Congress, NASA, Other, States

Shelby: don’t blame me; New Mexico uncertainty; a prescient CCDev vision

The Orlando Sentinel’s article about the continued funding of Ares 1 despite being effectively canceled in the NASA authorization act has gotten fairly wide coverage during a slow news week, with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) getting much of the blame because of his provision in the FY2010 appropriations bill, still in force during the ongoing series of continuing resolutions, that prohibits NASA from terminating any Constellation programs. (Winner of the most lurid headline contest? “Sen. Shelby’s Pork Lust Forces NASA To Spend $500 Million On Canceled Rocket Program”.) A spokesman for Sen. Shelby, though, tells the Huntsville Times that’s not the case. “NASA is just making excuses and continuing to drag its feet, just as it has done for the past two years under the Obama administration,” Jonathan Graffeo told the paper. “The Shelby language is unambiguous and sends a clear message to NASA: Use the money Congress appropriates as intended – to build a rocket that will maintain our leadership in space.”

Meanwhile, everyone agrees that there is ambiguity in New Mexico: will Rick Homans keep his job as executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, which runs Spaceport America? Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat who appointed Homans to the post, is leaving after two terms in office, and Republican Susana Martinez will take office on January 1. Homans tells the Santa Fe New Mexican he’d like to stay on, but wants “further discussions” with the new administration about their plans for the spaceport and its governance. “I’d say it’s a fluid situation,” he said. He has been campaigning, of sorts, to stay on, with an op-ed outlining the spaceport’s accomplishments in 2010 in NMPolitics.net. He also has the support of the Las Cruces Sun-News, which called for Gov.-elect Martinez to retain Homans and his team in an editorial Tuesday.

When Orbital Sciences announced its CCDev plans this month, it was heralded in many quarters as a new entrant. Others, though, recalled that Orbital had similar concepts—a winged vehicle launched atop an EELV or other rocket—dating back over a decade. As I noted on NewSpace Journal yesterday, Orbital’s vision back then of how such a system should be developed and operated was quite similar to NASA’s current plans and the proponents of present-day CCDev proponents. In particular, there’s this passage from testimony of Orbital’s CTO at a hearing of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee in October 1999: (emphasis in original)

We envision this Space Taxi to be industry owned and operated; however, the cost of development, production, and operation of the Space Taxi System would be paid for predominantly out of government funds because it satisfies unique NASA needs that are not currently aligned with those of commercial industry. The launching of this Space Taxi System, however, could be competed among commercial RLV or EELV suppliers that meet the cost and safety requirements. These future RLVs would be commercially developed with private capital and would be commercially owned and operated. Their development will be enabled by NASA’s current and planned future investments in RLV technologies and could be enhanced by government-backed financial incentives, such as tax credits, loan guarantees or advanced purchase agreements. Once a truly commercial Space Station becomes operational or the current Space Station becomes sufficiently commercialized, NASA and industry launch needs will be in almost complete alignment, and a completely commercial Space Taxi may become a viable business opportunity. We strongly believe that industry ownership of the Space Taxi from initial operation is critical to enable the eventual development of such a commercial Space Station.

The name of Orbital’s CTO at that time? Mike Griffin.

75 comments to Shelby: don’t blame me; New Mexico uncertainty; a prescient CCDev vision

  • Well, Sen. Shelby didn’t deny he was a “porker”, did he?

    He just had is aide go to the press and spout more partisan political rhetorical bull$#!t.

    Class act.

  • Aremis Asling

    Shelby’s comment is disingenuous. Ares I and the new launch system are nowhere near the same project. The only Cx component that stands is Orion. And to NASA’s credit, they are directing much of the Cx funds toward it. What Shelby doesn’t address is that the boosted Cx money cuts into funds for the additional shuttle launch which they are all clamoring for as well as the facility upgrades that are essentially unanimously agreed upon.

    But then Shelby’s not alone in this. There is a long-standing tradition of congress setting NASA goals, screwing the funding up (not enough or the wrong apportionment), and then coming back months later and accusing NASA of not doing what it was told. Shelby happens to be, in my eyes, the worst of the bunch on space at least in this past year. But he’s not the first, nor will he be the last.

    My favorite recent exchange was Nelson. I was irritated by him going in front of the NASA folks and essentially saying ‘We’re not gonna give you the money you asked for. You still gonna do everything we asked you to do?’. And when he got the answer that it would come out of facilities money he pushed them further saying essentially ‘You better spend that money eventually, buddy’. It’s like they’re daring NASA to cut something popular so they can snipe at it.

  • Vladislaw

    From the article on Shelby’s porkfest:

    “Nearly all of the money for the program will go to two defense contractors building the Ares rocket, Alliant Techsystems (ATK) and Lockheed Martin, with ATK receiving the bulk. Defense contractors have been a consistent source of financial support for Shelby’s campaigns, contributing to him at higher rates than to other politicians in his state. In particular, Shelby’s 2010 reelection campaign was the top recipient of funds from ATK’s PAC, receiving the maximum $10,000. And the company’s employees appear to have given more to Shelby than to any other politician in the 2010 election cycle.

    Shelby certainly has a flair for the dramatic when it comes to extracting pork money for defense contractors in his state. In a “nearly unprecedented” move in February, Shelby placed a blanket hold on every single presidential nominees being considered by the Senate — more than 70 in total, including “top Intelligence officers at the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security as well as the number three civilian at the Pentagon” — in order to pressure to Obama administration to do the bidding of Northrop Grumman on a $40 billion contract for which they were being considered.”

    How many times have certain posters on Space Politics ranted about Elon Musk and SpaceX how contributions to the Obama campaign is what bought him his position for NASA using SpaceX.

    But not a word about Shelby and his antics. Talk about the king of pork and maintaining the status quo for taxpayers, as it relates to opening space or bring more bang for the buck for NASA.

    NASA has never been about cheap, but paying off congress and keeping the “machine” in place and Shelby has shown he will sink to any low to keep the gravy train running on time.

  • Aremis Asling

    One more note. It’s one thing to cancel Obama’s plan and legislatively revive Cx. But to leave Cx essentially dead, but force NASA to pay for it anyway is ACTUALLY killing US manned space flight. Way to go Senator.

  • Shaggy

    Shelby and Nelson are not entirely to blame for this at all. This is wholely a congressional issue. ATK is building a 5 segment integrated motor. Not just Ares I. Because contracts remain in place, this is why they have to pay them. In fact, even after an appropriations bill is passed clearly canceling Ares I, ATK will continue to get paid on the Ares contract until that is canceled and it’s not just a matter of turning a light switch off.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Shelby is just the symptom. Bad space policy and lack of leadership at the White House and at NASA are the reasons.

  • Shelby is just the symptom. Bad space policy and lack of leadership at the White House and at NASA are the reasons.

    Was this intended to be an intelligent comment?

  • amightywind

    NASA is just making excuses and continuing to drag its feet, just as it has done for the past two years under the Obama administration

    The NASA leadership willfully sabotages the simple wishes of congress, and has for 2 years. They are such a liability is doesn’t make sense that they are still on the job.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    “Shelby is just the symptom. Bad space policy and lack of leadership at the White House and at NASA are the reasons.”

    so Shelby is not responsible for his action?

    sigh Obama hatred Mark has gotten the better of you

    Robert

  • Martijn Meijering

    the simple wishes of congress

    The very expensive and indefensible wishes of a handful of dishonourable men and women on oversight committees, not those of Congress as a whole.

  • Major Tom

    “The NASA leadership willfully sabotages the simple wishes of congress”

    What “simple wishes of congress”? Shelby inserted language in the FY10 omnibus appropriations directing NASA to continue building and spending on Ares I and the rest of Constellation. That language has not been superseded by a new appropriations law or continuing resolution. If Shelby or his staff now just want NASA “to build a rocket that will maintain our leadership in space”, whether it resembles Ares I/V or not, then they need to pass a bill or CR that directs NASA to do so.

    It’s great that Shelby (or at least his spokesperson) now sees the light on Ares. But the US is a nation of laws. NASA can’t stop spending taxpayer dollars on something it’s been directed to spend taxpayer dollars on in legislation simply because one lousy senator (or just his spokesperson) has changed his mind. The US is not an oligarchy.

    Learn how the US system of government works before you post here.

    (Same goes for Shelby’s spokesperson.)

    “They are such a liability is doesn’t make sense that they are still on the job.”

    Since when is following the law a “liability” for a government executive?

    Cripes…

  • Major Tom

    “Shelby is just the symptom. Bad space policy and lack of leadership at the White House and at NASA are the reasons.”

    Since when is White House policy and leadership, good or bad, responsible for congressional earmarks?

    Havn’t you ever heard of separation of powers?

    Read a middle school civics textbook and think before you waste this forum’s time with such ignorant and idiotic posts.

    Lawdy…

  • Martijn Meijering

    The name of Orbital’s CTO at that time? Mike Griffin.

    Where you stand depends on where you sit…

  • As I note at my blog, Congress has essentially forced NASA to be a federal criminal by passing two contradictory laws. They can’t win.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    The name of Orbital’s CTO at that time? Mike Griffin.

    “Where you stand depends on where you sit…”

    or your politics at the time.

    Whittington was in agreement with the “Obama” policy in a Weekly Standard piece that he asked to have his name put on. It wasnt the Obama policy then (JUly 1999) but he was for what exist now.

    What changed is the leadership and “who did it”.

    The GOP has mostly become a wealth transfer machine from the middle class to the wealthy or from the unborn to the wealthy…all supported by a mostly idiotic base which is energized by really bizarre slogans.

    What Musk is doing IS what American exceptionalism and innovation is all about. It is the better mousetrap designed to provide a broad service.

    Why the GOP doesnt like this is illustrative of its lack of real ideology on their part.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom wrote:

    It’s great that Shelby (or at least his spokesperson) now sees the light on Ares.

    I very much doubt that. He’s only interested in pork. He doesn’t care which pig it comes from.

    As an aside … Further lamenting the general ignorance when it comes to space current events and space history …

    I was at the dentist today getting my teeth cleaned. While I waited, I was reading the book Doctor Space which is about the life of Wernher von Braun. The hygeniest, who is in his middle 30s, looked at it somewhat puzzled and finally said:

    “Didn’t he have something to do with Sputnik?”

    Sigh …

  • Rand Simberg wrote:

    As I note at my blog, Congress has essentially forced NASA to be a federal criminal by passing two contradictory laws. They can’t win.

    We’re at opposite political poles, Rand, but I always admire your ability when it comes to space issues to boil it down to the essential truth of the matter.

    A friend from the Astronaut Office stopped by yesterday. She said she was trying to explain to a colleague this current conundrum. My wife, who is by no means political, didn’t understand it either.

    Here’s how I summed it up …

    Two different committees decide NASA’s fate. The Science Committee determines policy. The Appropriations Committee determines who gets the money.

    The Science Committee directed Policy A and cancelled Policy B. The Appropriations Committee will only fund Policy B and not Policy A.

    In my cursory read of the Constitution, it’s been set up from the get-go that Congress does appropriations separate from policy decisions. The only way to resolve this is to amend the Constitution. Good luck with that.

  • Freddo

    “The Science Committee directed Policy A and cancelled Policy B. The Appropriations Committee will only fund Policy B and not Policy A.”

    I think that’s an oversimplification. Senate appropriators funded the new policy at around the levels authorized, for example. The problem has been that Congress overall hasn’t been able to pass an appropriations bill for reasons that have nothing to do with NASA, and the agency doesn’t have the influence to get an anomaly into one of the CRs that would rescind the FY10 language. (There was such an anomaly in the full-year CR the House passed, but that died in the Senate along with the Senate’s omnibus bill when Republicans revolted over earmarks. Oh, the ironies…)

  • DCSCA

    “In particular, there’s this passage from testimony of Orbital’s CTO at a hearing of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee in October 1999…”

    1999? The era of budget surpluses and ‘Seinfeld.’ Might as well be quoting Reagan on space policy. Just as irrelevant for the Age of austerity. References to Griffin are ancient history.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    ‘What Musk is doing IS what American exceptionalism and innovation is all about.” Then he’s faking half of it as there’s no such thing as ‘American exceptionalism.’

  • GuessWho

    Oler wrote – “The GOP has mostly become a wealth transfer machine from the middle class to the wealthy or from the unborn to the wealthy…”

    First, you need to define who is the “wealthy” and who is “middle class” for us to assess the veracity of your claims. According to the Obama-nut, the evil rich are those over 200K so let’s take that as the yardstick.

    In 2008, the last year I could find published numbers from the IRS website, those making more than $200K generated 36.4% of all taxable income while they payed 49.1% of all income taxes. Those in the $100K – $200K range generated 23.7% of the income and payed 22.2% of the taxes. For those between $50K and $100K, they generated 25.4% of the income and payed 19.4% of the taxes. Finally for the “poor”, those under $50K, they generated 14.4% of the income and payed only 9.2% of the tax burden. So the evil rich accounted for nearly 50% of the total tax burden in the US while earning roughly 1/3 of all the income. Hardly a wealth transfer to the rich. If we assume the middle class is represented by those earning $50K – $200K, they accounted for 49.2% of the income and payed 41.7% of the tax burden with the upper end of that bracket carrying the majority of the load.

    If you look at the rate of increase in the national debt from 1988 – 1994 (Clinton’s first term and a half), the debt rose at a rate of $0.33T/yr. When the Republicans took over the House in 1994, that rate leveled to $0T/yr by 2000 (one senate term) and effectively stayed that way through 2001 until the attack of 9/11. Starting 2002, the debt rose at a rate of $0.66T/yr (double the rate of 1988-1994 and appropriately attributed to the GOP as they responded to the GWOT) through 2008 when the Democrats took control of the House and Senate. Starting in 2008, the debt rose at a rate of $2T/yr through 2010 when both the Congress and the White House were under control of the Democratic Party. The Dems more than tripled the rate of growth of the National debt starting in 2008 as they implemented their long-desired Socialist agenda. Talk about transferring wealth from the unborn! Can’t blame the GOP for that Oler. Either you are grossly ignorant of the facts or are intentionally misleading the other posters on this site.

    Sorry for the off-topic post but claims such as Oler’s, repeatedly made against the GOP in the context of space policy and, need to be refuted so that others can place his on-topic remarks in the proper reference of the larger political debate.

  • GuessWho

    “… repeatedly made against the GOP in the context of space policy and, …”

    Sorry, ignore the final “and” in the above section of my last post, forgot to delete it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    “Freddo” more or less nailed it.

    The notion is not all that “dysfunctional” (ie authorization/appropriations) what is dysfunctional NOW is our political system particularly the GOP but also the Dems.

    When you cannot summon up the political will to pass a budget then the party that controls the House is not working well…(spending bills start in the House).

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    “Then he’s faking half of it as there’s no such thing as ‘American exceptionalism.’”

    there is actually. It is a pity that the right wing has no clue what it really means (the phrase).

    Robert G. Oler

  • It is a pity that the right wing has no clue what it really means (the phrase).

    It’s a pity that you’re unable to discuss space policy without using mindless phrases like “right wing.”

    I thought you were leaving. If you’re not, then don’t get our hopes up.

  • GuessWho

    Oler – “… what is dysfunctional NOW is our political system particularly the GOP but also the Dems.

    When you cannot summon up the political will to pass a budget then the party that controls the House is not working well…(spending bills start in the House).”

    Oler is living in his GOP derangement mode again for him to make this statement with a straight face. One of my posts on a previous thread sums it up pretty well but I will repeat here for Oler’s benefit – “Given that the Dems controlled the White House for the past 2 years and the Congress for the last 4 years (with Obama as a part of that in the Senate), they have had ample time to change the direction of NASA. Despite Oler’s constant jibes at the GOP, the minority party was in no position to stop the Dems on NASA or anything else. The Dems punted on the 2010 budget fearing an even larger slaughter in the fall elections. The ~2000 page omnibus they tried to ram through at the 11th hour was written last February as part of a strategic play to get as much of the Dem agenda passed without public outcry after the elections. Thankfully that strategy failed. Yet another example of how clueless and/or dishonest the Dems are. The past year of NASA mismanagement is testament to the inability of the Dems to lead or play it straight with the American taxpayers.”

    The Dems controlled both houses and the WH, the Senate was filibuster-proof with Dems controlling 60 votes, the House was overwhelmingly controlled by Pelosi and crew which included everything from the House agenda to the way the House operated. And still they could not pass a budget. They couldn’t even muster a 2011 budgeting cap to flow down to the various committees. Talk about dysfunctional. Oler, take off your I-Hate-Bush/GOP glasses and take a look at reality for a change.

  • Bennett

    GuessWho wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    I have to agree. Both parties are failing the electorate by almost any measure you pick. We are all focused on what happens to NASA, but in so many other areas it has been a total fail by both houses of congress, going back to 1996.

    It goes back to before Eisenhower of course, we have “elected” a group of folks that either have “sell out” in mind before they go to Washington, or are bent in that direction PDQ.

    We are not well served by these public servants, and I don’t know if there’s any way out of this mess.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    “It’s a pity that you’re unable to discuss space policy without using mindless phrases like “right wing.”

    I thought you were leaving. If you’re not, then don’t get our hopes up.”

    I’ll be out in CA in FEB and we really have to have that man hug.

    To deny that the American political spectrum (and the two parties) is dominated by a “left and right wing”…is to ignore reality and to try and create some theory that any political scientist (or real time observer) would scoff at.

    nothing is a finite mix…there are some “right wingers” who are aghast at the spending habits of the GOP when it was in power…and some who are not…there are some that are mystified by the Iraq war, and some who are not…but in the end there is a dividing line between the left and right wing over the notion of where the “civil community” ends and where that is a serious divide in America.

    There is NOTHING but space politics that proves that.

    The VAST majority of the opposition to Obama’s plan comes from the “red state red meat right wing” group of the GOP.

    Now you tell me. How come people who normally talk about privatizing everything…people who want to make those who have paid into the unemployment fund…work for their unemployment… people who talk about privatizing social security…people who are proud to talk about the government getting between ones doctor but are OK with corporations doing it…

    why did these people all of a sudden come to the conclusion that government run space programs were good?

    you tell me.

    There is a right wing of politics.

    As for me leaving. I am leaving Houston tomorrow…(New Years eve)…orders come out “on or about” and sadly for today we got balked because a conference I am going to got changed…and that changed who is going with me.

    But I’ll keep up on email..and we will get that man hug!

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    GuessWho wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    “Oler is living in his GOP derangement mode again for him to make this statement with a straight face”

    OK I dont care to Guess who you really need to try some reading comprehension course.

    Here is the line you (YOU) quoted from my post

    “When you cannot summon up the political will to pass a budget then the party that controls the House is not working well…(spending bills start in the House).”

    that lays most of the blame onthe Democratic party.

    Try reading for reality not the Fox news babble.

    As for Bush the last. He hurt the US by his idiotic policies (including his space one) more then Osama son of Ladin ever imagined.

    And the people who continue to make excuses for him are some of the most ignorant people I know.

    His space program, Cx is about the most ridiculous thing imaginable. He caused to be spent 10 billion dollars and got nothing for it.lost a space shuttle orbiter and fired no one…..and the best apologist like you and whittington can come up with is “it wasnt a lot of money compared to other things”.

    Long Live The Republic

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/shuttle-discovery-external-tank-scans-101230.html

    it is time to simply end this thing. The people who are in charge of the shuttle program are simply idiots unable to get a real job and manage a real project. They have already killed 14 people…its just time to call it even and park the darn things before anyone else gets hurt.

    Most of the mangers on the shuttle need a job at something like the drive in window of a fast food restaurant.

    Robert G. Oler

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Jealous. He’s an aviation enthusiast– right wing, left wing are natural extentions from his fuselage of knowledge, particukarly when he’s splitting tails.

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 9:56 pm
    “…why did these people all of a sudden come to the conclusion that government run space programs were good….”

    Because they are.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    “…it is time to simply end this thing.”

    On this we can agree. No point pouring more money into it now, especially when the government has to borrow 41 cents of every dollar it spends these days. Most Americans most likely believe it’s over already and will be surprised if/when another flies.

  • Mr. Mark

    And while all this trash talk and excess continues, Spacex is readying to launch a combined COTS 2-3 cargo mission to the ISS this coming summer and Orbital Sciences it’s reading it’s Taurus 2 launch vehicle for a flight next year. The future moves on despite Shelby’s antics.

  • GuessWho

    Oler – “Here is the line you (YOU) quoted from my post

    “When you cannot summon up the political will to pass a budget then the party that controls the House is not working well…(spending bills start in the House).”

    that lays most of the blame onthe (sic) Democratic party.”

    And you conveniently omit the previous line in your post that I also included, namely “… what is dysfunctional NOW is our political system particularly the GOP but also the Dems.” which established the setting for the next comment. Those ARE your words and their context. You identified the GOP as the “particularly” dysfunctional party.

    Second, where have I EVER made the comment that CX “… wasnt a lot of money compared to other things”? Please provide proof. Also, please provide proof that I have “apologized” for Bush 43 policies and budget priorities. Please provide any link that supports either of these statements. Or is this just more of the same bomb and duck tactics typical of your previous posts?

    Third, you completely ignored the substance of my reply to your comment on wealth transfer. Please provide the rest of the readers at this site verifiable data that supports your claim relative to the GOP party transferring wealth from the middle class (as well as a definition of what that means by the way) and from the unborn. You have made the claim, now it is time to back it up with facts. We are waiting. My guess is that you will start the “ducking” phase now. Care to prove me wrong?

  • Coastal Ron

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    it is time to simply end this thing [Shuttle]

    My background is in manufacturing, and it’s really astounding that this drama keeps going on after a 30-year production run. The real scary part is that the root cause problem could be:

    A. A marginal design
    B. Sub-standard material
    C. Incorrect manufacturing
    D. All of the above

    And some people think the Shuttle components are the perfect parts to use for an even bigger launcher. Yet another reason a SDV is a bad idea…

  • Mark R. Whittington

    “Was this intended to be an intelligent comment?”

    Far more than that was intended to be an intelligent question.

    “Since when is White House policy and leadership, good or bad, responsible for congressional earmarks?

    “Havn’t you ever heard of separation of powers?”

    Major Tom. the President is not a passive player. There are a lot of things he can do about Congressional actions if he choses to do so. Read some histiry.

    “Whittington was in agreement with the “Obama” policy in a Weekly Standard piece that he asked to have his name put on. It wasnt the Obama policy then (JUly 1999) but he was for what exist now.”

    No, I was not in favor of crpny capitalism and the abandonment of space exploration, Mr. Oler. Try to reestablish a relationship with objective reality.

    “so Shelby is not responsible for his action?”

    Sure he is and is likely to be rewarded with reelection for them. Obama has given him tacit approval with his silence and passivity.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    In my opinion President Obama has made three critical errors.

    First, was the policy itself. Instead of tweeking the old policy, using stimulus money to fill in the funding gap, perhaps changing the architecture to reflect the Moon First recommendations of Augustine, the President essentially abandoned space exploration entirely and decided to go all in on commercial.

    This meant that not only was American abandoning for the foreseeable future any hope of being a space power, but it was proposing to give potentially unlimited funding to companies like SpaceX. We know he latter because Charles Bolden said so, not just to Gene Cernan privately, but to everyone else publically. That meant that SpaceX and others had become too important to fail and would become permanently on government largess.

    Abandoning the Moon the very moment that all that water was discovered will rank with the most profoundly idiotic decisions in American history.
    Second, the President rolled out the new policy without vetting it and without really supporting it until months later when he did himself more harm than good in a shockingly stupid Kennedy Space Center speech (“Buzz has already been there.”)

    Third and finally, after April 15th, the President walked away from what he had done, leaving chaos in his wake. Charlie Bolden made matters worse with his “mission to the Muslims” remark. The President is now just accepting passively what is being done. (And, by the way, the new Congress has surely noticed this.)

    What Obama should have done, the moment that it was obvious that his new policy was going south (the very next day it was proposed, by the way) he should have sat down with the Congressional space leadership and hammered out a compromise, which would have included funding commitments.

    Instead, Obama is no longer a player in the space debate. That has allowed people like Shelby to run wild. Power, after all, abhors a vacuum.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 6:08 pm
    Uh no, there actually isn’t. But it makes for good copy and national brevado- but there’s nothing to it.

  • Coastal Ron wrote:

    My background is in manufacturing, and it’s really astounding that this drama keeps going on after a 30-year production run.

    Here’s a basic question for those who know such things.

    Other than the Shuttle’s external tank, are there any other space vehicles that use external insulating foam?

    I found the Centaur upper stage on Atlas rockets, but so far haven’t found anything else.

    I discussed this the other day with a friend at NASA. She said she didn’t know of any, but noted that foam failure is only a concern with Shuttle because the crew vehicle is mounted on the side. It wouldn’t be a big deal with an uncrewed rocket, or one where the crew vehicle is mounted on top (i.e. every other HSF vehicle other than Shuttle).

    This was one of the significant findings of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, that the fundamental flaw in the Shuttle design is the crew vehicle on the side which increases the risk of exposure to flame and debris. I suspect the Challenger board knew as much, but didn’t go there in their final report because the nation had just finished spending umpteen dollars to build the Shuttle fleet and wouldn’t be politically palatable to propose cancelling the program.

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 31st, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Other than the Shuttle’s external tank, are there any other space vehicles that use external insulating foam?

    SpaceX is using a thin layer of cork insulation on their first stage, but that is for surviving re-entry.

    I had heard the same as what your friend at NASA told you, in that with Shuttle, it’s to mitigate ice strikes on the orbiter. With traditional payload-on-top type designs (i.e. Delta IV, Saturn V, etc.), this is not an issue.

    For Centaur, I think this gets down to what the design needs are. Once in space, space is a great insulator as long as there is no direct heat input, but that can be mitigated by using umbrellas and blankets. ULA thinks they won’t need insulation on their ACES tankers when they launch, since they will be within a fairing and not subjected to aerodynamic forces.

  • Vladislaw

    Robert G. Oler wrote

    “He caused to be spent 10 billion dollars and got nothing for it.lost a space shuttle orbiter and fired no one…..and the best apologist like you and whittington can come up with is “it wasnt a lot of money compared to other things”.”

    Did you notice what happened in Russian after the failed launch of their satellites?

    Medvedev fires space chiefs after satellite crash

    I would sure like to see a little of that over here.

    “This meant that not only was American abandoning for the foreseeable future any hope of being a space power, but it was proposing to give potentially unlimited funding to companies like SpaceX. We know he latter because Charles Bolden said so”

    China has been doing human space launches how often? Once a month? Once a year? Gosh they must be a REAL space power because they launch so often and not the USA. Russia has made how many human launches WITHOUT foreign paying passengers? Gosh they must be a REAL space power and not the USA.

    Wake up, America spends more on space activities than the entire planet. Do you have a sign planted in your front yard saying “The Reds are coming”? If you don’t – you better, from the sounds you make they should be here by next week.

    If the NASA administrator has the power for “unlimited funding” of a project, why didn’t Griffin fully fund constellation? Why did he divert so many funds from other projects if he had the power to just spend unlimited funds? If you think Bolden or any NASA administrator has the power spend unlimited funds for a project well you are just … nuts.

    Just another insane comment .. you are really starting to make a habit of it. I can’t believe Robert Oler allowed you to put your name to anything he wrote.

  • there are some “right wingers” who are aghast at the spending habits of the GOP when it was in power…and some who are not…there are some that are mystified by the Iraq war, and some who are not.

    In other words, it’s a useless phrase and, like most of what you post, babble.

    And please do let me know when you’re going to be in CA so I can be somewhere else. A “man hug” from the likes of you is about the last thing I need.

  • Rhyolite

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 31st, 2010 at 8:56 am

    “Other than the Shuttle’s external tank, are there any other space vehicles that use external insulating foam?”

    I beleive Delta IV and Ariane V also use foam insulation in addtion to the ET and Centaur. The common factor between these vehicles is the use of 20K liquid hydrogen.

  • tps

    Doesn’t Atlas V & Delta 4′s both have insulation on at least the first stages? I’m probably wrong but I think its to reduce boil off before launch. The Delta’s seems to get a bit toasted when the engines ignites.

  • Byeman

    Delta IV is covered in the same foam. Saturn V had external foam on the 2nd stage. Foam or equivalent is required for all LH2 vehicles to prevent cryo pumping.

    Debris shedding to common to all launch vehicles. It is a “standard environment”. The shuttle’s design error was putting impact sensitive TPS in this environment

  • DCSCA

    Rand Simberg wrote @ December 31st, 2010 at 1:39 pm
    Not ‘other words’– those words exactly. Now we know why cockroaches scurry from a spotlight. It’s quite appropriate.

  • Thanks to everyone who responded on the foam question. The consensus seems to be what I was told, that foam shedding isn’t a big deal unless you mount the crew vehicle on the side where it can be struck by the debris.

    Which is why the Shuttle design was a mistake, and is being phased out.

    Makes you wonder, though, if during the design phase in the 1970s they knew this and why they proceeded anyway.

    Elsewhere …

    I was over at CCAFS doing my docent thing. I went over to Launch Complex 18, where Vanguard was launched in the late 1950s. Vanguard was the infamous rocket that exploded in December 1957 when we were trying to catch up to the USSR after Sputnik.

    I shot some photos and will be writing a blog soon, will let you know when.

    But to show you how far the mighty have fallen, LC-18 is being used for, among other things … port-a-potty storage.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Debris shedding to common to all launch vehicles.

    Does that apply to those with storable propellant too?

  • common sense

    Re Shuttle and Foam.

    I don’t think that the foam was a design “error” for the Shuttle. Rather it was a design limitation. Shuttle is an old beast. Design is alway about compromises. Cost has a strong weight in those compromises. The error lies rather with the inability to understand the actual limitation. Why, why in heck, did it take until after Columbia to run the foam gun test? Foam shedding has always been a problem, even though I believe I read somewhere it really became so only after they stopped painting the tank. If true then the original design was “okay”, someone wanted more “mass” to space and changed the design. But again knowing that the foam would shed, why would anyone not run a test? How expensive was the test? Couple $M?

    Oh well…

  • Dennis Berube

    All rockets shed at lift off. Even nuts and bolts. However with new designs coming into play, like the larger HLV, sheding will not be a problem for breakable tiles, like on the shuttle. The new craft will not bei either in a postion where shedding would be a problem, nor will tiles be used any longer./.

  • vulture4

    Speaking of how the mighty have fallen, consider the Space Shuttle. If Senator Shelby wanted to maintain our leadership in space, why did he support canceling the Shuttle program?

    Certainly a new reusable vehicle would learn from the Shuttle and use a somewhat different approach, but the fact is that foam and debris damage has been negligible since the Columbia loss, and the foam block which doomed Columbia is no longer even used. The Shuttle is the only operational manned US launch vehicle. It could, at this point, continue to fly safely for at least anther ten years. If it were not safe, we could not launch the next mission. The orbiters were designed for 100 missions each and have completed less than a third of that. The CAIB clearly stated that the Shuttle could and should continue to fly safely until a replacement craft was operational.

    The Bush administration threw away the Shuttle and tried to throw away the ISS, for the fantasy of combining “Apollo on Steroids” with huge tax cuts. NASA was fine with this voodoo economics.

    The Obama administration correctly perceived that Constellation provided no benefits worth its cost and tried to stop throwing money away on it, but was blocked by powerful members of Congress and a surprising number number of NASA managers who have, for all practical purposes, kept Constellation going. Adding to the irony is the instantaneous switch to launching the Orion on an EELV when the ESAS claimed unequivocally that this was not feasible.

    Yet there are hundreds of proposals within and to NASA every year for new science and technology of real practical value to America that are not funded because money is not available and they aren’t essential for the single mission of returning a few Americans to the Moon.

  • It could, at this point, continue to fly safely for at least anther ten years.

    The CAIB disagreed.

    If it were not safe, we could not launch the next mission.

    “Safe” is not a binary condition.

    The orbiters were designed for 100 missions each and have completed less than a third of that.

    That’s meaningless. No one knows how many missions they could really fly, or whether months are more important than miles. They were also “designed” to fly a couple dozen times a year. We saw how that turned out.

    The CAIB clearly stated that the Shuttle could and should continue to fly safely until a replacement craft was operational.

    Not past 2010, without “recertifying” them (whatever that means).

  • Bennett

    If it were not safe, we could not launch the next mission.

    “Safe” is not a binary condition.

    That’s really great, seriously, it is. It spells out the difference between the fiction and the non-fiction we’ve read over the years.

    Fiction says: He checked his orbit and saw that he would arrive at L5 in 35 minutes. He applied cologne.”

    Non-Fiction says “We need to study it through an election cycle or two.”

    Fok.

  • pathfinder_01

    Vulture the space shuttle imho is like the Great Eastern. A craft that is long before it’s time and like the great eastern not profitable. The Great Eastern did serve well(it laid the 1st transatlantic cable) but as a passenger and cargo ship it was generally disastrous. She was too big for her time. She has a capacity of 4,000 only carried at most 500 paying passengers(She did carry 2,000 troops once on a government charter trip). Her technology not yet developed enough (early iron hulled steam powered ship–1858) and she had some pretty dramatic break downs.

    I do think that reusability is important but the shuttle should have been replaced sometime in the 90ies. Keeping a 1970ies rocket plane for 30 years has stifled innovation. Look at the x-37B and to see how far we might have come if new versions of the shuttle had been built in the 90ies and thoose new version being replaced with newer versions right now.

    However flying the shuttle forever is not an option.

  • The orbiters were designed for 100 missions each and have completed less than a third of that.

    Both age and cycles are important. Yes, the orbiters have flown fewer cycles (because instead of 13 or 24 or 60 flights/year it’s 4-6), but they have been around for more years than anyone expected. That’s why things like oil changes on cars are recommended every “three months or 3000 miles”. Even if you’ve left the car in the garage, it’s getting older and natural deterioration is taking place. We have seen this in the shuttle fleet (remember the problem with insulation wear?)

  • Good read in this morning’s Florida Today:

    NASA, Why Make a Rocket?

    Why in the world is NASA developing its own supersized rocket when no fewer than three private companies already have one on the drawing board?
    Decades of experience shows a big-ticket space project developed wholly by the government will:

    •Take years longer than estimated to complete.

    •Cost taxpayers billions more dollars than advertised.

    •Fly with less capability than originally envisioned.
    Unless, of course, the government changes the way it deals with contractors on those kinds of projects.

    Also, for history buffs, Part I of my article on Vanguard is now up on SpaceKSC.com.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Happy New Year everyone. Greetings from Africa…Robert G. Oler

  • @Whittington:

    In my opinion President Obama has made three critical errors.

    First, was the policy itself. Instead of tweeking the old policy, using stimulus money to fill in the funding gap, perhaps changing the architecture to reflect the Moon First recommendations of Augustine, the President essentially abandoned space exploration entirely and decided to go all in on commercial.

    1. The funding gap is the least of your worries with Constellation. No matter how much money you throw at it, you’re not getting the ground to LEO part of the architecture before 2016 (and that’s assuming everything goes honkey dorey from here until then).

    2. Your funding gap was $46 billion through 2020 ($145 billion overall) to deliver one-half of an architecture to do nothing. This blows up to $59 billion if you want to do 4 years of nothing with your do-nothing space station. Your peak ($16 billion) doesn’t even come until 2019. If you want to play grabass with foreigners in space, the peaks go to $15 billion in 2016 and $19 billion in 2019. And I know that Obama just learned what shovel-ready means, but surely everyone knows waiting five to nine years for something to burn a pile of money with doesn’t qualify as stimulus

    2. Moon First (Options 4A and 4B) are the retarded uncles of the Spudis proposal. That is, both manage to identify a $49 billion short fall to do less in 10 years than what Spudis estimates can be done in 15 with no additional funds and depots we can build right now.

    3. It would be helpful in the future if you could point to at very least a bounded estimate to all these tweaks you keep talking about. At this point, whatever architecture you’re describing is Constellation in name only, and God knows what vision for space you hold–if any.

    This meant that not only was American abandoning for the foreseeable future any hope of being a space power, but it was proposing to give potentially unlimited funding to companies like SpaceX. We know he latter because Charles Bolden said so, not just to Gene Cernan privately, but to everyone else publically. That meant that SpaceX and others had become too important to fail and would become permanently on government largess.

    1. Let’s say, for arguments sake, that SpaceX somehow managed to rub ULA, OSC, XCOR and damn near everyone else out of the game–leaving them the sole provider for LEO trucking. We can always go back to one number. $278 million. That’s the COTS “hand-out” to SpaceX. The company itself spent some $1.5 billion to design, develop and fly a real launcher with a spacecraft that could orbit and reenter. In other words, taxpayers spent ten percent what it cost them to bring EELV to bear. If Cernan and Bolden’s worst nightmares come to fruition, that means you’ll be propping up a company that in all likelihood delivers HSF at a fraction of the cost it takes us to launch satellites today. That’s “unlimited spending” you can live with, assuming you’re not tearing your hair out over EELVs right now.

    2. Tell me, in what world do you think Boeing, Lockheed and the rest are just going to roll over and play dead?

    Abandoning the Moon the very moment that all that water was discovered will rank with the most profoundly idiotic decisions in American history.

    It is idiotic, and you should probably abandon your architectural schtick and just keep hammering this point. But it also helps to know why it’s idiotic, and I’m not sure you do. Please, correct me if I’m wrong.

    Second, the President rolled out the new policy without vetting it and without really supporting it until months later when he did himself more harm than good in a shockingly stupid Kennedy Space Center speech (“Buzz has already been there.”)

    Speeches are fluff. The Administration was committed to Flexible Path (probably because it maximized money available to pursue its strange fetish with solar powered HVAC technicians). By KSC, the battle had already been won in the Administration. The explorers and explorer wannabes got their Christmas list of firsts, Obama got to set NASA boldly on the path of greening the Earth and reaching out to Muslims, and generally reasonable folks somehow managed to confuse killing Constellation with building a real spacefaring infrastructure.

    What Obama should have done…

    \

    Blah, blah, blah. How about what Congress should do? You’ve got a new one coming in, and if there’s going to be a revival of the American conquest of space, that’s where the real strategic work needs to be done. Write about that for once.

  • DCSCA

    @Presley Cannady wrote @ January 3rd, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    “How about what Congress should do?”

    Give NASA $25 billion/year for a decade (adjusted for inflation annually) direct them to establish a base on the moon in a decade, get out of the way and leave them alone to do it. If NASA fails to accomplish its assigned task in ten years, dissolve the agency.

  • Give NASA $25 billion/year for a decade (adjusted for inflation annually) direct them to establish a base on the moon in a decade, get out of the way and leave them alone to do it.

    Well, that would be a quarter of a trillion dollars down a rat hole.

  • byeman

    “to establish a base on the moon ”

    Why does there need to be a base on the moon and why should NASA be the one to do it?

  • @byeman:

    Why does there need to be a base on the moon…

    Because that’s where the largest supply of off world water and minerals are.

    …and why should NASA be the one to do it?

    Because it will be quite some time before anyone else will.

  • Byeman

    A funding a moon base is just as much a folly as funding missions for cosmologists, climatologists and space stations. Also, it is not in NASA’s charter.

  • Coastal Ron

    Presley Cannady wrote @ January 4th, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Because that’s where [the Moon] the largest supply of off world water and minerals are.

    …in the Earth-Moon system. Regardless of what people think, the Moon is not the center of the Solar System, nor even a significant part of it. It just happens to be close to us.

    Let’s keep things in their proper perspective.

  • Because that’s where the largest supply of off world water and minerals are.

    The water on the moon is trivial compared to (say) the rings of Saturn.

  • @byeman:

    A funding a moon base is just as much a folly as funding missions for cosmologists, climatologists and space stations.

    Really? Moon is 10^20 kg of stuff just waiting to be stripped. Did those six whiz kids buzzing about the Earth figure out a way to mine empty space yet? Has Hawking figured out how to build a toaster powered by the cosmic microwave background? Will determining the Nth decimal precision of GR’s predictions cure cancer? Is Earth Venus yet?

    Come on.

    Also, it is not in NASA’s charter.

    NASA doesn’t have a charter, twin slabs of stone handed from on High, or a Big Book of Pirate Law. She has legal authority granted annually determining what she may withdraw from the Treasury for what reason.

  • @DCSCA:

    Give NASA $25 billion/year for a decade (adjusted for inflation annually) direct them to establish a base on the moon in a decade, get out of the way and leave them alone to do it. If NASA fails to accomplish its assigned task in ten years, dissolve the agency.

    How about I take $12 billion out of their 2010 HSF budget project and they get 15 years to execute?

  • Byeman

    “Moon is 10^20 kg of stuff just waiting to be stripped”

    Still not a justification for the US govt to fund a lunar base.

    Let commercial entities get it.

    Come on.

  • @byeman:

    Still not a justification for the US govt to fund a lunar base.

    If it isn’t, then there’s no justification for anything NASA has ever done or will ever do.

    Let commercial entities get it.

    Let commercial entities do everything else while we’re at it. Seriously, this aversion to NASA actually performing work that actually takes a chance on returning the returning the taxpayer’s overall investment in the agency is downright ridiculous.

  • byeman

    Wrong again, Govt is to provide services like basic research that don’t provide a immediate return on investment.

    “Let commercial entities do everything else while we’re at it.”
    Now you are getting it. Where there is a chance for a return, let the market run it.

  • Wrong again, Govt is to provide services like basic research that don’t provide a immediate return on investment.

    So government exists to lose money?

    Now you are getting it. Where there is a chance for a return, let the market run it.

    Let’s let them do it where there’s no chance for return as well. I wouldn’t mind more money in my pocket.

  • byeman

    So government exists to lose money? Yes, that is why there are taxes. What you are proposing amounts to a state run industry.

  • @byeman:

    Yes, that is why there are taxes.

    Am I supposed to read this as something other than non-sequitur?

    What you are proposing amounts to a state run industry.

    If you mean government acting to open up industry to the private sector, then yes.

  • Coastal Ron

    Presley Cannady wrote @ January 5th, 2011 at 8:21 am

    Seriously, this aversion to NASA actually performing work that actually takes a chance on returning the returning the taxpayer’s overall investment in the agency is downright ridiculous.

    So NASA is supposed to turn into a profit center now?

    Are you proposing to Congress that government agencies should start competing with the private sector? Or is it just NASA and the Moon?

    Why not have the Department of the Interior start mining the middle of the Pacific for rare earth nodules? At least we know that there is a market for that, whereas there is no market for water on the Moon.

    I just don’t get why the government should set up and run an operation that competes with the private sector.

  • byeman

    “Am I supposed to read this as something other than non-sequitur”

    Much like the rest of your statements.

    “If you mean government acting to open up industry to the private sector, then yes.”

    Already done. The launch vehicle and spacecraft industry exists, the mining industry exists. There is nothing to “open up”. And any argument you have would be similar to what NASA is doing with CRS and commercial crew to ISS.

    ISS is no different than a lunar base. A money pit. The “resources” on the moon are no good to anyone on earth.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>