Congress, NASA

Congressional support for NASA’s MPCV decision

The “key decision” that NASA announced Tuesday regarding the agency’s space exploration plans was not too surprising, and perhaps a bit underwhelming: NASA is transitioning its existing work on the Orion spacecraft to the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV). In the NASA statement and media teleconference later that day, NASA indicated there would be effectively no major modifications to Orion to become MPCV, but offered little in the way of specifics on the cost of the MPCV or when it would be ready to begin flights.

The MPCV was included in the NASA authorization act last year with a specific requirement to “continue to advance development of the human safety features, designs, and systems in the Orion project.” There was, then, an expectation that NASA would do what it announced yesterday, and transition its existing Orion contract to the MPCV; there was also some frustration in Congress that NASA was taking a long time to make that decision. Now, though, that NASA has done just that, members of Congress are expressing their support for that move, while pressing NASA to also make a decision soon on the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lifter.

“This is a good thing,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said in a statement. The decision “shows real progress towards the goal of exploring deep space” and also helps Florida, he added, since hundreds will be employed at the Kennedy Space Center to process the MPCV for launch. The release also notes that NASA administrator Charles Bolden called Nelson personally to inform him of the decision. In that call, Bolden told the senator that soon “NASA will be making further decisions with regard to the ‘transportation architecture’ of a big deep space rocket.”

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) also supported the decision. “After more than a year of uncertainty and delay, NASA has come to the same conclusion that it reached years ago — Orion is the vehicle that will advance our human exploration in space,” she said in a statement (not yet posted online.) She reminded NASA, though, that it “must continue to follow law” and announce plans for the SLS. “NASA needs to follow this important step by quickly finalizing and announcing the heavy lift launch vehicle configuration so that work can accelerate and the requirements of the law can be met.”

“This was the only fiscally and technologically prudent decision that NASA could make,” Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) said in a statement. “With this decision NASA can continue to build on current projects and investments rather than further delay with unnecessary procurements.”

NASA’s decision means that Lockheed Martin’s contract to work on Orion/MPCV will continue, and that’s a relief for people in Colorado, where much of that work is taking place. In a joint statement, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) noted the decision protects over 1,000 aerospace jobs, and nearly 4,000 total jobs, in the state, which to them appeared to be just as important as the MPCV’s role in future human space exploration. “With the Space Shuttle Endeavor’s [sic] final launch, Orion represents the next frontier in human space exploration and has the potential to stir the imagination of a new generation of young scientists while giving our economy a much needed boost,” Bennet said.

52 comments to Congressional support for NASA’s MPCV decision

  • amightywind

    No new news here. Bolden is stalling. Still, it is good news to provide some relief for Lockmart from the horrible political disruptions of the last 2.5 years. What is the design of the vehicle that will launch Orion? Hopefully that will be a one of the Direct configurations and we can get on with our space program.

    and also helps Florida, he added, since hundreds will be employed at the Kennedy Space Center to process the MPCV for launch.

    The lights at the Cape are going out on Nelson’s watch. What was once 1000′s of jobs has become 100′s. He cannot escape that fact in his reelection.

  • pbryan

    So, given that the MPCV can only fly on 21-day missions to what extend can it be said to be a deep space vehicle? Presumably for any long duration mission the MPCV would be rendered a mere add-on to something much larger. Which of course will need to be developed from scratch. When there is a budget. I wonder how long that will take?

    Sounds to me that something akin to Nautilus might still be on the table come 2025-ish.

  • 21-day limit? So NASA needs yet another vehicle that has no requirements and no budget to fit into a flat (at best) budget that also includes the Senate Launch System?

    The country is in the best of hands…

  • Major Tom

    If NASA doesn’t yet understand the “specifics on the cost of the [Orion] MPCV or when it would be ready to begin flights”, then how can NASA know that Orion is the right solution for MPCV? What was the basis for this decision? Tarot cards? A ouija board?

    Very sad situation…

  • More feed for the porkers to keep them placated. Nothing new.

  • Paul Vaccaro

    21 day mission are only the baseline config, they are planning a long term approach ase assets are added. The SLS will be evolveable and the as for deep space, coupling spacecraft with service sections that have propulsion and supply capabilities. NASA is going to build this in stages , Orion, Heavy Lift, Test flights, operational capabilities, lunar flybys, asteroid flybys, lander development, service section develpoment, eventual lunar test landings , eventual Mars exploration and landings.
    As commercial takes over going in circles and ISS, NASA can concentrate finally on space exploration. If the politicians can just understand the true value of this work a lot of great things can happen. Remember the Apollo program spawned a great many advances some by accident we just got to work together, NASA helping commercial and commercial helping NASA, as long as it says UNITED STATES of AMERICA and those are AMERICAN astronauts in AMERICAN SPACECRAFT we can do great things.

  • Peter Lykke

    Anyone figured out how many seats there are in the capsule now? Is it still 3, or… ?

    All I could find was “crew”.

  • CharlesHouston

    This decision should have been finalized months ago – if NASA had decided to recompete the contract it would have been another 18 months before any work could have proceeded on the capsule. In 18 months, they would have been so far behind CST-100, Dragon, etc that the Orion would have been completely irrelevant. (I can just hear people now saying that is irrelevant already – I disagree).
    And the Orion was originally slated for cancellation, then reemerged as the CDPV (Colorado Democratic Party Rescue Vehicle).
    The interesting thing I have noticed is that the Orion appears to have settled down as a capsule that will carry four people, the two extra seats have not come back (yet?). Surprise!
    The hopeful sign here is that this means that we have sufficient redundancy – we have the ponderous government turtle program, the slimmed down Boeing program (bringing Boeing’s tremendous resources to the game), as well as the nimble SpaceX hare. It will be facinating to see how these parallel efforts come out, management book writers around the world are taking notes daily.

  • BeancounterFromDownunder

    SLS and MPCV will never fly. $5billion on Orion and not one flight yet. No money for any missions and no mission anyway. Jobs program only. Well done Congress!!!

  • Scott Bass

    One of the plans, I think from the contractor, had two Orion vehicles hooked together, so depending on configuration I imagine the 21 days could be at least doubled without developing another vehicle…… Not good enough for mars but they could probably catch any NEO that passes by…. We are probably still at least 20 or thirty years out from a mars trip the way things are going

  • Egad

    Does MPCV retain the 180-day autonomous loiter capability of the earlier Orion concepts?

  • …which to them appeared to be just as important as the MPCV’s role in future human space exploration.

    “just as important…”? More like, all that matters…

  • Robert G. Oler

    It is pretty clear where “Orion” in any name is going, is into a systems effort. With “no timetables” we are more or less moving into a phase of systems development.

    For once Windy is correct…Bolden is stalling. These programs are about to die of their Fiscal weight.

    Robert G. Oler

  • pathfinder_01

    “This decision should have been finalized months ago – if NASA had decided to recompete the contract it would have been another 18 months before any work could have proceeded on the capsule. In 18 months, they would have been so far behind CST-100, Dragon, etc that the Orion would have been completely irrelevant. (I can just hear people now saying that is irrelevant already – I disagree).”

    It is already behind Dragon and CST100 in one crucial respect: It’s got no ride to orbit! CST100 at least can use atlas and Dragon can use Falcon. Orion would have been more BEO capable off the bat but at the rate NASA is developing it but the time it is ready for test flights you could have evolved one of the commercial crew transports for the role and it would cost less.

    “The interesting thing I have noticed is that the Orion appears to have settled down as a capsule that will carry four people, the two extra seats have not come back (yet?). Surprise!”

    Orion has a mass problem it is almost too heavy for its parachutes. They are stuck with four people for all roles. The only good thing is it seems to be causing NASA to consider BEO plans with a crew of 4. For psychological reasons 6 may be preferred but the more people you send on a mission the greater the logistical challenges. I think it will be easier to design a four person lander or hab than a six person one.

  • Dennis Berube

    I think if nothing else, Orion will fly! What type of booster it rides on still is up in the air! I am very glad this decision was made and now to move on with it. Also cant wait to hear what booster system they select. I think also that everyone realizes that a trip to Mars would take more than a 21 day capability, and the craft will evolve toward that goal. Certainly a bigger habitation module will be needed for such lengthy missions. Maybe thats where Bigelows inflatables will come in handy. Ahhhh Boosters, boosters, which one to select??????

  • common sense

    @ pathfinder_01 wrote @ May 25th, 2011 at 11:35 am

    “Orion would have been more BEO capable off the bat but at the rate NASA is developing it but the time it is ready for test flights you could have evolved one of the commercial crew transports for the role and it would cost less.”

    I am glad you came to this realization. Even though it is not clear to me that “Orion would have been more BEO capable off the bat”. I don’t think you can state that with any certainty since there is no such Orion developed. Powerpoints yes but that’s about it.

    “Orion has a mass problem it is almost too heavy for its parachutes.”

    Wait until they develop yet another LAS…

    “For psychological reasons 6 may be preferred but the more people you send on a mission the greater the logistical challenges. I think it will be easier to design a four person lander or hab than a six person one.”

    Yes 6 crew is what I have seen for most long term missions, in transit and in situ. 4 people will most likely be too few for long term missions. On can imagine two Orions together and a living module of some sort. But it is so far off in the distant future…

    I still believe MPCV will not come to be for all reasons I have stated already in other threads. Not a chance.

  • Vladislaw

    “I think if nothing else, Orion will fly!”

    No, Orion, like many on here predicted, will never fly.

    A NEW vehicle is going to be designed with the old orion being used as a baseline. Now the question is will the new MPCV ever fly?

  • Matt Wiser

    About bloody time. 21 days is the baseline configuration for the vehicle. A hab module for long-duration flights will follow. (NEO, long-duration lunar orbit and L-Points, lunar landing, etc.)

    Oh ye of little faith. L-M has said that MPCV can fly its earth-orbit tests on an EELV if necessary. Just decide on such a rocket, human-rate it, and fly. So what if the first few flights are LEO? It proves the vehicle in a flight environment, you get feedback from crews, and when the HLV is ready, go to GEO or lunar orbit.

    In case some of you haven’t noticed, The Administration proposed a lot of what you guys still argue for in that disaster known as the original FY 11 budget. It was disposed by Congress, who wrote their own authorization act and funding.

  • common sense

    @Vladislaw wrote @ May 25th, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    “A NEW vehicle is going to be designed with the old orion being used as a baseline.”

    Not even a “NEW” vehicle. MPCV will be just another Orion block XXX. Nothing else. No need to redesign. Not really. For a real redesign they would have to have a LV to launch off of. They don’t, they will not redesign.

    “Now the question is will the new MPCV ever fly?”

    No, absolutely not.

  • Major Tom

    “L-M has said that MPCV can fly its earth-orbit tests on an EELV if necessary. Just decide on such a rocket, human-rate it, and fly. So what if the first few flights are LEO?”

    Baselining the LV is one of lesser problems on Orion/MPCV. The bigger problems are that:

    1) NASA does “not know how much more the program will cost or how much an individual Orion spacecraft will cost”, and

    2) NASA can “provide no details on the schedule for test flights or flights with crews aboard other than… it probably would be after 2016, the date specified in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act.”

    spacepolicyonline.com/pages/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1583:few-details-about-path-forward-on-orion-in-nasa-press-conference&catid=67:news&Itemid=27

    “In case some of you haven’t noticed, The Administration proposed a lot of what you guys still argue for in that disaster known as the original FY 11 budget.”

    One of the reasons that the Administration tried to kill Orion was NASA’s inability to get a grip on its costs and schedule. Sadly, that hasn’t changed.

    “It was disposed by Congress, who wrote their own authorization act and funding.”

    And the Orion can’t meet the MPCV requirements in the Act. NASA doesn’t know if Orion fits the budget in the Act and claims that Orion is unlikely to make the 2016 deadline in the Act.

    “Oh ye of little faith.”

    When NASA’s Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems doesn’t have any clue as to how long Orion/MPCV is going to take and how much it’s going to cost (nevertheless what it’s going to fly on), there’s no reason to believe the project is going to have any degree of success at all.

    Give a whole new meaning to the term “blind faith”… yikes.

    FWIW…

  • Robert G. Oler

    Matt Wiser wrote @ May 25th, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    :”About bloody time. 21 days is the baseline configuration for the vehicle. A hab module for long-duration flights will follow. (NEO, long-duration lunar orbit and L-Points, lunar landing, etc.)”

    I’ll be surprised if this vehicle ever flies.

    First there is the money woes of The Republic. We are going to come to a fascinating time with the debates over the coming budget as to “where the spending goes” and here is a test. Which congressperson is going to support money to “human exploration” over things like Medicare, or even the second engine of the F-35?

    Second there is a matter of timing. By this time next year both Boeing and SpaceX will be near flying a crew (if SpaceX has not already).

    The trick is going to be “where does NASA (corporate NASA) go from here?”

    Robert G. oler

  • Vladislaw

    common sense wrote:

    “Not even a “NEW” vehicle. MPCV will be just another Orion block XXX. Nothing else. No need to redesign. Not really. For a real redesign they would have to have a LV to launch off of. They don’t, they will not redesign”

    My new was supposed to be in quotes also, spaced it out. I hope they do redesign it a little bit.

    Add bigelow modules.
    Add a bigelow centrifuge.
    Add a storm shelter.
    Remove Earth to LEO capability.
    Remove LEO to Earth capability.

    So after the redesign it looks something like this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NAUTILUS-X

  • common sense

    @ Major Tom wrote @ May 25th, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    “Baselining the LV is one of lesser problems on Orion/MPCV.”

    I am not sure if it is one of lesser problems. It only is another look into the financial abyss we are facing with this program. How can you answer any of your questions if you don’t even know that the vehicle will have a LV to launch off of? Are they designing a stand alone capsule??? My, my…

    Catastrophe in the making, financial and technical.

    Sad, sad sad, sad sad sad…

  • DCSCA

    @amightywind wrote @ May 25th, 2011 at 8:04 am
    No new news here. Bolden is stalling.

    Bolden will be 65 in August. He’ll grab his pensions and bennies while they’re still flush and retire by the end of the year. His input will have little bearing on planning for the future.

  • common sense

    @Vladislaw wrote @ May 25th, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    “My new was supposed to be in quotes also, spaced it out. I hope they do redesign it a little bit.

    Add bigelow modules.
    Add a bigelow centrifuge.
    Add a storm shelter.
    Remove Earth to LEO capability.
    Remove LEO to Earth capability.

    So after the redesign it looks something like this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NAUTILUS-X

    Hmm a little redesign only then?

    But they said, essentially said, MPCV = Orion. What you propose is a BEO exploration vehicle not a BEO vehicle with reentry capability. What you propose will not happen for the foreseeable future. Not until the other CCDev vehicles actually fly. Until then we will have all the possible rehash of Orion and Ares. Nothing else. Wasted money.

  • Space Cadet

    No budget for a DSH (Deep Space Habitat), so it can’t go any further than the Moon. No budget for a lander either, so all it can do is repeat Apollo 8, and that’s assuming a successful LV development. And for this Congress gutted the technology program that was aimed at lowering cost and expanding capabilities, and cut funding for commercial crew, so we’re stuck paying the Russians for more years.

  • Das Boese

    DCSCA wrote @ May 25th, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Bolden will be 65 in August. He’ll grab his pensions and bennies while they’re still flush and retire by the end of the year.

    Just like Elon Musk was going to sell SpaceX, huh?

  • amightywind

    Just like Elon Musk was going to sell SpaceX, huh?

    You know Musk is trying to take SpaceX public, right? DCSCA is right. He will try to cash out to some extent while he has the market’s (inexplicable) goodwill. Bet on it.

  • Major Tom

    “How can you answer any of your questions if you don’t even know that the vehicle will have a LV to launch off of?”

    If NASA can’t produce basic data on Orion/MPCV costs and schedule until it knows what the LV is going to be or look like, then how can NASA decide that Orion is the right solution for MPCV now?

    It really doesn’t matter right now as to why NASA can’t produce Orion/MPCV costs or schedule. That’s secondary. The big problem — for the White House, for the appropriators, for future congresses, for the taxpayer, for anyone who cares about whether the human space flight program actually accomplishes anything in the years to come — is the basis for NASA’s decision that Orion is the right solution for MPCV. In the absence of any cost or schedule information, it would appear that there is no basis for the decision at all. In the absence of information, they’re just throwing darts and making it up. Might as well consult an astrologist.

    “Catastrophe in the making, financial and technical.”

    Well, the absence of any finanical, technical, schedule and risk information to serve as a foundation for decisionmaking is certainly a recipe for disaster.

    FWIW…

  • DCSCA

    “The “key decision” that NASA announced Tuesday regarding the agency’s space exploration plans was not too surprising, and perhaps a bit underwhelming: NASA is transitioning its existing work on the Orion spacecraft to the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV).”

    Appropriate announcement for the week of May 25. Not quite a presidential challenge but a pronouncement of direction and intent to be sure. Brings to mind NASA’s selection of LOR for Apollo. JFK’s moon speech 50 years ago today was met with somewhat muted responses as well. Review some of the news of the day from that time and ‘mixed’ is a kind reference gfiven the context of the times.

    @Matt Wiser wrote @ May 25th, 2011 at 1:54 pm
    “About bloody time. 21 days is the baseline configuration for the vehicle. A hab module for long-duration flights will follow. (NEO, long-duration lunar orbit and L-Points, lunar landing, etc.)”

    Not really given the cancellation of Constellation. They’ve lost a few years but they’re getting focused on a new direction. They’re not really under the scheduling pressures of Apollo days and the economic climate has changed a great deal since the ‘baseline configurations’ were originally developed. Recall even Apollo had ‘block I, block II’ designs early on with SM space telescopes and assorted hardware planning later disgarded. MPCV/Orion will shake out okay in the long run. It’s the ‘gap’ that has the Congress critters all shook up. It’s gonna most likely be longer than the time frame between Apollo and shuttle. But NASA’s future is w/t MPCV/Orion and a HLV for space exploration. The LEO stuff is a ticket to no place– old planning and going in circles is a space program going no place.

    @CharlesHouston wrote @ May 25th, 2011 at 9:34 am
    “This decision should have been finalized months ago – if NASA had decided to recompete the contract it would have been another 18 months before any work could have proceeded on the capsule.” Regardless, it has been decided now so we pick up and press on.

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ May 25th, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    “I’ll be surprised if this vehicle ever flies. First there is the money woes of The Republic. We are going to come to a fascinating time with the debates over the coming budget as to “where the spending goes” and here is a test. Which congressperson is going to support money to “human exploration” over things like Medicare, or even the second engine of the F-35?”

    It is more surprising that you’d entertain the foolish notion that the United States of America was going to abandon its government funded/managed HSF program after half a century of historic success and achievement. The second F-35 engine is dead. The ‘Cernan Intangibles’ you gleefully disdain can be powerfully persuasive when properly applied. Witness Cantor. He tried to tie budget cuts to aide for Joplin and was immediately eviscerated. So a rationale for budgeting American HSF to press on and explore space will be made. After all, they’ve managed to rationalize funding for the ISS– a much lower threshold. The politics of HSF are fueled as much by the intangibles of national pride, prestige and the perception of technological leadership as they are by the OMB. Image over substance is as American as apple pie, honed to a fine art by RR. Americans want their spacecraft to have USA on them; their astronauts wearing US flags on their shoulders, not a corporate logos.

    “Second there is a matter of timing. By this time next year both Boeing and SpaceX will be near flying a crew (if SpaceX has not already).”

    More press release fodder. It is mid 2011. Boeing can manage/rationalize/absorb a loss leader given its size and strengths and diversity in gov’t contracting. SpaceX, less so. Space X has no independently verified, integrated, man-rated, flight tested ECS to sustain human life for orbital flight aboard Dragon capsules nor does it have an independently verified, flight-tested, integrated, man-rated LES. Space X will not fly crews aboard Dragons next year in 2012. Branson will fly paying passengers in his sub-orbital system. SpaceX may eventually loft cargo to the ISS but there is no economic rationale for a private enterprised, ‘for profit firm’ the size of SpaceX to invest millions into developing a LEO human crewable space capsule to access a government O&O space station which only 24 months ago in NASA planning was planned for decommission, de-orbit and splash in 2016 and now is being desperately rationalized out to 2020. Dragon may eventually haul some cargo up to the ISS. But then,. Progress already lofts cargo… and Soyuz lofts crews.

  • DCSCA

    @Das Boese wrote @ May 25th, 2011 at 3:41 pm
    What makes you think he won’t unload controlling interest one day. Such is the nature of business. But then, it’s hard for some kids to give up their hobby, isn’t it. How’s that condo on Mars coming along, Elon.

  • CharlesHouston

    All – Orion will initially fly on a Delta, they have been looking at the pad (on CC AFS) to see what mods it would need.
    Bolden will likely retire soon, now that things seem to be settling down. But the support for Orion is firmly set in the Senate (Bill Nelson, Barb Mikulski, Kay Bailey Hutchison, et al) and is not likely to waver even with a replacement to two.
    Hopefully, several vehicles will be flying by 2015 and will begin to evolve into better versions. Dragon will likely fly once per year and so will have had four flights behind them (out of their test program) when Orion is about to fly the first time. It will be interesting to see where CST-100 is by then.

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ May 25th, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    L-M has said that MPCV can fly its earth-orbit tests on an EELV if necessary.

    Old news – try and stay up with the current conversation.

    So what if the first few flights are LEO? It proves the vehicle in a flight environment, you get feedback from crews, and when the HLV is ready, go to GEO or lunar orbit.?

    I think it’s a 50/50 proposition as to whether the MPCV actually flies, mainly from budget and programmatic issues (I know it’s capable of working).

    The big question for me, and one that I have not heard an answer to yet, is how many MPCV will they build?

    If they build just a few, then it will be an evolutionary deadend, kind of like the Shuttle but with a much shorter lifespan. in comparison, SpaceX will have built 14 Dragon capsules by the end of the first CRS program, and they retain ownership of them for reuse, so that capsule design is going to have lots of life over the next decade or two.

    The MPCV to me has a bunch of short-term needs, but no long-term needs:

    - It will be used as a local exploration vehicle until we build more capable ones like Nautilus-X.

    - It will be used to transport passengers back to Earth from beyond LEO, at least until we implement passenger transfers in LEO for transit to Earth on other vehicles.

    - It can be used as a lifeboat until we build more capable ones. You don’t really need to drag along a Earth-only return capsule with a heat shield when you’re traveling to Mars, especially if you have a L1-Earth transportation system in place for when you return.

    I just don’t see it having a long and productive life…

  • common sense

    @ CharlesHouston wrote @ May 25th, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    “All – Orion will initially fly on a Delta, they have been looking at the pad (on CC AFS) to see what mods it would need.”

    So once it can fly off a Delta then they will redesign to fly off the SLS? Is that your reasoning? Pad mods are necessary but not sufficient.

    “Bolden will likely retire soon, now that things seem to be settling down.”

    Crystal balling? I haven’t seen any sign to this effect. Have you?

    “But the support for Orion is firmly set in the Senate (Bill Nelson, Barb Mikulski, Kay Bailey Hutchison, et al) and is not likely to waver even with a replacement to two.”

    No it is not. The support of the workforce is set but not of the MPCV vehicle or any vehicle for that matter. They’d have to understand what it means to design a LV/RV/LAS and they don’t.

    “Hopefully, several vehicles will be flying by 2015 and will begin to evolve into better versions. ”

    Sure but none of them will be Orion or MPCV or whatever name it’ll have at next budget hearings.

    Oh well…

  • Das Boese

    DCSCA wrote @ May 25th, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    What makes you think he won’t unload controlling interest one day.

    Because he said so.
    One day, maybe. I’m not the one going around proclaiming things will never happen (like dragon carrying crew). But not for the foreseeable future? Nah.

    Such is the nature of business.

    But not the nature of Elon Musk.

    But then, it’s hard for some kids to give up their hobby, isn’t it.

    When you’ve successfully turned your “hobby” into a professional multimillion dollar enterprise, the incentive to give it up is kinda low.

    How’s that condo on Mars coming along, Elon.

    And where do you see yourself after retirement?

    You belittle a man’s dream, it only shows your own petty and shallow nature.

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://www.politico.com/politico44/perm/0511/shoot_the_moon_4d7f46a1-4802-4117-a80d-01f5c6e8da5b.html

    The VP is correct on this. People like Whittington who want government controlled exploration of space LIKE BIG GOVERNMENT…

    Robert G. Oler

  • The ISS should have been de-orbited by circa 2015, just as was previously planned. THAT would’ve liberated more money for the building of the Constellation Lunar exploration systems & vehicles. The ISS is an immense waste of resources. Plus a lot of people out there are deluded into thinking that if it were eliminated, that “there would be no place for our astronauts to go.” What hogwash!!! Apollo flew men to the Moon forty years ago, and there was NOT any danged space station in LEO!! Instead we launched true deep space exploration missions to an actual planetary destination: the Moon. LEO was NOT the end of the journey, it was only the beginning of the journey; via the two hour parking orbit interlude, prior to each expedition.

  • pathfinder_01

    Common Sense:
    “I am glad you came to this realization. Even though it is not clear to me that “Orion would have been more BEO capable off the bat”. I don’t think you can state that with any certainty since there is no such Orion developed. Powerpoints yes but that’s about it.”
    More in the case of it’s spefication. You don’t need 1500m/s worth of delta V to dock with the ISS or be able to support a crew for 21 days or be able to operate autonomously for 180 days not to mention the radation hardening of electronics, navigation system and things like that which drive up the price and make it unattractive for LEO taxi duty. The only commercial craft with BEO potential is Dragon really. Dream chaser X/L if they solve the heat shield issues. CST100 for instance is aiming for same day docking with the ISS and can only support a crew for 48 hours. Big difference.
    I am not sure they still plan the Delta heavy launch cause it looks like Orion is tied to SLS for good. The big problem is that it SLS wont make it’s first flight till 2016 and likely well after that due to SLS funding problems. CST100, Dragon, and Dream Chaser are all aiming to make their first flights in 2014 and first manned flights no later than 2015.
    Mat:
    “Oh ye of little faith. L-M has said that MPCV can fly its earth-orbit tests on an EELV if necessary. Just decide on such a rocket, human-rate it, and fly. So what if the first few flights are LEO? It proves the vehicle in a flight environment, you get feedback from crews, and when the HLV is ready, go to GEO or lunar orbit. “
    Here is the rub. No human rated EELV for Orion is planned. The commercial crew ones are using Atlas 402 or Flacon 9. The only launcher able to lift Orion is Delta V heavy there are no plans to do so. Orion is going to have to wait till SLS is ready for its manned LEO testflights….SLS is supposed to be ready in 2016 me thinks 2018 is probably a more reasonable date and given NASA’s history maybe 2020 assuming it isn’t canceled by then.
    LM would love to sell Orion and put it on any launcher….Congress only wants shuttle derived.
    Space Cadet: “No budget for a DSH (Deep Space Habitat), so it can’t go any further than the Moon. No budget for a lander either, so all it can do is repeat Apollo 8, and that’s assuming a successful LV development.”

    Actually it cannot repeat Apollo 8. Apollo 8 went into lunar Orbit. Orion has enough delta V to escape lunar Orbit but CXP depended on the lander to brake the stack into lunar orbit(i.e Orion cannot both enter and leave). So Orion can do L1/L2,HEO,GEO but only stay for 21 days there and not do much since it lacks things like airlocks(so that you don’t have to depresure the whole capsule when you want to spacewalk), robot arm, cargo bay, ect….

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    In answer to a couple of questions above:

    1) Yes, Orion MPCV can only carry a crew of four. The design’s Apollo-style apex parachute bays are too small for the parachutes needed to safely land the vehicle during an abort with six crew; Four is the maximum;

    2) AFAIK, the 180-day autonomous loiter capability hasn’t been deleted but it has been indefinitely postponed.

    What they are proposing is essentially a new Apollo – an expendable 4-seat capsule capable of 21 day flights to the Moon and back. Anything else would need a separate mission vehicle… the funding for which has not been allocated. Of course, with Orion MPCV IOC NET 2016 at the earliest (actually probably closer to 2020 so it can fly on the Block-I SLS rather than the ‘Block-0′ make-work X-rocket), there isn’t really any hurry to fund a mission module.

    If SpaceX manage to step up and get Falcon-9 production and flight rates up high enough, by the time it finally gets around to flying, it is very possible that Orion MPCV may find every mission it could carry out has already been taken by commercial crew vehicles!

  • CharlesHouston

    Like many people, I feel the commercial space providers are bringing excitement back to a very moribund (been looking for a place to slip that word in) industry. But many people give the commercial folks a lot of credit for promises and do not give the government team the same benefit of the doubt. And I might add that I am NOT a part of that government team! (Though I am available if anyone is listening.)

    OK, so we think that CheeseX will do many things since they claim they will do many things. FalconHeavy will cut costs below the cheap Chinese labor. We have seen PowerPoint charts about that so it must be true.

    But we have seen PowerPoint charts about the mods to the Delta pads on CC AFS to support the MPCV (More Politically Correct Vehicle)/Orion. Is the government PowerPoint less powerful than the commercial PowerPoint?

    When the Administration tried to cancel the Orion over a year ago – the Colorado Congressional delegation was storming the White House gates within the hour. Multiple senior Senators from both parties caucused to revive the Orion, originally proposed as a Crew Rescue Vehicle but now as a deep space exploration vehicle. Regardless of the fumbling way that it has been defended, the MPCV has lots of support in Congress. Only Lori Garver does not like it. Now, with all parties in full Election mode, how much enthusiasm will there be to kill a high tech job creator like MPCV?

    Likely, SLS is a temporary program that will struggle along for several more years. MPCV will probably slim down enough to fly on Delta V Heavy and we will see what happens in the next several years.

    Because I like commercial space, I do not discount the deep support that MPCV has in Congress. And we should realize that the Administration has often allowed their ideas to flounder around until the idea is forgotten. Where is High Speed Rail today as one of many examples?

  • common sense

    @ CharlesHouston wrote @ May 26th, 2011 at 11:29 am

    “But we have seen PowerPoint charts about the mods to the Delta pads on CC AFS to support the MPCV (More Politically Correct Vehicle)/Orion. Is the government PowerPoint less powerful than the commercial PowerPoint?”

    Did you see Falcon 9 lift a Dragon and did you see a Dragon return? Did you?

    Powerpoints???

    Oh well…

  • Robert G. Oler

    CharlesHouston wrote @ May 26th, 2011 at 11:29 am

    “Like many people, I feel the commercial space providers are bringing excitement back to a very moribund (been looking for a place to slip that word in) industry. But many people give the commercial folks a lot of credit for promises and do not give the government team the same benefit of the doubt. ”

    it is hard to do that when the “government team” has spent 12 billion dollars already and has little to show for it RGO

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    @ common sense

    Yeah, I think that he was talking about the other “powerpoints”, i.e. Falcon Heavy (and its cost structure) and flying people on Dragon. Both are possible but haven’t been done yet. In many ways they are as close to reality as MPCV and SLS. Perhaps their only advantage is they won’t need as much money, at least according to current estimates.

    I’m trying to wean myself off of the unhealthy habit of assuming that, just because a company or agency says it wants to do something and it can at least hypothetically do it, that means that it will do it.

  • CharlesHouston

    @commonsense wrote (though he should have reconsidered): “Did you see Falcon 9 lift a Dragon and did you see a Dragon return? Did you?”

    Yes I did, that is one reason I am excited about the promise of Dragon. You could consider reading the title of this discussion. It is about Congressional support for MPCV.

    NASA has decades of experience building and flying vehicles – they are not ready to fly MPCV today but no one should discount their support and ability. Yet people such as yourself “The support of the workforce is set but not of the MPCV vehicle or any vehicle for that matter.” see the strong support for MPCV/Orion in the Congress and just don’t get it.

    People hear Elon Musk claim to cut costs, fly frequently, etc etc and believe him uncritically. People hear NASA claim that and hoot in disbelief. Sure NASA has a long track record and SpaceX has a short track record. The fact that SpaceX has a short resume should not cause us to over estimate their abilities.

    In World War 2, the German army had lots of advantages. They had short supply lines, they fought on familiar ground, they had well designed equipment (frequently better than the Allies). They were crushed by the sheer logistics of the Allies. SpaceX is nimble, creative, and has the coolness factor. NASA has enormous resources – people, laboratories, funding. The Congress is highly motivated to ensure that continues – they will snip here and there but NASA will still have well over 17 billion dollars next year – what will SpaceX have?

  • common sense

    @ Ben Russell-Gough wrote @ May 26th, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    “Yeah, I think that he was talking about the other “powerpoints”, i.e. Falcon Heavy (and its cost structure) and flying people on Dragon. Both are possible but haven’t been done yet. In many ways they are as close to reality as MPCV and SLS. Perhaps their only advantage is they won’t need as much money, at least according to current estimates.”

    Which has most credibility to you? A company that flew to orbit a vehicle (LV and RV) or NASA that hasn’t? No matter the cost.

    “I’m trying to wean myself off of the unhealthy habit of assuming that, just because a company or agency says it wants to do something and it can at least hypothetically do it, that means that it will do it.”

    I agree with healthy skepticism BUT it must go both ways and so far for whatever reason NASA has failed us. Not SpaceX.

  • common sense

    @CharlesHouston wrote @ May 26th, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    “Yes I did, that is one reason I am excited about the promise of Dragon. You could consider reading the title of this discussion. It is about Congressional support for MPCV.”

    So what?

    “NASA has decades of experience building and flying vehicles – they are not ready to fly MPCV today but no one should discount their support and ability. ”

    Absolutely not true. They have decades of experience “flying vehicles” NOT “building vehicles”. Cite one since Shuttle. And I mean crew vehicle of course.

    “Yet people such as yourself “The support of the workforce is set but not of the MPCV vehicle or any vehicle for that matter.” see the strong support for MPCV/Orion in the Congress and just don’t get it.”

    When are you going to understand that there is no support? Do you know what it takes to design, build and operate and MPCV/SLS system? I do. And the budget is not there to do that. The budget is there to sustain the workforce. Come on please a little effort.

    “People hear Elon Musk claim to cut costs, fly frequently, etc etc and believe him uncritically. People hear NASA claim that and hoot in disbelief. Sure NASA has a long track record and SpaceX has a short track record. The fact that SpaceX has a short resume should not cause us to over estimate their abilities.”

    This argument is pointless. In the same time, or close, it took NASA to fly Ares 1X, Space X flew F1, F9 and Dragon successfully to orbit and back. Please.

    “In World War 2, the German army had lots of advantages. They had short supply lines, they fought on familiar ground, they had well designed equipment (frequently better than the Allies). They were crushed by the sheer logistics of the Allies. SpaceX is nimble, creative, and has the coolness factor. NASA has enormous resources – people, laboratories, funding. The Congress is highly motivated to ensure that continues – they will snip here and there but NASA will still have well over 17 billion dollars next year – what will SpaceX have?”

    NASA might have $17B but it is for ALL of NASA. HSF will have around $10B or less. What are you saying? That NASA can waste large amounts of money? Yes I agree.

    See you need to learn what it takes to design, build and operate LVs and RVs and you’ll see that the ridiculous amount given to NASA will make it yet another failure. But you can still “think” you’re right. OR you can learn. Whatever you please.

  • vulture4

    ISS and other LEO human spaceflight activities have several potential values; they build trust and understanding between potential nuclear adversaries, serves as a port of call for spacecraft and tourists from all nations, particularly for development of new RLVs. They can also provide a platform for earth and space observation and satellite servicing, the original mission goals when the modern space station program was first proposed in the mid 70′s, though all these options (excepting AMS) have been sorely neglected. Materials processing and life science/medical research are minor elements and their importance is often overstated.

    Orion and HLV, although they provide a potential technical approach to BEO human spaceflight, are unaffordable for this purpose since the Apollo-era geopolitical rationale no longer exists, and are inappropriate for LEO logistics. It is hard for me to see any future for them except as jobs programs for congressional constituencies. BEO flight will become practical only when far less expensive technology is available.

  • Coastal Ron

    Chris Castro wrote @ May 26th, 2011 at 1:37 am

    The ISS should have been de-orbited by circa 2015, just as was previously planned. THAT would’ve liberated more money for the building of the Constellation Lunar exploration systems & vehicles.

    I guess you’re ignorant of the fact that the Griffin budget for Constellation already assumed that the ISS would be defunded, and it’s funds allocated to Constellation. That was the plan from Constellation’s inception.

    There were no more funds for Constellation to consume, and it still kept slipping it’s schedule.

    Plus a lot of people out there are deluded into thinking that if it were eliminated, that “there would be no place for our astronauts to go.”

    No delusion needed – it’s a fact. The Constellation program, as funded, would have only provided us with a few short trips to the Moon – weeks of time in space, with a lot of the time cooped up in a minivan-sized capsule of four “close” co-workers. How glorious.

    The ISS is providing us with experience & knowledge about living and working in space, which if we want to be a space faring nation, we need.

    The Moon will wait while we build up cost effective ways to return, and when we do I hope it is to stay. Short-term golfing excursions like Constellation was going to do would have been a waste of time, and left no reusable assets in space. I’m glad Congress killed it.

    Next up is the SLS.

  • Matt Wiser

    Ron: just because a hab module isn’t in the FY 12 budget request doesn’t mean one won’t appear down the line (say, FY 14 or 15). Those take a while to develop, if the ISS hab modules are any guide, and you would have several concepts being kicked around when the RFPs get issued. You’ll need one for long-duration flights anyway, which is what Professor Ed Crawley and Jeff Greason (both members of Augustine) have said when they’re talking about FlexPath. Both point out that a hab module for long-duration BEO missions is a lot cheaper than a lander (very reluctantly agreeing with that), and that some hab module designs might be reusable. (opening up commercial contractors for restocking and refueling) Sooner or later, the request will be made, and we’ll go from there. (hearings on The Hill, votes in Committee and on House/Senate floor, etc.)

    I do wish someone other than Charlie Bolden was NASA Administrator, though. He’s just not a good communicator when he shows up on The Hill. Admiral Steadle (who was the alternative to Mike Griffin) would’ve been a better choice, but that’s just me. One gets the impression that he’s like a gladiator going into the arena whenever he shows up to testify.

  • Das Boese

    CharlesHouston wrote @ May 26th, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    NASA has decades of experience building and flying vehicles – they are not ready to fly MPCV today but no one should discount their support and ability. Yet people such as yourself “The support of the workforce is set but not of the MPCV vehicle or any vehicle for that matter.” see the strong support for MPCV/Orion in the Congress and just don’t get it.

    When has NASA last built a manned spacecraft?

    In World War 2, the German army had lots of advantages. They had short supply lines, they fought on familiar ground, they had well designed equipment (frequently better than the Allies). They were crushed by the sheer logistics of the Allies. SpaceX is nimble, creative, and has the coolness factor. NASA has enormous resources – people, laboratories, funding. The Congress is highly motivated to ensure that continues – they will snip here and there but NASA will still have well over 17 billion dollars next year – what will SpaceX have?

    W T F
    SpaceX is not at war with NASA.

    This misguided attempt at an analogy is a prime example of how people cannot grasp the concept of the “private-public partnership” pursued by the commercial crew and cargo programs. Is it really that hard?

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ May 28th, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Ron: just because a hab module isn’t in the FY 12 budget request doesn’t mean one won’t appear down the line (say, FY 14 or 15).

    I think you have me confused with Space Cadet and his discussion about hab modules.

    …which is what Professor Ed Crawley and Jeff Greason…

    Let’s talk about this obsession you have for Ed Crawley for a minute. He seems like a decent sort, and his thoughts on space exploration seem fine, but you seem to focus on only his recommendations.

    Isn’t there anyone else around whose ideas you also agree with?

    You’ll need one [a hab module] for long-duration flights anyway…

    NASA already has a concept vehicle for exploration called Nautilus-X, which is the type of vehicle that I think we’ll need to do some serious exploration. Sure you can stick a hab module on capsule, like what Zubrin has suggested for his minimum viable Mars mission. I think we’ll see a number of low cost attempts like that, but real space-only reusable spaceships like Nautilus-X are what we’ll need to evolve for true space exploration.

    He’s [Administrator Bolden] just not a good communicator when he shows up on The Hill.

    Michael Griffin was a good communicator, and we ended up with Constellation. Being a good communicator is not a predictor of good things.

    It’s not speaking skills that are most important, but judgement and leadership skills.

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed, however Elon Musk is not a polished speaker. But as his resume can attest he has excellent judgement and great leadership skills.

    Bolden is a proven leader, rising up the Marine Corp ranks to Major General. The military is not known for turning out great speakers, but they are known for their great leaders, but major changes in a 18,800 person government organization are slow to show.

    In any case, NASA needs stability right now, since they have so many important things going on, so any changes at the top, especially in a big election year, won’t be a good idea. Likely no changes will happen until after the presidential election.

    My $0.02

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