Congress, Lobbying, NASA

Briefly: heavy-lift debate update, silly season, Gordon’s new job

Space News has some updates on the latest perspectives on heavy-lift development. In one, administration officials are “pushing back” on development of the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket included in last year’s authorization act. OSTP director John Holdren told Space News said that delays in getting a final FY11 budget mean that it would be effectively impossible for NASA to spend the full amount authorized in FY12 for SLS, $2.65 billion, even if appropriated. “There is, I think, a real question as to whether it can be done in the time that the Congress would like, but in the end it’s difficult to legislate scientific and engineering reality,” he said. Meanwhile, in a House hearing yesterday, members pressed NASA to press ahead with SLS. Referring to the language in the authorization act, science committee chairman Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) said, “The administration needs to acknowledge this and act accordingly.”

Speaking of SLS and ongoing Congressional budget debates, the Space Frontier Foundation warns, “It’s Silly Season Again!”. It contrasts the full-year House CR, HR 1, with a Senate version that, as previously noted, appeared to mandate NASA move ahead immediately with a 130-ton SLS and not a 70-to-100-ton initial version included in the authorization act. “[S]ome in Congress want to make NASA build their favorite rocket, without competition, even though NASA has already told them it can’t be done for the resources available on anything like the timetable Congress wants,” the Foundation states in their release, asking people to contact their Congressional representatives and ask that any SLS development be competed openly. “It’s time to stop the Congress from mandating the Senate Launch System, and let NASA compete ideas for one (or more) Space Launch System(s).” [emphasis in original]

Bart Gordon, the former chairman of the House Science Committee who retired last year, has a new position: partner in the public policy and law practice of K&L Gates in Washington. Gordon’s areas of work will include “innovation and technology-related issues”, according to the release, although aerospace is not explicitly mentioned.

199 comments to Briefly: heavy-lift debate update, silly season, Gordon’s new job

  • amightywind

    Holdren, Bolden, and Garver need to **** or get off the pot. They are not and never will be aligned with the congressional vision for NASA HSF. The deceive and obfusticate. We cannot tolerate political operatives in these positions for much longer. We need people of action, preferably engineers. (Mike Griffin is available.) I would like to see them go for the whole enchilada on the HLV, 200mT! What bothers me about the current process is there are *still* no plans for the rocket that will launch Orion. That is the most immediate need. Great options abound.

  • Justin Kugler

    You still don’t get it, windy. This is a political process. NASA cannot move forward until the political logjam is cleared. Griffin wouldn’t have done any better in this environment. He never got the White House or Congress to give Constellation the funds he was promised, did he?

    The NASA leadership needs to consist of people who can bridge the gaps between the policy and technical worlds. James Webb is venerated as an administrator because he did just that, not because he was a technical genius, and he left when he realized he no longer had the political capital to continue effectively.

  • They are not and never will be aligned with the congressional vision for NASA HSF.

    There is no congressional vision for NASA HSF. There is a desire on the part of the few congresspeople who care to preserve jobs in their states and districts.

    I would like to see them go for the whole enchilada on the HLV, 200mT!

    Fortunately, the likes of people like you are irrelevant. The money for it is not there, and never will be.

    What bothers me about the current process is there are *still* no plans for the rocket that will launch Orion.

    In the unfortunate event that Orion ever gets built, it will launch on a Delta IV.

  • John Malkin

    Any idea what is the something big coming from SpaceX? Could it be related to SLS?

    http://www.spacex.com/index.php

  • Congress needs to get off the pot and stop legislating job assistance (and vote buying) under the auspices of NASA. NASA leadership and engineers have shown Congress what can and cannot be done fort the money they’ve ponied up. Congress keeps choosing that which cannot be done at the price they’re willing to pay.

    After these big rockets have spent so many years stealing money from other NASA projects it’s refreshing to see those other projects getting a bit back. Congress whines selectively on these issues.

    Ultimately Congress has the money or their bad ‘advice’ wouldn’t even be given lip service.

  • Major Tom

    “Holdren, Bolden, and Garver need to **** or get off the pot. They are not and never will be aligned with the congressional vision for NASA HSF.”

    It’s not a matter of alignment. Per Mr. Foust’s post, it’s a matter of budget. Congress has _not_ provided a budget for SLS in FY11, so SLS cannot start, even though half the fiscal year is over. And if the SLS schedule is sliding to the right thanks to Congress, so too should the funding wedge. Otherwise, NASA will have to send hundreds of millions, if not billions, of unspent dollars back to the Treasury at the end of the FY11 and FY12 spending cycles. That would be an egregious waste of taxpayer resources in a time of fiscal austerity.

    Moreover, as the SFF points out, Congress hasn’t decided what SLS it wants NASA to build. It’s 130 tons in some documents. It’s 70-100 tons (and 130 tons) in others. And Constellation is still on the books. The Legislative Branch has provided no clear direction on their SLS design(s) for the Executive Branch to “align” to, even if there was a budget.

    “The deceive and obfusticate. .”

    Being forthright with Congress about budgetary realities that congressional inaction itself is imposing is not “deceptive” or “obfuscating”.

    Being a good steward of the taxpayer’s dollar, in poor or good fiscal eras, is not “deceptive” or “obfuscating”.

    Being careful about committing the nation’s space agency to what will be its largest expenditure over the next decade before clear goals and adequate funding are in place is not “deceptive” or “obfuscating”.

    “We cannot tolerate political operatives in these positions for much longer.”

    All these positions are politically appointed. By definition, anyone in these positions is a “political operative”.

    And Holdren, the only one of the three mentioned in Mr. Foust’s post, is not acting like a politician, anyway. He’s acting like a good manager — being forthright about budget realities, shepherding the taxpayer’s dollar, and not overcommitting NASA — which is what the Executive Branch is all about.

    “(Mike Griffin is available.)”

    If you don’t want deception, obfuscation, and political operatives, then you don’t want to bring back someone who deceived the Bush II Administration and Congress about the affordability of Constellation, who obfuscated on the poor state of affairs in Constellation with the transition team of the new Administration, and who lobbied Congress like a political operative — with old astronauts nonetheless — after he left NASA.

    “I would like to see them go for the whole enchilada on the HLV, 200mT!”

    To justify the additional spending, there needs to be an approved and funded set of missions and architecture that require that throw weight. There isn’t.

    “What bothers me about the current process is there are *still* no plans for the rocket that will launch Orion.”

    Sure there are. LockMart plans to launch Orion on a Delta IV.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703572404575635504110337016.html

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    There are actually a lot of quotes from Holdren in that Space News article that bear repeating:

    “White House science adviser John Holdren said March 30 that while the president’s proposed $18.7 billion budget for NASA in 2012 would fund key themes contained in the bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2010, Congress’ inability to pass a 2011 spending bill is preventing the agency from beginning work on the new Space Launch System (SLS) and Multipurpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) the law states should be operational by 2016.

    In a March 30 interview, Holdren said NASA is further hindered by restrictive language in last year’s appropriation that prevents the agency from scrapping the Moon-bound Constellation program and funding development of the new space launch system and crew exploration vehicle called for in the law.

    ‘As a result of those constraints it’s been impossible, I think, to be on the trajectory for the new program that we’d be on if we’d had real budgets,’ Holdren said following remarks at the Goddard Memorial Symposium here. ‘And being not on that trajectory, the idea that we could spend as much money in 2012 as they authorized I think is just a little out of date.’”

    … With the White House under pressure to curb spending, Holdren said the president’s proposal represents “the most aggressive program” for a heavy-lift launch vehicle development given the constrained budget NASA will face in the coming years.

    ‘There is, I think, a real question as to whether it can be done in the time that the Congress would like, but in the end it’s difficult to legislate scientific and engineering reality,’ he said, adding, ‘NASA is determined and the administration is determined to do the best we can to get a heavy-lift vehicle as fast as we can and I think that’s the best one can say.’”

    And from Bolden:

    “’When we do our first flight some time toward the end of this decade, when we go to an asteroid in 2025 as the president has asked us to do, it will be on a vehicle that is not as capable as the one that will be required when we go to Mars because we don’t want to seal ourselves, lock ourselves in to a technology today that will be antiquated when we need it,’ Bolden said. ‘So that’s the reason I use the term evolvable, developed in incremental steps. And when we get there it will be something that is as close to the state of the art as we can possibly be at that time.’

    … Bolden said NASA does not expect to solicit industry proposals for the heavy-lift launch vehicle development for ‘at least a year.’ He said the rocket and crew capsule programs must be ‘affordable, sustainable and realistic’ and that NASA would seek outside cost estimates for the new architecture.

    ‘We’re going to get independent entities to look at our work and if they say, ‘You can’t do what you said you’re going to do, it’s going to cost you much more than that,’ it may require us to go back and do some more homework,’ he said.

    Bolden said it will also be important to understand the degree to which NASA’s work force and infrastructure are involved in ground operations that will provide support to space exploration missions.

    ‘We’re going to give [Congress] something to look at that is an integrated system of an SLS, MPCV and the ground operations portion that will work,’ he said. ‘How we’re involved in the day-to-day operations of an exploration system will help determine the ground-ops side of it.’”

    FWIW…

  • John Malkin

    Michael Griffin 2008 Budget

    No later than 2014, and as early as 2010, transport three
    crewmembers to the International Space Station and
    return them safely to earth, demonstrating an operational
    capability to support human exploration missions.

    By 2010, demonstrate one or more commercial space
    services for ISS cargo and/or crew transport.

    Which is closer?

  • John Malkin

    By the way Constellation budget was projected to go up to over 7B in 2011 with the retirement of Shuttle. This is in Griffin’s 2008 budget.

  • common sense

    “we don’t want to seal ourselves, lock ourselves in to a technology today that will be antiquated when we need it”

    General Bolden, Charlie if I may, you say all those things just because you don’t want to use Area 51 technology that has aleady, I repeat, already been patented. The most remarkable aspect of this technology by the way is not its gravity-wave-rider concept – which is already pretty cool if you ask me – but rather the fact that it does not require any, ANY budget whatsoever to work. None. Zip. Nada.

    “‘We’re going to give [Congress] something to look at”

    I can think of something here. I am not sure if it is integrated though.

  • John Malkin wrote:

    Any idea what is the something big coming from SpaceX? Could it be related to SLS?

    They announced a contract yesterday with a British satellite firm:

    http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20110331/BUSINESS/103310308/British-satellites-ride-Falcon-9

    … but after watching that video clip you linked, my guess is it’s either (1) Falcon 9 Heavy, or (2) something related to COTS/CCDev, perhaps NASA’s going to let them combine the next two tests to attempt docking Dragon at the ISS.

  • I would happily second the nomination of Mike Griffin. Or even Dr Zurbin. Anyone who seriously wants to actually accomplish something rather than making excuses, and that has the technical competence to be able to direct NASA. However, I suspect that we are stuck with Rocket J Gaver and Bolden the Moose until Jan 2013 ;-)

    As far as Congress, there is the bigger issue of the 2011 budget, but at the committee level there is unified bipartisan consensus that we are not going to throw away our manned space program, despite the wishes of the WH. At the same time they are willing to gradually increase opportunities for commercial, which can grow, should commercial firms prove themselves (as SpaceX is doing with COTS).

    What is remarkable to me is how much Obama and the commercial lobby deserve credit for, throught obvious missteps, dramatically icreasing congressional and public support for NASA. The more the SFF tries to take down NASA, the stronger NASA becomes. When GHB proposed a Mars mission, Congress totally rejected it. Today they are forcing Bolden to undertake serious, meaningful missions and objectives, rather than allowing him to set NASA up for failure and oblivion.

  • NASA can make the SLS and MPCV work. If you diagree, I invite you to argue with Wayne Hale.

    As far as Bolden’s claims that they are “unaffordable” and “unsustainable”, as long as Congress continue to discard Obama’s proposals and instead fully fund them, his argument appears to be moot…

    Untimately, Bolden will have no choice but to follow Congressional direction, once the 2011 budget is released. (As least until he can get an ammendment to the US Constitution…)

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    I think SpaceX still has a 10% share of SSTL while EADS Astrium has 80% with the remainder still with still with the University of Surrey. Also think there’s still a U.S. subsidiary SST US LLC. Interesting development.

    But surely SpaceX launch book is getting full. If they keep this up, they’ll have to annouce in expansion of their existing factory. Bit like the expansion of their McGregor Engine Test Facility. Unless they are continuing to streamline their production side (which I’d expect).
    Would capacity restrictions be in engines or tanks et al or integration or personel? I’ll bet personel and integration.

  • Bennett

    Beancounter from Downunder wrote @ March 31st, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    With deal after deal falling into their books, a successful COTS2 flight followed by an IPO would almost guarantee substantial expansion to meet demand.

    Snowball follows.

    On consideration, I thing the April 4th announcement will simply be a public rollout of Falcon Heavy. Sure, WE know it’s coming and on their manifest, but the American Public hasn’t a clue, nor the lawmakers.

    I hope it’s more than that, but I’m not betting on it.
     
     
    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ March 31st, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    There is absolutely nothing in your two comments that I don’t view as intentional distortion or partisan gloom and doom where none is warranted. Or both.

    Name calling is rather juvinile, and adds nothing to the conversation. Please grow up.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ March 31st, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    “NASA can make the SLS and MPCV work. If you diagree, I invite you to argue with Wayne Hale.”

    no problem bring it on as they say. NASA has not completed a single launch vehicle project since the shuttle. The last one it was working on it spent 10 billion dollars and got one lousy non valid test flight that was suborbital for about 600 million.

    Tell me again why you think NASA can make SLS work?

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ March 31st, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    none of that is more then just wishful thinking. The Congress is not serious about SLS..some members are just fracken along to keep the home team happy, if they were serious about SLS there would be money for a specific test flight and specific milestones…see how Congress protected the B-1 bomber during Carter’s administration.

    As for a Mars or Moon mission…are you joking?

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Well the tea leaves are that a government shutdown kills STS 135…the Commercial announcement is April 6…and SpaceX has got some big news (as noted earlier)…can anyone say NRO payloads and the new human tended vehicles the DoD is working on?

    Robert G. Oler

  • @John Malkin,

    The “something big” from SpaceX is very likely something related to the Falcon Heavy, a proposed heavy-lift version of the Falcon 9.

    There’s a brief picture of it, and the video ends with a screen containing the letters “FH”.

    More info:

    http://www.spacex.com/falcon_heavy.php

  • common sense

    @ Nelson Bridwell wrote @ March 31st, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    “NASA can make the SLS and MPCV work. If you diagree, I invite you to argue with Wayne Hale.”

    I disagree and I welcome Wayne Hale if he wants to argue.

  • common sense

    @ Nelson Bridwell wrote @ March 31st, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    “Today they are forcing Bolden to undertake serious, meaningful missions and objectives, rather than allowing him to set NASA up for failure and oblivion.”

    It must be nice to live in fantasy country, somehow I envy you.

    They are “forcing”? And how exactly are they doing that? By providing no (zero) budget? Wow. Who would have thought?

    Ever had a manager who asked you to do some work, I mean “force” you to do some work without a budget? Have you? Ever?

    Oh well…

  • Rhyolite

    John Malkin wrote:

    “Any idea what is the something big coming from SpaceX? Could it be related to SLS?”

    SpaceX now has a “Falcon Heavy Demo Flight” from Vandenberg showing on its manifest for 2012:

    http://www.spacex.com/launch_manifest.php

    There is also a teaser video that has been released:

    http://news.discovery.com/space/spacex-something-big-and-heavy-is-coming-110331.html

    The video flashes “What’s Next?”, “SOMETHING BIG IS COMING 04.05.11″, flashes a Falcon 9H in silhouette, and ends with a “FH” logo followed by the SpaceX logo.

    This is either some serious disinformation or they are green lighting the Falcon 9 Heavy with a first launch next year.

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ March 31st, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    NASA can make the SLS and MPCV work.

    Given enough time and money, anything can fly, but that is part of the issue here – time and money, and the lack thereof from Congress.

    The other issue that Congress has still not addressed is WHAT WILL WE USE THE SLS & MPCV FOR?

    Simple question.

    Can anyone point to any funded programs that will use them, or potential programs that are close to being funded? I mean, Congress wants the SLS ready by the end of 2016, but they haven’t funded anything to put on top of it.

    That is probably part of the reason why the Administration is not saluting the Congressional flag and blindly spending money on something that can’t be built on-time and on-budget. How dare they!! ;-)

  • Coastal Ron

    Beancounter from Downunder wrote @ March 31st, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    If they keep this up, they’ll have to annouce in expansion of their existing factory.

    With the flight rate that they are forecasting, that could be true. There was an article in a composites magazine last year where they talked with SpaceX about their composite inter-stage. In the interview they mentioned that their current tooling for the Al-Li tanks could produce a tank every 3 weeks. No other details, like the time it took for the upper stage or if that was just one shift.

    Of course they could just add a second shift, and they already staff a second shift for a number of departments judging by their list of job openings in Los Angeles. They could even add a third shift if they really wanted to be capital efficient. My first management job was supervising a 2nd & 3rd shift (don’t ask, I was young), and my last management position in a factory was supporting 24/7 operation – if your factory is capital intensive, then running it constantly can mitigate growth issues.

    Once they IPO, I would imagine that some of that money would go towards expanding their manufacturing capabilities too.

    My $0.02

  • Over the long term, the cost of HLV development will become insignificant, provided that we continue to use it, over and over again for the next several decades, just as we should have for the Saturn V.

    “New Space” needs to abandon their futile and counterporductive attempts to canabilize NASA and focus instead on practical, affordable, reusable technologies for dramatically lowering launch costs enough to grow new markets such as space tourism. Most NASA missions are too infrequent, demanding, capital-intensive, and specialized to be a good fit for the likes of Blue Origin, Armadillo Aerospace, and XCOR.

    Unlike the phantom selling points of commercial space dogma, simple economics dictate that ISRU technologies will be vital for exploration and development of the Moon and Mars

  • Nelson, I’m sure NASA will come up with a non-counting form of accounting to claim their HLV development is affordable.

    For example, although Congress has insisted NASA “continue” the contracts for Constellation when working on SLS, they’ll no doubt reset the contribution to those contracts prior to the new start of SLS (which isn’t a new start by law).

  • Justin Kugler

    Nelson, do you not understand why we stopped using the Saturn V? It cost nearly $2 billion per launch, in today’s money. There are no payloads to justify a flight rate high enough to make a rocket like that affordable. That is the crux of the problem with Congress’ approach of “build it because we say so.” They are not actually advocating any real missions.

    Demonizing “New Space” and accusing it of cannibalizing NASA just illustrates how little you know of what’s actually going on here. SpaceX and Orbital will provide cargo services to NASA for a fraction of the in-house cost. Companies like Armadillo and Masten are helping figure out new ways of building things like landers more affordably.

    You should be advocating that Congress retain the NASA workforce by giving them meaningful work to do advancing space exploration, not maligning the people who are working to make it easier for NASA to do just that.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 1st, 2011 at 3:31 am

    Over the long term, the cost of HLV development will become insignificant, provided that we continue to use it, over and over again for the next several decades, just as we should have for the Saturn V. …

    the cost to develop will be overwhelmed by the cost to use the darn thing. that is the reason we stopped flying the Saturn Robert G. Oler

  • Ferris Valyn

    Over the long term, the cost of HLV development will become insignificant, provided that we continue to use it, over and over again for the next several decades, just as we should have for the Saturn V.

    Thats kinda like how if you extend the timeline out, the survival chances of everything are zero.

    For some reasons though, I think I’ll not commit suicide.

    “New Space” needs to abandon their futile and counterporductive attempts to canabilize NASA and focus instead on practical, affordable, reusable technologies for dramatically lowering launch costs enough to grow new markets such as space tourism. Most NASA missions are too infrequent, demanding, capital-intensive, and specialized to be a good fit for the likes of Blue Origin, Armadillo Aerospace, and XCOR.

    good grief. What BS. Nobody that I know of is trying to cannibalize NASA – we are trying to get it to focus on areas where there is no business case, and in areas where there are business cases, work together to allow us a broader expansion.

    By your argument, the airlines should ever plan on flying NASA employees either.

    Unlike the phantom selling points of commercial space dogma, simple economics dictate that ISRU technologies will be vital for exploration and development of the Moon and Mars

    Nobody in Newspace argues against ISRU. Most of us think its, at a minimum, necessary.

    I (and I suspect many would agree with me) believe it isn’t enough, though

  • GWM

    What’s the use in building even a 75T HLV by 2016 if we’re not going to anywhere important before 2025? And even if we build it to take Orion a few times around the block (as opposed to using EELV’s), how much will that cost all of us? How expensive would the average automobile be if Detroit built only 4-6 per year?

  • John Malkin

    Rhyolite wrote @ April 1st, 2011 at 1:37 am

    SpaceX now has a “Falcon Heavy Demo Flight” from Vandenberg showing on its manifest for 2012:

    I wonder if it will be the published Falcon Heavy or maybe an upgraded version that is over 70mT LEO. It would be hilarious if SpaceX launched a 130mT rocket next year.

    http://www.spacex.com/falcon_heavy.php

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 1st, 2011 at 3:31 am

    Over the long term, the cost of HLV development will become insignificant, provided that we continue to use it

    Have you ever thought about how much the payloads will end up costing in order to fully utilize an HLV?

    Who is going to pay for that much payload?

    When people talk about a lack of business case (as Ferris did), this is part of it. Which program(s) are the customer for all this lift capacity, and when do they get their funding?

    Why can’t you answer simple questions like this if you feel that HLV’s are necessary?

  • Justin: Here is an analysis from Mike Griffin of what it would have cost to keep Saturn V going:

    Let’s look at some recurring costs in dollars then and now. All costs include both hardware and mission operations, and are at the high end of the range of possibilities, because they take no advantage of stable rates of production. Fiscal 2000 costs are approximate, obtained by inflating programs in the aggregate, rather than tracking and inflating separate expenditures of real-year dollars.

    Element Real-Year $ M FY 2000 $ M
    Apollo CSM 50 160
    Apollo Lunar Module 120 400
    Apollo Lunar Mission 720 2400
    Saturn I-B 35 120
    Saturn V 325 1100
    Skylab Cluster 275 925

    Let’s assume that we had kept flying with the systems we had at the time, that we had continued to execute two manned Apollo lunar missions every year, as was done in 1971-72. This would have cost about $4.8 billion annually in Fiscal 2000 dollars.

    Further, let us assume that we had established a continuing program of space station activities in Earth orbit, built on the Apollo CSM, Saturn I-B, and Skylab systems. Four crew rotation launches per year, plus a new Skylab cluster every five years to augment or replace existing modules, would have cost about $1.5 billion/year. This entire program of six manned flights per year, two of them to the Moon, would have cost about $6.3 billion annually in Fiscal 2000 dollars. The average annual NASA budget in the 15 difficult years from 1974-88 was $10.5 billion; with 60% of it allocated to human spaceflight, there would have been sufficient funding to continue a stable program of lunar exploration as well as the development of Earth orbital infrastructure. I suggest that this would have been a better strategic alternative than the choices that were in fact made, almost 40 years ago.

    After a time, as NASA budgets once again improved, we would have begun to concentrate our lunar activity around an outpost, and we would have used cargo missions to emplace the outpost equipment. A modified Apollo Lunar Module descent stage, with extra fuel and cargo replacing the ascent stage, could have been used for the purpose. The Saturn V could deliver two such vehicles with a single launch. So, over time, we could have built up an early lunar outpost, or smaller ones at different places of interest. By the present day, using what we had with minimal modifications – and I will remind us all that the Soyuz systems of that era are still flying – we would have a vast store of experience and a significant amount of lunar infrastructure. When the civil space budget eventually improved, as it did, we would have been well positioned to begin development of a Mars mission. And in the meantime, without doubt, we would have continued to modify, refine, and incrementally improve the old Apollo designs, to the point where they would have provided greatly enhanced effectiveness by the present day.

    If we had done all this, we would be on Mars today, not writing about it as a subject for “the next 50 years.” We would have decades of experience operating long-duration space systems in Earth orbit, and similar decades of experience in exploring and learning to utilize the Moon. This essay on “the next 50 years” would be quite different than the one I am offering here. I think most of us will agree that it would have been a better one.

    http://aviationweek.typepad.com/space/2007/03/human_space_exp.html

  • Ron:

    The HLV is not designed for commercial applications. It is for NASA manned space exploration, large science missions (space telescopes) and possibly large DOD satellites.

    That is not to prevent any company (SpaceX) from buidling their own HLV in the future, should a commercial market ever arise for hotels in LEO…

  • Justin Kugler

    And if wishes were horses, Griffin would have a cavalry. I think everyone agrees that NASA should have gone down a different path 40 years ago. There’s nothing we can do about that now. Lest you forget, Griffin tried to reset the clock and failed.

  • Justin Kugler

    What exploration, Nelson? There’s no money in Congress’ budget for missions other than ISS. There are no science missions on the horizon that require HLV. There are certainly no large DoD satellites that require it, either. In fact, they’re embracing the small sat trend and are increasingly looking towards distributed, survivable networks.

  • “What’s the use in building even a 75T HLV by 2016 if we’re not going to anywhere important before 2025? ”

    If we can build hardware that can take us BEO and back within 5 years, why wait around for an additional decade to begin using it? They have never once articulated a clear rational for these long, arbitrary delays.

    Two wrong answers to this question are:

    (1) Because we want to hold NASA back until SpaceX, which does not have an HLV-class rocket motor, can catch up. I wonder how many engines that Elon Musk is going to need for his “heavy”? 27 ???

    (2) Because Obama wants to make sure that the US will be unable to return to the Moon when China does.

  • Ron:

    Good question. My take is that Congress has decided to table the Moon vs Asteroid vs Mars debate and focus on the HLV, which is a prerequisite for any BEO mission. This week Scott Pace suggested before Congress that a Lunar surface mission makes far greater sense as a destination in terms of international participation. I suspect that they agree.

  • common sense

    @ Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 1st, 2011 at 11:48 am

    “The HLV is not designed for commercial applications.”

    You are absolutely correct!!! The HLV is not designed. Period.

    Finally coming to reality?

    Oh well…

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 1st, 2011 at 3:31 am

    Unlike the phantom selling points of commercial space dogma…

    How is having paying customers “phantom selling points”? I don’t know where you went to school, but you must have skipped the capitalism 101 class.

    simple economics dictate that ISRU technologies will be vital for exploration and development of the Moon and Mars

    Sounds like you want to make a business case for ISRU. GREAT!

    Go forth like your idol Elon Musk and create or invest in a company that will do ISRU. And just like commercial crew companies, take into account the needs of the government, and how you can compete with their current sources of supply. And since you’re a purist at heart, I’m sure you’ll insist on no more government assistance than commercial crew advocates are hoping for.

    I hope you are successful, but you won’t be until there is some form of demand, and then you have to deal with competition from existing sources of supply. Such is life in business.

  • Justin:

    FYI: A few weeks ago Bolden stated that DOD is interested in the HLV. Of course, it could be that he is talking about a mini-HLV, like the 30mT Falcon “Heavy”.

  • Vladislaw

    Nelson wrote:

    “My take is that Congress has decided to table the Moon vs Asteroid vs Mars debate and focus on the HLV, which is a prerequisite for any BEO mission.”

    What makes you believe Congress is interested in any ACTUAL mission beyond earth orbit?

    You have three suppliers that have said they can do a heavy lift for BILLIONS less than what NASA and the usual suspects have said it would cost if it was done at a fixed price, competitive bid.

    Certain members of congress are once again doing nothing more than protecting the pork that is already in place. High paying jobs in there districts and the political CONtributions to their reelection campaigns.

    As has been shown many times we do not need heavy lift to do BEO. To argue otherwise is a false arguement. If congress was truely interested in a BEO mission and believed it could only be done with a heavy lift than they would write into the law they want a competitive bid for lowest price the Nation can afford. But they don’t. Utah wants it’s solid rockets protected Florida wants .. Texas wants .. Alabama wants .. on and on and on.

    It is NOT about any mission, they were fine with spending 6 – 8 billion a year until 2035 just as long as ALL the jobs were kept and cost plus contracting was kept in place.

    You REALLY have to stop confusing the issues about what congress really wants and the reality of what we can actually do in space with the budget we have.

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 1st, 2011 at 11:48 am

    The HLV is not designed for commercial applications.

    Well there goes a big part of the market, but that wasn’t the question.

    Who ARE the customers? NASA? DoD/NRO? What programs are going to be paying for all this lift? When do they get their funding? How long will it take for them to be ready to use an HLV?

    These are simple questions that all of us taxpayers deserve an answer to, because if you can’t answer them, likely no one else can and building an HLV is a waste of money at this time.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    @ Coastal Ron,

    “The HLV is not designed for commercial applications.”

    Well there goes a big part of the market, but that wasn’t the question.

    Who ARE the customers? NASA? DoD/NRO? What programs are going to be paying for all this lift? When do they get their funding? How long will it take for them to be ready to use an HLV?

    NASA, obviously.

    I suspect that DoD at the very least has payloads in the pipeline that need greater lift capability than is offered by either of the current EELV-Heavies (and the D-IVH+ with 6 GEMs can reach 30t IMLEO). I base this statement on the fact that DoD seem interested in an upgrade to Atlas-V using a 1.25Mlbf engine and a new 4 x RL-10B-2 ‘Common Centaur’ upper stage for both the Delta-IV and Altas-V. Both of these would probably offer ~40t IMLEO or ~20t through GTO. The fact that DoD is pursuing this capability suggests that they genuinely have a projected need for that lift capability.

  • So Space X is going to announce their heavy lifter on Tuesday

    70,000 lbs to LEO at $95 Million

    DISCOVERY NEWS

    and Congress is still cat-calling the NASA leadership while ‘commercial’ is getting the job done.

  • common sense

    @ Ben Russell-Gough wrote @ April 1st, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    “NASA, obviously.”

    No there is no obvious payload funded for or by NASA for an HLV. Or please list at least one.

    “I suspect that DoD at the very least has payloads in the pipeline that need greater lift capability than is offered”

    What is the source of your suspicion? What satellite so big to make at least 70 mT up to 130 mT would the DoD or any one need? Would you please post a link or a reference to that assertion?

  • “It is NOT about any mission, they were fine with spending 6 – 8 billion a year until 2035 just as long as ALL the jobs were kept and cost plus contracting was kept in place.”

    To the contrary, it is the WH that increased NASA’s budget while taking away any mission. The asteroid destination was only added months after the 2011 budget rollout when Congress asked Bolden: “What is NASA’s next destination.?” and the best that he could reply is “Mars, eventually, I suppose”

    Robert Zurbin describes the 2011 NASA budget increase as a sugar coating on a cyanide pill:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5haTmLDjmE0

  • Ron:

    What is the commercial market for Cassini? What is the commercial market for Kepler? NASA does not need a commercial market.

    If commercial prividers can provided utility to NASA at reduced costs, then, fine, it should make use of it.

    However, NASA must not be crippled by having to jump through unnecessary hoopes simply becuase it’s needs transcent commercial markets.

    NASA was able to put up SkyLab in one Saturn V launch. It did not need dozens of launches and 10+ years of on-oribt assembly. That is the value of the HLV. To accomplish the mission in a reasonable timeframe.

  • Coastal Ron

    Ben Russell-Gough wrote @ April 1st, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    The fact that DoD is pursuing this capability suggests that they genuinely have a projected need for that lift capability.

    So far all the DoD payloads you’re talking about don’t need the SLS, but just more capable EELV’s. And who knows, maybe the SpaceX announcement next week will be that the DoD/NRO are buying Falcon Heavy flights, which can already do 35t IMLEO, and 21t to GTO, and for less than half what Delta IV Heavy costs.

    So the questions still stand – who is going to use the SLS, for what programs, when do they get their funding, and how long will it take for them to be ready to use an HLV?

    Simple questions any SLS/HLV advocate should be able to answer.

    [crickets chirping]

  • Rhyolite wrote:

    SpaceX now has a “Falcon Heavy Demo Flight” from Vandenberg showing on its manifest for 2012.

    Wouldn’t it be fun if SpaceX announced they would launch Falcon 9 Heavy from LC-39A and use the VAB for rocket prep?

    Although I suspect your find is the explanation for the “something big is coming” mystery.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    @ common sense,

    What is the source of your suspicion? What satellite so big to make at least 70 mT up to 130 mT would the DoD or any one need? Would you please post a link or a reference to that assertion?

    The preliminary HLV report, which specifically mentions that it doesn’t want to talk about the seperate DoD heavy lift capability.

  • Bennett

    Nelson Bridwell wrote

    “To the contrary, it is the WH that increased NASA’s budget while taking away any mission.”

    Why is it that so many HSF advocates see the FY2011 budget proposal as the first sane and sustainable “mission” in decades? I think it comes from recognizing that what was laid out was actually do-able, as opposed to Constellation which was a train wreck from the get go and almost everyone knew it. We’re really tired of “doomed to fail”.

    “Robert Zurbin describes the 2011 NASA budget increase as a sugar coating on a cyanide pill”

    Robert Zubrin is a Mars First advocate who dreams of having a super HLV big enough to launch a Mars mission in two launches, and that wasn’t going to happen without the Monster Rocket.

    That it wasn’t going to happen WITH the Monster Rocket until at least 2040 (if then) seems to have been lost on Dr. Zubrin.

  • Ben:

    You know, I wouldn’t really mind if DOD does not become involved in NASA’s HLV. Last time we tried that, they did a number on the shuttle (cross range capability) and then switched over to the EELVs ;-(

  • Mr Bennett (reminds me of P&P)

    I will agree with you that the 2011 budget makes sense, primarily because it gets us BEO ASAP with minimal risk from totally untried components.

    As far as Constellation being a “train wreck”, Ares I was, by far, the safest design for crew launch. Only time will tell if commercial crew and SLS will be able to approach the safety margins of that design.

    And Zurbin is right-on-the-money about so much of what he says. I would differ from him on Mars-first vs Moon-first, but if we seriously want to go to Mars, staging it using hundreds of Falcon 9 launches would be nothing less than sheer insanity, and probably even more expensive.

  • Manny Bergstrom

    Justin Kugler Wrote:
    You should be advocating that Congress retain the NASA workforce by giving them meaningful work to do advancing space exploration, not maligning the people who are working to make it easier for NASA to do just that.

    I find most of your points refreshing and accurate. But I have a problem with this statement. The problem with the current NASA work force is that they take so damn long and cost so much to do anything. Yes NASA should be advancing space exploration. But they need to figure out why how they work is so inefficient and fix it.

  • pathfinder_01

    Nelson,

    Actually for space station freedom there were plans to build shuttle-c, an disposable hlv version of the shuttle. It was found that time time it took to build it and the cost was not worth the increased cargo capacity.It would have added ten years and a billion bucks to the project if I remember correctly.

    Anyway You can put a space station up in one flight of an EELV class vehicle. Think Salyut or the core of MIR. The issue with the ISS is the fact that they depended on the shuttle buying more than 2 years worth of delay due to Columbia and trust me if a manned NASA owned HLV blows it could do the same.

    Also if NASA had farmed out some cargo delivery to ULA for instance it would have freed 10 flights of the shuttle to carry modules.The MPLM could have easily been replaced by a large ATV like spacecraft launched on an EELV.

    Even then the ISS was built to be usable as soon as possible and has been able to host a crew since the 3rd module was launched. The slow pace of the ISS is what happens when you try to build a 16 module space station with a single spacecraft that can only do about 4-6 flights a year and attempt to do cargo delivery with the same craft!The shuttle alone launched all but 4 of them.

    The trouble with HLV and space stations is that while HLV could be helpful in assembling a space station once the space station is done you don’t need the HLV anymore and unless you have the budget(and NASA in the 60ies and 70ies did not) to do BEO at the same time as the space station.

    In fact in the case of the Saturn V, NASA was unable to get congress to order a second round of them in 1968 and in the case of Skylab NASA was running out disposable Apollo Capsules too. In fact NASA in the 60ies and 70ies did not fly both to the moon and LEO at the same time, After Apollo 17 all flights would be LEO only.

    I think dropping the Saturn V for the shuttle on a whole was a good thing. The shuttle can fly 4-6 times a year caring up to 8 people in space. With a normal crew of 7, 28 to 42 people can fly in space for periods of time around two weeks in a year. While Apollo could only land 2 guys on the moon for three days twice a year for a total of 6 people in space and 4 moon walker in a year. Also Skylab was so large not because it was a purpose built space station but because it was built out of an Saturn V 3rd stage. It was large but unlike the ISS most of the volume of Skylab was just empty space. IMHO comparing Skylab to the ISS is like comparing a mobile home to an Mansion. Not an easy comparison.

  • Rhyolite

    John Malkin wrote @ April 1st, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I think there is significance in the demo flight being from Vandenberg. An operational F9H would compete directly against Delta IV Heavy for national security payloads. It will be interesting to see whether they have a customer or are self funding the demo.

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ April 1st, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    It would be ironic but using LC-39A and the VAB doesn’t really fit with SpaceX’s lean philosophy. Those facilities probably require more people to do building maintenance and janitorial services than the whole SpaceX launch crew.

  • pathfinder_01

    Anyway the best route to the moon and beyond is not with a NASA owned HLV. It will simply eat too much budget for NASA to be able to buy payloads.

    To put things in perspective the Saturn V 3rd stage only held about 105MT worth of propellant. That comes out to about 4 flights of a EELV class rocket able to do 30MT each. 5 extra flights in one year for EELV class vehicles is very doable. esp. as the fueling flights are not as constrained as the human launch. The other advantage is if you can figure out how to lift the propellant cheaper NASA can do more exploration. With a NASA owned HLV you are tied to the HLV until you shut it down. You can not take advantages of improvements in technology as easily as those improvements must be retrofitted into the HLV(i.e. like trying to put a modern engine in a 1970ies body over frame car. You wouldn’t get nearly the same improvement as if put the engine in a modern body).

    ULA was offering NASA 300 million a flight for a human rated version of the Delta IV heavy. Six flights would cost 1.8 billion dollars.That is cheaper than the shuttle’s usual fixed costs of 2-3 billion a year and note the delta IV heavy is the most expensive rocket of the lot. Falcon 9 for instance is advertised at 95 million and Atlas probably would cost around 200 million at 95 million you could do the same flight for 570 million(about the cost of a shuttle flight).

    HLV don’t make sense until you are putting up around 400MT a year and this would be the equivalent of 4 flight to the moon a year or an ISS a year. NASA even in the 60ies didn’t have that size of a budget to afford that much.Propellant depots are much better in a constrained budget where NASA could say have an moon flight every other year vs. a rocket like the shuttle or Saturn that costs NASA wither it flies or not. One of the reasons why the moon was abandoned was due to the fact that slowing down the launch rate didn’t do much to the cost of the flight.

    Even just upgrading EELV makes more sense than building a NASA owned HLV. A delta Phase 1 for instance could lift 40-50MT to orbit and probably still be cheap enough that other government users can use it. It also would not need new pads nor much of any new equipment.

    People who favor commercial don’t want to eliminate government sponsored spaceflight. What we want is for the government to be able to get more for its money. Launch systems require a high flight rate to make much sense and HLV work against high flight rate. It is like owning a pick up truck, makes sense if you plan to use it regularly(say a contractor) but if you are a weekend warrior who does maybe 3 big home improvement projects a year then it makes less sense to own the pick up truck.

    The trouble is atm NASA is set up to build rockets not payloads.

  • “So the questions still stand – who is going to use the SLS, for what programs, when do they get their funding, and how long will it take for them to be ready to use an HLV?”

    My guess is that in the 2016 timeframe NASA management will be redirected back to the Moon as the first test of Mars exploration technologies. Development of the Altair and Lunar Electric Rover will resume. After some serious Lunar expoloration and ISRU, NASA will start development of Mars hardware. A long duration hab module which will include a small “storm shelter” shielded by several tons of fuel, water, and rotates to provide a simulated 1 g gravitational acceleration.

    With the somewhat smaller SLS, they will probably require 50% more launches than in the earlier Mars Design Refernece Mission 5.0

  • Sorry, for the earlier post, but it was refusing to allow me to include a link to the Mars Design Reference Mission 5.0 executime summary PDF. Don’t know why…

    ntrs.nasa.gov /archive/ nasa /casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/ 20090012109_2009010520.pdf

  • My wild guess is that Mars exploration spacecraft development could seriously begin in the 2025 timeframe, and that a NEO mission might happen around 2030, with a Mars Phobos/Demos mission flying by 2035, and the first Mars manned landing happening by 2040.

    While all of this is happening, I do not expect commercial space to be sleeping. I would think that with nearly 100% reusability, by 2025 the crew cost to LEO could drop to just below $1 million, beginning serious orbital tourism, and suborbital intercontinental business transport could become possible for less than $10,000.

    And China and the ESA+Russia will be on the Moon in a big way…

  • The way I look at the SLS economics is that it might cost a total of perhaps $ 25 billion by 2016, and NASA will use it continously for probably the next 40 years, at a flight rate of perhaps 5 launches per year. That comes to 200 launches. The per-flight development cost would come to about $125 million, significantly less than the manufacturing cost of each spacecraft.

    When you look at the total development cost, it sounds astronimical to us, and to your average newspace firm that has never had access to that amount of capital. However, for NASA, over the long term, the cost is comparatively minor, compared to the real utility.

    We just need to make sure that a totally different Congressional mindset does not come along in a few years (Ron Paul?) and throw it all away before it can provide much of a return on our investment.

  • Martijn Meijering

    HLV don’t make sense until you are putting up around 400MT a year and this would be the equivalent of 4 flight to the moon a year or an ISS a year.

    That is about the amount EELVs were designed for. We now know that they optimistically overestimated demand, but if the demand materialised the capacity would still be there. At such a level of demand the logical upgrade path would be EELV Phase 1, or maybe just more shifts and / or factories.

    But 400mT a year would also be enough to keep 3 competing very small commercial RLV suppliers in business, which would open up space for mankind. And once you had those RLVs you would certainly never want to launch propellant on an expensive EELV or HLV ever again.

    So even then it isn’t clear an HLV would make sense. In fact, under such a scenario you could rightfully consider EELV Heavies and maybe even the single core versions as heavy lifters.

  • Justin Kugler

    Manny,
    I don’t disagree. My point there is simply that NASA could do great things with the same budget it has right now if it was given the freedom to do what is necessary to re-scope the organization accordingly.

  • Major Tom

    “The way I look at the SLS economics is that it might cost a total of perhaps $ 25 billion by 2016, and NASA will use it continously for probably the next 40 years, at a flight rate of perhaps 5 launches per year. That comes to 200 launches. The per-flight development cost would come to about $125 million, significantly less than the manufacturing cost of each spacecraft.”

    Very wrong. Per a recent study by the former ESAS lead:

    http://www.nasawatch.com/images/F9Prop.Depot.pdf

    The operational costs of an HLV like SLS after its built are estimated at $2.5 billion per year, and it will only launch every 18 months. That’s a cost of $3.75 billion per launch, even before we’ve amortized your $25 billion development.

    FWIW…

  • Egad

    >> a [SLS] flight rate of perhaps 5 launches per year

    > it will only launch every 18 months

    To re-ask an earlier question: Is there some minimum SLS flight rate below which it would become infeasible to maintain the manufacturing, launch and other infrastructure? Or could NASA launch, to take an extreme example, once per decade and just pay to keep things (including workforce) in readiness even in the rocketless years?

  • Egad

    > infeasible to maintain the manufacturing, launch and other infrastructure?

    I should have explicitly included second- and third-tier suppliers.

  • “The operational costs of an HLV like SLS after its built are estimated at $2.5 billion per year, and it will only launch every 18 months.”

    For lunar exploration there is no reason (other than WH foot dragging) to limit launch rates.

    For Mars, a 24 month interval between missions sounds about right, but SLS would need several launches (7 with an Ares V, so probably more like 10 with SLS) for each mission, which comes out to …surprise…an average of 5 per year….

    All of this is a wild guess on my part…I am not God….At least not on Saturday mornings…

  • pathfnder_01

    Nelson, A launch rate of five a year does not seem likely. Saturn V only launched 3 times in one year at most. The shuttle does have a flight rate of 4-6 a year but in the case of the shuttle , the shuttle and whatever is in its cargo bay can be reused that is a big savings on in terms of needing new spacecraft. What hurts the shuttle is its high fixed costs of 2-3 billion a year. Its incremental costs are rather low (just not low enough to be competitive with EELV which have much lower fixed costs but slightly higher incremental costs). Incremental costs as low as 60 million flight have been estimated.

    Baring the HLV with Mars DRM 5.0 you would need to convince the politicians that throwing away 3 nuclear thermal rocket stages, a mars lander, two orions, and the crew transfer vehicle with every trip is a good idea. As big a supporter of HSF as I am I would balk at such a plan if I were in power.

    If you employed some technology like say solar electric propulsion along with propellant transfer, you could seriously drop the delta V requirements for a quick trip down. For instance if you assemble in LEO and use a solar electric tug to push the craft to L1/L2 then the delta V for escape drops from around 3.22 to around .7 which in turn drops the amount of chemical or nuclear propellant needed greatly. This trip could take a year or more but it would be worth it. Likewise if you used it between L1/L2 and mars orbit to move propellant, lander, hab, ect. You could enable reuse of the crew transfer vehicle.

    While a LEO to L1/L2 tug might have a problem with the van Allan belts a L1/L2 to mars would not and could be reused. Technology drives down the needs of HLV. For instance it would not take a 130MT heavy lift like Ares V to do what I listed above. The most you might want is enough heavy lift to throw an Orion to L1/L2 which if you employed some technology and used a cryogenic service module might be around 40MT.

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 2nd, 2011 at 3:20 am

    My guess is that in the 2016 timeframe NASA management will be redirected back to the Moon as the first test of Mars exploration technologies. Development of the Altair and Lunar Electric Rover will resume.

    I appreciate you taking a stab at this, as I don’t think anyone else has.

    However if what you say is true, then the SLS will be sitting around with no real payloads to launch for at least 5 years, and likely more given how quickly NASA built human-rated systems get built. So why the rush to build the SLS?

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 2nd, 2011 at 9:57 am

    For lunar exploration there is no reason (other than WH foot dragging) to limit launch rates.

    What about Congressional foot dragging? Who’s to say that a majority of both houses of Congress will WANT another Moon program, especially in these tight fiscal times? The last Congress cancelled a Moon program (Constellation), and the current Congress has shown no inclination to even define what the SLS will be used for. Who is supposed to be championing an expensive lunar program?

    In the business world, no company would ever have green-lighted building an expensive product like the SLS without a clear business case. What is the need? What are the alternatives? Is it better to build & maintain your own custom equipment, or buy the constantly improving solutions the market has to offer? The answer of course is that Congress wanted pork, not necessarily a particular end product (i.e. the SLS).

    As long as NASA is viewed as a pork faucet for Congress, no cohesive space policy will ever emerge, whether from the President or within Congress.

  • byeman

    “NASA will use it continously for probably the next 40 years, at a flight rate of perhaps 5 launches per year.”

    Both numbers are never going to happen.

    A. NASA can’t afford 5 SLS payloads per years
    b. It is insanity that NASA would be using arcane SRM’s 40 much less 20 years from now

  • Martijn Meijering

    If you employed some technology like say solar electric propulsion along with propellant transfer, you could seriously drop the delta V requirements for a quick trip down.

    You don’t even need the SEP for that, although it would be nice to have, even if only for propellant.

    For instance if you assemble in LEO and use a solar electric tug to push the craft to L1/L2 then the delta V for escape drops from around 3.22 to around .7 which in turn drops the amount of chemical or nuclear propellant needed greatly.

    The assembly could also be done at L1/L2 instead of in LEO (and without the SEP as noted above), which reduces the required size of your EDS stage. Another advantage of L1/L2 (out of many) is that even propulsive return is feasible.

    The most you might want is enough heavy lift to throw an Orion to L1/L2 which if you employed some technology and used a cryogenic service module might be around 40MT.

    True, but you could also use EOR and a storable service module in which case an EELV Heavy would be enough.

  • @Bridwell
    “The way I look at the SLS economics is that it might cost a total of perhaps $ 25 billion by 2016″
    The entire budget proposed by the Senate for SLS up through 2016 is $11.5 billion. You honestly think an extra $9.5 billion is going to be added to that budget? It ain’t happening short of magic, because past experience shows that over the last few decades under alternately Republican and Democratic dominated governments such increases were TALKED about but NEVER actually implemented. Your “SLS economics” is pure self-delusion Dream on, little broomstick cowboy.

  • Martijn Meijering

    It is insanity that NASA would be using arcane SRM’s 40 much less 20 years from now

    What’s your opinion of small SRMs? Could they be cost-effective if mass-produced, perhaps if you chose the propellant for low cost, not high performance? I’m thinking of a 1-5mT propellant launcher.

  • Sorry, in the above post I meant to say it would require a “$13.5 billion” increase in the SLS part of the budget instead of “$9.5 billion” — an increase of even MORE ludicrous proportion. At least part of this would have to be supplied by an increase to the over-all NASA budget, even if some other programs were canceled and their monies applied to support the increase in SLS funding. Again, over the past few decades large increases to the NASA budget were talked about but NEVER actually implemented. Such “SLS economics” are a pipe dream at best.

  • Major Tom

    “’The operational costs of an HLV like SLS after its built are estimated at $2.5 billion per year, and it will only launch every 18 months.’

    For lunar exploration there is no reason (other than WH foot dragging) to limit launch rates.”

    The most Constellation ever assumed was two lunar missions per year. So you’re still looking at $1.25 billion per launch just to cover HLV/SLS operating costs/standing army, again even before you’ve amortized your $25 billion worth of development costs.

  • Tom:

    Good point. With a 70-130 mT SLS HLV rather than a 188 mT Ares V, I assume that two (or sometimes more) HLV launches could be requried for each mission, particularly when we want to put into place the very beginnings of surface infrastructure. Look at how many shuttle missions were requried to piece together the ISS, and we will only be able to land a small fraction of our LEO mass on the lunar surface.

    The question is how long NASA will continue to use the SLS. If, like the B52, it becomes the standard workhorse over the next 50 years then it can make tremendous sense and will open up serious Moon and Mars exploration. If, on the other hand, the political winds in Congress shift and it is scrapped in 15 years, then we will get significantly less bang from our buck.

    The only reason I could see for putting off the SLS is if we thought we could come up with a genuinely low-cost (100% reusable) system. Thus far, I have not seen any serious proposals in that direction.

  • “Who’s to say that a majority of both houses of Congress will WANT another Moon program, especially in these tight fiscal times? The last Congress cancelled a Moon program (Constellation), and the current Congress has shown no inclination to even define what the SLS will be used for. Who is supposed to be championing an expensive lunar program?”

    It was the WH, and not the Congress, that cancelled the VSE. The VSE had widespread bipartisan congressional support. And if you read details of the 2011 Authorization Act, it explicitly directs NASA to engage in manned exploration of the lunar surface, as well as other destinations. So, although Constellation was restructured under a different name, it still lives on, even though Bolden doesn’t want to think so…

    If you watch the most recent congressional review of NASA’s progress, Dr Scott Pace points out that a lunar program makes greater sense. I personally suspect that Congress probably agrees with that assertion. Perhaps I am reading too much into a minor detail…

    Video:
    http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-space-and-aeronautics-hearing-human-space-exploration

  • “If you employed some technology like say solar electric propulsion along with propellant transfer, you could seriously drop the delta V requirements for a quick trip down.”

    I noticed specific mention of solar electric propulsion for Mars missions in some of the very recent NASA studies. It sounds like a lower-risk technology that might not be overly expensive to mature, although the devil is always in the details…

  • “The entire budget proposed by the Senate for SLS up through 2016 is $11.5 billion. You honestly think an extra $9.5 billion is going to be added to that budget?”

    You could very well be right. I was using the $25 billion as a guess, assuming the SLS, MPCV, and related expenses. What I am saying is that expensive development programs can be acceptable, and even advantageous, provided that you actually go out and use the results for a long time. Ask Boeing how much they invested in the 777…

    The initial shuttle development cost was arbitrarily capped by Nixon at $6 billion, and it flew hundreds of times = 60 million per flight. In retrospect, NASA probably should have invested more in shuttle development…

  • “Can anyone point to any funded programs that will use them, or potential programs that are close to being funded? I mean, Congress wants the SLS ready by the end of 2016, but they haven’t funded anything to put on top of it.”

    That exact question is crossing my mind. I would love to know more about how they selected 2016. Clearly, one was to make sure that NASA continues to make real prograss, rather than just engaging in environmental navel contemplation. The other, let’s be realistic, is to make sure that NASA is back on the Moon before China makes their first manned lunar landing…

    With SLS and MPCV in 2016 they could possibly be back on the Moon by 2020, assumig that development of a lander is resumed in 2013 and increases dramaticlaly in 2017.

  • “It is insanity that NASA would be using arcane SRM’s 40 much less 20 years from now.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solid_rocket_booster

    The solid-fuel SRBs are advantageous for the purpose of boosting launches compared to liquid-fueled rockets, because they provide greater thrust and do not have the refrigeration and insulation requirements of liquid-fueled rockets. Adding detachable SRBs to a vehicle also powered by liquid-fueled rockets eases the amount of liquid-fuel needed and lowers the launch vehicle mass

    Solid boosters are usually cheaper to design, test, and produce compared to equivalent thrust liquid boosters. However, the costs on a per-flight basis tend to be equivalent.

  • ” Again, over the past few decades large increases to the NASA budget were talked about but NEVER actually implemented. Such “SLS economics” are a pipe dream at best.”

    Because the SLS proposal originated from Congress, rather than NASA or the WH, I personally doubt that they are scheming to sucker-punch themselves. (That would be like trying to tickle yourself. Theoretically possible, but it never seems to work.) They have access to realistic cost estimates and know enought to not blindly trust all the numbers that Bolden and Augustine have tried to pitch at them.

  • One hour into the house hearing, Dana Rohrabacher, an understandable supporter of local business SpaceX, tries to sell fuel depots and makes an interesitng statement:

    “The Saturn V carried 260 tons into orbit, which is much more than what we are talking about (for the SLS).”

    Incorrect: The Saturn put up 119 mT (130 tons=260,000 lbs). The SLS will put up 130 mT. The Ares V would put up 188 mT. His staff has their units confused. We all make these kinds of slipups…

    Doug Cook replies that for a Mars mission NASA would need 6 or 7 HLV launches. (1 SLS = 13 Falcon 9s, so that would be a minimu of 80 or 90 Falcon 9 launches. In reality probably much more when you take into account on-orbit assembly, fuel boil-off, and depo infrastructure).

    Then: “We have had some great advances in nuclear technology that … would permit us to utilize very safely nuclear engines in space. These technological advances have been happening just in the last few years.”

    I suspect that he is confused about VASIMR, which is, in fact, crippled by the lack of a low weight nuclear powerplant, without which it would take MUCH, MUCK longer to reach mars than chemical rockets.

    http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-space-and-aeronautics-hearing-human-space-exploration

  • Martijn Meijering

    One hour into the house hearing, Dana Rohrabacher, an understandable supporter of local business SpaceX, tries to sell fuel depots

    Bless that man.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Furthermore, you don’t have to be a SpaceX supporter if you want depots. You have to be an SLS supporter if you are against them however. Rohrabacher is on the side of fair, competitive and redundant procurement, while you are on the side of cronyism.

  • Martijn Meijering

    do not have the refrigeration and insulation requirements of liquid-fueled rockets

    Not all liquid rockets have those requirements and some deliberately use Earth storable propellant precisely for that reason. It doesn’t require toxic hypergolics, you could also use kerosene or an alcohol as a fuel and hydrogen peroxide as an oxidiser.

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 3rd, 2011 at multiple times

    It was the WH, and not the Congress, that cancelled the VSE.

    I have to keep correcting you and others on this. These are the major goals of the VSE:

    • Implement a sustained and affordable human and robotic program to explore the solar system and beyond;

    • Extend human presence across the solar system, starting with a human return to the Moon by the year 2020, in preparation for human exploration of Mars and other destinations;

    • Develop the innovative technologies, knowledge, and infrastructures both to explore and to support decisions about the destinations for human exploration; and

    • Promote international and commercial participation in exploration to further U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests.

    The only goal that mentions something that got cancelled is the second one, which relates to Constellation. It was going to miss the 2020 date by at least 15 years, so there’s that, and Congress agreed with the President that the Constellation program was unaffordable.

    However every single part of those four major goals of the VSE are still being funded in the administrations budget, and it is only the unrealistic 2020 Moon date that is being ignored (as Bush/Griffin did too). The VSE has not been “cancelled”.

    And if you read details of the 2011 Authorization Act, it explicitly directs NASA to engage in manned exploration of the lunar surface

    But no specific date. That’s important here, since they are not reconstituting an Apollo or Constellation type effort, they just want to make sure their aspirations are known. I’m sure Mars is mentioned too, but you’ll never admit that…

    …Dr Scott Pace points out that a lunar program makes greater sense.

    Sure, from a scientific standpoint, who wouldn’t say that? I’ll even say that, but that doesn’t mean it’s a green light to spending $200B doing it. Let’s not get silly here.

    The other, let’s be realistic, is to make sure that NASA is back on the Moon before China makes their first manned lunar landing…

    So our nations space program is geared towards being on-hand when the Chinese land someone on the Moon? Where is that in the VSE? Where is that in NASA’s charter? Where is that in any legislation enacted by Congress?

    You have to be able to separate bloviation from legislation Nelson. Members of Congress like to create straw-men for many political reasons, but that doesn’t mean all of them will vote for it. It doesn’t matter what individual members of Congress say, it only matters what they legislate, and so far NASA’s responsibility to be the official greeter on the Moon has not been established. Oh, and China and Russia (or anyone else) have not announced credible or near-term programs to put people on the Moon, so let’s not get in a tizzy over nothing.

    With SLS and MPCV in 2016 they could possibly be back on the Moon by 2020, assumig that development of a lander is resumed in 2013 and increases dramaticlaly in 2017.

    And you keep proving the point here, which is that the SLS will sit around for years without a need. In fact the only need you have outlined is your hope for another Constellation type program, and the likelihood of that is really low given the recent experience with the cancelled Constellation program, and the lack of money from Congress.

    Money, money, money. Solve the cost issue, and you’ll be able to afford to go to the Moon and other places. Join us in advocating for the companies and technologies that LOWER the cost to access space, and therefore make it EASIER for NASA to afford any type of mission, including a return to the Moon.

  • @Bridwell
    “Because the SLS proposal originated from Congress, rather than NASA or the WH, I personally doubt that they are scheming to sucker-punch themselves.”

    As long as jobs are created in key formerly shuttle related areas of the country (the representatives of these areas hold most of the positions on space related committees) for a number of years, it’s not that important to the key politicians whether anything actually gets launched. They would prefer it if such a launch did happen, but that’s just gravy to them. Not having enough money to finish the job is not a “sucker punch” to them politically as long as they are seen as providing jobs for their constituents for awhile. The extra money will not be there, even if they exerted themselves to get it, especially with people like the Tea Party now an extensive influence. You are either incredibly naive or disingenuous.

  • Vladislaw

    Nelson Bridwell wrote:

    “One hour into the house hearing, Dana Rohrabacher, an understandable supporter of local business SpaceX, tries to sell fuel depots and makes an interesitng statement:”

    Dana Rohrabacher represents the 46th district. SpaceX is based in Hawthorne the 35th district. You have been told this over and over but everytime Rohrabacher is mentioned you trot out this dead horse and start beating it. How many times do you have to have this explained to you? 10 times? 100 times? 10,000 times? 100,000 times?

    Please, give me a number so I can copy and paste it the apropraite number of times so that you FINALLY get your facts straight.

  • “Furthermore, you don’t have to be a SpaceX supporter if you want depots. You have to be an SLS supporter if you are against them however. Rohrabacher is on the side of fair, competitive and redundant procurement, while you are on the side of cronyism.”

    My impression of fuel depots is that they were created as an excuse to provide customers for SpaceX, rather than as anything that NASA needs.
    The physics of launch engineering dictate that there are greater mass efficiences for the largest possible rocket.

    What I could see for NASA would be to deliver tanks of additional fuel that will rendezvous with a spacecraft on a BEO mission. For instance, putting return fuel in orbit around the Moon and Mars before launching a manned mission to the surface. That could permit reuse of landers, rather than having to throw another away on each mission.

    The only real argument for fuel depots is a blind faith (with near-religious overtones) in the ability of small providers to dramatically reduce the cost per pound to LEO. The same type of faith that was used to promote the Shuttle and ISS.

    However, when you look at actual numbers, the promise is not so obvious. SpaceX suffers from the same basic cost limitations as NASA. Elon throws away 10 very expensive rocket motors and turbo pumps with each launch. He has found ways to cut expenses, such as inhouse engine manufacturing, but at most, his edge over a NASA contractor is probably on the order of 50%. When you take a look at the detailed problems with on-orbit assembly of a large space mission with TINY ( 1/10 of the payload of an HLV) rockets, as well as fuel boiloff, development risk of this new technology, and the lower reliability of the end result in comparison to ground-based preflight testing of the assembled system, it is possible for one’s faith to waver, just a little.

  • “Dana Rohrabacher represents the 46th district. SpaceX is based in Hawthorne the 35th district.”

    You are right. SpaceX is not in his district. It’s headquarters is about 5 miles outside of his district boundary. That is why I described SpaceX as a local business.

  • For others, the 46th District map:

    http://www.govtrack.us/congress/findyourreps.xpd?state=CA&district=46

    SpaceX is located at the southeast corner of Hawthorn Municipal Airport.

    Looks like it is 31.8 miles from his headquarters, which is at the opposite end of the district, in Huntington Beach…

  • Which is not to say that Rohrabacher is corrupt in any way. Congressmen are there to represent the interests of their constituents. You can be sure that Bill Nelson is looking after the interests of NASA engineers at KSC. Senator Shelby is looking after NASA employees in Huntsville.

    But there are larger issues. David Wu, from Oregon, strongly supports NASA, but there are no NASA facilities in Oregon, let alone his district. It is primarily because he does not want space to be dominated by China.

  • Dana Rohrabacher has long been a proponent of commercial space. He has close ties to the Space Frontier Foundation, which was founded in 1988. One of the founders was Jim Muncy, who was Rohrabacher’s legislative assistant on space.

    As a side note … I met Muncy in the mid-1990s when I travelled to D.C. representing my local National Space Society chapter. He told me, “Public support for the space program is a mile wide and an inch deep.” Subsequent events have proven Muncy right.

    Rohrabacher, Muncy and the National Space Foundation have long had a libtertarian view towards human space flight. To quote from their web site, ” The Foundation is fundamentally transforming the conception of space as the exclusive domain of government and government affiliated organizations into a widely accessible frontier ripe with opportunity.”

    Anyone who claims that Rohrabacher is a tool for Elon Musk is either ignorant or a liar. My politics 99% of the time are the opposite from Rohrabacher’s, but he’s walked the walk when it comes to his personal beliefs about space and did so long before Musk took an interest in developing his own space business. Rohrabacher was one of the few House Republicans to support Obama’s commercial crew program, even though it cost him politically with fellow Republicans, because it was compatible with his personal beliefs.

  • My impression of fuel depots is that they were created as an excuse to provide customers for SpaceX, rather than as anything that NASA needs.

    Not surprising, since your impression of most things in space technology and policy is false as well.

    They were created as the only realistic way to make space exploration affordable.

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 3rd, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    My impression of fuel depots is that they were created as an excuse to provide customers for SpaceX, rather than as anything that NASA needs.

    What an ignorant statement.

    If that were true, then NASA, ULA, Lockheed Martin and many others have been doing the bidding of SpaceX for far longer than SpaceX has been around.

    The truth is one only has to look around their neighborhood to see why fuel depots are necessary in space – gas stations. Without the ability to refuel expensive spacecraft, you doom yourself to expensive throwaway systems like Apollo. There is no way the U.S. can afford that just for exploration purposes.

    What I could see for NASA would be to deliver tanks of additional fuel that will rendezvous with a spacecraft on a BEO mission.

    Of course this statement refutes your earlier one, so you’re arguing with yourself…

    The only real argument for fuel depots is a blind faith (with near-religious overtones) in the ability of small providers to dramatically reduce the cost per pound to LEO.

    Actually it’s not. The real argument is so you can build reusable spacecraft systems, and not have to throw them away after they run out of fuel. Fuel depots don’t demand any particular type of delivery system, whether expensive or low cost, as you can top off a fuel depot from ANY SOURCE, which is one of it’s many advantages. This also means that fuel depots promote competitive pricing, which is something we should all welcome for future space systems.

    SpaceX suffers from the same basic cost limitations as NASA.

    I know you want this to be true, but it’s not. Here are the facts:

    Falcon 9 is priced at $56M, and will put 23,050 into LEO
    Falcon Heavy is priced at $95M, and will put 70,548 into LEO
    Shuttle cost around $750M-$1.5B/flight, and could put 53,600 into LEO

    The Shuttle is a partially reusable launch system, but it’s costs, which don’t include the markup a commercial system would include for profit, is 8-16 times higher than what SpaceX offers for a much higher capacity system.

    That SpaceX can do this with a non-reusable system speaks volumes to how inefficient the Shuttle system is, and NASA transportation systems in general.

    Focus on the bottom line – how much does it cost to put mass in space. Don’t worry about about whether the systems are reusable or not, as long as you get what you want for the cost you want, you shouldn’t care.

    When you take a look at the detailed problems with on-orbit assembly of a large space mission with TINY ( 1/10 of the payload of an HLV) rockets

    We built the ISS with our current launch capacity – what “problems” are you talking about?

    …in comparison to ground-based preflight testing of the assembled system…

    You are the one spouting faith in an untried solution. No one has shown, in real life, that building larger fully-integrated assemblies are better than ISS-type assemblies or other alternatives. Where is the proof to your assertion?

    No one knows what the future of in-space construction holds for us, since we’re not there yet. Because of that, you can’t predict what the needs are, because there are no needs for anything beyond the ISS, so no one knows what the construction challenges are.

  • pathfinder_01

    Nelson, The ISS has(or will have) 16 modules total. Of which 12 of the modules were launched by the shuttle. Of the 12 modules 6 of them were not built in the United States. The only way heavy lift could help here over the shuttle is if those 6 moduels could somehow be launched 2 or more at a time with some sort of tug module becuase making the modules larger would have increased the cost of transport.(And adding the tug module would likely increase costs as well….The shuttle was the ISS’s reusable tug module).

    The modules could have been designed to be self propulsive but then you wouldn’t need heavy lift to launch them as Japan, Russia, and ESA could have launched their respective modules themselves if they were. Which would have cut the shuttle’s work in half.

    The ISS is not Skylab. It is not a 100% US owned spacestation. Of the six modules two are Japanease, One is russian, One is ESA and the rest while US owned were built in Eurpope.ALso it is not like the ISS was totally useless until all modules were in place. The ISS has been manned since the third module was launched.

    The trouble with heavy lift and space stations is once the space station is complete you no longer need the heavy lift and the space station can easily last ten years or more. You certainly would not attept to resupply or crew a space station with heavy lift.

    The russian Proton and Soyuz rockets have both help put space station up and neither is a 100 plus ton lifter. Proton and Soyuz do commercial work while Saturn V rusts. They have uses other than space station duty.Perhaps there is a lesson in that.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Stephen – I think you mean the Space Frontier Foundation, not the National Space Foundation.

  • “Rohrabacher, Muncy and the National Space Foundation have long had a libtertarian view towards human space flight. To quote from their web site, ” The Foundation is fundamentally transforming the conception of space as the exclusive domain of government and government affiliated organizations into a widely accessible frontier ripe with opportunity.”

    If Rohrabacher was genuinely libertarian (I voted Libertarian in 76, rather than Ford or Carter) then I would expect him to be against all NASA programs, including CCDev and the ISS. He would have favored SpaceX finding private investors and commercial business, rather than taking tax dollars.

    As far as Rohrabacher taking flak for supporting Obama’s plan, California is a very liberal state, and there are SpaceX employees in his district, so he is not about to loose very many votes.

    But yes, he does have a valid opinion, and is honest, if possibly slightly misinformed. Unlike Obama, he does not promise NASA jobs on the Florida campaign trail and then fire thousands of NASA contractors only a few months after stepping into office.

  • “Not surprising, since your impression of most things in space technology and policy is false as well.”

    If what you say is true, then I am not the first person, nor the last, who’s impression of reality is mistaken. My impression is that that most newspace supporters are mistaken.

    “They were created as the only realistic way to make space exploration affordable.”

    Affordable is a highly subjective metric. Using the NewSpace yardstick, China’s space program is also totally unaffordable, but that does not appear to be stopping them. It has also been said that in theory, bumble bees cannot fly… They appearently have very little interest in obeying the laws of aerodynamics.

  • Ferris Valyn wrote:

    Stephen – I think you mean the Space Frontier Foundation, not the National Space Foundation.

    You are correct, sir.

  • “Falcon 9 is priced at $56M, and will put 23,050 into LEO”

    So that comes to about $2,000 per pound. That is about what everyone else has been charging for the longest time.

    Where is the BIG SAVINGS??? Where is the DRAMATIC, orders of magnitudes reduction in cost? How am I going to be able to afford to actually go into orbit (the main sales pitch) if I can’t afford the astronomical price tag?

  • “The trouble with heavy lift and space stations is once the space station is complete you no longer need the heavy lift and the space station can easily last ten years or more. You certainly would not attept to resupply or crew a space station with heavy lift.”

    Because of the small payload of the Shuttle, which is 2.5X the Falcon 9 payload, 35+ shuttle missions had to be flown over 10 years in order to assemble and service the ISS. The SLS would have been able to put up that amoun of mass in 7 launches. Furthermore, speaking as an engineer,
    (1) you should get greater relability, which is vital, if you can assemble/test
    on the ground, rather than in space.
    (2) your end result should be better and more capable if you can construct it out of larger, more massive components.

    You don’t alwasy want to deilver your astronauts up in small body members and stitch them together in zero g. Likewsie with other ship components.

    If SpaceX and similar businesses already had a viable, proven HLV that was less expensive than the SLS, there would be no argument for using fuel depots. The issue is that they don’t have what NASA needs. The solution is not to change NASA’s requriements. It is for NASA to design and contract out the construction of spacecraft that will safely and efficiently take them where they need to go. Maybe not inexpensively, but 2 out of three isn’t bad…

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 3rd, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    He would have favored SpaceX finding private investors and commercial business, rather than taking tax dollars.

    More ignorant statements again. You should really look this stuff up before you post.

    SpaceX has received $200M in private investment over an almost 5 years period. Here are the details:

    http://www.crunchbase.com/company/space-exploration-technologies

    And besides the NASA COTS/CRS contracts, they have received launch deposits from a number of commercial companies:

    http://www.spacex.com/launch_manifest.php

    Regarding “taking tax dollars”, they do work on the COTS program, and they get paid. No subsidies, not gifts – they have to perform the designated milestone work otherwise they don’t get paid.

    And why are they being paid on the COTS program? Because NASA needs supplies for the ISS, and they are not going to let just anyone pull up next to the ISS and dock. The COTS program is to make sure that the CRS program participants know what they are doing, and since delivering supplies to the ISS has never been done by a commercial company, it’s a prudent investment.

    …and then fire thousands of NASA contractors only a few months after stepping into office.

    They were laid off by their employers, and you keep forgetting that though the President proposes, the Congress disposes. So while you want to focus on just one branch of government, two were full participants.

  • And, in reply to the question about post-station construction, NASA’s mission is to explore beyond LEO. To get to the Moon and Mars, especialy Mars, it needs the operational expedience of HLVs.

  • One of the questions to also ask yourself is “If we are not going to the Moon or Mars, then why have a manned space program at all?”

    The primary real value of the ISS is to asses the human effects of weightlessness for long-duration space missions. But if we are not going anywhere, who cares???

  • But yes, he does have a valid opinion, and is honest, if possibly slightly misinformed.

    Pot, very dark kettle on line one…

  • common sense

    @ Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 3rd, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    “Unlike Obama, he does not promise NASA jobs on the Florida campaign trail and then fire thousands of NASA contractors only a few months after stepping into office.”

    Obama did promise jobs in Florida??? Another link please…

    Oh well…

  • pathfinder_01

    “However, when you look at actual numbers, the promise is not so obvious. SpaceX suffers from the same basic cost limitations as NASA. Elon throws away 10 very expensive rocket motors and turbo pumps with each launch. He has found ways to cut expenses, such as inhouse engine manufacturing, but at most, his edge over a NASA contractor is probably on the order of 50%.”

    With fuel depots you get to take advantage of any cost savings immediately. With Government owned heavy lift you are stuck with it until congress grants you money to make your system more efficient and even then cutting jobs or key contractors could be resisted by congress greatly limiting your options with which to become more efficient.

    Elon also plans to upgrade to the Merlin 2 which will reduce the number of engines per rocket.

    Part of the reason why reusable space systems don’t exist is because there simply are not enough launches to justify their existence. In addition a heavy lift version of Falcon 9 or Delta Phase I or Atlas phase I/II can be built. Such a rocket would share parts with its smaller more useful brethren. It could share pads and equipment greatly reducing costs. This way the heavy lift is more like a super guppy(an enlarged version of a regular aircraft) rather than a totally different system that has nothing in common with anything else(shuttle).

    ” the lower reliability of the end result in comparison to ground-based preflight testing of the assembled system, it is possible for one’s faith to waver, just a little.”

    The ISS works just fine. Apollo 13 was ground tested and we know how well that went. Skylab rode to orbit on an HLV that nearly destroyed it.Vibrations from the Saturn V broke off a solar panel and a solar shield crippling the perfectly ground tested Skylab. At least the ISS’s faults are due to things not working in space as they were expected to.

  • Rhyolite

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 3rd, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    “Because of the small payload of the Shuttle, which is 2.5X the Falcon 9 payload, 35+ shuttle missions had to be flown over 10 years in order to assemble and service the ISS.”

    Your assuming the regular F9 rather than the F9H. The F9H has a payload capacity that is 1.4X the shuttle so it would have cut down the flights from 35 to 25.

  • Rhyolite

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ April 3rd, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    “With fuel depots you get to take advantage of any cost savings immediately.”

    Let me add that fuel depots have applications beyond exploration, which HLVs do not.

    In LEO prior to insertion to GTO, 60% or more of the mass of the upper stage and a GSO satellite is fuel – fuel for the upper stage to insert into GTO and fuel for the satellite’s apogee motor to circularize into GSO. If that fuel could be obtained from a depot, it would reduce the size of launch vehicle required for current satellites or increase the size of satellites that could be launched on current launch vehicles.

    Depots can make the useful, revenue generating applications of space more cost effective.

  • @Bridwell
    So that comes to about $2,000 per pound. That is about what everyone else has been charging for the longest time

    Where is the BIG SAVINGS??? Where is the DRAMATIC, orders of magnitudes reduction in cost? How am I going to be able to afford to actually go into orbit (the main sales pitch) if I can’t afford the astronomical price tag?

    About what everyone has been charging for the longest time, huh? Let’s see

    Delta IV medium – cost per launch: $265 million – lbs to LEO: 28,000 or $9,500 per lb
    Atlas V standard – cost per launch $187 million – lbs to LEO 21,490 or $8,700 per lb

    Now I am sure that (like myself) a lot of the readers here are wondering, do you actually believe the B.S. you make up and post here or are you just someone with an agenda who hopes that people aren’t going to check the veracity of your statements?

  • Justin Kugler

    I guess Nelson has never met Dallas Bienhoff… I’m sure he’d love to learn that he’s been doing SpaceX’s bidding all these years. :)

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 3rd, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    So that comes to about $2,000 per pound. That is about what everyone else has been charging for the longest time.

    You’re a riot Nelson! How much time do you spend researching before you post?

    The truth is closer to this:

    Shuttle @ $750M/flight has cost at least $15,000/lb to LEO
    Delta IV Heavy @ $450M/flight costs about $9,000/lb to LEO
    Atlas V 401 @ $100M/flight costs about $4,630/lb to LEO
    Falcon 9 @ $56M/flight costs about $2,430/lb to LEO
    Falcon Heavy @ 95M/flight costs about $1,347/lb to LEO

    It looks like you were unaware how expensive launch costs have been till now, which is not surprising considering your support for hugely expensive HLV’s. But now we’re finally getting down to the $2,000/lb range, and though it’s likely to level out for a while, it still leaves plenty of room for future RLV’s to lower the costs even more.

    OK Mr. Math Wiz, care to take a shot at calculating the $/lb cost (fully burdened) of the SLS? How many flights over how many years would it take to reach an average of $2,000/lb? This should be enlightening… ;-)

  • Vladislaw

    Name a form of transportation that doesn’t use some sort of gas station to refuel?

    It is insane to think gas stations in space are some sort of conspiracy or plot.

    Planes refuel, cars refuel, ships refuel and the idea that reusable spaceships won’t refuel in space is nuts. Why anyone would try and defend the idea of no gas stations in space is the real conspiracy.

  • One more thing to add to that list, Vladislaw,

    You forgot about planes refueling in air. That’s the way the U.S.Air Force projects its military might globally.

  • Delta IV Heavy @ $450M/flight costs about $9,000/lb to LEO
    Atlas V 401 @ $100M/flight costs about $4,630/lb to LEO
    Falcon 9 @ $56M/flight costs about $2,430/lb to LEO
    Falcon Heavy @ 95M/flight costs about $1,347/lb to LEO

    Look at these numbers. Yes, Falcon 9 is not the lower end of the scale. But SpaceX believers claim that Elon Musk is going to DRAMATICALLY reduce the cost to orbit, such that people like you and I are going to be able to go up into orbit.

    What have they been smoking? The exact same weed as those who said that the Shuttle is going to drop costs to $100 per pound.

    For any really significant reduction, which is the philosophers stone of New Space, you need low-maintenance (unlike the shuttle) reusable technology.

    Thus far Elon deserves credit for trying, with his first stage, but has only gotten it back in pieces…

  • Yes, Falcon 9 is AT the lower end of the scale.

  • “Planes refuel, cars refuel, ships refuel and the idea that reusable spaceships won’t refuel in space is nuts. Why anyone would try and defend the idea of no gas stations in space is the real conspiracy.”

    The fault with your model is that cars and planes are designed specifically to travel. Space systems, intead, are designed to go to a destination, and remain there. Such as GEO, the Moon, or Mars. If you are in orbit around Mars, the last thing that you want to have to burn fuel to escape Mars and approach Earth, enter Earth orbit, and burn more fuel to down Earth’s gravity well into LEO, in order to top off your tanks.

  • @Bridwell
    What have they been smoking? The exact same weed as those who said that the Shuttle is going to drop costs to $100 per pound.

    You’re trying to deflect attention from your earlier statement which we showed was a lie. You said:
    So that comes to about $2,000 per pound. That is about what everyone else has been charging for the longest time.

    The nearest cost of well over $4500 is NOT close to $2430.

  • “Obama did promise jobs in Florida??? Another link please…”

    The notorius Titusville speech, posted on YouTube by BarakObamadotcom on August 2nd, 2008:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdvAVSNRni4

    By speeding the development of the Shuttle’s successor, … By making sure that all those who work in the space industry in Florida do not loose their jobs when the shuttle is retired, because we can’t afford to loose their expertise…As America leads the world to long-term exploration of the Moon and Mars and Beyond…”

  • common sense

    @ Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 4th, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    “By making sure that all those who work in the space industry in Florida do not loose their jobs when the shuttle is retired, because we can’t afford to loose their expertise…”

    Now if I am able to read what you posted he says “do not loose their jobs”. He did not promise jobs. He promised that those who work would not lose their jobs. You can argue whether he was able or not to do that but don’t say he promised “jobs”. There is a difference.

  • “The nearest cost of well over $4500 is NOT close to $2430.”

    The lowest cost is a Zenit at $1,167 per pound.

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=301

    CURRENT COMMERCIAL LAUNCH COSTS TO LOW EARTH ORBIT*
    (As published by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, March 2001)

    LAUNCHER COSTS PER LB MIN/MAX
    Proton $1697/$2149
    Ariane 5 $3788/$4545
    Sea Launch $2143/$2714
    Zenit 2 $1167/$1667
    LM-3B $1672/$2341
    Ariane 4 $4762/$5952
    Atlas 2 $4724/$5512
    Delta 3 $4103/$4923
    Soyuz $2273/$2597
    Delta 2 $4011/$4902
    LM-2C $2841/$3551
    Athena $5057/$5977
    Rockot $2927/$3659
    Taurus $5806/$6452
    Pegasus $3636/$4545
    START $3240/$6481

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 4th, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    The fault with your model is that cars and planes are designed specifically to travel. Space systems, intead, are designed to go to a destination, and remain there.

    Why are you forcing such restrictions on every form of transportation?

    If you’re going to travel from the Earth to the Moon, would you be traveling in the equipment shed of a lunar colony, or a spaceship that specializes in transporting humans? Come on, don’t be so dumb on this.

    Specialized transportation for all types of passengers and cargo are a natural outgrowth of an expanding presence, and it will be the same for space.

  • What people also ignore about launch costs is that, in addition to the space hardware, real launch costs include all the infrastrucutre. The use of the range. The tracking. The telemetry… Those other costs tend to dominate the total cost.

    The shuttle marginal cost per launch was only $60 million (Wiki) for another external tank, fuel, and other expendables. The killer was the fixed costs for the massive workforce that had to inspect every single thermal tile and recondition all of the engines…

    Elon Musk waltzes into Cape Caneveral with his tiny crew (including the wizard with the metal snips) and sets up in a tiny corner. No wonder that his costs are so low, because he doesn’t have to pay for most of it.

    And Bolden says that he wants SpaceX to move to KSC and hire thousands and thousands of new employees, and rent out KSC facilities, such as the VAB. Guess what is going to happen to SpaceX’s expenses, and hence costs per pound to oribt?

  • “OK Mr. Math Wiz, care to take a shot at calculating the $/lb cost (fully burdened) of the SLS? How many flights over how many years would it take to reach an average of $2,000/lb? This should be enlightening…”

    Lets see:

    A SLS that can put up 130 mT x 2.2 lb/kg x 2,430 (Falcon 9 $/lb) comes to a target cost of : $694,980,000.

    With that you need to pay for 5 RS-25Es engines (wild guess $30 mil each) plus 2 5 segment SRBs, a J-2X, …

    I think it probably will be in that neighborhood…

    If we launch 5 of these per year then the cost to NASA would be $3,474,900,000.00

    Sounds right to me…Although I have not checked it on my sliderule…

  • John Malkin

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 4th, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Look at these numbers. Yes, Falcon 9 is not the lower end of the scale. But SpaceX believers claim that Elon Musk is going to DRAMATICALLY reduce the cost to orbit, such that people like you and I are going to be able to go up into orbit.

    I don’t think anyone thinks that SpaceX will get cost down for Average Joe. Average Joe will never launch on these rockets, it’s too expensive and it will never get down to $2000 to $10,000 per person (a nice cruise) which is stretching the Average Joes’ pocket book. However it will reduce the cost to lift places for Average Joe to go like Bigelow habitats. Getting the cost down will make it easier for small countries, Universities, our partners and U.S. to do real exploration and expansion. A few Rich Joes will go up on big rockets as they do now on Soyuz but not Average Joe. I would bet on that…

    The evolution of an orbital Virgin Galactic ship might get down to Average Joe’s price since it’s better suited to carry a large number of people rather than large cargo.

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 4th, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    But SpaceX believers claim that Elon Musk is going to DRAMATICALLY reduce the cost to orbit,…

    A 50% reduction in price to put mass into LEO is DRAMATIC, to use your italics, and that’s just for Falcon 9 – Falcon Heavy is around 20-30% the price of Delta IV Heavy. Money is money, and when you’re looking at saving $200M on the price of a launch (or $50M even), that changes the economics of your business case.

    …such that people like you and I are going to be able to go up into orbit.

    Musk never promised that this would happen by this year or next, and to my knowledge he has never stated anything more than an aspiration. If you have trouble separating statements of aspiration from “promises”, then I suggest you don’t watch commercials, since you’ll think you can become a good looking, terrific smelling, brilliant person by buying certain products – it ain’t going to happen… ;-)

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 4th, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    CURRENT COMMERCIAL LAUNCH COSTS TO LOW EARTH ORBIT*
    (As published by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, March 2001)

    Your list is ten years old, and some of those launchers don’t fly anymore, so where is the relevance?

    Again, your lack of current pricing information seems to be part of the reason you think HLV’s are a cost effective alternative to existing launchers, and as we have shown you, that’s not true.

  • Martijn Meijering

    What people also ignore about launch costs is that, in addition to the space hardware, real launch costs include all the infrastrucutre. The use of the range. The tracking. The telemetry… Those other costs tend to dominate the total cost.

    Not to mention the spacecraft. So part of the solution is to reuse the spacecraft. Which fits well with depots or at least propellant transfer and not with HLVs. And you are missing the main point, which is about prices, not costs. An SDLV will do nothing to reduce commercial launch prices, whereas a large and fiercely competitive propellant launch market would. That’s what opening up space for mankind means, not just sending a a handful of government employees on taxpayer funded joy rides, or putting a handful of said employees on the moon or Mars.

  • pathfinder_01

    No, Nelson the fixed cost of the shuttle are more than just inspecting the shuttle. A new fuel tank had to be built for every flight(the most expensive item disposed) and two solid rocket boosters had to be fished out the ocean, cleaned, shipped to Utah. This is what most of the 2-3 billion it costs to keep the shuttle going is. The shuttles main engines while the most expensive rocket engine ever built is reused about five time( if I remember correctly).

    Endeavour cost 1.7 billion to build(The other orbiters likely cost less as they were completed about the same time).If it cost 1.7 to build a shuttle and only 60 million to service one, you will pull ahead of the cost of Orion in about three flights as Orion is estimated to cost around $800 million a copy. If astronautix is right an Apollo capsule/Service module cost $77 million a copy. You would save $10 million a flight just to reuse the shuttle each time.

    If you start throwing away the payload like you did with Apollo the costs rise dramatically. This is what makes SDHLV very unattractive. You gain all the high fixed costs of heavy lift and lose the reusability of the shuttle in terms of payload. By the way the cost of an Saturn V launch is 1.1 billion dollars a flight.

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 4th, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    The shuttle marginal cost per launch was only $60 million

    We keep correcting you on this. Just the External Tank alone was $173M (http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=24363). Do you have a memory problem, or just like to lie?

    The killer was the fixed costs for the massive workforce that had to inspect every single thermal tile and recondition all of the engines…

    But somehow you don’t include the $200M/month that it cost for this “massive workforce” in your calculation for how expensive the Shuttle actually was to operate.

    Here is a 2005 study that was calculating a cost of $1.3B/flight:

    http://cstpr.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/space_policy/000346space_shuttle_costs.html

    The takeaway from this is that ANY government run transportation system that relying on a standing army to service it is going to have the same cost issues, and that includes the SLS. Commercial companies that operate launchers that have market demand are able to spread their costs across a constant use of their services, which is why commercial transportation is a more cost-effective option for doing anything in space.

  • Here is an interesting report that all you armchair MBA’s might find interesting reading… It is current, and concludes that NASA cannot afford commercial crew…

    http://images.spaceref.com/news/2011/AerospaceCrew.pdf

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 4th, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    A SLS that can put up 130 mT x 2.2 lb/kg x 2,430 (Falcon 9 $/lb) comes to a target cost of : $694,980,000.

    Well the problem for SLS is even worse than that, because if you need to put up a lot of mass (which no one does as of now), then Falcon Heavy will be doing part of it, and it is priced at $1,347/lb to LEO.

    So using your numbers the SLS would have to cost $385M/flight to be competitive to Falcon Heavy – I don’t think that will happen, especially since the Shuttle ET cost $173M when it was in full production, and the SLS will need a larger version. Maybe they could use cheaper metal on the stringers??? ;-)

    With that you need to pay for 5 RS-25Es engines (wild guess $30 mil each) plus 2 5 segment SRBs, a J-2X, …

    And $25B+ in R&D. You need to add recurring and non-recurring together when figuring out the average cost/flight.

    For instance, if we assume it costs $25B to get to the first flight, then the $/lb would be $87,412/lb. After 4 flights it would come down to $21,853/lb. To get down to the price of Falcon Heavy you would need to fly 65 flights – and that doesn’t account for the recurring costs of actually building the SLS and keeping the “standing army” around.

    Those figures also don’t take into account the cost of building the 18.6M lbs of payload that would go up on those 65 flights. Who’s paying for that?

    So far your math is not making the case for building the SLS. Congress knows this, but they want to build it for political reasons (jobs and influence), so their ignorance is understandable. Please, don’t be ignorant like a politician.

  • Vladislaw

    Nelson wrote:

    “The fault with your model is that cars and planes are designed specifically to travel. Space systems, intead, are designed to go to a destination, and remain there. Such as GEO, the Moon, or Mars. If you are in orbit around Mars, the last thing that you want to have to burn fuel to escape Mars and approach Earth, enter Earth orbit, and burn more fuel to down Earth’s gravity well into LEO, in order to top off your tanks.”

    The fault with your answer is your false assumptions. 18 wheelers are not designed to travel to destinations like coast to coast? Cars are designed to travel to the next gas station? You are presupposing that there is only going to one fuel station in space… forever.

    Let’s start with gas stations where we can utilize them the most first. Nail down fuel handling and get the space based ships/transports/tugs in place that can use them and go from there. In the mean time we are not throwing away billions in hardware every launch and get on a sustainable path. Apollo wasn’t it and Constellation wasn’t either.

  • Martijn Meijering

    The fault with your model is that cars and planes are designed specifically to travel. Space systems, intead, are designed to go to a destination, and remain there. Such as GEO, the Moon, or Mars.

    No, that applies to bases, outposts and space stations, which can be compared to buildings, not vehicles. A lander, a capsule or an MTV on the other hand are designed to travel.

    If you are in orbit around Mars, the last thing that you want to have to burn fuel to escape Mars and approach Earth, enter Earth orbit, and burn more fuel to down Earth’s gravity well into LEO, in order to top off your tanks.

    Which is why you should let the MTV cycle between high Mars orbit and high Earth orbit, probably using an Earth moon Lagrange point and a Sun Mars Lagrange point, both located at the very edge of their gravity well.

  • Martijn Meijering

    To get to the Moon and Mars, especialy Mars, it needs the operational expedience of HLVs.

    No, it needs the flexibility of propellant transfer and the efficiency of cheap lift. And the former helps greatly with establishing the latter.

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 4th, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Here is an interesting report that all you armchair MBA’s might find interesting reading… It is current, and concludes that NASA cannot afford commercial crew…

    Kind of reminds me of the aerodynamicist that proved that bumblebees cannot fly.

    I looked at the study, and besides having at least one typo, they seem to ignore actual commercial companies.

    Instead of proving why the cost to LEO can never be less than $100M/seat, they should be looking at why SpaceX thinks they can do $20M/seat. For instance, why don’t they mention the possibility of other demand for commercial crew services (i.e. Bigelow), or the use of dual-use vehicles like Dragon that have somehow been developed for far less than $1B.

    I hope NASA didn’t pay for that report…

  • Martijn Meijering

    My impression of fuel depots is that they were created as an excuse to provide customers for SpaceX, rather than as anything that NASA needs.

    No, they were thought of almost a hundred years ago by Tsiolkovsky (who may or may not have got the idea from von Pirquet), who incorrectly believed they might be necessary for reaching orbit. Wernher von Braun was an enthusiastic supporter and the Russians have been using propellant transfer since 1978 and continue to use it for ISS because it is exceedingly practical.

    To the degree commercial space advocates are enthusiastic about depots it is not because of SpaceX or any individual company, but because it would allow fair, competitive and redundant procurement, which would let exploration funds do double duty as funding for commercial RLVs, which in turn would open up space for mankind. So this has nothing to do with SpaceX, but with the goal of opening up space for mankind by reducing launch prices by an order of magnitude or more.

    The idea of using spending for exploration as a source of funding for launch vehicle development should not be new to you as it is exactly what you are advocating for HLV / SDLV, but this time without fair, competitive and redundant procurement. Which leaves you with cronyism and picking favourites. In other words, exactly what you were falsely and knowingly occusing your opponents of. It is beyond me how anyone could consider this ethical behaviour.

    As for NASA needing depots or at least propellant transfer, it certainly doesn’t, nor I might add does it require HLVs nor would it require an SDLV even if you needed an HLV. The question is not which of the two is needed, but which of the two is more useful. And since using propellant transfer to enable fair, competitive and redundant procurement – something that is more desirable in general for any form of public of private procurement – is being capable of contributing towards NASA’s official mission to “seek and ecourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space” the choice for commercial launchers and propellant transfer is compelling.

    The physics of launch engineering dictate that there are greater mass efficiences for the largest possible rocket.

    That is but one small aspect. Noth everything gets easier with larger sizes. Combustion stability doesn’t. Development cost doesn’t. And more importantly, the crucial figure of merit is specific launch cost, since that is what has been holding back both exploration and commercial manned spaceflight. Reduce launch prices by an order of magnitude and you’ll see lots of moon and Mars missions as well as lots of commercial manned spaceflight. Break a new record for the largest launch vehicle ever, and all you’ve got is an expensive lawn ornament.

  • common sense

    @ Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 4th, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    “Here is an interesting report that all you armchair MBA’s might find interesting reading…”

    Armchair PhDs if you don’t mind proper respect. Because rockets designed by MBAs may be as worth as those designed by JDs.

    “It is current, and concludes that NASA cannot afford commercial crew…”

    Does it show that? Really? Great! NASA will finally stop CCdev thanks to this report. Just on time! They were just waiting for it and NASA will now reinstate Constellation and/or Jupiter and/or Sidemount.

    Oh well…

  • Martijn Meijering

    The only real argument for fuel depots is a blind faith (with near-religious overtones) in the ability of small providers to dramatically reduce the cost per pound to LEO. The same type of faith that was used to promote the Shuttle and ISS.

    Not the ability of small providers, but the ability of fair, competitive and redundant procurement. There’s no reason why Old Space couldn’t build an RLV. New Space still hasn’t matched all of the achievements of DC-X more than ten years ago, although it has exceeded some. It came later, was developed much more slowly but it was also done on a shoestring budget, even compared to DC-X which was itself done on a shoestring budget by aerospace standards. Provide a large and fiercely competitive market for propellant launch services and commercial funding for RLVs will materialise. We could expect spectacular results soon.

    Maybe you don’t believe in this, but why not give it a shot? The upside is enormous and the downside is nil. Competing EELV class vehicles will at the very least be no more expensive than an SDLV, even at high flight rates and are likely to be at least somewhat cheaper. They are also operational today, which means you could spend SLS money on spacecraft instead, which means you could start to do exploration sooner, not later.

    development risk of this new technology, and the lower reliability of the end result in comparison to ground-based preflight testing of the assembled system

    All of this can be done in a very risk-averse way with proven technology and systems (EELVs, hypergolic propulsion and propellant transfer) and can be done very rapidly. This is less risky and less expensive than using an unproven SDLV from a disproven designer (MSFC).

  • pathfinder_01

    There is a big flaw in that report. The ISS currently gets 4 flights of soyuz a year. Unless they want to test extended duration spaceflight there should be 4 flights of 3-4 crew to the ISS a year and this report assumes no tourist or others fly.

  • Bennett

    Plus, fuel depots are already in the pipeline. What follows is from today’s The Lurio Report:

    CRYOTE has matured into three versions: the “Lite” the “Pup” and the “Free Flier.” (Go HERE and click on the March 2, 2011 presentation by Christopher McLean of Ball Aerospace in the “Presentations Archive.”) Each can advance particular areas of study but all use essentially the same “Core Subsystem.” None would require a dedicated EELV launch.

    CRYOTE Lite would do basic experiments for some 17 hours with the Centaur providing avionics, attitude control, communications, and power; the Pup would operate for 3 months to a year, and include its own ‘satellite bus’ system to provide these services independently, though it would remain attached to the Centaur. The Free Flier is essentially identical to the Pup but would separate and then operate independently of the Centaur. Non-recurring cost for any of the three would be under $100 million, but follow-on flights would cost a lot less.

    Performing research using all three versions of CRYOTE could bring the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) for almost 20 different fuel transfer/storage technologies to “9” – the highest level of readiness . That could be followed by a full-up demonstration of a dedicated cryogen propellant storage craft, including propellant transfers, in a “Flagship Technology Demonstration.”

    Many thanks to Charles Lurio for another great newsletter!

  • Bennett

    Here is a response to the “Commercial Crew report” by the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

    Ouch! Sliced and diced.

  • pathfinder_01

    Thanks Bennett

  • The Commercial Spaceflight Federation replied to the report…

    Some good points…Some debatable…

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=33167

  • Major Tom

    “It is current, and concludes that NASA cannot afford commercial crew…”

    The report states no such thing. Enough with the repeated lying.

    The report’s bottom line is that under multiple worst-case conditions (halved NASA business, commercial customers at a loss, new LV developments, oppressive safety regime, etc.), NASA could expect to pay ~$20 billion for commercial crew development and ten years of operations.

    That’s half of what Ares I/Orion development would have cost ($35-40 billion). It’s equivalent to what SLS/MPCV development will cost ($16 billion-plus for Shuttle-derived SLS plus another ~$5 billion for an Orion-based MPCV). Neither of those option even get to operations before blowing $20 billion.

    Per the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, the study is conservative to a fault:

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=33167

    But even with all that conservatism and all those worst-case conditions, commercial crew still comes out ahead of Shuttle-derived solutions like Ares I/Orion or SLS/MPCV by a factor of 2-4.

    FWIW…

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 3rd, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    Where is the BIG SAVINGS??? Where is the DRAMATIC, orders of magnitudes reduction in cost? How am I going to be able to afford to actually go into orbit (the main sales pitch) if I can’t afford the astronomical price tag?

    Well I think the SpaceX announcement today about Falcon Heavy shows what the private sector can do – you would never hear NASA (or Congress) announce that they are not only DRAMATICALLY increasing the performance of a product/service, but lowering the cost per unit by a DRAMATIC amount.

    It probably won’t take much time before the non space-dependent members of Congress start asking their fellow members why they are spending so much to duplicate a far less expensive commercial service (i.e. putting payloads into space).

    In listening to Elon’s press conference, it reminded me again about why the term “disruptive innovation” applies to SpaceX.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_technology

    Here is a relevant excerpt from Wikipedia:

    Although the automobile was a transformational innovation, it was not a disruptive innovation, because early automobiles were expensive luxury items that did not disrupt the market for horse-drawn vehicles. The market for transportation essentially remained intact until the debut of the lower priced Ford Model T in 1908 by making higher speed, motorized transportation available to the masses.

    And so it is with SpaceX, where they are bringing lower cost and more capable launch vehicles to the market, which allows them to rely on high-volume manufacturing techniques to increase quality and keep costs low.

    Exciting times!

  • “But even with all that conservatism and all those worst-case conditions, commercial crew still comes out ahead of Shuttle-derived solutions like Ares I/Orion or SLS/MPCV by a factor of 2-4.”

    To the contrary, commercial crew is totally incapable of accomplishing NASA’s primary mission, manned exploration of space BEO. To compared it with the SLS/MPCV is like comparing a golf cart with an SUV.

    By the way, amidst all the clamor about how NASA does not need HLVs, SpaceX is trying to package itself more and more like a bargain mini-HLV.
    Smart move!

    http://www.spacex.com/falcon_heavy.php

  • Major Tom

    “To the contrary, commercial crew is totally incapable of accomplishing NASA’s primary mission, manned exploration of space BEO. To compared it with the SLS/MPCV is like comparing a golf cart with an SUV.”

    Your claimed that the Aerospace Corp. report “concludes that NASA cannot afford commercial crew.” This was a blatant lie because: 1) the report stated no such things, and 2) if you think NASA can afford SLS/MPCV, then NASA can afford commercial crew — the former costs many billions more than the latter.

    The only reason I made the comparison was because you were blatantly lying about what a report said about commercial crew costs. Stop lying.

    “By the way, amidst all the clamor about how NASA does not need HLVs, SpaceX is trying to package itself more and more like a bargain mini-HLV.”

    There is no packaging. Falcon 9 Heavy has been in the works for years now.

    Ugh…

  • Ferris Valyn

    Nelson,

    A couple of things

    1. It is NOT NASA’s primary mission to do manned exploration of space BEO – I know you wish it was, but its not.

    2. There is something more interesting about the Falcon Heavy – its a modular approach, as opposed to a single big rocket. That has HUGE cost saving implications, that the Senate Launch System CANNOT hope to match (BTW, this is also true of Delta Heavy, and Atlas Heavy).

    If Falcon Heavy was a single core vehicle, or a special design vehicle (ala Ares V or Saturn V), the I suspect that they would find it harder to bring to market.

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 5th, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    To the contrary, commercial crew is totally incapable of accomplishing NASA’s primary mission, manned exploration of space BEO.

    First of all, NASA’s primary mission is NOT manned exploration of space BEO.

    NASA’s self-described mission statement is to “pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.” In looking at that statement, it doesn’t say that NASA has to do it, and in fact they could contract for someone to do it for them, just like they are doing with the lunar data from one of the Google Lunar X Prize participants.

    Secondly, you’re trying to prop up a strawman regarding commercial crew. The Aerospace Corp. study was pointed at LEO transportation to the ISS, not BEO exploration. Major Tom’s point was that even though the study seriously over estimated the relevant costs, it still comes out to a better deal than using the MPCV in a space taxi roll (which some in Congress want).

    Lots of moving parts – try to keep up.

  • common sense

    @ Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 5th, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    “To the contrary, commercial crew is totally incapable of accomplishing NASA’s primary mission, manned exploration of space BEO.”

    Nelson you really have a problem I am starting to think. “Manned exploration of space BEO” is NOT “NASA’s primary mission”. How often do we need to tell you? Ever read the Space Act? Further you could at least say crewed exploration. You know there actually are female astronauts nowadays.

    “To compared it with the SLS/MPCV is like comparing a golf cart with an SUV.”

    What do you know about F9, F9H and SLS/MPCV? What? Do you know that SLS and MPCV do not even exist? Do you actually know that? Do you know that their ancestors Ares/Orion could not work? Is this that hard to understand?

    “By the way, amidst all the clamor about how NASA does not need HLVs, SpaceX is trying to package itself more and more like a bargain mini-HLV.
    Smart move!”

    SpaceX is a commercial firm. If Congress and NASA continue to claim they need an HLV SpaceX will offer one at a fraction of the cost of SLS. Commercial means you look for business regardless of rhetoric! If NASA wanted to get a bubble gum rocket and be ready to pay $100Ms then SpaceX, and others, will be happy to offer one! Come on!

  • Bennett

    Only in Nelson’s brain, and I use that term loosely, does 117,000 lbs to LEO fall into a mini-anything class.

    If they pull it off, and I fully expect they will, the Falcon Heavy will be the world’s most capable HLV. Two launches for a grand total of 200 million dollars – to lift anything that a non-existent 100 ton SLS could lift. Without ANY development costs!

    NASA has pissed away at least 200 million since October on the cancelled Constellation program thanks to the Shelby amendment. But we need to spend 10 billion dollars to build a new NASA rocket?

    How’s that again?

  • Vladislaw

    “The third pattern shows that, despite the established firms’ technological prowess in leading sustaining innovations, from the simplest to the most radical, the firms that led the industry in every instance of developing and adopting disruptive technologies were entrants to the industry, not its incumbent leaders.”
    – The Innovators Dilemma, When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, Clayton Christenson, 1997

  • Coastal Ron

    Ferris Valyn wrote @ April 5th, 2011 at 1:02 pm
    common sense wrote @ April 5th, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    It is NOT NASA’s primary mission to do manned exploration of space BEO

    Notice how we all emphasized “NOT”? Birds of a feather…

    Vladislaw wrote @ April 5th, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    The Innovators Dilemma

    Nice reference, and one that the leaders of Boeing, Lockheed Martin, ATK etc. probably never thought would apply to the space industry. Luckily Musk saw an opportunity, and now we’ll see how Boeing, LM & ATK respond (i.e. compete or exit the market).

  • Sorry, fellas, but even Bolden will admit, as he recently did before the Senate, that among all of NASA’s various missions, the most important is manned space exploration. And if you want something to actaully explore, other than high vacuum, the Moon and Mars are the two places within immediate reach. Sorry, but no amount of feeble excusses are not going to carry that point.

    Also, let’s drop the silly insults. The real value of this conversation is to share data, information, and ideas. Let’s remember to leave our egos at the door. We might not alwasy hear exactly what we want, but we are all (I would hope) grown up and can handle that. I am always willing to entertain other points of view, but I really don’t have breath to waste on childish name calling.

  • “If they pull it off, and I fully expect they will, the Falcon Heavy will be the world’s most capable HLV. Two launches for a grand total of 200 million dollars – to lift anything that a non-existent 100 ton SLS could lift. Without ANY development costs!”

    If he pulls it off, it will have 75% of the initial payload requirements of NASA’s SLS, and 40% of the final 130mT payload requirement for BEO missions. What I wonder is if he could strap on 4 instead of 2, resulting in 88+ mT. And how reliable is a Falcon-27 going to be. The Soviet N-1 Moon rocket kept blowing up before first stage seperation because it had so many (30) engines. On the other hand, with so many engines, you will get more flight experience than with a Delta IV, which has only 1 RS-68 engine for the main stage, or the Atlas V, which has only 1 RD-180 for the main stage.

    But wait, NASA doesn’t need an HLVs, right??? Maybe you need to tell Elon Musk that he is making a big mistake, and is consequently doomed to financial ruin.

    Just yesterday I pointed out that if commercial space had a real HLV this LEO propellant depot nonsense would be immediately dropped.

  • common sense

    For those who wonder what’s the next big thing at SpaceX. If you read the announcement (http://www.onorbit.com/node/3175) till the end you will find this politically astute statement. Emphasis mine.

    “Please note that Falcon Heavy should not be confused with the super heavy lift rocket program being debated by the U.S. Congress. That vehicle is authorized to carry between 70-130 metric tons to orbit. SpaceX agrees with the need to develop a vehicle of that class as the best way to conduct a large number of human missions to Mars.

    Astute in so many ways but just for thoughts:
    . First and foremost, Congress I am your friend we agree we need this.

    Now two options:
    1. Congress pushes forward with SLS Shuttle derived which will fail for lack of budget leaving SpaceX with the only available option.
    2. Congress continues its advocating of HLV but abandons SD then SpaceX is here to help.

    In all cases SpaceX wins. Unless of course Congress does fund a real SD-HLV, but come on, they did not until now why would they in the future????

    Well done.

  • common sense

    @ Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 5th, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    “Sorry, fellas, but even Bolden will admit, as he recently did before the Senate, that among all of NASA’s various missions, the most important is manned space exploration. ”

    Note you did not say the “most important” mission, you said the “primary” mission. One is an opinion, yours and others’, the other is a definition such as in the Space Act.

    Now if it were so then please explain why we, humans, have not set foot on any space object since Apollo. Because if it is the primary mission then ISS (as a stand alone) makes no sense, funded by both parties over many years. Shuttle (as a stand alone) does not make sense, funded by both parties over many years. Constellation cancelled by both parties. Apollo cancelled by both parties.

    Of course if you were to say that Shuttle and ISS are precursors to an ambitious human exploration program together then maybe just maybe you could be right.

    But Apollo and Constellation were cancelled for the same reason: Unsustainable for a mission that is not primary to NASA.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Just yesterday I pointed out that if commercial space had a real HLV this LEO propellant depot nonsense would be immediately dropped.

    No it wouldn’t, it could theoretically be dropped once commercial space had multiple RLVs, not a single HLV. But even then you’d be crazy to spend ten times the money to launch propellant on anything else than an RLV and crazy to throw away one or more spacraft with each flight. The goal is to reduce commercial launch prices, not to line anyone’s pocket. I understand this is a difficult concept for a shill to wrap his head around.

  • Martijn Meijering

    In all cases SpaceX wins.

    But without a large and fiercely competitive launch market we’ll still be going nowhere.

  • pathfinder_01

    No, NASA does not need a HLV and it needs cheep lift more than anything else. SLS is not cheap lift.

    It needs propellant transfer and advanced propulsion (electric ect.). Without propellant transfer (Depots, tankers) you will never be able to do much more than lunar sorties as you try to force your whole mission including propellant on to a single launch(or maybe break it into two).

    In space assembly is likewise a needed tool but we have learned how to do that from the ISS.

    Advance propulsion lowers the cost of sending cargo in space. Those technologies are must have.

    As for the Falcon 9 Heavy, if it works it is how heavy lift should be done. It cannot be a monolithic system like Shuttle or Saturn or the preferred options of SLS. It shares it’s components with Falcon 9. This allows the capability to build the heavy lift to exist without needing to launch the heavy lift itself. So long as Falcon 9 has customers he can have the ability to create a Falcon 9 Heavy.

    If he is successful SLS will never see the light of day, the chorus for NASA to stop building rockets will grow louder.

  • common sense

    @ Vladislaw wrote @ April 5th, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Re: The Innovators Dilemma

    It can ONLY be entrants who can really lead and innovate. If they were not then they would not offer anything that much better than the existing companies and would not make any money. Seems logical to me.

  • Vladislaw

    Companies, like people, tend to hate change. How often has a new worker at a company tried to do something different, something innovative and then get told “but we have always did it this way”.

    Companies become like dinosaurs in many ways. They are unable to evolve and so die off. Some companies, however, manage to reinvent themselves every decade or so and then stay in the game for decade after decade.

    So the point is that existing companies rarely want to take the steps and spend the profits to reinvent themselves, remain nimble and constantly innovate before the market forces it on them.

  • common sense

    @ Martijn Meijering wrote @ April 5th, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    “But without a large and fiercely competitive launch market we’ll still be going nowhere.”

    It was not my point. I was only addressing their strategy. There will most likely never be a competitive launch market for an HLV if ever.

    Also bear in mind that if SpaceX helps push Congress in the HLV ditch they will win too. Since they will have the F9 and possibly F9H ready for use while the others will spin their wheels for ever. It’s a waste of money but Congress seems okay with waste so…

  • My guess is

    1. Congress will direct NASA to move forward with the inline SD HLV. There are no major technical hurdles. It will not be cheap, but the costs will be predictable because it will use mature components, and it will easily fit within NASA’s budget.

    2. If SpaceX continues to demonstrate success over the next 5 years on COTS, commercial, and possibly DOD launches, and particularly if they master the first stage recovery and reuse that Musk has been promising, the then they will be able to afford the development costs of a Merlin 2 engine, which will allow them to compete in the serious heavy lift category in the future, possibly undercutting NASA’s SD HLV on cost.

  • “Of course if you were to say that Shuttle and ISS are precursors to an ambitious human exploration program together then maybe just maybe you could be right. ”

    One of the original selling points of the “Space Transportation System” was that the shuttle was going to be an inexpensive first stage and that there woud be a cis-lunar tug for GEO and lunar missions.

    As far as what actually happened, I think that Wayne Hale sums it up best by his quote from p 221 of the CAIB:

    “the previous attempts to de­velop a replacement vehicle for the aging Shuttle represent a failure of national leadership”

    http://waynehale.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/space-architecture/

  • “No, NASA does not need a HLV and it needs cheep lift more than anything else. SLS is not cheap lift. ”

    Clearly, that is your opinion.

    I disagree. If your read the CAIB, they also disagre with you.
    For human space exploration, SAFETY must always be the first consideration, and trumps every other consideration, including capability and cost.

    For commercial businesses, in most instances profit is the only considration. Most seek immediate profit at any cost. Some seek long-term profit. Musk says that SpaceX is not driver by profits, but most businesses are. Without it they do not survive, and without enough of it CEOs get replaced. That is why SpaceX has not yet gone public.

  • It is simplistic to assume that operating cost can be predicted based on vehicle size or payload. Operating cost is dependent on manufacturing processes, logistics, facilities, maintenance requirements, program management and to a great extent degree of reusability. With any ELV the vast majority of the cost is in vehicle fabrication; the cost of fuel is completely insignificant; LH2 at LC-39 costs 98 cents a gallon. LOX is 60 cents. That’s why the Shuttle program was initiated. Only a reusable vehicle can significantly reduce cost, because most of the cost is in fabrication.

    The Shuttle is much more expensive to operate than specified, but the reasons have never been subject to rigorous analysis. The SRBs require complete disassembly and rebuilding because of the saltwater immersion and the nature of solid propellant engines. The Orbiter TPS maintenance cost was much higher than anticipated but has been vastly reduced sing the loss of Columbia and the improvements that were made in the ET insulating foam. Because of “full cost accounting” the Shuttle program pays for facilities that data from Apollo and many center support services that have nothing to do with the spacecraft itself. In the rare cases where an additional Shuttle mission was added to the schedule the cost was under $100 million.

    The Shuttle is more expensive than predicted, but it is our very first attempt at a reusable orbital launch system. Giving up on reusable systems now and going back to ELVs would be like flying only the Wright Flyer until 1930 and then deciding that heavier-than-air flight is impractical and going back to balloons.

  • Byeman

    bidwell, give it a rest. You are backing the wrong side and you have no basis for it.

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 5th, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    …that among all of NASA’s various missions, the most important is manned space exploration.

    Whatever his opinion, the only NASA manned anything in the budget is for LEO stuff, and broadly speaking, that falls under exploration type stuff. The Moon, or anything else, doesn’t have a line item yet.

    Sorry, but no amount of feeble excusses are not going to carry that point.

    Feeble? You’re the one having a hard time justifying a $200B program to repeat a mission we did 40 years ago. Where’s your imagination?

    Also, let’s drop the silly insults.

    Did you mean “feeble” insults? ;-)

    The real value of this conversation is to share data, information, and ideas.

    Great, let us know when you’re joining the conversation.

  • Rhyolite

    The choice is:

    A) 53 mT HLV for zero development cost and $100 M per flight, available in 2013

    Or

    B) 70 mt HLV for $10,000 M to $20,000 M and $1,000 M per flight, available in 2020

    There is no rational reason to pick B) (aside from home state pork).

  • SpaceX has posted the video for the Falcon 27 press conference from earlier today…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtoADdSry6g&feature=youtube_gdata_player

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 5th, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    What I wonder is if he could strap on 4 instead of 2, resulting in 88+ mT.

    That’s what the Russians are proposing for the Angara.

    IF there was demand for something bigger than 53mt to LEO (and there is no demand for 53mt at this time), then I would imagine that SpaceX would pursue the Falcon X and XX, and not an incremental improvement in Falcon Heavy. If you haven’t noticed yet, SpaceX likes to pursue huge leaps in functionality, not small incremental ones.

    The Soviet N-1 Moon rocket kept blowing up before first stage seperation because it had so many (30) engines.

    It wasn’t because of the number of engines, but in part by the quality of the plumbing connecting them (overall design/shape too). Don’t you read up on this stuff before you post?

    If anything the engines were pretty good, and Orbital is using them for the Taurus II launcher for the Cygnus spacecraft (COTS/CRS program). They just passed testing at the NASA engine facility.

  • “But without a large and fiercely competitive launch market we’ll still be going nowhere.”

    Burt Rutan would agree with you. For orbital tourism if Virgin Galactic does not get any competitors, the prices are not going to come down. They would have no motivation to reduce their profits except if they thought that there was a much larger demand at a slightly lower price. The example that he cites is the Anglo French Concorde. Because there was not an American SST, the ticket prices remained high.

    For NASA, though, price is not so much of a driver. NASA has missions, and the mission are accomplished at astronomical prices because they are paid for by all of us for about $70 per person. What price does is dictate the schedule. If we go back to the Moon, it is going to be 10 years from now, because we do not want taxes to go up another $10 per person in order to double the budget of the SLS and MPCV.

  • The choice is: (A) 53 mT HLV for zero development cost and $100 M per flight, available in 2013 or (B) 70 mt HLV for $10,000 M to $20,000 M and $1,000 M per flight, available in 2020″

    Actually, you are holding a good hand, and really don’t need to overplay it.

    (A) 53 mT for $0 development cost and $100 M per flight by 2014 or
    (B) 130 mT for $10 B development cost and $300 M per flight by 2017.

    If our goal is the Moon, you could mount a substantial lunar mission with 3 F 9H launches. Option (A) could look attractive, assuming that the reliability of the launch vehicle is proven with more launches.

    If our goal is Mars then the real HLV is the clear winner, because getting 600 mT into LEO dictates that you are going to want to keep the number of launches within reason, even if it costs 2X as much…

  • Das Boese

    See this is where politics gets just so damn depressing for a space enthusiast.

    In a sane world, the announcement of something like Falcon Heavy would lead to the immediate cancellation of HLV development at NASA and redirection of those funds towards development of actual exploration payloads that will fit on FH, be they robotic, sample return, or modules for manned vehicles.

    Unfortunately NASA’s path is guided by politics, not sanity.

  • “IF there was demand for something bigger than 53mt to LEO (and there is no demand for 53mt at this time), then I would imagine that SpaceX would pursue the Falcon X and XX, and not an incremental improvement in Falcon Heavy.”

    No demand for 53 mT at this time? In the press conference Musk said that he expected that 50% of his business would be the F-9H and 50% would be the F-9. He is very optimistic about an expected launch rate of about 10 F-9H flights per year. So much so that he is paying for 100% of his development cost. That does not exactly sound like a ringing endorsement for the small boosters only mantra that armchair experts have been chanting.

    By the way, I think he is making a smart move:
    (1) The greater thrust of the Merlin 1D puts the F-9H out of reach of his competition.
    (2) He has vertical integration cost advantages, like Andrew Carnegie, that allow him to underbid others.
    (3) The Merlin 1D will be designed to be even less expensive to manufacture.
    (4) He will be using the same manufacturing line to produce both the Falcon 9 and the Falcon-9H, so his development costs will be minimal.
    (5) He is openly advertising his price advantage.
    (6) He is not making wild promises. Just that they do not plan any future prices increases beyond inflation.

  • “Because of “full cost accounting” the Shuttle program pays for facilities that data from Apollo and many center support services that have nothing to do with the spacecraft itself. In the rare cases where an additional Shuttle mission was added to the schedule the cost was under $100 million.”

    Dan, I have to agree with everything you say. I think that commercial space is where reusability and low-maintenance should be key targets.

    SpaceX has taken several successful steps to lower costs, but as long as his rocket motors burn up on reentry, there is going to be a limit to how low he can go. For NASA cost is important, but not nearly as prohibative…

  • “If anything the (Soviet N-1) engines were pretty good, and Orbital is using them for the Taurus II launcher for the Cygnus spacecraft (COTS/CRS program). They just passed testing at the NASA engine facility.”

    As you say, there were a number of plumbing fubars that contributed to the low reliability. However, it is my understanding that there were also several major engine issues that were only fixed some time later. The race to the Moon compelled them to create a nightmare that was not ready to fly.

  • “You are backing the wrong side and you have no basis for it.”

    Neither of us has a crystal ball with which to see the future.

    It could be that commercial providers will transform NASA’s manned space program It could be that they will turn out to be a dismal failure for reasons that some or perhaps none of us anticipate. Only time will tell.

    (I remember once being the only person with the correct answer to a problem on celectial mechanics in an honors physics class. Everyone else told me that I was wrong. Even the professor, a very bright theoretical high energy physicist. However, I was certain that I was correct, and when they worked through an analysis of the problem they all came to the realization that I had been entirely correct. So I do not tend to be very intimidated if more than one person disagrees with me. )

    If you have a viewpoint that is not widely appreciated, it is best to articulate it, even if it is not in vogue. You might be right. And if you don’t speak up, no one else will.

    However, if I do not want to dominate the discussion in any way. I would like to think that I am as open to other ideas as I expect of others.

  • “Which is why you should let the MTV cycle between high Mars orbit and high Earth orbit, probably using an Earth moon Lagrange point and a Sun Mars Lagrange point, both located at the very edge of their gravity well.”

    If the MTV is a high-mass Aldrin Cycler, I don’t think you will want to bring it to a near-standstill at a Lagrance point. I would think that you would want to propel a lightweight tank with just enought fuel to match it’s trajectory, which could happen any number of places near EO.

    If it does not routinely return to EO, I think that you would want to send it a small lightweight fuel delivery craft with just exactly the amount of fuel that it needs. Because of the astronomical costs per pound, you want to use the more efficient JIT manufacturing methodology, rather than paying for fuel in orbit that possibly does not ever get used, not to mention that JIT would minimize boil-off if you need LOX.

  • Bennett

    ” 130 mT for $10 B development cost and $300 M per flight by 2017.”

    Where the heck are you getting those numbers?

    Seriously, they’re laughable. Ares was headed for twice that price, and it was a joke of a LV that couldn’t even get the original Orion to LEO. Yet you expect NASA to do a 130MT SHLV for the same price, in 5 years?

  • pathfinder_01

    What martin is discribing isn’t a Aldrin Cyler. It is a spacecraft that goes from high earth orbit to high mars orbit.

  • For human space exploration, SAFETY must always be the first consideration, and trumps every other consideration, including capability and cost.

    If this is true, then we will never open up space. Fortunately, it’s nonsense.

  • common sense

    Safety, ah safety. What a lot of people don’t seem to understand is that “safety” is a game being played by advocates of certain vehicles (SRBs are safe) vs. pretty much every one else. Well SRBs are safe so long they don’t fail. When they do fail there is no escape. On the other hand a liquid might fail but the likelihood of an escape is much higher. So which one is safer? The one you can escape from or the one that will never ever fail. It must be interesting to know that the nuclear plant in Japan was never to see a catastrophe of this magnitude. Never. Make what you want of it.

    Oh well…

  • “What martin is discribing isn’t a Aldrin Cyler. It is a spacecraft that goes from high earth orbit to high mars orbit.”

    I stand corrected!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_cycler

  • “If this is true, then we will never open up space. Fortunately, it’s nonsense.”

    http://www.aia-aerospace.org/issues_policies/space/remembrance/

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 5th, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    For commercial businesses, in most instances profit is the only considration.

    That would be like saying you exist only to breathe, when in fact there is more than that (like bloviating on this blog).

    Commercial companies are in the business of satisfying customer needs, and by doing that they get rewarded. In the case of launch providers, they are in the business of getting customer payloads to the right place in space without damaging them. For commercial crew, it will be the same.

    Companies that only focus on profit, and not customer satisfaction, are inherently near-sighted and don’t tend to survive, whereas companies that focus on delighting their customers tend to do well AND are profitable.

    That is why SpaceX has not yet gone public.

    It isn’t, but then you don’t understand economics, so it’s easy to see why you think this.

    The facts are that SpaceX has been profitable for the past few years and plans to stay that way, and they have stated publicly that they want to IPO next year (2012).

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 5th, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    1. Congress will direct NASA to move forward with the inline SD HLV. There are no major technical hurdles. It will not be cheap, but the costs will be predictable because it will use mature components, and it will easily fit within NASA’s budget.

    That’s what was said about Ares I – remember Safe, Simple and Soon?

    Ares I still needed $30B to get flying, and you think the SLS will be less expensive? You are living in cloud cuckoo land my friend.

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 6th, 2011 at 4:04 am

    No demand for 53 mT at this time? In the press conference Musk said that he expected that 50% of his business would be the F-9H and 50% would be the F-9.

    You keep missing what a $80-125M launcher like Falcon Heavy does to the market. You don’t need to launch a 53mt payload to make it economical to use, since you can launch the same payload you would normally launch on a more expensive launcher like Ariane 5 or even some of the higher performance Atlas V’s. SpaceX just puts less fuel in the tanks.

    The other option open to SpaceX is dual payload launches, which is what they have been pursuing for Falcon 9 and even Dragon. This is the same concept that Ariane 5 uses, but Falcon Heavy is less expensive than Ariane 5, and it can dual launch the largest satellites available today.

    So yes, there is no demand for 53mt payloads today. If you disagree, then by all means list what they are, and when they plan to launch.

  • “Ares I still needed $30B to get flying, and you think the SLS will be less expensive?”

    Actually, the Ares I first stage has already flown successfully. If anything, it was burning lesss funding than originally allocated because of cost overruns in the shuttle and ISS programs.

    Congressional staffers have budgeted almost 10 billion for SLS and MPCV. Bill Nelson has said that those who claim that it cannot be done have an agenda.

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 6th, 2011 at 4:11 am

    …but as long as his [SpaceX] rocket motors burn up on reentry, there is going to be a limit to how low he can go.

    True, and SpaceX may be the lowest that anyone can go, but SO WHAT? If anything, that means that the market will realize this, and look at RLV’s as the next business opportunity.

    Again though you miss the point, in that only SpaceX does this right now, so the ENTIRE industry needs to start adopting the same techniques that SpaceX uses to keep costs so low. That in turn will free up more money for actual payloads, which will spur more launch activity – do you see where this is going? In a chicken & egg market, it moves the market from a neutral position and forces a new paradigm upon the launch & payload industries.

    For NASA cost is important, but not nearly as prohibative…

    That’s true only when NASA is doing something unique. When NASA is doing something routine (like moving mass to orbit) and costs are not going down because Congress/NASA is blocking free-market competition, then that is government waste.

    If Congress has grand plans for the SLS, then they should announce them and let the market compete for taking care of them. But as we all know, THERE ARE NO PLANS TO USE THE SLS. Therefore there is nothing for the commercial payload industry to bid on, and Congress is wasting $30B+ on building the SLS.

    Just as a point of reference, the minimum of $30B that is needed to get to the first SLS launch you could put 28 million lbs of mass into LEO using the Falcon Heavy. And not to be left out, if you used Delta IV Heavy, you could still put 3.35 million lbs of mass into LEO. One million lbs is about the mass of the ISS today.

    We don’t need the SLS to do LEO or BEO exploration.

  • common sense

    @ Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 6th, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    “Actually, the Ares I first stage has already flown successfully. If anything, it was burning lesss funding than originally allocated because of cost overruns in the shuttle and ISS programs.”

    No it has NOT!!! Nelson check your facts! Ares 1X was not made with an Ares 1 first stage. You keep spouting either lies (insincere) or errors (sincere). Lies will quickly put you in a category on this forum where it will be difficult to come out. Errors you need to correct quickly or you will be ignored. Plain and simple.

    “Congressional staffers have budgeted almost 10 billion for SLS and MPCV. Bill Nelson has said that those who claim that it cannot be done have an agenda.”

    Why Bill Nelson has no agenda? Ask what Sen. Shelby (?) thinks of that…

  • Vladislaw

    Nelson Bridwell wrote:

    ” “Ares I still needed $30B to get flying, and you think the SLS will be less expensive?”

    Actually, the Ares I first stage has already flown successfully. If anything, it was burning lesss funding than originally allocated because of cost overruns in the shuttle and ISS programs.”

    http://www.spaceref.com/calendar/calendar.html?pid=6092

    You mean the 5 segment got TEST fired. It has never launched.

    You are saying the 5 segment was built on time and on budget?

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 6th, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Actually, the Ares I first stage has already flown successfully.

    Why are you so uninformed? You claim to be an engineer, but you clearly have no ability to ascertain facts.

    The Ares I-X test flight used a 4-segment Shuttle SRM (and a non-functional upper stage), not the 5-segment Ares SRM. The 5-segment Ares SRM has only be tested horizontally, and has never flown.

  • @Coastal Ron
    “Why are you so uninformed? You claim to be an engineer, but you clearly have no ability to ascertain facts.

    Bridwell has already become this blog’s equivalent of the boy who cried “Wolf!” He seems to have no idea how his numerous unsubstantiated claims have sent his credibility down to zero.

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