cost competitive compared to alternative launchers. Falcon 9 Heavy is being advertised at $1,357/lb, and Elon Musk was just talking about their proposed Super Heavy (300,000 lb capacity) that they would guarantee for $300M/flight ($1,000/lb).

    Existing commercial alternatives cost less, and future commercial alternatives could cost less and carry more. A NASA launcher is not the answer…

  • Joe

    Hi Rand,

    Nice to hear from you.

    Thanks for sharing that data on what you mean by “out year operational costs” it was very helpful.

    Joe

  • Vladislaw

    Rand Simberg wrote:

    “And what do you mean by “total infrastructure costs”? Just the fixed costs? SSMEs aren’t cheap, and if you don’t recover them, it would be a billion just to replace the engines for eight flights. ETs would be another half a billion or so.”

    How many SSME’s are sitting in the warehouse? I thought NASA had like 70 of them. If they used 3 per flight that would be 23 flights, could they start with the SSME’s then swap out to a cheaper disposable?

    I am only saying this in the vein of congress getting a HLV no matter if it is needed or not. If we are going to get one, and there is a warehouse of engines that already paid for, is there some way to use them to lower startup costs?

    Or would it be better for NASA to just sell them off as scrap?

  • Joe

    Justin,

    “NASA can’t do anything about the first, Joe, and it would be petty in the extreme for Congress to punish NASA for what White House staffers did.”
    NASA is an Executive Branch Agency and political appointees set its policy. Those appointees are the ones who have made agreements, then tried to undercut the agreements. If by NASA you mean the civil servant/contractor workforce (what’s left of it) they are the chipmunks caught in the war between elephants. The Congress is not trying to punish NASA, it is attempting to get control of what it sees (in this particular case) as an out of control Executive Branch. Any punishment given NASA will be collateral damage. Like I said to Ferris in another post (that initiated the request for examples) I think this whole situation is extremely destructive but the blame for its existence is with the White House not Congress.

    “As for the second, I have seen nothing in the HLV studies NASA is commissioning that is out of order for preliminary work. All they are doing is trying to get an idea of what all of the options are in the technical, operational, and fiscal trade space.

    NASA is trying to be a more open and innovative agency and overcome its reputation for having “Not Invented Here” syndrome. It would be irresponsible for NASA to not get the inputs it is seeking.”

    The problem with that is that the whole subject of HLVs has been extensively studied already in reviews predating the ESAS Study, the ESAS Study, the current NASA in-house review, etc… There are architectures defined for SDLVs, EELV derived launch vehicles, “clean sheet of paper” launch vehicles, etc. Now as a result of the new activity Elon Musk has come up with a new top level concept he asserts can be built in 5 years place 300,000 lbs. in orbit for $1,000/lb. My point is not to denigrate these are any other concepts, but to point that if you keep “expanding the trade space” you get what is joking called in the industry “paralysis by analysis”. That is clearly what the Congress thinks the intent of the Administration is in all this and we are again back at the same impass.

    Joe

  • Joe

    Vladislaw,

    “How many SSME’s are sitting in the warehouse? I thought NASA had like 70 of them. If they used 3 per flight that would be 23 flights, could they start with the SSME’s then swap out to a cheaper disposable? “

    I believe the number of usable SSME’s in inventory after the last Shuttle Flight will be more like 18 than 70. Enough for 6 Flights of any configuration SDLV using 3 SSME’s (and several of these would probably be test flights).

    After that the plan would be to manufacture expendable versions of the SSME’s. This type of engine has been under study/development at some level or other for decades, as the first evaluations of SDLV’s literally began before the first Shuttle flight.

    These engines should be both sturdier and cheaper to manufacture as the bulk of the design changes involve simplifying the design by removing things like access ports and disconnects required for refurbishment of a reusable engine.

    Joe

  • Joe

    Coastal Ron

    “Of course, if you don’t have the funded missions to fly that many times per year, then your costs go up accordingly. What would be $2,000/lb with 8 flights, becomes more like $4,000/lb with 4 flights (still pretty high), or maybe even $8,000/lb with 2 flights per year. As a reference, a “man-rated” Delta IV Heavy would cost $6,000/lb.”

    You describe the Catch 22 situation very well. Since the Obama Administration proposes no particular space flight activity (beyond ISS support) until well into the term of one his succesors, it is hard to justify any launch vehicle development, yet he supposedly supports developing an HLV of some type himself.

    By the way what is the source for the cost of a man-rated Delta IV Heavy (this is not a hostile question, I am legitimately curious about other vehicle performance estimates)?

    ‘Looking at this from a different perspective, $2,000/lb is still not very cost competitive compared to alternative launchers. Falcon 9 Heavy is being advertised at $1,357/lb, and Elon Musk was just talking about their proposed Super Heavy (300,000 lb capacity) that they would guarantee for $300M/flight ($1,000/lb).”

    My answer to the first part of your statement is that (based on experience working on ISS Assembly and Maintenance) I honestly believe that we need to be able to launch bigger payloads than a Falcon 9 or Delta IV Heavy can launch in order to do any kind of extensive BEO activities efficiently. I know you probably disagree with this, but hope you can at least understand an opposing point of view.

    The second point is interesting. I read the Av Week interview as well. Elon Musk asserts that he can build (in 5 years or less for $2.5 Billion) an HLV that will perform as you describe.

    In his “answer” to my question about his definition of “out year budget operations”, Rand Simberg posted the following instead: “the Shuttle was going to fly sixty times a year, at fifty million per flight”. That statement is accurate as those promises were made about the Shuttle in its early development phase in the 1970’s (when the country was abandoning the Saturn hardware and the Shuttle was the game changing/paradigm shifting technology – sounds sort of familiar doesn’t it?). Rand meant that comment as a swipe at the reliability of cost estimates for SDLV, but I would submit such skepticism would be better held toward current “clean sheet of paper” booster designs. The SDLV costs are being done by people with decades of experience dealing with both the good and the bad of the already existing hardware.

    Please understand, I am not in any way trying to denigrate Elon Musk. I am sure he believes he can deliver on his proposed vehicle (just as those engineers working on the Shuttle in the 1970s believed they could deliver on their promises) and maybe he can. He has set for himself, however, a very high bar and the risk that he will not succeed will be correspondingly high.

    Joe

  • Ferris Valyn

    Joe

    A few things
    Regarding violations,

    1. How is the attempt to continue to lobby senators somehow violating the agreement? We both know these things change overtime. Continued lobby always happens, and to claim this is someone violating agreements is frankly rather pathetic.

    2. The problem is that, while there a lot of white papers out there, the more hard-point details are needed. And we shouldn’t limit what type of vehicles we are considering.

    Again, it comes back to a fundamental question – which does Congress prefer – a delay in flying into deep space, so we can build a big rocket, or not?

    Regarding in-house work

    1. Sidemount isn’t the only option. And NASA has claimed many things about costs in the past. I don’t claim that NASA people aren’t corrupt or unitellegent. But their history when it comes to predicting costs & timeframes is VERY well documented
    2. Sidemount may not come to the level of payload that is dictated by the Senate Bill.

    Finally, regarding expanding the trade space – there is another part to the trade space that you haven’t mentioned. And that is frequent launch.

  • Ferris Valyn

    2 additional questions Joe

    Since the Obama Administration proposes no particular space flight activity (beyond ISS support) until well into the term of one his succesors, it is hard to justify any launch vehicle development, yet he supposedly supports developing an HLV of some type himself.

    Why was this acceptable under Bush, but its not fair under Obama?

    I honestly believe that we need to be able to launch bigger payloads than a Falcon 9 or Delta IV Heavy can launch in order to do any kind of extensive BEO activities efficiently.

    Given that this is a serious debate, how can we actually test this, instead of offering up continued point & counter point, particularly when the Super HLV side gets a lot of money to work on this, and the non-HLV side gets almost nothing?

  • Vladislaw

    Joe, I found some numbers on SSME’s:

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/361842main_15%20-%20Augustine%20Sidemount%20Final.pdf

    100 engines were built and they were supposed to used for 20 launches each. There are 14 engines according to that file.

    Something doesn’t seem to add up though. A three engine set making 20 flights would means we would have used 22 engines for the 130 shuttle flights and that includes the loss of 6 engines from the two shuttle accidents.

    I have dug through a ton of links but could not find the article/paper that said NASA still had 70 engines. I just do not recall if that was a usuable number or just how many remained in total.

    If NASA had 100 engines built and they were good for 20 flights then something doesn’t add up.

  • Joe

    Ferris,

    “1. How is the attempt to continue to lobby senators somehow violating the agreement? We both know these things change overtime. Continued lobby always happens, and to claim this is someone violating agreements is frankly rather pathetic.”

    The Administration agreed to support the bill as was then, attempted to change it “out of sight” of the people they had made the agreement with; if you see nothing wrong with that maybe we just better agree to disagree.

    “2. The problem is that, while there a lot of white papers out there, the more hard-point details are needed. And we shouldn’t limit what type of vehicles we are considering. “

    We definitely need more hard details. But, if we seek more hard details on an ever expanding group of options we will never reach any decision at all. For all the flack Griffin takes (including from me) he did at least try to make a decision. Prior to his taking charge the joke among the ESAS people was “we are diverging on a solution”. If that process had continued we would still be studying options now and on into the future while actually doing nothing. I am not supporting Griffins arbitrary decisions, but what you are saying is (in my opinion) a recipe for permanent stagnation.

    “Again, it comes back to a fundamental question – which does Congress prefer – a delay in flying into deep space, so we can build a big rocket, or not?”

    A false choice. Congress believes a “big rocket” as you call it is needed to support extensive BEO missions. You disagree with that and I support your right to your opinion, I do not support your right to phrase questions so as to put words in peoples mouths.

    “1. Sidemount isn’t the only option. And NASA has claimed many things about costs in the past. I don’t claim that NASA people aren’t corrupt or unitellegent. But their history when it comes to predicting costs & timeframes is VERY well documented”

    I never said it was, I gave you one example with which I am familiar that would fit within the SLS budget guidelines. As for NASA’s track record they are in the case of SDLV’s making predictions about incremental changes to existing hardware not a jump into game changing/paradigm shifting technology as they had to do for Shuttle and will have to do for any of the Game Changing Technologies proposed in the Administrations original plan.

    “2. Sidemount may not come to the level of payload that is dictated by the Senate Bill.”

    It definitely will not meet the 130 metric ton requirements. The Bill, in fact, directs an in-line configuration (see I am not happy with everything in the Bill either, that is why it is called a compromise). I am not as well informed on the In Line cost so I did not try to address it. However, I believe the In-Line advocates (such as the Direct people) will tell you it will also fall within the defined SLS Budget.

    “Finally, regarding expanding the trade space – there is another part to the trade space that you haven’t mentioned. And that is frequent launch.”

    If you have a frequent launch requirement you would like to discuss, could you please tell me what it is. How frequent, with how large a payload to what orbit or location? Otherwise I have no idea what you are asking.

    “Since the Obama Administration proposes no particular space flight activity (beyond ISS support) until well into the term of one his succesors, it is hard to justify any launch vehicle development, yet he supposedly supports developing an HLV of some type himself.

    Why was this acceptable under Bush, but its not fair under Obama?”

    I have never said this was acceptable under Bush, so why are you asking me this question?

    “I honestly believe that we need to be able to launch bigger payloads than a Falcon 9 or Delta IV Heavy can launch in order to do any kind of extensive BEO activities efficiently.

    Given that this is a serious debate, how can we actually test this, instead of offering up continued point & counter point, particularly when the Super HLV side gets a lot of money to work on this, and the non-HLV side gets almost nothing?”

    What I said was “(based on experience working on ISS Assembly and Maintenance) I honestly believe that we need to be able to launch bigger payloads than a Falcon 9 or Delta IV Heavy can launch in order to do any kind of extensive BEO activities efficiently.” Since, as you say this is a serious debate, it would be nice if you quoted all of the relevant points. This is a judgment call whichever side you take, the only way to test it would be to try the thing without HLV and see how it works out, I am sure you would like that but it would not be a test it would be just accepting your point of view.

    As to the” the Super HLV side gets a lot of money to work on this, and the non-HLV side gets almost nothing” part are you talking about the Authorization Bill?

    Joe

  • I am sure he believes he can deliver on his proposed vehicle (just as those engineers working on the Shuttle in the 1970s believed they could deliver on their promises) and maybe he can. He has set for himself, however, a very high bar and the risk that he will not succeed will be correspondingly high.

    While Elon’s schedules have slipped, his claims for cost seem to have held up pretty well so far. And now, having two new launchers under his belt, he understands pretty well what it will take to do the heavy, and he’s not under the constraints (or at least to a much lesser degree) to make it a jobs program that NASA is.

  • Vladislaw

    “But, if we seek more hard details on an ever expanding group of options we will never reach any decision at all. For all the flack Griffin takes (including from me) he did at least try to make a decision. Prior to his taking charge the joke among the ESAS people was “we are diverging on a solution”. “

    It was my understanding that the ESAS 60 day study was initiated by Griffin’s and was his way of getting rid of the spiral design that Stiedal and O’Keef were pushing.

    http://nasawatch.com/archives/2005/07/griffin-fiddles-with-60-day-study-release-schedule.html

    Editor’s note: As reported here last week, briefings regarding Mike Griffin’s 60 day study have been underway for congressional and industry representatives in Washington. Not everyone gets the same briefing however. Reports from these briefings speak of lack of budget data, lack of a firm or final design for the heavy launch vehicle, and a general feel of disorganization within the presentations. External reviewers are citing a number of problems with they have been presented. Contractors are miffed because they don’t think things have been thought through thoroughly – and that some very simple
    questions cannot be answered. The ISS partner nations are not happy campers either.”

    If Griffin made a decision about what heavy lift to build, I beleive it was a pre-ESAS decision as it looked like the HLLV was preordained to be the Ares V configuration. From everything I remember reading at the time, “hard details” were VERY hard to come by from Griffin. I would have thought if hard details had actually been put forward and stuck to we would not have seen 5 years of design changes, schedule slips and budget overruns.

  • Joe

    Rand,

    “While Elon’s schedules have slipped, his claims for cost seem to have held up pretty well so far. And now, having two new launchers under his belt, he understands pretty well what it will take to do the heavy, and he’s not under the constraints (or at least to a much lesser degree) to make it a jobs program that NASA is.”

    About the ” he’s not under the constraints (or at least to a much lesser degree) to make it a jobs program that NASA is” part the Av Week interview, also has this interesting quote: “Under SpaceX’s proposal, NASA would have overall systems oversight, and integration would be driven by Marshall Space Flight Center. “That would be a good way to go,” says Musk”

    What do you make of that?

    Joe

  • Joe

    Vladislaw,

    “It was my understanding that the ESAS 60 day study was initiated by Griffin’s and was his way of getting rid of the spiral design that Stiedal and O’Keef were pushing.”

    There were a series of trade studies going on under O’Keefe/Stiedal that were “progressing” in the way I described and the people I knew who were working on them were growing very frustrated (hence “diverging on a solution” joke). I was not a direct part of either the O’Keefe or Griffin Studies (if we can call them that to avoid confusion) however friends/associates of mine were. Since I have no idea if the O’Keefe Studies even had a name I “blurred” the two together by referring to them as if they were one seamless process. That was intellectually lazy and I apologize if it caused you any confusion.

    That however does not change the point of my post. The O’keefe Study was going nowhere.

    As to the shortcomings of the Griffin Study, I also said (in the same paragraph from which you drew my quote: “I am not supporting Griffins arbitrary decisions” The people I knew who worked on both activities were soon enough as frustrated with the Griffin Study as they had been with the O’keefe Study, but for the opposite reason. It did seem to them that Griffin had come in with a specific architecture in mind and was pushing the study to that conclusion. Griffin, earlier, had headed a study for the Planetary Society that produced a launch architecture like the Ares I/Ares V configuration. Unfortunately I do not have a copy of the study, but if you can find it the illustrations of the proposed boosters look eerily like Ares I/Ares V. Ironically the study also recommended developing an “Interplanetary Cruise Capability” (that is the capability to visit various locations in the Inner Solar System, but not land in any significant gravity well). Sort of a combination (in my opinion) of the worst aspects of Constellation Systems and the Obama plan.

    Joe

  • Joe

    Vladislaw,

    That 18 number I quoted you was quoted to me (by someone who knows a lot more about the issue than I do) about a year ago.

    “100 engines were built and they were supposed to used for 20 launches each.”

    Those numbers are accurate but they are also averages. The 20 launches each number could go down or up depending on “wear and tear” on each flight. Just to complicate matters further (you knew I would) the engines do not necessarily remain intact as a unit. Spares of subcomponents were purchased and subcomponents are switched out between engines as a build up for a flight takes place. Therefore, in order to determine how many certifiable engines are available the subcomponents have to be tracked separately. It is probably even more complex than that, but that is the best my understanding is.
    “There are 14 engines according to that file.”

    It would not surprise me if (due to the results of post flight inspections) the number had gone from 18 to 14 (or from 18 to 22 for that matter).

    With only 1 (maybe 2) Shuttle Flights left, we will know the final answer soon. If you are a betting man, I will bet you a dollar (but no more) that the final number will be somewhere between 12 and 24. :)

    Joe

  • What do you make of that?

    I make of that that he recognizes political reality. Regardless, he knows what his own costs are.

  • The people I knew who worked on both activities were soon enough as frustrated with the Griffin Study as they had been with the O’keefe Study, but for the opposite reason.

    There was no “O’Keefe study.” There was a contract to several companies/consortia for “Concept Exploration and Refinement” (CE&R) to provide data from which Admiral Steidle was going to make some architecture decisions. None of the contractor inputs contained anything resembling Ares. Before Steidle could make a decision, Mike Griffin came it, established ESAS, run by his buddies from OSC, fudged the books on the trades (this only came out when the key appendices were released years afterward), and used it to justify what he’d wanted to do before becoming administrator. And neither ESAS or Griffin paid any attention whatsoever to CE&R contractor reports. It was clear to those who had prepared them that once Griffin came in, they were doomed to gather dust on the shelf.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ December 4th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    By the way what is the source for the cost of a man-rated Delta IV

    Where possible, I try to use published information. For Delta IV Heavy, I reference the ULA CEO’s testimony to the Augustine Commission in 06/09:

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

    Unfortunately I don’t know the current price for a Delta IV Heavy, which would make their $/lb to LEO look better.

    I honestly believe that we need to be able to launch bigger payloads than a Falcon 9 or Delta IV Heavy can launch in order to do any kind of extensive BEO activities efficiently.

    Maybe, but it’s one of those situations where it’s quicker and cheaper to test out that theory by NOT building an HLV, than it is to build one.

    I also look at this from a supply & demand standpoint. There has to be a “pain” for the market to respond to with a “supply”. In the early days of airline companies, that “pain” was people wanting to get from point A to B quicker. For FedEx, they understood that people wanted the ability to get things delivered across the country in one day (or less).

    For exploration, we don’t have a “pain” yet. We have successfully built a 400 ton space station in LEO using existing launchers, and we could build more, or build larger, if we wanted using the same modular construction techniques. Where is the “pain”?

    I don’t think we’ve reached any limitations yet for mass to orbit, and if so, we have two progressively larger launchers than are just a few years away (Atlas V Heavy and Falcon 9 Heavy). Besides anecdotally, where is the need?

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ December 5th, 2010 at 9:53 am

    “Under SpaceX’s proposal, NASA would have overall systems oversight, and integration would be driven by Marshall Space Flight Center. “That would be a good way to go,” says Musk”

    What do you make of that?

    There is a lot of posturing going on in public recently, and I chalk this up as related to that. For instance Lockheed Martin recently talked up their Plymouth Rock concept for visiting an NEO using two Orion. And more recently LM announced that they are spending their own money to reserve a Delta IV Heavy in order to keep the MPCV schedule on track, even though the MPCV is not really defined yet.

    For Musk, I think his statements are along the same lines. The Super-heavy Falcon talk to is make sure the public knows that there are choices for the HLV design, and Musks mention of MSFC is his olive branch to Congress so they know their constituents would have a place at the trough if NASA goes the commercial route. Musk in putting SpaceX in the position of being a potential choice for a cost-cutting Congress that doesn’t trust the commercial sector completely – lower costs for NASA, and NASA oversight. Win Win. Or so goes the marketing… ;-)

    I think SpaceX would have a 50% chance of meeting their cost & schedule goals, but to put that in perspective, NASA spent far more time & money on Constellation, and didn’t get very far. I think it’s a less expensive bet to try out ULA or SpaceX, than forcing NASA to try again with the SLS.

    My $0.02

  • Joe

    “There was no “O’Keefe study.” There was a contract to several companies/consortia for “Concept Exploration and Refinement” (CE&R) to provide data from which Admiral Steidle was going to make some architecture decisions.”

    As I said in the post from which took the quotes I did not know what the name attached to the activities going on under O’Keefe was, so thanks for the information.

    Still the information I have indicates what I have repeatedly said. Steidle was receiving lots of input, but rather than beginning to make the interim decisions needed to reach a conclusion was continuing to “broaden the trade space”. What I mean by this (for example) is rather than beginning to down select among multiple SDHLV Options already presented, he would ask for more options. I would have to assume the same was going on in the EELV derived booster category (did I mention there was a clean sheet of paper category as well). Then there was the payload category. Rand, I saw a presentations that had what looked like an Imperial Walker (from the Empire Strikes Back) stomping around the surface of the Moon with a Moon Base on top.

    The argument can be made that eventually it would have been decided that the trade space was large enough and Steidle would have made some kind wise decision and I certainly cannot disprove that (in the sense that no one can disprove that anything that is physically possible will not happen in the future).

    But I will stand my original statement; the process (whatever you want to call it) was going nowhere.

    “ None of the contractor inputs contained anything resembling Ares. Before Steidle could make a decision, Mike Griffin came it, established ESAS, run by his buddies from OSC, fudged the books on the trades (this only came out when the key appendices were released years afterward), and used it to justify what he’d wanted to do before becoming administrator. And neither ESAS or Griffin paid any attention whatsoever to CE&R contractor reports. It was clear to those who had prepared them that once Griffin came in, they were doomed to gather dust on the shelf.”

    The only part of this that I would take any issue with at all is “Before Steidle could make a decision” as I have doubts he was going to ever make a decision.

    Forgive me if I sound a little frustrated, but how many times do I have say that just because I say something critical of what was happening with Steidle or the Obama 2011 Budget proposal that does not mean I support the Ares I/Area V architecture or the way Griffin imposed it. In the post from which you drew my quote I even noted the Planetary Society paper that was almost undoubtedly the source of the Ares I /Area V architecture.

  • “Before Steidle could make a decision” as I have doubts he was going to ever make a decision.

    If by “make a decision” you mean what new launch system to use, there was no rush to make that decision, since the highest priority was to get the CEV to a flyoff and select one to fill the gap. It probably never occurred to him to make a decision that early on overall architectures, given that the lunar landing goal was fifteen years away. The only decision that he thought he needed to make soon was contractor selection for CEVs, and based on the JSF experience, there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t have made it. He was right, IMO, and Mike Griffin’s “decision” turned out to be a disaster.

  • Joe

    “If by “make a decision” you mean what new launch system to use, there was no rush to make that decision, since the highest priority was to get the CEV to a flyoff and select one to fill the gap. It probably never occurred to him to make a decision that early on overall architectures, given that the lunar landing goal was fifteen years away. The only decision that he thought he needed to make soon was contractor selection for CEVs, and based on the JSF experience, there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t have made it. He was right, IMO, and Mike Griffin’s “decision” turned out to be a disaster.”

    My perception of what was happening under Steidle certainly differs from yours; since the process was truncated we will never know for sure. As to the return to comments about the short comings of Griffins policies and personality, see last paragraph of my previous post.

  • Joe

    Rand,

    “I make of that that he recognizes political reality. Regardless, he knows what his own costs are.”

    I would submitt that if he were to really turn his Systems Engineering over to MSFC, he will lose significant control of what his costs are. Not attacking anybody, just saying.

    Joe

  • I would submitt that if he were to really turn his Systems Engineering over to MSFC, he will lose significant control of what his costs are.

    Those will be NASA’s costs, not his.

  • Vladislaw

    “Griffin, earlier, had headed a study for the Planetary Society that produced a launch architecture like the Ares I/Ares V configuration. Unfortunately I do not have a copy of the study, but if you can find it the illustrations of the proposed boosters look eerily like Ares I/Ares V.”

    I believe that was FLO (First Lunar Outpost) when Griffin was with NASA’s Office of Exploration?

    http://www.astronautix.com/craft/firtpost.htm

    I know that when that came out the STS had been using solid rocket motors already for over a decade and the HLV would have used cheaper liquid boosters. I always thought it odd that Griffin had the data for SRB’s use for a decade but didn’t utilize them at all. When he comes in as administrator he does a 180 and says SRBs were fundamental to the system. ( always assumed this was the trade off he made in order to get support in congress from Utah)

  • Joe

    “Those will be NASA’s costs, not his.”

    But the tax payers cost would be NASA’s Cost + His Costs. :)

  • There’s no way to protect the taxpayers from NASA, but it will still cost a lot less than Ares/Orion.

  • Joe

    “There’s no way to protect the taxpayers from NASA, but it will still cost a lot less than Ares/Orion.”

    Except if you really believe that NASA is evil, stop asking them for money. As to the return to comments about the short comings of Griffins policies and personality, see last paragraph of my previous post.

  • Joe

    Woops, I should have said my post dated:

    Joe wrote @ December 5th, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Given your obsession with Griffin, I suspect I am going to get a lot of use out of that. It may even prevent me from getting meta carpal tunnel syndrome.

  • Except if you really believe that NASA is evil, stop asking them for money.

    Hey, I’d be happy to defund NASA human spaceflight entirely. But as long as they’re going to continue to wastespend billions a year on it, I’m going to try to divert it to more productive directions in that regard.

  • Joe

    Every time you editorialize for spending NASA money on Commercial Space, Orbital Fuel Depots, whatever you are asking them for money. With that money (if you were to get it) goes government oversight.

    If you would really be so happy to “defund NASA human spaceflight entirely”, then editorialize for that. I would disagree with you, but would acknowledge that you were being consistent.

  • Every time you editorialize for spending NASA money on Commercial Space, Orbital Fuel Depots, whatever you are asking them for money. With that money (if you were to get it) goes government oversight.

    Who said otherwise? With whom are you arguing?

  • Joe

    I am not arguing with anybody.

    You left out the second part:
    “If you would really be so happy to “defund NASA human spaceflight entirely”, then editorialize for that. I would disagree with you, but would acknowledge that you were being consistent.”

    Care to address that?

  • “If you would really be so happy to “defund NASA human spaceflight entirely”, then editorialize for that. I would disagree with you, but would acknowledge that you were being consistent.”

    I see no inconsistency with my position, sorry. I think that the chances of fixing NASA HSF are greater than the chances of defunding it. As long as we are going to continue to spend billions a year on it, as a space enthusiast, I will continue to fight to get the money spent more sensibly. I may be wrong, but I choose my battles carefully.

  • Joe

    Well said, even if find the tactic rather “realpoilitic”, my point is that by trying to be “practical” and try for what you think you can get instead of what you want you will often get unintended consequences.

    Musk has now (under the Obama Plan) had a lot of money (even by his standards) waved under his nose and his willingness to work on an HLV (which you say is not needed) and to have MSFC take the Systems Engineering lead for “his” project could be interpreted as at least the beginning of his being co-opted by the system you say you hate so much.

    Please note that I am not trying to insult Musk in this, as I can guarantee you a couple of Billion Dollars would “take me right out of the show room” .:)

  • Musk has now (under the Obama Plan) had a lot of money (even by his standards) waved under his nose and his willingness to work on an HLV (which you say is not needed) and to have MSFC take the Systems Engineering lead for “his” project could be interpreted as at least the beginning of his being co-opted by the system you say you hate so much.

    While hardly ideal, if that happens, it will still be preferable to the status quo. Marshall can continue to waste money on things it doesn’t do very well, and Musk will continue to build rockets.

  • Joe

    If letting Marshall do Systems Engineering for him means what that implies he may go on building rockets, but it will be with Marshall establishing a wide range of things including(but not limited to):
    - Requirements
    - Verification techniques for those requirements
    - Schedules for completion of verification and hardware delivery
    - The organization (review boards, etc.) to control the whole process

  • - Requirements
    - Verification techniques for those requirements
    - Schedules for completion of verification and hardware delivery
    - The organization (review boards, etc.) to control the whole process

    SpaceX is already through most of that for Falcon 9. If Marshall bogs down development of the BFR, I won’t necessarily weep over that, either. It will be his own fault for not wanting to spend his own money on it.

  • Joe

    Vladislaw,

    Sorry I was so long getting back to you and hope you see this.

    Here is a link to the Planetary Society paper I mentioned.

    http://www.planetary.org/programs/projects/aim_for_mars/study-report.pdf

    It is titled: “Extending Human Presence into the Solar System” and a key quote can be found at the end of the section on booster options.

    It says: “At this point, SDV designs including both an SRM-based vehicle for CEVservices and an in-line heavy-lift configuration appear to be very attractive options for leveraging the investment in infrastructure and people for a quick response. The manner in which the Shuttle phase-out is actually implemented and the determination of which infrastructure
    elements will then be available for other applications will be major determining factors in whether these vehicles can become viable options for near-term applications.”

  • Vladislaw

    “SpaceX is already through most of that for Falcon 9. If Marshall bogs down development of the BFR, I won’t necessarily weep over that, either. It will be his own fault for not wanting to spend his own money on it.”

    He probably just wants to get the engine development costs out of the whole deal. Once he has the engine he wants he could probably get by with doing the rest on his own?

  • Joe

    Vladislaw,

    “He probably just wants to get the engine development costs out of the whole deal. Once he has the engine he wants he could probably get by with doing the rest on his own?”

    The full pertinent quote from the interview is:

    “Under SpaceX’s proposal, NASA would have overall systems oversight, and integration would be driven by Marshall Space Flight Center. “That would be a good way to go,” says Musk, who adds that “the only logical place” for final vehicle assembly remains Kennedy Space Center. “When you build a vehicle that big, it minimizes logistics; you can re-use the space shuttle pads and conceivably even make the tanks at Michoud [the current external tank facility in Huntsville, Ala.].”

    First there is an error in the article I am surprised Av Week made as the Michoud Facility is in Louisiana not Alabama. But the set up described sounds like exactly a traditional contract that a Boeing or Lockheed would make for the whole vehicle. It does make sense to build the tanks at Michoud and assemble the total vehicle at KSC. The sticking point (if you really want Space-X to remain a Company that does business differently from Boeing and Lockheed) is the “, NASA would have overall systems oversight, and integration would be driven by Marshall Space Flight Center” part. I have nothing against NASA or MSFC (I will let everyone else speak for themselves), but that kind of systems engineering control of the booster development will add bureaucracy, compromise Space-X independence and make the proposed $2.5 Billion development cost difficult to meet.

    Joe

  • He probably just wants to get the engine development costs out of the whole deal. Once he has the engine he wants he could probably get by with doing the rest on his own?

    Yes, just as Ares V was the justification for Ares I, the BFR is the justification for the BFE, which he wants just to reduce Falcon 9 costs and complexity.

  • Joe

    “Yes, just as Ares V was the justification for Ares I, the BFR is the justification for the BFE, which he wants just to reduce Falcon 9 costs and complexity.”

    So he wants to bid on the SLS contract, take on dealing with NASA in effect running his business, at some point dump the HLV in order to get NASA to fund a new bigger engine which he will then retro-fit into the Falcon-9 (or would it still be called that?).

    Machiavellian little sucker, isn’t he. But you should really stop giving away his game plan. NASA might have some “mole” reading this sight and not like the fact that good old Elon is trying to rip them off. :)

  • Oh, he wants a BFR, too, but that would be gravy. I suspect he really wants the BFE.

  • Joe

    “Oh, he wants a BFR, too, but that would be gravy. I suspect he really wants the BFE.”

    I suspect he really wants a lucrative government contract (not that there is anything wrong with that). The way things are shaping up (so far – the fat lady has not sung yet) that is SLS. So he has “got your SLS for you, right here”.

  • The way things are shaping up (so far – the fat lady has not sung yet) that is SLS. So he has “got your SLS for you, right here”.

    I don’t understand why you don’t understand the key distinction. SLS on a cost-plus contract, versus SLS on a fixed-price contract.

  • Joe

    The SLS contract, if it is awarded, will either fixed cost or cost plus depending on what the government decides. Nothing in the Av Week interview even mentioned the distinction (as in no place did Musk say he would only accept a fixed cost contract – even though he did specifically say he would accept, even wanted MSFC to run his systems engineering).

    I understand the difference between a fixed cost and cost plus contract very well, I do not understand why you assume the SLS contract would be fixed cost.

  • Elon would never accept a cost-plus contract for the same reason XCOR has always refused to — it would pollute and corrupt their corporate culture to do so.

  • Joe

    “Elon would never accept a cost-plus contract for the same reason XCOR has always refused to — it would pollute and corrupt their corporate culture to do so.”

    I admire your faith in Mr. Musk, but do not (especially after what he said in the Av Week interview) share it. I am not personally adverse to having NASA involved in the Systems Engineering of a project they are paying for, but by the standards you are setting that is already ‘polluting and corrupting their corporate culture”.

    Additionally anybody who would accept a fixed cost contract allowing the party giving the contract to control Systems Engineering (essentially the management of the project) would have to be extremely stupid or suicidal. I have seen no signs that Mr. Musk is either.

  • No, but it is possible that he hadn’t thought through the implications of what he was saying.

  • Joe

    “No, but it is possible that he hadn’t thought through the implications of what he was saying.”

    Anyhting is possible, but some things are more likely than others; here I will give him more credit than you do. I think the chances of him speaking off the cuff about this in a realativley high profile interview in Av Week is unlikely.

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