Congress, NASA, White House

Holiday briefs: Ares, Orion, commercial, and broken promises

A few items of interest for those catching up from the holidays:

Regular readers know that Congress’s inability this month to pass either an omnibus spending bill or a full-year continuing resolution means that provisions in the FY10 appropriations bill remain in effect, including one that prevents NASA from terminating any elements of Constellation. An Orlando Sentinel article Monday puts that into perspective: it means NASA will spend nearly $500 million until March on Ares 1 in fiscal year 2011, even though the program was effectively killed by the NASA authorization act signed into law in October. NASA officials say while it might look like the money is being wasted, much of it is “directly applicable” to the heavy-lift vehicle included in the authorization act—provided a shuttle-derived architecture for the system is selected.

In a separate article, the Sentinel wonders if NASA can afford to continue business as usual for Orion given the successes in the past year by SpaceX. One passage indicates that SpaceX has some supporters within NASA who are seeking to cut down on the layers of bureaucracy and get things done cheaper:

Inside NASA, some employees have taken to wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the letters “WWED,” which stands for “What Would Elon Do?” — a reference to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, the Internet tycoon who invested his own fortune in pursuit of his dream of sending humans into space at affordable prices.

In the article, NASA Orion project manager Mark Geyer said the agency is getting the message and is “scaling back layers of supervision and looking at other ways to cut costs.” The article also notes, though, that under current plans, Orion would not be ready to transport astronauts to the ISS until 2018. By comparison, NASA officials involved with CCDev stated this month that commercial vehicles could be ready to begin service by late 2016; commercial advocates would no doubt argue that such vehicles could enter service even sooner.

The commercial option is looking attractive to agencies outside the US as well. Canadian Space Agency president Steve MacLean told the Canadian Press that he would be open to buying seats on an American commercial vehicle to allow Canadian astronauts to visit the ISS. “If everything goes well, and if it shows that to our satisfaction everything is OK, everything is safe and secure, yes, it’s possible,” he said.

All of these policy changes in the last year, though, represent a significant change from Obama’s 2008 campaign white paper on space policy, which included an endorsement of the Vision for Space Exploration’s central goal of a human return to the Moon by 2020 and plans to “expedite the development of the Shuttle’s successor systems”. Salon has flagged that change as an example of one of the “promises Obama wants you to keep forgetting”. Salon cites this and other examples to disprove a statement by the president: “There’s not a single thing that I’ve said that I would do that I have not either done or tried to do.”

116 comments to Holiday briefs: Ares, Orion, commercial, and broken promises

  • Bennett

    The bit about “WWED” is sure to bring a smile to the folks at SpaceX, and the usual derisive boilerplate from folks like DCSCA.

    The times, they are a’changing.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  • Let’s say SpaceX is readying to fly a human crew by 2013 as projected. Will porking Congresscritters pass legislation forbidding NASA from using commercial for its crews? Or at least make it such a bureaucratic maze to get approval that NASA will have no choice but to continue with Orion and a brain-dead Ares I?

    It will be interesting to see the limit of extreme measures that will be taken by porkers like Shelby to keep the gravy train on the rails.

  • Major Tom

    “The article also notes, though, that under current plans, Orion would not be ready to transport astronauts to the ISS until 2018.”

    Actually, if you read the article carefully, the 2018 date refers to the new plan where LockMart is subject to fewer layers of NASA management and oversight. Even then, Orion will take a couple to several years longer than Dragon or CST-100.

    Under the “old plan” and the MPCV funding levels in the 2010 Authorization Act, Orion wouldn’t be ready until the early 2020s.

    FWIW…

  • Aremis Asling

    “All of these policy changes in the last year, though, represent a significant change from Obama’s 2008 campaign white paper on space policy, which included an endorsement of the Vision for Space Exploration’s central goal of a human return to the Moon by 2020 and plans to “expedite the development of the Shuttle’s successor systems”.”

    The only change from the VSE is the shift from boots on the Moon as the first goal. Otherwise, the FY2011 plan looks more like the VSE than Bush’s NASA did several years after VSE was announced. Cx wasn’t going to get us anywhere, even to LEO, before 2017 (now they say 2018?). Boots on the Moon by 2020 is laughable.

    As to the ‘shuttle successor’, I don’t see how he’s at all inconsistant. Unlike Cx, FY2011 reintroduces the heavy dose of commercial LEO originally proposed by the VSE as a method of expediting a government vehicle to beyond. Unlike Cx, they would forego the wasteful and pointless Ares I and go straight to a vehicle that can actually take us BEO. Unlike Cx, we’re now talking about launching Orion on existing hardware instead of duct-taping a perpetually incomplete job saver (Ares I) together for political points. Yes, there have been mis-steps along the way. And I don’t think he’s stuck entirely to the plan. But unlike the other examples in the Salon article, he hasn’t deviated nearly as significantly from the VSE as he has from, say, transparency. Cx deviated a whole lot further from it than FY2011 did, even if the HLV wasn’t to be built until 2015.

  • amightywind

    Good to hear that Ares I is alive and well. Hopefully the GOP House can reinvigorate the program now that its political opponents have been weakened.

    “scaling back layers of supervision and looking at other ways to cut costs.”

    NASA and the federal government in general are in need of a 10% RIF to weed out non-hackers.

  • Major Tom wrote:

    Actually, if you read the article carefully, the 2018 date refers to the new plan where LockMart is subject to fewer layers of NASA management and oversight. Even then, Orion will take a couple to several years longer than Dragon or CST-100.

    I don’t think Orion will ever fly — or if it does, it will be a one-time event like Ares I-X. Orion is just another government jobs program and will be rendered irrelevent once SpaceX flies Dragon with crew.

    A thought occurred to me which perhaps Jeff or someone else can answer — can SpaceX fly its own crew without NASA’s human-rating stamp of approval?

    Let’s say the Shelbys of the world put up their usual bureaucratic obstacles to force NASA not to use commercial for crew. SpaceX needs to demonstrate that crew can fly safely on Dragon. If NASA is prohibited from providing crew, could SpaceX hire and fly their own crew?

    I’m sure Ken Bowersox could round up a few former NASA astronauts who would be willing to fly again on the SpaceX payroll. But could they still use LC-40 at CCAFS to launch crew if they’re not NASA crew?

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Salon reminds us not only how duplicitous but how much of an ignoramus the President really is. First, he lied about preserving the return to the Moon. Then he thought no one would notice when it had become apparent when he lied.

    The abandonment of the Moon is a very big deal, even if one thinks that the “look but don’t touch” jaunts to asteroids have any meaning. No permanent home for humans beyond the Earth for the foreseeable future. No use of lunar resources for the enrichment of the country and to support sustainable deep space exploration.

    Both of these are features and no bugs in the minds of the people doing space policy for Obama,

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 3:44 am

    well you ask make a good statement and ask a good question…I’ll try and combine them

    Great Nations do do things simply because they have the power…I’ve always believed that to whom (and who) much is given much is expected and the notion of acting responsibily in a difficult time to advance civilization is one of the things great powers do.

    BUT two points. First the notion that we have been acting responsibly in how dollars are spent on human spaceflight is to me answered…we have not. We have gotten very little bang for the buck at NASA since the mid 80′s…all we have is a growing notion of bureaucracy and incompetent management. The structure that exist today could not take America to the Moon in the 60′s on the dollars available…that it is inept is seen from this quote in this thread

    “In the article, NASA Orion project manager Mark Geyer said the agency is getting the message and is “scaling back layers of supervision and looking at other ways to cut costs.”

    one has to ask why those “layers” ever formed at all? I do that rhetorically I know the answer; it is the same reason the US Navy has more admirals now then ships and what use to be commanded by a LT is now a CDR or CAPT billet.

    Second I dont think that great powers who are spending money that they really dont have (ie borrowing it) should spend that money except on things that are really urgent. If we wanted to invade Iraq, absent some IJN moment at Pearl Harbor…then we should have at least ponied up the taxes to pay for it…but no…we just lied to ourselves “the war will pay for itself” or excuse it by some other means “blame 9/11″…

    Same with going back to the Moon to do things that have almost no value for cost. Or worse can be done cheaper from Earth. These are things being done “just to do them”…and with little or no regard for making the entire thing permanent…past just getting on the federal gravy train.

    As for the malaise. I agree completely with this. We (as the US) have had 10 years of just really bad leadership. In Bush’s case it was one bad decision after the next, decisions that were poorly implemented and in Obama’s case it is simply an inability to lead.

    Worse the base of the GOP is off on this “anti national” scam. It is from the GOP which has sprung the ingrained notion of buying things one cannot afford nor has any real incentive to pay for. Obama has spent a lot of money but since Reagan the bulk of our deficit has come from this notion that we can deficit spend and thats a GOP thing…worse the GOP has been instrumental (although the Dems have done it as well) at subsidizing failed institutions.

    NASA is one of those. The bulk of the folks arguing to continue programs like Cx (orion and ares) are members of the GOP…no one in the Bush administration when Columbia went bang urged a massive house cleaning at NASA…the bulk of the people who made all those wrong decisions are on other programs not on the street…

    We have become a nation where tax dollars in deficit spending are continually used to prop up failed institutions and people. The recent GOP push to extend the tax rates for the very wealthy is illustrative. If a “rising tide would lift all boats” the water pushed into the wealthy over4 the last 10 years should have floated us all…instead those with wealth are getting MORE wealthy and the middle class is shrinking. The stimulus (an Obama invention) is bad…but it is on its affect on the economy far less “worse” then the TARP which is a GOP call.

    The American people start to drift when they start to think that the leadership doesnt have a clue what it is doing. They are a larger scale version of a military or corporate unit which starts to flounder when the “worker bees” dont have confidence in the leadership or think the leadership is in it for themselves.

    We desperatly need a leader who will stop subsidizing failed institutions, let them fail, leave/abandon things which are not working or dont have any value and explain to the American people why…

    maybe in 2012.

    But NASA HSF is one of those failed institutions. It couldnt manage its way into a brothel.

    Robert G. Oler

  • vulture4

    SpaceX can certainly fly its own personnel in space without NASA approval, as Virgin already has, although they need FAA clearance to launch and would need NASA aproval to dock at ISS, it’s hard to believe NASA would block them. The Dragon flight test demonstrated a heat shield that could easily accommodate entry from BEO as well as LEO, So unfortunately Constellation is already well behind SpaceX with both Orion and Ares have been rendered moot.

    America does not have one dime to waste on government projects that do not provide practical benefits. It is sad to see so many precious tax dollars wasted when even NASA has hundreds of proposals for science and technology developments that could have immense value, many of which are rejected simply because they aren’t relevant to the unitary Constellation mission.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 10:18 am

    “A thought occurred to me which perhaps Jeff or someone else can answer — can SpaceX fly its own crew without NASA’s human-rating stamp of approval?”

    yes and I expect them to do this. SpaceX would need the approval of the FAA to fly “just anyone” The rumor from a chum at the FAA is that they are “in work” on something like that.

    They probably could not go to the Space station unless NASA agreed but 1) I wouldnt expect them to try that on the first flight as it would cloud the PR value…and 2) NASA would in my view after flying a few dragons to the station have a hard time saying no.

    I agree with your thing on Orion it will never fly.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Rob H

    @Stephen C. Smith

    “But could they still use LC-40 at CCAFS to launch crew if they’re not NASA crew?”
    I think here in lies part of the answer to the question.

    NASA has no authority over LC-40; it is an USAF operated spaceport with SpaceX leasing the LC. The Air Force controls range safety.

    The other important element is that NASA does not provide launch clearance to SpaceX (, ULA, or Orbital). The Federal Aviation Administration controls that aspect.

    So to answer: “can SpaceX fly its own crew without NASA’s human-rating stamp of approval?”
    - Sorta; SpaceX does not need NASA’s approval, but it does need the approval of the FAA (launch & re-entry licenses) and USAF (range safety).

    SpaceX will be pathfinding regardless; it will need the the FAA licenses and range safety regardless of the customer (or payload).

  • Mark R. Whittington

    By the way, WWED? Go to Capitol Hill with his hand out demanding money. Which is, one supposes, what NASA must do anyway.

  • A thought occurred to me which perhaps Jeff or someone else can answer — can SpaceX fly its own crew without NASA’s human-rating stamp of approval?

    Yes, as others have noted, as long as they aren’t going to approach or dock to ISS, all they have to do is get a launch license from the FAA (which includes range safety approval, though it would be no different for a crewed launch from an uncrewed one). And they don’t even need a launch escape system, if they’re able to find someone willing to ride without one (I’m sure there’s no shortage of volunteers). The FAA currently has no responsibility for passenger safety, other than insuring informed consent. If I were Elon, I might send some people up — all it really needs is a better life-support system, which could be done within months.

    By the way, WWED? Go to Capitol Hill with his hand out demanding money.

    Yes, Mark, when people provide a needed service, they expect money. Funny how that works.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Obama said he would “expedite the development of the Shuttle’s successor systems”. Given the schedule that Constellation was really on, with regard to human space flight at least, his cancellation of that program seems like it was in keeping with that ideal. Support for commercial operations seemed to be the route that would best expedite our capability to get people into LEO. Continued support of Constellation was hardly the way to expedite anything except for shoveling money at industry and NASA centers.

    Also, while he said then that he “endorses the goal of sending humans to the Moon by 2020″, that was hardly a “promise” (a word that seems to be bandied around a lot here, and evidently by Salon as well). “Endorsing a goal” = “promise”, eh? It may be that this endorsement assumed that the Constellation program was, in fact, executable. His review commission determined that it was not, and he acted on that determination.

    Jeff is right, that Obama’s policy direction with regard to space is significantly changed from what was in his 2008 campaign white paper, but of course the prospects for the schedule and fiscal success of Constellation were significantly changed from what was known at the time his campaign white paper was written. OK, call it a “flip-flop”. A “flop” in a a program certainly deserves a “flip” in policy.

    I’m not trying to be an apologist for Obama, but it is somewhat exasperating and unfair when anyones words get twisted.

  • Roga

    @ Steven C. Smith –

    The NASA/SpaceX relationship for commercial crew is a marriage of convenience for both; NASA has no regulatory authority unless the craft in question is approaching ISS or carrying NASA payloads/crew. There are no restrictions in the US right now for flying your own employees to space. Flying non-employees to orbit is a little more of a gray area, but it would probably fall under the same “informed consent” rule that governs suborbital flight.

    As for LC-40, that is on the Air Force’s Eastern Range, which is adjacent to but not part of NASA’s Cape Canaveral Launch Complex. So NASA would not have any say if SpaceX showed up with a manned capsule. NASA can really only help commercial crew along right now; it had its chance to throw a knockout blow by making the Constellation architecture a real threat to compete with commercial; and it failed spectacularly. The only thing that can beat the commercial guys now is themselves – reaching too far too fast or screwing up enough to cut off their capital flows.

    @ vulture4 – Heck, it’s not even technically necessary to get NASA’s approval to dock at ISS. Much like the Dennis Tito flight in reverse, if SpaceX contracted with, say, ESA or Canada to take their astronauts, as part of the ISS consortium the other country could take on the risk of docking. NASA could block the flight through ITAR, but this would constitute a major egg on the face if another nation showed a more pioneering spirit than our own in using our technology. Also, it is unclear how successful NASA would be in an ITAR campaign vs. one of our historical allies. Tough to make a national security case against the people who landed on Normandy and continue to fight in Afghanistan with us.

  • A Canadian sponsored and funded SpaceX Dragon mission to ISS would be an interesting gambit to attempt to cut through Beltway bureaucracy.

    Yes, there would be many details to iron out but at first impression, I very much like the idea.

  • Vladislaw

    “In the article, NASA Orion project manager Mark Geyer said the agency is getting the message and is “scaling back layers of supervision and looking at other ways to cut costs.” “

    I wonder what it would take to get Mark to say instead of scaling back the layers of supervision to scaling back the number of supervisors. No extra supervisors, no extra layers for them to make work to keep their job.

    Mark R. Whittington wrote:

    “By the way, WWED? Go to Capitol Hill with his hand out demanding money. Which is, one supposes, what NASA must do anyway.”

    By the way Mark, once again you are off the reservation with your luney claims. Show my one relable quotation where Elon Musk DEMANDED money from the government.

    NASA needs a service, Musk reponds with this is how much it will cost if they want it.. how in the hell can you turn that into a demand.

    I am one of the few left who still bothered to read you…. you have convinced me with that line, to never bother anymore.

  • NASA officials say while it might look like the money is being wasted, much of it is “directly applicable” to the heavy-lift vehicle included in the authorization act—provided a shuttle-derived architecture for the system is selected.

    That’s the real kicker there – trying to get a politically expedient SD-HLV chosen for NASA.

    But wasn’t that tact already tried…only with $10 Billion?

  • Major Tom

    “Good to hear that Ares I is alive and well.”

    As an independent launch vehicle, Ares I is dead. The current funding level is a fraction of what the project previously had and would need going forward. Moreover, since the 2010 Authorization Act, all Ares I activities have been redirected to supporting a booster for an SDHLV.

    “Hopefully the GOP House can reinvigorate the program”

    Unlikely. The House passed the 2010 Authorization Act by a large, bipartisan margin, and most of those representatives will still be in the new congress.

    And the new House leadership still wants to cut domestic discretionary spending (the part of the federal budget NASA is in) dramatically, by $100 billion in the first year alone.

    http://money.cnn.com/2010/12/27/news/economy/GOP_budget_promise/

    Ares I/Orion needed $3-5 billion _more_ (not less) _per year_ to have an IOC before the end of the decade. The budget pressure is in the wrong direction for domestic discretionary programs like Ares I and Orion that need lots more taxpayer dollars.

    “now that its political opponents have been weakened.”

    Even if the House representatives that voted for NASA’s 2010 Authorization Act changed their minds, the Senate, which authored that Act, is almost certainly not going to change its mind. And the White House would of course oppose a Constellation resurrection and holds veto power.

    “NASA and the federal government in general are in need of a 10% RIF to weed out non-hackers.”

    The management layers of most federal agencies are in need of an even greater cut. And NASA must reduce the Shuttle workforce dramatically to have an affordable human space exploration program going forward.

    But a 10% cut in the NASA civil servant workforce is only going to save the agency $2-300 million. That’s a _tenth_ of the budget increase that Ares I/Orion would need to be resurrected.

    FWIW…

  • Alex

    So, operational Orion in 2018? With a budget runout that’s half of what FY10 projected for the program? A program, mind you, that under FY10 funding would not be operational until 2019, as per Augustine.

    I suppose cutting the overhead and Ares I has saved much, but this much? Color me skeptical.

  • NASA Fan

    The path forward for Dragon manned missions is simple, as noted in these posts. Fly Space X employees a few times. This helps Space X avoid the overreaching arm of the ‘gov’ment here to help you ma’am’ and its billions of human rated requirements on the rocket. All NASA has left to do is train these Space X astro’s on the ISS Simulators, etc. owned and operated by NASA HSF.

  • Coastal Ron

    NASA Fan wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    All NASA has left to do is train these Space X astro’s on the ISS Simulators, etc. owned and operated by NASA HSF.

    Congress does want a government crew transportation capability:

    S. 3729 – SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
    (9) While commercial transportation systems have the promise to contribute valuable services, it is in the United States national interest to maintain a government operated space transportation system for crew and cargo delivery to space.

    However, there is nothing keeping them from buying systems that are not the Lockheed Martin contracted Orion/MPCV. NASA could buy Falcon 9/Dragon systems and launch them from the SpaceX complex, or even set up their own launch site. Same could be said for Boeings CST-100 or SNC’s Dream Chaser. And notice the law doesn’t mention exploration, just “delivery to space”.

    However, since the SpaceX launch site is already on government property, they could just contract with SpaceX for launch services. This would be no different that the arrangement they have with ULA for NASA and DoD launches.

    From a contracting standpoint, buying an existing product can be a lot less expensive than building and maintaining your own. Of course this would be a big blow to LM and it’s congressional supporters, but there is a lot of money to be saved.

    The big question is when NASA would attempt this paradigm shift. I think it could happen soon after they get an approved funding bill, or it could happen after SpaceX has completed all of their COTS milestones and become approved for the CRS deliveries to start. At that point, it would be hard to argue against a NASA approved contractor system being purchased by NASA for NASA use. Where’s the argument?

    There are still a lot of shoes to drop regarding the end of Constellation, and the beginning of commercial cargo and crew. 2011 could be very interesting…

    My $0.02

  • Egad

    Mark R. Whittington wrote:

    > Both of these are features and no bugs in the minds of the people doing space policy for Obama,

    When you find yourself writing things that presuppose you can read minds, you really should ask yourself if you can do that. And, if so, how.

  • DCSCA

    “Inside NASA, some employees have taken to wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the letters “WWED,” which stands for “What Would Elon Do?” Employees destined for layoffs given their demonstrated poor judgment for false equivelency as they know full well what Elon would do based on what he hasn’t done– which is fly NOBODY.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 11:03 am
    “But NASA HSF is one of those failed institutions. It couldnt manage its way into a brothel.”

    Interesting analogy, no doubt derived from personal experience. Can’t decided if you’re on a payroll shilling for commercial space or simply a lobbyist in search of a gig as your comment is simply false. NASA HSF has taken mankind to the moon. Commerical HSF has taken man no place– it has not orbited anybody.

  • NASA HSF has taken mankind to the moon.

    Not in almost forty years. Commercial space is much closer to doing so right now than NASA is, in terms of both time and money.

  • Bennett

    Bennett wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 8:49 am

    DCSCA wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Prophecy fulfilled.

    Besides, asking WWED in any given situation within NASA should reveal honest answers about how to develop a rocket program within a limited budget.

    SpaceX’s accomplishments stand on their own, impressively. They’ll move on to manned spaceflight in a calm and determined fashion.

    At that point DCSCA will cry “They have orbited NO moon yet!”

    There’s my second prophecy of the day. :-)

  • DCSCA

    ‘All of these policy changes in the last year, though, represent a significant change from Obama’s 2008 campaign white paper on space policy, which included an endorsement of the Vision for Space Exploration’s central goal of a human return to the Moon by 2020 and plans to “expedite the development of the Shuttle’s successor systems”.’ Actually, Obama’s position changed from opposing VSE very early on in his campaign to support through 2008 then back to its current status whixch is more in line with his initial proposals. He is not a child of the Space Age and it has little meaning in his life.

  • DCSCA

    @amightywind wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 9:59 am
    Ares is dead. It’s the bumbling Washington bureaucracy that’s alive and well.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 11:18 am

    RE-can SpaceX fly its own crew without NASA’s human-rating stamp of approval?…. “yes and I expect them to do this.”

    Apparently you must be just a shill after all. There’s no data to support your assertion. THey have flown nobody. Space X has flown nobody and there’s no independent verification of whether Dragon is capable of carrying crews on survivable spaceflights or if SpaceX’s ECS is viable.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    “By the way Mark, once again you are off the reservation with your luney claims. Show my one relable quotation where Elon Musk DEMANDED money from the government.”

    When someone compares lawmakers to the Soviet Politburo for being justr a tad slow in providing corporate welfare, then I think the word “demand” is more than appropriate.

    By the way, the government is not just buying a “service” from SpaceX. It is underwriting the development of a space transportation system that does not now exist. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden placed no limits on the amount of money NASA will spend to make that happen. This is not commercial. This is not capitalism. This is something else and even if some people don’t want to hear that, it is nevertheless the truth.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Btw, Rand

    “Yes, Mark, when people provide a needed service, they expect money. Funny how that works.”

    But Elon Musk cannot provide that service because he has no operational space launch system capable of doing so. He is dependent on the government to build his space ship. That is the way the world works in Washington where he who has the most influence gets the most money.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 11:35 am
    “By the way, WWED? Go to Capitol Hill with his hand out demanding money. Yes, Mark, when people provide a needed service, they expect money. Funny how that works.”

    Funny? Try hilarious, given his ‘private enterprise’ stance, which degrades his pitch even more. The private capital markets await his prospectus and retirement on Mars awaits. A government that currently borrows 41 cents of every dollar it spends and has a few space programs (military/civilian & black ops) to fund/cut already doesn’t need another mouth to feed.

  • Dennis Berube

    For those who have said that Dragons heat shield is better than Orions, lets see a high speed re- entry test made by the vehicle, to prove it!

  • lol

    current NASA HSF has not taken mankind to the moon, DCSCA. what has anyone at NASA done, DCSCA? shuttle and ISS building each other.

    do you take credit for the pilgrims too, DCSCA? I bet you freed the slaves too. elon can’t claim that either.

  • Thanks to those who answered my question … Yes, I know LC-40 is at CCAFS and therefore under the jurisdiction of the USAF. My speculation was what might happen if NASA didn’t provide astronauts for testing the Dragon, either because they chose not to or were ordered not to by Congress.

    The FAA being responsible for certification puts the matter outside the space-industrial complex to some extent, but even should SpaceX successfully fly Dragon with their own crew, there’s still the question of whether Congress will forbid it. We’ve certainly seen a few of them in this election cycle claim that it’s impossible for a commercial craft to be as safe as a NASA craft, so as the reality of Dragon becomes more obvious we’ll have to see just how far they’ll go to deny reality.

    I do like the idea of SpaceX reaching ISS through another partner. That would certainly point out the Congressional hypocrisy … as if we need to have it pointed out yet again …

  • My speculation was what might happen if NASA didn’t provide astronauts for testing the Dragon, either because they chose not to or were ordered not to by Congress.

    Why would NASA astronauts be required to test the Dragon?

  • Bennett

    Dennis Berube wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    The Dragon’s heat shield id PICA-X, an advanced composite, similar to the shuttle tiles I believe. They HAVE conducted their first return-from-orbit test and it was quite successful.

    Orion uses an Avcoat ablator system, no high speed tests have been scheduled, because, well, Orion is over 5 years (and 3-5 billion dollars) away from completion.

    Oh well.

  • But Elon Musk cannot provide that service because he has no operational space launch system capable of doing so.

    He provided all of the milestones requested in his fixed-price contract. NASA seems to think they got their money’s worth, based on comments from the COTS people. Why do you think they’re wrong?

    As for having “no operational launch system,” he likely will one flight from now.

    NASA Administrator Charles Bolden placed no limits on the amount of money NASA will spend to make that happen.

    How many “limits” did Mike Griffin “place” on the funding for Constellation to make it happen? He wasted billions and years with little to show for it except a capsule still years and more billions away from flight, and a test flight of a mock up that by itself cost about as much as SpaceX has spent to date on everything, including a new company, test and launch facilities, two rockets developed and a capsule.

    What a stupid comment.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 4:41 pm
    there is no way that Congress can forbid it short of a bill passing both houses and signed by the POTUS.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Rhyolite

    Dennis Berube wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    “For those who have said that Dragons heat shield is better than Orions, lets see a high speed re- entry test made by the vehicle, to prove it!”

    It is made of the same material as the Stardust heat shield, which had the highest re-entry speed of any man made object to date.

  • DCSCA

    @Bennett wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 4:06 pm
    You mean truth told. NASA employees who hold thw WWED line of thinking should be encuraged to wear the attire. Makes it easier to spot the bad apples in the barrel.

  • DCSCA

    Rand Simberg wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    RE- man on the moon; “Not in almost forty years. Commercial space is much closer to doing so right now than NASA is, in terms of both time and money.”

    ROFLMAO. Nonsense. 2010 is coming to a close and commerical space has orbited absolutely nobody. If you’re going to pass yourself off as an ‘educator’ you best refresh yourself on the history of spaceflight. NASA lofted Shepard 50 years ago this May on his suborbital jaunt and Soviet Russia orbited Gagarin half a century ago this April. Commercial space is has yet to accomplish either feat, let alone sending crews to the moon. But your chatter is quaint.

  • Bill Hensley

    SpaceX is heavily dependent on NASA funding for developing their HSF capability. So they are going to have to satisfy NASA’s requirements to do so. If somebody else walked up with another hundred million or two that would be a different story. But I don’t see that happening. Even Boeing and Bigelow are counting on NASA subsidizing development of commercial crew systems.

  • @Dennis- Search for ‘Stardust return capsule’ and you’ll see a case where the same material used for the fastest successful entry so far and it used the same material that Dragon uses. Not direct proof, but don’t hang your hat on the Dragon heat shield not working.

  • Coastal Ron

    Dennis Berube wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    For those who have said that Dragons heat shield is better than Orions, lets see a high speed re- entry test made by the vehicle, to prove it!

    NASA has already tested the SpaceX PICA-X high performance heat shield material, and found it to be better than the material used for the fastest reentry yet made (NASA’s Stardust sample return capsule). And now that the first Dragon capsule has come back from an actual LEO mission (which Orion has not done), they will be able to measure actual vs planned performance.

    If NASA wants to take some of the Lockheed Martin contract money and move it over to SpaceX for high-speed testing, I’m sure SpaceX would be glad to do it, and likely will be able to do it for far less than Lockheed Martin. However, there is no need for such a test at this time, because there are no funded programs for going BEO.

    But don’t worry. By the time some sort of Orion/MPCV makes it’s first test flight to LEO, NASA and SpaceX will have tested the PICA-X over a dozen times on real missions returning from the ISS. This will go most of the way in validating their material, and their claims that it can withstand re-entries from Mars return trajectories.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    “But Elon Musk cannot provide that service because he has no operational space launch system capable of doing so.”

    Wow I didnt know you were not up on current events. Google is a good place to start…

    Falcon 9 is as “operational” as any booster or space launch system that NASA has ever developed…Its flown a near perfect launch its last time out and had trivial problems its first time out of the barn.

    Being uninformed is not a blessing. I suggest you put down the Sarah Palin missives and concentrate on getting back up to speed on current events.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Dennis Berube wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    “For those who have said that Dragons heat shield is better than Orions, lets see a high speed re- entry test made by the vehicle, to prove it!”

    ridiculous statement but I am curious…why do you take it as “fact” that Orion has a “heat shield” that works period. Unlike Dragon it has certainly not demonstrated it.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 10:55 am

    “The abandonment of the Moon is a very big deal, ” yes among rising unemployment as a product of the Bush years, two endless wars that Bush claimed would make us safer (and one would pay for itself), and a myriad of other problems Americans are incensed over the end of a program to return to the Moon that would not happen for the next 20 years…at a cost of over 200 billion dollars.

    Gee

    Robert G. Oler

  • red

    “The article also notes, though, that under current plans, Orion would not be ready to transport astronauts to the ISS until 2018.”

    It sounds like using Orion and current plans to meet the schedule requirements of the Authorization is not practicable.

  • Vladislaw

    Bolden has spent a whopping 50 million to date on commercial space. Another 200 million if congress ever actually passes a budget.

    Wow! Unlimited funding.

    To think, America could have a virtual corner on the market for the global commercial human space launch sector for the cost of one or two shuttle flights. How freakin’ myopically short sighted could a person be to not want that for the Nation.

    Ya .. we gotta keep that NASA monopoly and keep flushing billions down the rathole … for nothing.

  • Bennett

    DCSCA wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    You really should start making some sort of sense in your counter arguments. What the heck does “You mean truth told. ” have to do with anything I wrote?

    But I have to ask, do you really think that NASA engineers and managers (the current group, not the folks who worked there in the sixties) have a lock on how to build a safe and economically feasible rocket to get people to the ISS?

    Do you really think they could do it if they tried?

    If yes, what is your evidence for this?

    Constellation?

    The implementation of the VSE?

    Ares-1?

    What launch system has NASA designed and built in the last 25 years that has even come close to getting to orbit?

    What has it designed and built that has even worked?

    I have no idea where you are coming from with your obtuse rhetoric, but it’s clear you have some serious blind spots when it comes to reality.

    The rest of us (with the exception of Whittington and whatever name Gary Church is going by these days) are happy that innovation and actual launches are taking place.

    I know that depresses you, but who cares, other than you?

  • Coastal Ron

    Bill Hensley wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    SpaceX is heavily dependent on NASA funding for developing their HSF capability. So they are going to have to satisfy NASA’s requirements to do so.

    A couple of things are going on here.

    SpaceX started development of both Falcon 9 and Dragon before they bid on the NASA COTS/CRS contract.

    Since launch services are the basis for their initial revenue, they would have moved forward with Falcon 9 regardless of the COTS/CRS contract. Did the contract money help? Sure – all revenue is good.

    For Dragon, they clearly anticipated adding cargo and crew services at some later date, and the COTS/CRS program came along at the right time. No doubt it is accelerating their Dragon development, but I don’t think NASA is forcing them to do much they wouldn’t want to do anyways, especially for cargo.

    In any case, once they are certified for the CRS deliveries to the ISS, that will open the door for DragonLab (and Dragon cargo) customers, both government & non-government, which helps SpaceX maintain their price points. No one else will be offering comparable up/down LEO services.

    For future Dragon crew, they will have the lessons learned of COTS/CRS, so that forms a solid basis to start from. Other than adding seats & controls, the most important additions will be expanded life support (more than the cargo version) and a Launch Abort System.

    When will they add LEO crew services? As soon as they can afford to, which could be after they IPO (one of the reasons to IPO), or whenever a customer comes forward willing to pay for them to accelerate their development schedule – mostly likely that would be NASA.

    And why would NASA do that? Because it’s better than paying Russia for the same service, and most likely it will be less expensive too (I’ve shown the math for this).

    So in the beginning, yes, they will be dependent on NASA for lots of cargo & crew business, but once it’s developed, SpaceX is free to hire out the same capsules to non-NASA customers. Over time, NASA business will likely decrease as a percentage of total business, and commercial will increase – slowly, but ever increasing as time goes by.

  • pathfinder_01

    I think the sad part is the fact that Orion wont be able to hold a crew until 2018 and even then just to LEO. For a project that started at the same time as dragon and had much more cash why is it 3 years late(2013) 1st unmanned flight then 2018 manned LEO flight? 2020 BEO flight??

    I could have supported it if it were more BEO capable than dragon starting out say 1st manned LEO flight 2015 and BEO flight no latter than 2016/2017 but in 8 years you could outfit dragon for the role with less money.

  • pathfinder_01

    IMHO the best path foward would be to cancel SLS. Put Orion on either an Atlas V heavy or Delta IV heavy and use the remainging money to speed up Orion. Unfortuntanly this is politcially not viable because the rocket employs more people than the payload. Instead I think both SLS and Orion will die. Orion might make one flight but no more and SLS will never be built at that funding level.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 10:55 am
    “No use of lunar resources for the enrichment of the country and to support sustainable deep space exploration.”

    this is goofy thinking.

    “no use of lunar resources for the enrichment of the country”

    HAH.

    a program which cost more money to get the resources from “somewhere else” then from Earth does not enrich The Republic it makes us poorer. It is the logic of the last administration…spend 2 trillion dollars invading Iraq and say it is to protect the supply of oil…or to save money from the containment we were using against Iraq.

    Until the time comes that the Moons resources are cheaper to use then using the Earths resources and lifting them to orbit…your point is nuts.

    As for “supporting sustainable deep space exploration”

    same point. It would cost more to build and design the lunar base…and operate it then it would to just assemble the parts in orbit and go on deep space “exploration”…ignoring the fact that there is no real reason now to send humans.

    This sort of goofy thinking is the hallmark of the last administration it didnt work

    Robert G. Oler

  • Martijn Meijering

    it means NASA will spend nearly $500 million until March on Ares 1

    Roughly the same of money it spent on Ares I-X and roughly the same as the total amount of money it paid SpaceX…

  • Robert G. Oler

    When NASA management can explain why it spent 10 billion dollars on Orion and Ares 1 and well has no flight ready hardware…and SpaceX went to orbit on its first FAlcon 9 and took Dragon up on the Second…then we can have a Whittington like discussion..

    until then…its all Gone with the Wind. NASA is dying and no one seems to know how to save it.

    Robert G. Oler

  • @Everyone:

    What exactly is the penalty for approaching the ISS without NASA authorization? Other than, of course, the wasted propellant if they just refuse open the door.

  • William Mellberg

    Stephen C. Smith wrote:

    “I do like the idea of SpaceX reaching ISS through another partner. That would certainly point out the Congressional hypocrisy … as if we need to have it pointed out yet again.”

    As if a SpaceX Dragon showing up at the ISS with a group of Canadians would make any difference.

    What happens to the science and maintenance programs aboard the ISS if the professional crew of six has to welcome half a dozen visitors who just “happened to be in the neighbourhood, eh”? The ISS isn’t a Holiday Inn, even though a handful of tourists have enjoyed some visits there (when the station didn’t have its full, six-person crew). The ISS is a $100 million research facility where Time = Money. I suspect the Canadian government views it that way, too, as the Canadian government has invested a lot of time and money in the ISS, as well as providing professional crew members. Ditto for the Japanese and the Europeans who waited many years — and invested even more money — to get their laboratory modules finally put in place.

    I am confident they would ALL welcome a privately-funded SpaceX crew and passengers if the visit served some useful purpose and didn’t interfere with the established scientific and maintenance program. But to force the issue just to irritate some Congressmen and Senators who rub you the wrong way would be the height of stupidity on the part of SpaceX. I don’t think Elon Musk wants to go out of his way to insult the folks on Capitol Hill — not when NASA (i.e., Uncle Sam) is his PRIMARY customer.

    Save your private junkets for a privately-funded Bigelow station designed to welcome tourists — not a government-funded international research facility. Meanwhile, if you want to stick it to some Congressmen and Senators, send them some nastily-worded letters — as if that would help your cause.

  • DCSCA

    @Bennett wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 4:06 pm
    “SpaceX’s accomplishments stand on their own, impressively.”

    It would be impressive… if this was early 1965 and not the end of December, 2010.

    “They’ll move on to manned spaceflight in a calm and determined fashion.”

    Another press release for a group that has flown nobody. There’s no independent evidence of this unless you’re privy to post flight data analysis from the recent Dragon flight. Please share with the class. It may be a gem or a death trap. Investors in the free market would like to know. There’s no independent verification if the flight was survivable if crewed or if there’s even a reliable, operational ECS. Again, investors and the free market would like to know. China has flown crewed spacecraft and even Iran has plans as well for manned spaceflights. Even Iran lofted suborbital payloads with living creatures aboard- rodents, turtles and worms- and returned them safely. SpaceX– they lofted cheese… gouda grief.

  • DCSCA wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    “NASA lofted Shepard 50 years ago this May on his suborbital jaunt and Soviet Russia orbited Gagarin half a century ago this April. Commercial space is has yet to accomplish either feat, ”

    This is blatantly false. Scaled Composites sent manned spacecraft on suborbital jaunts three times in 2004, including twice within a week. What’s next, when SpaceX or someone else sends people into orbit are you going to raise the bar again, or simply pretend it never happened like suborbital did?

  • DCSCA

    @Ed Minchau wrote @ December 29th, 2010 at 3:23 am
    Not really and it is a disservice to cheapen Rutan’s efforts by labelling them ‘manned spacecraft’ when they really were no such thing, unless you wish to label the ol’ X-15 and the like a ‘ manned spacecraft’ as well. Shepard’s apogee aboard Freedom 7, half a century ago, reached 115 miles into space. Scaled Composites reached little more than half that altitude for a few minutes, let alone attain an orbital velocity of 17,500 mph, which Gagarin reached aboard Vostok for its one revolution. And, of course, SC has yet to orbit a crew and return safely. No doubt they will one day.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Save your private junkets for a privately-funded Bigelow station designed to welcome tourists — not a government-funded international research facility.

    What on Earth (or in space) is a private junket?

  • DCSCA

    @Bennett wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 9:44 pm
    It’s clear you are the one not making sense by repeatedly trying to make a false equivelency a truth in a vain attempt to add veracity to a position that could easily be bolstered if they’d just fly someone. But they don’t. Most likely because they can’t. And that’s really what it all comes down to for commercial space. Fly someone. Get them up, around and down safely a few times. FACT: Space X has flown nobody. FACT: NASA has flown/launched/orbited/landed/splashed down and yes, killed crews over half a century of human spaceflight operations. And NASA personnel who choose to wear ‘WWED’ best have their resumes ready, because they’ll be the easiest to cut in the Age of Austerity. And the first in line at Space X looking for new gigs.

  • DCSCA

    @ Bennett wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Nothing is stopping the private sector from developing rocket technology LVs and spacecraft except the very ‘supply and demand’ limitations of the free market itself. That’s why government do it– and have been doing it for 80-plus years. Private industry has never stepped up to the plate and taken the lead in rocketry and spacecraft development. Government have, because of the largess of the projects and costs involved. Private insustry has always followed along, cashing in where they could. That has not changed. Governments have accelorated the development of the technology and sciences involved under many guises and for several motivations (political/military) – none of which have been led with ‘the profit motive.’ In America, Goddard’s research was subsidized with little more than philanthropic grants. In the same era, it was Von Braun and his team who got German reichmarks, developed and exploited the technology while the good Dr. Goddard toiled in obscurity in the New Mexico desert. It wasnt free market private enterprise that led the way. Same with socialist Russia which gave the world Sputnik, Vostok, Voskhod, Salyut, Mir and the ol’ reliable Soyuz. (Like a VW beetle- it’s ugly, but it gets you there.’ Not a lot of ‘private enterprise’ at work there. And the response in the wealthy West was to let the government respond. Hence, NASA. You didn’t see the private sector rushing off to build moon rockets on their own, telling the government to get out of the way– except in the film, Destination Moon. You’d do well to watch it. Strip out the entertainment elements and it actually presents a pretty good business plan. But then, Jim Barnes (John Archer) wasn’t seeking government subsidies like Elon Musk.

  • Justin Kugler

    I’m tempted to see if I can find one of those t-shirts. :)

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 29th, 2010 at 12:55 am

    As if a SpaceX Dragon showing up at the ISS with a group of Canadians would make any difference.

    You missed the point William. By the time that could happen, the only other option for getting to the ISS will be Soyuz, so Stephen was postulating what would happen if they decide to use Dragon instead. Dragon instead of Soyuz for getting to work, not “half a dozen visitors“.

    You also keep forgetting that real work needs to be supported in LEO, and that’s what is driving alternatives to Soyuz, not tourism. Tourism will be a side-effect of excess supply (i.e. seats), but unless there is a capsule returning for a visitor to use, likely they won’t even be allowed to go.

    Shuttle was a tourism vehicle, because it could only stay in space for two weeks, so visits to the ISS were limited. By comparison, Dragon and CST-100 can stay for at least 6 months.

  • Mr. Mark

    I see that there is talk today about Spacex launching live cargo in 2011. May I submit Shelby the astrobunny for consideration.

  • They’ll follow NASA’s lead from the sixties. First they’ll send a monkey, then a Marine, and then a man. ;-)

  • Vladislaw

    “That’s why government do it– and have been doing it for 80-plus years. Private industry has never stepped up to the plate and taken the lead in rocketry and spacecraft development. Government have, because of the largess of the projects and costs involved. “

    So commercial was not wanting to launch when the shuttle was born and commercial sats had to go up on it? Commercial was just dying to pay NASA to launch their payloads on the space shuttle? Is that why Air force wanted to stay with the shuttle? Is that why Reagan had the Space rewritten so that NASA had to use commercial instead? All this took place because NASA was the only agency or company that could launch?

  • DCSCA wrote: “it is a disservice to cheapen Rutan’s efforts by labelling them ‘manned spacecraft’ when they really were no such thing, unless you wish to label the ol’ X-15 and the like a ‘ manned spacecraft’ as well.”

    X-15 pilots who traveled above 100km got their astronaut wings, as did Mike Melvil and Brian Binnie, the men who took SpaceShipOne into space. The X-Prize foundation had very specific criteria for giving up their ten million dollar prize and the insurance company which underwrote the prize would certainly not have parted with one thin dime if those criteria had not been met. Honestly, if you don’t consider SS1′s three trips into space to be suborbital spaceflight, or you don’t consider these obviously manned flights to be manned spaceflight, then you are in a very lonely crowd.

    Concede the point. Clinging to it – declaring that which is obviously one way to be another – distracts from anything else you have to say.

  • Honestly, if you don’t consider SS1′s three trips into space to be suborbital spaceflight, or you don’t consider these obviously manned flights to be manned spaceflight, then you are in a very lonely crowd.

    Let’s hope so. The fewer fools the better.

  • William Mellberg

    Martijn Meijering wrote:

    “What on Earth (or in space) is a private junket?”

    Martijn, a ‘junket’ is a pleasure trip or excursion.

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “You missed the point William. By the time that could happen, the only other option for getting to the ISS will be Soyuz, so Stephen was postulating what would happen if they decide to use Dragon instead. Dragon instead of Soyuz for getting to work, not ‘half a dozen visitors.’”

    Mr. Smith’s question seemed to imply that Dragon would be used (in the scenario he described) for a private mission to the ISS — not a regular crew exchange. Otherwise, why the need to go through the back door (so to speak) by arranging the mission through the Canadians? He seemed to suggest that the visitors would be uninvited (by NASA, at least). If I did miss the point, perhaps it’s because Mr. Smith didn’t make himself very clear. All I got from his comments was his desire to stick it (so to speak) to some members of Congress.

    Personally, I hope Dragon is carrying professional crew members to the ISS as soon as possible — and maybe even the occasional space tourist if there’s an available seat and he/she doesn’t distract from the work being done at the station.

    @DCSCA

    The X-15 was a manned spacecraft, and so was SpaceShipOne. As Ed Minchau pointed out, those pilots who flew above 100km received their astronaut wings as a result. Joe Engle won his astronaut wings as an X-15 pilot long before he flew the Space Shuttle. Both the X-15 and SpaceShipOne were controlled with thrusters — not control surfaces — when they reached space. Both the X-15 and SpaceShipOne pilots experienced weightlessness. In short, Al Shepard and Gus Grissom were not alone in the sub-orbital spaceflight category.

  • DCSCA

    @William Mellberg wrote @ December 29th, 2010 at 3:23 pm
    @Ed Minchau wrote @ December 29th, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Although the pilots earned astronaut wings by reaching altitude, you’d be hard pressed to categorize the X-15 as a ‘manned spacecraft.’ If you’re going to redefine it as such then you best go back and rewrite the history books on who was ‘the first man in space’,’ etc., which pegs the legacy of human spaceflight all the more longer and involves the military that much more. So if you want to claim a pilot/passenger in a pressurized suit w/a parachute riding an orange crate atop a balloon or a missile up to the edges of space are ‘astronauts’ in ‘spacecraft’ then go for it. But realists will chuckle.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ December 29th, 2010 at 12:16 pm
    They’ll follow NASA’s lead from the sixties. First they’ll send a monkey, then a Marine, and then a man.

    Precisely. Followers. Not leaders. That’s Space X– and all commerical private enterprised space ventures. Congratulations for stumbling upon the truth.

  • DCSCA

    @Mr. Mark wrote @ December 29th, 2010 at 11:39 am
    I see that there is talk today about Spacex launching live cargo in 2011. May I submit Shelby the astrobunny for consideration.

    Guess the Iranians should be looking over their shoulders.

    @Ed Minchau wrote @ December 29th, 2010 at 1:30 pm
    So you’re defining spacecraft by altitude and attaining astronaut wings. Good for you– go rewrite the history books. The NASM would be interested in knowint their X-15 is not a high altitude research aricraft but a spacecraft now. How the X-Prize Foundation defines things is pretty much irrelevant as they’re not the definitive source of what is and isnt reality any more than the Ortig Prize defines boundaries in aviation– it was simply a cash-incentive motivatior– but it’s their money to award. SS1 followed in the wake of the government’s X-15′s accomplishments decades earlier. Perhaps if this was 1959 it’d be worth wowing about SS1- in the 2000′s, not so much.

  • William Mellberg

    DCSCA wrote:

    “Although the pilots earned astronaut wings by reaching altitude, you’d be hard pressed to categorize the X-15 as a ‘manned spacecraft.’ If you’re going to redefine it as such then you best go back and rewrite the history books on who was ‘the first man in space’ …”

    No need to rewrite any history books. The X-15 didn’t exceed 100km until July 19, 1963. NASA test pilot Joe Walker reached 65.3 miles that day on the 90th mission of the program. A month later, he took the X-15 to 66.7 miles — the highest the type was to fly.

    Gordon Cooper had brought Project Mercury to a close in May 1963, and the Soviets ended the Vostok series in June 1963.

    The U.S. Air Force defined the edge of space as 50 miles, which is why Bob White won his astronaut wings on July 17, 1962. He took the X-15 to 59.6 miles that day.

    Neil Armstrong, who left the X-15 program to join NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs in 1962, had flown the vehicle to 40 miles and Mach 5.75 — not high enough to earn astronaut wings. But I think Mr. Armstrong would give you an argument about the X-15′s role in the history of spaceflight.

    Like the Space Shuttle, the X-15 was both a spacecraft and an aircraft. As mentioned previously, it had to be controlled using thrusters at altitude. Why? Because it was in space. Moreover, the X-15 far exceeded the altitudes reached by the balloon flights of that era.

    SpaceShipOne deserves credit not only for reaching the edge of space like the X-15, but also for Burt Rutan’s unique approach to re-entering the atmosphere. No wonder the late Konrad Dannenberg called Rutan “a genius like von Braun.” (Dannenberg had been part of the original Peenemunde rocket team and later played key roles in the development of the Redstone and the Saturn V. He was a consultant to Rutan for SSI.)

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    @ DCSCA and Rand Simberg,

    If you don’t believe that Elon Musk will be on one of the first Crewed Dragons, you apparently have no clue about the psychology that drives the man.

    I agree that the first flight will be a test pilot and possibly an engineer. However, after that… Well, as everyone knows, a business needs to have a revenue stream. Putting space tourists on any flight with spare seats is an obvious way to do that. The Russians did so SpaceX will almost certainly follow their lead. Heck, it’s likely that they might even poach Space Adventures business from Roscosmos, if they can keep the costs down.

  • DCSCA

    This is what makes ‘spaceflight’ a reality to realists:

    “…a rocket launch vehicle; a spacecraft; a man, functioning as a vital, indispensable part of the entire system; a worldwide communications network to control and track the orbiting spacecraft; also a task force of naval vessels and aircraft to recover the spacecraft (use depending on locale of landing.)”

  • DCSCA

    Roga wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    “The NASA/SpaceX relationship for commercial crew is a marriage of convenience for both…”

    It’s a ticket to no place. A ride to the ISS is now a down hill ride as the thing is already slated for splash by the end of the decade.

    If NASA had Orion up and running now, or even if it gets flying by the late 20-teens, SpaceX will never follow through with attempting to fly crews. No point from a profit perspective, unless trhe investors want to play government. And the goal is really to get Orion flying as a general purpose spacecraft, not to service the ISS. Sure, preliminary flights for early base block designs to the ISS as it is prepped for splash make for great shakedown flights, but the wise move it to simply get Orion funded and flying a top existing LVs by the end of the decade and press on to broader LEO and BEO missions beyond the Age of Austerity, which is likely to last a decade or more.

  • DCSCA

    @Ben Russell-Gough wrote @ December 29th, 2010 at 5:08 pm
    Take him at his word. He’s already said he wont ride his own rocket. We’ve seen Musk’s psychology at work many times over in Hollywood. Dime a dozen. To Branson’s credit, he’s is planning to ride his own vehicle.

  • If you don’t believe that Elon Musk will be on one of the first Crewed Dragons, you apparently have no clue about the psychology that drives the man.

    I understand his psychology reasonably well. I also understand, as does he, that as the CEO of multiple corporations and father of several young children, he has both a fiduciary and parental responsibility to not needlessly risk his life. He will definitely fly eventually, but not until it is deemed safe to do so. I would expect Bowersox to be on an early mission, though.

    No need to rewrite any history books. The X-15 didn’t exceed 100km until July 19, 1963. NASA test pilot Joe Walker reached 65.3 miles that day on the 90th mission of the program. A month later, he took the X-15 to 66.7 miles — the highest the type was to fly.

    William, just ignore the “DCSCA” troll. I generally do.

  • @Mellburg:

    Save your private junkets for a privately-funded Bigelow station designed to welcome tourists — not a government-funded international research facility.

    Your mileage may vary where it concerns the “research” part.

  • Byeman

    a rocket launch vehicle; a spacecraft; a man, functioning as a vital, indispensable part of the entire system; a worldwide communications network to control and track the orbiting spacecraft; also a task force of naval vessels and aircraft to recover the spacecraft (use depending on locale of landing.)”

    Wrong.
    1. A task force is not required, only a recovery force, which can be one vessel.
    2. The crew or passengers do not have to function as a vital, indispensable part of the entire system. UAV’s and unmanned spacecraft function very well without onboard interaction.

    However, Musk almost everything on that list.

  • Byeman

    but the wise move it to simply ignore DCSCA

  • William Mellberg

    DCSCA wrote:

    “This is what makes ‘spaceflight’ a reality to realists: a rocket launch vehicle; a spacecraft; a man, functioning as a vital, indispensable part of the entire system; a worldwide communications network to control and track the orbiting spacecraft; also a task force of naval vessels and aircraft to recover the spacecraft (use depending on locale of landing).”

    H-m-m-m-m … according to that definition, none of the first eleven Soviet cosmonauts were participating in ‘spaceflight’ when they orbited the Earth aboard their Vostok and Voskhod craft. At that time, the USSR didn’t have a global communications network to control and track the orbiting spacecraft. The USSR didn’t have a task force of naval vessels to recover the spacecraft. (It didn’t need them.) And the cosmonauts were not an indispensable part of the system, although Pavel Belyayev did have to manually fire Voskhod 2′s retrorockets when the automatic system failed. (Korolev designed Soviet spacecraft to operate automatically as the effects of spaceflight on the human anatomy were largely unknown in those early days.)

    Back to the X-15 …

    Many of the popular accounts of the X-15 in the late 1950s and early 1960s described it as a “spaceship.” Moreover, North American proposed an orbital version of the X-15.

    I suggest you read Chapters 2 and 3 of “This New Ocean” — NASA’s official history of Project Mercury. You can read the book online at:

    http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4201/toc.htm

    Chapter 1 describes the X-15 as a “rocket plane” (which it was) designed to reach “the very edge of space” (which it did).

    The X-15 was possibly the most successful research vehicle the United States ever flew, and it clearly paved the way for the Space Shuttle. It was also (clearly) a spacecraft, as well as an aircraft. And the pilot was certainly a “vital, indispensable” part of the system — which was not the case with Mercury. Most authoritative aerospace historians acknowledge it as such; and that is the “reality” of the X-15 story.

  • William Mellberg

    Presley Cannady wrote:

    “Your mileage may vary where it concerns the ‘research’ part.”

    I’m hopeful (emphasis on ‘hopeful’) that with the assembly phase now basically completed, the research phase can go into high gear aboard the ISS. All of the laboratory modules are in place. And we have six-person crews aboard. The question is, will those crews be spending more of their time on maintenance rather than science?

    Whatever the answer, it is all useful experience in terms of human exploration and settlement beyond Earth orbit. Despite my occasional comments about going “around and around and around” the Earth, the fact of the matter is that we are learning a great deal aboard the ISS (even without any science) about how to live and work in the hostile space environment for extended periods of time. From that perspective, the ISS has been a valuable engineering asset. But I believe it will produce valuable science, as well — including much biomedical research.

  • pathfinder_01

    William I think you have a misunderstanding. I don’t think the Canadians would do such a thing but the reason for going through Canada would be to firmly cement the use of private spacecraft for government spaceflight.It isn’t tourist that some elements of the US government oppose. It is the whole notion of NASA buying a seat even if the private crafts are more ready to go to the ISS than the government one.

    Such a flight would not be a tourist flight. It would deliver Canadian astronauts to the station. Canada is a partner in the ISS and wants to send more astronauts to the ISS.

    One thing private spaceflight might do is increase ISS usage by governments. Right now NASA pays for flights for foreign astronauts and forgin governments sometimes use Astronaut time.

    What if say the Canada, a member of ESA, or Japan could directly buy a seat to the ISS? The ISS has surge capacity and could host an extra hand for some time. Instead of just getting one NASA allotted slot, their space agencies could send two astronauts onboard for say 2-3 weeks.
    I too don’t think the ISS is a good tourist desniation and think that reasonable rules could be drafted such as no more than two tourists per flight and no more than so many days per ISS expedition

  • DCSCA

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 29th, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    BTW, part of von Braun’s genius was his skill at squeezing funding from his benefactors. Something Rutan lacks. But it’s a safe bet that when a commercial manned spacecraft reaches orbit and returns safely, he’ll have been part of the enterprise that makes it possible.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Martijn, a ‘junket’ is a pleasure trip or excursion.

    I thought the term implied that the trip was at government expense. That would not apply to private citizens paying their own way. But how does sending up Canadian astronauts on a Dragon count as a junket, unless you believe they’re not doing anything useful up there?

  • DCSCA

    @William Mellberg wrote @ December 29th, 2010 at 8:00 pm
    The definition is directly from NASA/Project Mercury. X-15 was a high altitude rocket powered research aircraft, not a ‘spacecraft’ per say, which I’m certain Mr. Armstrong would agree with. It’s a stretch to re-label it as such and it certainly didnt attain the 115 mile apogee of Shepard’s Freedom 7. But we’ve been pretty much on the same page overall on all this. Rutan will most likely play a role in the first commercial orbital flight operations one day.

  • DCSCA

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 29th, 2010 at 8:00 pm
    FYI, the ‘definition’ stated by NASA says task force/aircraft. The Soviets had both- land and sea. As to communications and human interaction- that’s NASA spin from the Cold War days as we know cosmonauts had virtually no independent control over their spacecraft and communications, global anyway, was limited, althogh Lovell’s Jodrell Bank liked to ‘help out’ as were with ‘tracking’ back in the days of socialist Britain.

  • But it’s a safe bet that when a commercial manned spacecraft reaches orbit and returns safely, he’ll have been part of the enterprise that makes it possible.

    That’s a sucker’s bet (not surprising,considering the idiotic source). It will almost certainly be done with a Falcon/Dragon, and Burt has retired.

  • Martijn Meijering

    It’s a stretch to re-label it as such and it certainly didnt attain the 115 mile apogee of Shepard’s Freedom 7.

    The Karman line provides a reasonable definition of the boundary of space.

  • William Mellberg

    Martijn Meijering wrote:

    “I thought the term implied that the trip was at government expense. That would not apply to private citizens paying their own way. But how does sending up Canadian astronauts on a Dragon count as a junket, unless you believe they’re not doing anything useful up there?”

    Martijn, perhaps you have only heard the term ‘junket’ used in connection with Congressmen and Senators enjoying pleasure trips or excursions at taxpayer (government) expense — the two greatest examples being the Space Shuttle trips taken by Congressman Bill Nelson and Senator Jake Garn. But the term ‘junket’ applies to any private trip or excursion, as well. It is a synonym for ‘trip’ or excursion. Perhaps the word isn’t in general use these days, although I grew up with it (our family holidays were always ‘junkets’); and we certainly used it when I was in the air transport industry. In any case, as I suggested earlier, think ‘trip’ or ‘excursion’ rather than ‘government paid.’

    But again, I go back to my point … why would the Canadians wish to upset their American partners with an independently-arranged visit to the ISS that goes around NASA? Diplomacy is such that the CSA — or ESA or JAXA — isn’t going to plan any missions to the ISS that aren’t coordinated with NASA. They may very well buy seats aboard Dragon for their own crew members. However, I can’t see them doing so in any attempt to poke NASA in the eye as it were. Thus far, all of the crew assignments have been coordinated between the ISS partners based on each agency’s share in the overall project. And, in fact, Chris Hadfield will be the first Canadian commander of the ISS when he arrives there two years from now. Frank De Winne of Belgium has already served as the first ESA commander of the ISS. Why would any of the partners rock the boat by trying to go around NASA in the transportation of crew members to the station?

  • Scott Bass

    I just had one comment regarding Obamas flip flop on endorsing a return to the moon by 2020 Many people took that promise to heart and based at least part of their vote for him on that promise, We did not care about which architecture was used to achieve the goal, only that the goal was met, it would have been perfectly fine for Obama to scrap ares 1 and contract whoever to build the hardware nessasary. so in my eyes the goal was still achievable and he did tell a bold faced lie to get votes. You can not candy coat that. if he did not plan to execute he should not have said it. Will it cost him my vote in 2012? That’s a hard one because the republicans will lie to get elected too, but I probably will not vote for him just because of the old saying….fool me once………

  • Martijn Meijering

    Why would any of the partners rock the boat by trying to go around NASA in the transportation of crew members to the station?

    The Russians have no problem with tourists. I believe ESA is cool with them too. And what’s wrong with a dual use ISS? It’s not as if the ISS is providing much of a scientific return so any additional use would be welcome. $3B a year buys you a large number of PhD students…

  • Martijn Meijering

    They may very well buy seats aboard Dragon for their own crew members. However, I can’t see them doing so in any attempt to poke NASA in the eye as it were.

    Why would any of the partners rock the boat by trying to go around NASA in the transportation of crew members to the station?

    These two statements don’t seem consistent.

    In addition, while it seems unlikely that Canada or any of the other international partners would have a desire to poke NASA in the eye, they may have good reasons not to want to depend on Orion. I don’t see how using Soyuz or Dragon would amount to poking NASA in the eye.

  • Many people took that promise to heart and based at least part of their vote for him on that promise

    The number of people for whom space policy was a critical voting issue in 2008 is vanishingly small.

  • William Mellberg

    @Martijn Meijering

    Go back to what I wrote above:

    “Personally, I hope Dragon is carrying professional crew members to the ISS as soon as possible — and maybe even the occasional space tourist if there’s an available seat and he/she doesn’t distract from the work being done at the station.”

    I thought the whole idea was to have multiple transportation alternatives to and from the ISS for cargo and crew: Soyuz, Progress, ATV, HTV, Orion, Dragon, etc. And, as I said, I see no problem with an occasional tourist as long as he/she doesn’t interfere with the work being done aboard the ISS, and the visit is approved by all of the partners. There was nothing inconsistent about my two statements. I was simply pointing out the obvious — that missions to (and dockings with) the ISS are planned by and coordinated with the international partners. ‘Going rogue’ is not the way to go to the ISS.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 11:09 am

    why would the Canadians wish to upset their American partners with an independently-arranged visit to the ISS that goes around NASA?

    You think NASA would be upset if the Canadians used an American company to get to the ISS instead of a Russian one? Weird.

    Stop thinking tourism, and keep remembering that the ISS partners would love to get more return on their investment.

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “You think NASA would be upset if the Canadians used an American company to get to the ISS instead of a Russian one? Weird. Stop thinking tourism, and keep remembering that the ISS partners would love to get more return on their investment.”

    Not at all. Read what I wrote, not what you think I wrote. Weird. And I’m not thinking tourism. I’m thinking about using Dragon to transport crews to the ISS. But wouldn’t that be a coordinated effort among NASA and its partners?

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    But wouldn’t that be a coordinated effort among NASA and its partners?

    Sure, but the question still stands – why would NASA be upset if Canada uses an American company to get to the ISS instead of a Russian one?

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “Sure, but the question still stands – why would NASA be upset if Canada uses an American company to get to the ISS instead of a Russian one?”

    I never said they would. Not if it’s part of a coordinated effort. This whole exchange has become rather pointless, don’t you think?

  • @Mellburg:

    I’m hopeful (emphasis on ‘hopeful’) that with the assembly phase now basically completed, the research phase can go into high gear aboard the ISS. All of the laboratory modules are in place. And we have six-person crews aboard. The question is, will those crews be spending more of their time on maintenance rather than science?

    Exactly what definition of “high gear research” applies to a $100 billion bubble hosting all of six people?

    Whatever the answer, it is all useful experience in terms of human exploration and settlement beyond Earth orbit.

    Not billions upon billions of sunk dollars worth of useful experience, especially when you consider how minuscule the test sample is and what the alternatives are.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    I never said they would. Not if it’s part of a coordinated effort. This whole exchange has become rather pointless, don’t you think?

    Maybe you were debating some sort of finer point, but I don’t think I’m the only one confused by what you’re trying to imply (NASA would/would not like it if Canada uses SpaceX to travel to the ISS).

    See you on some other topic…

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 10:09 am

    “It will almost certainly be done with a Falcon/Dragon…”

    Rubbish. It’s almost certainly wont be. As 2010 comes to a close, Space X has flown NOBODY. There is no independent verification as to the veracity or post-flight data analysis independently verified on the performance of Dragon- aka Cheesebox One– as well from its orbital flight. But if you have some, please share w/t class, as investors would like to know. Dragon may be a gem or a deathtrap. There’s no independent verfication if it was survivable for anything other than some cheese. And there’s no independent verfication if Space X even has a viable, reliable, operational ECS. Again, investors would like to know.

    “Burt [Rutan] has retired.” Apparently ‘retirement’ means inactivity to you.

  • William Mellberg

    Presley Cannady wrote:

    “Exactly what definition of “high gear research” applies to a $100 billion bubble hosting all of six people? Not billions upon billions of sunk dollars worth of useful experience, especially when you consider how minuscule the test sample is and what the alternatives are.”

    H-m-m-m … interesting points, especially when I think back to how productive Skylab was for a fraction of the cost. Let’s just say that I’m hoping for some lemonade to be squeezed out of the ISS.

    Of course, I really view the Moon as a natural ‘space station’ in a somewhat higher orbit — one that also offers natural resources to support it.

  • @DCSCA:

    Space X has flown NOBODY

    How many folk has Orion flown?

  • pathfinder_01

    Actually Skylab cost more per day than the ISS and lacked the ability to be resupplied.

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    “NASA is dying and no one seems to know how to save it.”

    It is a very sad statement but I think you are right. HSF at NASA is killing NASA as a whole. I don’t think though that “no one seems to know how to save it”. I think rather that “no one seems to know NASA is dying, not even NASA”. NASA is dying because of the stupidity of Congress. This WH had just found the beginning of a cure but unfortunately people in Congress do not want NASA to do anything but rather want NASA to “work”. The overall NASA-Industry-Congress complex is a joke run by lunatics.

    However I will say this. If CCDev is successful then NASA HSF as we know it is over which means that NASA as we know it is over too. It will hurt, and very much so, because out of a sudden NASA HSF will no longer need $10B/yr. The new $64,000 question will be what will become of those $10B. Will NASA keep them for say BEO or will they be reallocated to more pressing needs?… What’s your guess? A crew to an asteroid or Moon or Mars or a little more for Social Security and our Boomer friends?… Hmmm. I wonder.

    Oh well…

  • @common sense:

    HSF at NASA is killing NASA as a whole.

    Without HSF, NASA is just the directionless trust fund buddy of the NSF–and just as useless.

  • common sense

    @ Presley Cannady wrote @ January 1st, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    “Without HSF, NASA is just the directionless trust fund buddy of the NSF–and just as useless.”

    Are you saying NSF is useless? You must be a scientist or something? On the other hand NASA HSF is really useful, right?

    Just watch NASA revert into something like NACA.

    Oh well…

  • common sense

    Re: PICA and AVCOAT

    I’ll try again about this one. PICA requires tiles, AVCOAT is a honeycomb – no tiles. The problem with PICA is not PICA, it is the gap filler. The problem with the new AVCOAT is that it is not the Apollo AVCOAT since no one know how to make it again. So people please try and educate yourself a little. None of those heat shield is proven for lunar return velocity for different reasons. NASA thought PICA was enough of a liability that they went for AVCOAT. Who’s right? No one knows for sure. This is a non-debate. Then again people need to think or learn before they post…

    And NASA will have no, zero, say on what to use for a non-NASA crew. Believe me there is a mile-long line for people to become crew at SpaceX. Including former or current NASA astronauts. What some fail to understand is what makes SpaceX strong: They will do it no matter what. They will send a crew to Space. All they will need is range approval and FAA approval. Not NASA’s.

    Get over it.

  • @common sense:

    Are you saying NSF is useless?

    Just about.

    You must be a scientist or something?

    Has nothing to do with it.

    On the other hand NASA HSF is really useful, right?

    Didn’t say that either.

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