Congress, NASA

Affording the final shuttle launch

In an interview with CNN, NASA administrator Charles Bolden suggested that NASA stretched out the shuttle program far longer than it should have. “It was time for the shuttle to go a long time ago, in deference to a vehicle that was going to take humans to the Moon,” he said, suggesting that the Challenger accident 25 years ago forced NASA “to stick with the shuttle and break off our exploration dreams for a while.” He also criticized the situation that has developed over the last several years, with a gap of several years between the impending retirement of the shuttle and a replacement system to carry US astronauts to orbit. “What is not acceptable is the fact that the most powerful nation in the world, the United States of America, finds itself in a situation that we didn’t do the proper planning to have a vehicle in place to replace shuttle when it lands its last landing in June,” he said.

(He added that we now have the opportunity “to pick up where we left off, pre-Challenger” and resume plans for human exploration beyond Earth orbit, adding that the president told NASA to put people on Mars “by 2030″. Actually, in his April 15, 2010, speech at KSC, President Obama set no specific deadline for landing humans on Mars, instead saying that by the mid-2030s humans could orbit Mars, and “a landing on Mars will follow”.)

In the near term, though, there’s the issue of flying out the remaining shuttle flights, including STS-135, the mission added in last year’s authorization bill intended in part to reduce, albeit only incrementally, the post-shuttle gap. Without a FY11 budget, though, there’s the question of whether NASA will be able to afford that additional flight. Bolden, in his CNN interview, said it likely would. “We are budgeted for 135 and unless something disastrous happens, it’s our intent to fly it,” he said. Shuttle managers are also confident the money will be there. “We have a plan in place to shuffle the money around and fund the flight, STS-135,” said shuttle launch integration Mike Moses, the Orlando Sentinel reports, adding that “we’ve gotten the letter from headquarters saying we’ll be able to fly STS-135 regardless of what happens in the next budget.”

Less confident, though, is Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), who told Houston TV station KTRK that “it’s still a fight” over whether NASA gets sufficient funding, suggesting yet again that money be taken from NASA earth sciences programs to pay for the shuttle mission, should it come to that. While the House has passed a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through the rest of fiscal year 2011 (cutting NASA’s budget by several hundred million dollars in the process), key senators oppose the bill, raising the odds of a government shutdown when the current CR expires at the end of next week, which could further complicate the agency’s plans.

“We’re optimistic it’s going to be there when we get there,” Chris Ferguson, commander of STS-135, told KTRK. “If it is, fantastic and if it’s not, well it’s the will of taxpayers.”

142 comments to Affording the final shuttle launch

  • I can think of better ways NASA could use the money that’s planned for STS-135, but like the man said, it’s the will of the taxpayers.

    I sure hope these last few shuttle missions end safely and the vehicles retired as they should be.

  • amightywind

    …finds itself in a situation that we didn’t do the proper planning to have a vehicle in place

    The height of hypocracy. Bolden has been running NASA for 2 years. I didn’t know he was a proponent of cancelling the shuttle program until now. As for a post shuttle alternative, he killed it! As leader of NASA his bearing is lowly. He whines as a victim like the rest of the administration.

    …suggesting yet again that money be taken from NASA earth sciences programs to pay for the shuttle mission, should it come to that.

    I would also gut life sciences. I would rather see a full review of all of NASA’s activities and prioritize them.

  • Miles G

    Generally Bolden is speaking the truth, but he is leaving out half the story so I am not in complete agreement with him. NASA needed to be making significant efforts to reduce the cost of existing Shuttle (and ISS) operations, while operating the existing systems, and they should have been working to develop far less expensive follow on systems. Not only did NASA do neither of these, but as tasks were finished like design and development of ISS, they would put even more people into operations and the costs never went down. Even now, this year, ISS costs are going up again in an effort to make work for all of the people no longer working on Constellation or Shuttle. So we are no longer designing or developing new hardware, the assembly of the ISS is complete, we are entering into a period of long term maintenance of a crew in orbit, with many of the costs shared by the other international partners, yet we keep adding more manpower and dollars????

    Why aren’t some of those resources going into development of the new system?

    NASA is taking the American people for a ride, dollar-wise, in order to feather the caps of the operations and ISS people running the show. Besides the expense and dollars wasted, this also means resources required for new systems and advancement are being shortchanged. No new development and no new systems being brought on-line at the expense of making the existing system (we are down to one) more expensive and less efficient.

    That after 50 years the US has not come up with an affordable vehicle to take people to and from low earth orbit is one of NASA’s greatest failings.

    Bolden is still talking about the Orion (they are now calling it by some acronym that makes little sense) as a replacement for the Shuttle. It is not. It cannot do and will never do what Shuttle does. It is a throwback to an earlier era.

    Bolden is talking about an earlier generation as having failed to do the required planning. It may be true, but he is doing no better today.

    If you want a true planetary vehicle like Bolden is referring to, that is not an Orion. In fact Orion should have no place in such a mission. You need a craft optimized for deep space transit, which can be maintained in space. Likely this means returning to a node in earth orbit, perhaps ISS, and using that non-existent cost effective low earth orbit transit vehicle to carry crew to and from.

  • The height of hypocracy.

    Look who’s talking. I think it’s amusing that you’re spinning the GOP House’s transference of almost $300 million from NASA to the COPS program and blame it on the minority Democrats.

    Like I said before Windy, you’re a knee-jerk partisan hack who regurgitates rhetoric with nothing of substance.

  • CharlesHouston

    There are several things in the CNN interview that make me wonder – NASA had absolutely no plans to retire the Shuttle until Pres Bush (the second one) said to do that after the Columbia was lost. And then, the “retirement” would have taken many years. We had to delete many planned Shuttle flights when Bush determined that we should retire the Shuttle in 2010. So the Challenger accident (in my humble opinion) had no connection to extending the Shuttle.

    Now we are spending money on STS-135 (which I am very glad to see) but no money was budgeted for the mission. So NASA actually is in conflict with the currently signed Appropriations bill. Now, we should have had a signed Appropriations bill a LONG time ago to replace the one we are living under now, there is no excuse for two Congresses to have not made that totally Overcome By Events.

    One more note – we are retiring a known vehicle for untried, untested, unflown new vehicles. Dragon, CST-100, even MPCV will have unknown failure modes and, at least initially, will be more dangerous than a Shuttle. We will lose people in those unproven vehicles. Everyone should be ready for that.

  • Justin Kugler

    I don’t agree with that characterization of the ISS budget, Miles. Most, if not all, of the increase is going to expanded utilization and payloads, such as Exploration Technology development and space life sciences. It is not “make work” for people leaving Shuttle and Constellation, especially considering that JSC alone has to shed 100 civil servants to be in line with the new budget expectations.

    New work is stalled because Congress has not rectified the conflict between the Shelby language in the existing CR and the 2010 Authorization Act. It will take an Appropriations Act or a CR that cleans up the problem for NASA to step out in front.

    Even so, Space Technology gets its own separate line in the FY2012 budget proposal. If you want to see the development of technologies for an in-space transportation system, that is the place to look.

  • I can think of better ways NASA could use the money that’s planned for STS-135, but like the man said, it’s the will of the taxpayers.

    The taxpayers are utterly indifferent as to whether or not we fly another Shuttle flight. They have much bigger things to worry about.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Good Morning –

    Miles, sometimes it pays to be “diplomatic” and “less than truthful”.

    What Bolden left out of his comment was that after Challenger, there was a plan to go with fly-back reusable liquids, as were originally proposed for use with the shuttle. But ATK killed that.

    Excuse me, Charles, but Goldin had planned to cut the shuttle into the NLS heavy lifter starting in 2000. I assume if Gore had become President, that plan would have gone into effect.

    Now I haven’t even mentioned neocons, Griffin, Logsdon, Day or the SFF this morning, so I guess I can be “diplomatic” as well. But I do have to question why smears like the following remain, while my own judicious
    and enlightening comments are removed:

    “The height of hypocracy. Bolden has been running NASA for 2 years. I didn’t know he was a proponent of cancelling the shuttle program until now. As for a post shuttle alternative, he killed it! As leader of NASA his bearing is lowly. He whines as a victim like the rest of the administration.”

  • CharlesHouston

    Another note: having watched the interview a couple of times, General Bolden said several things that are clearly wrong. The quoted date, the direction of NASA before the Challenger accident, the Russians are a “good partner”, etc. Why would John Zarrella not ask about these? This was intended to be a happy talk before the upcoming flight but…

  • CharlesHouston wrote:

    We had to delete many planned Shuttle flights when Bush determined that we should retire the Shuttle in 2010. So the Challenger accident (in my humble opinion) had no connection to extending the Shuttle.

    Having read both the Challenger and Columbia review board reports, one fundamental difference stands out.

    The Challenger board deliberately sidestepped the fundamental STS design flaw, i.e. the crew vehicle mounted on the side which increased risk of exposing the crew to flame and falling debris, and left them without an escape system. The Columbia board took it head on, which was why Bush cancelled Shuttle.

    The reason the Challenger board didn’t go there was that it was a political hot potato. The U.S. had just spent 15 years designing and building this system at a huge cost overrun. What if the board had said, “Sorry, it’s fatally flawed, shut it down”? There would have been an uproar.

    So Shuttle continued despite the design flaw — because no one was willing to spend the money to replace it with something else. Congressional eyes had moved on to Space Station Freedom, which eventually morphed into the ISS.

    One more note – we are retiring a known vehicle for untried, untested, unflown new vehicles. Dragon, CST-100, even MPCV will have unknown failure modes and, at least initially, will be more dangerous than a Shuttle. We will lose people in those unproven vehicles. Everyone should be ready for that.

    I think everyone realizes that, however I saw that in January SpaceX said they want 17 test flights (which would include the ISS cargo supply flights) before flying crew. There will always be a risk, but I’m not worried about it.

  • Coastal Ron

    I’m glad to hear that someone, including someone that was a Shuttle commander, thought the Shuttle should have been replaced years ago.

    I’ve always thought that the Shuttle concept was a worthy try, but that it didn’t even come close to achieving it’s goals. That’s life, but what should have happened is that they recognized that fact, and figured out what came next.

    The Shuttle has always had options for cargo, both in launchers like Titan IV and Delta IV Heavy, so while having the ability to assemble the ISS with the Shuttle was really handy, we could have done it without the Shuttle.

    The part we’re really missing is the ability to put crew into space, and that is where NASA has had many ideas over the years, but no one in NASA or the Congress pushed to replace the Shuttle.

    Now that we won’t have Shuttle after this year, we need to speed up the next crew transportation system. Congress should get behind the idea that commercial space is ready to satisfy the LEO transportation portion, and fund the competition to put in place at least two capsule systems.

    Next, Congress should fund the competition for a simple winged CRV such as Dream Chaser or Prometheus, which gets us going the direction an earlier Shuttle replacement would have taken us. After that, our future needs will tell us if we need more capsules, more winged CRV’s, or something else.

    But Congress needs to get off the dime and decide to fund their own law regarding commercial crew being the preferred method of transportation to the ISS.

  • amightywind

    The part we’re really missing is the ability to put crew into space, and that is where NASA has had many ideas over the years, but no one in NASA or the Congress pushed to replace the Shuttle.

    That was what Constellation was for, before Obama and his Bolsheviks cancelled it. They had a muzzy plan that deemphasized HSF which congress roundly rejected. The current malaise is entirely of their own making. The option you present is the current status quo.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ February 24th, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I agree with most of that…but there were efforts post Challenger to move off the shuttle…NLS, ALS, and even a sort of move toward a “Direct” scheme…

    The problem is that they always ran up against a the same problem Cx ran into…they started with legacy hardware and then the cost FOR DEVELOPMENT just exploded.

    J. Danforth Quayle in his book and has in some group meetings discussed his frustration with Trulythe then NASA administrator who clearly was moving along a “save the shuttle” path. Problems which existed in every post shuttle NASA development issue and ones that Psycho Dan tried to address in the X-33 effort (as flawed as it was).

    Where some serious thought should have been had…was when a deployment mechanism for the space station was being discussed. One of the attributes of shuttle C and Geode and a few other “one shot” tosses was that it could “put the shuttle to bed” early. But that is not what NASA JSF and the corporate groups had in mind.

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    “If you want a true planetary vehicle like Bolden is referring to, that is not an Orion. In fact Orion should have no place in such a mission. You need a craft optimized for deep space transit, which can be maintained in space. Likely this means returning to a node in earth orbit, perhaps ISS, and using that non-existent cost effective low earth orbit transit vehicle to carry crew to and from.”

    Well a little of over simplification and contradiction. Maybe.

    Orion as a BEO vehicle is definitely idiotic. Too small. Trying to do too many things with one vehicle. Too complicated.

    A true BEO vehicle though will require a ETO vehicle and actually both ways. Could it be Orion or son-of-Orion, or Dragon, CST-100, DreamChaser? For sure.

    Now the required infrastructure to make this happen does not exist. Are those LEO vehicles the embryonic infrastructure? I hope so but it is far from clear. I wish someone at NASA would be able to find the time to show us how they are planning to go from CCDev to say Nautilus. And everything in between. But people at NASA seem far too preoccupied with their jobs on Shuttle, Constellation, ISS to actually think. I am not (really) blaming them, just saying.

  • common sense

    @ CharlesHouston wrote @ February 24th, 2011 at 9:42 am

    “There are several things in the CNN interview that make me wonder – NASA had absolutely no plans to retire the Shuttle until Pres Bush (the second one) said to do that after the Columbia was lost.”

    What happened to X-33 and cohort? You don’t have your time line right.

    “One more note – we are retiring a known vehicle for untried, untested, unflown new vehicles. Dragon, CST-100, even MPCV will have unknown failure modes and, at least initially, will be more dangerous than a Shuttle. We will lose people in those unproven vehicles. Everyone should be ready for that.”

    So what? When we go from the 747 to a 777 it is an “untried, untested, unflown new vehicle” isn’t it? What is the big deal about that? And further you are absolutely wrong. When and if Dragon carry a crew it will have flown several times uncrewed. I hope Boeing and the others do the same. Any sane vehicle development of this type would do the same. However, again, I don’t remember the 777 or the A-380 flying uncrewed first. Yes accidents happen. If you don’t want to work in this business because of accidents you can always develop software for, oh I don’t know, health care…

  • Missing Something

    One more note – we are retiring a known vehicle for untried, untested, unflown new vehicles. Dragon, CST-100, even MPCV will have unknown failure modes and, at least initially, will be more dangerous than a Shuttle. We will lose people in those unproven vehicles.

    Then come up with a credible alternative to COTS, CRS and CCDEV. Go ahead, try it. We’re already using the Soyuz and Progress. Continuing Shuttle flights is impossible. Constellation is laughable at best. The shuttle already killed fourteen astronauts as well. Did I miss something here?

    Oh, yeah, the EELVs.Ok, what are you going to put on top of them?

    Charlie has it exactly right. Prepare to be surprised.

  • guest

    Justin-maybe you could provide some details on how increased dollars are going into ISS utilization and payloads? I was under the impression that most of the major US payload systems, like Biotech, were eliminated in order to pay for Constellation. I also was under the impression that the goal of the new ISS National Lab program was to bring in new payloads and utilization that did not have to be paid for by NASA? Are you saying there is now new development of new payload systems by NASA and this accounts for the increased ISS costs? I think what Miles was saying was that ISS went through some peak activities, like DDT&E in the 1990s and then assembly over the last 10 years, but now that the peaks have passed, the cost of operating the ISS program does not seem to be coming down.

    If Constellation and Shuttle are both being shed, and if the total ranks of those 2 programs’ civil servants are 100 people or more, then I could see that shedding that number would make sense. But, why wouldn’t you take some of that experience (from Shuttle, I assume) and put them on the future development program to make use of that expertise. If there is inadequate experience (Constellation, I assume) they ought to be placed where they could absorb some of the lessons from the experienced people.

    Charles and Ron; there were changes that could have been made to upgrade the Shuttle Orbiter and make it more safe. The fuselage forward of the payload bay could have been made into an ‘escape capsule’. In both accidents, the crew module, which was heavily reinforced, initially survived the break up. In the case of Challenger, all it would have needed was a parachute and the crew could have lived. In the case of Columbia they needed additional thermal protection and a chute in addition to the separability of the nose ‘capsule’. If the wing leading edge, inside of the RCC, would have been reinforced with RTV ablative, then even a hole in the RCC need not have been catastrophic. There were changes that could have been made that would have made the Orbiter much safer. Fact was, the Shuttle management avoided significant changes or upgrades, aside from the electronics of the cabin. I don’t think that liquid fueled boosters would have been a great idea, unless they had been really simple and yet produced the required specific impulse. Very sophisticated liquid fueled SSMEs accounted for many of the delays and much of the turnaround cost of the Shuttle program. Work should have been put into simplifying those engines and making them more cost effective to operate.

  • Justin Kugler

    common sense,
    The biggest problem that I see is the lack of communication, not a lack of interest. Groups like HEFT are formed that most of us working in the trenches have no insight into. I think most of us found out about Nautilus in the news.

    Fortunately, we are seeing some changes. For example, Dr. Braun and the OCT have opened up their technology roadmaps to public comment and discussion. My center’s Chief Technologist, John Saiz, has been hosting a series of talks for JSC employees on those roadmaps over the past month. The JSC Advanced Planning Office also hosts forums on how we can improve the way we do business.

    There are also grassroots efforts at breaking down institutional barriers and establishing cross-discipline networks across the agency.

  • common sense

    @ guest wrote @ February 24th, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    “But, why wouldn’t you take some of that experience (from Shuttle, I assume) and put them on the future development program to make use of that expertise. If there is inadequate experience (Constellation, I assume) they ought to be placed where they could absorb some of the lessons from the experienced people.”

    Because as for Constellation the Shuttle people do not have the adequate experience to actually DESIGN a new vehicle. It does not decrease their expertise at operations though. And they may be consultants but again they lack DESIGN experience.

    “In the case of Challenger, all it would have needed was a parachute and the crew could have lived. In the case of Columbia they needed additional thermal protection and a chute in addition to the separability of the nose ‘capsule’. ”

    They may or not have survived with Challenger. You don’t know that. Much less likely for Columbia considering the reentry energy to be shed.

    “If the wing leading edge, inside of the RCC, would have been reinforced with RTV ablative, then even a hole in the RCC need not have been catastrophic. ”

    How do you know? Maybe, maybe not. Again major redesign and requal of the systems.

    “The fuselage forward of the payload bay could have been made into an ‘escape capsule’. ”

    No it could not. Too heavy. The structure would have to be fundamentally redesigned therefore too expensive. Easier to go with an entirely new design.

    “There were changes that could have been made that would have made the Orbiter much safer.”

    Not really. It probably is as safe as it can be without major redesign and requal.

    “I don’t think that liquid fueled boosters would have been a great idea, unless they had been really simple and yet produced the required specific impulse. Very sophisticated liquid fueled SSMEs accounted for many of the delays and much of the turnaround cost of the Shuttle program. Work should have been put into simplifying those engines and making them more cost effective to operate.”

    Any reference to this statement? There were multiple liquid booster studies. Again cost and redesign were playing against any of those.

    So in essence you seem to say that Shuttle is a great idea if only it were redesigned. Well sure. Problem is there is no cash to do this. Nor is there for Constellation. See the idea of going with a capsule was that it was far simpler than a Shuttle. If Constellation fails with a capsule how do you think they would fare with a Shuttle? They are the SAME people.

  • Justin Kugler

    ISS systems, operations, and maintenance funding stays pretty level if you look at the FY2012 budget.

    Human research is getting a big boost. We’ve also created a Technology Development Office here in the Payloads Office to handle all of the NASA-funded tech research that is in the pipeline for ISS, including both science/observational payloads and exploration research, such as advanced life support testbeds. The Program is also looking at capabilities upgrades for data handling, visiting vehicle support, on-board facilities, a common docking adapter, etc.

    With the National Laboratory, NASA is not paying for the research itself, but the agency is still providing the upmass, crew time, and integration support that it would any other payload.

    I went back and reviewed the numbers and realized that I did misspeak on one part, though. The biggest bump in the FY2012 budget for ISS is for cargo transportation, actually. The CRS payments for Dragon and Cygnus are covered there.

  • CharlesHouston

    guest wrote: Charles and Ron; there were changes that could have been made to upgrade the Shuttle Orbiter and make it more safe. but the Challenger and Columbia accidents clearly show that the management failed. They ignored the cold weather, they ignored the tile shedding, etc. They allowed the schedule to over-ride sound engineering judgement.
    The Shuttle, a much maligned vehicle, is safe today when flown in it’s certified envelope. It has good and bad features but the certified limits are known. We just need to stick within them.

  • Vladislaw

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “Next, Congress should fund the competition for a simple winged CRV such as Dream Chaser or Prometheus, which gets us going the direction an earlier Shuttle replacement would have taken us”

    What about the idea of a manned flyback booster that can carry about 25-30 tons to about 65-75 miles where the cargo detaches and launches to the final orbital destination?

  • amightywind

    The Shuttle, a much maligned vehicle, is safe today when flown in it’s certified envelope.

    As much of a fan of the shuttle as I am, I dunno about that. A casual hazard analysis suggests that any propulsion problem within the the first 2 minutes is a death sentence for the astronauts. STS-1-4 mitigated this risk using ejection seats. Of course ejecting into the slip stream of a speeding malfunctioning shuttle is like committing suicide to keep from getting killed. I see this as a fatal design flaw. With the survival of the crew cabin after the breakup of Challenger, I thought it might be possible to have a separable crew cabin, like a B1 bomber escape capsule. Another option would have been to stow the astronauts in the crew cabin ejectable safe capsules like cans in a six pack of beer. But that would have disturbed the unfortunate fantasy that a pilot is actually in control of the vehicle.

    Enjoy the melancholy final launch of Discovery today. I remember the post Apollo launch hiatus and am sad to see it happening again. May it fly safely.

  • VirgilSamms

    “we now have the opportunity “to pick up where we left off, pre-Challenger” and resume plans for human exploration beyond Earth orbit, adding that the president told NASA to put people on Mars”

    Pre-Challenger? I am not sure what he means. Did he mean before the shuttle program suffered budget cuts….several times? Did he mean when we still had a huge NASA budget?

    “Resume plans” is a cheap way to say cheap. Plans don’t cost much. As for going to Mars….why? It is a big gravity well that is expensive to descend into and climb out of. And there is nothing on mars that is not on Ceres or other bodies you could almost land on in a space suit. The asteroid belt is the better destination. And if you are going to fly for a year or so to get somewhere you might as well fly a couple more months to get somewhere better.

    That thousand ton minimum spaceship I have talked about that everyone ridicules is the only way to get anywhere besides the moon. And that is going to take going to the moon anyway to get water for radiation shielding and life support aquarium water. It would cost……a fantastic amount of money.

    So it is all just talk until the good General starts talking about a military mission like CAPS to fund it. And the required nuclear industry support and weapons.

    Alot of other funny comments on this thread of course. Flyback boosters and dreamchasers, etc. etc.

    As for the shuttle; they should stop. STOP NOW! It is not worth the risk and never was. Going to LEO for what? Riding a launch vehicle with no escape system…for what? Flying around in endless circles in the ISS taking a radiation bath…for what? It is just a money machine doing what Rohrbacher once said- burning up dollar bills at an astronomical rate.

  • The taxpayers are utterly indifferent as to whether or not we fly another Shuttle flight. They have much bigger things to worry about.

    Regardless whether they give a good godd@mn or not (which is a shame), they’re still footing the bill.

    What about the idea of a manned flyback booster that can carry about 25-30 tons to about 65-75 miles where the cargo detaches and launches to the final orbital destination?

    Isn’t the Air Force doing a study on that?

  • common sense

    @Justin Kugler wrote @ February 24th, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    “The biggest problem that I see is the lack of communication, not a lack of interest. Groups like HEFT are formed that most of us working in the trenches have no insight into. I think most of us found out about Nautilus in the news.”

    Well okay. Of course if within NASA you guys do not know, or cannot know (?), what others are doing it makes it even more difficult for us outside. Now what I would love to see is an infrastructure, unlike what HEFT has shown so far, that goes beyond SD systems. We are in the process, hopefuly, of fielding commercial transport to ISS. We also have well… ISS. These are two very big stepping stones to a real, possibly self-sustaining infrastructure to BEO. My point is that I would like to see a plan that makes use of these two. That NASA shows an aim to the future (CCDev+ISS) and not the past (HEFT-SD, HLV).

    “Fortunately, we are seeing some changes. For example, Dr. Braun and the OCT have opened up their technology roadmaps to public comment and discussion. My center’s Chief Technologist, John Saiz, has been hosting a series of talks for JSC employees on those roadmaps over the past month. The JSC Advanced Planning Office also hosts forums on how we can improve the way we do business.”

    Well in order to garner support you know, outside JSC or NASA, it’d be judicious to let those things out. But again I am not talking about development of specifc technologies. I am talking of a strategy. Again, we have 1 system ISS fielded and 1 system CCDev in the process. Where can we go from there? What is one path towards BEO if any? How do we integrate multiple actors. In the US and outside the US. In academia and in industry. Many people dream about ISRU, say on the Moon. So for the sake of discussion why don’t we get people from I don’t know Bechtel get with people at NASA and check if we actually can build a lunar base. The cost. What could we do with the current lunar resources? Is there a market for lunar soil? I mean beyond He3… How do we make a LunarDev effort? Is it only pipedream?

    “There are also grassroots efforts at breaking down institutional barriers and establishing cross-discipline networks across the agency.”

    Well that is a NASA problem. Not a public problem. Even if they are welcome efforts the public at large will not understand what you mean.

  • VirgilSamms

    “the idea of a manned flyback booster that can carry about 25-30 tons to about 65-75 miles”

    That would the first version of the shuttle designed a half century ago- and cut because it was too expensive. They went with SRB’s that have simple parachutes and land in the ocean instead of using up half the performance on wings, control systems, landing gear, etc.

    The SRB idea was actually sound except for one detail; the size that could be railed in as segments was not quite powerful enough to do the job. Monolithic boosters like the AJ-260, each one of which was almost as powerful as the Saturn V first stage, would have lifted the equivalent of a couple shuttles. There is debate over why Thiokol’s railed in anemic boosters were selected. Monolithics were all around a better deal and would not have blown up the Challenger. They were powerful enough to allow for more payload and possibly an escape system on the shuttle. Who knows how it might have turned out?

    Anyhow, all these dreamchaser, flyback booster schemes violate the same laws of physics that SSTO did. Can’t fool mother nature.

    About the only concept that does not grossly insult the rocket equation is beam propulsion. Which is kind of way out there right now. But I think it has the best chance of eventually providing that mythical “cheap access” I am so sick of hearing about. It would probably require power being beamed down from space for the “second stage” and that is why I am in favor of the solar power transmission experiment that others seem to think is a big waste.

  • VirgilSamms

    “So for the sake of discussion why don’t we get people from I don’t know Bechtel get with people at NASA and check if we actually can build a lunar base.”

    There is a much better energy resource than Helium 3 on the moon. Thorium. Not exportable to earth but a thorium reactor would be the ideal spacecraft powerplant for deep space missions.

    Here is a presentation by Dr. Joe Bonometti; also an authority on the only viable propulsion system for interplanetary space craft- NPP.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHs2Ugxo7-8

    I personally think getting rich off a space industry is a pipe dream. But CAPS and creating a self-sustaining space faring society would be insurance against something bad happening on earth- and is also what most of us posting here want to see.

  • Vladislaw

    They probably already built one, the BlackHorse:

    http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/blahorse.htm

    Burt Rutan had worked on something like this but could not elaborate because it was classified.

  • amightywind

    I personally think getting rich off a space industry is a pipe dream.

    I could foresee Virgin Galactic being profitable. I could foresee Boeing/Bigelow space tourism to be profitable, if they would make the bet and commit the capital. Other than that it doesn’t seem like a good business yet.

  • Coastal Ron

    guest wrote @ February 24th, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Charles and Ron; there were changes that could have been made to upgrade the Shuttle Orbiter and make it more safe.

    You’re missing the real reason the Shuttle should have been replaced long ago, and that is because it costs too much. Sure you could spend more money re-engineering it to be safer, but without significant design changes, you’re not going to affect safety significantly, and the $/lb and $/person will just go up even more.

    For cargo, there are far less expensive launchers that have always been available. For crew, besides costing far more/person than Soyuz, the Shuttle can only stay in space for two weeks, which is the reason we have always relied on Soyuz for keeping our astronauts on the ISS for extended periods of time.

    Our 30-year experiment of relying on an all-in-one crew/cargo/mini-space station/winged return vehicle has shown us that nice though it was to do all of that in one vehicle, it was too inflexible for expanding our presence into space. It’s time to end Shuttle, safely, this year, and move on to the next generation.

    Very sophisticated liquid fueled SSMEs accounted for many of the delays and much of the turnaround cost of the Shuttle program. Work should have been put into simplifying those engines and making them more cost effective to operate.

    I doubt your premise on the SSME’s. I’ve done independent cost analysis on the sustaining & per launch costs of the Shuttle program, and the SSME was never a factor. In any case, it’s essentially a historical issue, not a future one, and not really worth debating.

  • DCSCA

    Bolden: “It was time for the shuttle to go a long time ago, in deference to a vehicle that was going to take humans to the Moon,” he said, suggesting that the Challenger accident 25 years ago forced NASA “to stick with the shuttle and break off our exploration dreams for a while.”

    Hmmm. Funny how this utterly useless NASA administrator, a classic example of the ‘Peter Principle’ at work, suddenly muses that the shuttle should have gone a long time ago. The’jarhead’ criticizes the machine and the program but got his four rides on the taxpayer’s dime and didn’t hesitate to get back in line:

    A veteran of four space flights, Bolden has logged over 680 hours in space. Bolden served as pilot on STS-61C (January 12–18, 1986) and STS-31 (April 24–29, 1990), and was the mission commander on STS-45 (March 24, 1992 – April 2, 1992), and STS-60 (February 3–11, 1994).

    Perhaps the ‘time for shuttle to go’ was January 11, 1986, Charlie, and we, the people, could have saved you the trouble and the nation the costs of flying you. Retire, Charlie. Your future is in a rocking chair, not in rocketry.

  • common sense

    @ VirgilSamms wrote @ February 24th, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    “I personally think getting rich off a space industry is a pipe dream. But CAPS and creating a self-sustaining space faring society would be insurance against something bad happening on earth- and is also what most of us posting here want to see.”

    They are not mutually exclusive things for crying out loud! If we are smart about what we do we will have all we need. BUT it will not be today nor probably tomorrow. It’ll take longer because we kept ourselves in the Apollo derived way of doing things. This is why Shuttle did not succeed and why Constellation failed.

  • Byeman

    all these Monolithic boosters booster schemes violate the same laws of physics that SSTO did.

    That is closer to the truth.

    “Thiokol’s railed in anemic boosters”

    More incorrect data from samms. The SRB’s are not anemic. Point to one bit of data that shows that they are undersized. The AJ-260 was never considered for the the shuttle. AJ submitted their proposal for a 156 monolithic case that was technically inferior to all other proposals. There were logistics and case bending issues. Even if AJ won, it would still be the same size as current SRB;s

  • VirgilSamms

    “it’s essentially a historical issue, not a future one, and not really worth debating.”

    Sidemount block II has an SSME EDS- as well as 3 expendable RS-25″E”‘.

    It is a possibility. I will be happy to debate. Some of us have an open mind.

  • VirgilSamms

    “They probably already built one, the BlackHorse:”

    Possible. They kept the F-117 a secret for several years. I think the cat would be out of the bag by now though. Maybe they flew it out of dreamland a couple times till it blew up. Along with the ufos.

    Right.

  • amightywind

    Very sophisticated liquid fueled SSMEs accounted for many of the delays and much of the turnaround cost of the Shuttle program. Work should have been put into simplifying those engines and making them more cost effective to operate.

    They improved the engines through several block upgrades. Both turbopumps have been rebuilt. There are new engine controllers. Lots pf sensor mods. New injector head. I don’t think they got around to square channelled tubes in the engine nozzles. I don’t know how much you can simplify a device that operates at such extremes. They are pretty remarkable. It’ll never be a Cummins diesel.

  • VirgilSamms

    Last flight of the discovery in 5 minutes on the web if anyone is interested. Hope it works- one more time.

    Wait….just stopped the countdown again. Lauch window closes in a couple minutes.

    Will it fly…..WILL IT FLY?!!

  • VirgilSamms

    It is going- just saw some stuff fly off the ET just after 4 minutes into launch. Gee whiz…..

  • VirgilSamms

    MECO!………….and……….ET seperation.

    And th th th th th that’s all folks!

    It would be nice if that was the last one.

  • DCSCA

    Another firly large foam strike. Made for interesting TV but reinforces the belief that NASA’s shuttle engineers should be retired… or frigging fired.

  • common sense

    Looks like a good launch.

    Congrats Discovery!

    I thought I saw some foam shedding at some point though… Hope it’s nothing.

  • Justin Kugler

    common sense, if I was in charge, what you describe is exactly what we’d be doing. :)

  • DCSCA

    Another large fragment of foam flies off ET and strike shuttle– how many millions has NASA wasted trying to prevent this?? Time to fire some engineers.

  • common sense

    @Justin Kugler wrote @ February 24th, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    “common sense, if I was in charge, what you describe is exactly what we’d be doing. ”

    Y’know, it’s not that easy to get “common sense” through an organization, at NASA or elsewhere… Special interests are not a Congress prerogative.

    Ah if only…

  • DCSCA

    common sense wrote @ February 24th, 2011 at 5:13 pm
    A good launch means they were lucky…. shedding foam again after how many millions of dollars spend on trying to prevent it?? Absurd. Time to ground these birds before another mishap.

  • common sense

    @ DCSCA wrote @ February 24th, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    “A good launch means they were lucky…. shedding foam again after how many millions of dollars spend on trying to prevent it?? Absurd. Time to ground these birds before another mishap.”

    Well we do agree on retiring the shuttle. I remember an argument I had with someone at Nasawatch who claimed to be working on shuttle about all the progress they had made on their TPS. The following flight they had foam impact… Oh well…

    Despite what seems to be foam shedding we do not know if it was and whether there was an impact. Yes they were lucky anyway.

    Nonetheless these people work hard at making it happen. Therefore I think it is appropriate to congratulate them on a “good” launch.

  • Former Senate Commerce Committee staffer John Cullen had some interesting things to say about Bolden’s comments and the future of U.S. human spaceflight in a guest blog he wrote for Space News today.

    Check it out: http://www.spacenews.com/civil/110224-blog-nasa-backs-future.html

  • DCSCA

    @common sense wrote @ February 24th, 2011 at 6:44 pm
    It’s an accident waiting to happen– again. They were just plain lucky today the debris- and it was fairly large debris, too, didn’t pop off earlier. And watching it, it literally did POP, if not ‘explode’ off the side of the ET. It is inexcusable for this kind of lousy workmanship and poor engineering to be permitted to keep flying, particularly after the millions spent to ‘fix it.’ This tank should never have been certified flight worthy. Here were are, three decades on and foam is blowing off the side of the tank– a flawed tank to begin with– as if this was STS-2. The location of the the foam loss is clearly visible on the TV. Shuttle managers, supervisors and work crews responsible for overseeing this should be fired immediately.

  • Miles G

    Common sense wrote: If we are smart about what we do we will have all we need. BUT it will not be today nor probably tomorrow. It’ll take longer because we kept ourselves in the Apollo derived way of doing things. This is why Shuttle did not succeed and why Constellation failed.

    Unfortunately ISS continues the tradition. Mission design, definition, integration and operations can be done much more simply, efficiently, and inexpensively, but NASA keep up the tradition of doing everything the Apollo way, and the costs never come down.

  • Miles G

    Not only do the costs of time and money never come down, but it dissuades serious researchers from participating. Most from academia or from the corporate world cannot afford the expense or the schedule time.

  • Michael from Iowa

    That was what Constellation was for.

    And how’d that work out? Oh right, after spending billions of dollars and six years working on it, all there was to show for that effort was a decent capsule (but no way to launch it) and a dressed up booster they tried to pass off as a “prototype”. Orion is the only viable product to come out of the Constellation program, and they’re keeping it… so at least it wasn’t a total failure.

    All we need know is a way to get it into orbit. My money’s on them adapting one of the commercial rockets or else going with the Jupiter proposal, either of which is a better option than spending more money on Ares vaporware.

  • @ Michael from Iowa + others on this thread topic: Look boys, Charlie Bolden is a nincompoop, no matter how many times he made it into orbit on the space truck! Project Constellation would’ve brought us a new manned deep space capsule: the Orion CEV. This would’ve been totally adequate for Lunar space-flights; combined with the Altair L-SAM lander. All this hogwash about it being too small, only arises because of the Anti-Moon people, who want to pretend that the Moon as a destination does not exist, in order to push for asteroids instead. This “let’s kill-the-Moon-missions-so-that-we-can-go-to asteroids-instead” crusade is precisely what put us at the dead-end crossroad that NASA is in today! If a capsule is too claustrophobically small for a multi-month asteroid jaunt, just what are your “alternatives”?? Send a Space Shuttle into deep space?! Send something as gigantic as the entire ISS into interplanetary space?! These NEO-huggers really have NO damned idea what they’re getting NASA into! Think about it: we’re going to bypass doing Moon missions—[ " 'cause they're too easy & are child's-play"]—, in order to do far-deep-space missions of VASTLY MORE proportions of complexity & difficulty?! Have these Planetary Society-types even ruminated for a minute, at the complex dimensions of the problems of getting a manned vehicle to the vicinity of one of those giant charcoal blocks?!

  • NASA Fan

    “Pete Olson (R-TX), who told Houston TV station KTRK that “it’s still a fight” over whether NASA gets sufficient funding, suggesting yet again that money be taken from NASA earth sciences”

    R-Olson should pay attention to the Presidents 2012 budget, which specifically targeted Earth Science and has cut nearly $4B out between the years 2013 and 2016. JPL, Goddard, and LaRC Earth Science missions all got whacked.

  • NASA Fan

    …should be the years 2012 and 2016….typo

  • amightywind

    Orion is the only viable product to come out of the Constellation program, and they’re keeping it… so at least it wasn’t a total failure.

    The SLV proposed by the current NASA leadership is basically an Ares V minus the 10m tank. The proposed Liberty Rocket is the Ares I on steroids. After you get passed the hostility to any plan George Bush came up with you see that Constellation was eminently logical. The Constellation could have been restructured instead of cancelled. Instead of leading Obama chose to vote ‘present’. He and his henchmen at NASA are responsible for the horrible malaise now. Is anyone here happy with NASA’s current state?

  • This morning’s Florida Today reports that initial analysis shows there were four foam strikes during yesterday’s launch. The routine inspection scheduled for today starting at 11:00 AM EST will determine if any damage occurred.

  • Justin Kugler

    Again, I do not agree with your characterization, Miles. I work in the ISS National Lab Office. We have commercial implementation partners that have flown both privately-funded and educational payloads that were designed, built, and launched in the same year.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    @ Michael from Iowa,

    I guess you’re right. However, Orion suffered heavily from downsizing due to issues with Ares-I, so it isn’t everything that it could be.

    In terms of launcher, my personal money is that after a few years of arguing, everyone is going to realise tht it is too late to start on an SDLV before the Soyuz contract runs out and there is a panicked crew-rating of the EELVs. This isn’t in any way a preference. It just seems to be the direction that momentum is taking events at the moment.

  • byeman

    “foam loss”

    Is not preventable and it is idiotic to think so. All vehicles shed debris.

  • guest

    We’ll see how Orion works out in a few years. I do not see it as a sure thing. It is interesting that even after downsizing Orion a couple of times, first the service module and propulsion capabilities so it would fit the launcher, and then the command module size, and yet it was still too heavy to carry more than a scaled down crew which is now set at two crew members initially and only a max of four, and it cannot carry a cargo load worthy of its volume, all because of landing mass constraints. I expect that if the commercial carriers are ready in a reasonable time, then there will be no need for Orion and it will be canceled. A Nautilus-type of vehicle should have no need for an ‘exploration capsule’ since it would be coming back to earth orbit for refurbishment, maintenance and upgrades between missions, but even if such a capsule were needed, Dragon could be adapted for this mission. All I can think is the Constellation people must have been trying to figure out how big to make it and what sort of capacity it needed based solely on guess work. What happened to technical competence?

  • common sense

    @Miles G wrote @ February 24th, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    “Unfortunately ISS continues the tradition. Mission design, definition, integration and operations can be done much more simply, efficiently, and inexpensively, but NASA keep up the tradition of doing everything the Apollo way, and the costs never come down.”

    I am not disputing that but ISS is on orbit now and they have a budget. The crime has already been committed. Not so much for Constellation: The crime is in progress. The ISS will be up there for some time to go and we ought to make it as useful as it can be. Part of it is to use it as a lab, no question, part of it as an international experiment, no question. What about the future? Can it be used as a stepping stone to BEO. I think so. Finally, the next stations will most likely be Bigelow stations which have the potential to be a lot less expensive.

    So again I think we can use the ISS for our way forward but it requires strategic planning. And the strategy is very much missing. FY11 had all the necessary elements of an underlying strategy but the strategy never came out. And it is probably what is missing. Not a timeline and not a series of exploration “goals”. We do need people to sit together as I said before including international partners, academia and industry. Get these people to see whether there is a plan for BEO exploration/utilization/whatever, use the assets in place and those coming soon. Try to evaluate if we can come up with something sustainable, not necessarily today but say in 2 or 5 decades from now and how we’ll get there.

    Well as I said before, hope springs eternal.

  • common sense

    @ Michael from Iowa wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 1:20 am

    “Orion is the only viable product to come out of the Constellation program, and they’re keeping it… so at least it wasn’t a total failure.”

    No they are not keeping Orion. There is not enough budget to build the envisionned Orion. Orion requirements have changed multiple times. Without a HLV Orion is useless. It was a total failure. The closest to success was the LAS but we’ll never know since it’ll probably never “fly”.

  • Orion is the only viable product to come out of the Constellation program, and they’re keeping it

    For now. It’s not clear whether it’s economically viable or competitive (which is why Lockmart is panicking). Commercial capsules plus Nautilus (or similar) are much more effective for exploration than an Apollo knock-off.

  • common sense

    @ Rand Simberg wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    “It’s not clear whether it’s economically viable or competitive (which is why Lockmart is panicking).”

    Well how can it be “competitive”? Competitive with what? Dragon? Not a chance. Check how much LMT won the CEV for. Then check how much Dragon has cost so far. LMT will not build Orion. Unless it is mandated by Congress – somehow – AND they have ENOUGH budget. Orion cannot survive if the LVs do not survive. Orion was designed, so to speak, for Ares I. Any redesign will cost money and why would we redesign the thing if there is a much cheaper – and more than one actually – alternative. People may not like Dragon but there is CST-100. Again the jump from CST-100 to a BEO CST-100 is not that big if we choose this route.

  • amightywind

    Nautilus (or similar) are much more effective for exploration than an Apollo knock-off.

    The Nautilus proposal is unimpressive because there is no mention of propulsion. Even the asteroid rendezvous mission has huge delta v requirements. Does Bolden plan to miracle the spacecraft around the solar system using ‘game changers’? What it really is is the modest versatile space station we should have built. As it stands the spacecraft is an unserious, incomplete proposal. These are terms describe to the rest of NASA HSF as well. At least the Lockmart Plymouth Rock proposal considered this minor detail.

  • E.P. Grondine

    AW –

    “…finds itself in a situation that we didn’t do the proper planning to have a vehicle in place”

    The height of hypocracy. Bolden has been running NASA for 2 years. I didn’t know he was a proponent of cancelling the shuttle program until now. As for a post shuttle alternative, he killed it! As leader of NASA his bearing is lowly. He whines as a victim like the rest of the administration.”

    But Obama and Bolden are the victims of the Utah delegation, as NASA is, and we all are.

    Thiokol with Griffin’s help managed to kill every timely and affordable post shuttle replacement, with the clear intent of leaving their Ares 1 as the only option.

    Let’s stay on message here: the Utah delegation is responsible for the current mess.

    Dan Goldin left in place 4 options: the EELVs, the X33, the NLS, and SpaceX. The Utah delegation and Griffin killed all of them except SpaceX, and the only reason for that is that they couldn’t kill them.

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 8:16 am

    The proposed Liberty Rocket is the Ares I on steroids.

    As everyone knows, steroids can do bad things, which must be true in your analogy, because Ares I could put 56,000 lbs into LEO, whereas the ATK Liberty can only put 44,500 – that’s a loss of 11,500 lbs of performance.

    You would think for such an Ares I fanboi that you are, you would have realized how Liberty is just a scaled-back Ares I (i.e. just another franken-launcher).

    The Constellation could have been restructured instead of cancelled.

    Apparently your solution to everything is to throw more taxpayer money at the problem. I thought you were a fiscal conservative?

    Fortunately the Republicans and Democrats in Congress agreed with the Presidents assessment that Constellation was too expensive to continue.

    Is anyone here happy with NASA’s current state?

    I wasn’t happy with Griffin, and Bolden has been an improvement, as has the budget direction from the White House, so overall it’s moving in the right direction.

  • Coastal Ron

    Chris Castro wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 6:51 am

    Project Constellation would’ve brought us a new manned deep space capsule: the Orion CEV. This would’ve been totally adequate for Lunar space-flights

    Orion would have been fine for short lunar missions, but only Lockheed Martin marketing would define Orion as a “deep space capsule”. The zero-G studies from the ISS have shown us that crew living in a minivan sized capsule for months on end would come back cripples. Besides, is that really how you want to explore the universe, in a capsule? You need a better imagination.

    If a capsule is too claustrophobically small for a multi-month asteroid jaunt, just what are your “alternatives”?

    A true spaceship, not a Crew Return Vehicle. And no, it doesn’t need to be the size of the ISS, but it can use ISS-type modules. There a lots of proposals (including mentioned earlier), so keep your eyes (and mind) open.

    …in order to do far-deep-space missions of VASTLY MORE proportions of complexity & difficulty?

    Yes. The only thing holding us back from returning to the Moon is money. We know how to orbit, land, and return from the Moon, so the hard work ahead for lunar activity is expanding on that. But we have never ranged beyond the Moon, and that is where the true hard part of exploration needs to be focused, and that is what NASA does best.

    In any case, no one is saying “never return to the Moon”, so cut the hyperventilating, What people are saying is that if we want to push the boundaries of exploration, and eventually reach Mars, then we need to learn how to travel and survive beyond Earth’s orbit (BEO). You know, go boldly type stuff. The Moon will be there when we have a strong enough desire or need, not to mention the money.

  • Hang Glider

    “foam loss”

    Is not preventable and it is idiotic to think so. All vehicles shed debris.

    Sure Mr. Behling, and aircraft were originally constructed of wood and fabric.

  • John Malkin

    Coastal Ron wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 2:19 pm
    common sense wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Great comments!

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    “Commercial capsules plus Nautilus (or similar) are much more effective for exploration than an Apollo knock-off.”

    A bold assertion by a shill for commercial space. Of course, no ‘commercial capsules’ have been crewed, launched, orbited and returned safely on any ‘exploration’ flights. And as February, 2011 comes to a close, SpaceX has not flown ANYBODY.

  • Fred Cink

    Dear dad(2059)… is there plenty of blame for the 50 or 70 (mostly freshman?) republicans who voted for the cops transfer? …you bet. I have already notified the guy who represents me, (who is one of that group) that I didn’t stand on my hometown street corner last october holding one of his campaign signs to defeat his democrat rival (a native of my home town) so he could make a vote like that. May I remind you dear dad(2059) that the sponsor was a liberal democrat??? That the targeted funds were appropriated by the liberal democrat controlled previous congress… who thought “cross agency support” was more important to the NASA bugget than funding such secondary concerns such as launch pads, rocket engines, science equipment, launchers and spacecraft? Could it be that maybe you are just “a knee jerk partisan hack regurgitating rhetoric with nothing of substance.”

  • Fred Cink

    Vladislaw’s reference to the “Blackhorse” study (which was the subject of an excellent AW&ST article back in the 90s) is very insightfull. I emailed Mr Clapp, (the Airforce “Rocket Scientist” who did the research along with Mr Zubrin) several times about the concept and learned alot. I am still convinced that using inflight refueling of an airlaunched booster is a viable option for reasonable cost to LEO. A much enlarged Pegasus type rocket, using an NK43/AJ26 engine, riding the back of a 747 class carrier, BOTH of which use inflight refueling to reduce takeoff weight, is the way to go for small to medium payloads.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi CR –

    Agree completely with your technical ana,lysis, but in neo-conese (remembewr the first thing to go is language) “expoloration” means manned flight to Mars.

    And the public will not pay for manned flight to Mars, at least right now, with the economy in the state it is in..

    If on the other hand you propose to developn all those systems for planetary defense, the way forward will be an easier sell, in my view.

    If we can’t get CAPS, then a manned mission to an asteroid is an acceptable alternative.

    I’d like to see DIRECT in place by 2022, in case we need it then

  • pathfinder_01

    Orion isn’t useless without an HLV. Two Delta IV heavy launches could send it to L1/L2. Orion is just expensive over kill for ISS taxi but there are a few things it can do.

    Nautilus might not return to LEO. It takes a lot of energy to return to low earth orbit. You could simply park it in a high earth orbit or L1/L2. CST100 and most of the ISS taxies are not built for long duration spaceflight and high speed reentry. Dragon is the only exception and it would need a different service module for BEO work.

    You could use ISS taxies to help construct it in Leo but you probably don’t want to be aboard it when it travels out to L1/L2.Due to long travel times through the van Allen belts.

    CST100 for instance would be battery powered and only good for 48 hours of free flight. While Orion has two weeks worth of free flight time. 48 hours is not enough to get to(or from) L1/L2 or the moon.

    A BEO capsule requires longer duration(you can do same day redoes with the ISS if you want to), stronger structure(to handle higher g loads on reentry), better heat shield(to either handle a very hot direct entry or a skip reentry), more radiation protection, and a more powerful communications system.

    It is like the difference between a sub compact and a hummer. One is a lot cheaper and more suitable for driving to work and the other more suitable for going off road. The Soyuz of today is less capable than the Zond of old and if Apollo had survived it would have been downgraded to LEO only as a cost savings.

  • common sense

    @E.P. Grondine wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    “If on the other hand you propose to developn all those systems for planetary defense, the way forward will be an easier sell, in my view.”

    Possibly. And others and I have already argued about expansion of civilization, safeguarding etc. HOWEVER it is not in the Space Act. Therefore first thing first, change the Space Act! Don’t ask NASA to do things they are not mandated to do. They will not do them.

    “I’d like to see DIRECT in place by 2022, in case we need it then”

    I’d like to never hear of DIRECT or any other SD vehicle ever again. EVER!

  • Miles G

    Justin Kugler wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 8:55 am

    “I work in the ISS National Lab Office. We have commercial implementation partners that have flown both privately-funded and educational payloads that were designed, built, and launched in the same year.”

    Are you talking about real MLE-sized or larger functional research payloads, or are you taking about self-contained ‘Cubesats’ and something like a simple musical instrument?

  • common sense

    @pathfinder_01 wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    “Orion isn’t useless without an HLV. Two Delta IV heavy launches could send it to L1/L2. Orion is just expensive over kill for ISS taxi but there are a few things it can do.”

    I disagree Orion is useless even with the 2 Delta launches. Why would you use a vehicle for “long” duration mission to the Moon and possibly Mars to send it to L1/L2 when an upgraded Dragon will do? AND what Orion block/version are we talking about?

    “Nautilus might not return to LEO. It takes a lot of energy to return to low earth orbit. You could simply park it in a high earth orbit or L1/L2. CST100 and most of the ISS taxies are not built for long duration spaceflight and high speed reentry. Dragon is the only exception and it would need a different service module for BEO work.”

    You don’t know whether they are built for long duration and/or high speed. Actually we all know that Elon Musk has been saying his goal is Mars. Now fine what is more expensive? An Orion or a new SM for Dragon? What do you think?

    “You could use ISS taxies to help construct it in Leo but you probably don’t want to be aboard it when it travels out to L1/L2.Due to long travel times through the van Allen belts.”

    Why?

    “CST100 for instance would be battery powered and only good for 48 hours of free flight. While Orion has two weeks worth of free flight time. 48 hours is not enough to get to(or from) L1/L2 or the moon.”

    Are you saying they cannot build an additional power source in an SM for example? That the power source has to reside inside the capsule?

    “A BEO capsule requires longer duration(you can do same day redoes with the ISS if you want to), stronger structure(to handle higher g loads on reentry), better heat shield(to either handle a very hot direct entry or a skip reentry), more radiation protection, and a more powerful communications system.”

    Why would you assume that any of those are not easily implemented on either Dragon or CST-100? Why do you assume their structures are not designed/built for other than LEO reentry?

    “It is like the difference between a sub compact and a hummer. One is a lot cheaper and more suitable for driving to work and the other more suitable for going off road. The Soyuz of today is less capable than the Zond of old and if Apollo had survived it would have been downgraded to LEO only as a cost savings.”

    No I do not agree. The required subsystems for long duration mission can “easily” be added to any one of Dragon or CST-100. There is nothing magic about Orion that the others cannot do. However Orion is orders of magnitude more expensive. And so far has been more or less “designed” for the Ares duo. Orion would have to be redesigned. In particular its LAS would most likely have to be adapted to new LVs.

    But further to the point. When Dragon and CST-100 become crewed capsules, Orion will definitely have lost its raison d’etre. Orion does NOT bring anything to the table. It could have but it will not. And let’s push the spade further into the heart: If any of the Orion (sub)systems was designed/built with NASA cash then it becomes public property and therefore should easily be transfered to another NASA contractor.

    Orion as the Orion going to the Moon is dead. Dragon made sure of that Dec 8 2010.

  • Coastal Ron

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Agree completely with your technical ana,lysis, but in neo-conese (remembewr the first thing to go is language) “expoloration” means manned flight to Mars.

    Mars is certainly one of the eventual destinations (among many), and is even specifically mentioned in the Vision for Space Exploration, but it is not “The Only Exploration Destination”.

    Long before we make it to Mars, and certainly before we start landing on Mars, we will be exploring much closer places such as NEO’s, and likely the Moon again, in preparation for making the long trip & stay at Mars.

    But remember that once we reach Mars, some other destination becomes the “Next Goal”, whether that’s within our solar system or outside of it. Space is pretty big.

    And the public will not pay for manned flight to Mars, at least right now, with the economy in the state it is in.

    This is a false argument. No one is paying to send humans to Mars, and well they shouldn’t – we’re no where close to being able to survive the trip and return safely. And, if you remember, no one is paying to send humans back to the Moon, so no one is in the mood to do much beyond LEO except robotic exploration.

    If on the other hand you propose to developn all those systems for planetary defense, the way forward will be an easier sell, in my view.

    I know CAPS is a favorite of yours, so feel free to contact your congressional representatives and get them to sponsor it. However, until we actually get threatened by an asteroid, I don’t see much money flowing to it. Certainly not enough to become the basis for all of our BEO exploration. Sorry.

    If we can’t get CAPS, then a manned mission to an asteroid is an acceptable alternative.

    Glad to hear that, because CAPS is not happening as of right now. But the technology and systems for exploring an NEO are getting closer and closer to making an NEO mission doable within a NASA sized budget.

    I’d like to see DIRECT in place by 2022, in case we need it then

    I’d like to have a Learjet standing by for my use, but both ideas cost a lot of money for likely zero public ROI.

    Let’s keep our focus on building things that have a mission/need/market – we’ll get a lot more done, and waste less taxpayer money.

  • May I remind you dear dad(2059) that the sponsor was a liberal democrat??? That the targeted funds were appropriated by the liberal democrat controlled previous congress… who thought “cross agency support” was more important to the NASA bugget than funding such secondary concerns such as launch pads, rocket engines, science equipment, launchers and spacecraft? Could it be that maybe you are just “a knee jerk partisan hack regurgitating rhetoric with nothing of substance.”

    Actually, I thought it was common knowledge that a democrat brought up the original bill, so I didn’t mention it.

    I just find it amusing that people who find any reason at all to bash Obama’s space policy simply because he’s from the “other” political party or they happen to work or are from a NASA district state claiming a “Republican” President wouldn’t have canceled CxP engage in the most twisted pretzel logic I have ever witnessed.

    I have been called too cynical by Mr. Simberg for my belief that all politicians are either crooks, liars, dissemblers and bought prostitutes. And he might have a point.

    But it’s been my observation that those of the GOP variety are the worst hypocrites of all and that’s the gist of what I commented.

    If that makes me a partisan hack in your eyes Mr. Cink, so be it.

  • mr. mark

    I guess I’m the only person here whose truly happy with the way things are going. Commercial for LEO and Orion for BEO exploration. Seems to me a good fit that is progressing well. Two cargo companies (Spacex and Orbital) will be starting deliveries this year. I personally can’t wait for both companies to start making cargo deliveries. Spacex has been a punching bag for anti commercial for far too long. Having Orbital in the game makes it much harder for those who don’t want commercial to just pick on Elon Musk.

  • Orion as the Orion going to the Moon is dead. Dragon made sure of that Dec 8 2010.

    Logically cs that should be the case, but with the House possibly digging in their heels on the SLS issue, would they not simply defund commercial monies and give it to LM and ATK?

    I’ll admit that possibility is getting less by the day, but the chance is still there, isn’t it?

  • DCSCA

    @common sense wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 6:48 pm
    “When Dragon and CST-100 become crewed capsules, Orion will definitely have lost its raison d’etre.”

    Nonsense. You mean if, not when. A multi-purpose spacecraft (Orion) is the future of HSF for NASA. Dragon will never fly as a crewed spacecraft– they don’t even have a viable ECS and by the time one is developed and tested the ISS will be well along on the downslide to splash. For all the investment community knows, it’s a deathtrap anyway– or perhaps it isn’t. But it certainly has no real future and at this point, there’s no sound business rationale for sinking millions into a LEO manned spacecraft with a destination already slated for splash in 2020. It makes no economic sense, unless they can sucker taxpayers into footing the costs with monies borrowed ar 42 cents on the dollar and in this climate, that seems unlikely. But it will never be profitable. These LEO ‘space pods’ are a waste. Developing Orion for missions atop existing ELVs and later HLV for extended missions past the Age of Austerity is where America’s HSF program is headed.

  • amightywind

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    But Obama and Bolden are the victims…

    The American people are tired of the excuses of this bunch. Obama literally begged for the Presidency. We were sold the notion that we would get tough, competent leadership. It has been anything but.

    A multi-purpose spacecraft (Orion) is the future of HSF for NASA.

    You would think that a vehicle that is the product the experience of 50 years of credible human spaceflight would be less controversial. For some people political ideology trumps all.

    ISS will be well along on the downslide…

    ISS will now be on the high wire without a safety net. 3 times the ISS was saved by the shuttle from catastrophic failure. The next major problem will be fatal. This is a 90% certainty with 3 years. The there will be no mission for ‘commercial space’. Some program.

  • Justin Kugler

    NanoRacks flies “real” research, Miles. So does BioServe, for that matter. It doesn’t have to be MLE-sized to be legitimate.

  • VirgilSamms

    “More incorrect data from samms. The SRB’s are not anemic. Point to one bit of data that shows that they are undersized. The AJ-260 was never considered for the the shuttle. AJ submitted their proposal for a 156 monolithic case that was technically inferior to all other proposals. There were logistics and case bending issues. Even if AJ won, it would still be the same size as current SRB;s”

    Actually, more poor reading comprehension from Byeman. The one bit of data that shows they are undersized is there inability to put the shuttle into position for a polar orbit. Hmmmmm- you going to deny that? And how about their being no escape system even after Challenger? Because if they put in an escape system their would be no payload left because……the SRB’s were anemic.

    I never said they were considering using AJ-260′s. I was intimating they should have. As for logistics and bending issues for monolithics- that was the debate I mentioned.

    Why don’t you pay attention and stop embarrassing yourself.

  • guest

    DCSCA-I’ve been reading your rants dissing commercial space and singing an ode to Orion for a few months now.

    Dragon’s ECS and other systems are coming along fine, and besides they are relatively trivial by comparison with the significant work already done. Dragon also has serious entrepreneurial support and dollars behind it. There are many investors. All are pushing it towards success because we prize American ingenuity and creativity.

    Orion on the other hand has not been in space, has no booster, has no defined mission, its systems are seriously behind or not yet started, and its real problem appears to be the management and technical competence supporting it. Maybe eventually, if the money keeps coming, maybe things will improve and maybe it will fly someday. Who knows what the program will look like when that happens, if there is a program left for Orion to support? Thanks to Constellation the future right now is an unknown.

  • VirgilSamms

    “until we actually get threatened by an asteroid, I don’t see much money flowing to it. Certainly not enough to become the basis for all of our BEO exploration. Sorry.”

    I don’t accept your apology. When we get threatened by an asteroid, or more likely a comet coming around the back side of the sun, it will be too late to do anything about it. Then you can apologize to your own backside for all the good it will do- just before you kiss it goodbye. But of course it will never happen. Why should it? Even though statistically it HAS to happen sooner or later, of course it will be later. Of course it will.

    To paraphrase a great movie scene, “If just one of those things get’s down here, all this stuff you think is so important- you can just kiss all that goodbye!”

  • Vladislaw

    amightywind wrote:

    ” “…finds itself in a situation that we didn’t do the proper planning to have a vehicle in place”

    The height of hypocracy. Bolden has been running NASA for 2 years. I didn’t know he was a proponent of cancelling the shuttle program until now. As for a post shuttle alternative, he killed it!” “(boldface mine)

    Bolden not only started planning but provided funding for multiple alternatives as well.

    Just because you do not like the alternatives the President laid out in his budgets for shuttle replacement and Bolden is pursuing doesn’t mean something was killed. The only thing that has been killed is a program we couldn’t afford.

    The actual “height of hypocracy” is you saying there is no alternative to the shuttle when mutiple teams are currently competing to provide that service at a much lower cost.

  • Agree completely with your technical ana,lysis, but in neo-conese (remembewr the first thing to go is language)

    Again with the “neo-cons.” Are you like the loon Oler, whose mother was apparently frightened by them in the womb? Because to the degree that these chimerical creatures exist (and they seem to have frightened you into misspelling), they have absolutely nothing to do with space policy. And you still haven’t answered my question about how they wrecked things in the nineties, with the complicity of Dan Goldin, or exactly who they were.

    You might want to seek medical advice for this obsession.

  • pathfinder_01

    Orion Block II was to be BEO capable. Current plan is to skip Block I and go to Block II. When I mean long duration I mean capable of supporting a crew for about two weeks. It would be used as a crew transfer vehicle or a crew return vehicle. I don’t mean capable of supporting a crew for a month long moon mission or mars missions. It takes 4 days to get to l1/l2. Any craft that goes there is going to have to support be able to a crew for at least 8 days. An ISS taxi does not need to support a crew that long.

    An upgraded dragon could do but Dragon is aiming to be a LEO spacecraft first (and imho that is the best move for it). Orion could beat Dragon to BEO but Dragon is going to beat Orion to LEO. I think Dragon could do so if called but Orion is in a better position both technically and politically at the moment.

    From listening the presentation Nautilus is built for low thrust. Low thrust means long transit times from LEO to L1/L2 or high earth orbit. The issue is the Van Allen Belt. That zone of radiation is best crossed quickly. Building a large craft in LEO and spiraling it out to L1/L2 using electric propulsion or even a 100 day ballistic trajectory can save on propellant mass but the cost is time. Long periods of time in the Van Allen Belts are best avoided and there is not much reason for a crew to be onboard during the long trip out.

    Crew can be transferred by faster high delta V trajectories by pushing a small capsule on a high Delta V trajectory to meet Nautilus or other spacecraft located at L1/L2 or a high earth Orbit.

    Making the ISS taxi craft into BEO capable capsules is going to add expense. I don’t think it is advisable for any of them to attempt to be BEO capable at this moment. I can see a future where having set up a market in LEO they expand to BEO but doing so right now not a good idea.

    A good example would be the CST100. Yes you can add either fuel cells or solar panels to enable a longer mission but doing so just increased your costs. The heat shield of the CST100 is designed to be low labor but it isn’t able to take that kind of heat. Being light enough to launch on an Atlas V 402(or even falcon 9) vs. needing a Delta IV heavy saves hundreds of millions of dollars in launch costs.

    CST100 life support systems are built to be reliable and cheap. Orion had to push life support technology because fitting that many CO2 scrubbing canisters into the capsule to enable the trip was going to take too much space.

    The trouble with a BEO capable commercial craft is that it is going to cost more to build, more to launch, and have fewer people to spread the cost over. A LEO CST100 can hold a crew of 7 for two days. This could be a pilot, 4 NASA astronauts to the ISS and 2 tourists. To enable it to support a crew (likely smaller) for at 8 times as long is going to make a huge difference in price.

    Dragon I would expect to be built for high speed reentry just because of Musk’s vision. CST100, maybe not as the extra mass would just cause problems for the LEO mission (more mass=need bigger launcher and more mass=more work on the entry decent and landing system). I would expect Boeing to perhaps create a model CST200 that would.
    New Sheppard (Blue Origin) not due to the composite design of their capsule(i.e. why push the state of the art further than you have to).

    Dream Chaser as is not (although there is an interesting concept of Dream Chaser XL). Prometheus not.

    I think that once you add those systems in the ISS taxis will be much more expensive. Probably still cheaper than Orion but not by nearly as much. I also don’t think any of them can be BEO capable as quickly as Orion.

  • pathfinder_01

    LM gets commercial money one way or the other since Atlas is the baseline crew launch vehicle. Everyone except Dragon is planning to launch on Atlas. ATK is odd man out. The bigger problem is even if you gave SLS all of commercial’s money it still wouldn’t be enough to properly fund it.

  • common sense

    @ dad2059 wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    “I have been called too cynical by Mr. Simberg for my belief that all politicians are either crooks, liars, dissemblers and bought prostitutes. And he might have a point.”

    Hmm not sure what’s so cynical about that. Did you watch Charlie Wilson’s War? Some can be put to good use. Thanks for the weekend laugh though.

    “But it’s been my observation that those of the GOP variety are the worst hypocrites of all and that’s the gist of what I commented.”

    I don’t agree here. The worst are the Dems who were supposed to support a President elected with great public support. And those Dems in Congress were no better than the GOPers, actually worse. They even fought his policies that the US public was asking for such as single payer for health care, stopping the wars, tax-cuts, etc. There is a good Frontline about that, the title escapes me though.

    Oh well…

  • common sense

    @ dad2059 wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    “Logically cs that should be the case, but with the House possibly digging in their heels on the SLS issue, would they not simply defund commercial monies and give it to LM and ATK?”

    Even so there is not enough cash to resurrect Orion and the Ares duo or anything in between thanks to the SD mentality. Orion is dead, it’ll take longer to die since it is not as bad as Ares I but its mission has been slashed, its crew size as well, its functions as well. It is not as easy as putting the thing on-top an EELV as some seem to think. It would require yet a redesign of major systems. It would therefore require more cash and so on and so forth. My prediction has always been a zombie Ares to keep the jobs. I did not really know what to make of Orion but I think it’s all done now. For Orion to survive they would have to have a crewed flight before any Dragon crew flight and possibly now CST-100. Believe me, if Boeing wants to have a CST-100 fielded quickly they can with or without government cash. Of course they must have a business case to their execs to make… That is a different story.

    “I’ll admit that possibility is getting less by the day, but the chance is still there, isn’t it?”

    Yes there is always a chance. We may have Palin elected in 2012 and she might say “to the Moon and beyond”. And they would get the circus going yet again. But if history is to be trusted the whole NASA HSF will just die a slow death. Because Congress will NEVER ever give the cash required for success. Ever…

  • Martijn Meijering

    Making the ISS taxi craft into BEO capable capsules is going to add expense. I don’t think it is advisable for any of them to attempt to be BEO capable at this moment. I can see a future where having set up a market in LEO they expand to BEO but doing so right now not a good idea.

    I agree with this argument, but that still leaves the possibility of a beyond LEO v2.0 crew taxi. Orion is redundant at best and it carries with it the risk that NASA will go back to its bad old ways with it and crowd out the crew taxis. If so, it would undoubtedly be sold as fiscally prudent and building on past investments and be accompanied by much handwringing about how unfortunately we cannot afford commercial crew taxis in the present fiscal environment.

    NASA should focus on a true deep-space spacecraft instead of an Earth to orbit (and back) crew transporter like Orion. Eventually that deep space spacecraft could be something as ambitious and exciting as Nautilus, although that is much too ambitious for a first step. It would be to spacecraft what Ares was to rockets. Fortunately, those within NASA who are promoting Nautilus are thinking about doing it incrementally (though probably not as incrementally as they should). Unfortunately they are starting with the artificial gravity aspect, which is relatively unimportant (if exciting) for now.

    What we need is cheap lift and to get there we need a large and highly competitive launch market. Refueling of a reusable spacecraft could enable this. Propellant, being cheap and easily divisible, is an ideal payload. It would allow us to spend as much money as possible from the $3.5B/yr that NASA spends on launching Shuttle payloads on commercial launches instead. Imagine what could have happened if NASA had done that for the past 30 (or even past 10) years. We would probably have had RLVs, cheap lift and large-scale commercial manned spaceflight by now.

    I would argue that we should try to establish that market as soon as possible and try to make it as large as possible. That suggests starting with the propulsion and refueling side of things, not artificial gravity.

    We could start with the Orion SM + avionics and build it into a storable deep-space propulsion stage, much like the High Energy Upper Stage MSFC wanted to build for the Shuttle. It could absorb part of the Orion workforce, including the JSC side and it could also usefully employ MSFC propulsion people if that is politically desirable.

    Such a storable stage would remain very useful for high Mars orbit insertion and TEI, even until long after we had cryogenic depots for LEO -> L1/L2 and L1/L2 -> TMI. This would have the added advantage of keeping MSFC from competing with ULA and eventually SpaceX on cryogenic propulsion as well as keeping them from messing up cryogenic depots.

    The crew side of Orion could be spun off as a commercial crew taxi if LM so decided, but with no special privileges over the others, apart from having a bit of a head start.

    In principle an Orion-derived NASA deep space propulsion stage could also be done by outsourcing it to commercial suppliers (basing it off the Delta 2 upper stage for example) instead of doing it in house, but that’s not as crucial as it is for cheap lift. Nice to have if you can get it, but not worth risking everything over. It looks like a natural area for compromise.

    Building an OMV instead of a transfer stage would be another possibility, but that doesn’t lend itself very well to consuming large amounts of propellant in a sensible way and therefore offers no benefits over outsourcing this to the CRS suppliers and others.

  • Miles G

    Justin Kugler wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    “NanoRacks flies “real” research, Miles. So does BioServe, for that matter. It doesn’t have to be MLE-sized to be legitimate.”

    Justin-The original point was that it takes so long to develop, integrate and fly any kind of a meaningful research payload that neither industry nor academia are interested. Something needs to be done to simplify, abbreviate and reduce the expense of the process.

    Nanoracks fly high school experiments that require minimal if any human support and minimal other interfaces. Science? Maybe there is some simple science. It is more like a demonstration of what could be done given more significant resources. Bioserve, starting out with decades of NASA financing as a Commercial Dvelopment Center, , has been flying their devices-most very simple, with minor modifications for 30 years. Neither count as far as getting significant new industry or academic science on-board in a time frame of a year or less.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Miles G wrote @ February 26th, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Justin-The original point was that it takes so long to develop, integrate and fly any kind of a meaningful research payload that neither industry nor academia are interested. Something needs to be done to simplify, abbreviate and reduce the expense of the process….

    your original point is a real problem for the space station and anything NASA has its fingers into.

    AMSAT (the amateur radio satellite group) just launched a “throw away{” special to ISS…its a small communications package that is going to be tossed out (at some point) and operate for probably not very long and then reenter.

    When quered as to why the folks who are doing this did not simply build a linear transponder that would stay on ISS and operate the AMSAT folks told “the truth” I think in saying that the effort to make the situation “go” with NASA HSF was just enormous…

    so what happens? The thing goes up on a Progress and then the Russians more or less on their own decide to 1) hook it up to the stations amateur radio antennas, 2) run the comm package for a bit and then 3) not toss the payload on the last spacewalk so that they could keep it onboard and operate it on 12 APR as a tribute to Gagarin. (it uses his same “call sign”).

    I doubt the good folks at NASA Rd 1 are totally “In” on this.

    What that tells me is that things could go faster on ISS if they wanted them to…but there is a lot of “make work” to or that does… narrow the spigot.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Justin Kugler

    I still have to disagree with your characterization, Miles. Things are being done. We are implementing a new lean integration process designed to get payloads through the system and on the Station within a year. It is going through the first test case right now.

    In the past year, we signed an agreement with Boeing that enabled them to test a new software toolkit that will essentially let researchers run experiments on the Station in their own native environment. This software does all the Station systems translation for them.

    In May, NASA is going to select a non-profit organization to manage the National Lab and do things like pair private investors with worthy researchers. It is specifically intended to chase down the avenues NASA can’t as a federal agency and draw industry and academia in to utilize the Station.

    As for interest, NanoRacks has real private customers doing real microgravity research, not just high school students. I’m not at liberty to discuss the research or who the customers are because of proprietary agreements. BioServe is also sponsoring real research into vaccine development with new customers, even if they are using refinements of existing hardware. NIH has selected three researchers to fly their experiments on the Station and already put out a call for a second round. Most of my time over the past two months has been spent setting up an agreement with a private consortium to get their technology testbed on an external platform by the end of 2012.

    We’re not changing things as fast as even we would like, but there are changes being made “to simplify, abbreviate and reduce the expense of the process.” Not counting NanoRacks just because individual experiments aren’t MLE-sized or larger is an unfair and unfounded bias of your own towards the old way of doing things.

  • Byeman

    More idiotic posts from Gary Church.

    Know something before posting, especially about spacecraft, which you have lack of knowledge. The shuttle performance shortfalls were due orbiter weight gain and SSME shortfalls and not SRB performance.

    The shuttle system would have never had the performance for a true escape system at anytime in its development.

    Stop making a donkey of yourself

  • guest

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ February 26th, 2011 at 9:37 am

    “What that tells me is that things could go faster on ISS if they wanted them to…but there is a lot of “make work” to or that does… narrow the spigot.”

    You are right. We flew a lot of payloads on Mir and generally we could fly anything in 3-9 months as long as it was launching on Spacehab or a Progress. That was working through the US/NASA science division who in turn worked with the Russians. For launch on Shuttle, we worked through the US commercial Spacehab organization. If we would have had to go through the Shuttle program payload integration process, then you had to add six months. We just avoided that. NASA/ISS appears to be somewhat worse. Add a year maybe more. They have payload integration and vehicle integration and mission integration, and all their carriers, not to mention the safety reviews, and no one seems quite sure who is in charge or in what order things are supposed to happen; they seem to be so worried about their back that none of them seem to be inclined to do anything on behalf of the payload customers. It will be interesting to see if the new National Lab Office just adds one more gate.

  • common sense

    @ pathfinder_01 wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Look LMT won CEV for several $Bs yes Bs. Just CEV (includes LAS).

    Falcon 1 & 9 + Dragon < $1B

    How many $Bs to upgrade Dragon to BEO if needed? What do you think?

  • Coastal Ron

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    An upgraded dragon could do but Dragon is aiming to be a LEO spacecraft first (and imho that is the best move for it). Orion could beat Dragon to BEO but Dragon is going to beat Orion to LEO. I think Dragon could do so if called but Orion is in a better position both technically and politically at the moment.

    At this point, SpaceX is focused on the LEO mission. If a market comes along later for beyond LEO, I think they will using Dragon as the starting point.

    For Orion, the future is even more murky, because there is no funded need for a capsule to go beyond LEO. Sure, lots of people have lots of unfunded wishes, but as of now Orion only has a place to go in LEO, and then only (by law) as a backup to commercial transportation systems.

    The other thing we don’t know yet is how we’ll be traveling out of LEO in the future. By the time we actually need to leave LEO, maybe we’ll get to LEO in a capsule, dock to a larger vehicle, and then leave LEO. In that case, the capsule becomes a lifeboat, and just needs to have the capability to make a one-way trip back home. That capsule could be Orion, or it could be some other capsule that has been evolved.

    I don’t think Boeing or SpaceX are worrying about the beyond LEO market at this point, but are extremely focused on supporting the ISS and potential Bigelow-type market. That’s where they will get the most revenue, and that is where the most flights will be needed. Everything else is speculation, and it’s hard to design to speculation.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Justin Kluger

    If you don’t mind, a question – can you give a list of the corporate users of ISS? I know NanoRacks is one, and you mentioned BioServe, and there is Space Adventures.

    Who are the other ones?

  • DCSCA

    @guest wrote @ February 25th, 2011 at 10:23 pm
    The only ‘rants’ are by commercial space advocates desperately attempting to establish a false equivenency with historied and on going government space programs. It’s bogus. ‘Commerical space’ has yet to orbit a crewed spacecraft and return said crew safely– and they’ve had decades to try to fly. You offer up yet another ‘press release’ of promised assurance and ‘promise’ — which are vacuous assertions in the faces of current realities, both political and economic. And this: “Dragon’s ECS and other systems are coming along fine, and besides they are relatively trivial by comparison with the significant work already done” is bogus as well. There’s no independent verfication of this. Dragon may be a gem or a deathtrap. But it has flown nobody. And most likely never well, chiefly because it makes no economic sense to do so. It may end up hauling cargo, but not crews. An ECS is hardly trivial, particularly to the flight crew– and investors. As to significance- understand that accomplishing in 2010-11 what government space agencies accomplished in the early 1960′s and for half a century since is hardly significant at all and does little to attrect fresh investors.

    Orion has plenty of ‘boosters’ –EELVs and definable mission(s) such as can be planned for a general purpose manned spacecraft for a start and investing limited government resources into development of an adaptable, general purpose spacecraft capable of LEO/BEO missions makes sense through the Age of Austerity for out year planning. LEO crewed Dragons and the like do not, particularly with the profit motive as the driving force. The future of HSF and manned space exploration in this era is with government funded and managed space projects, not ‘for profit’ LEO space pods designed to access an ISS scheculed for splash by decade’s end. If ‘commerical space’ wants a seat at the table at all, secure funding in the private sector and stop begging for government subsidied when the treasury is borrowing 42 cents of every dollar it spends– and put some skin in the game like government funded space programs have for 50 years. FLY somebody. SpaceX would have gained a high degree of credibility if Bowersox had suited up and made even a suborbital flight. Instead, they orbited a wheel of cheese. Fly somebody. Branson will before SpaceX does. Until they do, SpaceX is a ticket to noplace– particularly when Musk boasts of retiring on Mars.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi AW

    “The part we’re really missing is the ability to put crew into space, and that is where NASA has had many ideas over the years, but no one in NASA or the Congress pushed to replace the Shuttle.”

    AW – “That was what Constellation was for, before Obama and his Bolsheviks cancelled it. They had a muzzy plan that deemphasized HSF which congress roundly rejected. The current malaise is entirely of their own making. The option you present is the current status quo.”

    The problems were that Constellation cost more than the people of this nation were willing to pay, that it was too expensive compared to any of the alternatives which Griffn and the Utah delegation killed, and didn’t work, and wouldn’t. That’s what made Consteallation pure space pork.

    Now Obama and the Congress came to a nice compromise with DIRECT and CATS, only to have the Utah delegation use a careful maneuver to put their 5 seg pork back in.

    Thus the current malaise is of the Utah delegation’s making.

    As far as the Obama administration’s plan for human spaceflight, they proposed to use a mission to an asteroid as a test for manned Mars systems. That design had been kicked around for over a decade within NASA, and he didn’t develop it. Neither did Lori Garver nor Administrator Bolden.

    Obama is not a Bolshevik. Now if you said weak, we might agree – Obama was too nice even to get a Democrat to ask for a contempt of Congress charge to be brought against Griffin for Griffin’s response to the George Brown Jr. ammendment.
    .

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi VS –

    “There is debate over why Thiokol’s railed in anemic boosters were selected.”

    That one is easy – I have two tapes of Feltcher talking about it. Nixon called Fletcher into his office, and told him that he could use Thiokol’s SRBs or NASA would have to use the Titan 3, which if I remember also used Thiokol SRBs.

    http://www.astronautix.com/stages/260lidhl.htm

    Note carefully the superior performance of the Aerojet motors compared to those from Thiokol.

    As far as the Liquid Fueled Fly-backs go, they were supposed to be simple: pressure fed at least, and if I remember ablatively cooled(?).
    http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/shub1972.htm

    These could have been used stand alone or clustered together for other size payloads, thus leading to even lower costs of launch.

    von Braun quit NASA a short time later.

  • Miles G

    Justin Kugler wrote @ February 26th, 2011 at 10:18 am

    “I still have to disagree with your characterization, Miles. Things are being done. We’re not changing things as fast as even we would like, but there are changes being made to simplify, abbreviate and reduce the expense of the process….unfair and unfounded bias of your own towards the old way of doing things.”

    I am glad to hear from you, someone in the know, that things are being done to try and improve the situation back to the situation it was in fifteen or twenty years ago.

    I don’t think my characterization was in error or unfair or represented unfounded bias. Obviously if there are NOW, ten+ years into ISS ops, the initiatives you describe, someone finally came to the realization that changes were needed.

  • VirgilSamms

    Thanks E.P.

    Got to love those 260′s. Wow.

  • E.P. Grondine

    CS wrote –

    “Possibly. And others and I have already argued about expansion of civilization, safeguarding etc. HOWEVER it is not in the Space Act. Therefore first thing first, change the Space Act! Don’t ask NASA to do things they are not mandated to do. They will not do them.”

    Hi CS – We can all stop pretending now. The George Brown Jr amendment altered the NASA charter, and made planetary protection one of NASA’s tasks. The Congress specifically “mandated” Griffin to give them a report, and he treated the Congress with contempt.

    NASA still has that task, and will continue to, unless Congress specifically changes NASA’s charter again. Which by the way is something that Griffin tried to get done, to no avail.

    In other words, the people of this nation expect NASA to help in providing them with defense against impact.

    The first part of planetary defense requires locating potential impactors as early as possible – thus CAPS.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi CR –

    “I know CAPS is a favorite of yours, so feel free to contact your congressional representatives and get them to sponsor it. However, until we actually get threatened by an asteroid, I don’t see much money flowing to it. Certainly not enough to become the basis for all of our BEO exploration. Sorry.”

    Actually, CR, comets and dead comet fragments provide most of the impact hazard. There’s no need for me to contact anyone in Congress, a they’ve already passed the George Brown Jr amendment.

    ep- If we can’t get CAPS, then a manned mission to an asteroid is an acceptable alternative.”

    “Glad to hear that, because CAPS is not happening as of right now.”

    Not here in the US.

    “But the technology and systems for exploring an NEO are getting closer and closer to making an NEO mission doable within a NASA sized budget.”

    CAPS is doable.

    epg – “I’d like to see DIRECT in place by 2022, in case we need it then”

    CR – I’d like to have a Learjet standing by for my use, but both ideas cost a lot of money for likely zero public ROI.”

    I think I can agree completely with you on your desire to have the public buy you a Learjet.

    CR – “Let’s keep our focus on building things that have a mission/need/market – we’ll get a lot more done, and waste less taxpayer money.”

    Exactly. Especially the “need” part.

    For the sake of argument, assume for a minute that NASA’s estimate of ELE’s for humans is 100 times too low, that NASA’s estimate of impact mega-tsunami is too low by a factor of 10, and that NASA’s estimate of Tunguska class impactors is too low by a factor of 10.

    Then would there be a need?

  • Coastal Ron

    Justin Kugler wrote @ February 26th, 2011 at 10:18 am

    In May, NASA is going to select a non-profit organization to manage the National Lab and do things like pair private investors with worthy researchers. It is specifically intended to chase down the avenues NASA can’t as a federal agency and draw industry and academia in to utilize the Station.

    I’m glad you this brought up. It does show how the next 10 years of ISS will be focused on research, whereas the first 10 years were focused on construction and figuring out how to keep things going.

    We finally have a robust supply system (Progress, ATV and HTV) with more being added (Dragon & Cygnus), and the extra Shuttle flight will put the ISS in good shape to focus on research. Now we need to add additional crew transportation options, like CST-100 & Dragon, so we can maximize the potential work that can be done.

    I think someone else has mentioned this before, but the ISS partners need to do a better job communicating both what’s been accomplished so far research-wise, and also what is currently being worked on or planned. Maybe this new organization will take on that task.

  • @ common sense wrote @ February 26th, 2011 at 12:38 am

    And those Dems in Congress were no better than the GOPers, actually worse. They even fought his policies that the US public was asking for such as single payer for health care, stopping the wars, tax-cuts, etc.

    I can’t argue with that cs, point conceded. ;)

    The way events seem to be shaping up with a government shutdown a real possibility, NASA HSF looks to be on the way out, except perhaps as an international effort with the ISS only. The NASA centers and the old Apollo/STS infrastructure will dry up and go away like tumbleweeds.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi VS –

    Re: 260′s-

    Yes, but as von Braun put it, solids “lack abort modes”.

    However, that said, it is too bad that AJ did not get the Shuttle SRB contract, and now you know why.

    I don’t know how many DoD payloads were lost due to Thiokol’s solids.
    byeman, you got some numbers on that?

  • Coastal Ron

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ February 26th, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    There’s no need for me to contact anyone in Congress, a they’ve already passed the George Brown Jr amendment.

    As passed, that part of the law states:

    The Congress declares that the general welfare and security of the United States require that the unique competence of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration be directed to detecting, tracking, cataloguing, and characterizing near-Earth asteroids and comets in order to provide warning and mitigation of the potential hazard of such near-Earth objects to the Earth.’’

    At this point, all this calls for is the equivalent to “scanning the skies”, not sending humans out into space. As far as I can tell, this does nothing to contribute to HSF.

    I think I can agree completely with you on your desire to have the public buy you a Learjet.

    Glad to hear that, and I’ll be looking for that jet at my local airport. Unfortunately I can’t agree that keeping a DIRECT built and sitting around “just in case” is a good idea, both fiscally and practically. Besides, there are no funded payloads for it, and both NASA and Congress are focused on larger inline launchers, not sidemount.

    For the sake of argument… Then would there be a need?

    Maybe a need, but not necessarily a need for a launcher larger than what we already have.

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ February 26th, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    “Unfortunately I can’t agree that keeping a DIRECT built and sitting around “just in case” is a good idea, both fiscally and practically.”

    What would we even do with a HLV sitting around once we know there is an upcoming impact??? Do you think we would only need 1 (one) HLV? So how about we have 10 or 20 of those things ready just in case. What if we have 2 (two) upcoming impacts or more…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comet_Shoemaker-Levy_9

  • vulture4

    A number of interesting questions in this thread.

    First, Bush canceled the Shuttle in early 2004, and this was announced by Sean OKeefe, but hazards had nothing to do with it. Obviously if the Shuttle was too dangerous to fly because of its design, we would have to cancel the next launch. The reliability of space launch vehicles does not get worse with time, in fact if improves with each flight, as Chen demonstrates- http://www.aero.org/publications/crosslink/winter2001/03.html.

    Both Columbia and Challenger were lost due to deterministic failures. The foam that damaged the leading edge on Columbia was not the spray-on foam from the external tank, it was a block glued to the bipod strut which probably came loose due to a change in assembly procedure, as it happened on two consecutive flights. The foam block was of course deleted after the Columbia loss. Foam loss has been almost eliminated, but it’s worth noting that none of the thousands of impacts from the spray-on foam prior to Columbia caused hazardous tile damage.

    In the announcement of the cancellation of Shuttle there is no mention of hazard, in fact NASA was in the process of returning the Shuttle to flight: http://spaceksc.blogspot.com/2010/11/after-bush-cancelled-space-shuttle.html
    The reason for the cancellation was strictly to pay for Constellation. While the CAIB did recommend shuttle replacement, it said the Shuttle could and should continue flying until a replacement was available, and recommended that the replacement be designed solely for access to LEO, saying htat any effort to design the replacement vehicle for a more elaborate mission would fail.

    On another issue mentioned above, is NASA actually getting any money at all for flying the salmonella payload? As nearly as I can tell, the payload is built by Astrotech, apparently with internal funds, but even that isn’t clear, as the payload developer also received NASA funding. The flight costs appear to be paid for by the US government under a Space Act agreement. So where is the private investment? It may be limited to Astrotech’s goal of marketing payload services. Which is of course their right, but it will be surprising if the pharmaceutical industry invests any private capital in actual spaceflight, whether or not there is really any market for salmonella vaccine. The literature indicates that the reversible genetic transition in salmonella which shits it to a higher virulence can easily be triggered on earth by oxidative stress or even a change in pH in the culture media, in fact other researchers don’t even mention spaceflight. So why exactly are we flying it in space?

    Indeed, if the change seen in spaceflight were unique, why would it be relevant to preventing infection on earth? Although there are a few fatalities each year from salmonella, it isn’t even clear that a vaccine is practical; the disease is not widespread and adequate cooking will prevent salmonella and several related forms of food poisoning.

    I would be interested to hear whatever others have to say on these issues.

  • Justin Kugler

    Ferris, we keep a list of all of our signed commercial agreements here:
    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/nlab/commercial.html

    There are more in work that haven’t been signed yet.

    Ron, I absolutely agree. The NPO will absolutely have that responsibility and we’ve been trying in the present National Lab Office. We don’t have a budget for the office, though, so it’s been a struggle. I can get travel to go to NASA meetings, but getting permission to go out to industry and academia at their conferences and symposiums is hard with the limits on conference attendance.

    An example of something we were able to pull off is the “Payload Research Academy” last August at South Shore Harbor Conference Center. It was geared towards informing prospective researchers about all of the opportunities on Station and the processes involved. We planned and coordinated the event, NIH provided funding, and prospective implementation partners rented their own side rooms and sponsored snacks for attendees.

    vulture, according to Astrogenetix, microgravity “elicits unique interactions in biological systems that do not occur in terrestrial laboratories” and they can fix the samples on-orbit to later identify those virulence pathways and the associate genetic markers on the ground. They’re doing the same kind of research now for MRSA.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Justin – thanks for the link

  • Coastal Ron

    vulture4 wrote @ February 27th, 2011 at 1:20 am

    Obviously if the Shuttle was too dangerous to fly because of its design, we would have to cancel the next launch. The reliability of space launch vehicles does not get worse with time…

    Let’s look at the situation from a different perspective. The Shuttle system at peak has had four orbiters. After Challenger was destroyed, Endeavour was built to replace it. But after Columbia, I think it was becoming apparent that the Shuttle system operated with too few orbiters to be a robust and dependable system, and though this may not have been the primary reason, I think it helped to inform the decision to end the program.

    Both Columbia and Challenger were lost due to deterministic failures.

    Yes, but though we may not repeat those mistakes again, there were still plenty of other potential mistakes left that could have destroyed another orbiter, if not killed more crew. Then the system would have been down to two orbiters, which I think would have caused an end to the program anyways.

    The real answer has always been that we should have been evaluating how well the Shuttle system worked, and determining what it would be replaced with. Now that issue is forced upon us, without having a predetermined successor to the Shuttle.

    Even with Constellation, the Orion was never really a true LEO transportation system, as Orion was designed for lunar missions, not the “simple” job of transporting crew to LEO, where it’s systems and cost were overkill. Constellation was an exploration program, not a replacement for a transportation system.

    While the CAIB did recommend shuttle replacement, it said the Shuttle could and should continue flying until a replacement was available…

    Of course recommendations are just that, recommendations, and though I had some angst when President Bush announced the end of the Shuttle once the ISS was complete, I think that was the right answer.

    Why? Because Congress/NASA and the entrenched aerospace industries have not proven very good at hitting a goal on budget or schedule, and without a time certain for the end of the Shuttle, we’d probably still be flying Shuttle through this decade, and consuming $200M/month of NASA budget. It wouldn’t have mattered that there are no big jobs for the Shuttle after the ISS construction, and so it would have motored on while the “Next National Spaceplane” was debated and funded. Sometimes you need to prune your garden, but other times you need to hack things to the ground. We needed a fresh start, even though we don’t know what it will bring.

  • guest

    Justin Kugler wrote:
    “We don’t have a budget for the office, though, so it’s been a struggle. I can get travel to go to NASA meetings, but getting permission to go out to industry and academia at their conferences and symposiums is hard with the limits on conference attendance.”

    You said earlier that ISS funding is stable, increasing in one area associated with commercial. Which in itself is interesting because there is a lot less activity going on now with the end of DDT&E and the curtailment of Shuttle support. Yet they cannot find any dollars to support the national lab? Quite interesting.

    I am guessing it must be these ops people who have been thinking and saying for several years that the NASA budget was for operations and not for science or for utilization. This was a myth that the people who are in charge today (your AA and Program Manager) created to support themselves and their ‘home’ organizations. They were trying to put the burden of science and utilization on the NIH or other funding sources and they cut out a big piece of the ISS research program. For awhile their rationale was that they needed the money to build Orion and Constellation which were going to do exploration and not science, yet they could not even define what exploration consisted of, and $12 billion and five years later, there does not seem to be much to show for that expenditure. They cannot find funding to support utilization of the ISS they built?

    You should look into the restrictions on conference attendance. I believe the rules specifically permit attendance for ‘educational’ purposes, which by law includes communicating the NASA mission and presumably the mission of ISS.

  • vulture4 wrote:

    The reason for the cancellation was strictly to pay for Constellation. While the CAIB did recommend shuttle replacement, it said the Shuttle could and should continue flying until a replacement was available, and recommended that the replacement be designed solely for access to LEO, saying htat any effort to design the replacement vehicle for a more elaborate mission would fail.

    The CAIB repeatedly referred to Shuttle as an inherently risky system. To quote from the Executive Summary, “These recommendations reflect both the Board’s strong support for return to flight at the earliest date consistent with the overriding objective of safety, and the Board’s conviction that operation of the Space Shuttle, and all human spaceflight, is a developmental activity with high inherent risks.”

    Page 21 states that “the Shuttle’s technically ambitious design resulted in an inherently vulnerable vehicle, the safe operation of which exceeded NASA’s organizational capabilities as they existed at the time of the Columbia accident.

    On Page 25 it states, “Despite efforts to improve its safety, the Shuttle remains a complex and risky system that remains central to U.S. ambitions in space.”

    On Page 207 it states, “No alternatives to this pathway to space are available or even on the horizon, so we must set our sights on managing this risky process using the most advanced and versatile techniques at our disposal.”

    Page 208: “It is the view of the Board that the present Shuttle is not inherently unsafe. However, the observations and recommendations in this report are needed to make the vehicle safe enough to operate in the coming years.”

    Page 210 (italics in the original): “Because of the risks inherent in the original design of the Space Shuttle, because that design was based in many aspects on now-obsolete technologies, and because the Shuttle is now an aging system but still developmental in character, it is in the nation’s interest to replace the Shuttle as soon as possible as the primary means for transporting humans to and from Earth orbit.” The report goes on to suggest an Orbital Space Plane concept or a capsule atop the launch vehicle.

    In summary … CAIB didn’t give Shuttle a bill of perfect health. Their point was that no option was available. They recommended that Shuttle be made “safe enough” until an option was ready, and urged a move away from sidemount. CAIB realized that without Shuttle, the ISS couldn’t be completed. But they also realized that Shuttle was inherently risky and wanted it replaced as soon as possible.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Good afternoon, CR –

    As passed, that part of the law states:

    “The Congress declares that the general welfare and security of the United States require that the unique competence of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration be directed to detecting, tracking, cataloguing, and characterizing near-Earth asteroids and comets in order to provide warning and mitigation of the potential hazard of such near-Earth objects to the Earth.’’”

    At this point, all this calls for is the equivalent to “scanning the skies”, not sending humans out into space. As far as I can tell, this does nothing to contribute to HSF.”

    Ahh, but since a very large part of the impact hazard comes from Long Period Comets and very dark comet fragments, and the best detectors for them happen to have to be space based, and further the cheapest way to build and operate them in space is on the Moon, and NASA has unique competence in that regard, then the instructions are clear.

    That’s what DIRECT is used for.

    “Unfortunately I can’t agree that keeping a DIRECT built and sitting around “just in case” is a good idea, both fiscally and practically. Besides, there are no funded payloads for it, and both NASA and Congress are focused on larger inline launchers, not sidemount.”

    DIRECT is not a sidemount. Your statement about NASA and the Congress’s focus is incorrect – except for the Utah delegation, there is no to little support for Thiokol’s 5 seg motors.

    “Maybe a need, but not necessarily a need for a launcher larger than what we already have.”

    You seem to misunderstand – the use of the larger launcher just enables the construction of instruments capable of the earliest possible impactor detection.

    Coincidentally it enables larger mitigation packages to be flown further, faster. There is no necessity to keep one on the pad, IF you have a long enough warning time. The key is the warning time, which has to be made as long as possible.

  • Coastal Ron

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ February 27th, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    DIRECT is not a sidemount.

    I stand corrected. Too many HLV proposals to keep track of I guess. ;-)

    Nevertheless, what Congress has been directing NASA to build, and what they have responded with so far, is a 130t launcher that bypasses the reusability that DIRECT was hoping to achieve.

    But let’s get back to what an HLV would be used for. To recap, Congress has not funded any programs that utilize an HLV. None.

    NASA has unique competence in that regard…

    Sure, for scanning the skies and reporting back.

    …and further the cheapest way to build and operate them in space is on the Moon

    So far Congress has not funded that, so they must not agree with it. Also, what makes you think the Moon is the “cheapest way”? Are we talking remote sensors, or manned outposts?

    You seem to misunderstand – the use of the larger launcher just enables the construction of instruments capable of the earliest possible impactor detection.

    I think the point you miss is that the ten’s of Billions of dollars we’re going to be spending on an HLV could be going towards building & launching payloads for CAPS today.

    How big do the instruments need to be to detect threats to Earth? Why can’t we put up a constellation of observation satellites that scan their own portions of the sky for threats? What is the magical/mythical mass of your supposed CAPS system that requires an HLV?

    Describe what the payload would be that can’t be lofted by current launchers, and describe why it can’t be either made smaller, or assembled in space using ISS type modular assembly techniques?

    Other than fluffy “we’ll build BIG payloads”, no one has shown what the SLS will be used for, or where the money is coming from to build the payloads. Care to take a crack?

  • Justin Kugler

    guest, not until the new NASA budget is passed, at least. We’re functionally an arm of the ISS Payloads Office.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi CR –

    CR – “Nevertheless, what Congress has been directing NASA to build, and what they have responded with so far, is a 130t launcher that bypasses the reusability that DIRECT was hoping to achieve.”

    If we go back and look, the initial widely supported law instructed DIRECT, to which “the Utah delegation” tacked on at the last minute ATK’s 5 segs, with an “initial operating capacity” of an Ares 5. Great legislative maneuvering, but my guess is that it will not hold up in the long run, as it is too expensive.

    epg – NASA has unique competence in that regard…

    CR – “Sure, for scanning the skies and reporting back.”

    Glad you agree with the Congress. Now somebody needs to tell Ed Weiler.

    The cheapest way to build and operate the best instruments is in space and on the Moon.
    I
    t is cheaper than trying to do it in free space, given the mass, power, computing, communication an maneuver constraints.

    CR – “So far Congress has not funded that, so they must not agree with it.”

    The Congress told Griffin to report, and he treated their instructions with direct contempt.

    CR – “Also, what makes you think the Moon is the “cheapest way”? Are we talking remote sensors, or manned outposts?”

    If you go to the CAPS report, you can find the problem broken down to the number of photons in a CCD bucket.

    CAPS is more like man constructed, with manned maintenance. My estimate is that it is beyond the capabilities of robots. What you do from that point is open.

    The use of the larger launcher just enables the construction of instruments capable of the earliest possible impactor detection.

    “I think the point you miss is that the ten’s of Billions of dollars we’re going to be spending on an HLV could be going towards building & launching payloads for CAPS today.”

    I think DIRECT is a cleaner design than clustered Atlas 5′s.

    “How big do the instruments need to be to detect threats to Earth? Why can’t we put up a constellation of observation satellites that scan their own portions of the sky for threats? What is the magical/mythical mass of your supposed CAPS system that requires an HLV?

    Describe what the payload would be that can’t be lofted by current launchers, and describe why it can’t be either made smaller, or assembled in space using ISS type modular assembly techniques?”

    The instruments are described in the CAPS report. I disagree with the Langley engineers about the architecture, as I think working with a fuel depot in lunar orbit using re-usable landing frames is the best (least expensive) architecture. It also has far more abort and safety points.

    The mass constraint is landing on the Moon a couple of pieces of equipment just a little bigger than that mobile lab with the suits on the side. The heaviest component of that is probably the wheel, engines, frame and battery packs.

    I can’t estimate the mass of that, and lack the ability to do anything more than make a first order guess right now. (stroke) But I do like the mass margins of DIRECT.

    Now could heavy mediums be used? Could other countries heavy mediums be used? I don’t know, but the number of dockings rises – if you have flyback liquid re-usables then that may make great sense – but that option looks out of reach for a while, and maybe can’t be either developed or used if we loose our current technological base.

    Immediately, we need PanStarrs and LSST. And also about $3 million for the US part of ATLAS, for the training of NEO astronomers and to give at least a last minute warning, asuming no ITAR constraints.

    If there are ITAR constraints, the US part of the $8 million construction plus the yearly training costs and data management costs for ATlas rises.

    That’s how I would spend the NASA budget – recognize that impact is THE top priority.

    As it is impactor detection gets $5 million per year from NASA, and that is simply not enough.

    The WISE 2 band IR survey should have continued.

    By the way, from a historical perspective, Apollo put an end to the theories of lunar volcanism. A brief summary of the impact hazard to mankind and in North America (how bad is it) may be found in “Man and Impact in the Americas”.

  • byeman

    “recognize that impact is THE top priority. ”

    Impact is not nor should be NASA’s priority.

  • Coastal Ron

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ February 28th, 2011 at 9:57 am

    If we go back and look…

    If horses were hand grenades… Look, the law gave lots of “if practicable” outs for NASA to use if they wanted, but the schedule pretty much boxed in the decisions. I’m not just hung up on the SRB’s, but the SLS concept as a whole, which HAS NO FUNDED MISSIONS, and will sit around gobbling up NASA money that could be going towards real missions.

    To me, the SLS is some sort of macho competition to have “the biggest”, when what they should be looking at is what is needed, based on real requirements. And the real requirements today for the SLS are…. nothing, no one knows what it will be used for, but lots of people have unfunded wishes.

    It is cheaper than trying to do it in free space, given the mass, power, computing, communication an maneuver constraints.

    Why? To do anything on the Moon with people requires a HUGE infrastructure to support even one person. Unmanned systems, whether they are in space or on the lunar surface, cost a fraction of their manned versions. Unmanned instruments become throwaway’s, which means you can evolve them much quicker than the ones at a manned outpost.

    What you should be looking at is the DoD/NRO model, where they create and evolve satellite constellations to create overlapping surveillance systems. Your lunar observatory is pretty limited in what it can see by comparison, and far more expensive than unmanned systems.

    In fact you should have already known this from the PanStarrs and LSST programs, which use automated systems to scan the skies, not people.

    Is CAPS just an excuse to send people to the Moon? That, and your focus on DIRECT, makes me wonder.

    In any case, any funding issues you have with CAPS need to be taken up Congress, and important though it may or may not be, if Congress doesn’t put money in for it, it won’t get worked on.

    I think we’ve exhausted this thread for now.

  • VirgilSamms

    “I think we’ve exhausted this thread for now.”

    I don’t. You want human space flight? There has to be a better reason than tourista’s going around in endless circles.

    There is only one valid reason. You want unmanned then why don’t you just honestly discuss ways to end HSF? Because that is what you are talking about.

  • VirgilSamms

    “Impact is not nor should be NASA’s priority.”

    No…that is an absolutely contrarian statement. How could a risk to all life on earth not be the priority? Every year is a lottery ticket and 65 million years ago the dinosaurs won the last one. It is not a question of if, it is a question of when you stupid donkey.
    CAPS is the only valid reason for BEO-HSF. Period. If you do not support CAPS then you do not support HSF. It is as simple as that.

  • Coastal Ron

    VirgilSamms wrote @ February 28th, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    I think we’ve exhausted this thread for now.

    I knew after I hit “Submit” that I should have been more explicit that I was talking about the discussion E.P. Grondine and I were having, not the discussion in general, which only Jeff Foust (our gracious host) can declare closed.

    Back to space politics.

    You want human space flight? There has to be a better reason than tourista’s going around in endless circles.

    Maybe you don’t remember what people say on this blog, so I’ll restate my position regarding commercial crew, which is that I don’t see a big market for tourist flights.

    I do see a market for ISS support flights, and eventually Bigelow support flights, but although there may be some tourists (like with Soyuz), I don’t see that as the primary way the market will grow.

    If this is your argument against commercial crew, then no wonder you’re confused.

    The opportunity for commercial crew at first is the ISS support contracts that Russia will have had a monopoly on for the 15 years of the ISS. Even if SpaceX only matched the Soyuz price of $56M/seat, that money would be staying in the U.S., working it’s capitalistic ways through our economy and helping to reduce our debt (foreign trade and deficit).

    There is only one valid reason. You want unmanned then why don’t you just honestly discuss ways to end HSF? Because that is what you are talking about.

    If I wanted HSF to end, I would be advocating for NASA to build an expensive HLV with a extremely expensive capsule – oh wait, that’s what you want! ;-)

    But seriously, why would I advocate for commercial crew systems that DRAMATICALLY reduce the $/seat cost to LEO if I wanted the American HSF program to end?

    I want the ISS to continue as a place of constant space research and training for our astronauts, so that when we can finally afford to leave LEO, we will have a vast amount of experience with zero-G systems, and people who have trained in space. The ISS is the only place to do that – the MPCV/Orion can’t, and is too small to do any serious exploration.

  • Coastal Ron

    VirgilSamms wrote @ February 28th, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    How could a risk to all life on earth not be the priority?

    My point with E.G. has been that Congress, who makes laws and allocates the money, does not see CAPS as a priority. If they did, they would be spending $Billions on it. You’re argument is with them, not me.

    CAPS is the only valid reason for BEO-HSF. Period. If you do not support CAPS then you do not support HSF. It is as simple as that.

    Well then you’ve been a failure in getting your representatives to Congress to agree with that viewpoint. If what you say is true, then quit spending time on opinion blogs, and dedicate your life to convincing Congress that they need to implement CAPS!

    Honestly, do I have to do ALL the thinking for you?

  • Martijn Meijering

    There is only one valid reason.

    That’s rarely the case. It seems more likely that you’ve lost perspective and that you are looking at things with a closed mind or perhaps a hidden agenda.

  • Byeman

    “stupid donkey.”

    Gary Church must be looking in a mirror again.

    CAPS does not equate to BEO-HSF. Only zealots think that.

    Again, this is not for debate.

    Impact is not nor should be NASA’s priority. If the US gov’t wants to make it a priority, some other agency will be responsible for it.

    Since it is a lottery ticket, what the USA did for CAPS 50 years ago is still good enough for today.

  • E.P. Grondine

    “Is CAPS just an excuse to send people to the Moon? That, and your focus on DIRECT, makes me wonder.

    In any case, any funding issues you have with CAPS need to be taken up Congress, and important though it may or may not be, if Congress doesn’t put money in for it, it won’t get worked on.”

    Hi CR –

    What CAPS gives is another 6 months to deal with a Long Period Comet, and it is the only fail-safe way of locating in a timely manner Tunguska class dead comet fragments headed our way.

    The Congress asked NASA to report, JPL only asked for a Venus orbit telescope, hoping that they could get it; instead Griffin treated Congress with contempt, setting on their report. Griffin tried to limit NASA’s responsibilities to “exploration” (for which read manned Mars flight), as byeman does here now. There was no way Griffin would allow NASA Langley to contribute to that study.

    Outside of the community of manned Mars flight enthusiasts, such a view makes little sense – hence VS’s reply to byeman here, and byeman’s persistent avoidance of the facts.

    Now can single launcher or automatically docked payload instruments handle the problem? I don’t think they are the most cost effective and best solution, but NASA Langley engineers would be better suited to answer this question. I’ve had a stoke, and it takes me quite a while to compose and type these little notes.

    “I think we’ve exhausted this thread for now.”

    You need to understand that for “exploration” enthusiasts manned Mars flight has taken on the role of a religion for them. For some of them, if you even propose an architecture different from Bob Zubrin’s then you are viewed as a heretic and burned at the stake.

    Regardless of byeman’s continued willful ignorance and mistatements of fact, the problem of impact will be with us always, as we’re all of us already in space, passengers on spaceship Earth.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi VS –

    For the human species, the extinction level impact rate appears to be about once per million years; in other words, we very nearly went the way of the dinosaur several times.

    Most recently, important work is being done here:
    http://johnhawks.net/taxonomy/term/412
    http://www.researchsea.com/html/article.php/aid/5896/cid/5

    As far as Mr. byeman’s stupidity, you can give up on trying to educate him, as Mr. byeman apparently insists that we be as stupid today as we were in the 1950′s.

    As far as my activities go, I was in the process of writing a series of books on impact and promoting them when my stroke hit.

    As far as NASA and the Congress goes, in my view firing Ed Weiler for his role in Griffin’s contempt of Congress, and bringing in say Don Yeomans, should be enough to correct the situation.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi VS –

    Oh, by the way, CAPS is not the only valid goal for HSF, but from what I know of the impact hazard and ways for dealing with it,it is an essential one.

    Like I said before, we’re all already in space, passengers on spaceship Earth.

    I also see that Mr. byeman has refused to comment on how many times Thiokol’s solid motors led to the loss of defense missions.

  • Coastal Ron

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ February 28th, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    Like I said before, we’re all already in space, passengers on spaceship Earth.

    No matter the merit, without Congress providing the funding, nothing will be done. So stop reliving the mistakes of the past, and work on getting the plans of the future funded.

  • VirgilSamms

    “Oh, by the way, CAPS is not the only valid goal for HSF, but from what I know of the impact hazard and ways for dealing with it,it is an essential one.”

    I stand corrected. I think it is so essential it overshadows everything else to the point of being exclusively valid- but of course there are other opinions.

    “you are looking at things with a closed mind or perhaps a hidden agenda.”

    That would be you again. The only thing you see is little rockets and refueling depots, which exposes your agenda completely. You have a tiny view of how space travel should be pursued- so narrow it could not even be called tunnel vision. So narrow that anyone not subscribing to your version of reality is “close minded” and has a “hidden agenda.”

  • VirgilSamms

    “No matter the merit, without Congress providing the funding, nothing will be done. So stop reliving the mistakes of the past,”

    This is pretty much the standard tactic of the regulars here- if someone has a valid point and it disagrees with the infomercial everyone else seems to so enjoy endlessly yapping about, then they should “put up or shut up” or stop doing whatever they are doing. That is not how a forum works.

    CR, you can stop telling other people what to do.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi CR –

    “Like I said before, we’re all already in space, passengers on spaceship Earth.”

    “No matter the merit, without Congress providing the funding, nothing will be done.” Now that Griffin is gone, and the ATK’s power limited, perhaps
    the instructions of the Congress will be carried out.

    “So stop reliving the mistakes of the past, and work on getting the plans of the future funded.”

    What the hell do you think I’ve been doing?

  • vulture4

    Justin Kugler wrote @ February 27th, 2011 at 9:36 am
    “vulture, according to Astrogenetix, microgravity “elicits unique interactions in biological systems that do not occur in terrestrial laboratories” and they can fix the samples on-orbit to later identify those virulence pathways and the associate genetic markers on the ground. They’re doing the same kind of research now for MRSA.”

    Just what are these mysterious “unique interactions”? If they only happen in space, how do we ever get infections on earth? Doesn’t this look a little like smoke and mirrors? You might wish to read the earth-based literature on salmonella. The virulence transition can be triggered by anything that stresses the bacteria; a simple reduction in oxygen level, increase in osmotic pressure, or decrease in pH, any of which can be easily applied on earth. Few bacteria have any direct interaction with gravity, they are too small for internal gravitational convection. However the culture vessel is large enough for gravitational convection, and probably provides a different environment in space due to differences in flow. My guess is that we are using spaceflight as a very expensive way to reduce oxygen level, which can be done more precisely with a standard lab incubator.

    What’s more, the vaccine isn’t needed for humans, but for poultry, and salmonella vaccines for hens already exist that are almost 100% effective and are already required in Britain, and have essentially wiped out human salmonella infections there. The only reason vaccines, and even adequate sanitation, haven’t been required in the US is that the poultry industry has successfully lobbied against it due to its political influence. Doesn’t anyone at NASA even read the newspapers?

    The salmonella project is, unfortunately, a classic case of space enthusiasts wanting commercial science in space to be successful and not asking enough questions. CFES (coninuous flow electrophoresis) was the same kind of deal back in the early Shuttle program. It was supposed to purify a precious drug (and mysterious) in space. Actually the job could be done perfectly well on earth with column chromatography, as I pointed out to one of the leads at JSC at the time. After a presentation I asked the lead CFES engineer how well the device worked on earth. I was astonished to learn that the flight system actually provided higher purity on earth than in space; this was never announced and no one ever said publicly that the CFES was just wishful thinking from the start. A lot of money was spent and then everyone forgot about it. Did I mention perfect semiconductors?

    That’s why I am still curious as to the real source of the funding for this project. We can do useful things in space. But as somebody who struggles to get just a few research dollars that might really save lives here on earth, it bothers me to see politics and PR drive funding just because decision makers don’t take the time to actually educate themselves on the science. As to Astrotech, I wish them luck. But the pharmaceutical industry is pretty hard-nosed and unless they can do a lot better than this real private dollars won’t appear.

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