Congress, NASA

Congressional commentary on Discovery’s return

The space shuttle Discovery landed at the Kennedy Space Center yesterday, wrapping up its 39th mission—and also its final one, as the shuttle program approaches its end later this year. Several members of Congress, and one former member, used the occasion to both congratulate NASA on the completion of the mission and express their views about space policy.

Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), the ranking member of the Commerce, Justice, and Science subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, which has oversight of NASA’s budget, said he called NASA administrator Charles Bolden shortly after the shuttle landed. Fattah said he congratulated Bolden on the mission and also “pledged to Bolden that he would be working to resolve outstanding budget issues involving NASA”, according to the statement from the congressman’s office. “Today’s end of mission is the beginning of NASA’s ‘tomorrow’ – a range of new missions and innovation that will serve as a continuing investment in our economic and technological future,” Fattah said in the statement. “As a NASA appropriator I am pledging that we will continue to provide the space agency with the resources it needs to retain world leadership in space exploration and to ensure the broader benefits that all our citizens will realize from these efforts.”

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the ranking member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, also congratulated NASA on the mission but said the agency needs to press ahead with a successor system. “In celebrating an historic era of Space Shuttle Discovery flights, we must not lose sight of our commitment to move forward without delay on the next generation of United States human spaceflight systems that will sustain our leadership and continue to inspire new achievements in the human exploration of outer space,” she said in the statement.

Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL), whose district includes KSC, pledged her continued support for human spaceflight in a post-landing statement. “As this era comes to an end, it is more important than ever that we don’t lose sight of NASA’s human spaceflight program, and that is why I will continue my efforts in the House to keep human space flight as a top priority of NASA,” she said.

A similar sentiment came from Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), whose district includes JSC. “America has always been the leader in human space exploration and we must continue that commitment with the next generation vehicle that will surpass the glory of Discovery and the shuttle program. That is the purpose and benefit of our nation’s investment in science and exploration,” he said in a release.

Former Sen. Jake Garn (R-UT), who flew on Discovery on mission STS-51-D 1985, is mourning the end of the shuttle program, telling the Deseret News that it is a “huge, huge mistake” to retire the orbiters. He told the paper that “the congressional will to de-fund the [shuttle] program is a decision ‘I don’t even comprehend.’” (He doesn’t offer a strategy for finding a way to both pay for continued shuttle operations and develop a successor system, especially in an era of fiscal conservatism, beyond noting NASA’s budget is a tiny part of the overall federal budget.) He concludes: “I am sad not only for Discovery, but sad for the technology we lose in all of this.”

81 comments to Congressional commentary on Discovery’s return

  • amightywind

    Senator Garn is right to regret the loss of shuttle technology. But we can’t continue to play russian roulette with a 1 in 65 vehicle.

    The dirge will only get louder as the final missions approach. Where is the leadership? Short of that, where is the debate on the next system? I preferred it when the Direct people where trying to undercut Ares. At least there was an engineering discussion and ideas being generated. The malaise that has settled over NASA and their overseers is pathetic. NASA will still receive $16 billion or so in funding. Reorganize! Cut the ISS. Eliminate the life sciences junk. Bring the hippies home from Antarctica!

  • CharlesHouston

    Interesting to see those quotes – which appear to support the government space program, keeping human space flight a top priority for NASA, etc. Almost certainly, the torch is passing to a new paradigm – commercial crew spaceflight. The NASA human space flight team is dissolving as we watch, and some parts of it are coming back together at different commercial entities such as SpaceX and Boeing. We may argue if this is good or bad, or more accurately what good or bad facets are embedded in this change. But it appears that the momentum for the change is accelerating.
    This is another example of how Congress says they support this or that, while not leading the change – only reacting to it.
    What will actually be left at the various NASA centers remains to be seen. KSC is well on the way to being a relic – with two flights scheduled and then nothing.
    MSFC is hoping to get money to work on a heavy lift vehicle that will be cancelled in a few years anyway. As it’s predecessors were. They still have ISS payloads and that will keep a nucleus working.
    JSC could possibly develop into a training center for commercial crews – or maybe not. Most ISS training will happen in Russia. They have ISS systems and that will keep their kernel working.
    Of course none of this makes for cheery Congressional news releases.
    Now – whether or not we make a smooth transition is what we should be talking about, in my personal opinion. How can we transfer knowledge and processes? No one can say that all NASA processes should be abandoned – lest we want to painfully re-learn the lessons of the past.

  • AndrewH

    @amightywind

    I’m not sure I understand your logic. What I think this country needs is compelling list of reasons why we should spend money venture into space. The list needs to be relevant to the American public. I view life sciences research, Earth monitoring, and the ISS as steps in this direction. Are we doing enough? Not even close. But we need to start somewhere.

    My point is, developing next generation launchers will become much easier (politically/commercially) if NASA focuses on building/sustaining incentives for sending humans into space. While is easy to argue the cost effectiveness of the ISS, it remains the most commonly cited destination/stepping stone for both government and commercial systems.

    Can you explain why eliminating the ISS & life sciences research would further encourage human spaceflight development in the United States? Building a government launcher without cause is like pushing a rope.

  • John Malkin

    amightywind wrote @ March 10th, 2011 at 8:25 am

    The dirge will only get louder as the final missions approach. Where is the leadership? Short of that, where is the debate on the next system?

    The debate in earnest began with the release of the Augustine summary report.

    @Former Sen. Jake Garn (R-UT)

    The Shuttle is too expensive to be a U-Haul and we are limited in the number of flights per year since we only have three. Not to mention the safety issues like no real escape system.

  • Dennis Berube

    To move forward, the first step should be NASA allowing Bigelow to link several of his inflatables up to the ISS. What are they waiting for? this would show two things. 1. How these inflatables actually work out in the space environment, and 2. whether a less expensive space station could be afforded than is presently the case with the ISS. When is Boeing, Dragon and any of the others going to launch? When will Bigelow fly? We slowly move along, while other countries move steadfastly ahead.

  • Martijn Meijering

    I am sad not only for Discovery, but sad for the technology we lose in all of this.

    Exactly what technology does he think the US is losing?

  • Aremis Asling

    STS was an interesting concept, and I’m glad we’ve had it for 30 years. But the shuttle itself is so heavy that far too much money is spent just orbiting the spacecraft and far too little is spent on useful cargo.

    The whole system ranks as a Super-Heavy lift in the Augustine evaluations. At 105,000 kg to LEO, it is rivaled only by the Saturn V. But in actual usable cargo, it is only capable of lifting 24,400kg. The Atlas V heavy costs significantly less, yet can lift 5,000kg more to LEO. It would be outpaced by Angara 5(29,500kg), Angara 7(41,000kg), Long March V (25,000kg), and Falcon Heavy (32,000kg), which are all under development. It would also be outdone by the Liberty, if that gets the green light. It will certainly be FAR outpaced by its successor system, whenever that actually gets built, so long as its successor doesn’t also include a huge non-cargo mass.

    What it did have was some unique on-orbit capabilities such as it’s grappling arm for in-flight construction and maintenance, and it’s down-mass capability. I actually liked an idea I heard elsewhere about modding the shuttle to include solar panels and other tweaks for long-term stays and leaving it up there after a final launch. We’d need a return capsule for the skeleton crew aboard, but once that was worked out, much of its capability could be preserved.

  • common sense

    @ CharlesHouston wrote @ March 10th, 2011 at 9:54 am

    I usually don’t but I think this time I agree with your observations. However it is too late for a smooth transition. It might have happened a few years ago, it might even have happened when FY11 came out. But our friends in Congress chose the hard way, hard for everyone but them of course. So now, again, they will wait for the dust to settle. No action is action, that of the coward.

  • common sense

    “He concludes: “I am sad not only for Discovery, but sad for the technology we lose in all of this.””

    Another idiotic comment. Did he ever hear of X-37? That is where Shuttle technology is.

  • Martijn Meijering

    What are they waiting for?

    Commercial crew.

    1. How these inflatables actually work out in the space environment

    Bigelow has already demonstrated this with two orbital prototypes.

    When is Boeing, Dragon and any of the others going to launch? When will Bigelow fly?

    After NASA funds commercial crew.

    We slowly move along, while other countries move steadfastly ahead.

    Because nearly all the money goes to the Shuttle industrial complex, cheered on by ignorant blog commentators some of whom are even pretending to be sympathetic to commercial spaceflight.

  • amightywind

    I’m not sure I understand your logic. What I think this country needs is compelling list of reasons why we should spend money venture into space.

    There are hundreds of interesting new destinations accessible to humans. Seems to be motivation enough.

    I view life sciences research, Earth monitoring, and the ISS as steps in this direction.

    Earth monitoring doesn’t require a human presence. Although the current run of luck with NASA’s earth monitoring satellite program is not distinguished either. The politicization of earth monitoring should make appropriators leery of funding it. The research value of life sciences is minute. We already understand the adverse effects of spaceflight on human physiology and have for 40 years. There is no point in spending lavishly on it. ISS consists of 6 people marooned and fighting for their lives jury rigging a hideously complex mechanical monster. There is nothing that it can do to justify its massive cost. Ironically, ISS killed our manned space program.

  • “…Danger Will Robinson, danger!! NASA lost, broke!!

  • common sense

    @Martijn Meijering wrote @ March 10th, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    “After NASA funds commercial crew.”

    Not quite clear. We’ll see. May be before.

    “We slowly move along, while other countries move steadfastly ahead.

    Because nearly all the money goes to the Shuttle industrial complex, cheered on by ignorant blog commentators some of whom are even pretending to be sympathetic to commercial spaceflight.”

    Which “other countries move steadfastly ahead”? I’d like to know that.

  • common sense

    @ amightywind wrote @ March 10th, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    “There are hundreds of interesting new destinations accessible to humans. Seems to be motivation enough.”

    Hundreds? With an “s”? List 10. Nah… List 4.

    “We already understand the adverse effects of spaceflight on human physiology and have for 40 years. ”

    We do? We actually understand that?

    ” Ironically, ISS killed our manned space program.”

    No. GWB and above all Mike Griffin did. Stop reinventing history.

  • Kelly Starks

    > But we can’t continue to play russian roulette with a 1 in 65 vehicle.

    The shuttle is safer then anything planed.

    > Almost certainly, the torch is passing to a new paradigm – commercial crew spaceflight. ==

    Not likely. “.. commercial crew spaceflight.. ” need a customer. The dominent customer was NASA, and that customers going away. NASA isn’t planing on flying many people anymore, and commercial crews on the top of the list to be trimed as non critical.

    >..I am sad not only for Discovery, but sad for the technology we lose in all of this.

    Yeah. The shuttles had a bredth of capabilities, and with better safty and economy, then anything in work.

    > == the shuttle itself is so heavy that far too much money is spent just
    > orbiting the spacecraft and far too little is spent on useful cargo.

    Not at all true. Weight only costs in more fuel/LOx — which is less then 1/1000th launch costs for anyone.

    In contrast Ares-1/Orion was far lighter, designed to lower quality and relyability standards; but was projected to more expensive to develop then shuttle, and projected to cost several times as much per flight to launch.

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ March 10th, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    There are hundreds of interesting new destinations accessible to humans. Seems to be motivation enough.

    “Because it’s there” is not enough justification.

    Taxpayer: “Why are you spending my money on an HLV that doesn’t have a use?”

    Windy: “Because we have your money!”

  • Ferris Valyn

    Not likely. “.. commercial crew spaceflight.. ” need a customer. The dominent customer was NASA, and that customers going away. NASA isn’t planing on flying many people anymore, and commercial crews on the top of the list to be trimed as non critical.

    NASA’s not planning on flying many people? So there won’t be regular crews going to ISS?

    Have we decided to just use Russia all the time? Or are we getting rid of ISS?

    I think I may have missed a memo somewhere

  • Coastal Ron

    Kelly Starks wrote @ March 10th, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    The shuttle is safer then anything planed.

    That is either an ignorant statement or a flat out lie.

    During launch CST-100 and Dragon will have Launch Escape Systems (LES) to save the crew from Challenger type accidents – Shuttle’s don’t.

    During re-entry CST-100 and Dragon will have heat shields that were protected from debris collisions during ascent (which led Columbia to disintegrate) – Shuttles don’t.

    Do you have any credible facts you can point to that support your assertion? Just wishing it were true is not enough for people to risk their lives on…

  • Martijn Meijering

    The Shuttle is too expensive to be a U-Haul and we are limited in the number of flights per year since we only have three.

    If the Shuttle had succeeded in its primary mission to reduce launch costs by an order of magnitude then commercial space advocates might not have objected to it so much. They could then have focussed their energies on spacecraft development.

  • Tom D

    I’ll miss the Shuttle too, but it’s long past time to move ahead with more affordable systems for accessing space. It is sad that a Shuttle II wasn’t developed after the Challenger Accident to incorporate more of the lessons learned from Shuttle. But, it’s time to end the monolithic, government dominated human spaceflight system. There are great things ahead. It’s just taking a longer than we all hoped :-).

  • Kelly Starks

    > NASA’s not planning on flying many people? So there won’t
    > be regular crews going to ISS?

    Shuttle used to fly up to 50 people a year. Now they are planing to do 4-6 a year via Soyuz. After 2015 they “may” let commercials fly some astrounauts (though very few), or they may field their own ship, or may just keeping buying seats from Russia is the Soyuz is still flying.

    >==Or are we getting rid of ISS?

    There has been suggestions to reverse last years congressional move to extend ISS to 2020.

  • common sense

    I posted this at nasawatch.com. Rhetorical though…

    —–

    Why did it have to come to that? Why is it our leaders cannot think a few days ahead after the elections?

    Yes all those systems from Mercury to Shuttle and ISS were the results of the Cold War. But it ended back in 1990.

    Why was it not possible to have a modest budget allocated to commercials back then? Why did we have to waste billions in a stupid unworkable Constellation program? Why was it impossible to follow the original intent of the VSE?

    Why are people fighting FY11? It’s what’s left for NASA to do. SLS/Orion are yet another losing proposal with no budget commensurate with their goals. Why does the protection of jobs eventually come at the expense of NASA?

    Why isn’t there any one who can think of ways to adapt, change?
    In nature if you cannot evolve, adapt, well you disappear.

    WHY? WHY?

  • DCSCA

    [Garn] concludes: “I am sad not only for Discovery, but sad for the technology we lose in all of this.”

    Hmmm. Said ‘Grandpa’ as he waved goodbye to his 1975 AMC Gremlin. It’s pretty ‘old’ technology, “Jake.”

    Many Americans who even remember Garn’s utterly useless pork ride over a quarter century ago may be sad at recalling it and the loss of an expensive seat on the shuttle wasted to loft a then U.S. Senator from Utah on an obvious junket which contributed zilch to America’s space program. He did upchuck a few times and– if memory serves- bumped another individual representing a then paying customer– Gregory Jarvis. Of course Garn might consider forfeiting his remaining government pensions and assorted goodies in order to keep government funding available for NASA projects. Every penny helps, eh, “Jake?”. Put your money where your mouth is.

    We were sullen as Gemini ended and Apollo came to a close as well. It’s time for the 30-plus year long space shuttle program to end as well. NASA’s been fiddling with it since the days of Apollo 16 in ’72, when moonwalkers Young and Duke were informed funding was voted for shuttle as they erected the U.S. flag on the lunar surface. And part of the reason it is ending is “Jake” didn’t do his job very well at overseeing appropriations as shuttle costs soared along with the orbiters and never really became cost-effective, which was the point of the whole program to begin with, “Jake.”

    Watching maninstream media coverage of Discovery- what little there was- elicited quaint feelings of the early 1990′s while the events of 2011 swirled around it on television. Discovery’s mission seemed distinctly out of sync with the current events of today– a part of our past, not our future. If ‘Jake’ and his Reagan Republican compatriots of the mid-80′s had not wasted billions on black hole projects like SDI, etc., and kept a sharper eye on NASA’s management problems and planning, a shuttle designed for “100 flights” might very well still be flying rather than headed for retirement at the Smithsonian after just 39 missions. Enjoy your retirement as well, Jake. Birds of a feather… museum pieces.

  • amightywind

    Hundreds? With an “s”? List 10. Nah… List 4.

    The Plymouth Rock proposal shows 11 on Figure 2. They mention in the text that potential targets are being added all the time. Add the Moon, Mars, Phobos, Deimos, Earth Trojans… You really need to start thinking beyond SpaceX launching ‘a monkey in a bucket’.

  • Dennis Berube

    Dispite the dangers inherent in spaceflight, there will always be people willing to venture forth! I certainly would be one, to jump on the mars bandwagon! I dont think radiation, not travel time, nor hardships would stop those that have adventure in their hearts. Onward to MARS!

  • VirgilSamms

    “Why are you spending my money on an HLV that doesn’t have a use?”

    How about, “My God there is big comet coming and it is only a few months away- where is our Heavy Lift Vehicle?”

    Commercial space: “oh, sorry about that, we dismantled the heavy lift infrastructure years ago and we still do not have anything we promised to go beyond earth orbit with. It’s too bad, but it was the right thing to do.”

    Thus ends the human race.

  • Martijn Meijering

    How about, “My God there is big comet coming and it is only a few months away- where is our Heavy Lift Vehicle?”

    So when are you finally going to tell us why we would need an HLV for that?

    Thus ends the human race.

    I don’t believe that’s your real reason. You don’t sound like someone who is afraid the end of the world is nigh. You sound like someone who is afraid the end of the Shuttle political industrial complex is nigh.

  • Bennett

    For a while there, myopic haters equated “Commercial Space” almost exclusively with SpaceX, ignoring Boeing, ULA, Orbital, etc. Now Gary Church would have you believe that it will be a consortium of these companies ultimately responsible for killing off a new HLV.

    Wake up, Gary! It’s all a bad dream!

    The sad reality is that Congress is designing a rocket that can’t be built for the funds they allocate, in order to receive campaign contributions from the likes of ATK who, like Congress, don’t give a rats ass if the HSF program survives beyond being a jobs program.

  • common sense

    @ amightywind wrote @ March 10th, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    “You really need to start thinking beyond SpaceX launching ‘a monkey in a bucket’.”

    Well you really need to start thinking. I am still waiting for the list of feasible destination, not names on an advertisement paper from LMT. How many months do you think you can stay in even two Orions?

  • common sense

    @ VirgilSamms wrote @ March 10th, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    “How about, “My God there is big comet coming and it is only a few months away- where is our Heavy Lift Vehicle?””

    Yeah where is it? We really need a HLV to… to what? Ah yes. When the comet sees our HLV it will backtrack into the infinity of space afraid by its sheer size and stupidity.

    “Thus ends the human race.”

    It’s clear that we can save the “human race” with 1 or 2 HLV launches per year!!! Wow. Great reasoning. You must be a scientist or something!

    Rolling eyes…

    Oh well…

  • Jeebus Atch Christmas on a Crutch, what a bunch of downers here.

    So Discovery is finally retiring, big deal. We all knew that was going to happen. We should be celebrating the missions of a great vessel, a ship of space. Crying a dirge is a dishonor IMHO.

    Despite of the political demagoguery, a cargo Dragon is launching this summer as part of COTS and in spite of the rending of sack-cloth and gnashing of teeth, the SpaceX Corp. has a contract to fulfill in support of the ISS.

    And that is part of the future people. I intend to celebrate that.

  • DCSCA

    dad2059 wrote @ March 10th, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    The ISS is part of the past, not the future.

  • @DCSCA wrote @ March 10th, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    I was speaking of immediate future. And probably long term government future according to General Bolden. It doesn’t mean I necessarily like it.

    Opinions are cheap, and thus, plentiful.

  • Coastal Ron

    VirgilSamms wrote @ March 10th, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Thus ends the human race.

    Yes, because no one else in the world would be interested in stopping the “big comet” from destroying our planet, so the U.S. must do it all themselves.

    Even though there are 5 other national space systems, and at least three U.S. commercial launch providers that have some vague interest in not seeing the Earth decimated.

    But your brilliant idea is to build the largest rocket in the world, and let it sit around waiting for the terror to approach, and then launch it empty to save the world? I say empty because you haven’t said what the payload is that requires an HLV to launch it all in one piece. A big airbag maybe?

    That assumes that the HLV doesn’t blow up from sitting around in the salt air, or that a software bug doesn’t cause it to crash. But I’m sure relying on one launch system (and maybe even just one rocket) is the best hope for the survival of humanity…

    NOT!

    See Gary, this is why people don’t take you seriously, because you keep changing your justifications for why HLV’s are needed, and your justifications never prove that only HLV’s can do that job.

    Get used to disappointment.

  • guest

    “The ISS is part of the past, not the future.”

    The ISS is what we make of it.

    I would hope that the design, development and assembly is never repeated for another project; 25 years, $100+ billion, and yet we shut a lot of US industry down in order to trade the job of manufacture to our ‘partners’. Im reading on another newslist a discussion- “the US says there last big piece of the ISS was delivered on this mission…thats funny I thought it was an ESA piece…truth is we probably traded a shuttle launch or an astronaut for them to design and build ‘our’ module. I cannot even imagine how we spent that much when we didnt build very much here in the last 15 years.

    But that said, now that we have it, its a suitable outpost in LEO and can be used for lots of things, including proving the hardware we need to go elsewhere. It could be that its the port these commercial capsules need to fly to.

    So it could be that ISS is the critical link to the future.

  • guest

    Sorry, my error, more like 27 years, not 25.

  • Ronnie Wise

    Yea, I think Mr. Guest you are correct. In terms of whats flying, the ISS is the American space program; its all we have today. Making good use of it is a critical next step. Utilization is the key. So far NASA does not seem to be going about lining up the users in a very smart manner, The fact that its up there and finished now, with no serious users, means we are already behind by years-maybe a substantial part of a decade.

    The other piece of the still developing American space program, it does not yet exist, are the Newspace people’s new cheap rockets, capsules and other vehicles. We have to hope these turn out OK. I have less confidence in the Orion and whatever its system consist of; I wish I could be more positive, but given the past 5 years and given the costs it does not look like a viable vehicle for anything in the reasonably near term. Affordability, quick turnaround between launches, capacity to orbit per year are all critical. Orion doesn’t contribute much on those scales.

    So I hope Newspace can come through for us, otherwise the US will not have a future.

  • Major Tom

    “How about, ‘My God there is big comet coming and it is only a few months away- where is our Heavy Lift Vehicle?’”

    Generally speaking, if a comet (or asteroid) is only months away, nukes are the only viable remaining option. To divert an object that late in the game, too much energy has to be delivered in too short an amount of time for other options to work.

    But delivering nuclear warheads to space doesn’t require an HLV — they aren’t ~100T+ payloads. In fact, the W62 warheads currently atop the nation’s ICBM arsenal mass less than 260 lbs. each.

    Moreover, given the months it takes to prepare and erect an HLV stack like Saturn V or the Shuttle, an HLV wouldn’t help, even if nuclear warheads were ~100T+ payloads. Even a single-stick Atlas V, Delta IV, or Falcon 9 might take too long depending on the available launch window.

    To put a few hundred pound nuclear warhead on an Earth escape trajectory, we’re looking at a modified Minuteman or Peacekeeper ICBM. It’s something much closer to a Minotaur V, which can put hundreds of pounds into GEO, than a Saturn V, Energia, or Shuttle stack.

    http://www.orbital.com/NewsInfo/Publications/Minotaur_V_fact.pdf

    “Commercial space: ‘oh, sorry about that, we dismantled the heavy lift infrastructure years ago and we still do not have anything we promised to go beyond earth orbit with. It’s too bad, but it was the right thing to do.’”

    Constellation spent $10 billion and more than half a decade showing how expensive and hard it is to make any useful progress when burdened by the Apollo and Shuttle infrastructure, workforce, and contracts. ALS and NLS showed the same thing in the study phase. It makes no sense to spend another $15-20 billion trying to reshuffle the Apollo/Shuttle HLV deck a fourth or fifth time, especially if Congress is designing the vehicle. (And who wants the future of humanity dependent on a vehicle designed by Congress, anyway?)

    COTS has spent less than $500 million showing how efficiently space transportation can be developed without the burden of the Apollo and Shuttle infrastructure, workforce, and contracts. If you really want an HLV, the only affordable way is to do so without Apollo/Shuttle constraints. Here’s one option under $3 billion:

    http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_channel.jsp?channel=space&id=news/awst/2010/11/29/AW_11_29_2010_p28-271784.xml

    Moreover, history has shown that no HLV is affordable over the long-term. They either die during design (Ares V, ALS, NLS, etc.) or development (N-1) or after one (Energia) or a couple handfuls of flights (Saturn V). If you want a long-standing capability for defending the Earth against asteroid and comets, then it has to be based on a transportation infrastructure than can be afforded through economic ups and downs and changes in national priorities over decades and centuries. That can’t be done with an HLV and its associated standing army and large production and launch infrastructure.

    “Thus ends the human race.”

    Around 2008, observations had retired 90% of the risk of a 1km or larger asteroids (and some comets) hitting the Earth in the next 100-200 years.

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=25975

    Today, we’re more than 90% confident that such a civilization-ending impact will not happen in the next century or two. Given such a low probability, it’s very hard to justify a multi-billion dollar, impact-mitigation program, whether it uses an HLV or not, .

    FWIW…

  • Bennett

    For those of us without half a foot in the grave, the ISS is very much part of the present. Finally complete, with proposals for expandable hab demonstration and attachable centrifuges for partial gravity experiments, we have a lot we can learn from the science about to begin on the station.

    The next few years should be rather exciting.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi VS, CS

    VS – How about, “My God there is big comet coming and it is only a few months away- where is our Heavy Lift Vehicle?””

    CS – Yeah where is it?

    EP – That’s the problem – we don’t know where it is, or when it will show up.

    BUT it MAY be 73P, due in our area in 2022, providing that it all doesn’t turn into magic comet dust. And even then, we don’t know how much “magic comet dust” we’ll be getting then, or its effects.

    CS – We really need a HLV to… to what? Ah yes. When the comet sees our HLV it will backtrack into the infinity of space afraid by its sheer size and stupidity.

    EP – It would be nice to have DIRECT on hand to fly any needed mitigation packages.

    VS – “Thus ends the human race.”

    EP – Most people working in the field think that people are so stupid that its going to take an impact to make them address the problem. They HOPE the loss of life will not be too large – say 10′s of millions, instead of Billions.

    Myself, I don’t think people are that stupid. But greed combined with fantasy and stupidity might well be enough…

    CS – It’s clear that we can save the “human race” with 1 or 2 HLV launches per year!!! Wow. Great reasoning. You must be a scientist or something!

    EP – CS, the engineers you want are the folks who wrote the CAPS study.

    An EARLY as possible warning is the key here. What those 2 DIRECT launches per year would allow us to do is build that system, or to take a leading role in getting the CAPS system in place.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi DCSCA –

    “The ISS is part of the past, not the future.”

    Part of the usual Mars nuts’ fantasies. How the hell do they think that real BEO spaceflight technologies are going to be developed?

    Maybe if they took off their canvas “space suits” and plastic garbage can “space helmets”, they’d get a little oxygen and their brains would clear up.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Shuttle used to fly up to 50 people a year. Now they are planing to do 4-6 a year via Soyuz. After 2015 they “may” let commercials fly some astrounauts (though very few), or they may field their own ship, or may just keeping buying seats from Russia is the Soyuz is still flying.

    You keep saying that, but you’ve provided no proof that it’ll be very few. Given that they are looking at fielding at least 2 providers, and given that the costs will go down, and given that we won’t have to support shuttle infrastructure (assuming SLS doesn’t end up being some sort of Ares V derivative), that would suggest we’d launch people more often

    There has been suggestions to reverse last years congressional move to extend ISS to 2020.

    When something like that gets reported out of committee, come talk to me. Otherwise, thats crap.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Even a single-stick Atlas V, Delta IV, or Falcon 9 might take too long depending on the available launch window.

    I think it would be considerably better to have a spacecraft on standby at L1/L2, from where it should be able to intercept any NEO at short notice, especially if you allow for refueling at L1/L2. We could do all that with today’s technology and without an HLV. The threat of an asteroid strike in our lifetime is minute however and there are probably other risks that are more deserving of spending money on in the short term.

  • Martijn Meijering

    What those 2 DIRECT launches per year would allow us to do is build that system, or to take a leading role in getting the CAPS system in place.

    Why don’t you just admit that you simply want that DIRECT system and that all the rest is an ever changing mass of rationalisations for it?

  • DCSCA

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ March 10th, 2011 at 11:03 pm
    It’s old planning from an era dying before your eyes. The ISS represents the vision of the space program of te past– circa 1985. The quicker the page is turned on it- the better. It is a waste of dwindling resources.

  • DCSCA

    @dad2059 wrote @ March 10th, 2011 at 7:45 pm
    It’s ‘immediate’ future is nothing. A dozen people were aboard it last week and nobody knows what they were doing; the general public were treated to some video clips of several bouncing around in the large, empty container they hauled up aboard Discovery. Silly stuff. Nobody knows what they do up there and nobody cares– except when the bills come due. In the Age of Austerity it represents past planning from an era long gone a nation that has to borrow 42 cents of every dollar it spends simply can no longer afford. .

    @guest wrote @ March 10th, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    It’s the only turkey you’ll ever see fly. A 20 year works project for the aerospace indistry and in these austere times, a huge waste.

  • E.P. Grondine

    HI MT –

    “Around 2008, observations had retired 90% of the risk of a 1km or larger asteroids (and some comets) hitting the Earth in the next 100-200 years.

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=25975

    Today, we’re more than 90% confident that such a civilization-ending impact will not happen in the next century or two. Given such a low probability, it’s very hard to justify a multi-billion dollar, impact-mitigation program, whether it uses an HLV or not, .

    FWIW…”

    What’s it worth? Not much, as in the real world, in contrast to Weiler’s imaginary one, comets and dead comet fragments appear to comprise about 95% of the impact hazard. And how you deal with that impact hazard is a whole whole lot different than how you deal with one composed solely of asteroids.

    The first step in solving the mess at NASA is relieving Ed Weiler.
    He should be relieved for his role in Griffin’s contempt of Congress in Griffin’s response to the George Brown Jr. ammendment..

    I’ve already suggested 3 candidates. Do you have any you’d like to make?

  • common sense

    This is not directed to Major Tom but rather to the ELE fans out there.

    “Today, we’re more than 90% confident that such a civilization-ending impact will not happen in the next century or two. Given such a low probability, it’s very hard to justify a multi-billion dollar, impact-mitigation program, whether it uses an HLV or not, .”

    Let’s assume that there will be such an event for the sake of argument. Let’s even assume we can deploy as many HLV as we like.

    What good is going to make? In what way are the HLVs the solution to such an impact? I know I only have a very limited imagination but come on. We would stuff the HLVs with nukes and send them over to the incoming rock(s)? How many rocks are coming? How many HLVs do we need? I guess it would solve the DoE stockpile issues but please people. This is step 34567 in the mitigation.

    How about plans related to the Earth? What would we do on the Earth in case we learn of an “imminent” impact. Of course some mitigation may be moot if the thing is too big or too numerous. Saving the civilization? We just send even say 100s astronauts into space to save the civilization? What would they come back to if Earth is annihilated?

    You know Sci-Fi is great but it is not Sci. It is Fi. Can we get back to Sci now?

    Rolling eyes.

  • Kelly Starks

    > common sense wrote @ March 10th, 2011 at 2:47 pm
    >
    > WHY? WHY?

    Because Voters see the two primary reasons to support NASA as its provides jobs in their district (a spin off of space advocates saying “well the space program doesn’t spend billions in space it spends it down here employing people..”) , adn because it got folks to the moon which no one else did so its a great symbol of America adn our prestige as a Nation.

    Neither reason is served by developing low cost (I.E. few employed by) commercial launch options.

  • Kelly Starks

    > SCA wrote @ March 10th, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    >> [Garn] concludes: “I am sad not only for Discovery, but sad
    >> for the technology we lose in all of this.”

    > Hmmm. Said ‘Grandpa’ as he waved goodbye to his 1975
    > AMC Gremlin. It’s pretty ‘old’ technology, “Jake.”

    Shuttles decades “newer” and more advanced then anything NASA or New Space is offering to replace it.

  • Kelly Starks

    > dad2059 wrote @ March 10th, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    > So Discovery is finally retiring, big deal. We all knew that
    > was going to happen. We should be celebrating the missions
    > of a great vessel, a ship of space. Crying a dirge is a dishonor IMHO.

    > — a cargo Dragon is launching this summer as part of COTS and –
    >– has a contract to fulfill in support of the ISS.

    > And that is part of the future people. I intend to celebrate that.

    We shut down a fleet of shuttles that could built stations the size and complexity of the ISS, that were built to build ships the size of ISS to go to Mars not just the Moon; and you celebrate they are being replaced by Dragons that can ferry sandwiches to the ISS?

    All this in the context of Obama/Bolden saying the US must never fly beyond LEO again.

    …I’m still not feeling better.

  • Kelly Starks

    >Ferris Valyn wrote @ March 11th, 2011 at 12:04 am

    >> shuttle used to fly up to 50 people a year. Now they are planing to do

    >> 4-6 a year via Soyuz. After 2015 they “may” let commercials fly some
    >>astrounauts (though very few), or they may field their own ship, or may
    >> just keeping buying seats from Russia is the Soyuz is still flying.

    > You keep saying that, but you’ve provided no proof that it’ll
    > be very few. ==

    Thats the total number of crew NASA are proposing flying.

    >== given that the costs will go down, and given that we won’t have
    > to support shuttle infrastructure (assuming SLS doesn’t end up being
    > some sort of Ares V derivative), that would suggest we’d launch people more often

    No it doesn’t. Lower cost is not a plus to a gov agency – for NASA it makes it even harder to get congressional votes to continue – and its votes, not $’s that mater to NASA operation budget. That’s why it always bundled missions into huge “Galactica” sized programs. To quote, “Its much easier to get funding for a billion dollar program, then a million dollar program”.

    The approved mission calls for 4-6 a year, delivered in 2 flights a year. That’s what they need delivered. The cost is pretty irrelevant.

    They are already laying off the excess astronaut, flight planning and astronaut training staffs to downsize to that limited number.

    More shuttle flights didn’t increase yearly shuttle program costs, yet they didn’t keep the shuttles flying more often.

    >> There has been suggestions to reverse last years congressional move to extend ISS to 2020.

    > When something like that gets reported out of committee,
    >come talk to me. Otherwise, that’s crap.

    Like by Congressman?

    ISS was built as a diplomatic tool to develop better relations with Russia post cold war, adn discourage them to sell arms internationally. None of thats going to impress Congress right now.

  • Coastal Ron

    Kelly Starks wrote @ March 11th, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    We shut down a fleet of shuttles that could built stations the size and complexity of the ISS, that were built to build ships the size of ISS to go to Mars not just the Moon;

    Nice try at revisionist history…

    The Shuttle program and the ISS were being ended to fund the Constellation program. That was decided by Bush/Griffin, not the current administration.

    The Bush/Griffin administration are also the ones that awarded the COTS/CRS contract to SpaceX, and SpaceX has not received any major contract awards from Obama/Bolden.

    Though many liked the idea of the Constellation program (“Apollo on steroids” as Griffin called it), even more were horrified that the nations only permanent outpost in space was going to be sacrificed for said Apollo redux. Luckily the new President, in concert with a bipartisan Congress, saw that the Constellation program was a financial money pit, and that the newly finished ISS was a better bet for expanding our knowledge and abilities into space.

    Luckily Bush/Griffin put in place as much more cost-effective way to resupply the ISS, which means the American Taxpayer gets a chance to amortize their $100B ISS investment, and save money on keeping it going versus using the Shuttle.

    Regarding building more ISS-sized structures in space, we don’t need the Shuttle for that anymore. With what we have learned from building the ISS, we can use existing (and far less expensive) launchers such as Delta IV Heavy to deliver ISS-sized modules to LEO construction facilities.

    Of course there is no budget for spaceships to Mars right now, which is another reason why the Shuttle program was being ended after completing the ISS – there is nothing for the Shuttle to do after the ISS is complete.

  • Major Tom

    “… comets and dead comet fragments appear to comprise about 95% of the impact hazard.”

    Quote? Reference? Link?

    Based on what observations? Models?

    What is the overall impact hazard or probability based on those observations and models? Over what time period?

    “And how you deal with that impact hazard is a whole whole lot different than how you deal with one composed solely of asteroids.”

    Not if they’re “months away”. Again, at that point you’re reduced to nukes, especially in the case of faster-moving comets with more delta-v to be redirected. And nukes don’t require heavy lift. In fact, with only months to go, erecting a heavy lift stack is impractical, regardless of the mitigation technique.

    “The first step in solving the mess at NASA is relieving Ed Weiler.
    He should be relieved for his role in Griffin’s contempt of Congress in Griffin’s response to the George Brown Jr. ammendment.”

    What are you talking about? NASA responded in full to each of the questions in that amendment. See here:

    http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/neo/report2007.html

    FWIW…

  • Coastal Ron

    Kelly Starks wrote @ March 11th, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Lower cost is not a plus to a gov agency

    Your’s is the kind of mindset that leads to higher and higher costs, and leads to less and less real things done.

    In order for NASA to do more, it needs to lower it’s costs. Building unneeded “bloatware” does not do NASA any good, other than keeping the headcount up. And where is the national prestige in having high headcount?

    More shuttle flights didn’t increase yearly shuttle program costs, yet they didn’t keep the shuttles flying more often.

    The Shuttle program had a base run rate of $200M/month. Adding more than two flights per year added incremental costs, since SRB’s cost $69M/set, and an External Tank costs $173M – that doesn’t include everything else needed to put together a flight ready Shuttle launch. So contrary to your “free money” theory, more Shuttle flights cost the American Taxpayer more money.

    ISS was built as a diplomatic tool to develop better relations with Russia post cold war

    Maybe you believe that, but in actuality the ISS was built as a national research platform in space, and the Russians (plus our other partners) were brought in to “spread the pain” (i.e. help us pay for it). Any post cold war synergies were just a bonus.

    None of thats going to impress Congress right now.

    And since none of what you said is true, you’re right, it won’t impress Congress.

  • Major Tom

    “We would stuff the HLVs with nukes and send them over to the incoming rock(s)?”

    No, you wouldn’t want to send multiple nuclear warheads at an asteroid or comet at the same, for at least a couple reasons.

    First, asteroids/comets are small. This isn’t like sending a MIRV against Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kiev. Whichever warhead(s) detonate first are going to do so in close proximity (hundreds of meters, instead of kilometers) to the other, undetonated warheads and will destroy them before they can be used. It would just be a stupid waste.

    Second, it’s going to be hard enough to predict the effects of one nuke on the trajectory of an asteroid or comet. Blasting several in quick succession without observing the effects of the first nuke on the asteroid or comet could result in an irreversible worse trajectory or a shotgun effect. You want to apply the minimum energy needed to put the asteroid or comet on a safe course away from Earth without doing something stupid like applying a lot of energy in the wrong direction (because your targeting or modeling was off) or breaking up the asteroid/comet into scores of smaller pieces that will now hit multiple locations on the Earth’s surface. That doesn’t mean that you can’t launch several nukes and have a “train” of nukes on its way to the target. But they’ll need to be separated by days so observations can be made before deciding whether to activate the second, third, fourth, etc. nuke in the train.

    FWIW…

  • What are you talking about? NASA responded in full to each of the questions in that amendment.

    Maybe, but there are plenty of other reasons to can Ed Weiler (JWST, for one big one).

    in actuality the ISS was built as a national research platform in space, and the Russians (plus our other partners) were brought in to “spread the pain” (i.e. help us pay for it). Any post cold war synergies were just a bonus.

    No, in actuality ISS would have died in 1993 except for the Clinton administration’s decision to bring in the Russians to give them some “midnight basketball” foreign aid from the NASA budget to keep them from helping Iran develop nukes and missiles. It survived in Congress by only one vote and wouldn’t have had the White House not supported it.

  • common sense

    @ Major Tom wrote @ March 11th, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    It only was a figure of speech, the multiple nuke thing. Do we need an HLV or several to do the job? And why?… It was aimed at the ELE crowd, not at you, who haven’t been able so far to provide any justification for such an HLV expense.

  • DCSCA

    @Kelly Starks wrote @ March 11th, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    It’s old technology to maintain and never achieved any where close to the kind of cost-effectiveness necessary to keep flying them, especially into the Age of Austerity. Which takes nothing away from its technical accomplishments and the marvel of human spaceflight. But 5-6- 700 million dollars a launch for LEO operations is simply not sustainable in this economic climate, Kelly. And it’s clear the management structure in place to operate it has had a spotty and costly record.

    Poor management resulted in the loss of two expensive orbiters; killed 14 crew; cost billions to retool and regroup; disrupted launch scheculing and projects with other agencies and nations; has demonstrated an inability (or resistence) to reduce operational costs to fall in line with the new economic realities of our times and failed to plan for a realistic successor to the STS system. VSE was forced upon them by Columbia– otherwise, they’d just have kept plodding along. Constellation was oversold and underfunded, poorly managed and void of strong presidential backing. Its weakest link being Griffin’s Ares- it’s best concept- Orion. The United States simply cannot afford shuttle anymore. NASA has been on the shuttle track since the early 1970′s and it is time for the 30-35 years of space shuttle operations to come to a close. The economics of it doesn’t fit for today’s planning at the costs to operate and maintain it. There’s just no rationale for it now and if you were planning a manned ‘shuttle’ STS system for this century with the knowledge learned and experienced, you wouldn’t design one like what’s flying now- particularly as a sidemount. It’s simply an obtuse program for the 21st century and out of sync with planning for this era.

    The ‘gap’ between the Apollo era and shuttle was a lousy period. These are lousy times as well with a bigger gap on the horizon. Witness Wisconsin…and get used to it. Such is the ugly face and character of the Age of Austerity. Of course, if NASA was safely tucked under the protective wing of the DoD as a civilian division, budgets may just have had less scrutiny and maintained with a level of consistency for planning purposes with the umbrella of ‘national security’ in its favor. Or at least the last to be scrutinized for severe cuts. A consolidation of space operations- civilian and military, if only as a matter of cost saving- is long overdue. But as a stand-alone operation for NASA the time for the shuttle era to come to a close has arrived. And you can blame poor management at the space agency, changing economics and the relentless march of time for it.

  • Major Tom

    “Maybe, but there are plenty of other reasons to can Ed Weiler (JWST, for one big one).”

    Yes, my comment was more about the weird references to NASA (Griffin, Weiler, or otherwise) not following an amendment that just asked questions when it’s clear that NASA answered those questions.

    As for JWST et al., I think the recent Planetary Decadal showing no support for flagship Mars and Europa missions unless they drop their scope and costs speaks volumes about what needs to change in SMD and at JPL and GSFC.

    FWIW…

  • DCSCA

    @Kelly Starks wrote @ March 11th, 2011 at 3:15 pm
    @Coastal Ron wrote @ March 11th, 2011 at 4:32 pm
    @Rand Simberg wrote @ March 11th, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    With respect to Russian involvement in the development of the ISS- feelers were underway during the Bush-Quayle Administration with a variety of rationales and events brought it to bloom early in the Clinton era. “Summit planners hit upon the idea of in essence merging the U.S. and Russian programs to develop a space station – an idea first suggested by Russian space leaders – as an ideal initiative from the administration’s perspective.” – source: U.S.-Russian Cooperation in Human Space Flight: Assessing the Impacts by John Logsdon & James Millar, http://www.gwu.edu/~spi/assets/docs/usrussia

    The full paper is a good read on the topic and context of the times.

    As to space station ‘votes’ the most ‘critical’ vote to save or kill it can be sourced to the Bush/Quayle Administration. Per Vice President Quayle’s memoirs: “On May 15, 1991 by a vote of 6 to 3, the House Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees NASA voted, in effect to kill it [the space station.] … “In the end, we put together a good bipartisian coalition [chiefly based on the sales pitch of partnering w/international cooperation,] and on June 6, [1991] the space station came back to life when the House voted 240 to 173 to fund $1.9 billion for it for the next fiscal year.” -source, “Standing Firm” by Dan Quayle.

  • Kelly Starks

    > Coastal Ron wrote @ March 11th, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    > The Shuttle program and the ISS were being ended to fund the Constellation program. =

    No, the shuttle program was ended because they wanted to end the shuttle program. Constellation was a whole other issue, and Killing 5 shuttle programs couldn’t fund Constellation. Though Griffen was supposed to come up with a system that could be funded with funds left over when Shuttle and ISS was killed.

    >== Though many liked the idea of the Constellation program (“Apollo on steroids”
    > as Griffin called it), even more were horrified that the nations only permanent outpost
    > in space was going to be sacrificed for said Apollo redux. ==

    Actually outside of Congress hardly any heard about Apollo the sequel. Even execs in aerospace companies I dealt with didn’t. Griffen hoped it would excite people like Apollo did. Also congress changed its mind about dumping ISS in 2015.
    … Course it’s a very new congress now.

    >== Regarding building more ISS-sized structures in space, we don’t need the Shuttle
    > for that anymore. ==

    Actually not only can’t we build things like ISS without something like shuttle – theres serious question how long we’ll even be able to maintain it.

    >== there is nothing for the Shuttle to do after the ISS is complete.

    Right. There will pretty well not be a space program after the shuttle.

  • Kelly Starks

    > Coastal Ron wrote @ March 11th, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    >> Kelly Starks wrote @ March 11th, 2011 at 3:15 pm
    >> “Lower cost is not a plus to a gov agency”

    > Your’s is the kind of mindset that leads to higher and higher costs, and
    > leads to less and less real things done.

    Its government and voters. If you don’t deliver what they want (not what we want) it doesn’t get funds voted to it to do anything.

    > ==In order for NASA to do more, it needs to lower it’s costs.==

    Your not relating to the goal. The goal is the pork. Voters want the pork, so congress funds agencies to deliver it. Its about the only thing NASA produces that is valued by the public. Space is a means/excuse to justify and generate the pork. If you need to fly more missions to generate a equal number – in congressional speak, your inefficient.

    Its why NASA was willing to except lower safety in shuttle rather then implement upgrades that would make it safer and able to fly more often at lower cost. Also why Griffin design the hellishly expensive Constellation system for return to moon. Constellation wasn’t as safe or capable as shuttle, but it was going to cost far more – it would make VSE cost more then ISS and shuttle both.

    Civil servan’t are payed based on the number of folks they can justify having under them. Votes are given based on the amount of jobs resulting in districts. Etc.

    >== Building unneeded “bloatware” does not do NASA any good, other than keeping the headcount up.

    Which is point of the program to Congress? At least as important then the prestigue it can bring.

    >>== “More shuttle flights didn’t increase yearly shuttle program costs, yet
    >> they didn’t keep the shuttles flying more often.”

    > The Shuttle program had a base run rate of $200M/month. Adding more than two flights
    > per year added incremental costs, since SRB’s cost $69M/set, and an External Tank costs $173M ==

    Sorry no. GAO numbers were $60M in margin costs per flight. Tanks cost nothing up to 12 a year – the tank facility cost $300M a year to keep going at a minimum level capable of building up to 12 tanks a year. There was no cost difference between 0 costs or 12. Pretty much the ame for all the rest. Huge fixed and upfrount costs. Not much of any per flight costs.

    Also the contractors proposed ways to drop the fixed cost of operating the shuttles per year by a factor of 4 with organizational changes.

    [Ironically commercial crew, with all the overhead Obamas loading on it, looks to cost even more per flight (total program cost per flight) then shuttle.]

    – that doesn’t include everything else needed to put together a flight ready Shuttle launch. So contrary to

    >> “ISS was built as a diplomatic tool to develop better relations with Russia post cold war”

    > Maybe you believe that, ==

    I was on the program and that’s how Gore and Clinton sold it to Congress, how Gore sold it to Clinton.

    >== but in actuality the ISS was built as a national research platform in space, ==

    Then why have we done virtually no research in it.

    >== and the Russians (plus our other partners) were brought in to “spread the pain” (i.e. help us pay for it).

    False. It cost us more money, and time to build with the international partners, then if we had done it alone. Adding more layers of bureaucratic crap and political goals ballooned the costs.

    >Rand
    >.. No, in actuality ISS would have died in 1993 except for the
    > Clinton administration’s decision to bring in the Russians to
    > give them some “midnight basketball” foreign aid from the
    > NASA budget to keep them from helping Iran develop nukes and missiles.

    How anyone thought building a station was going to stop them building arms for international sales is beyond me.

  • Kelly Starks

    > DCSCA wrote @ March 11th, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    >> @Kelly Starks wrote @ March 11th, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    > It’s old technology to maintain and never achieved any where close to the kind
    > of cost-effectiveness necessary to keep flying them, especially into the Age of
    > Austerity.==

    Its far cheaper then whats listed to replace it. The same insane political logic that made it so expensive are being loaded into Constellation, Orion/HLV, and commercial crew. Driving all to even higher – even FAR higher in some cases – total cost divided by the number of flights.

    >== And it’s clear the management structure in place to operate it has
    >had a spotty and costly record.

    Same NASA going to be there for the new programs. Don’t expect them to “over see” them any better.

    >== has demonstrated an inability (or resistence) to reduce operational
    > costs to fall in line with the new economic realities of our times and
    > failed to plan for a realistic successor to the STS system. ==

    Though to be fair. Given their primary “value” to their customers (Voters and congress folks) is pork, and the national apatite for pork is really going away. NASA really has no idea what they can offer folks want to pay for? Certainly right now theObama plans pretty much eliminate it.

    >== VSE was forced upon them by Columbia– ==

    Yeah, but Constellation wasn’t. They could have specified a far cheaper system to do as much. A $100B dev cost, and program costs totaling $250B for VSE?

    >== if you were planning a manned ‘shuttle’ STS system for this century
    > with the knowledge learned and experienced, you wouldn’t design one like
    > what’s flying now- particularly as a sidemount. ==

    5rI’ld certainly build id differently, but what you would do would be to lose the ET and SRB’s, and upgrade the orbiter. (Internal fuel, serviceability, etc) Sidmounts not a problem as long as your not raining crap on it from the ET.

    >== if NASA was safely tucked under the protective wing of the DoD
    > as a civilian division, ==

    NASA far to backward compared to the DOD.

  • Coastal Ron

    Kelly Starks wrote @ March 12th, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Constellation was a whole other issue, and Killing 5 shuttle programs couldn’t fund Constellation.

    True, but unrelated. That is also why the ISS program was being ended, just 5 years after construction was slated to be complete. Yep, a $100B space outpost, dumped or sold after just 5 years. But Constellation was a HUGE program, and needed as much money as Griffin could provide, including stealing from other exploration programs.

    Though Griffen was supposed to come up with a system that could be funded with funds left over when Shuttle and ISS was killed.

    Congress never approved/appropriated for such a program, so it doesn’t matter what rumors you heard – it didn’t happen. And besides, there was nothing for a Shuttle replacement to do since Constellation needed more money than Congress could provide, which meant no other HSF efforts.

    Even execs in aerospace companies I dealt with didn’t.

    Maybe they were humoring you, but I can tell you that every program manager in the aerospace industry knew about the largest funded program NASA had (i.e. Constellation), as well as all the others they had a chance to compete on. Maybe they didn’t care if Constellation was a Moon program or a search for E.T., but they knew the program existed.

    Voters want the pork, so congress funds agencies to deliver it.

    I don’t think you’ve been listening to the political discourse over the past election cycle. In any case, you just seem to be one of those cynical type people – you know, they type I’m glad are not in charge of anything I care about…

    Sorry no. GAO numbers were $60M in margin costs per flight.

    Here’s my supporting information:
    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=24363
    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=8785

    Where’s your supporting information?

    Tanks cost nothing up to 12 a year – the tank facility cost $300M a year to keep going at a minimum level capable of building up to 12 tanks a year.

    Your information is 30 years out of date – the original idea was for 12 flights/year, but that never happened. During these last 5 years, the Shuttle program has averaged 3.6 flights/year, with five being the most in any one year. The contract info I referenced also refutes your “free money” theory. TNSTAAFL also applies to Shuttle hardware… ;-)

    Not much of any per flight costs.

    I think we’ve shown that you don’t know anything about money, so I’ll just remind everyone that even if there were NO SHUTTLE FLIGHTS, the program still cost $200M/month ($2.4B/year).

    Also the contractors proposed ways to drop the fixed cost of operating the shuttles per year by a factor of 4 with organizational changes.

    Maybe with a major redesign of the entire Shuttle system, but that would also need a HUGE amount of money that NASA would have to pay. Besides, organizational issues could not result in that much cost reduction, and the contractors would never have proposed such cost reductions unless they were in danger of losing their contracts through competition – and competition didn’t exist within the Shuttle program.

    Then why have we done virtually no research in it [the ISS].

    If you refuse to look, then of course you won’t see anything. Congress seems to think enough worthwhile research is going on. What you think appears to be irrelevant.

    Oh, by the way, your spell check is broke again. It’s one thing to have a couple of typos (we all do), but another to appear to not even care if you’re intelligible.

  • Kelly Starks

    > Coastal Ron wrote @ March 12th, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    >> Kelly Starks wrote @ March 12th, 2011 at 8:26 pm
    >> “Constellation was a whole other issue, and Killing 5 shuttle programs
    >> couldn’t fund Constellation.”

    > True, but unrelated.

    > That is also why the ISS program was being ended, just 5 years after
    > construction was slated to be complete. ==

    Not really. I think that was always the scheduled end date. There was no real intention to use it – the program was to build it. Its built – program over – move on.

    [Excuse me while I scream.]

    >> “Though Griffen was supposed to come up with a system that could be
    >> funded with funds left over when Shuttle and ISS was killed.”

    > Congress never approved/appropriated for such a program, ==

    That’s thepoint – inside existing budget projects funded with savings was the whole origional Bush proposal in his speech. Obviously that’s technically easy – but not something Griffen was going for.

    >> “Even execs in aerospace companies I dealt with didn’t.”

    > knew about the largest funded program ==

    No they were honestly shocked NASA would go back to fully expendable capsules on boosters.

    Ok, he wasn’t an exec on a BIG aero company. Working there I was not surprised they aren’t top tier.

    >> “Voters want the pork, so congress funds agencies to deliver it.”

    > I don’t think you’ve been listening to the political discourse over the past election cycle.==

    As I mentioned NOW pork’s not as popular – at least folks say that, there’s still some question if they are still in favor of pork coming to them, but its seems not – so NASA has very little to offer, and doesn’t quite know what to do.

    >== In any case, you just seem to be one of those cynical type
    > people – you know, they type I’m glad are not in charge of anything I care about…

    On the contrary – this is the understanding throughout everyone in gov and politics.

    >> “Sorry no. GAO numbers were $60M in margin costs per flight.”

    > Here’s my supporting information:
    > http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=24363
    > http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=8785

    Which don’t seem to relate to or mention the point in debate.

    > Where’s your supporting information?

    And of course I can’t find the GAO report.

    Other GAO reports quoted NASA reports.

    In the ‘90’s NASA quoted numbers in the $40+ million range

    http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/nexgen/Shuttle_FixVar.htm
    This one in 94 had nASA listing $40M
    NASA has valued shuttle flights at a marginal cost for fuel and
    other expendable items of about $40 million per flight.

    archive.gao.gov/t2pbat3/151975.pdf

    http://www.gao.gov/archive/1999/ns99177.pdf

    By ’04 GAO/NASA were saying $84

    A GAO quoted NASA numbers in ‘04 related to Shuttle flights supporting station:
    NASA stated that shuttle flights should be allocated to the overall cost
    of operating the space station using a marginal cost of $84 million per flight

    So it might depend on what inflation did to money that year.

    Other reports or articles listing $60m (with inflation adjustments):

    http%3A%2F%2Fsciencepolicy.colorado.edu%2Fadmin%2Fpublication_files%2Fresource-100-1993.01.pdf&rct=j&q=Space Shuttle Value Open To Interpretation&ei=4i59Tc9uh_asAePxmdQF&usg=AFQjCNGTpfj13wl6PWqa9Ngwhj6TDdIfFw&sig2=PfxJ0pwPGTg2hGzGXM-zYQ&cad=rja

    sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication…/resource-100-1993.01.pdf
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_program

    >> “Tanks cost nothing up to 12 a year – the tank facility cost $300M a year
    >> to keep going at a minimum level capable of building up to 12 tanks a year.”

    > Your information is 30 years out of date – the original idea was for 12 flights/year, but that never happened. ==

    Didn’t say they ever built 12 a year, I said there is no cost difference per year for years they build no tanks in (but weer fully staffed/operations in the tank facility) or years where they built 12tanks. I.E., the tanks are free, the tank facilities about $300m a year (or was last year I had data for.)

    > Shuttle hardware…
    >>“Not much of any per flight costs.”

    > I think we’ve shown that you don’t know anything about money, ==

    See above.

    >== so I’ll just remind everyone that even if there were NO SHUTTLE
    > FLIGHTS, the program still cost $200M/month ($2.4B/year).

    Currently yes. ULA/USA offered a organizational change which would allow that to drop to $1.5B per year. Which isn’t much over commercial crew program numbers.

    Course all this really depends not on what the launches cost – but on the bureaucratic overhead and pork costs NASA / Congress adds in.

    I won’t what cost NASA figure adds up per Soyuz flight with NASA crew?

    >> “Also the contractors proposed ways to drop the fixed cost of
    >> operating the shuttles per year by a factor of 4 with organizational changes.”

    > Maybe with a major redesign of the entire Shuttle system, ==

    No changes to the hardware at all. Purely from contract changes and organizational changes. Largely cutting out NASA operational inefficiency.

    NASA keeps a lot of stuff on the shuttle books, utterly unnecessary to shuttle. When I was at JSC every fight I collected data tapes from departments that did nothing but generate that data for the flight planning department. Though no one in the department ever looked at it.

    Now if you want to think of how much you could save on top of that if you were to upgrade the shuttle hardware for serviceability (even just sticking to low cost mods) you’d be multiplying that several fold.

    >== the contractors would never have proposed such cost reductions
    > unless they were in danger of losing their contracts through competition ==

    Actually they have been for as long as the program was going.

    >> “Then why have we done virtually no research in it [the ISS].”

    > If you refuse to look, then of course you won’t see anything.
    Don’t be a jerk – theres to much of that in space advocacy folks as there is.

    >== Congress seems to think enough worthwhile research is going on. ==

    Never heard congress even ask about it. They never built it for that, never complained when the research efforts were defunded to save money, so I don’t see any basis for you statement.

  • Coastal Ron

    Kelly Starks wrote @ March 13th, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    I think that was always the scheduled end date. [for the ISS]

    Per the GAO report you referenced:

    There is a high degree of uncertainty in NASA’s estimate for the cost to operate the space station from 2005 to 2014. NASA’s original estimate of $13 billion for operating the space station was developed to aid in evaluating life-cycle costs of redesign options rather than to accurately forecast budget needs. This estimate did not consider end-of-mission costs for either extending the life of the space station beyond 10 years or decommissioning it.

    This being the first permanent space station the U.S. had built, there was a lot that NASA and Congress didn’t know, like how long it could last in space, and the cost of keeping it running. But if anything, the above statement shows that no one had decided one way or the other – THERE WAS NO PLANNED END DATE. Until Constellation came along that is, and then Constellation needed the funds from the ISS and Shuttle to build the Ares I/V vehicles.

    Its built – program over – move on.

    Congress disagrees with you (what a surprise) – from the current NASA Authorization Act:

    SEC 50.1 POLICY OF THE UNITED STATES.—It shall be the policy of the United States, in consultation with its international partners in the ISS program, to support full and complete utilization of the ISS through at least 2020.

    And

    SEC. 502. MAXIMUM UTILIZATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.
    IN GENERAL.—With assembly of the ISS complete, NASA shall take steps to maximize the productivity and use of the ISS with respect to scientific and technological research and develop- ment, advancement of space exploration, and international collaboration.
    (b) NASA ACTIONS.—In carrying out subsection (a), NASA shall, at a minimum, undertake the following:
    (1) INNOVATIVE USE OF U.S. SEGMENT.—The United States segment of the ISS, which has been designated as a National Laboratory, shall be developed, managed and utilized in a manner that enables the effective and innovative use of such facility, as provided in section 504.

    On the contrary – this is the understanding throughout everyone in gov and politics.

    Yes, I’m sure they all keep you updated, since you are such a key person for whatever it is that you do. Still picking up data tapes? Now I can see why you have such an inside view into the thoughts of aerospace executives and Congress…

    Other reports or articles listing $60m [cost of one Shuttle flight] (with inflation adjustments):

    The GAO report you linked states:

    NASA estimates that five to six shuttle flights a year will be needed to support the space station after assembly is completed: Five flights will be launched each year to resupply the space station and rotate crew, and a sixth shuttle flight will be launched every 3 years to exchange the CRV. Based on an average cost of $435 million per flight in fiscal year 2004, about $2.2 billion to $2.6 billion of the annual space shuttle budget should be considered space station-related costs.

    Which references:

    Average cost per flight is defined as the total cost to operate the shuttle on a recurring and sustained basis for a given year divided by the number of flights planned for that year. NASA plans to fly seven flights annually during the operations period. The average and marginal costs per flight are based on fiscal year 2004 estimates projected in NASA’s fiscal year 2000 budget submission to Congress.

    So regardless what your THINK the marginal cost of a Shuttle flight is, that’s not the way the Congress budgets for the Shuttle program. It’s the total cost that has to be paid for.

    And I know you like to cite the “marginal cost” for when flights are plentiful, but then you completely ignore that when no Shuttles are flying, that there is a cost basis that keeps costing American Taxpayers $Billions of dollars per year – for NO FLIGHTS!

    ULA/USA offered a organizational change which would allow that to drop to $1.5B per year.

    United Launch Alliance (ULA) has not put in a bid for the Shuttle. Try doing some research before you post.

    Regarding United Space Alliance and their bid, no one knows the caveats to their bid. For instance, are they relying on free rent for NASA facilities? Do they include negotiated prices for the SRB’s, or are those extra? What is the flight rate? Who pays for Shuttle orbiter repairs & upgrades? Just because they put in a bid it doesn’t mean it’s a worthwhile.

    It’s funny how you take rumors as gospel, but consider facts as suspect.

    BTW, I see you still haven’t taken that Finance 101 course I recommended to you last year. It would really help you to understand how much everything costs…

  • Kelly Starks

    Odd. After posting the page refreashed without the posting – or its same screen format.

    Oh well – one more time.

    > Coastal Ron wrote @ March 13th, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    >> Kelly Starks wrote @ March 13th, 2011 at 5:45 pm
    >> “I think that was always the scheduled end date. [for the ISS]”

    > Per the GAO report you referenced:
    > “There is a high degree of uncertainty in NASA’s estimate
    > for the cost to operate the space station from 2005 to 2014. ==

    I was referring to 2015 decommissioning date which was just extended to 2020. Not dates debated before ’04. Sorry for any confusion.

    >== THERE WAS NO PLANNED END DATE. Until Constellation came
    > along that is, and then Constellation needed the funds from
    > the ISS and Shuttle to build the Ares I/V vehicles.

    No the phase out preceeeded Constellation or Griffen since Bush / O’Keefe specified budget savings with the elimination of ISS and Shuttle would fund VSE. Griffen, and Griffens constellation (with its insane budget) came along later.

    >> “Its built – program over – move on.”
    > Congress disagrees with you ==

    They did last year as to the phase out date (though that may change this cycle) but no significant research projects have been funded for it.

    http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-111publ267/html/PLAW-111publ267.htm
    >
    > “SEC 50.1 POLICY OF THE UNITED STATES.—It shall be the policy
    > of the United States, in consultation with its international partners
    > in the ISS program, to support full and complete utilization of the
    > ISS through at least 2020.”
    > And
    > “SEC. 502. MAXIMUM UTILIZATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.
    > IN GENERAL.—With assembly of the ISS complete, NASA shall take
    > steps to maximize the productivity and use of the ISS with
    > respect to scientific and technological research and development, =

    Pretty words signifying nothing. Congress paasses tons of them

    >> “On the contrary – this is the understanding throughout
    >> everyone in gov and politics.”

    > Yes, I’m sure they all keep you updated, ==

    Its not like politicians etc don’t love to talk – and get analyzed a lot.

    >== since you are such a key person for whatever it is that you do. ==

    Sr systems engineer – on the presentational helicopter spec dev project if your actually curious. But that’s now – fall will likely be different.

    Hsave resume, will travel.

    >> “Other reports or articles listing $60m [cost of
    >> one Shuttle flight] (with inflation adjustments):”

    > The GAO report you linked states:
    >> ====“NASA
    >> Which references:
    >> “Average cost per flight is defined =

    Which of course isn’t what we were talking about.

    >= there is a cost basis that keeps costing American
    > Taxpayers $Billions of dollars per year – for NO FLIGHTS!

    Which is exactly what I was saying!! Little if any of the cost of shuttle flights is the cost of the actual flights. The Marginal costs are about $60M worth. The fixed cost (sunk and yearly) which are highly adjustable given the ways of NASA, divided by the total number of flights gives you the $1.3B total program cost per flight minus the (virtually irrelevant) marine costs. So, increasing or decreaseing flight rates, doesn’t impact the yearly budgets any.

    >> “ULA/USA offered a organizational change which would
    >> allow that to drop to $1.5B per year.”

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41397955/ns/technology_and_science-space/

    >== no one knows the caveats to their bid. For instance,
    > are they relying on free rent for NASA facilities? Do they
    > include negotiated prices for the SRB’s, or are those extra?
    > What is the flight rate? Who pays for Shuttle orbiter repairs & upgrades? ==

    Flight rate was given, I don’t remember ever charging USA or ULA for the facilities NASA supplies them – so I did assume that. The rest are good questions, but again given the limited cost of actual operations and servicing of shuttle, and that they have bided lower numbers before, this probably includes operations and recertification of new suppliers (now that NASA has shut down the old suppliers, many of whom closed up shop.

  • The Marginal costs are about $60M worth.

    This is not now, and never was true. Even in the eighties the marginal cost was over a hundred million dollars. You can’t even buy an external tank for sixty million.

  • Coastal Ron

    Kelly Starks wrote @ March 14th, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Sr systems engineer – on the presentational helicopter spec dev project

    What’s a “presentational helicopter”?

    Hsave resume, will travel.

    I hope you use a professional resume service, because you are just about unintelligible on this blog, and when I’m hiring, I automatically discard resumes with typos.

    …given the limited cost of actual operations and servicing of shuttle

    I’ll show you the costs again. This time try reading and comprehending them:

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=24363
    Which shows that NASA was paying $173M for each External Tank. That cost will go up with the lower flight rate USA is proposing.

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=24363
    Which shows that NASA was paying $69M for each SRB set. That cost will go up with the lower flight rate USA is proposing.

    None of these are “sunk costs”, and they all contribute to the marginal cost of a Shuttle flight. Just the ET & SRB’s alone cost $242M.

    Here are more costs that have to be considered, and keep in mind that the prices quoted are based on a flight rate that NASA provided to the contractors, so any significant increase would need to be negotiated. In other words, NASA would not get “free services” just because they wanted to increase the flight rate (like going from 5 to 10 flights/year).

    http://www.thefreelibrary.com/United+Space+Alliance+and+NASA+Sign+Space+Flight+Operations+Contract-a018721721
    Which shows that NASA was paying USA $1,167M/year ($97M/mo) to process the Shuttle fleet.

    http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Pratt+%26+Whitney+Rocketdyne+Awarded+%24975+Million+NASA+Contract…-a0167251308
    Which shows that NASA was paying PWR $250M/year to maintain the SSME’s.

    So please Kelly, stop embarrassing yourself trying to show that a systems engineer understands money issues. Stick with what you know, which is (I think) presentational helicopters (whatever that is).

  • Martijn Meijering

    What’s a “presentational helicopter”?

    Good question! Maybe it’s something that only looks like a real helicopter. The Ares I-X of helicopters so to speak.

  • Kelly Starks

    > Coastal Ron wrote @ March 14th, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    >>Kelly Starks wrote @ March 14th, 2011 at 10:35 am

    >> “Sr systems engineer – on the presentational helicopter spec dev project”

    > What’s a “presentational helicopter”?

    Sorry, bad day.

    Presidential Helicopter. I.E. the big green and white thing that drops into the south lawn.

    If he knew what I knew -he’ld likely take the limo.
    ;)

    ==
    >>“…given the limited cost of actual operations and servicing of shuttle”

    > I’ll show you the costs again. =

    You and Rand can argue it with the GAO, NASA, and historical records.

  • None of those ever claimed that the marginal cost of a Shuttle flight was only sixty millions.

  • Kelly Starks

    > Rand Simberg wrote @ March 14th, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    > None of those ever claimed that the marginal cost of a Shuttle
    > flight was only sixty millions.

    NASA and GAO did. Check the links to gov papers I listed and quoted no that.

  • Provide the quotes. I don’t have time to dig to figure out how you might have misinterpreted them.

  • Coastal Ron

    Rand Simberg wrote @ March 15th, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Provide the quotes. I don’t have time to dig to figure out how you might have misinterpreted them.

    I dug through and found information that refutes his numbers, but he chooses to ignore those things that prove him wrong.

  • Kelly Starks

    > Rand Simberg wrote @ March 15th, 2011 at 2:18 pm
    > Provide the quotes. ==

    I did that above Rand.

    >==I dug through and found information that refutes his numbers,=

    You dug through the GAO and NASA reports and fuond numbers to directly refute the GAO and NASA quotes?

    Neet trick.

  • Coastal Ron

    Kelly Starks wrote @ March 16th, 2011 at 11:06 am

    You dug through the GAO and NASA reports and fuond numbers to directly refute the GAO and NASA quotes?

    No, your misreading of them.

  • > Provide the quotes. ==

    I did that above Rand.

    No, you didn’t. You just said things like “GAO quotes costs of…” without actually providing actual quotes, in context, from the document. As I said, I don’t have time to go through the documents to identify all of the ways that you misinterpreted them.

  • Kelly Starks

    > Coastal Ron wrote @ March 16th, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    >> Kelly Starks wrote @ March 16th, 2011 at 11:06 am

    >> “You dug through the GAO and NASA reports and fuond
    >> numbers to directly refute the GAO and NASA quotes?”

    > No, your misreading of them.

    The question was find something suggesting NASA adn GAO had claimed margin costs per launch of a shuttle of $60M. I provide GAO doc’s where NASA and GAO staet margin costs per shuttle flight of $40 back a couple decades and $80 back a couple years.

    Nothing to misread.

  • I provide GAO doc’s where NASA and GAO staet margin costs per shuttle flight of $40 back a couple decades and $80 back a couple years.

    No, you provided what you claimed to be links to documents that you claimed said that. You provided no actual evidence that they do, other than your say so. Again, I’m not going to waste my time reading through a document to try to figure out how you misinterpreted it.

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