NASA, Other

Strategies for space settlement and NASA’s survival

One of the more compelling speeches at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in Huntsville, Alabama, earlier this month was by Jeff Greason, president of XCOR Aerospace and a member of 2009′s Augustine Committee that reviewed NASA’s human spaceflight plans. Greason’s speech, the video of which is now available online, focused on the need for a strategy for expanding human presence beyond Earth.

Greason explained that the organization of any major effort, from wars to space exploration, has a particular hierarchy, starting with an overall goal. Below that is the strategy that offers the “big picture approach” for achieving that goal. Below that are objectives by which one measures progress on that particular strategy towards the goal, and below that are tactics needed to achieve those objectives.

“Strategy is the void that we have right now,” Greason said. At one end there is a lot of discussion about tactics, such as the the choice of launch vehicles that often dominates debates on space policy, he noted. There’s also, he said, a growing realization of what the goal of the national space program is, although it’s mentioned only obliquely in various policy documents over the years. “It is actually the national policy of the United States that we should settle space.”

What’s missing, though, he said, is a coherent strategy for implementing that national goal, which in turn would inform the tactics being debated. “We don’t even have the beginnings of a national agreement of what our strategy ought to be,” he said. “And until we have one, we’re going to continue to flail.”

What is Greason’s idea for a strategy? In the speech, he proposed a “planet hopping” approach analogous to the “island hopping” strategy the US used against Japan in World War Two. “What we have to do is take the planetary destinations in sequence,” he said, referring to the Moon, near Earth objects, the moons of Mars, and Mars itself. “In each one of them, the purpose of the initial human outpost is not to be there and look cool. It is not to unfurl flags and take pretty pictures, and it is not the holy grail of science, although we will get all of those things. It’s to make gas.” That is, each destination will produce propellant that will enable a cost-effective step to the next destination.

“If you do that, a lot of interesting things fall out,” he said. Such an approach would generate demand for propellant in low Earth orbit, enabling lower cost launches (through increased demand for launches) and propellant depots, and also provide a predictable market for new reusable launch vehicles.

Moreover, such an approach could be affordable, as each step in the process would serve as a multiplier in reducing costs versus a direct-to-Mars approach. “It’s my belief that if we pursued this the right way, we actually could afford to do this, all the way out to the first landings on Mars, for the kind of budget NASA’s getting now,” he said.

That strategy, or something like it, is critical to the future of NASA’s human spaceflight program, he argued. Without such a strategy, he said, “we’re going to build a big rocket, and then we’re going to hope a space program shows up to fly it. Any in my opinion, that strategy—the strategy of default—is going to result in the end of the NASA human spaceflight program” when members of Congress question the wisdom of spending several billion dollars a year on that effort and its lack of progress in an era of constricting budgets. “If we haven’t done better in the next ten years than we have in the last ten years, we’re going to lose that fight, and NASA’s human spaceflight activity will end.”

182 comments to Strategies for space settlement and NASA’s survival

  • A_M_Swallow

    Governments work off paperwork and meetings. I await the publication of the draft strategy document with interest. I hope that it soon gets a reference number so that it can be quoted and referenced.

  • vulture4

    Greason is correct that the absence of a coherent strategy is a central problem. However the first step in exploration is LEO, most of the cost of the entire mission is consumed in getting that far. The technology for getting to LEO at <=$1M exists, and was the impetus for the Shuttle. The conclusion, based on the Shuttle experience, that reusable systems don't work, is unfounded and reflects a lack of understanding of the basic principles of industrial engineering. The Constellation program, which continues under different names, is expensive and not viable. ISRU is feasible only when access to those resources is feasible, and with expendable systems it is not feasible.

    The CCDev program is a modest improvement since it at least focuses on LEO and permits some innovation, but its short term horizon (we need to replace the shuttle ASAP because we stupidly abandoned it) means that the vehicles are all expendable capsules launched on ELVs. The only vehicles even capable of reusable flight, the X-37 and the Prometheus, have been abandoned.

    The idea that "commercialization" will magically solve our problems was tried during the RLV program in the 90's and is as simplistic and wrong-headed as the idea that "Apollo on Steroids" is the solution.

    We need an administrator who knows enough about economics to understand that we must reduce the cost of access to LEO by a factor of ten for a viable market to exist, enough statistical theory to realize that flying the Shuttle is not Russian roulette and that the expected failure rate is not 2/134, enough about engineering to know that the cost of launch cannot be reduced without reuse since most of the cost is in fabrication, and enough about safety to know that it makes no sense in 2011 for an RLV development vehicle to carry a crew.

  • vulture4

    Sorry, I meant <= $1M to LEO per seat.

  • guest

    Very astute observations by Mr. Greason. The most bewildering thing is that NASA, full of bona fide space experts, cannot seem to identify or establish or communicate any strategy. They really do not even do tactics. Its like this bunch of operators, because so many of the top NASA management came from operations; all they know how to do is press the button. They cannot figure out where they are going or how to get there. NASAs leadership is vacant.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Greason is exactly right, that the only credible justification for human space flight is species expansion (whether for conquest/power or species preservation). His sequential implementation strategy is a sensible one. The importance of a real national top-level strategy for human space flight is, as Greason says, essential to the survival of a federally funded human space flight program. But the idea that settling space is the “national policy of the United States” is delusional. I don’t believe any guiding policy says that, and while it may be a sneaky subtext of guiding policy, sneaky subtexts aren’t what national policy are founded on, nor are oblique references.

    To the extent that our nation wants this to be a national policy, someone has to step up to the plate and make it so. What hasn’t that happened? Is it a matter of political bravery? Which national legislative figure wants to be the first to put their foot down and say, with a straight face, that colonizing space is a national priority? Who wants to tell the taxpayer that colonizing space, and the investment it takes to do so, will improve their quality of life?

    Of course, no one has stepped up to the plate to make human space flight an explicit part of the Space Act, and an explicit premise for the existence of NASA. Why not?

    Were it the case, a decision would have to be made about whether that expansion policy is unilateral or not. Are we preserving a species, or are we preserving a country? In fact, who exactly gets to be preserved?

  • …as each step in the process would serve as a multiplier in reducing costs versus a direct-to-Mars approach..

    Hmm..I suspect Bob Zubrin will voice an opinion against that if he hasn’t already done so.

  • vulure4,
    You are still discussing intermediate and tactical decisions with no consideration of the goal or a strategy. Any LEO access tactic you may use is going to be determined by what you do once you get there. And that’s what’s lacking: any understanding of why you’re going and what’s the best way to achieve that once you get there.
    To correctly discuss this topic you cannot include any mention of hardware, destinations, or currently existing programs. Goals and strategies are much much higher level than that.

  • Coastal Ron

    There already is a strategy that was expressed by the Administration (Flexible Path), but Congress did not buy into it because of the job upheavals that it would have caused, not because of the merits of the strategy.

    I see the point that Greason is making, but without a National Imperative like the Cold War or a threat from an asteroid, there is little chance of getting all the various factions to agree on one cohesive strategy, especially with the limited budget NASA has to work with ($18B/year).

    But a strategy at this point would be like our forefathers developing a detailed strategy for the Westward Expansion. And considering the limited funds available for any strategy, no strategy is going to be fast to unfold.

    Instead I think the best focus for NASA is what they currently describe as their mission anyways, which is to “pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.

    I see this mission charter as not necessarily doing the exploration (although NASA should do some), but concentrating on the methods, technologies and knowledge we’ll need for government, commercial and even private exploration.

    Let the natural market forces help push us out further into space, even if that means we won’t be starting to set up permanent colonies on the Moon for another couple of decades. This is a marathon, not a sprint, so the only people we’re competing with right now are ourselves.

  • MrEarl

    Greason is absolutely right. That strategy that he is looking for was known as the Vision for Space Exploration as laid down by the previous administration in January of 2004. That vision was hijacked by the likes of Mike Griffin and Zubrin with the Constellation project who’s primary goal was foot prints and flags on Mars.
    The irony here is that Greason, and the Augustine commission he was part of , not only was instrumental in killing Constellation but replacing the VSE with what is known as “Flexible Path”, which has kicked off the vary debate he laments.

  • Michael Mealling wrote @ May 31st, 2011 at 10:06 am

    To correctly discuss this topic you cannot include any mention of hardware, destinations, or currently existing programs. Goals and strategies are much much higher level than that.

    A spacefaring species should be defined as a species that can safely and routinely conceive, bear and raise children at multiple celestial locations.

    That should be our goal, IMHO. Is that high level enough?

    An intermediate goal (one which Jeff Greason explicitly advocates) is to produce propellant at multiple celestial locations. Moon, asteroids, Phobos, etc . . .

    And to attain that goal, I continue to assert that fuel depot(s) at EML-1 & EML-2 are an ideal tactical step towards the intermediate goal of lunar fuel production.

  • Doug Lassiter @ May 31st, 2011 at 8:37 am hits the nail on the head.

    At least IMHO.

  • NASA Fan

    It does not matter what official policy of HSF is, buried somewhere is some policy wonks’ speech, or authorization language.

    I disagree with Gleason. There is no overarching, broad, fundamental concern of the American Public that is satisfied by a human space flight program. Hence what we see is tactical projects; tactical towards survival of MSFC, KSC, and JSC. The Shuttle Program was a tactical effort, not a strategic one; to keep these Centers alive post Apollo. for if there was a strategic one, the answer to the question of ‘what comes next’ after Shuttle would be easy to answer.

    Sadly, that is not the case. Bush II didn’t really answer it beyond hand waving speech about incorporating the solar system into our economic sphere of influence. And Obama with flexi path is again looking at tactics to survive the budget problems, not to meet a larger broader strategic plan supported by the American public

    HSF is aimlessly wandering around, in survival mode, and will be , unless Oil is discovered on the moon, in an asteroid or a comet. That is the only material the American Public writ large would be willing to invest billions on, for HSF exploration.

    Survival baby…its all tactics.

  • Coastal Ron

    MrEarl wrote @ May 31st, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    I don’t think you know what the VSE says. Here are it’s four major goals:

    • 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.

    Except for the 2020 return to the Moon date, which even President Bush wasn’t going to make, everything else is in sync with Flexible Path.

    But this illustrates one of the problems with creating fake need dates, is that the program that is perceived to be “behind schedule” (like Constellation was) starts taking resources from other parts of NASA (like Constellation did).

    What was the driving need to get to the Moon by 2020? There wasn’t any – IT WAS A FAKE NEED DATE. That’s why, absent a National Imperative, we need to expand into space according to our abilities, not according to fake need dates.

    That’s also why I see the SLS as a fake need, since it doesn’t address any current limitations, but it requires massive amounts of additional NASA funding in order for it to have a purpose. I doubt that will be sustainable, especially if we want to truly meet the goals of the VSE.

  • Das Boese

    A laudable call, but (at least from what I gleaned in the article) I’m missing the international perspective. NASA developing a coherent strategy is all fine and dandy with me, though I think the “planet hopping”-approach is flawed*. But whatever pathe emerges, if it’s done in isolation it will become a dead end. The idea that any one nation can achieve such a monumental goal alone is ludicrous.

    (*)specifically, I’m unconvinced about his hypothesis that propellant from off-world sources would lead to a thriving LEO and RLV market – the way I see it, it’s the other way around.

  • Bennett

    MrEarl wrote “The irony here is that Greason, and the Augustine commission he was part of , not only was instrumental in killing Constellation but replacing the VSE with what is known as “Flexible Path”, which has kicked off the vary debate he laments.”

    I think you’ve got it all wrong. Greason doesn’t lament the lost promise of flexible path nearly as much as he laments the idea that in order to maintain the staus quo (by building yet another ginormous rocket to nowhere) NASA’s HSF program will not survive the fallout from yet another program cancellation.

    I think he nailed the problems inherent to the status quo, and his proposed way forward is something worth serious consideration.

    His insight into how a non-NASA Center congressperson deals with constituents who lobby for space policy (i.e. call Shelby’s office for info) is valuable information.

    Ending the talk by calling out the NASA folks from Huntsville was gutsy. It was also the stone cold truth.

  • Call me Ishmael

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    But a strategy at this point would be like our forefathers developing a detailed strategy for the Westward Expansion.

    I would argue that they did in fact have a strategy, given in Article IV, section 3 of the Constitution: “New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union”
    The “detailed strategy” which would have been premature is what Greason is referring to as “tactics”.

  • NASA Fan

    @ Doug Lassiter: Bravo! Exactly.

    Wonder what Robert O has to say about Gleason’s speech.

  • E.P. Grondine

    “Strategy” is another way of stating the “Why?” question.

    The problem here is Greason framing the solution space solely in terms of “destinations”.

    Handle the comet and comet fragment impact hazard properly with CAPS, and a lot of “interesting things fall out”.

    Or don’t handle the comet and comet fragment impact hazard properly, and a lot of “interesting things fall out”.

  • Vladislaw

    Bill White wrote:

    “A spacefaring species should be defined as a species that can safely and routinely conceive, bear and raise children at multiple celestial locations”

    A tiny nitpik, but for me, spacefaring is like seafaring. To become a seafaring nation mean’t you could move people to different destinations where they could routinely conceive, bear and raise children at multiple terrestrial locations. Which would mean settlement and or colonization. If you can not become seafaring and leave your island you could never travel to a new destination and settle.

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “But a strategy at this point would be like our forefathers developing a detailed strategy for the Westward Expansion.”

    Goal: expand the territorial boundries of the U.S.
    Strategy: Approach taken is move americans into other lands currrently not controled.
    Objective: Give away free resources.
    Tactic: Homestead act.

    You would also have to deal with native populations, promote alternative transportation and communications systems. But for me, there was at least some who had it worked out similiar to this.

  • Doug Lassiter

    VSE comes the closest to what could have been considered a top level national policy for human space flight. But it didn’t quite get where Greason sees us as needing to go. To the extent that these are the goals of VSE below, we can apply the “OK, but why?” test for each of them.

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

    OK, but why? What does “explore” really mean, and what unique roles do humans have in doing it these days? We’ve already “explored” most of the solar system robotically. What do I get by putting my feet on another planet that is going to improve a life?

    • 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

    OK, but why? Why is is necessary to extend human presence across the solar system? Is it species protection, or what? Is it about bringing freedom and liberty to aliens on Mars?

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

    OK, but why? See above.

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

    OK, but why? In what ways does human space exploration uniquely achieve this?

    What Greason is very sensibly asking for is a rationale that offers value to the taxpayer, if not our species. “Exploration” is a word we like to hide behind. It’s used in each of the VSE goals above. Heh, Vision for Exploration is defined by exploring. You’ll note that Greason never used that word, because it means so many different things to different people. Can we try to explain what we want to do in space without using that word?

    Greason very sensibly says that the reason for human space flight is to settle the cosmos. Can’t do that with robots. That reason underpins each of the four VSE goals above. We’re almost there. But why settling the cosmos? How do I explain the value of it to grandma, or my kids? Species protection, or insurance, hits pretty close to home. Is it a national need? Maybe. An international need? Perhaps. We don’t have any cultural obligation to land on Mars, but we sure have a cultural obligation to protect our species.

    The “OK, but why?” test is a powerful one, that our nation should be able to answer unhesitatingly for space. It’s a question that should be asked a lot more.

  • MrEarl

    Ron/Bennet:
    I think it’s you who do not understant the differences between Flexable Path and the VSE.
    In my view, Flexable Path is sit around and study what may be able to be done while the VSE was more like learn by doing. Evolve technologies, systems and procedures from first hand operational knowlage. That was the spiral development plans that were outlined early in the VSE rollout.
    The Flexable Path was presented as turn HSF over to commercal providers that don’t exist and then study trasformitive technologies.

  • Vladislaw

    The “okay but why” for me is to incorporate the free resources of outer space into our current sphere of economic activity to create wealth and job opportunities for a growing population.

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ May 31st, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    You would also have to deal with native populations, promote alternative transportation and communications systems. But for me, there was at least some who had it worked out similiar to this.

    My point was that our government back then had a general idea that it wanted our nation to expand westward, and there were a number of incentives that they provided to help make that happen. The Army helped to tame the wild areas, railroads built to connect population centers, various land grants, etc.

    But there was no master plan (schedules, dates, etc.), but a series of efforts and incentives. That’s what I see for our expansion into space, where it’s government efforts that spur the initial footholds, but then private and commercial expansion that drives the majority later on. We already see this in the commercial satellite market, which surpassed the government demand long ago. Now we need to build up the next area of expansion, which is local human travel.

  • Robert G. Oler

    “”One of the more compelling speeches at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in Huntsville, Alabama, earlier this month was by Jeff Greason, president of XCOR Aerospace and a member of 2009′s Augustine Committee that reviewed NASA’s human spaceflight plans. Greason’s speech, the video of which is now available online, focused on the need for a strategy for expanding human presence beyond Earth.”

    Jeff Greason is one of the bright lights in the space advocacy and new space industries. His speech was compelling. Sadly it is either about 50 years to late or about 25 years or so to early IF THE NOTION OF THE SPEECH was to provide some political reason for some politician or group of politicians to advocate space spending now.

    I can only speculate on what the future holds. it is for me a speculation of some trepidation but also a great deal of hope. At somepoint over the next 20 years we will be farther down the path that I HOPE we are getting established on now and XCOR for instance is part of…that is a vibrant evolving industry that finds things in space to do with humans of some value that is greater then the cost. When that happens; when it starts to become clear that like say aviation in the last century or sea travel several centuries ago or…then HSF will have avenues in public opinion and public support that are NOW closed to it.

    40-30 years ago if you gave that speech MANY Americans would see it as plausible that humanity was going to expand throughout the solar system. 2001 The Movie was in the late 60′s not place in a science fiction future; but in a future which many Americans could see as a possible extrapolation of events that were happening then. Even maybe as late as the mid 80′s when the sequel 2010 came out…it was “PLAUSIBLE” that there would be commercials airing in the “near future” like David Bowman’s old girl friend is watching when he appears to her.

    Today few other then “2001″ fans (and thats me) view it AS plausible that humanity CAN settle space period, much less at any cost that is affordable. 300 billion dollars for a space station and 30 years of the space shuttle…at that rate nothing is affordable.

    So any politican who stands up and justifies human space spending on the notion of “cities on the Moon” is not only going to get nowhere, but he/she is going to be mocked. And almost correctly so.

    At some point we might get the cost back in hand (and that is part of the exciting future one hopes for)…but along with that some other things none space related have to happen and thats another post…but in the end until we can figure out how to operate in LEO or GEO that is affordable and does things that are valuable in terms of the rest of humanity…the argument Greason advances is a non starter politically.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    MrEarl wrote @ May 31st, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    In my view, Flexable Path is sit around and study what may be able to be done while the VSE was more like learn by doing.

    Whoa partner. Let’s test whether your “my view” has any basis in reality before we start using it as a measuring stick for important stuff.

    From page 15 of the Augustine final report:

    There is a third possible path for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, which the Committee calls the Flexible Path. On this path, humans would visit sites never visited before and extend our knowledge of how to operate in space while traveling greater and greater distances from Earth. Successive missions would visit lunar orbit; the Lagrange points (special points in space that are important sites for scientific observations and the future space transportation infrastructure); and near-Earth objects (asteroids and spent comets that cross the Earth’s path); and orbit around Mars.

    They also say in the next paragraph:

    The Flexible Path represents a different type of exploration strategy. We would learn how to live and work in space, to visit small bodies, and to work with robotic probes on the planetary surface. It would provide the public and other stakeholders with a series of interesting “firsts” to keep them engaged and supportive. Most important, because the path is flexible, it would allow for many different options as exploration progresses, including a return to the Moon’s surface or a continuation directly to the surface of Mars.

    I don’t see any talk about sitting around, but I see lots of talk about going places. See this is why I like to go back to the original documents, because some people’s memories (MrEarl) are not so good at remembering things… ;-)

    The major difference is instead of focusing on “Moon first”, Flexible Path leaves open the possibility of everywhere (hence it’s name). Flexible Path is actually very action oriented, with lots of learning by doing.

    Hope that clears things up for you.

  • Oh dear, not another “strategy.”

    Anyone remember the Space Exploration Initiative? Not to be confused with the Vision for Space Exploration.

    What do they have in common?

    Both were proposed by Presidents named Bush.

    Both were “visions” and “strategies.”

    And both lacked any real political support or funding from the Presidents who proposed them, or from Congress.

    Strategies are meaningless unless a majority of both houses of Congress can be persuaded to support them. And that has to drill down to the space subcommittees as well as the appropriations committees.

    No President since Kennedy has succeeded at that, and his success was a fluke due to a confluence of circumstances.

    Congress only cares about human space flight if it directs pork to their districts. They couldn’t care less about a “strategy.”

    President Obama’s strategy is the only chance for saving U.S. HSF — liberating HSF from Congress by growing the commercial sector.

  • Robert G. Oler

    NASA Fan wrote @ May 31st, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    “HSF is aimlessly wandering around, in survival mode, and will be , unless Oil is discovered on the moon, in an asteroid or a comet. That is the only material the American Public writ large would be willing to invest billions on, for HSF exploration.”

    at the current price of a barrel of oil vrs the price to return a barrel from the Moon one of the largest craters on the Moon could be just brimming with Sweet crude and no one would bother trying to get it.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Martijn Meijering

    The idea that “commercialization” will magically solve our problems was tried during the RLV program in the 90′s and is as simplistic and wrong-headed as the idea that “Apollo on Steroids” is the solution.

    Is that what Greason is saying? I always thought his argument was that we need a large demand for launch services combined with commercialisation, in other words a large and fiercely competitive launch market, not commercialisation alone. Propellant launch in support of an exploration program (manned or unmanned) could make that happen.

  • Martijn Meijering

    And to attain that goal, I continue to assert that fuel depot(s) at EML-1 & EML-2 are an ideal tactical step towards the intermediate goal of lunar fuel production.

    Depots by themselves will do no good, what we need is demand for propellant (or other bulk materials, but propellant and water for radiation shielding are the most promising) in orbit. The demand by itself could lead to commercial development of depots. There’s too much focus on specific technologies instead of on value streams.

  • Martijn Meijering

    specifically, I’m unconvinced about his hypothesis that propellant from off-world sources would lead to a thriving LEO and RLV market – the way I see it, it’s the other way around.

    Is that really what he is saying? How would a lunar ISRU propellant production facility help him get funding for terrestrial RLVs? Establishing a lunar propellant production facility with initial use of propellant from Earth on the other hand would help a lot. I’d suspect that’s what he’s arguing for. Then again, that’s what I’m arguing for, so maybe I’m seeing what I’d like to see.

  • mike shupp

    Doug Lassiter -

    “Okay but why?” is a question that isn’t answerable in a neat logical sense. It’s like asking “Why should I be a Christian?” or “Why should I care what Hitler is doing to the Jews?” or “Why should I care about what lies beyond the Rocky Mountains?” or “Why do I need to learn a second language?” or “Why does my town need schools and a public library?” or “Why care about who killed Archer, Mr. Spade?” or “Why not rule the world, Superman?” or “Why should I care if Kansas has slavery?”

    These have answers, of some sort. “You’ll be a better person” works for most. “People have obligations toward one another” works for others. That the answers are vague doesn’t mean they are necessarily bad answers, or that they necessarily apply to everyone. Not everything reduces to dollars and cents.

    “Why colonize outer space?” falls in this category. Personally, I’d say lots of humans have curiosity about what lies beyond the mountains, that stories about exploration and pioneering are sufficiently common as to suggest a built in human aspiration, that rich and powerful nations need ambitious goals such as conquering far frontiers, etc. “We can do it and eventually people will appreciate that we did it” strikes me as an acceptible answer.

    Your milage may vary, More accurately, I suspect, you can point to many many people whose mileage differs. Maybe it’s like the question of “Why provide health care for old people who don’t work any more?” There isn’t an answer that satisfies everyone and we have big political squabbles over the issue. Maybe spaceflight is one of those emotion-charged things that gets “settled” simply because one segment of the electorate forces its will upon the rest of us.

  • Martijn Meijering

    the vehicles are all expendable capsules launched on ELVs.

    Dream Chaser is neither expendable nor a capsule. Dragon and CST-100 are capsules but not expendable. I’ve pointed this out to you before.

    The only vehicles even capable of reusable flight, the X-37 and the Prometheus, have been abandoned.

    Dream Chaser hasn’t been abandoned, it has been given additional NASA funding. Blue Origin’s system has also been given NASA funding and it too would be reusable. It is even intended to be launched on an RLV eventually.

  • Martijn Meijering

    We need an administrator who knows enough about economics to understand that we must reduce the cost of access to LEO by a factor of ten for a viable market to exist, enough statistical theory to realize that flying the Shuttle is not Russian roulette and that the expected failure rate is not 2/134, enough about engineering to know that the cost of launch cannot be reduced without reuse since most of the cost is in fabrication, and enough about safety to know that it makes no sense in 2011 for an RLV development vehicle to carry a crew.

    So what would you have that administrator do? Greason’s proposals sound like a fairly good way to start.

  • Bennett

    MrEarl wrote “The Flexable Path was presented as turn HSF over to commercal providers that don’t exist and then study trasformitive technologies.”

    As Coastal Ron noted, your memory doesn’t match reality. Nor does your spelling, but that’s a different matter.

    But you don’t have to take MY word for it, here is the NASA outline for the program as proposed in February 2010:

    A Flexible Path for Human and Robotic Space Exploration

    Have fun learning what could have been if Senator Shelby et al weren’t willing to sacrifice NASA’s HSF program to preserve a status quo that really is all about building huge rockets that will never fly.

  • Coastal Ron

    mike shupp wrote @ May 31st, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Maybe spaceflight is one of those emotion-charged things that gets “settled” simply because one segment of the electorate forces its will upon the rest of us.

    NASA consumes 0.5% of the national budget, so it’s not a big priority moneywise, and yes it does get dragged around in Congress depending on what the relevant committee’s want out of it (jobs for one).

    I guess the question of “why” boils down to validating how much we want to spend through NASA, and what that spending gives back to it’s investors (i.e. the U.S. Taxpayer).

    For the average citizen, the brief amounts of awareness of the “space program” is usually through press release type events – something special like the “emotion-charged things” you allude to. But otherwise I don’t think the average citizen really cares much about space at this point.

    I think the more interested group is commerce, which has a foothold through the satellite industry, but other industries want to see if expanding into space allows them to expand their bottom line. Until we can expand the revenue streams through services, resource extraction or product creation in space, our ability to expand into space will be limited by NASA’s paltry budget.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ May 31st, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Stephen. actually (grin) I think that we desperately need a strategery…the problem is that strategery’s along with being mispronounced in the Bush era (bush the last) were really given a bad name, by objectives themselves passing as a strategy.

    I know what Bush the last said about his “vision”; but its like everything else in his administration; the strategery of it was merely to justify the objective not the other way around. Bush and his thenderheads WANTED to invade Iraq and demonstrate American power and what tough guys they were…so they rolled out this “Democracy in the Mideast” notion to support what they wanted to do.

    Bush and his thunderheads wanted to have another Jack Kennedy notion and “just going to the Moon” wasnt enough it had to be something else “you know this time to stay and use the resources”…and yet go look at what was done in the Administration under his name to accomplish the “vision” and it was all about just going back to the Moon.

    A strategy is “Europe first then Japan”. A strategy is “American leadership of the free world” by Mr. “X” of the cold war doctrine. Island hopping isnt a strategy, it is a tactic.

    If I was in the business now of figuring out space politics and policy (grin) it would be something like “Carving a place for human spaceflight in the American economy” ..that is a strategy worthy of the name …

    Robert G. Oler

  • mike shupp

    I think “expanding the revenue stream through services” is a lost cause. SF authors have been drawing pictures of that, of some sort of “Space, Inc.” which would lump together money-making and money-losing activities for 50 or 60 years, ever since Heinlein’s “The Man Who Sold The Moon”, and as time passes we get further and further away from the possibility.

    One money making activity turned out to be communications. But ComSat and AT&T and other communications companies don’t build rocket engines, or even their own satellites; they have no intention of spending corporate funds on lunar colonies. Weather satellites look like something that might be profitable, but there’s enough demand for weather information that governments have taken it over and provide the data “free” — no income string for space colonies there. LandSat and other imagining is kind of in the middle — there’s huge demand for earth images, but only if the images are free; so there’s no money there for colonization.

    Space manufacturing hasn’t gotten past simple experimentation in 50 years, and doesn’t look likely to move any farther for decades to come. (The killing thing is evidentally that true “industrial” processes are too large and too dangerous to place in the ISS, so an exterior module, possibly in a different orbit, would be required. So space imposes costs for safety, which might be very high.) And obviously, even if profitable, there’s no guarantee that manufacturers would leave earth orbit for the planets, or prefer human employees if robots could be made to work.

    Space tourism is more of the same. Richard Branson, for example, might make a bundle with Virgin Space, but he’s in the transportation business, not colonization. Building a spaceship to carry passengers to a lunar base might be one of his ambitions; building the base itself is probably not.

    Whic means, for the near term, falling back on intangible issues, much as the Apollo program did, but this time hopefully with more sticking power… Just for the sake of the argument, suppose in another 10 or 20 years the Chinese announce a plan to build a self-supporting moon colony, making the explicit argument that this will be slow and expensive and difficult but that precisely because western capitalists have failed to mount such an effort, success will demonstrate for all the world the superiority of Chinese communist planning and social mobilization. Of course, all of us nice progressive people here at Space Politics would wish them well, but just concievably, beyond our liberal ranks, a few die-hard American space fanatics might wish to counter with a socialistic moon program of our own — call it “Constellation on Steroids.” Just a thought.

  • Common Sense

    “Strategy is the void that we have right now,” Greason said.

    Wrong: the void is “value” not strategy. What is missing is the so-called “value proposition”: metaphysical speculations about “inspiration”; “exploration”; “national imperative” and all that is not “value.”
    It is ectoplasmic metaphysics.

  • Coastal Ron

    mike shupp wrote @ May 31st, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    I think “expanding the revenue stream through services” is a lost cause.

    The example I see in the near term is servicing the ISS with cargo and crew transportation. I think Boeing and SpaceX are both hoping to expand that market if Bigelow can launch their space-modules-for-rent business, especially since Bigelow said they would need four crew rotations per module per year. Add in supplies, and that becomes a pretty significant market space in LEO.

    When the U.S. establishes a presence outside of LEO, these same types of service companies will be there to supply them and help rotate crew. This is no different than the logistics type services a friend of mine does for our military in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world.

    This is the largest revenue segment I see in the near future.

    Space manufacturing hasn’t gotten past simple experimentation in 50 years, and doesn’t look likely to move any farther for decades to come.

    You have to have a product to make in order to have manufacturing, and the cost structure of making something in space practically dictates that it has to be something that can only be made in zero-G, and that it has lots of growing demand.

    Discovering these products is partly what the ISS is supposed to be doing, so now that it is finally complete I look forward to the non-profit taking over and getting some discovering going. This will likely take a while, since you can’t produce new discoveries on demand.

    My guess is that it will be around 10 years before any true manufacturing gets established in LEO.

    Space tourism is more of the same.

    I have always seen space tourism as an outgrowth of our capabilities, and not the driver of our capabilities. I think once we start having crew flights to the ISS, that NASA will make excess seats available for government researchers and companies related to NASA programs, and I would describe these as government sponsored tourism since they wouldn’t have made the trips unless there had been excess capacity.

    I do think there will be paid tourists, and as Space Adventures has seen there is a limited market for really expense tourism. But again, I don’t see that increasing demand much, and more likely just tagging along with already paid for flights.

    I don’t put Virgin Galactic in the same category as LEO tourism, since they don’t really stay in space. That’s the way I look at it anyways.

    What you didn’t talk about was resources from space, which is something the “Moon First” and other Moon supporters like to talk about. The same rules kind of apply as for space manufacturing, in that you have to have a product to sell, you have to have market demand, and you have to be able to sell your product for less than both the competition and fungible alternatives.

    This category is the one that I think will take the longest, since it depends on us getting out of LEO in a large, sustainable way.

    I think the mistake a lot of people make is to assume that “we’ll go to the Moon and start making money”. I see the expansion of commerce into space as slow but steady, with each improvement in cost reduction or new services followed by a slow adaption by the market.

    Some people probably hate this description of such slow advancement into space, but compared to the failings we had in establishing us in the past, I see this as the only way to get out there and stay out there. Single sources of money like Congress are recipes for eventual failure, so we either do it with a broad base of revenue sources, or likely we won’t at all.

    My $0.02

  • Bennett

    mike shupp wrote @ May 31st, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    mike shupp wrote @ May 31st, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Damn. Both comments show exceptionally clear thinking. Thanks, for both of them. The “Why?” comments should be copied by everyone and sent to their federal reps (and technology staffers).

    The second comment is honest, and inspiring. Who do we know in the Chinese media, or someone capable of creating a rumor-blog (in Chinese) that we can use for this?

    I’d donate a few bucks to the cause.

    (The Freakin’ Chinese Are Coming!!!)    (Whittington is on the right track…)    (oh god no)

    Further, I propose that this July 4th be designated “send a letter or email to your reps (and technology staffers) day”, requesting just one thing:

    ” Dear Senator XXXX,

    There’s a lot of debate lately about the best direction for NASA’s human space flight program. Jeff Greason, a member of the Augustine Commission and President of XCOR, recently gave a short talk about the potential we can achieve with your help, versus the stagnation of the status quo.

    If you’d enjoy learning about one plausible future for NASA’s Human Space Flight Program (very very possible, even with a small budget), please watch this video!

    //moonandback.com/2011/05/30/jeff-greason-a-settlement-strategy-for-nasa/

    (add the required http-colon part to the url in your email or letter, and DO delete this line)

    Please do what’s right for our country.

    Sincerely,

    XXXXXXXXX ”

      
      
    C’mon, it’s only 6 emails…
      
      
    Just asking, but does anyone have a NASA email list in database format? (spreadsheet or delimited notepad?)

    I’m a Pegasus wiz.

  • Greason is correct, IMO.

    Focusing on fuel production on the Moon, the moons of Mars, and eventually on the surface of Mars is one of the major keys to reduce the cost of space travel for NASA and for private spaceflight companies.

    I also believe that he is correct in advocating that NASA should develop space vehicles that both the government and the private commercial space industry can utilize in order to reduce cost. For instance, instead of choosing Lockheed’s Orion-lite capsule, Boeing’s CST-100 could have lower recurring cost since it could be used by both the government and private industry. And the same could be argued for choosing the ULA’s ACES-41 for the service module since the ULA plans to develop it as an upper stage for both Lockheed and Boeing rocket vehicles.

    But using vehicles and engines that only NASA will use will not reduce NASA’s recurring cost.

  • Fred Willett

    Like most Jeff Greason talks this one is a lulu. But people are missing the key point.
    Because of the economy NASA’s budget is going to go down.
    If NASA just keeps doing the same thing (and failing) then eventually some senator who doesn’t have a NASA centre is their district is going to zero out their budget.
    That will be the end of Human Space Flight.
    NASA needs to get away from Tactics “We need this HLV” and consider a Strategy that brings down, and continues to bring down over time, the cost of sending people to space.
    If you can’t bring the costs down regularly and continuously then forget it.
    We’re never going anywhere.
    There are some concrete examples.
    The way costs of cars have fallen over time.
    The way the cost of air travel has fallen over time.
    A couple of examples from HSF also underline this point.
    Cost of shuttle $3-4B pa.
    Cost of COTS $3.5B over 6 years!
    That’s a saving of $14.5B over 6 years, or north of $2B a year NASA will now have to spend on something else.
    Commercial crew – if NASA does it right – will be equally cost effective.
    Another example.
    Bigelow habitats.
    The ISS cost $100B to launch and assemble.
    Bigelow station Alpha, can be constructed with just 4 launches for a cost well south of $1B (3 EELVs and a DIVH). And that’s a station almost as big in internal volume as the ISS and capable of supporting 12 people.
    This is not to dis ISS. Bigelow has built on their experience, but being commercial we should not be surprised that Bigelow can do it at a fraction of the cost.
    Greason is asking that this is the way to lower launch costs. Create markets for business to exploit.
    Boeing and LN have said higher launch rates will bring down launch costs.
    Greason suggests NASA be an anchor tenant buying, say 350t of fuel on orbit. This would give a firm market for higher launch rates and that would drop launch costs.
    And so on.
    It’s not just what you do it’s the way you do it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    mike shupp wrote @ May 31st, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    “Just for the sake of the argument, suppose in another 10 or 20 years the Chinese announce a plan to build a self-supporting moon colony”

    I’d say “call us when you stop supporting it and tell us what made it “self supporting”.

    I found your post very interesting (and entertaining) right up until the last paragraph because then as best I can tell after saying why a lunar base would not be self supporting you then say that the PRC would try just that. Make a self supporting lunar base…why would they do that?

    Space “settlements” fall apart (even if transportation to them were free for the people and for the machinery WHICH THEY ARE NOT) when one gets down to “what the heck will most of the people do to justify being there”. There would be a group of people, the “hotel staff” which could justify keeping the hotel running…but the rest of the people…? It has to be something related to whatever environment that they live in and so far no one has come up with a thing that remotely pays the bills.

    Why would the Chinese try somethign like that? Have they gone nuts? RGO

  • Fred Willett

    I really need to expand a few points.
    None of this is going to happen without NASA seeding the ground in much the same way as the US govt seeded the railways across America. The obvious examples are fuel depots and buying a guaranteed amount of fuel on orbit to encourage the launch industry.
    Other seeds they can plant are.
    A COTS deal to upgrade a Centaur upper stage as a refuelable multi use in space propulsion stage to push stuff around.
    After all if you’re putting all that fuel up there you need to use it, right?
    The purchase “Off the shelf” of a couple of Sundancer modules from Bigelow. These can be pushed about by the Centaur to do initial BEO missions. A sort of first cut as a Nautilus-X if you will.
    Since both the Sundancer and the Centaur will be reusable many many times your costs have gone down right there.
    By stressing reusability rather than the throw away culture that has dominated NASA so far costs come down again.
    Gradually using this model infrastructure can be assembled.
    We can reach further and further into space.

  • Major Tom

    I watched Mr. Greason’s entire talk. It’s a well-reasoned argument, which could be as good or better a policy for our civil human space flight program as any to date, and as Greason himself notes, the logic he goes through to develop his preferred strategy is more important than the actual strategy itself. Nonetheless, I had three comments/critiques:

    – Space Settlement Not In Policy: Greason argues that the goal of space settlement has been solidifed in national policy over the past decade and references several quotes by policymakers and advisors to make his case. But verbal quotes are not the same as written policy documents. For a goal to be policy, that goal has to be written into a policy document by policymakers. In the case of NASA, there are two key, guiding documents: the current national space policy and the current NASA authorization act. The word “settle” and its variants do not appear in either document, and nothing resembling a space development, settlement, or colonization goal appears in either document (links directly below).

    whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/national_space_policy_6-28-10.pdf

    legislative.nasa.gov/PL%20111-267.pdf

    Even Greason admits in his talk that none of the policymakers or advisors he quotes actually use the word “settle”. But the distinction between verbal quote and written policy is an important one. It’s one thing for a congressman or White House advisor to say something. It’s another for tens of advisors or hundreds of congressmen to write something down and agree to it in policy or law. Consensus is critical, and for better or worse, there is no such consensus with respect to space settlement in the US government. It’s not yet a goal enshrined in national policy. So before Greason can address strategy, he must first address the lack of consensus on his preferred goal for the nation’s civil human space flight program.

    – “Settlement” Needs Clear Definition: Greason uses at least two definitions of space settlement. On the one hand, he talks about activities to make use of space resources beyond GEO. Specifically, he talks about government (NASA) efforts that lead to commercial production of propellants using in situ resources. On the other hand, he talks about living and reproducing in space, specifically about having children in deep space. Again, the distinction is an important one because these are very different activities with very different implications in terms of scale and technical obstacles.

    The former is akin to oil drilling at sea. Workers may spend months at a rig, but do not live there permanently and come back home to families onshore. This is not terribly different from current ISS crew rotations, and it’s not hard to extrapolate the ISS and oil rig (or similar) experiences to multi-month or two- to three-year tours producing propellant at a lunar pole or on Phobos.

    The latter is akin to colonizing the New World or settling the American West. It involves entire families, not just the breadwinners, and they commit their lives and their future generations to the effort. It’s much harder to extrapolate the ISS or any other space experience to date to this kind of effort.

    Just the challenges to human health alone of surviving for decades and reproducing in a space environment are intimidating. Greason references space radiation as an important unknown that has to be tackled, and he should be commended for facing up to this important reality. But even then, he’s talking in terms of oil rig-type settlement — how to protect astronauts for up to several years from radiation outside the Van Allen Belts. He’s not talking about Jamestown-type settlement — how to protect adults, reproductive systems, embryos, and children for decades from radiation outside the Van Allen Belts.

    Although it’s a laudable aspiration, the latter kind of space settlement remains far outside the foreseeable range of human technical capabilities. Unless we want to consign generations to lives deep underground (which we don’t do in Earth caves or under the oceans), we simply have no means to protect the human body, human reproductive, and human growth cycles from that much radiation over such long time periods. In fact, radiation is just one of several showstoppers to multi-decade human habitation and reproduction beyond Earth. For example, experiments with lower lifeforms indicate that embryonic development of Earth organisms is uniquely suited to 1G (not surprising given billions of years of evolution) and that other levels of gravity induce gruesome embryonic deformities in specimens ranging from wheat to shrimp. It’s highly unlikely that human embryonic development would be different.

    Maybe someday, with radical IT, nanotech, or biotech capabilities, we’ll be able to correct radiation damage as it occurs or avoid it altogether by modifying or augmenting our biology. But that lies in the realm of science fiction — it’s not a serious argument about any forseeable space settlement activity or policy. To affect national policy, Greason would be best served by defining and sticking to a more realizable definition of space settlement.

    – Island-Hopping Is an Inaccurate Analogy: Greason uses Nimitz’s island-hopping strategy in the Pacific during WWII as an analogy for his in situ fuel depot strategy. It’s an inaccurate analogy because WWII island-hopping was really leapfrogging — specifically leapfrogging over well-defended islands held by the Japanese to attack and occupy their poorly defended islands (and thus cut off supply lines and starve out the well-defended islands).

    Greason’s strategy is not to leapfrog. Instead, he advocates taking each planetary target (Moon, NEOs, Phobos/Deimos, Mars) in turn and using the resources at that target to produce propellant for expeditions to the next target. (A Zubrin-esque Mars Direct strategy is more akin to WWII island-hopping because it leapfrogs over the Moon, NEOs, and Phobos/Deimos.)

    A better analogy for Greason’s strategy would be the Norse settlement of the North Atlantic, when Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland were settled in sequence over a couple generations using resources from each prior landmass. Or, as others have pointed out here, waves of Polynesian settlement that started in Melanesia and eventually radiated all the way to such far-flung islands as Hawaii and Easter Island.

    My 2 cents, FWIW. Hope it’s useful.

  • DCSCA

    “In the speech, he proposed a “planet hopping” approach analogous to the “island hopping” strategy the US used against Japan in World War Two. “What we have to do is take the planetary destinations in sequence,” he said, referring to the Moon, near Earth objects, the moons of Mars, and Mars itself.”

    Nothing new there. The ‘beach head’ assult of the moon, for instance, by peppering it with equipment, modules, consumable etc. as a predicate for establishing a landings to secure a foothold is an old idea.

  • Flexible Path & Commercial Space are all blind marches off the edge of a cliff!!! Mere capitalism will NOT in and of itself lead to a Beyond LEO human space program. The costs & risks are way too great, for private corporations to mount a serious venture beyond merely circling the planet. The need to make an actual profit: It just will NOT happen! There will be a whole lotta talk, and then maybe some re-creation of the Mercury program utilizing a corporate capsule. But these commercial craft will be VERY inferior to anything that could viably do a Lunar expedition. All you get out of Obamaspace is getting trapped once again doing nothing but LEO for further decades!

  • Flexible Path stinks precisely because it tries to go in a hundred directions all at once. It avoids the building of a lander capable of dealing with a deep gravity well, which is a laughable & ludicrous starting point for mounting any venture which gets true space-faring green-lighted. We absolutely need to develop lander vehicles for dealing with the Moon & Moon-like bodies, if we are ever going to scale the Solar System. Plus large celestial worlds are precisely what is needed as the training ground for our astronauts. A Mars lander would have to be infinitely more complex than a Moon lander. Base modules for Mars would need to be far more self reliant & durable than base modules designed for the Moon. It makes perfect sense to grapple with new Lunar missions first, BEFORE venturing any deeper into interplanetary space. Flexible Path plans to ignore the Moon entirely! All it wants is MORE LEO, MORE LEO space stations, lagrange points and asteroids; Martian moons & Martian low orbit. In other words, just about everywhere but Luna. Flexible Path is an awful & horrid way to conduct manned deep spaceflight!

  • 12 Years ago today in Space Policy Digest….

    We must set a new direction and move forward with new purpose. That direction should not be an echo of the past, although John Kennedy’s moving words still move us all, now is not the time for another Apollo, a closed end mission whose goal also creates the seed of another entropic loss of momentum. This new direction must instead sow the seeds of the next great American industry, that like automobiles and aviation and electronics and telecommunications changes the world as we know it and creates wealth for all Americans, and eventually for all the world that embraces it.

    Who is responsible for setting the direction of our government space effort?

    Certainly not NASA. It serves as the pleasure of our elected representatives, funded by Congress, directed by the President. Like any large organization it has bureaucratic tendencies to keep moving in the direction it is going, whatever that direction is. In any case, it is the hands, not the head.

    Congress will certainly provide input and influence implementation. They control the purse strings of any national effort, but 535 solons of two (well, three really) parties, elected to represent their states or districts and with a mandate to bring home the bacon can’t provide unified direction.

    So ultimately, it falls on the President, and we’re electing a new one to begin his (or her) term in the memorable year of 2001. How should he (or she) decide on a new direction for a new century?

    First – take space seriously. This new frontier, as it was once called, deserves it. Not because it’s something different, but because its potential is the same as any frontier: new resources to gain, places to live, businesses to grow, things to learn.

    Next, whatever direction is set should have an underlying purpose. In other words, don’t just answer who goes to space, what they send, where it goes, and when we send it, but WHY we feel it is in our national interest to do this. If this new direction is going to have the support of the American people, as it must, this purpose must go beyond “because it is there” or “to do good science”.

    That purpose must be a space purpose. Competing with, or cooperating with, the Russians as a purpose for a space effort for example relegates space to being a side show, and forces an administration to make decisions not based on what will expand our ability to operate in and take advantages of the potential of the space environment, but instead maximizing the foreign policy and foreign aid aspects. That becomes the mission, not the space purpose. Just look at ISS, where an alternative to the Russian Service Module might be flying now (and ISS construction progressing) if the goal of ISS had been more to build a space station than work and play well with the deteriorating (through no fault of their own) Russian space program.

    The direction should set what we want to do, not how to do it. The role of the government is strategic (and financial), not tactical. A new president might direct the national space agency to explore technologies to lower the cost of flight to orbit by two orders of magnitude (the finish line), but should not direct them to use single stage to orbit, or expendable rockets, or otherwise try to control who crosses that finish line first.

    Finally, it is important that whomever is setting this direction understands that space is not all of one piece. Flying exploratory spacecraft to other planets is worthwhile, as is lowering the cost to orbit, as is operating the Great Observatories like Hubble. So long as all of these goals (and others) must compete for the attention of a “space” agency some will get shortchanged. Just as what the FAA does is not the same as what the NTSB does is not the same as NASA does (in aviation), it makes sense to separate goals (and agencies) for space technology development for cheaper launches from crewed space flight experiments in earth orbit from scientific missions to the outer planets.

    Unspoken in all this talk of setting a direction for the American government’s efforts in space is that there are many areas where the government no longer has a role or its role is changed. Weaning NASA from its historic position as the be-all and end-all of space will be difficult, but any new direction we choose to take in the next administration must (with apologies) “render unto NASA what is NASA’s, and render unto private industry what is private industry’s.” We Americans (with full acknowledgment that this publication goes outside the U.S.) have the right and obligation to demand the candidates running for President (and other federal offices) in the year 2000 tell us what direction they would set for our space effort in the beginning of the 21st Century. They’d rather talk about warm fuzzy issues like school uniforms or drive wedges in the electorate with issues like gun control. We can’t let them. As Michael Douglas’ fictional President said in “The American President”, “Being an American isn’t easy. Being an American is advanced citizenship.” If we don’t meet the responsibilities as well as the rights that come with that citizenship, if we don’t demand of our leaders (who are also our employees and public servants) that they take running for and holding office seriously, then we are shirking our responsibility. Space is important to the future of this country, for our economy, our technology and our national defense. We deserve to know where a new President will direct us, and we deserve to know that he knows where he wants the future to lead.

  • vulture4

    Constellation supporters who demand tax cuts can still attack Obama for not committing huge sums to a “big government” program that would spend well over $10 billion a year to send a few people to the moon once or twice a year. To do what? Entertain them? If you want excitement, go to a movie. NASA should be producing science and technology of practical value.

  • vulture4

    Michael Mealling:

    I appreciate your point, but anything people do in space has to provide a value greater than its price. The taxpayers simply won’t pay $200B to send a few people to the moon,Mars,or asteroid. How much is it worth to put one person in space? At $20M per ride you can sell one or two rides a year. This is one point on the supply-demand curve. For a viable market (say 100 passengers per year) you would have to cut the cost to ~$1M per seat. Each dollar we can shave from the cost of spaceflight adds potential customers

    Hey,I’d love to see people on Mars. I spent my whole life in this business. But if there’s anybody who thinks that Apollo was flown to explore the universe, you haven’t read history. Why do you think Nixon cancelled it in 1974? Once the first man had returned safely to the earth, it was much too expensive for what it could produce.

    I think it’s time to stop telling fairy tales.People who are worried about BEO should be worried about whether this country can even afford LEO. Bush did not fund Constellation to anything close to what it would have taken to get to the moon. All the Republican candidates are demanding major cuts in taxes and discretionary spending. They might continue the current pork-barrel projects, but nothing that will actually fly.

    Abandoning Shuttle is a huge mistake. We could have maintained the program another 10 years. Now a SpaceX capsule is the best we can do. In a few years we should at least be able to send people to LEO.

    If you really want to go to Mars with Constellation technology, you will need between $200B and $400B for just a few missions. Ask ten of you neighbors how much more they are willing to pay in taxes to do it.

  • vulture4 wrote:

    Abandoning Shuttle is a huge mistake. We could have maintained the program another 10 years.

    Shuttle was “abandoned” because it killed 14 people. I really don’t understand why we need to keep repeating this.

    The Columbia Accident Investigation Board concluded that Shuttle is a “complex and risky system.” The main design flaw is the crew vehicle mounted on the side which subjects it to flame and falling debris. There is no legitimate escape system. CAIB would have recommended ending Shuttle in 2004 if there had been an option for completing the space station, but there wasn’t, so they recommended flying it only until ISS was completed. The fact that Endeavour was struck yet again by falling foam and its critical heat shield tiles gouged shows flying Shuttle is still a gamble.

    I keep my fingers crossed every time we launch Shuttle, knowing how dangerous it is.

  • Dennis Berube

    I have said and continue to say, that if we are to establish a permanence in space, it will be on a credit card. We can possibly bring the cost down some, but in the end, it will still prove to be an expensive effort. If we could colonize today, how many here would go??????? Perhaps mining te Moon would prove profitable, if a company sets up the initial infrastructure at great cost. Again that wont be cheap. In 5 or 10 years what will spaceflight cost? Im not saying we couldnt do better than the Constellation program, with regards to cost, but even with Musk and his promised stable prices, it will be expensive, as he realizes the inflation spiral keeps on climbing. Remember its profits not promises!

  • mr. mark

    I totally dissagree with this. First, LEO for science, research and tourism as much as possible. Only, then will parameters change and peoples views of space as a real destination come to pass. The more private spaceflight the better. It may be, in the end, that Virgin Galactic and other private carriers will be the game changer no matter how far NASA reaches out to the cosmos.

  • Major Tom

    “Greason is absolutely right. That strategy that he is looking for was known as the Vision for Space Exploration as laid down by the previous administration in January of 2004.”

    No, the VSE and Greason’s strategy are very different. The VSE does not set a goal of settling space, as Greason does. The VSE incorporates propellant storage, but does not make in situ propellant production at multiple locations a strategic cornerstone, as Greason does. The VSE endorses reliance on commercial providers for transport to Earth orbit but does not focus on extending commercial activities to other planetary bodies, as Greason does. The VSE pursues a different set of targets, including some purely robotic/observational ones (Moon, Mars, outer moons, extrasolar planets), than Greason’s strategy, which is exclusively human and telerobotic (Moon, NEOs, Phobos/Deimos, Mars). The VSE also had to deal with Shuttle disposal/transition, which Greason does not have to deal with by simple virtue of timing.

    Greason’s strategy is unique. Aside from setting multiple targets, it does not resemble the VSE and has substantial differences even with the Flexible Path strategy that Greason helped author on the Augustine Committee.

    “The irony here is that Greason, and the Augustine commission he was part of, not only was instrumental in killing Constellation but replacing the VSE with what is known as ‘Flexible Path’, which has kicked off the vary debate he laments.”

    First, Greason is not lameting the debate. He’s arguing that the debate is being held at the wrong level — at the level of tactics (which architecture and launcher), instead of at the level of strategy (goals and big picture approach to achieving those goals). Greason isn’t lamenting that there’s a debate. He’s lamenting that we and our policymakers are having the wrong debate.

    “The Flexable Path was presented as turn HSF over to commercal providers that don’t exist and then study trasformitive technologies.”

    First, all of the new options presented by the Augustine Committee incorporate commercial ETO transport providers, not just the “Flexalble [sic] Path” options.

    Second, the final report of the Augustine Committee doesn’t “turn over” human space flight to commercial providers. It recommends that NASA rely on commercial providers for ETO transport so that NASA can focus civil human space flight on BEO activities.

    Third, in this respect, the final report of the Augustine Committee is no different from the VSE. The VSE directed NASA to:

    “Acquire cargo transportation as soon as practical and affordable to support missions to and from the International Space Station; and

    Acquire crew transportation to and from the International Space Station, as required, after the Space Shuttle is retired from service…

    Pursue commercial opportunities for providing transportation and other services supporting the International Space Station and exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit.”

    If you’re going to criticize the Augustine Committee for focusing NASA civil human space flight on BEO activities and transferring ETO transport responsibilities to the commercial sector, then you should criticize the VSE for doing the same.

    “I think it’s you who do not understant the differences between Flexable Path and the VSE.”

    The one difference you cite (commercial) does not exist. Both documents transfer ETO transport responsibilities to the commercial sector.

    Pot, kettle, black and all that.

    FWIW…

  • Aerospace Engineer

    “Shuttle was “abandoned” because it killed 14 people. I really don’t understand why we need to keep repeating this.”

    The shuttle did not kill 14 people. 14 people died because the shuttle was launched in freezing temperatures when it shouldn’t have – and because proper procedures for assessing potential orbiter damage were not done correctly. In both instances, management was at fault. The root cause of these accidents was management, not faulty hardware.

    By this logic we should abandon airline travel because it occasionally “kills people”. One wonders what the community here will say when “commercial space” has a fatal accident. Not that they will be launching anybody in the near future, if ever.

    What we are “abandoning” is a world class space program, and replacing it with pre Alan Shepard Mercury Redstone capability.

    I note with interest that we have had two spectacular Shuttle missions in 2011 culminating with a Mach 25 spaceplane making a routine night landing on a Florida runway and there have been no Falcon 9 launches yet in 2011. Not exactly a stellar “commercial” launch rate. Can they really ramp up to the task as their vague launch mainifest would have us believe?

    CAIB also held out an option for recertifying shuttle, so they weren’t as scared of shuttle as the comments here would have us believe. Yes it is vulnerable to foam strikes due to its design, but this risk has been mitigated, not eliminated, but mitigated.

    I despair of the next decade – lots of promises, and even if kept, an underwhelming capability. I wonder if we can even keep the ISS in orbit without shuttle.

  • Major Tom

    “Flexible Path stinks precisely because it tries to go in a hundred directions all at once.”

    This is a false statement. The Flexible Path options in the final report of the Augustine Committee were based on a very specific sequence of missions spanning an 11-year period. They started with lunar flybys, proceeded to Lagrange Point missions, then NEO missions, and then Mars flyby. At that point, the Flexible Path options could proceed to Mars/Phobos exploration or lunar surface exploration. See Figure 3.5.3-2 on p. 43 of the final report:

    legislative.nasa.gov/396093main_HSF_Cmte_FinalReport.pdf

    “It makes perfect sense to grapple with new Lunar missions first, BEFORE venturing any deeper into interplanetary space.”

    If you want to go to more destinations than just the Moon within the likely confines of NASA’s budget, it doesn’t make sense to spend billions of dollars developing a lunar-specific lander. The other elements of the architecture can support multiple destinations, including the Moon, and should take precedence in terms of spending priorities.

    “Flexible Path plans to ignore the Moon entirely!”

    No, it doesn’t. The very first missions in the Flexible Path sequence are lunar flybys. See reference above.

    Don’t make stupid statements out of ignorance.

    “All it wants is MORE LEO, MORE LEO space stations…”

    This is another false statement. There are no LEO missions in the Flexible Path sequence. See reference above.

    Stop spreading lies out of ignorance.

    Ugh…

  • Robert G. Oler

    There is a case to be made that we as a civilization might not settle space or space bodies…at least in this century; even under optimal conditions.

    No one lives on the sea floor, and from a “beans, buildit and bullets” position the sea floor is several magnitudes easier then any place in space or any space body. People “Live” on oil rigs but as several have pointed out here; even that is temporary. The notion of familes and generational reproduction occurring off the Earth seems extremely far fetched just from a technology and human body scenario…

    And we have never really defined what these people do to make aliving.

    That all may (I I hope does) come but in the end what we need to do is hope that near Earth space (ie GEO inbound) somehow becomes as productive as the oil rigs that are world wide…in the next half century. If not then we are literally going nowhere.

    Robert G. oler

  • Martijn Meijering

    I wonder if we can even keep the ISS in orbit without shuttle.

    Haven’t you heard of Progress and ATV?

  • Martijn Meijering

    Abandoning Shuttle is a huge mistake. We could have maintained the program another 10 years.

    Keeping it alive for so long was the huge mistake. It should have been abandoned after the loss of Challenger. By that time it was clear it would never achieve its main mission of reducing launch costs by an order of magnitude. It could have been replaced with HL-20, perhaps preceded by a capsule.

  • @Fred Willett

    Actually, a the Bigelow BA2100 could be launched by a heavy lift vehicle for about $500 million– a space station with nearly twice the internal volume of the ISS.

  • Coastal Ron

    Aerospace Engineer wrote @ June 1st, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I despair of the next decade – lots of promises, and even if kept, an underwhelming capability.

    At $200M/month, regardless of whether it flew or not, what are we giving up during the next decade?

    50,000 lbs to LEO? Delta IV Heavy can do that today, Falcon Heavy will do that (and more) in 2014, and Atlas V Heavy is waiting for a customer that truly needs 64,000 lb payloads in LEO. Oh, and all for far less $/lb than Shuttle.

    Seven crew to LEO? Soyuz, which we rely on to keep our crew at the ISS (not Shuttle) will suffice for now transporting only three, but adding more transport systems is something that everyone should be happy about. CST-100 and Dragon are likely to be the first, but I am really looking forward to Dream Chaser, as that system will likely spur the advancement of a true RLV system.

    Need to do zero-G experiments in space? Well that’s why we have the ISS, which has more equipment and more abilities than the Shuttle ever had with SpaceHab.

    There are no government space stations that have to be built, nor are there major expansions that need to be added to the current ISS. Even if we did, we can loft the structures on existing launchers, and use a tug motor to deliver them (ESA and OSC already have these).

    In short, what would we NEED the Shuttle for in the next decade?

  • Aerospace Engineer

    “Haven’t you heard of Progress and ATV?”

    Maybe they will suffice, but you better hope nothing major or big breaks between now and 2020.

  • wodun

    What’s missing, though, he said, is a coherent strategy for implementing that national goal, which in turn would inform the tactics being debated. “We don’t even have the beginnings of a national agreement of what our strategy ought to be,” he said. “And until we have one, we’re going to continue to flail.”

    Bingo.

    There might be a better place to go than Mars though…

  • @Robert G. Oler

    What to do at a lunar settlement?

    1. Manufacturing water for growing food, manufacturing air, and for rocket fuel destined for L1 and LEO

    2. The Moon might be a good location for private industry to repair and redeploy malfunctioning satellites retrieved from geosynchronous orbit. The relatively low delta-v requirements combined with low cost reusable vehicles might make this a viable industry

    3. Private industry running hotels for hundreds of tourist visiting the Moon each year which could turn into thousands or even tens of thousands annually as the price of rocket engines and rockets themselves begin to fall dramatically due to ever increasing demand from wealthy tourist and space lotto winners.

    4. Lunar burial services. Lots of folks on Earth might be willing to commit ten or twenty thousand to have their cremated remains buried on the lunar surface facing the blue sphere of the Earth beneath the stars for billions of years. Of course, these prices might fall by a factor of ten if the cost of rocket engines and rockets fall dramatically due to ever increasing demand

    5. The mining of aluminum for space solar power satellite mirrors might quickly put the Moon in the electric power business for Earth since its much cheaper to place such heavy mirrors in geosynchronous orbit from the Moon (delta-v: 3.92km/s) than from the Earth (delta-v: 13.7 km/s)

    6. And, of course, there could be a significant human presence from scientific communities from around the world and possibly even the military might be there to protect national interest on the lunar surface.

    And if the lunar population ever becomes large enough (10,000 plus combined with robots teleoperated by tens of thousands on Earth?) then a self sustaining industrial society could emerge on the Moon with the capability of manufacturing satellites solely from lunar resources. This could mean that the Moon could eventually totally dominate the satellite manufacturing and launching industry and the manufacture of extraterrestrial space craft and habitats plus the space solar power manufacturing industry.

    Your assumption is that nobody really wants to go to the Moon. Maybe its just you that doesn’t want to go to the Moon. But every poll that I’ve seen suggest that a large percentage of people would love to visit the Moon. And a surprising percentage would actually like to live there forever!

  • For better AND for worse, the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 simply is the most current and succinct declaration of the national space policy of our government. Perhaps the next step is to pursue a new Authorization Act for NASA, more consistent with what Jeff Greason proposes.

    However, by definition, US national space policy simply is what the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 says it is.

  • vulture4

    The HL-20 and indeed all lifting-body concepts trace their roots to the ancient 60′s when it was believed that no material could tolerate the heating that occurs in a sharp leading edge during atmospheric entry. Consequently only very blunt leading edges were possible and thus no wing in the normal sense. .Over time it evolved various curves, but despite lots of viewgraphs there is no evidence the HL-20 or any lifing body can land on a runway at a credible entry mass. So except for hte relatively high crossrange, it is essentially a capsule, and will be limited to practical parachute sizes and present refurb costs. An HL-20 prototype (the cancelled X-38 Crew Assured Return Vehicle) did land with a parasail, although there was a minor deployment problem which resulted in a hard landing.

    The X-37, despite its superficial resemblance to the HL-20, is an entirely different and much newer concept . It has sharp leading edges, aerodynamically separate wings and fuselage, and can indeed land on a runway. It incorporates lessons from the Shuttle including the separate horizontal V-tail to provide greater pitch authority and the deletion of the vertical fin, which is ineffective since it is in the wake during entry.

    The aerodynamic and structural goals of wings and fuselage are so different that it is simply not rational to combine them. The lifting body was based on materials constraints of 40 years ago. The persistence of the concept is peculiar.

    As to the Shuttle, it has higher costs and lower reliability than specified, not because it is reusable but because it was our first attempt at a reusable spacecraft, and because it was built with no prototypes capable of launch or orbital flight and consequently has many design elements which are not optimal.

    The rationale for the Shuttle remains valid today. Human spaceflight with ELVs is to expensive to be practical. Without full reusability a viable market will never be possible. In the meantime most of the costs of the Shuttle are sunk and it was less expensive to launch than the Ares I despite its larger crew and far larger payload. The costs were inflated by development, which was in the past, the expensive overhead of the Apollo-era facilities and the inclusion of numerous peripheral programs under NASA’s “full cost accounting”. Shuttle could easily have continued to fly until an interim replacement like SpaceX was operational.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Aerospace Engineer wrote @ June 1st, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    “The shuttle did not kill 14 people. 14 people died because the shuttle was launched in freezing temperatures when it shouldn’t have – and because proper procedures for assessing potential orbiter damage were not done correctly. In both instances, management was at fault. The root cause of these accidents was management, not faulty hardware.”

    thats not accurate.

    In both instances the hardware was faulty; it did not meet specs. Management insisted on flying with the faulty hardware; hardware they did not know the failure limits of; and they exceeded those.

    It is a minor nit to everyone but an aviation/aerospace safety person (and that is me) but if anything it indicates why the shuttle should have been grounded. When critical hardware does not meet specifications and in the case of the foam, one cannot even define the specifications of failure then everytime one flies one is rolling the dice with unfavorable odds. The risk has in no way been “mitigated”. That is a NASA term that has no meaning in the real world. What they have done is finally figured out a way to do some on orbit inspections of the TPS…at a cost I bet of several thousand person hours. But they have no idea when they are going to get a piece of foam “liberated” that does the orbiter in.

    This is a situation they are in in a lot of things. They have for instance no idea of how close or not close to failure the various tanks were that were eventually modified because of bad metal. There is no way to assess on orbit the condition of the repair.

    moving on
    “By this logic we should abandon airline travel because it occasionally “kills people” faulty logic on your part.

    Airplane (airline, private and government use airplanes…we will leave military out of it) accidents that are found to be of “hardware related” are FIXED so that the hardware problem does not reoccur. They are not “mitigated”. (a goofy term).

    “What we are “abandoning” is a world class space program, and replacing it with pre Alan Shepard Mercury Redstone capability.” world class…yeah stuck on the pad with electrical shorts, shorts that they never found the “root cause” of. Alan Shepards flight was suborbital, the closest thing to that was the Ares 1X performance. SpaceX with their Dragon launch more or less redid on their first flight…Gemini 3…or the first test of Orion…whenever that is going to be…probablynever.

    You must work at NASA HSF…the reasoning you have is typical for them. As is the safety analogy. I was in safety recurrent the other day…and the two examples used of faulty complex vehicle operation were the shuttle and the Soviet Submarine fleet. and that was a safety recurrent done for the US government.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Fred Willett

    Aerospace Engineer said:
    “What we are “abandoning” is a world class space program,…”
    No.
    What we are abandoning is a program that costs $3-$4B a year and replacing it with COTS which costs $600M a year.
    For all it’s technical genius Shuttle kept us locked in LEO. COTS and CCDev frees up NASA funds to actually go beyond LEO again. Unless, of course, they waste it on SLS…

  • Space Cadet

    Robert G. Oler wrote: “No one lives on the sea floor, and from a “beans, buildit and bullets” position the sea floor is several magnitudes easier then any place in space or any space body. People “Live” on oil rigs but as several have pointed out here; even that is temporary. The notion of familes and generational reproduction occurring off the Earth seems extremely far fetched just from a technology and human body scenario… And we have never really defined what these people do to make a living”

    An alternate scenario is the colonization of the Americas by Europeans. They didn’t build floating islands in the Atlantic. But the Americas were so distant in terms of cost and time that it was not very practical just to visit, people moved there and spent their whole lives there. As to what they did to make a living, an initial example was to acquire beaver pelts and bring them back to Europe for sale. But a counter-example is people who colonized the Americas simply to get out of Europe. They weren’t thinking of the Americas as a place to make money that they would spend back in Europe, they wanted out. Orbital habitats are analogous to rafts in the Atlantic (or oil rigs), but the analogy to the Americas is Mars. A one-way trip is vastly easier than two-way. Rather than going there to make money to spend back on Earth, some folks might go there to get away from Earth permanently and live their lives there.

  • Space Cadet

    Another example is Antarctica. Folks live there temporarily to do research, though no one is yet making $ from Antarctic resources. Few if any truly settle there, but that is because the trip is measure in hours. If it took months to get there and a ticket cost orders of magnitude more $, many of the folks who currently visit Antarctica would have settled there permanently instead of visiting.

  • DCSCA

    “No one lives on the sea floor… from a “beans, buildit and bullets” position…”

    However humans do maintain a continuous undersea presence for extended periods albeit aboard patrolling nuclear subs, and of course extended stays at various undersea labs, some of which are used for experimental training for long term spaceflights. The experiences at research sites in the Arctic or Antarctica are most likely the parellels to the kind of research facilities and access to same which will evolve on the moon and places beyond. The ISS, of course, should really have been firmly anchored to the floor of the Ocean of Storms 240,000 miles out as a core base site for lunar research and exploration for decades to come as cislunar operations, methods and procedures were developed and cultivated. Instead it is orbiting 240 miles or so above earth, where its legacy will be a $110 billion plus vapor trail when it deorbits in a decade or so. Adapting for extended stays in the harsh environmental extremes which characterize space travel will take years of preparation and challenging engineering and the moon is the next logical step. BEO is the future. LEO is a ticket to no place. It may have been space exploration in 1961. It is not in 2011.

    “And we have never really defined what these people do to make aliving… That all may (I I hope does) come but in the end what we need to do is hope that near Earth space (ie GEO inbound) somehow becomes as productive as the oil rigs that are world wide…in the next half century. If not then we are literally going nowhere.”

    Productive as oil rigs? LOL- a for profit industry which is massively subsidized by the government, socializing the risk on the many to profit a few, is hardly an appropriate model for expanding HSF operations. Profiteers, wildcatters or speculators, Musketeers, Reaganomics or whatever the label are not going to fuel the expansion of humans out into space. Space exploitation is not space exploration.

    For profit private enterprise has never has led the way in this field over the 80-plus years of rocket development but always tried to cash in where it can, in the wake of governments which shouldered the risk on projects of scale because the private sector balked and could not affort the largess of capital investment due to minimal ROI. That’s why governments do it. The next logical step in HSF will be Branson’s Virgin Galactic effort. Lofting paying passengers like Aunt Bee, Barney Fife and Robert Oler on sub-orbital jaunts for $200,000 a flight can earn them ‘astronaut wings’ and Branson a few bucks– starting as early next year It’s the next logical phase and akin to NASA launching Shepard and Grissom back in ’61 for profiteers playing at being rocketeers.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Maybe they will suffice, but you better hope nothing major or big breaks between now and 2020.

    If something major or big breaks, it could be transported to the ISS on an EELV class vehicle, and use a tug derived from one of the CRS / CCDev vehicles or from ATV as described in the link below or even from the Orion SM and avionics:

    System-of-Space Systems Architecture Utilizing Existing Space Assets to Complete and Re-Supply the International Space Station

  • Martijn Meijering

    @vulture4:

    The lifting body aspect isn’t crucial, I meant a reusable spaceplane designed for transporting crew to LEO. It wouldn’t need the large cargo bay of the Shuttle and would therefore require much less tile inspection labour per seat than the Shuttle, even if it used the same TPS. Because it would be so much smaller, it could use existing launch vehicles, which allows major cost reductions simply by eliminating much of the fixed costs.

    Since it would launch on top of its launcher, there would be no risk of debris strikes which would make it safer than the Shuttle. It would also have an abort capability which would also add to safety. Since it would be so much smaller than the Shuttle and since it would launch on top, it would be easier to protect the TPS from the elements, perhaps eliminating the need for rewaterproofing.

    All these are changes which would not have required new technology and could have been done relatively quickly. Replacing the hypergolics with nontoxic alternatives would also reduce costs (but probably not as spectacularly as could have been done with the Shuttle itself).

    The rationale for the Shuttle remains valid today. Human spaceflight with ELVs is to expensive to be practical. Without full reusability a viable market will never be possible.

    I’d argue it remains as invalid today as it was in 1987. The Shuttle isn’t fully reusable, only the Orbiter and the SRBs are, and SRB refurbishment is a wash economically. To the degree human spaceflight with ELVs is too expensive to be practical, Shuttle is even more impractical since it is more expensive, and exclusive to NASA too. But for the past 30 years even it has been somewhat practical, and redundant and fairly competing ELV based solutions would be more practical since they could support more space tourism traffic than we’ve already seen with Soyuz.

    The Shuttle is a dead end and an obstacle to RLV development. Getting it out of the way will free up funding for RLV development. CCDev is a good first step, especially since we need crew transport ASAP.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Space Cadet wrote @ June 2nd, 2011 at 1:38 am
    ” But a counter-example is people who colonized the Americas simply to get out of Europe. They weren’t thinking of the Americas as a place to make money that they would spend back in Europe, they wanted out. Orbital habitats are analogous to rafts in the Atlantic (or oil rigs), but the analogy to the Americas is Mars. A one-way trip is vastly easier than two-way. Rather than going there to make money to spend back on Earth, some folks might go there to get away from Earth permanently and live their lives there.”

    sorry that example has no analogy in “colonizing space”.

    It is one that is frequently used but that does not make it valid.

    IF the cost to go to Mars were the equivalent in cost of someone coming from Europe to the US, that might make it more valid. But only “more valid”.

    Once a person got to what is now the US, the tools for survival were “there” and there at a low level of technology WHICH WERE ACQUIRABLE BY BOTH INDIVIDUALS AND VERY VERY SMALL COMMUNITY GROUPS. That is NOT true for any destination out of the atmosphere and wont be for sometime.

    And this is the pleasant (to me anyway…see I believe in a strong Federal government) irony.

    Most space groupies seem to view space settlements as a sort of political utopia…ie a community that can be formed by not large groups that can allow their individual political taste. Whittington ever so often on his blog publishes tomes of his ideal political space group.

    The problem with all of that is that the infrastructure needed to survive on a permanent level outside the atmosphere of the EARTH is probably so expensive that it would preclude long term settlements UNLESS there is a substantial (for some unknown reason) “stake” in that infrastructure by large Earth bound communities…and that “stake” will extend down to the individual level.

    There is NOTHING right now that can be done on Mars (or even forseen) that would make a “colony’ in any fashion “self sustaining” or even a break even proposition. And that is why the “America” analogy sounds good but breaks down quickly.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ June 2nd, 2011 at 4:46 am

    “However humans do maintain a continuous undersea presence for extended periods albeit aboard patrolling nuclear subs, and of course extended stays at various undersea labs, some of which are used for experimental training for long term spaceflights. The experiences at research sites in the Arctic or Antarctica are most likely the parellels to the kind of research facilities and access to same which will evolve on the moon and places beyo”

    there is no national security reason for a submarine equivalent in spaceflight and if the cost to maintain any space outpost drops to say the equivalent of a south pole station or even 10 times that…then things change dramatically.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    Space Cadet wrote @ June 2nd, 2011 at 1:43 am

    Another example is Antarctica. Folks live there temporarily to do research, though no one is yet making $ from Antarctic resources.

    They can’t mine any resources, because the Antarctic Treaty prohibits all activities relating to mineral resources except scientific.

    Few if any truly settle there, but that is because the trip is measure in hours.

    I don’t think anyone “lives” there, except for those employed by the various countries that claim their portion of Antarctica, so it’s not really the example you’re looking for.

    The Antarctic does provide a view into the logistics of supporting outposts far from civilization, which applies to the ISS today, and at some point the Moon, Mars and just about everywhere far away that lacks a complete ecosystem.

    The lessons I see is that you need to plan for a supply system that can operate on a frequent basis, and to keep costs down you should use as much existing transportation as possible.

    My $0.02

  • Rhyolite

    Space Cadet wrote @ June 2nd, 2011 at 1:43 am

    “If it took months to get there and a ticket cost orders of magnitude more $, many of the folks who currently visit Antarctica would have settled there permanently instead of visiting.”

    Or we would send robots rather than resarchers.

  • Dennis Berube

    Here again people all the above talk is just that as the problem wth it is the lack thereof of funding. Fantasy talk of lunar and or Mars basis is great, but unless the CASH flow is evident, forget it! Those are the hard cold facts. As to commerical, promises dont get you there either. Its got to be CASH, and then hardware to pull any of it off. Presently when the shuttle ends, theonly people with the hardware, will be Russia and China!

  • Robert G. Oler

    Space Cadet wrote @ June 2nd, 2011 at 1:43 am

    “many of the folks who currently visit Antarctica would have settled there permanently instead of visiting.”

    I dont think that is accurate. There is no real instance in history of people settling where their ultimate “fate” in terms of resources is in control of others not living there. RGO

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi RGO –

    “The problem with all of that is that the infrastructure needed to survive on a permanent level outside the atmosphere of the EARTH is probably so expensive that it would preclude long term settlements UNLESS there is a substantial (for some unknown reason) “stake” in that infrastructure by large Earth bound communities…and that “stake” will extend down to the individual level.”

    Bingo. But…

    Take that line of reasoning a step further.

    ASSUME that there was a stake that extended down to the individual level for working visits to the Moon.

    Then PERHAPS the assets needed for that might enable later settlement at a low enough marginal cost.

  • John Malkin

    The only way we will colonize space and other planetary bodies is if we build systems that provide a better living or close to similar living as here on Earth. I define ‘settlement” as a group of people able to self-sustain without substantial government or external resources. Of course once a settlement reaches the size of a small town or city, it will need its own government. Full on colonization would be a self-sustain civilization residing on a space habitat or planetary body with no exterior resource requirements. I’m assuming some resource trade as we have resource trade between countries based on local resource availability.

    Look at the most harsh environments on Earth and determine why people settled them. Antarctica was never settled because it’s not easily accessible; it’s a harsh environment; it has no easily accessible resources and there is no fun. Alaska, Middle East, Siberia and many others are places settled by humans for various reasons but aren’t the Bahamas. Some environments were settled than changed leaving people and animals to adapt or move to another location.

    So until we can build space colonize like Gerard O’Neil wrote about or large living systems on planetary bodies or terraforming planetary bodies, we are left with Scientist, Adventures and Entrepreneurs to “settle” Mars and other places alone the way. This is a transition period, where we are moving from no infrastructure to a reliable infrastructure that can move people and resources between space and planetary bodies affordably.

    I think due to the political environment it’s unlikely we will get a multi-administration strategy and NASA will be left in a tug of war. In some ways we need a global space strategy but that is even more difficult. Advocacy groups need to focus on the big picture since most big aerospace will focus on immediate profits and benefits to their stock holders. I don’t blame them, we live in a capitals society. Advocacy needs to nudge our government and NASA in the right direction, eventually it will snowball.

    my $.02

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 2nd, 2011 at 11:54 am
    “…there is no national security reason for a submarine equivalent in spaceflight.” ROFLMAO you best revisit the planning of DoD officials as the orgins of all of America’s space projects, including Project Mercury, can be traced to DoD until Ike yanked the high profile, politically expedient projects away and planted them in the then new NASA. ‘National security’ justifies the funding of the entire DoD space operations, known and unknown.

  • Dennis Berube

    I see Orion as progressing. DId not astronauts test the docking system electronics for the Orion spacecraft, on this present shuttle flight? We are movng ahead as Boeing opened a new office at the cape. I do believe Orion will fly, and quite probably on NASAs own rocket. At least that is what it looks like now. How soon is the question. Maybe Orion wll fly next year on that Delta test flight. Lets hope so.

  • Robert G. Oler

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ June 2nd, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    “Bingo. But…

    Take that line of reasoning a step further.

    ASSUME that there was a stake that extended down to the individual level for working visits to the Moon.

    Then PERHAPS the assets needed for that might enable later settlement at a low enough marginal cost.”

    maybe. There definitely a “the chicken starts making an egg” point here (meaning that if you believe in the Biblical version of creation and things were “created” as soon as one makes the chicken then the chicken can start making more chickens without divine intervention by laying eggs…just took delivery on 75 new chicks so that analogy seems appropriate).

    here is what one does not know…when does the “chicken” start laying eggs…meaning when does (presumably) federal investment in infrastructure in space for some reason related to providing a service for The Republic start evolving all on its own.

    I suggest that it is along way off…a really long way because unlike settling America EVERYTHING that is done on a space “place” right now is done on the government nickle with the individuals there providing “nothing” of their own. This is true on ISS NOW and I think would be true on any government “lunar” facility.

    If the marginal cost of “another settler” got low enough the question would be how much would the “stakeholder” who is covering all the expenses which lower the marginal cost…want of any “free enterprise” activity?

    I actually addressed this in a policy paper that was published in the AWST mag “Commercial space” concerning the shuttle. The assumption was that the shuttle “worked” and that it had a large national security role which justified its existence…meaning then how much did folks who wanted payload space on shuttle flights that flew “in the marginal cost” have to either pay or be charged for the flight. The attempt was to see if the logic that pays for “most” of the interstate highway system (it contributes to national defense) would hold for the shuttle. Sadly of course the shuttle never did work and there never was anything that justified its existance…and left marginal cost flights.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ June 2nd, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    ‘National security’ justifies the funding of the entire DoD space operations, known and unknown.”

    and none of it known or unknown includes flying humans. Don Bardo bring us down another guest RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ June 2nd, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    my other point is of course this. LArge spacesettlements are going to require massive investment by presumably wealthy nations…in a scenario where “the many pay for the few” to settle in space…at least originally.

    We are in a bad place right now in US politics, but one of the things that the GOP financial policies have done to The Republic, other then brought it to near financial ruin and maybe even yet a Depression…is soured people on large federal government programs. But oddly for folks like Whittington…that is what it would take to settle space.

    Robert G. Oler

  • John Malkin

    Isn’t the Boeing office for the commercial CST-100?

    What is the cost per flight of the Orion MPCV? I think you can add a year or two in order for Lockheed to do a simular F9/Dragon demo flight with Orion.

  • Coastal Ron

    John Malkin wrote @ June 2nd, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    The only way we will colonize space and other planetary bodies is if we build systems that provide a better living or close to similar living as here on Earth.

    I agree, and I think we are way far off from that happening. Sure there will be public and private funded places to live, but real settlers, who are don’t rely on outside funding, are a long way off.

    I think due to the political environment it’s unlikely we will get a multi-administration strategy and NASA will be left in a tug of war.

    Again I agree. Absent something that focuses everyones attention and creates a common purpose, there are too many choices and too many factions.

    Because of that, the real innovation will likely be the slow but incremental increases in ability that the commercial space industries bring online. And I do emphasis slow, since until there is significant money to be made by sending people into space, it’s going to be a while before we get out of LEO in any great number.

  • common sense

    Major Tom:

    “First, Greason is not lameting the debate. He’s arguing that the debate is being held at the wrong level — at the level of tactics (which architecture and launcher), instead of at the level of strategy (goals and big picture approach to achieving those goals). Greason isn’t lamenting that there’s a debate. He’s lamenting that we and our policymakers are having the wrong debate.”

    Greason then is absolutely correct. Alway the same problem: The carriage before the horse problem. Build it then we’ll find a mission state of mind. Stupidity that has grounded any effort since Shuttle for anything serious. We MUST come out of this spiral of nonsense.

    Now for all that matters, there will be no settlement tomorrow or any time soon. Nope. Why? No strategy. Settle to do what? At what cost? A strategy is only as good as its budget. NASA, nor any one, does not have enough budget to even think of a plan. They usually get 90 days. How can you imagine they would come up with a good supportable strategy for settlements? Not a chance.

    In any case I don’t see his “strategy” as one since it does not say the fundamental “why”.

    Oh well…

  • common sense

    BTW Jeff someone is trying to steal my identity so to speak since I never wrote that. Now of course the name is capitalized mine is not. In any case I wish people would not do that.

    Any one wonders why some of us publish anonymously???

    ———

    Common Sense wrote @ May 31st, 2011 at 9:36 pm
    “Strategy is the void that we have right now,” Greason said.

    Wrong: the void is “value” not strategy. What is missing is the so-called “value proposition”: metaphysical speculations about “inspiration”; “exploration”; “national imperative” and all that is not “value.”
    It is ectoplasmic metaphysics.

  • Bill Hensley

    Unfortunately, Jeff Greason was wrong when he said we already have national consensus on our goal for human spaceflight. The reason settlement remains only a subtext in existing policy statements is that not everyone agrees with it. The biggest battle is still to get a solid, enduring consensus on our goals in space.

    The ultimate practical purpose of venturing into space, as Vladislaw correctly stated, is to “incorporate the free resources of outer space into our current sphere of economic activity to create wealth and job opportunities for a growing population.” In the very long view, the materials, energy and real estate available in the solar system will prove immensely valuable to a spacefaring society. It is not at all clear to me, however, that such a goal is near enough to be achievable by any practical, executable strategy. I know that some of us think otherwise, but we are space enthusiasts, and I’m afraid that colors our judgment on such matters. For this reason, I do not think we are likely to get such a ringing statement adopted as U.S. government policy any time soon. We must instead articulate a nearer term goal that is consistent with the longer term direction.

    A more practical goal statement would be to “enable the expansion of human activity in space.” Or, more colorfully stated, “opening the space frontier.” The latter formulation taps into historical American aspirations and implicitly conveys the rationale. The “frontier” idea has been derided in some quarters over the past few decades, but I think most Americans still understand the appeal. Why do people head to the frontier? At least three reasons: curiosity, adventure, and economic opportunity. Anything that enables people to achieve any of these three in space will lead naturally to greater human activity in space. You don’t have to orchestrate it, you just need to enable it.

    If you are going to have a goal you need metrics to demonstrate whether you are achieving it. I think this is crucial. Some practical metrics for opening the space frontier might include:
    1. number of people living in space
    2. price of a ticket to low earth orbit
    3. annual economic value of in-space activities

    It must be emphasized that government’s role is not to make these things happen, but to enable them. This may be principally by technology development, but also perhaps by anchor tenancy and other economic incentives. We have a very long history of basic R&D being funded by the U.S. government, which ultimately catalyzes the creation of new industries. We must think in terms of the removal of barriers for private in-space activity. There are many problems that NASA can address. You all know the list as well or better than I do:

    1. fully closed loop environmental control systems (including food production)
    2. characterization and mitigation of health problems due to partial gravity.
    3. charcterization and mitigation of health problems due to radiation.
    4. discovery and mapping of in-situ resources (lunar water, etc.)
    5. lightweight, robust thermal protection systems
    6. zero-loss cryogenic propellant storage

    These are just examples. NASA could stay busy for years solving these and other problems, all the while flying astronauts into space, building new spacecraft, buying launch and other services from commercial suppliers, and being a cool place to work. I personally think this is a space program we could be proud of as a nation. And alongside it, if we are successful, every year we will see more and more private activity in space. One day the latter will dwarf the former. I think that’s an exciting vision for the future.

  • amightywind

    With the long, slow retirement of the Apollo and shuttle generations and the political cover given to space cranks by the Obama Administration comes a unprecedented leadership vacuum. Gleason has no credibility as an architect of America’s space program. He is a Mr. Gadget lab guy. Cheer for minor leaguers like this if you must, but this small ball bores me.

  • Justin Kugler

    If it bores you so much, why did you feel compelled to say something?

  • Martijn Meijering

    NASA could stay busy for years solving these and other problems

    More likely they would stay busy not solving these and other problems… I’d like to keep NASA far away from depot development, for the same reason that I want them out of the launch business. NASA should focus on buying transportation services and let market forces sort out what infrastructure is needed for that.

  • Bennett

    I’m looking forward to Jeff’s take on the latest news that California’s Senators have called on Mr. Bolden to have the SLS put out for competitive bids.

    Clark’s post with comments HERE

  • Bill Hensley

    Martijn Meijering wrote:

    More likely they would stay busy not solving these and other problems… I’d like to keep NASA far away from depot development, for the same reason that I want them out of the launch business. NASA should focus on buying transportation services and let market forces sort out what infrastructure is needed for that.

    Well, I actually agree with you. I more or less covered goals, strategy and objectives in my earlier comment. When you get down to the level of tactics, I think one important tactic would be to “buy everything you can commercially”.

    To the larger point, I also agree that for this strategy or any strategy to be effective NASA must be reformed. I regret to say I’m not terribly optimistic on that point, because of the political pressures and the bureaucratic processes that shape any government agency. But certainly one prerequisite for achieving reform is to adopt a clear goal and a clear strategy. By speaking out on this topic perhaps we can help bring change. Otherwise self preservation and bureaucratic inertia will clearly carry the day, as Greason said.

  • Martijn Meijering

    When you get down to the level of tactics, I think one important tactic would be to “buy everything you can commercially”.

    Absolutely, but sometimes you can go a step further and simply not buy a system like a depot. Instead you could buy derived products such as propellant in orbit or you could buy services like transportation. In both cases you could leave it to the market to buy the depot. I’m arguing that would be even better.

  • Bennett

    @Bill Hensley

    All good, but this?

    “By speaking out on this topic perhaps we can help bring change. Otherwise self preservation and bureaucratic inertia will clearly carry the day, as Greason said.”

    Truth.

  • pathfinder_01

    “Isn’t the Boeing office for the commercial CST-100?”
    Yeap that is.

    “What is the cost per flight of the Orion MPCV? I think you can add a year or two in order for Lockheed to do a simular F9/Dragon demo flight with Orion.”

    Estimated at around 600- 800 million a unit and disposable. It is too heavy to be lofted by F9 need Delta Heavy or FH maybe Atlas Heavy if you can get it a bit lighter.

  • pathfinder_01

    .” Maybe Orion wll fly next year on that Delta test flight. Lets hope so.”

    Delta test flight was to be in 2013. The last I heard from the team that is trying to build the HLV is that no test flights of Orion are planned atm.

  • pathfinder_01

    “Another example is Antarctica. Folks live there temporarily to do research, though no one is yet making $ from Antarctic resources. Few if any truly settle there, but that is because the trip is measure in hours. If it took months to get there and a ticket cost orders of magnitude more $, many of the folks who currently visit Antarctica would have settled there permanently instead of visiting.”

    Antarctica has several problems in terms of settlement. The first being that it cannot support farming without some massive investments so almost all food is imported. The second is that travel is almost impossible in winter. In fact during winter few researchers stay and the bases are mostly in the hands of caretakers. You cannot ship anything in and you are restricted to parachute drops at best.

    Antarctica has resources but if you can’t export them profitably (i.e. the bad winter weather and the bad weather in general plus that treaty.) why should people go there? This is the same problem that the Moon and Mars have atm.

    What can help to at least make it possible to have people present on those locations is reduction in launch/transport costs to space and this is where commercial cargo helps. It isn’t the time it takes to travel that makes people settle. It is the ability to make a living somewhere that makes people settle.

    If for instance you could find ways to ease travel to Antarctica during winter then it becomes possible for people to settle there and export its riches. If you could grow food there without massive investment then likewise it becomes possible to settle there but if you need to build a massive green house and there is no way it can happen.
    In the case of the American colonies they exported goods that were not available in Europe (Tobacco, Cotton, Sugar, and Certain Animal Furs).

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 2nd, 2011 at 4:49 pm
    You’d do well to revisit the origins of HSF planning- chiefly DoD before Ike dumped it into NASA’s lap, before NASA was officially operating. Start w/MISS and the high altitude work at EAFB by the AF. “and none of it known or unknown includes flying humans.” Really? If it’s unknown, how would you know. Brilliant.

  • Dennis Berube

    I thought a Delta was already being put aside for the Orion flight? Has that been changed?

  • Bennett wrote:

    I’m looking forward to Jeff’s take on the latest news that California’s Senators have called on Mr. Bolden to have the SLS put out for competitive bids.

    Well, that could be interpreted as their representing the interests of SpaceX which plans to build the Falcon Heavy. Although there are many other aerospace companies in California.

  • vulture4

    There is serious talk of launching an Orion test flight to LEO on a Delta, but to my knowledge it would have to be unmanned as 1) the very tall LAS would not fit in the Delta Mobile Service Tower and 2) the Delta upper stage has a design load safety factor of 1.15 which is the DOD spec for unmanned systems as opposed to the 1.4 which is the NASA spec for manned systems.

    Now of course the very large LAS was necessitated only by the solid fuel booster on the now-cancelled Ares I and in any case only protects against only a very narrow and rare failure mode, and the 1.4 safety factor was adopted in the days before computers for systems like the Shuttle that might fly 100 times but had to carry people on the very first flight. The Delta Heavy is all liquid propellant and can terminate thrust in an abort, and strain gauges could be used to verify flight loads in unmanned flight and eliminate the need to redesign the second stage. But realistically I would be surprised if such logic persuades program management. The HLLV concept is the current strategy for Orion human launch.

    But to my mind a more serious issue is the question of whether the Orion/HLLV is an appropriate strategy. For LEO logistics it will be more expensive to operate than either the Shuttle or Dragon while carrying less crew and cargo. Ocean recovery is not optimal for LEO and adds to cost. A meaningful BEO HSF program, to my mind, is premature without substantial reductions in cost; at the cost of Constellation, which would be comparable to Apollo and significantly greater than Shuttle, it appears unlikely the tax dollars would be available. I am interested in what others may think regarding these issues.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Although there are many other aerospace companies in California.

    And one of those companies (Aerojet) had already threatened to sue NASA if the contract wasn’t awarded competitively.

  • Here’s a compromise … How’s about we launch all the Orion capsules into space — straight into the Sun.

    Jobs preserved. Constellation junk disposed.

  • vulture4

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ June 2nd, 2011 at 6:15 am
    @vulture4: “The lifting body aspect isn’t crucial, I meant a reusable spaceplane designed for transporting crew to LEO.”

    Martijn, I agree your comments. However despite their similar appearance the HL-20 and X-37 are very different in their potential for practical reuse and scaling up to larger capacities. Parachute recovery, particularly for larger vehicles, is more expensive than runway recovery.

    I did not mean that the Shuttle _as built_ was optimal or should be flown indefinitely; it has serious design, safety and maintenance problems and only the Orbiter is reusable. I said that the _rationale_ for the shuttle, the need for a fully reusable launch system for access to LEO, is still valid because the central need is for an “enabling technology”, as it was called back in the 70′s,that will lower cost and only reusability can achieve this. The Shuttle as originally proposed utilized a smaller orbiter and a flyback first stage, and this configuration might be practical.

    Even with only one flight remaining, anyone who believes the Shuttle is currently unsafe is obligated to communicate with NASA Safety and call for the remaining flight to be canceled. The CAIB commission called for its replacement but specifically said it could safely fly until a replacement was available. Capsules can be safe, as can reusables, but they are not _intrinsically_ safer than Shuttle, nor does a LAS make a vehicle safe. Soyuz is a capsule with a LAS but has had repeated close calls caused by failure of the service module separation pyrobolts which could have killed the crew, and despite speculation regarding the effect of prolonged corona discharges on the explosive charges, no root cause has been proven.

    All customers for human spaceflight are sensitive to cost, and expendable systems, even with the remarkable efficiencies demonstrated by SpaceX, remain too expensive for any but a handful. The strategy that appeared to be in place in the 90′s was replacement of the Shuttle with a more advanced reusable, to be developed after testing multiple concepts using unmanned subscale RLVs. That strategy remains reasonable. In the meantime the Falcon/Dragon can provide interim LEO access. Potential routes to reusability of the Falcon and Dragon have been proposed, though they remain speculative.

    In contrast, because of its extremely high operating cost, the Orion/HLLV strategy is not, in my opinion, likely to be feasible for either LEO or BEO missions.

  • Martijn Meijering

    A meaningful BEO HSF program, to my mind, is premature without substantial reductions in cost

    An exploration program (whether manned or unmanned, whether beyond Earth orbit or inside the Earth moon system) that depends on propellant transfer could create a large and fiercely competitive propellant launch market and that might be the best way to achieve substantial reductions in cost.

    I did not mean that the Shuttle _as built_ was optimal or should be flown indefinitely; it has serious design, safety and maintenance problems and only the Orbiter is reusable. I said that the _rationale_ for the shuttle, the need for a fully reusable launch system for access to LEO, is still valid because the central need is for an “enabling technology”, as it was called back in the 70′s,that will lower cost and only reusability can achieve this.

    OK, agreed, the rationale for RLVs is still valid, and that is the same rationale that was originally applied to the Shuttle. But that is not an argument for extending the Shuttle. Independent arguments for that may exist, such as preserving US manned access to space until a replacement arrives.

    Unfortunately to date such arguments have mainly been used to make it easier to develop an SDLV that will (would) have another 30 year monopoly on NASA exploration flights. I’d rather accept a gap of a few years than another 30 year monopoly, especially since the same cabal that was responsible for creating the gap would profit from Shuttle extension. Furthermore, we’ve probably passed the point of no return. Restarting ET production and maintaining SRB production would be very expensive and strategically harmful.

    The strategy that appeared to be in place in the 90′s was replacement of the Shuttle with a more advanced reusable, to be developed after testing multiple concepts using unmanned subscale RLVs. That strategy remains reasonable.

    I would argue that depends on how that RLV is developed. I have precisely zero faith in another government led program. A COTS like program might work, but is still very risky. My best hope is to let NASA provide demand for launch services and let the market develop RLVs. There are plenty of new startups that would jump at the opportunity and if there was steady demand for propellant in orbit they could get private funding. And the established players too would likely be interested (or forced to become interested) in lowering cost to orbit.

    The most plausible candidate for that demand for launch services would be propellant launch in support of an exploration program. If the first goal of the exploration program was to establish lunar ISRU facilities, then that would be fine. It would mean that the government demand would dry up after a while, but by that time we should have much lower launch costs, probably through RLVs.

    In the meantime the Falcon/Dragon can provide interim LEO access.

    EELVs too, and not just for interim LEO access. They are fine for heavy lift (habs, landers and other heavy equipment).

  • Robert G. Oler

    vulture4 wrote @ June 3rd, 2011 at 10:26 am

    “Even with only one flight remaining, anyone who believes the Shuttle is currently unsafe is obligated to communicate with NASA Safety and call for the remaining flight to be canceled.”

    why tell them something that they already know. NASA “safety” is a joke. BY LAW the safety officer of an Airline, a military flight organization, even a government flight organization (and that includes NA airplanes) cannot be overruled period by operational personnel. NASA “safety” is the only safety organization in the federal government which can be “out voted”.

    This is why the thunderheads at NASA use the phrase “flight rationale” to explain how they are violating a launch or other mission constraint. IN other words “we have justified what we want to do anyway to ourselves”. They have other wonderful phrases “we pounded flat” a problem…LOL.

    Hopefully they will get this last one in without killing anyone. RGO

  • Space Cadet

    The Antarctica and Americas analogies:

    I agree a research station on Mars could not be initially self sustaining with current technology. But early colonies in the Americas also imported goods from Europe until they had the capacity to make them locally. An externally-supported base is a step along the way to a settlement.

    The point I find most interesting though, is the hypothesis that researchers in Antarctica return to other continents frequently * because they can *. But it is so difficult to get back out of Mars’ gravity well that it would make more sense to make the trip one-way. If this was the case for Antarctica, yes, we would send robots rather than people – initially and if that was all we could afford. But we’d get orders of magnitude more research accomplished with people than with robots. I think the same is true with Mars (note Steve Squyres’ comments on humans vs robots). And I think there are (sane and qualified) people who would volunteer even if the trip was one-way.

  • Space Cadet

    The choice between sending supplies vs. the means of production is an interesting one, and it depends on both scale and technology. Do we send food or a greenhouse? For Apollo and the ISS we sent food. But while Apollo used fuel cells for power, the ISS uses solar panels.

    A Mars station or base would evolve into a settlement along a similar path, gradually substituting the means of local production for supplies as the population grows and the technologies advance.

  • Egad

    > And one of those companies (Aerojet) had already threatened to sue NASA if the contract wasn’t awarded competitively.

    As, absent a national emergency requiring rapid acquisition of an HLV, Aerojet can and should do. Since we currently have no identified need (other than wealth transfer) at all for an HLV, there would seem to be time for NASA to do things right. Which means competing the contracts.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Matt Wiser wrote @ June 2nd, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    “Dismissing the anger that folks who worked on CxP and Shuttle have is not a good way to get them to support your ideas, and certainly not a way to get their Congresscritters to vote for your proposals. Why do you think Congress directed NASA to use as much CxP and Shuttle derived hardware in the new program?”

    what the frack makes their anger at losing a job special?

    everyone I know who has lost a job, jobs that really were in the private sector is upset. I know people in the 50′s who did everything that they were suppose to do and worked hard, flew right, and are going to lose their job in the CAL/UAL merger.

    The people who have worked on shuttle have fed at the government trough for decades…and while it is not their fault, the program, the 200 billion spent has not by any stretch given teh US any return on that investment.

    There is nothing that can be said to a person losing their job that softens the blow other then “here is another job at the same money/benefits” or do you think different?

    So who cares if the folks who are losing their job are happy or not. They had a lot of warnign that the jobs were going away, they all made good money; if they didnt plan for it then they are not all that bright anyway.

    “I agree with DCSCA: if we can fund the Afghan War, we can find the money to get NASA on track, get MPCV and SLS funded so that they fly, and start exploring.”

    how much money do you think that takes?

    You have never explained to me why Cx spent 12 billion dollars and has just about nothing to show for it. The Ford CVNX spent 14 and got a brand new super carrier class and the first boat of it. Gemini spent 5.5 billion and got the entire program.

    How much money does it take to fix NASA? NASA is spending more on human spaceflight then every other national space agency around…how much more money do they need?

    Robert G. Oler

  • Vladislaw

    Coastal Ron quoted from the AC

    “Whoa partner. Let’s test whether your “my view” has any basis in reality before we start using it as a measuring stick for important stuff.

    From page 15 of the Augustine final report:

    “There is a third possible path for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, which the Committee calls the Flexible Path. On this path, humans would visit sites never visited before and extend our knowledge of how to operate in space while traveling greater and greater distances from Earth. Successive missions would visit lunar orbit; the Lagrange points (special points in space that are important sites for scientific observations and the future space transportation infrastructure); and near-Earth objects (asteroids and spent comets that cross the Earth’s path); and orbit around Mars.”

    They also say in the next paragraph:

    “The Flexible Path represents a different type of exploration strategy. We would learn how to live and work in space, to visit small bodies, and to work with robotic probes on the planetary surface. It would provide the public and other stakeholders with a series of interesting “firsts” to keep them engaged and supportive. Most important, because the path is flexible, it would allow for many different options as exploration progresses, including a return to the Moon’s surface or a continuation directly to the surface of Mars.” “

    I believe this line:

    “It would provide the public and other stakeholders with a series of interesting “firsts” to keep them engaged and supportive.”

    Was directly related to Admistrator Bolden’s first speech he gave when he talked and addressed this issue. The ONLY time Americans really seem to “tune in” on space is when a first was taking place. It was NASA’s hope that by generating a series of firsts in a shorter time span between them would keep the public more engaged and more likely to support bolder future space activities. Constellation was on a schedule to to achieve it’s first lunar landing somewhere in 2033. It is hard to keep the public engaged when the first first was not going to happen for 25+ years.

  • amightywind

    Constellation was on a schedule to to achieve it’s first lunar landing somewhere in 2033. It is hard to keep the public engaged when the first first was not going to happen for 25+ years.

    Gross hyperbole of the kind that has irreparably damaged newspace credibility. It is time for the adults to reset America’s space program.

  • Rhyolite

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 3rd, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    “How much money does it take to fix NASA?”

    Less money is more likely to fix NASA than more money. Less money would foce them to use what they have and improvise. Necessity is the mother of invention, plenty is not. I would rather see NASA inovating with a shoestring budget than wallowing in money.

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ June 3rd, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    It is hard to keep the public engaged when the first first was not going to happen for 25+ years.

    Agreed. You only have to look at the press generated by Mars robots Pathfinder, Spirit and Opportunity to see that you don’t have to spend $100B to get attention from the public.

    The converse is true too, since after Apollo 11 generated all of it’s attention subsequent missions were no longer unique, and the public did not pay a lot of attention unless something went wrong (i.e. Apollo 13).

    The goal of space exploration should actually be to make things boring, since that hopefully means we’re doing so much of it that it has become routine, just like most of the stuff that happens here on Earth.

    That’s why I completely discount “public excitement” as any justification for spending money in space, since predicting what the public finds “exciting” is impossible. If we’re going to spend money to do things in space, it should be to increase our knowledge, expand our commerce, and prepare us for future emigration.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Space Cadet wrote @ June 3rd, 2011 at 12:24 pm
    ” And I think there are (sane and qualified) people who would volunteer even if the trip was one-way.”

    sure but you miss the point…who would pay for them to “go one way” and to keep them alive? The cost to “get people to Mars” is nothing compared with the cost to keep them there.

    why would the nation pay for that? Robert G. Oler

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi RGO –

    To me the “debate” here is amazing.

    No one here seems to understand that we already are settled in space, passengers on spaceship Earth.

    Right now I don’t see much more than maybe a small manned lab on Mars by the end of this century, and that is only if everything goes right.

    On the other hand, the probability of mankind getting a wake up call during the next century is about 1.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Space Cadet wrote @ June 3rd, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    “The Antarctica and Americas analogies:

    I agree a research station on Mars could not be initially self sustaining with current technology. But early colonies in the Americas also imported goods from Europe until they had the capacity to make them locally.”

    a research station on Mars would not even be partially self supporting…Early colonies in the Americas were immediately self supporting.

    Here is a metric. How quickly do you think that local colonies in America started feeding themselves off the native land? HOw fast you think that happens on Mars? (I’ll ignore the oxygen situation) RGO

  • Major Tom

    “With the long, slow retirement of the Apollo and shuttle generations and the political cover given to space cranks…”

    Since when does designing, developing, and testing no less than seven rocket engines, including several multi-thousand pound thrust engines (one of which was funded by ATK), qualify one as a “space crank”?

    xcor.com/products/engines/5M15_LOX-Methane_rocket_engine.html

    Don’t throw idiotic insults out of ignorance.

    “Gleason…”

    It’s “Greason”, not “Gleason”. If you’re going to engage in lying ad hominem attacks, at least learn the alphabet and spell the target’s name correctly.

    Cripes…

    “He is a Mr. Gadget lab guy.”

    Since when does the development of three and succesful flight testing of two rocket-powered vehicles qualify one as a “lab guy”?

    xcor.com/products/vehicles/ez-rocket.html
    xcor.com/products/vehicles/X-racer.html
    xcor.com/products/vehicles/lynx_suborbital.html

    Since when does a partnership with ULA to develop an upper-stage competitor to the RL-10 qualify one as a “lab guy”?

    aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_channel.jsp?channel=space&id=news/awx/2011/03/22/awx_03_22_2011_p0-299850.xml

    Since when does founding your own company, obtaining multiple rounds of institutional financing, and making Inc.’s list of 500 fastest growing companies qualify one as a “lab guy”?

    xcor.com/press-releases/2007/07-06-07_Boston_Harbor_Angels_Invests_in_XCOR.html

    xcor.com/press-releases/2008/08-08-19_Desert_Sky_Invests_in_XCOR.html

    xcor.com/press-releases/2007/07-08-23_XCOR_rockets_onto_inc_500_fastest_growing_companies.html

    Don’t throw idiotic insults out of ignorance.

    “… this small ball bores me.”

    Did you actually watch Greason’s presentation? It’s fine if manufacturing propellant at the lunar poles and Phobos still bores you, but take your ignorant ad hominem attacks and lying ugliness elsewhere.

    By the way, that “space crank” and “lab guy” has won two Time invention of the year awards. Since you can’t count that hight, that’s double the entire Ares I/Constellation effort:

    xcor.com/news-articles/local-articles/07-11_time-invention-year-methane.pdf

    xcor.com/about_us/honors/02_time.html

    Ugh…

  • Major Tom

    “‘Constellation was on a schedule to to achieve it’s first lunar landing somewhere in 2033. It is hard to keep the public engaged when the first first was not going to happen for 25+ years.’

    Gross hyperbole of the kind that has irreparably damaged newspace credibility’”

    It’s not hyperbole, and it has nothing to do with “newspace”. It’s a fact, verified by NASA’s own cost estimators, independent Aerospace Corp. review, and the Augustine Committee:

    “NASA’s goal of putting astronauts back on the moon by 2020 is all but impossible to achieve, a presidential panel was told Wednesday.

    An independent study concluded there is little hope NASA could replicate anytime soon what Apollo accomplished 40 years ago. And sources said an undisclosed part of the study showed another moon shot won’t happen before 2028 — nearly 60 years after America’s first moon landing.

    ‘We can’t see [the gap] closing,’ Gary Pulliam, an analyst with Aerospace Corp., told a near-silent audience in Huntsville, Ala., where engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center have spent the last four years designing new rockets for NASA’s Constellation program.

    A NASA budget analyst, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on behalf of NASA or the committee, said American astronauts have a remote chance of returning to the moon by 2028, although another source close to the panel said 2035 was more likely.”

    blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_space_thewritestuff/2009/07/augustine-update-return-to-moon-unlikely-before-2028.html

    Don’t make up lies.

  • pathfinder_01

    In the case of the Americas you could hunt, fish, grow crops, and pick wild fruits and berries. There was access to fresh water ect. The colonies might have struggled but they were nowhere near as dependant on resupply as the ISS or an Antarctic base and they achieved it in a few years rather than decades or centuries like a Lunar, Antarctic or Mars base would. Sure they would need to import items but importing a loom or tools is a lot different than importing food.

    Antarctica is too cold to grow crops without a green house has few large animals to hunt and although you can fish the fish are not that accessible. There are no trees with which to build more shelter and so on. The place is so poor from a biological point of view that complex life only has a toehold on the land.

    As for fuel cells vs. Solar panels that has to do with the purpose of the spacecraft. Apollo and shuttle use Fuel cells because they provide a lot of power and are lighter in mass than solar panels, batteries, and water tanks. Fuel cells use Oxygen (which you would need anyway), Hydrogen, and produce water (which the crew needs plus it is hot water…even better). In fact they produce so much water that the shuttle actually dumps the stuff when it is not at the ISS (and transfers some of it to the ISS when it visits).

    However they limit the amount of time you can be in space since they consume Lox/Loh. This is fine if all you plan to be in space for two weeks or so but becomes a problem if you want to stay in space longer (like months instead of weeks).

    Solar panels plus batteries means you don’t need to import consumables. Orion, Soyuz would be powered this way. For spacecraft that will be in space a very short time even fuel cells are too much. The Apollo lunar Lander, Boeing CST 100, Mercury, some early versions of Soyuz, and the first flight of Dragon were(or are planned to be) battery powered but not solar powered so they had (or have) limited life spans in space.

    You also sometimes need power for short term periods. The Apollo CM had a battery that powered it for a few hours during EDL. The shuttle uses it APU’s to provide both electric and Hydraulic power during launch and landing. Also a space station can provide power. When docked to the ISS the shuttle can stay 2 extra days in space using some ISS power to help it reduce fuel cell usage. Skylab had two docking ports the powered one would keep the Apollo CM charged but if you were forced to dock to the unpowered one your mission would be limited to days. CST100 and Orion plan to use ISS power if available.

    A space station or a moon/mars base would never use fuel cells alone. You would need either solar or nuclear power to be the source of power and batteries are a lot simpler for storing power than electrolyzing water , storing it in a tank and using fuel cells.

  • Das Boese

    All this talk of lunar ISRU is essentially meaningless before we’ve exactly determined how much water there really is and if it’s in a form we can access economically (for example, processing hundreds of tons of rock or regolith to obtain a liter of water.. isn’t). It doesn’t make sense to spend a single dime on lunar, let alone BEO HSF architecture before that question is answered. The money spent on Ares I alone could have bought several rovers to explore every nook and cranny of the polar regions and have spare change left for an orbiting spacecraft.

    LCROSS, at a tiny fraction of the cost of Ares I or Orion, probably had more relevance to future human presence on the moon than the entirety of the Constellation program.

    The same goes for Mars. People talk about sending humans to Mars when, to date, we haven’t even managed a robotic sample-return mission, don’t make laugh.
    The Russians are assembling a sample return mission to Phobos, while NASA is struggling to finish the MSL, starved for money, on time.

  • Egad

    > All this talk of lunar ISRU is essentially meaningless before we’ve exactly determined how much water there really is and if it’s in a form we can access economically

    Hear, hear. The lunar water/hydrogen results to date have been quite surprising, extremely interesting, and pretty encouraging. But we’re not there yet in terms of nailing down an ISRU case. What is needed is some old-fashioned on-the-spot prospecting to find out what, no fooling, is really there. If there were a manned lunar capability already in being or close to it, prospecting would be at the top of the mission list. As it is, some robotic landers are indicated sooner rather than later.

  • Ground control to Major Tom: Hello? Listen….just what are these other “worthwhile” alternate “destinations” that Flexible Path calls upon?? If you are a U.S. astronaut, there are two destinations which would trump everything: the Moon and Mars. However the technology does NOT exist for going to Mars at present. And furthermore, exploration is NOT defined as going to a destination, planting a flag, and then ignoring that place forever. Antarctica would never have been developed as a scientific base destination if some national leader (Obama), and some former explorer (Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin) had put down returning there, for condemned, based on the silly “we’ve already gone there before” argument. [Why can't LEO be similarly shelved for further manned activity??!] A second wave of exploration to the same place has always yielded immense dividends, historically. So Constellation was all set to pick up where Apollo left off, some forty years ago. The building of a new Lunar-specific lander is more than justified: The Moon should be our prime manned space destination. Our intermediate, Gemini-style, goal in space, to train our astronauts & engineers for the eventual manned conquest of other worlds. Once the Moon is back in our grip, then and only then, should ANY mind be paid to asteroids & lagrange points as optional mini-goals. And MINI-goals they all are!!!

  • Rhyolite

    “All this talk of lunar ISRU is essentially meaningless before we’ve exactly determined how much water there really is and if it’s in a form we can access economically”

    I think this certainly applies to the moon where the resources are very thin. Mars is probably in different bucket. Most Mars ISRU focuses on deriving oxidizer and possibly methane fuel from the atmosphere. We have a very good handle on the composition of the Martian atmosphere. We have also landed directly on the Martian ice pack so we have a reasonable handle on at least one source of water.

    “People talk about sending humans to Mars when, to date, we haven’t even managed a robotic sample-return mission, don’t make laugh.”

    Doing a robotic sample-return mission using ISRU would be a good way of demonstrating the technology. However, it is worth pointing out that we returned people from the moon (with samples) before the first lunar robotic sample return mission.

  • AnonJG

    OK usual suspects: Instead of more of the same-old same-old, what do you think about the European Skylon SSTO or even the Danish Tycho Brahe?

  • Martijn Meijering

    Skylon SSTO

    Way too ambitious.

    Tycho Brahe

    Interesting.

  • Bennett

    Skylon SSTO

    Show me the engine.

    Tycho Brahe

    Fun stuff! Congrats are in order. They’re my favorite Danes, edging out Clair Danes.

  • Space Cadet

    Space Cadet wrote @ June 3rd, 2011 at 12:24 pm
    ” And I think there are (sane and qualified) people who would volunteer even if the trip was one-way.”

    sure but you miss the point…who would pay for them to “go one way” and to keep them alive? The cost to “get people to Mars” is nothing compared with the cost to keep them there.

    why would the nation pay for that? Robert G. Oler

    So we circle back to “why” yet again …

    Partly for the same reason the nation pays for Antarctic research – scientific curiosity. Partly for other intangible reasons. Mike Schupp answered this question as well as it can possible be answered. If that answer doesn’t work for you, repeating the question over an over, or me providing the same answer in my own words won’t help, so I’ll just quote Mike:

    ““Okay but why?” is a question that isn’t answerable in a neat logical sense. It’s like asking “Why should I be a Christian?” or “Why should I care what Hitler is doing to the Jews?” or “Why should I care about what lies beyond the Rocky Mountains?” or “Why do I need to learn a second language?” or “Why does my town need schools and a public library?” or “Why care about who killed Archer, Mr. Spade?” or “Why not rule the world, Superman?” or “Why should I care if Kansas has slavery?”

    These have answers, of some sort. “You’ll be a better person” works for most. “People have obligations toward one another” works for others. That the answers are vague doesn’t mean they are necessarily bad answers, or that they necessarily apply to everyone. Not everything reduces to dollars and cents.

    “Why colonize outer space?” falls in this category. Personally, I’d say lots of humans have curiosity about what lies beyond the mountains, that stories about exploration and pioneering are sufficiently common as to suggest a built in human aspiration, that rich and powerful nations need ambitious goals such as conquering far frontiers, etc. “We can do it and eventually people will appreciate that we did it” strikes me as an acceptable answer.

    Your milage may vary, More accurately, I suspect, you can point to many many people whose mileage differs. Maybe it’s like the question of “Why provide health care for old people who don’t work any more?” There isn’t an answer that satisfies everyone and we have big political squabbles over the issue. Maybe spaceflight is one of those emotion-charged things that gets “settled” simply because one segment of the electorate forces its will upon the rest of us”

  • pathfinder_01

    Tycho Brahe congrats

    Skylon : not enough info to form an opinion.

  • Coastal Ron

    Chris Castro wrote @ June 3rd, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    just what are these other “worthwhile” alternate “destinations” that Flexible Path calls upon??

    I’m not sure what your ability is to do simple internet searches for information, but I already cut-and-pasted sections from the Augustine final report in a post above (Coastal Ron wrote @ May 31st, 2011 at 5:07 pm) that answers your question.

    However the technology does NOT exist for going to Mars at present.

    Thank you Mr. Obvious.

    Of course the technology, knowledge and systems don’t completely exist to, as you put it, say “the Moon is back in our grip”. Constellation was supposed to do sort of that, but it was falling so far behind on development that it would have taken us more than 20 years just to mount a few golfing expeditions, but nothing permanent.

    Sure if want to put a HUGE effort into going back to the Moon, we can. We’ve done it before, we can do it again. But there is no urgency to do it again, so it goes on the list with everything else that wants funding.

    Of course it doesn’t help that the Moon is 1,000 times further away than LEO, and we can do a lot of relevant space research in LEO, so why not maximize that far less costly location than the Moon?

    And MINI-goals they all are!!!

    It’s this type of mindset, where everything has to be big and dramatic, that is the fallacy of your plan. There is no big urgency or payoff for setting up camp on the Moon, at least not for generations to come. If you can find one, then I suggest you create a company to exploit it, but otherwise the U.S. Taxpayer is letting NASA spend $18B/year, and is not clamoring to spend more.

    Learn to do things within a constrained environment, where mini-goals are to be celebrated, especially when they add up to major goals.

  • Vladislaw

    Chris Castro wrote:

    “Ground control to Major Tom: Hello? Listen….just what are these other “worthwhile” alternate “destinations” that Flexible Path calls upon?? ….

    And furthermore, exploration is NOT defined as going to a destination, planting a flag, and then ignoring that place forever. …

    [Why can't LEO be similarly shelved for further manned activity??!] A second wave of exploration to the same place has always yielded immense dividends, historically.”

    A species explores for only a couple reasons, new food and water sources, to escape a predator, etc.

    After you explore you exploit.

    We are moving towards exploiting LEO now with commercial operations. Luna is ready to be exploited because we have explored it. We know there are resources there.

    Along with JG’s comment about using the “S” word, settlement, we also never use the “O” word. Ownership. When you explore you then claim the resources for exploitation. Until we drop out of the 1967 outer space treaty we are going nowhere on the moon. I just wonder, if and when China ever goes to Luna, would they drop out of the treaty?

    Everyone has the option of dropping out of that treaty. If we are going to return to the moon, we should do it without that albastross hanging around our neck.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Question for everyone in the group.

    IF (and I realize it is an IF) the Senate Launch System becomes truly competitive bid and a non cost plus contract…does it merit support? And why?

    Not trying to stir anything up…I am sort of mulling what I think about it myself…

    Robert G. Oler

  • DCSCA

    Vladislaw wrote @ June 4th, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    “Luna is ready to be exploited because we have explored it.”

    Nonsense. Last year, Neil Armstrong argued before Congress that, in effect, the way to Mars and beyond is via the Moon. He noted, “a return to the Moon would be a most productive path to expanding the human presence in the solar system… The lunar vicinity is an exceptional location to learn about traveling to difficult distant places…. The long communication delays to destinations beyond the Moon [such as Mars or asteroids] may mandate new techniques and procedures for spacecraft operations … Flight experience at lunar distance can provide valuable insights into practical solutions for handling such challenges.” He also wryly reminded us that after six landings, there remains 14 million square miles of ‘Luna’ left to explore. Armstrong is correct.

  • Das Boese

    Egad wrote @ June 3rd, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Hear, hear. The lunar water/hydrogen results to date have been quite surprising, extremely interesting, and pretty encouraging.

    I agree, that is why I’m pretty pissed about all the money being wasted on Constellation’s fake “exploration”, instead of real exploration. Hence my comment about LCROSS being worth more than the entire Constellation program, at a fraction of the cost.

    But we’re not there yet in terms of nailing down an ISRU case. What is needed is some old-fashioned on-the-spot prospecting to find out what, no fooling, is really there. If there were a manned lunar capability already in being or close to it, prospecting would be at the top of the mission list. As it is, some robotic landers are indicated sooner rather than later.

    This is of course a matter of opinion, but quite frankly I wouldn’t send humans there without at least one prior robotic scout mission. AFAIK there is data that indicates extreme levels of static electricity due to solar dynamics.
    The past is what it is, Griffin would rather spend money on gigantic paper rockets than on actual exploration hardware, so we don’t have any.
    Personally I think the next soft landing on the moon will be done under the GLXP, and I have no doubt that all of the teams have their eyes on the polar regions as well.

  • Das Boese

    Tycho Brahe/Copenhagen Suborbital is a very inspiring project, I hope their successfull test catched the attention of potential sponsors. We need more of this sort of thing here in Europe. It would be easy to dismiss them as “hobbyists”, but anyone who does so ignores the origins of rocketry.

    After the ESA report I’m cautiously optimistic about Skylon, but it really is all about the engine. Now that the Brits have themselves a space agency, maybe they can get out of the development hell they’ve been in for what, a decade? What I always wondered was why no-one else (i.e. NASA) picked up on the LACE concept, seeing as it has both aeronautical, space and defense applications.

  • Me

    “The Moon should be our prime manned space destination”

    Why? You haven’t provided one legitimate reason.

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 4th, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    “IF (and I realize it is an IF) the Senate Launch System becomes truly competitive bid and a non cost plus contract…does it merit support? And why?”

    The answer is an obvious “NO”. As it stands today the SLS does not have any mission to anywhere. As it stands today it only will accelerate the disappearance of HSF at NASA. Not only do you need an SLS but you need a reason why. Just because it can loft a gazillion tons to orbit is no reason enough. In order to support such an expensive rocket there must be a reason, a plan, a payload, a mission. None of this exists, so why do you need the SLS? With no answer to why then there is no need for SLS. And don’t tell me that once it is built we will find a mission, payloads and all that. If they cannot come up with a good rationale now why would they once it is built? WHY?

    The answer is NO.

  • Robert G. Oler wrote:

    IF (and I realize it is an IF) the Senate Launch System becomes truly competitive bid and a non cost plus contract…does it merit support? And why?

    Well, yes, but we need to answer the question of what we do with it, just as with SLS.

    Are we simply going back to the Moon to get more rocks? If so, it’s a waste of money. If we’re going to build a permanent lunar colony, then I’m all for it.

    I foresee the ISS as the testbed for a permanent lunar colony. So the heavy-lift vehicle should be a means of delivering those modules to the Moon — but we also need to figure out how to get them to the surface and link them together.

    Is it for a one-time asteroid flyby stunt? I’m not for stunts.

    And it won’t be for Mars. We’re nowhere close to understanding how to live 6-9 months one way to Mars, two years on the surface, then 6-9 months back.

    So in response to your question, I think the main reasoning should be what will we do with it.

  • Bennett

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 4th, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    No. I support having the thing put out for bid because I think more questions will get asked along the way. Hopefully, some of the budget minded reps will ask the really big question.

    When there is no coherent answer, perhaps the push back will gain ground. All NASA needs is ONE rep asking Bolden in a public forum “Do we really need this thing to have a serious manned space program?”

  • AnonJG

    Thanks for the comments. I need to learn much more about the Skylon engine and am working on it.
    Europe has (tortoise beating the hare) slowly taken the lead in colliders (Large Hadron Collider) and fusion (ITER).
    Do you think in 20 or 30 years Skylon or something else will either put Europe ahead, or at least make it a major player in space?
    As far as i can tell Ariane, etc is already a step in that direction.
    Best, JG

  • Fred Willett

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 4th, 2011 at 2:55 pm
    “Question for everyone in the group.”

    Should we support competed SLS?
    It doesn’t matter.
    NASA’s budget is going down. Hopefully not too much, but if anyone thinks NASA will somehow escape the coming Budget contraction they are deluding themselves.
    On the budget available today NASA would struggle to make progress with any SLS. With a smaller budget NASA will not have enough $ for any HLV.

  • vulture4

    The liquid air cycle has some attractions, but evidence that it is practical is still lacking. Airbreathing engines tend to be complex, and efficient at only one speed; for space launch one crosses the entire speed spectrum in minutes. Skylon has shifted toward what may be described as a compressed-air-augmented rocket approach with LOX and fuel injected into a ramjet. But with conventional rockets the approach is different; to get above the sensible atmosphere as quickly as possible and then accelerate horizontally, minimizing aerodynamic and gravity losses. The tradeoff btween a TSTO reusable rocket and a potentially SSTO airbreathing system is far from obvious.

    The first question we must resolve is not even rocket vs airbreathing propulsion, it is a much simpler tradeoff, reusable vs expendable launch vehicles. We first have to get NASA to understand that reusability is essential for practical human spaceflight, a lesson they seem to have learned when Apollo was canceled but have now forgotten.

  • Coastal Ron

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 4th, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    IF (and I realize it is an IF) the Senate Launch System becomes truly competitive bid and a non cost plus contract…does it merit support? And why?

    It less waste, but it’s still waste. I too agree that it lacks a defined and sustained need.

    There is no funding for payloads that require a launcher the size of the SLS. And to really be worth building, there would have to be a continuous stream of sls-specific payloads, of which there is none now, and none planned or funded.

    But companies will line up to build the SLS because it would be stupid to pass up $Billions in long-term work, and I certainly do hope that the whole rocket is put out for competitive bid, and not just the SRB’s. In fact, I think that if the whole rocket gets bid out, and the original Senators don’t like the work distribution of the winner, then I think the SLS could be put on the chopping block. How ironic!

    The next indication of how this will play out is when NASA releases their report that summaries the input from industry on heavy-lift choices. Should be an interesting summer…

  • @Coastal Ron;….Constellation would have definitely led to some permanent structures being emplaced on the Moon. If you read between the lines of the Orion-Altair architecture, you come to a significant innovation, unknown in the Apollo heyday, of a one-way unmanned lunar lander variant of the L-SAM, which would eventually land base modules & surface equipment for pin-point landings a la Apollo 12, at certain designated sites to prepare for outpost-type long-duration missions; after a string of initial sortie ones. This unmanned variant of the Altair lander would cancel out the usual need for an ascent module, and in its place leave high extra room for cargo & cargo space. Just like the alternate utilization of the Saturn 5 rocket’s third stage led to the bonus of launching the Skylab station in 1973. Project Constellation would’ve been the Operation Highjump of our times! The glory that was renewed Antarctic exploration in the 1950′s would’ve been accomplished on the Moon, had President Obama not done his awful, wrecking ball job on America’s space program.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Skylon has shifted toward what may be described as a compressed-air-augmented rocket approach with LOX and fuel injected into a ramjet.

    It’s not really a ramjet, although it has something like a ramjet to dump excess hydrogen into. It has a very simple axisymmetric inlet, then a very advanced precooler, then an unconventional but fairly straightforward compressor which feeds into a rocket engine.

  • Fred Willett

    Bear in mind in 18 monthsa shuttle will be gone.
    CRC will be functioning.
    SpaceX and Orbital will be all NASA has flying.
    It will be hard, then, to argue that Commercial is incompitent and NASA can’t rely on commercial for anything.
    It will be interesting to see what SLS looks like then.

  • Fred Willett

    Especially with FH coming down the pipe.

  • Fred Willett

    A bird in the hand and all that.

  • Vladislaw

    DCSCA wrote:

    “Nonsense. Last year, Neil Armstrong argued before Congress that, in effect, the way to Mars and beyond is via the Moon. …. He also wryly reminded us that after six landings, there remains 14 million square miles of ‘Luna’ left to explore.”

    What is nonsense is the idea that you can not exploit until every single square foot of a area has to be “explored” before you can exploit. If your nonsensical approach were taken we would still not be drilling for oil because we have not “explored” the entire planet and located every single drop of oil FIRST. We would not be mining gold because we have not “explored” the entire planet and located every single nugget before we started to exploit the resource.

    We know the resources are on the moon, you just can not own them yet. You can travel there and work a resource and sell the finished resource, such as mining water and processing. But you can not own the land or even make a claim.

    So the idea that we have to explore ad nausum before a resource can be eploited by the private sector is silly.

  • Das Boese

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ June 5th, 2011 at 5:49 am

    It’s not really a ramjet, although it has something like a ramjet to dump excess hydrogen into. It has a very simple axisymmetric inlet, then a very advanced precooler, then an unconventional but fairly straightforward compressor which feeds into a rocket engine.

    Yup, that’s it in a nutshell.
    The only other important aspect I’d mention is that they’re using a helium loop instead of cooling directly with LH2 like in the earlier designs.

    That is also why the heat exchanger is the single most critical piece in the entire engine design. If they can demonstrate that (as they say they will later this year), IMHO there’s a pretty good chance they can make it work, as the rest appears to be fairly normal turbomachinery and conventional rocket engine.

  • @Chris Castro
    This unmanned variant of the Altair lander would cancel out the usual need for an ascent module, and in its place leave high extra room for cargo & cargo space. Just like the alternate utilization of the Saturn 5 rocket’s third stage led to the bonus of launching the Skylab station in 1973. Project Constellation would’ve been the Operation Highjump of our times! The glory that was renewed Antarctic exploration in the 1950′s would’ve been accomplished on the Moon, had President Obama not done his awful, wrecking ball job on America’s space program.

    And if Ares I/V hadn’t been cancelled and continued to consume so much of the budget that there would not have been enough funds to develop and build the lander of which you speak (and anything else for that matter) while the launchers were being developed, you wouldn’t have had the lander anyway.

    Remember Ares I alone was already way over budget when it was cancelled and was cannibalizing other NASA projects for funds. No wrecking ball was taken to the U.S. spaceflight, instead the necessary steps were taken to save it. Congress was NOT going to increase NASA’s budget by the billions of extra dollars per year that Constellation would have required.

    Get real.

  • Coastal Ron

    Chris Castro wrote @ June 5th, 2011 at 2:44 am

    If you read between the lines of the Orion-Altair architecture, you come to a significant innovation, unknown in the Apollo heyday, of a one-way unmanned lunar lander variant of the L-SAM…

    LSAM, which was later renamed Altair, is yet another single-use disposable vehicle. That kind of thinking is partly why I was glad Congress cancelled Constellation, because it would have cost so much to stay in space or on the Moon.

    A much better spacecraft architecture is the ULA ACES family of reusable spacecraft, which includes a version that can be a reusable lunar lander/lunar shuttle.

    As Michael Griffin aptly described Constellation, it was “Apollo on steroids”, and other than longer duration nothing contributed to adding more reusable assets in space that future missions could use.

    …pin-point landings a la Apollo 12…

    LOL. College students can design systems for pin-point lunar landers nowadays. Technology has matured – have you?

    The glory that was renewed Antarctic exploration in the 1950′s would’ve been accomplished on the Moon…

    I don’t hear anyone talking excitedly about Antarctic exploration in the 50′s, and I suspect that most people of the time just saw it as just another new milestone in our push to conquer the world’s frontiers.

    But this “glory” thing you’re fixated on is really troubling. Is that the only reason to do things? For the “glory” of the event? What about after you’ve done it a few times, like with the later Apollo missions, where the public got bored and it was just another place we had conquered? No glory in picking up yet more rocks and hitting more golf balls on the Moon. Oooh look, orange colored rocks next to gray ones – what glory!!!!

    Get a different “glory” fixation that doesn’t involve spending my tax money.

    had President Obama not done his awful, wrecking ball job on America’s space program.

    Maybe you missed that part of school, but although the President proposes, it’s Congress that disposes – and that who dumped Constellation, was Congress. Deal with reality.

  • Major Tom

    “Ground control to Major Tom: Hello? Listen….just what are these other ‘worthwhile’ alternate ‘destinations’ that Flexible Path calls upon??”

    They’re the objects that if you don’t understand their population, composition, and how to move them around the solar system, they’ll eventually threaten a city, a country, or even civilization on Earth with destruction.

    They’re the stable points that sit at the top of the solar system’s gravity wells, making them ideal locations for launching interplanetary missions and for maintaining large observatories.

    They’re the moons of Mars with thousands of square miles of propellant resources in greater concentrations and in a lower gravity well than our Moon and a vantage point for Martian surface exploration that is second to none.

    They’re called Near-Earth Objects, Lagrange Points, and Phobos and Deimos. You might want to learn something about them before littering this forum with ignorant statements.

    “So Constellation was all set to pick up where Apollo left off, some forty years ago… Constellation would have definitely led to some permanent structures being emplaced on the Moon… The glory that was renewed Antarctic exploration in the 1950′s would’ve been accomplished on the Moon, had President Obama not done his awful, wrecking ball job on America’s space program.”

    No, it wasn’t, it wouldn’t have, and the President had nothing to do with the program’s failure to achieve its own goals or schedule. Per NASA’s own cost estimators, independent Aerospace Corp. review, and the Augustine Committee:

    “NASA’s goal of putting astronauts back on the moon by 2020 is all but impossible to achieve, a presidential panel was told Wednesday.

    An independent study concluded there is little hope NASA could replicate anytime soon what Apollo accomplished 40 years ago. And sources said an undisclosed part of the study showed another moon shot won’t happen before 2028 — nearly 60 years after America’s first moon landing.

    ‘We can’t see [the gap] closing,’ Gary Pulliam, an analyst with Aerospace Corp., told a near-silent audience in Huntsville, Ala., where engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center have spent the last four years designing new rockets for NASA’s Constellation program.

    A NASA budget analyst, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on behalf of NASA or the committee, said American astronauts have a remote chance of returning to the moon by 2028, although another source close to the panel said 2035 was more likely.”

    blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_space_thewritestuff/2009/07/augustine-update-return-to-moon-unlikely-before-2028.html

    Don’t make up lies.

    “The building of a new Lunar-specific lander is more than justified”

    By what?

    Your repetitive declarative sentences and their complete lack of any evidence?

    “If you read between the lines of the Orion-Altair architecture, you come to a significant innovation, unknown in the Apollo heyday, of a one-way unmanned lunar lander variant of the L-SAM…”

    You don’t know what you’re talking about.

    The Apollo Program contemplated multiple different unmanned and cargo landers:

    “As late as early 1968, NASA planned advanced Apollo missions launched on a pair of Saturn V rockets. The first rocket would launch a Command and Service Module (CSM) and an automated cargo lander; the second, launched perhaps a month later, would launch a CSM and an Apollo Lunar Module (LM) upgraded for a long lunar surface staytime. The first mission crew might remotely pilot the LM-derived cargo lander from lunar orbit to its landing site (if it did not land automatically), but would otherwise have few responsibilities after the cargo lander undocked from their CSM in lunar orbit. The second would employ the equipment and supplies in the cargo lander to intensively explore a complex lunar site.”

    beyondapollo.blogspot.com/2010_06_20_archive.html

    Constellation invented nothing new with respect to unmanned cargo landers.

    Don’t make stuff up. Stop wasting this forum’s time with ignorant, idiotic statements.

    Cripes…

  • DCSCA

    @Vladislaw wrote @ June 5th, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Your statement: “Luna is ready to be exploited because we have explored it.” is utter nonsense. Example- the six lunar landings between 1969 and 1972 with surface activities tallied in hours per EVA, not days or weeks, does not constitute filling in the ‘explored’ block on the checklist. Water has only recently been detected. There are 14 million square miles left. Neil Armstrong is correct.

  • Martijn Meijering

    If you want to go to more destinations than just the Moon within the likely confines of NASA’s budget, it doesn’t make sense to spend billions of dollars developing a lunar-specific lander.

    I think there’s something to be said for Moon First. And any destination could provide enough demand for launch services to make cheap lift a reality, so the money would be well spent in any case. So the moon might as well be an early destination, although Lagrange points and NEOs should probably come first. Unmanned craft should also probably precede manned ones.

  • vulture4

    “any destination could provide enough demand for launch services to make cheap lift a reality”

    1 Increasing demand causes price to _increase_, not decrease. See the curve of supply and demand (Econ 101), and also the increase in Soyuz price when NASA demand increased. Trying to reduce cost by reducing demand will not work because sales were only 1 seat/yr at $20M and are now zero at $50M.

    2. Only an increase in supply or a major advance in technology will shift the supply curve, the relationship between supply and cost. The entry of SpaceX into the market will increase supply, but only enough to bring the cost back down to $20M/seat. Only a major reduction in cost will increase the quantity demanded, which is what we want.

    3. Therefore to further reduce cost, government should not finance increased demand, but rather finance development of technology that will substantially reduce cost. This was the goal of Shuttle. Shuttle was a first attempt and encountered technological problems. It should have been replaced. But the SRB-based HLLV would increase cost because it retains the high-cost portions of the Shuttle and abandons reusability, which is the only way to reduce the largest portion of cost.

  • DCSCA

    Coastal Ron wrote @ June 5th, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    “Get a different “glory” fixation that doesn’t involve spending my tax money.”

    Indeed, a perfect argument for termination all government subsidies of private enterprised, commercial space firms and all subcontractors associated w/same.

  • Dennis Berube

    You know Im not even sure if mass production of rockets would lower cost anymore. Just look at the auto industry and how many cars they stamp out a year, yet the cost of a new vehicle is outragous! The little man cannot afford one. I always thought mass production wouldlower cost, making quantity the key word here. Quantity with reliability, but that doesnt seem to work any longer. Spaceflight will apparently stay in the high price bracket for a long time to come, and quite probably most of us here, wll never afford a ticket to ride.

  • Coastal Ron

    Dennis Berube wrote @ June 6th, 2011 at 8:24 am

    You know Im not even sure if mass production of rockets would lower cost anymore. Just look at the auto industry and how many cars they stamp out a year, yet the cost of a new vehicle is outragous!

    No one is stopping you from building your own car Dennis. Or your own rocket launcher for that matter. If you think you can do it cheaper than a factory, go for it. Apparently that will be the only way you will figure out why mass production is better.

    Spaceflight will apparently stay in the high price bracket for a long time to come, and quite probably most of us here, wll never afford a ticket to ride.

    Come on Dennis, use some common sense here. Do you go jetting around the world on a private jet, or ride coach like most of us do? Don’t you think it would be more likely that you’ll be flying around in your own private jet before you would be able to afford to fly around in space?

    Give it a little thought before you post…

  • Martijn Meijering

    1 Increasing demand causes price to _increase_, not decrease. See the curve of supply and demand (Econ 101), and also the increase in Soyuz price when NASA demand increased.

    I’m not disputing that. However, the launch industry currently suffers from massive overcapacity (which is part of the reason why SLS is such an outrage), which changes things considerably. Higher demand leads to higher flight rates which allows fixed costs to be spread over a larger number of launches. This automatically reduces costs, but not prices. Once you add in competition, that will cause prices to come down too.

    2. Only an increase in supply or a major advance in technology will shift the supply curve, the relationship between supply and cost.

    I’m not disputing that either, except to say that a major advance in technology isn’t the only or even the best way to reduce costs. Better processes and near term reusable vehicles are much lower hanging fruit. As for technology development, what I’m talking about is where the funding for developing these technologies will come from. It will not arrive spontaneously, but the explosion in demand for launch services that would be caused by an exploration program would allow commercial funding.

    3. Therefore to further reduce cost, government should not finance increased demand, but rather finance development of technology that will substantially reduce cost.

    Yep, and where we disagree is how to finance that development. You seem to favour direct funding and NASA-led development. I have no faith in that approach because we’ve seen it fail time and again. Government programs and cost efficiency don’t go together simply because the real reason behind most government program is redistribution of wealth, whatever noble sounding motives are put forward. I advocate indirect funding through demand pull, not technology push. In other words a large and fiercely competitive propellant launch market in support of a NASA exploration program.

    The initial exploration would not be considerably cheaper than Constellation in costs, apart from development costs which is an important exception. It would allow for much earlier exploration with much less programmatic risk however. That’s nice enough in itself, but much more importantly it would enable commercial RLV development. That means that over the course of ten to fifteen years of exploration (initially unmanned) we could reduce launch prices by an order of magnitude. If that happens, we’ll make NASA moon landings as routine as current ISS missions, we’ll make commercial LEO tourism more routine than current ISS missions and we’ll even modest commercial lunar surface tourism on the scale of current ISS tourism a reality. Throw in ISRU and we’ll see a large lunar base and substantial lunar surface tourism. That’s the big prize we’re squandering if we develop and use an SLS.

  • @Coastal Ron, on his June 5th, 3:36 pm Comment;…..Whether the general public was jumping up and down with excitement over it, the renewed exploration of Antarctica got underway, in the lifetimes of anyone who could’ve read in the newspapers on the 1911-12 Amundsen & Scott polar expeditions. Okay, so the public & John & Jane Doe wouldn’t care much about the glorious Lunar Return? Is the general public ecstatic about yet ANOTHER DECADE with NASA doing nothing but re-visiting the ISS for further six-month-long stays?? What really gets the public worked up, nowadays, that they’ll turn away from the usual mudanity, long enough to get “thrilled”?? Antarctica was an adventurous wilderness back in the 1950′s, even after the Norwegian & British flags had long been emplaced at the South Pole. There will ALWAYS be that deja vu aspect to renewed exploration at a previously visited frontier-land. But re-visiting that frontier is precisely what is needed, for the further stages of exploration to happen. All this stupidity about visiting asteroids, martian moons, and lagrange points instead of returning to the Moon, misses the mark and the point behind true space exploration. All these “alternate destinations” amount to nothing more than one-time-only circus-type stunts, that will get us nothing but silly bragging rights about being the first there, plus maybe an entry into the Guiness Book of World Records on the farthest distance from Earth traveled—-but NOTHING MORE ACHIEVED OTHER THAN THAT!

  • Coastal Ron

    Chris Castro wrote @ June 7th, 2011 at 1:54 am

    Okay, so the public & John & Jane Doe wouldn’t care much about the glorious Lunar Return? Is the general public ecstatic about yet ANOTHER DECADE with NASA doing nothing but re-visiting the ISS for further six-month-long stays?

    You keep proving my point. No, they are not, and that’s not the purpose. Are they excited about any of the government spending we do? Not really.

    Who do we get excited about? NASCAR, motocross, “professional wrestling”, baseball, football, etc., etc. That’s our paid entertainment, not NASA or the National Science Foundation.

    All this stupidity about visiting asteroids, martian moons, and lagrange points instead of returning to the Moon…

    If you read the Augustine Report about “Flexible Path”, it doesn’t avoid the Moon, and it advocates going to progressively harder and more challenging destinations specifically to increase our abilities to go to those places.

    If we can’t get to the Earth-Moon Largrange point and survive for long periods of time, then how do we support a Moon base? If we can’t get to NEO’s and return in good health, then how are we ever going to make it to Mars and back and survive to talk about it?

    Even on the Moon we’re not going to be able to stay for very long the first times we go back, and we’re going to have to through a lot of equipment and supplies onto the Moon to have any sizable presence. And then you still need to rotate back your crew every 4-6 months, since you have no idea whether they can survive on the Moon any better than on the ISS.

    We have a long road ahead of us, and rushing off too far ahead to any one place just makes it unsustainable.

    I want to go everywhere in our solar system, but I want to do it in a sustainable fashion, and I want to be able to repeat what we do with ease. With NASA’s puny budget, we’re not going anywhere fast, so you might as well settle in for a slow rollout.

  • DCSCA

    “I want to go everywhere in our solar system, but I want to do it in a sustainable fashion, and I want to be able to repeat what we do with ease. With NASA’s puny budget, we’re not going anywhere fast, so you might as well settle in for a slow rollout.”

    And, of course, as th 80 plus year history of modern rocketry has demonstrated, left in the hands of the private sector, “we” wouldn’t be going anyplace at all. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

  • Dennis Berube

    Just think of the excitement that the Rovers on Mars gave us for several years. Now put people there and Im sure even more excitement will manifest. Just look at those Martian vistas, and the possibility of settlements there.

  • Coastal Ron

    Dennis Berube wrote @ June 7th, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Just think of the excitement that the Rovers on Mars gave us for several years.

    Yes, all the TV shows they’ve been featured on, and ooh, I think I even saw a glimpse of one in the first Transformers movie! Oh wait, maybe that was a stunt double?

    Science is not exciting for the masses, so you can’t base a space program on the “excitement” it’s supposed to generate. We have to be doing it for the merits of the effort, which is different based on who you talk to anyways.

    For some in the U.S. the space program is just another form of pork (and certainly parts of it are), but to others that take the long view (I’m one of them), it supports us finally emigrating off of Earth. But since NASA only gets 0.5% of the national budget, it will be a while until we go anywhere fast.

  • Vladislaw

    vulture4 wrote:

    “1 Increasing demand causes price to _increase_, not decrease. See the curve of supply and demand (Econ 101), and also the increase in Soyuz price when NASA demand increased. Trying to reduce cost by reducing demand will not work because sales were only 1 seat/yr at $20M and are now zero at $50M.

    2. Only an increase in supply or a major advance in technology will shift the supply curve, the relationship between supply and cost. The entry of SpaceX into the market will increase supply, but only enough to bring the cost back down to $20M/seat. Only a major reduction in cost will increase the quantity demanded, which is what we want.”

    There is a lot more to that though. In a perfect market, with low cost of entry and perfect competition, as demand slides up the curve, marginal analysis says a new supplier or competitor will increase production taking advantage of the extra normal profits until a new equilbrium price is reached in the short run.

    Because total supply, in the long run, is now higher, prices, at the new equilbrium will be lower.

    Personally, i am in favor of increasing demand. It works better than attacking it from the supply side. When you go with the assumption that demand will increase if I lower prices does not always equate to a higher demand. When consumers are demanding more production forcing prices higher you create that critial environment for rapid growth and price reductions in the long term. That is, extra normal profits. Capital automatically flows to ENP because of the better than normal returns. What usually follows then is a period of speculation, as capitial moves in and over production starts taking place.

    Over production drives prices down under competitive forces and it is also where you will see a lot of times new innovations take place as smaller firms scramble to try and stay in business because they have to sell closer and closer to cost of production. Innovate or Die becomes the mantra for firms at this point. It is also where you start seeing consolidations as the successful firms now start buying up increased production from the dying firms. The successful firms usually start buying up the innovations also from the smaller firms and consolidating that into their company.

    SpaceX said they could supply a Falcon 9 heavy for 100 mil but there were no takers. Just because a supplier says they can increase supply and or at a lower price does not mean there will automatically mean there is demand for it. If the goverment acts as the enabler or pump primer for demand I feel is the better bet because then the supplier will actually have to produce.

  • BeancounterFromDownunder

    Vladislaw wrote @ June 7th, 2011 at 1:42 pm
    “SpaceX said they could supply a Falcon 9 heavy for 100 mil but there were no takers.”

    Not quite correct. True there were no takers (at this stage) for the first flight however Elon did state that they were in serious talks with takers for flights 2 – 4.

  • vulture4

    Increasing demand can cause prices to go down through new market entry if the existing providers are using restricted supply to raise prices. The only instance of this is manned flight, where Soyuz, as the only supplier, could bump price up to $50M. Soyuz and SpaceX can break even at about $20M so with both in the market price will decline to that level. But no matter how much competition there is, the price can’t drop below this level because the suppliers would go bankrupt.

    Only new technology can lower cost, but the cost of significant new tech is high , probably $10B over 10 years, not that much for NASA but out of reach even for Elon Musk. SpaceX already is at close to the optimum for ELVs. So except possibly for Boeing, which will only compete for a government contract, other companies will not be able to enter the market and none will have the capital to leapfrog SpaceX. So except for some incremental improvements that SpaceX can afford, nothing will happen even if NASA spends the same $1B every year creating artificial demand.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Only new technology can lower cost

    Not just new technology, more efficient manufacturing and business processes too.

    out of reach even for Elon Musk.

    Not with $1B or $2B a year worth of propellant launches.

    other companies will not be able to enter the market and none will have the capital to leapfrog SpaceX

    Of course they will, because if there’s a profit to be made then commercial funding will be available.

  • Coastal Ron

    vulture4 wrote @ June 9th, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    You and Vladislaw are having a great discussion, and I wanted to add my perspective.

    But no matter how much competition there is, the price can’t drop below this level because the suppliers would go bankrupt.

    The way I look at it is that we’ve had two restrictions to space travel up until now.

    The first has been lack of supply, since the Russians have only had room for seven tourists so far, and the U.S. Government didn’t allow paid tourists to fly on the Shuttle.

    The second has been price. If you wanted to fly to space (LEO or beyond) and you couldn’t get a ride on the Soyuz or Shuttle, then the price to get to space rose dramatically. You probably could have tried to buy a whole Soyuz flight, or otherwise you would have had to build your own spacecraft. That’s a pretty high barrier.

    With new supply coming online, we’ll finally see what the true demand is for space travel when it costs between $20-60M/seat. If Bigelow gets their space module business going, I think that will be what the market needs in order boost flight rates up to the point where companies and individuals will be able to test out potential business models fairly quickly.

    So except for some incremental improvements that SpaceX can afford, nothing will happen even if NASA spends the same $1B every year creating artificial demand.

    Yes this is a conundrum. But I think if there is strong market response to LEO travel at the $20-60M/seat rates, and there is growing traffic to LEO for expanding ISS use, Bigelow stations, and who knows what else, then I think there will be renewed interest in the next phase of launch vehicles.

    I hope that ends up being RLV’s of some form, since they have the greatest potential for lowering cost and allowing more supply. But I don’t see serious work on this happening until the initial LEO market becomes clear, and that likely won’t happen until the 2020-25 timeframe. Still, I think it will happen.

  • Vladislaw

    BeancounterFromDownunder wrote:

    “Vladislaw wrote:
    “SpaceX said they could supply a Falcon 9 heavy for 100 mil but there were no takers.”

    Not quite correct. True there were no takers (at this stage) for the first flight however Elon did state that they were in serious talks with takers for flights 2 – 4.”

    I was not refering to the new Falcon Heavy, I was refering to the original, the falcon 9 heavy. It was listed at 95 million .. there were no takers for that system.
    —————

    vulture4 wrote:

    “The only instance of this is manned flight, where Soyuz, as the only supplier, could bump price up to $50M. Soyuz and SpaceX can break even at about $20M so with both in the market price will decline to that level.”

    “Only new technology can lower cost, but the cost of significant new tech is high”

    Soyuz I thought was already at 56 million, my thoughts on this were that when the next bid comes up SpaceX will just under bid what soyuz is costing. It will be a slow spiral downward. I dont know how much other processes can lower price. Musk achieved some of his lower costs not through new technology but new processes on how to do launch operations and intergration.

  • vulture4

    You may be correct but I think SpaceX will post a substantially lower price as they want to go after commercial tourism as well as NASA crew transport. The latter is pretty much a fixed demand but the former is price sensitive. I completely agree that Musk is saving money by better management and organization, that’s why I do not think he can go below $20M/seat.

    To do better requires new fully reusable technology. Even Musk can’t afford that kind of R&D without NASA support. Unfortunately CCDev bizarrely consists of hiring 4 contractors to propose essentially the same technology as SpaceX, expendable launchers and spacecraft.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Even Musk can’t afford that kind of R&D without NASA support.

    Who not if NASA were to spend $1B a year on competitive propellant launches? The propellant is crucial, trying to create RLVs by demand pull using crew launches would be much harder than with propellant. You’ve so far ignored this argument, which is a pity, because it shows the synergy between exploration and RLVs.

    Instead of developing RLVs first, we should explore first because that is certain to be better for exploration and nearly certain to be better for RLVs. In fact the latter is an understatement. Big NASA RLV programs are likely to be as much of a failure as they’ve always been. A large and fiercely competitive propellant launch market on the other hand would be highly likely to succeed at generating RLVs.

    Unfortunately CCDev bizarrely consists of hiring 4 contractors to propose essentially the same technology as SpaceX, expendable launchers and spacecraft.

    How often do you have to be corrected on this before you’ll stop peddling misinformation? Dragon, CST-100, Dream Chaser and Blue Origin’s capsule are all intended to be reusable, not expendable. It’s time to let go of the Shuttle and most of its workforce. Fifteen or twenty years ago it might have been possible to transition the Shuttle to a real and economical RLV, after which it could be transitioned to the private sector. It’s far too late for that now.

  • vulture4

    “Dragon, CST-100, Dream Chaser and Blue Origin’s capsule are all intended to be reusable, not expendable. ”

    Development of a man-rated Dragon is not part of CCDev, it is part of COTS-D. Dragon appears to have the best potential for reuse among the vehicles currently under development, but reuse of the launch vehicle is at least as important in reducing cost, and SpaceX, although it is certainly interested, has limited options for this.

    Even a Gemini capsule was flown twice (it was unmanned). That doesn’t make it a system which permits feasible reuse. A capsule that lands by parachute is far more likely to be beyond economical repair than a runway lander. I realize the the Dream Chaser is referred to as a runway lander but this design has been around for many years and I’ve seen no evidence that it or any lifting body has ever landed on a runway at any gross weight that is realistic for orbital flight.

    I’m also not sure I would agree that “all NASA RLV programs have been a failure”. All five major NASA RLV programs were canceled or abandoned by NASA under Bush II. X-33, X-34 and DC-X were starved for funds and/or canceled by incompetent managers for irrational reasons, a NASA problem to be sure but not one associated specifically with RLVs. The X-37 was transfered to DOD for reasons that remain murky but since one has landed and another is in orbit it is difficult to call it a failure. Shuttle was the first real attempt anywhere to build an orbital RLV and will soon have flown 135 missions with two losses due to problems that were subsequently corrected. Shuttle was canceled to pay for Constellation. “Demand” programs such as Orion/HLLV will not advance practical human spaceflight since they require spending the entire HSF budget on operations with very expensive ELVs rather than R&D on new concepts.

  • Coastal Ron

    vulture4 wrote @ June 13th, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    Development of a man-rated Dragon is not part of CCDev, it is part of COTS-D.

    The current COTS program only covers cargo, and so far as I know, COTS-D is not currently funded.

    Here’s what NASA says about CCDev:

    In a multiphase strategy, the program is designed to help spur the innovation and development of new spacecraft and launch vehicles from the commercial industry, creating a new way of delivering cargo – and eventually crew – to low-Earth orbit (LEO) and the International Space Station (ISS).

    Although we’re not to the final stage of the CCDev program, the CCDev-2 award to SpaceX for Dragon does show that Dragon is being considered by NASA for carrying crew.

    Regarding CCDev vs COTS-D, maybe CCDev does the development portion, and COTS-D will take over when they are ready for crew certification? I guess we’ll have to wait and see how the money gets allocated.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Development of a man-rated Dragon is not part of CCDev, it is part of COTS-D.

    Development of an integrated LAS got $75M in funding under CCDev2.

    Dragon appears to have the best potential for reuse among the vehicles currently under development

    Why would it have more potential for reuse than Dream Chaser, CST-100 or Blue Origin’s biconic capsule?

    but reuse of the launch vehicle is at least as important in reducing cost, and SpaceX, although it is certainly interested, has limited options for this.

    Blue Origin’s work is centered around RLV development and even ULA has plans for partial reuse.

    I’m also not sure I would agree that “all NASA RLV programs have been a failure”. All five major NASA RLV programs were canceled or abandoned by NASA under Bush II.

    I’m not saying they were necessarily technical failures or that the engineers were incompetent. Just that if we try the same thing again we’ll likely get the same results, namely more cancellations for reasons that may be irrational but also predictable. I was a huge fan of DC-X and X-33 and I would have loved to see them fly, but I have zero faith that the NASA bureaucracy would be able to deliver on it under the political constraints it would have to work under.

    Believe me, there is hardly anything I’d like to see more in the field of manned spaceflight than RLVs, or more precisely cheap lift, i.e. cheaper by an order of magnitude. It’s precisely why I advocate establishing a large and fiercely competitive propellant launch market as soon as possible.

    There are no technical obstacles to doing so now, just as we could have done at any point in the past thirty years. If we had, we would have had RLVs by now, and therefore a manned moon base, several commercial LEO stations, limited lunar tourism and manned NASA missions to at least Mars orbit.

    “Demand” programs such as Orion/HLLV will not advance practical human spaceflight since they require spending the entire HSF budget on operations with very expensive ELVs rather than R&D on new concepts.

    MPCV / SLS will indeed do nothing, which is why I want to see both cancelled. But the demand I’m talking about would be very different. One or several billion dollars a year worth of competitively procured propellant launches would be totally different. NASA would indeed spend most of its HSF budget on operations, which is as it should be as far as I’m concerned.

    But that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be money for R&D. Companies always spend a percentage of their revenue on R&D and they would collectively do the same with those several billion a year. They would have a strong incentive to do so if NASA used a reverse auction (or maybe even a sort of futures and options market as with oil) to procure the launch services.

    If you could launch more cheaply than your competitor, you might be able to sell 100% of your capacity. I strongly believe that this would lead to substantial funding for RLVs. Compare that to what we have today, hardly any funding. Given sufficient funding, this would almost certainly work, assuming that RLVs are technically possible.

  • Kelvin

    I’m so delighted I stopped by to read this today! I’m unsure if I disagree with any of it actually .
    .. really well said!

    I’ll register for your RSS feed and bookmark your website so I can come back to review more. Thank you a lot!

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