Congress, NASA

CCDev contracting and funding concerns

Last week NASA officials raised alarm in some corners of the space industry about its proposal to shift from a pure Space Act Agreement (SAA) for the next Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) round towards a hybrid approach that incorporates elements of both an SAA and a traditional contract. Not surprisingly, this topic came up again Thursday at the NewSpace 2011 Conference, although some made it clear contracting mechanisms were the lesser of their concerns about the future of CCDev.

Brent Jett, deputy manager of the Commercial Crew Program at NASA, told attendees during one panel session of the conference that he was aware of the concerns industry has raised since he and program manager Ed Mango outlined their proposed approach last week. “I know there’s a lot of angst in the community about the direction of the Commercial Crew Program,” he said. “There’s a group of people out there who strongly feel that Space Act Agreements is the only way to do it, the only way a program can be successful. There’s another group of people out there—not in this room, but within the government, within NASA—who strongly feel that to ensure crew safety, a cost-plus contract is the only way to it. So it’s almost like the debate in Washington over the debt ceiling.”

Companies have made clear their concerns about shifting from the SAA structure of previous CCDev rounds to this hybrid approach, which would incorporate many more elements of Federal Acquisition Regulations (FARs). But beyond general worries about an increase in paperwork associated with the FAR, what are the specific problems with NASA’s proposed approach?

Mark Sirangelo, head of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s space systems division, said he didn’t absolutely reject NASA’s approach request. “From our company’s perspective, we don’t really have a concern, one way or another,” he said. However, the hybrid approach NASA is proposing could have some sticking point, he said, such as how to account in a FAR-based contract for the coinvestment companies are supposed to make in their systems, as well as how to account for the cost and schedule impacts of any changes imposed by NASA. “It’s not that these are things that can’t be overcome, but it’s an unusual set of circumstances, and I think that’s why many people are looking at one more round of Space Act Agreements leading to a FAR contract.”

Garrett Reisman, the former astronaut who is managing SpaceX’s CCDev-2 work, said his company wanted to stick to the fixed-price milestone-based approach used in CCDev and COTS. A FAR-based approach would require SpaceX to hire “a whole bunch more accountants” to deal with the overhead imposed by the FAR, he said. “In addition, it’s a big corporate culture change,” he said, noting that SpaceX engineers don’t fill out timecards. “It’s all an overhead burden we don’t currently have.”

How to handle the contract for the next round of CCDev might be overshadowed by a bigger concern: how much funding, if any, that will be available for it in the next round of the program. The House version of the FY12 appropriations bill that funds NASA would give CCDev $312 million, the same as for FY11 but well below the administration’s request of $850 million.

“What we really need is money, and support from Congress and the executive branch,” Jett said. Support from the executive branch is there, but Congress, given what it’s proposed so far in FY12, is lagging. He noted the CCDev budget is about one tenth the budget of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), which combined would get just over $3 billion in FY12 in the House bill.

“I can tell you that if that number holds for the next year, it’s going to be very challenging for us to maintain multiple partners, to maintain the type of progress we’ve made, and meet a goal to fly folks in the mid part of the decade,” Jett said. “At some point we’re going to have to spend more than a couple hundred million dollars a year.”

Company officials agreed with that concern. “The bigger issue [than contracting mechanisms] is making sure we have the proper funding for this program and making sure all of us make our milestones and go forward,” Sirangelo said.

“These are the things that keep me up at night,” Reisman said. “Worrying about how we can possibly succeed with the budgets cut way down.”

123 comments to CCDev contracting and funding concerns

  • VirgilSamms

    Pretty obvious that private space must have the SLS money if it is to survive.

    And about that investigation……

    “He noted the CCDev budget is about one tenth the budget of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), which combined would get just over $3 billion in FY12 in the House bill.“At some point we’re going to have to spend more than a couple hundred million dollars a year.”

    “Worrying about how we can possibly succeed with the budgets cut way down.”

  • VirgilSamms

    “What we really need is money, and support from Congress and the executive branch,”

    The representatives from many many districts will never support and will always work against private space after all the jobs that have been lost so the hobby rocket could have a chance.

    Michoud is a national asset that is being sacrificed on the altar of political payback.

  • Joe

    “Worrying about how we can possibly succeed with the budgets cut way down.”

    But I thought ‘commercial space’ was suppposed to be all about private funding. Shouldn’t they just press on no matter what the government does?

  • Shouldn’t they just press on no matter what the government does?

    They will, but more slowly in keeping with their commercial needs and customers, and NASA will remain reliant on the Russians for another decade.

  • Joe

    Rand Simberg wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 4:52 pm
    “They will, but more slowly in keeping with their commercial needs and customers, and NASA will remain reliant on the Russians for another decade.”

    So you are happy, why aren’t they?

  • Alan

    Joe wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    “But I thought ‘commercial space’ was supposed(sp) to be all about private funding. Shouldn’t they just press on no matter what the government does?”

    You really ought to read up on the prerequisites for COTS and CCDEV. The companies had to show that they were able to bring private capital to match the funding NASA was providing. NASA is putting money into accelerate and to meet their unique requirements in order to meet their goal of mid-decade of getting seats to ISS.

    Or would you be rather paying the Russians for seats to ISS?

  • Coastal Ron

    VirgilSamms wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Pretty obvious that private space must have the SLS money if it is to survive.

    They won’t need much of it, since the SLS wastes far more than the commercial crew firms will need. Heck, the Orion already spent $5B without getting a test article finished, whereas the commercial crew firms have produced far more using far less taxpayer funds.

    With the difference between commercial vs government contracting, and the difference between exploration-class hardware vs LEO systems, the ratio of money required is probably about 10:1 for what it takes to produce something flyable between NASA and the commercial aerospace industry.

    Joe wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    But I thought ‘commercial space’ was suppposed to be all about private funding. Shouldn’t they just press on no matter what the government does?

    All of them have used internal funds, some well in advance of the initial CCDev contracts, which just goes to show you how much you don’t know about the CCDev program.

    And remember who the customer is that needs the crew service. NASA (i.e. the U.S. Government). So if NASA wants commercial crew services, and they want a say about how it will be performed, then they have to co-invest.

    Now Joe, if you can get Congress & NASA to say “you get our people to the ISS any way you want, and we’ll pay you“, then you could make an argument for the taxpayer to not be involved. But that’s not what Congress wants, so Congress has to pay for the aerospace industry to get people to/from the ISS the NASA way.

    I tried to make this simple for you, but let me know if it overloads your brain… ;-)

  • SpaceMan

    Shouldn’t they just press on no matter what the government does?

    Yes “they” should but this really all about public risk & private profit. Nothing new at all because it is how Industrial Capitalism has always worked.

  • Joe

    Alan wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    “Or would you be rather paying the Russians for seats to ISS?”

    No, I would rather have a real American vehicle to use; sadly that is not currently an option. But listening to ‘commercial’ proponents, who constantly deride others as “pigs at the public trough”, whining that they are not getting enough government money would be amusing if it were not so pathetic.

  • Joe

    Coastal Ron wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 5:18 pm
    “And remember who the customer is that needs the crew service. NASA (i.e. the U.S. Government). So if NASA wants commercial crew services, and they want a say about how it will be performed, then they have to co-invest.”

    And they already have, just not as much as the ‘commercial space’ advocates like you want. So you are whining about it.

    “Now Joe, if you can get Congress & NASA to say “you get our people to the ISS any way you want, and we’ll pay you“, then you could make an argument for the taxpayer to not be involved.”

    I will not have to; you guys are doing a good enough job of that yourselves. Except according to what is said at that conference the people actually doing the work do not think they can do it. So they want more government money.

    “I tried to make this simple for you, but let me know if it overloads your brain… “

    I would try to make it simple emough for you to understand, but obvioulsy that is not possilbe.

    Note: Go ahead from here on trying to be as pointlessly insulting as you can, I will not resond to any more of your ‘flame war bate’

  • Vladislaw

    So the only “real” america is what NASA does? Every commercial firm in the aerospace industry isn’t “real” America, producing “real” American products? SpaceX’s products aren’t “real” American?

    You sound like you love America, but you hate Americans. What other transportation system is not carried out by commercial firms. What other transportation system does not get government funding? So the 3 billion to the oil companies is great and okay but 300 million for a space transportation system is not “real” American?

    Why this hatred for American business that is not working with cost plus contracting to the moon?

  • SpaceX will go ahead whether NASA encourages it or not, various contracts are already in early stages, DOD is negotiating. Costs controls they’ve instituted will make it the launcher of this decade for most purposes if only because of costs. Think what the US would accomplish if SLS money was spent on space-vehicles or tech innovation using the cheaper launchers ready, or nearly ready, to go. If old NASA can’t compete then they can’t compete, it’s sad, but either innovate, control costs, or start looking for work elsewhere. There are not enough dollars.

  • Vladislaw

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “They won’t need much of it, since the SLS wastes far more than the commercial crew firms will need. Heck, the Orion already spent $5B without getting a test article finished”

    Ron, I just realized we are wasting our time. It doesn’t matter that a Capsule is going to cost 12 billion or 120 billion. It didn’t matter that Ares I was going to cost 49 billion for a medium lift rocket. Costs are absolutely and positively irrelevant for these people. If the costs are shooting to the moon faster than the capsule, it just doesn’t matter, the problem is underfunding. It will never be the design, as long as it is big.

    This isn’t about space exploration, opening the frontier…. no none of that.

    This is about lighting a cigar with a $100 bill.

    Hell if it’s as cheap as SpaceX by definition it has to be crap. If NASA is the gold standard, it has to expensive, no let me correct that, we are going to light that 200 billion dollar cigar by burning up a couple billion in hardware at a throw.

    Now THAT is a “real” American “space program”!

    Let’s see another Nation construct and burn a phallic symbol that match that.

  • And they already have, just not as much as the ‘commercial space’ advocates like you want.

    The issue is not how much commercial space advocates want, but how much NASA wants. We are perfectly happy with NASA’s budget request — the unhappiness derives from the fact that Congress has refused to appropriate it, which will result in a much longer delay until we are no longer reliant on the Russians.

    I will repeat again — NASA needs commercial space providers much more than they need NASA. I don’t know why this is such a difficult concept for you to understand.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    No, I would rather have a real American vehicle to use; sadly that is not currently an option.

    Why?

    There are companies that want to provide the service – you think they should do it for free?

    Travel to LEO isn’t like scheduled airline service, where NASA accepts the standards of the service companies. In this case NASA wants transportation to a NASA facility in a harsh environment, and they have specific requirements that they want service providers to meet. Shouldn’t NASA pay for that?

    If you don’t want to keep using the Russians, then how do you propose to solve the situation?

  • Go ahead from here on trying to be as pointlessly insulting as you can, I will not resond to any more of your ‘flame war bate’

    But it’s not “pointlessly insulting” to falsely ascribe to someone else feelings that they neither have nor have expressed?

  • Joe

    sftommy wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 6:41 pm
    “SpaceX will go ahead whether NASA encourages it or not”

    Great government does not have to give ‘Commercial Space’ any more money and you will be happy.

    And they say we cannot get along.

  • Bennett

    Joe wrote “I would rather have a real American vehicle to use; sadly that is not currently an option.”

    …and the Atlas V is made where exactly?

    You don’t seem to care if the LV is “American” so much as you want it to be a huge NASA rocket. Are you an ex-shuttle employee perhaps?

  • Warloc Alcott

    Why are they Commercial / Private even getting any government money??? I thought they were supposed to be doing this on their own. I am not for cutting SLS budget to give them money.

  • Great government does not have to give ‘Commercial Space’ any more money and you will be happy.

    Now you’re attempting to read his mind as well? Didn’t I tell you that you suck at that?

    We will be happy if the government is doing as much as possible to reduce the number of years that we are reliant on the Russians for ISS transport, and as much as possible to reduce the cost of access to orbit as rapidly as possible. I don’t know why you continue to fantasize that we should be “happy” simply because we know that private space will eventually get there on its own.

  • Joe

    Rand Simberg wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 7:23 pm
    “Now you’re attempting to read his mind as well? Didn’t I tell you that you suck at that?”

    No, I do not recall you ever telling me that. But, if you are telling me that now I will obviously have give up my right to all opinions; because when the great Rand Simberg says something – it is the law.

  • Joe

    Bennett wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 7:09 pm
    “…and the Atlas V is made where exactly?”

    Since you asked, the Atlas V Engines are made in the Ukraine.

  • Jeff Foust

    I recommend that Joe and Rand take their discussion of mind reading and feelings offline. Thanks.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    I have said it before, but it bears repeating. With government money comes government rules and bureaucracy. If commercial space wants their government cheese, it had better buckle up and get ready.

  • The so-called “NewSpace” “private” firms cannot succeed without a government subsidy. To date the subsidy has taken the form of cash, use of government facilities, and use of government-developed technology. They have also used NASA as a whipping boy so that they can contrast its alleged inefficiency and incompetence with their (mostly theoretical) efficiency and competence. So far, Congress has consented to toss a few hundred million dollars at them to appear to support them, primarily, I think, in order to tear down NASA. If there’s some sort of ideologically appealing “private” space apparatus in work – never mind whether it has yet yielded any substantial results – then they can justify defunding NASA. Now the Shuttle is retired, so they don’t have to throw quite so much at the “private” companies. They can begin to abandon them. And so the many contradictions of “NewSpace” become obvious for all but their most devout believers – the fact, for example, that these “private” companies rely so heavily on the government agency they deride.

  • Joe

    Gladly.

    And if you delete this message I will respectfully approve.

  • Coastal Ron

    Warloc Alcott wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    I thought they were supposed to be doing this on their own.

    Who said?

    The four CCDev participants were working on their vehicles in advance of the CCDev program, but there are three issues involved here:

    1. On their own, Boeing, SpaceX, SNC and Blue Origin could take a long time to get their systems flight ready. They don’t have deep pockets like NASA does, and they have to fund development out money that could have a better chance of making future revenue. And what they build may not be what NASA would really like, and it may not be when they want it.

    2. NASA is solely dependent on Russia to access the ISS. Congress has stated they want the commercial crew program, and Congress has also stated that commercial crew is to be the primary method of accessing the ISS – the MPCV is for backup only.

    3. NASA has not finished defining what the crew rating standards are for commercial crew, so no one knows what standards NASA will want when they put out a bid for crew service.

    Instead, the CCDev program provides a controlled process to ensure that the commercial aerospace industry is doing what NASA wants. Here’s how NASA describes it:

    Commercial Crew Development is … to stimulate efforts within the private sector that will aid in the development and demonstration of safe, reliable, and cost-effective space transportation capabilities. 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).

    So no, the plan has never been for NASA to wait around until someone comes up with an acceptable crew transportation system (which isn’t defined) – that unpredictable choice does not support NASA’s needs, and it’s a recipe for chaos.

  • Vladislaw

    Warloc Alcott wrote:

    “Why are they Commercial / Private even getting any government money???”

    Because as President Bush outlined in the Vision for Space Exploration, NASA is going to transition into using commercial services for crew and cargo for the ISS. By utilizing cheaper commercial space, for routine services, NASA would have more funds for technology development, like propellant depots, as listed in the VSE. Because the Space Shuttle was going to be retired in 2010 there was going to be a gap in crew services to the ISS before the CEV would be completed. It was therefore important that commercial crew be funded started in 2005. The funds for COTS-D was diverted away from commercial crew and spent on the Constellation program. The gap was only intended to be 4 years but Constellation was now looking at not flying until 2017-19.

    President Obama is following President Bush’s NASA policy for commercial services to the ISS. Certain members of Congress do not want the American public to see that some things involving space hardware do not have to be done for cost plus and end up billions over budget.

    How do you propose NASA gets their American astronauts get to the ISS? Pay Russia … or walk?

    Commercial crew services to the ISS has been American space policy since 2005, it is not some new idea that President Obama pulled out of a hat. It was the Republican’s space policy to fund commercial crew.

  • Alan

    Joe wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Since you asked, the Atlas V Engines are made in the Ukraine.

    The RD-180 is made by NPO Energomash which is based in Moscow, with satellite facilities in Samara, Perm, and St. Petersburg. Since when are Moscow, Samara, Perm, and St. Petersburg in Ukraine?

    Since you can’t even keep your facts straight, why should we believe anything you say?

  • A_M_Swallow

    Cost plus contracts – nuspace has never had them, so those are bids from Old Space companies.

    Milestones are possible using ordinary fixed price contracts.

    Why is NASA paying? Because it wants the launch vehicles to go to the ISS. Without government money nuspace companies would only go to Bigelow spacestations and suborbital tourist trips.

  • “These are the things that keep me up at night,” Reisman said. “Worrying about how we can possibly succeed with the budgets cut way down.”

    Private companies shouldn’t be dependent on tax payer dollars and big government programs for their existence. Private US investors are sitting on two trillion of potential investment dollars. US companies like Space X should be trying to make their case to these potential investors by focusing on private commercial space enterprises– not big government contracts.

  • Commercial Space is one gigantic farce! Those rocket hobbyists will cost the American government vastly far more money than the Orion-Ares 1 launch system would’ve cost. If even that portion of Constellation would’ve been pressed on into fully working hardware, America could’ve had a Saturn IB-type of LEO manned vehicle, within a short few years.

  • nom de plume

    The comment from Reisman resonates with me. It’s all about reducing launch costs.
    “Garrett Reisman, the former astronaut who is managing SpaceX’s CCDev-2 work, said his company wanted to stick to the fixed-price milestone-based approach used in CCDev and COTS. A FAR-based approach would require SpaceX to hire “a whole bunch more accountants” to deal with the overhead imposed by the FAR, he said. “In addition, it’s a big corporate culture change,” he said, noting that SpaceX engineers don’t fill out timecards. “It’s all an overhead burden we don’t currently have.””

    As a contractor employee, I’m appalled at the cost/burden of doing business with NASA. We can’t get around the FAR and the bureaucracy — we’re stuck with it. SpaceX and others have a less burdensome way and I wish them well. I think their advocates at NASA and some in Congress realize that this path is the fastest and least costly way to get USA cargo and crew launched on an American made vehicle.

  • Bennett

    Joe wrote “Since you asked, the Atlas V Engines are made in the Ukraine.”

    What does that mean?

    Does it mean that you would reject the other 95% of the Atlas V that is made in the states in order to spend billions on a rocket that we (Americans) don’t need to spend in order to launch our astronauts to LEO?

    Where, if the SLS didn’t eat all of NASA’s budget, they could rendezvous with a Nautilus-X type spacecraft for BEO missions?

    You are willing to waste billions of tax dollars and keep us grounded, waiting until 2023 for the SLS?

    What kind of patriot are you?

    Besides, you never answered my question about your vested interests in a socialist rocket program.

    Did you work on the shuttle?

  • vulture4

    >>they have specific requirements that they want service providers to meet.

    The commercial systems are cheaper because they can avoid NASA’s inappropriate and arbitrary requirements. But they don’t have many customers except NASA. However if SpaceX and Boeing allow NASA to impose their arbitrary requirements they won’t be able to control costs. We can only hope they will “push back” and save NASA from itself.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Since you asked, the Atlas V Engines are made in the Ukraine.

    NPO Energomash, the Russian company that makes the RD-180 used on the Atlas V, might disagree with that.

    Oh, and I’m sure some other Atlas V components come from other countries too, but until an American company assembles them together here in America, they aren’t an Atlas V.

    The commercial crew vehicles being worked on for the CCDev program are also being manufactured here in the U.S. (as is the Falcon 9 rocket), so you have a lot of real American vehicles that NASA could use.

    Apparently you were not aware of these facts?

  • Major Tom

    “Why are they Commercial / Private even getting any government money???”

    Because they’re being asked to provide a capability and service — ISS cargo and crew transport — for the government.

    You wouldn’t expect Ford to build you a car for free or American Airlines to fly you around the world for free.

    Same goes for NASA astronauts.

    “I am not for cutting SLS budget to give them money.”

    The SLS/MPCV budget is _ten times_ larger than CCDev.

    Instead of worrying about cuts, you should worry about whether SLS/MPCV will deliver anything remotely worth that enormous investment.

    FWIW…

  • Marcel F. Williams

    Actually, private commercial companies are going to cost NASA more than $3 billion a year since the ISS will not be decommissioned in 2016 to help fund beyond LEO missions as originally planned but will instead be continued as a make work program for the commercial crew companies.

    $3 billion a year for continuing the ISS is a huge amount of money for an agency with extremely limited resources that was supposed to be focusing on beyond LEO missions.

  • Commercial cargo grows closer, as ISS Expedition 29 crew members are training for the first freighter arrivals:

    Aviation Week “Next ISS Crew Prepares for Commercial Freighters”

    Commercial cargo has been a great success, and so will commercial crew. What an exciting time for human space exploration — the first 21st Century spacecraft are about to fly.

  • Joe

    Coastal Ron wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 10:42 pm
    “NPO Energomash, the Russian company that makes the RD-180 used on the Atlas V, might disagree with that.”
    “Apparently you were not aware of these facts?”

    Russian Company, Ukrainian Factory; a leftover from the Soviet Union. Apparently you were not aware of that fact.

    But let’s hypothetically grant you your point. How does the fact that the engines (without which you have no launch vehicle, regardless of where other parts are made, where it is assembled, etc.) are made by the Russians (in Russia) make the vehicle more American, than if it were made in the Ukraine?

    It in fact would make the booster more subject to Russian control and (if the booster is used for ISS support) give them (potentially) even more control over the fate of the ISS.

  • Joe

    Bennett wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 10:31 pm
    “Besides, you never answered my question about your vested interests in a socialist rocket program.
    Did you work on the shuttle?”

    Not since 2007 and that was on the Orbiter which does not figure into the SDHLV, so I have no vested interest. If you want any more of my resume you’re not going to get it.

    Oh, since we are apparently going to have an inquisition to ferret out all the ‘fifth columnist’ who worked on the shuttle let me just say: “I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the Communist party.”

    “What kind of patriot are you?”

    The kind that does not participate in inquisitions.

  • Scott Bass

    If commercial space can’t survive without public funding then perhaps it’s not time for commercial space, kinda common sense isn’t it

  • Robert G. Oler

    Scott Bass wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 9:41 am

    If commercial space can’t survive without public funding then perhaps it’s not time for commercial space, kinda common sense isn’t it…

    no its not. Do you not think that the airlines get “public funding”? GEE RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    I have said it before, but it bears repeating. With government money comes government rules and bureaucracy…

    but that does not mean that it has to be burdensome. That only occurs when you have people like NASA management trying to preserve “their rice bowl” RGO

  • Vladislaw

    If commercial oil companies can’t survive without the 3 billion in government money than perhaps it isn’t time to be using oil.

  • Joe

    Vladislaw wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 10:16 am
    “If commercial oil companies can’t survive without the 3 billion in government money than perhaps it isn’t time to be using oil.”

    The $3 Billion you appear to be referring to is in the form tax breaks (they pay less taxes on their profits) not subsidies to develop a capability.

    If you would like to try to promise the ‘New Space’ companies tax breaks on their profits from servicing the ISS, but take away the subsidies; give it a try.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Russian Company, Ukrainian Factory; a leftover from the Soviet Union. Apparently you were not aware of that fact.

    NPO Energomash has three factories, all in Russia, so I’m not sure what you’re talking about, but maybe they too outsource some of their production, and it comes from their good friends and neighbor Ukraine.

    How does the fact that the engines (without which you have no launch vehicle, regardless of where other parts are made, where it is assembled, etc.) are made by the Russians (in Russia) make the vehicle more American, than if it were made in the Ukraine?

    I don’t think it makes a difference where the components are made, it’s more of where the company is, who designed it, and where it’s assembled. Does it matter that CPU chips are made in the Philippines, electrical connectors are made in Taiwan, and the main engine is built in Russia? Doesn’t that just show a wide use of the global supply chain?

    What’s your definition?

    If the tires on your Chevy are from Korea, is your car Korean or American? Without the tires, you’re not going anywhere, so doesn’t that make it Korean using your analogy?

    It in fact would make the booster more subject to Russian control and (if the booster is used for ISS support) give them (potentially) even more control over the fate of the ISS.

    Ah, still a cold warrior I see. Nothing wrong with being concerned with your supply chain, and in fact today it’s even more important since we’re so much more connected. But that also makes the pain of not being friendly so much more painful to those that want to be bad citizens. And that also means it’s more important to have more redundancy in your supply chain, because no one knows when political or natural disasters will happen.

    So in a lot of ways you are pointing out why it’s so important for NASA to have as much diversity in crew transportation options as possible, since that is the best defense against a “partner” that wants to use their monopoly to extract more than their fair share of a partnership. Russia is in that position right now with the Soyuz, and we’ll see what happens.

    But if we get two or more commercial crew vehicles up soon, Russia won’t have that leverage, either for the crew transportation part, or for the Atlas V, since other alternatives exist (Delta IV and Falcon 9).

    The best defense against monopolies, and the havoc they can produce, is competition.

  • Vladislaw

    The Republican speaker of the house specifically stated that the oil companies wouldn’t explore or drill unless they got those subsidies and we would have to buy more foreign oil.

  • Vladislaw

    As Oil Industry Fights a Tax, It Reaps Subsidies

    “But an examination of the American tax code indicates that oil production is among the most heavily subsidized businesses, with tax breaks available at virtually every stage of the exploration and extraction process.

    According to the most recent study by the Congressional Budget Office, released in 2005, capital investments like oil field leases and drilling equipment are taxed at an effective rate of 9 percent, significantly lower than the overall rate of 25 percent for businesses in general and lower than virtually any other industry.

    And for many small and midsize oil companies, the tax on capital investments is so low that it is more than eliminated by var-ious credits. These companies’ returns on those investments are often higher after taxes than before.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/business/04bptax.html

    As I said, if oil has to have subsidies then, as many on here say about commercial space, we should not use oil.

  • amightywind

    The House CCDev funding level reflects its priority. ISS resupply is not a pressing concern. Developing a shuttle replacement is.

    As I said, if oil has to have subsidies then

    Oil is a useful commodity, critical to national security. CCDev is not. That said the oil industry is transforming itself miraculously through technology. The future is fracking awesome! You can be sure I am invested.

  • Joe

    Coastal Ron wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 11:47 am
    “NPO Energomash has three factories, all in Russia, so I’m not sure what you’re talking about, but maybe they too outsource some of their production, and it comes from their good friends and neighbor Ukraine.”

    My information comes from what I was told by Russians (in Russia) sometime ago. It may be possible that they have pulled manufacturing back within the Russian territorial boarders since then, but that would seem to validate my point. The Russians did not want to be beholden to a foreign government. If you had ever been in the region you would know that the Russians and Ukrainians have a (well let’s just call it) special relationship.

    “I don’t think it makes a difference where the components are made, it’s more of where the company is, who designed it, and where it’s assembled. Does it matter that CPU chips are made in the Philippines, electrical connectors are made in Taiwan, and the main engine is built in Russia? Doesn’t that just show a wide use of the global supply chain?”

    Except that in times of International tension you give a foreign country (Russia/Ukraine?) the power to remove a key capability. At the time of my discussions the entire RD-180 (minus certain electronics) was delivered. If they chose to cut that off – No RD-180, No Atlas V.

    “Ah, still a cold warrior I see.”

    If being concerned that key capabilities not be placed in a situation where foreign countries can cut them off makes me a “cold warrior” I will wear the title with pride.

    “So in a lot of ways you are pointing out…”

    Thank you so much for telling me what I am pointing out, but as usual you are only making a speech about your own philosophy.

  • Joe

    Vladislaw wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 11:57 am
    As Oil Industry Fights a Tax, It Reaps Subsidies
    “But an examination of the American tax code indicates that oil production is among the most heavily subsidized businesses, with tax breaks available at virtually every stage of the exploration and extraction process. “
    The article you are quoting is clearly (“heavily subsidized businesses, with tax breaks available”) equating tax breaks as subsidies due the ongoing nature of the business. Fine by me, but that changes nothing. The ‘New Space’ people are not asking for tax breaks (yet anyway) they are asking for money to be delivered to them.

    So my original point stands – If you would like to try to promise the ‘New Space’ companies tax breaks on their profits from servicing the ISS, but take away the subsidies; give it a try.

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Oil is a useful commodity, critical to national security.

    What a crock. Trees are a useful commodity, critical to national security. You can make the same argument about everything we use every day.

    ExxonMobil had a net income of over $30B last year, and you’re trying to say the U.S. Taxpayer should subsidize their operations? Weird.

  • @Vladislaw

    You didn’t include the $30 to $70 billion a year the US military spends protecting the Persian Gulf oil routes for the international petroleum companies:-)

    The US produces enough urban and rural biowaste (garbage and sewage) to replace 30% of our petroleum needs. If hydrogen from nuclear or renewable resources were added to the mix (biomass to fuel waste 80% of its carbon content), the US could be completely free of greenhouse gas polluting fossil fuels and could actually become a major carbon neutral fuel exporter.

  • Martijn Meijering

    At the time of my discussions the entire RD-180 (minus certain electronics) was delivered. If they chose to cut that off – No RD-180, No Atlas V.

    The RD-180 can be produced in the US and there is a stockpile too. There are good US national security reasons for that. The Pentagon may be inefficient, but they aren’t stupid.

    You are peddling fud.

  • Joe

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 2:11 pm
    “The RD-180 can be produced in the US”

    So we keep getting told, but at over 10 years and counting it has never happened.

    “and there is a stockpile too.”

    How fast would that stockpile be used up if the engines are used for a civilian program in addition to the military needs for which it was built (or wouldn’t the civilian program simply be terminated)?

    “You are peddling fud.”

    I will leave the juvenile/pointless insults to you. It seems to be what you are good at.

  • VirgilSamms

    “The RD-180 can be produced in the US and there is a stockpile too. There are good US national security reasons for that.
    -You are peddling fud.”

    You are stupid beyond belief if you think that makes any sense at all.

    They “can” be produced?
    How big is that “stockpile” MM?

  • Martijn Meijering

    So we keep getting told, but at over 10 years and counting it has never happened.

    Of course not, it’s cheaper to do it in Russia.

    How fast would that stockpile be used up if the engines are used for a civilian program in addition to the military needs for which it was built (or wouldn’t the civilian program simply be terminated)?

    I doubt the stockpile could be touched for a civilian program, but NASA could require ULA/PWR to maintain a separate stockpile. Or they could simply rely on the availability of Falcon 9.

    I will leave the juvenile/pointless insults to you. It seems to be what you are good at.

    Pointing out someone is spreading fud isn’t an insult.

  • Joe

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 3:17 pm
    “Of course not, it’s cheaper to do it in Russia.”

    Yes that is the reason for all outsourcing, but what happens if the outsourced supply is cut off?

    “I doubt the stockpile could be touched for a civilian program, but NASA could require ULA/PWR to maintain a separate stockpile. Or they could simply rely on the availability of Falcon 9.”

    And we finally get to the real point. Space X uber alles

    “Pointing out someone is spreading fud isn’t an insult.”

    Thanks for proving my point (not to mention raising the tone of debate around here), keep up the good work.

    By the way, respond to this with any insults you wish, as far as I am concerned this discussion with you has ended.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    So we keep getting told, but at over 10 years and counting it has never happened.

    The point of the licensing deal was so that ULA would not be beholden to Russia. So far Russia has been a good supplier, so why not buy from them? But P&W can build them if things go south.

    You know ULA and the DoD would have already gone through an analysis of their supply chain to make sure they could depend on Atlas V during times of war. I remember getting a visit from the DoD during the run-up to the 1st Gulf War, and having to validate that we could keep supplying our product in case of an international embargo. You may not have seen it where you worked, but companies do think about these issues.

    I will leave the juvenile/pointless insults to you. It seems to be what you are good at.

    FUD = Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

    It’s OK to have reasonable doubt, but sometimes you just seem to want to think up reasons why something won’t work. You must be a joy to talk with at parties… ;-)

  • Egad

    > the Russians and Ukrainians have a (well let’s just call it) special relationship

    Yes indeed. South Ossetia, Abkhazia, somewhat Transdniestria.

  • wodun

    If money was no object, what is the quickest way to end the gap and end the reliance on Russia to get NASA astronauts to the ISS?

    Most of you already know the answer.

    That new space will achieve this goal for less money than the SLS is just a bonus.

  • wodun

    The public risk vs private profits sounds good but in reality there has always been companies making profits off of NASA. If NASA made everything in house and didn’t contract for any goods or services, this argument might make sense.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Yes that is the reason for all outsourcing, but what happens if the outsourced supply is cut off?

    Then the stockpile will be used until US domestic production has been activated. That’s the whole reason for having a stockpile…

    And we finally get to the real point. Space X uber alles

    Not at all, my goal is competitive, fair and redundant procurement, not SpaceX. I think you’re projecting. What SLS proponents want is 1) 10x the budget of commercial space and 2) no competition for their “slice” of the pie. That is quite accurately described as SLS ueber alles.

  • Joe

    Coastal Ron wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 4:14 pm
    “The point of the licensing deal was so that ULA would not be beholden to Russia. So far Russia has been a good supplier, so why not buy from them? But P&W can build them if things go south.”

    So we are told. Have they ever manufactured, certified, and flown one?”

    “You know ULA and the DoD would have already gone through an analysis of their supply chain to make sure they could depend on Atlas V during times of war.”

    You would certainly hope so, but that is for the military requirements only. It has nothing to do with use for a civilian program. When asked about this Martijn immediately started talking about relying on the Falcon 9 (big surprise).

    “It’s OK to have reasonable doubt, but sometimes you just seem to want to think up reasons why something won’t work. You must be a joy to talk with at parties… “

    Different people have different views on the subject. If it is strictly social I am usually pretty relaxed, if we are talking ‘business’ most people recognise prudence.

    What about you? You seem to see nothing but disaster scenarios where anything HLV is concerned, but are all happy talk when anything “New Space” is involved.
    You need to get a new schtick, that one is not going to work.

  • wodun

    I don’t think anyone really expected NASA not to meddle with new space companies but expected the meddling to come in the name of safety and not accounting standards.

    Leave the rocket science to the rocket scientists and the accounting to accountants.

  • Martijn Meijering

    You are stupid beyond belief if you think that makes any sense at all.

    Maybe you should take it up with the Pentagon…

    They “can” be produced?

    Yes, the capacity has been demonstrated / certified to the Pentagon’s satisfaction. The whole reason the Pentagon is paying for the ELC is that they want assured access to space after all. To suggest that what’s good enough for the Pentagon isn’t good enough for NASA is ludicrous.

    How big is that “stockpile” MM?

    Large enough to start up US production of the RD-180 before it is depleted. By design I might add, since that is what the Pentagon wants.

    If you’re really worried about the dependability of the RD-180 supply chain then you have bigger problems than NASA. It would be a US national security problem.

  • Martijn Meijering

    When asked about this Martijn immediately started talking about relying on the Falcon 9 (big surprise).

    Delta would be an option too. And remember a SpaceX monopoly does nothing for my goal, which is commercial development of space. We need fierce competition for that, not another monopoly.

  • Vladislaw

    Joe wrote:

    “equating tax breaks as subsidies due the ongoing nature of the business. Fine by me, but that changes nothing.”

    NASA providing funds for fix price, milestone based SAA’s for a commercial service they want is not subsidies but it sure doesn’t stop a bunch of people on here of calling them that, like Mark Whittington and Gary etc.

    “The ‘New Space’ people are not asking for tax breaks (yet anyway) they are asking for money to be delivered to them.”

    Why shouldn’t they ask for payment for a milestone they have completed. NASA pays a lot more for the cost plus contracts and do not get flight hardware. These companies have to put up the money, and complete a milestone, once they complete the milestone for a TRL that NASA wants they get paid. They are not asking for grants.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    So we are told. Have they ever manufactured, certified, and flown one?

    If you don’t think P&W can manufacture a licensed design of an engine that works, then this world has bigger problems to worry about.

    What about you? You seem to see nothing but disaster scenarios where anything HLV is concerned, but are all happy talk when anything “New Space” is involved.

    Where is your prudence with the SLS or any other new HLV? You and others say we need one, but to use your phrase – “So we are told.”

    I advocate for Congress/NASA to use what’s at hand, and only build what has a demonstrated need. So far Congress is jumping the gun on that part, since they haven’t identified a need. I would say it’s prudent to save money where we can, especially when we’re talking about $Billions.

    Prove me wrong if you can, since I would love to hear that the SLS is not just a jobs program, but so far no one can point to a single payload mission that requires the SLS, much less the decades worth that would be needed to truly justify the expense.

    Can you Joe?

  • Joe

    Coastal Ron wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 5:32 pm
    Joe wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 5:00 pm
    “If you don’t think P&W can manufacture a licensed design of an engine that works, then this world has bigger problems to worry about.”

    It doesn’t matter if they have the drawings or not. If they do not have the facilities/personnel in place, if they have not put even a single RD-180 (home grown variety) through a certification process then they would have a big challenge ahead of them. If you do not understand that, then you are talking out of your area of expertise.

    “Where is your prudence with the SLS or any other new HLV? You and others say we need one, but to use your phrase – “So we are told.”

    The SDHLV infrastructure still exists (though I will grant you the Administration is doing everything in its power to destroy it), so my prudence is very much in place. Since you chose to try to deflect my question (by asking me another one instead) I will repeat it for you – What about you? You seem to see nothing but disaster scenarios where anything HLV is concerned, but are all happy talk when anything “New Space” is involved. If you refuse to answer again, I will politely give up; but anyone paying attention will know your game.

    “Prove me wrong if you can”

    Sure try to put the other side in the position to prove a negative, nice Junior High School debating tactic. You are making the assertion – Prove you are right.

    Can you Coastal Ron?

    If all you can reply with are more platitudes about how great things will be in your ‘New Space Valhalla’, have fun.

    Have a Nice Weekend.

  • Did anyone at all reply to my comments?

    Basically, I said that “NewSpace” has been used by spaceflight detractors to justify defunding NASA even though it (“NewSpace”) is nowhere near doing anything NASA can do. Now that the Shuttle is retired, the motivation for subsidizing “NewSpace” is much reduced. That’s why we’re seeing the Right in Congress cut funding for NewSpace subsidies. They never meant it, it is/was just a cynical ploy. They are probably laughing at their “NewSpace” supporters the same way they laughed at their supporters on the “Religious Right.”

    Meanwhile, the Obama White House is trying hard to make people understand its space policy, which is really just a return to the letter of the original January 2004 Bush Vision, which was itself the vision of the 1999-2000 Decadal Planning Team exercise funded by Clinton’s OMB. The DPT plan as presented by Bush was sidetracked by Mike Griffin, and if Bush had cared about it at all, he’d have put it back on track. He didn’t care where his handlers got his Vision, and he didn’t care when Griffin turned back the clock to SEI, the failed moon-Mars plan of Bush’s dad.

    In short, simple terms, the Obama plan is about doing what advisory panels have said NASA should do for the past 40 years – that is, invest in the technologies we absolutely must have to make the next incremental step outward. Obama says we’ll go to an NEO; others say to an L point. Myself, I’m heartened by the discovery of 2010 T7, Earth’s first trojan, which makes ESL4 satisfy both requirements. I await news on when it will next be most accessible to spacecraft from Earth.

    But it won’t happen if we don’t support NASA human spaceflight. “NewSpace” can play around all it wants on its own dime, but we need to separate “NewSpace” from NASA in our minds. The former is all smoke and mirrors, the latter is the only game in town if we want to see Americans venture beyond LEO.

    David

  • libs0n

    Joe,

    Where is the Delta 4 engine made? Oh, and NASA already uses RD-180s through the Atlas rocket services acquired for its science missions, so your raised objections to it are strictly your own.

    NASA determined it required domestic ISS crew resupply options. To enact such a capability, it decided that it would pursue a public/private partnership in which it would compete development money amongst commercial companies to establish a service from which NASA would then procure the services of. It estimated a program funding level to ensure successful development of those services. By defunding the program, the goals of meeting NASA’s needs are put in jeopardy.

    You think the only purpose of the commercial crew program is to help commercial companies create human spaceflight capabilities. That is inaccurate. It is also to serve identified NASA interests in obtaining low cost reliable crew resupply options for its space station. It is a program created to serve NASA’s strategic interest.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    If you do not understand that, then you are talking out of your area of expertise.

    You may have forgotten, but my background is in manufacturing, and I don’t see any unsurmountable problems.

    But remember you started this line of discussion with a theoretical situation, that Russia would stop supplying us with RD-180 engines for the Atlas V. And we responded with more than a theoretical answer, a fact, which is that Pratt & Whitney is licensed to produce the RD-180 for ULA if needed.

    Now if you want to debate how quickly P&W can build the licensed version of the RD-180, then fine, but it would be hard for you to argue that they couldn’t build it given enough time and money.

    The SDHLV infrastructure still exists (though I will grant you the Administration is doing everything in its power to destroy it)

    I hear this assertion a lot, but I don’t hear any specifics. What SD-HLV infrastructure is the Obama administration “destroying” that wasn’t already slated to be “destroyed” with the end of the Shuttle program?

    I will repeat it for you – What about you? You seem to see nothing but disaster scenarios where anything HLV is concerned

    I did answer your question, but maybe you missed it. The disaster is a financial one, in that spending $Billions to build and maintain something we don’t need is a waste of taxpayer money. Is that clear enough?

    So far the SLS fits that description, and bloggers like you have been unable to identify when, if ever, payloads and missions will be funded that will require the SLS, and only the SLS. Apparently the SLS is a faith-based initiative, because there is no hard evidence that it will ever be used.

    Sure try to put the other side in the position to prove a negative

    Alright, can you show something positive, like the long series of 130mt payloads that Congress is getting ready to fund? Or even 70mt payloads? Can you point to any positive plans to use the SLS once it becomes operational?

  • common sense

    I’ll give you a disaster scenario from my own crystal ball: They, whoever “they” are, are considering cutting NASA’ annual budget by about $5B with a B.

    The first $3B from Shuttle. The remainder: SLS/MPCV.

    85% of NASA budget goes to contractors? Well guess what, contractors are the first to go and that is why NASA has contractors.

    We shall see.

    ah yeah, still no sidemount coming it seems.

    Oh well…

  • Vladislaw

    Joe wrote:

    “What about you? You seem to see nothing but disaster scenarios where anything HLV is concerned, but are all happy talk when anything “New Space” is involved.”

    Because heavy lift, done the traditional way, with cost plus contracts, will be just to expensive. There will be nothing left for the hardware for launch. The only time our Nation was able to it that way was when NASA had an open check book and their mission statement was waste anything but time.

    SpaceX said they could do it for 2 1/2 billion. Let’s say they are like NASA and run 20% over budget, that would still be a bargin compared to the 10 – 20 billion it will cost doing it the traditional NASA way. I would have thought that Constellation would have taught you that lesson. Now you think that the SLS, done the same way with the same congress people pushing it, with the same cost plus contractors is somehow going to give a different result.

  • Vladislaw

    David S. F. Portree wrote:

    “The so-called “NewSpace” “private” firms cannot succeed without a government subsidy.”

    Who are the “so called” NewSpace? Boeing? Orbital?

    If you do not know the definition of a word, you shouldn’t use it. Commercial crew is not receiving subsidies, if you can not understand what a subsidy is then take a few economic courses. You look like a shill when you use a word totally out of context.

    Commercial space would succeed, it would just take longer. NASA is facing a gap that is currently being filled by the Russians. The current and last Presidents have mandated NASA to make the transitition to aquire domestic commercial space access services. What is so difficult for you to understand this.

    “To date the subsidy has taken the form of cash, use of government facilities, and use of government-developed technology.”

    To date NASA has signed contracts. They are fixed price, milestone based. If you do not know what fixed price is or milestone based, take a couple economic courses.

    NASA wants a service. That service currently does not exist. NASA issued SAA’s with competitively selected companies. The companies have to use their own money to complete a milestone, they do not get cash until they have completed the milestone. NASA is an agency of the federal government. President Bush outlined in the Vision for Space Exploration that NASA was to aquire commercial crew and cargo services to the ISS for when the Shuttle was retired. President Obama is following that guideline.

    NASA, as part of their charter, are to help commercial firms succeed. Those assets are not NASA’s, as a federal agency it is the property of the people of the United States and the President gives the marching orders.

    “They have also used NASA as a whipping boy so that they can contrast its alleged inefficiency and incompetence with their (mostly theoretical) efficiency and competence.”

    Show me some links were commercial space is using NASA as whipping boy. Are you going to justify the 13 billion dollar boondoggle called COSTellation program? That was a model of efficiency? And don’t throw that they were under funded. As has been show on here 50 times, they got more than they were budgeted and still were years behind schedule and needed 3 billion a year more.

    “So far, Congress has consented to toss a few hundred million dollars at them to appear to support them, primarily, I think, in order to tear down NASA.”

    No, they are being supported as a tradeoff for the new pork train called SLS and MPCV. 12 billion for a capsule .. christ 12 BILLION!

    “If there’s some sort of ideologically appealing “private” space apparatus in work – never mind whether it has yet yielded any substantial results – then they can justify defunding NASA.”

    Nothing substantial? If the history of spaceflight no private company on the entire planet has every put up a capsule and recovered it. If that isn’t a substantial feat I don’t know what the hell is. Man give credit were credit is due. Even NASA acknowledged it was a great feat. Why can’t you?

    “Now the Shuttle is retired, so they don’t have to throw quite so much at the “private” companies. They can begin to abandon them.”

    Why would they abandon them? So you can scream that we are still using the Russians to transport Americans to the ISS? America is really loving that America doesn’t have it’s own American companies doing this. Or do you plan on having the astronauts walk to the ISS?

    “And so the many contradictions of “NewSpace” become obvious for all but their most devout believers – the fact, for example, that these “private” companies rely so heavily on the government agency they deride.”

    Again show some links and quotes of commercial firms deriding NASA.

  • Coastal Ron

    David S. F. Portree wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Did anyone at all reply to my comments?

    Guess not. Maybe they were reflecting on what you said, or maybe they thought you had said it all, or maybe they didn’t feel it was worth responding to. We all write stuff that no one responds to, so welcome to the club.

    Basically, I said that “NewSpace” has been used by spaceflight detractors to justify defunding NASA even though it (“NewSpace”) is nowhere near doing anything NASA can do.

    Sounds like gobbledygook to me.

    Maybe you need to talk specifics instead of generalities. And use real examples, not theoretical ones (there’s enough of that around here).

  • “Did anyone at all reply to my comments?

    Basically, I said that “NewSpace” has been used by spaceflight detractors to justify defunding NASA even though it (“NewSpace”) is nowhere near doing anything NASA can do. Now that the Shuttle is retired, the motivation for subsidizing “NewSpace” is much reduced.

    I’ll answer you. Your whole premise is a misconception. NewSpace does not want to defund “NASA”. NewSpace wants to save NASA enough money on the cost of getting to orbit so that NASA can use those savings to go deeper into space. Anti-SLS does NOT equal anti-NASA. SLS is the giant 800 lb gorilla eating up all of the funds for everything else. You pro-SLS people have been told this over and over again and you still act like you were never told.

    If you want more support for a HLV, get one designed to get us to BEO in the most economically sustainable way, NOT one that was proposed by a group of Senators just to give their constituents jobs on shuttle-derived hardware.

  • Michael from Iowa

    A part public, part commercial space program is the only way we’re going to see anything resembling space exploration continue in the next century.

    There are things that a public space agency can do better than the private sector – like scientific research and technological development. And there are things that these smaller commercial spaceflight companies can do better, like build a rocket for less than $10 billion like the larger contractors NASA uses.

    Until hell freezes over and Congress decides to actually give NASA the funding it deserves, we have a choice to make: NASA can do science or it can do spaceflight, because we don’t have enough funding to both well. If we choose the former, NASA focuses on science and technology, and can utilize cheaper rockets built by smaller companies for some exploration. If we choose the latter, NASA continues its usual cost-plus contracting with major companies like Lockmart, ATK, and the like, we build an obscenely large, obscenely expensive rocket we don’t need and can’t afford to launch more than once a year, and we cut funding to nearly every science and tech program to free up the funding needed to get it built.

    This is a no-brainer.

  • Joe

    Coastal Ron wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 11:30 pm
    “You may have forgotten, but my background is in manufacturing, and I don’t see any unsurmountable problems.”

    “But remember you started this line of discussion with a theoretical situation, that Russia would stop supplying us with RD-180 engines for the Atlas V. And we responded with more than a theoretical answer, a fact, which is that Pratt & Whitney is licensed to produce the RD-180 for ULA if needed.”

    OK, since you are an expert on the subject:
    - Are the RD-180 designs in English or Metric units?
    - Does Pratt & Whitney have manufacturing equipment that work in the required units?
    - The Russian designs use large single casings to avoid welds. Does Pratt & Whitney currently have the facilities/trained personnel to perform such work?
    - Could it be that the reason Pratt & Whitney has never built its own RD-180 in all these years is that the cost would be prohibitive?

    “Now if you want to debate how quickly P&W can build the licensed version of the RD-180, then fine, but it would be hard for you to argue that they couldn’t build it given enough time and money.”

    Your whole argument is (supposedly) based on cost containment and practicality and now its “given enough time and money”, this discussion is obviously going nowhere.

    “I did answer your question, but maybe you missed it. The disaster is a financial one, in that spending $Billions to build and maintain something we don’t need is a waste of taxpayer money. Is that clear enough?”

    So at least here you do not claim technical expertise, merely your faith that an HLV is not needed.

    “Alright, can you show something positive”

    The question was and is can you show anything positive except your faith based assertions that an HLV is not needed? Since it is obvious you are never going to answer that question, continuing this discussion is pointless.

    Have a nice day.

  • Joe

    libs0n wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 10:29 pm
    “Joe,
    Where is the Delta 4 engine made? Oh, and NASA already uses RD-180s through the Atlas rocket services acquired for its science missions, so your raised objections to it are strictly your own.”

    The Delta IV engines (They are called RS-68s by the way) are American made, but (curiously) all of the discussion around here centers on the Atlas V. That may be (if there is any rationale) because the RD-180s are considered crew rated due to their heritage from the Russian Buran program.

    NASA uses Atlas V for some science missions, but those are one time each. The booster is known to be available for each individual launch in advance. Betting that they will be available into the indefinite is a very different matter.

    If you want to go on casting about for another alternative, go ahead. I answered the original question I was asked. I am not going to go through the entire laundry list.

  • Byeman

    RD-180′s can be made in the US, period. That is not an issue. It is just a matter of cost, since Russian labor is cheaper.

  • Martijn Meijering

    EELVs would have been used for OSP.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ July 31st, 2011 at 10:49 am

    The question was and is can you show anything positive except your faith based assertions that an HLV is not needed?

    Yes, I can positively tell you that the SLS has no funded use. That’s not blind faith, it’s backed up by Congress. All you have to do is look at the approved NASA budget.

    So that’s a fact, not a belief system.

    You and others seem to believe that Congress will one day find enough use for the SLS to make it worth the $Billions we are spending on it. That would be a faith based assertion. As of now there isn’t even one funded payload mission.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ July 31st, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Could it be that the reason Pratt & Whitney has never built its own RD-180 in all these years is that the cost would be prohibitive?

    Your whole theoretical exercise was based on Atlas V being “subject to Russian control” because of the Russian made RD-180 engine. So far ULA has found it less expensive to buy the engine from NPO Energomash than P&W, but has not had supply issues. There is no problem to debate.

    Also, what is unknown by you is whether it would be cost prohibitive to have P&W make the licensed version. Facts would help – have any?

    Joe wrote @ July 31st, 2011 at 11:03 am

    The Delta IV engines … are American made, but (curiously) all of the discussion around here centers on the Atlas V.

    If you paid attention you would know that of the four CCDev-2 participants, one (SpaceX) is using their own launcher (Falcon 9), and two have selected Atlas V (Boeing is considering it also).

    ULA has also been pushing Atlas V as the rocket of choice for commercial crew vehicles since at least 2009, and just signed an SAA with NASA “which will see NASA collect technical information from ULA on the Atlas V to develop an understanding of system capability for human spaceflight.

    Is this news to you?

    The only human rated use for Delta IV that ULA has talked about has been in the Delta IV Heavy version, which is envisioned for NASA use, not commercial.

    Why is it that you get so worked up over theoretical things, but you’re ignorant of what’s real? Weird.

  • VirgilSamms

    “Yes, I can positively tell you that the SLS has no funded use. That’s not blind faith, it’s backed up by Congress. All you have to do is look at the approved NASA budget.”

    Are a human being or a parrot?
    Give it a rest.
    The SLS will have plenty of funded missions as soon as they freeze the design. Bolden has even commented on this inconvenient truth.

  • Jim Hillhouse

    If the CCDev participants feel that their commercial crew efforts are valid, then they should be able to find investors to fill any financial gap due to any shortfall in gov’t funding. After all, CCDev stands for “Commercial Crew Development”. If there is indeed a real, profitable market for commercial crew launch, the investors will come. And if investors cannot be found, that would be more telling that the gov’t is probably throwing good money after bad.

    As for sacrificing any NASA center or program to pay for CCDev, good luck with that. So far, all the 2-3 CCDev proponents in Congress have been able to do is watch the CCDev budget get whacked even as SLS and Orion were created and well funded. I’m sure some here will claim it’s all a part of a Master Plan and we will soon see the cavalry rush in with billions for CCDev and all the other elements of the original Obama space plan from the vanquished SLS and Orion programs. Of course, these are the same people who predicted that the Obama program would in the end prevail. So far, their batting average is, to put it charitably, really bad.

  • Martijn Meijering

    You and others seem to believe that Congress will one day find enough use for the SLS to make it worth the $Billions we are spending on it.

    Even if that were to happen, cheap lift would still be much more important. And we can do very robust exploration without HLVs, so the choice should be simple.

  • VirgilSamms

    “And we can do very robust exploration without HLVs, so the choice should be simple.”

    It would be simple if that were true.
    Human Space Flight Beyond Earth Orbit will not happen without HLV’s simply because setting up a base on the Moon without an absurd number of launches and ridiculous rendezvous and fuel transfer antics requires HLVs.

    And we are not going anywhere out there without massive shielding and nuclear propulsion. Both of which require a Moon base.

    That is the only simple truth in all of this chicanery.

  • Joe

    Coastal Ron wrote @ July 31st, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    I notice you chose (once again) not answer any of the questions.

    You said:
    Coastal Ron wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 11:30 pm
    “You may have forgotten, but my background is in manufacturing, and I don’t see any unsurmountable problems.”

    The questions were:
    - Are the RD-180 designs in English or Metric units?
    - Does Pratt & Whitney have manufacturing equipment that work in the required units?
    - The Russian designs use large single casings to avoid welds. Does Pratt & Whitney currently have the facilities/trained personnel to perform such work?
    - Could it be that the reason Pratt & Whitney has never built its own RD-180 in all these years is that the cost would be prohibitive?

    The first three are simply technical, any engineer would need to know the answers before reaching a conclusion. So exactly how did you use your “background” in “manufacturing” to determine (in your professional judgment) that you “don’t see any unsurmountable problems”?

  • Coastal Ron

    Jim Hillhouse wrote @ July 31st, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    After all, CCDev stands for “Commercial Crew Development”.

    It stands for NASA’s version of commercial crew development. NASA is setting the standards, not the marketplace, so NASA is paying for the standards they define to be met.

    If NASA would be fine using market developed solutions, then that would be something different, and yes you could expect the market to fund and develop their own. But so far the Congress and NASA have not wanted to do that, hence the reason for NASA to pay for things to be done the NASA way.

    Oh, and remember that NASA has stated they haven’t finalized their own human ratings standards, so there is a huge amount of risk for anyone to build something without NASA involvement.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ July 31st, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I notice you chose (once again) not answer any of the questions.

    I suspect you know the answers too (as do many reading this), but here are mine:

    Are the RD-180 designs in English or Metric units?

    It doesn’t matter, since they will be converted into P&W’s preferred electronic document format. And if they are already in an incompatible CAD format, PWR has an in-house expertise to translate them (http://www.pwrengineering.com/design/translations.htm).

    Does Pratt & Whitney have manufacturing equipment that work in the required units?

    Likely, since English-Metric conversions happen all the time in manufacturing. But if not, they can buy what they need. I’m sure there are good deals to be had in this economy.

    The Russian designs use large single casings to avoid welds. Does Pratt & Whitney currently have the facilities/trained personnel to perform such work?

    I couldn’t say, but then again I guess you couldn’t either. Maybe they’ll just change to a fabrication technology that is just as good that P&W does have expertise in. Why should P&W be limited to 40 year old Soviet manufacturing choices?

    Could it be that the reason Pratt & Whitney has never built its own RD-180 in all these years is that the cost would be prohibitive?

    What is “prohibitive”? That the NPO Energomash RD-180 is less expensive is no surprise, but if ULA didn’t think they could get a reasonable price on the P&W version they wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of getting a license for it, would they? Come on Joe, use a little basic business reasoning here.

    So exactly how did you use your “background” in “manufacturing” to determine (in your professional judgment) that you “don’t see any unsurmountable problems”?

    We’re the U.S., and the usual limitations other countries have in copying high technology is their lack of expertise and facilities. P&W, and the U.S. manufacturing base it can draw upon, does not suffer from this limitation.

    I have answered your questions, although they may not be the answers you want. Time for some quid pro quo on my SLS questions…

  • Joe

    Coastal Ron wrote @ July 31st, 2011 at 5:09 pm
    Joe wrote @ July 31st, 2011 at 2:07 pm
    “Are the RD-180 designs in English or Metric units?”
    It doesn’t matter, since they will be converted into P&W’s preferred electronic document format. And if they are already in an incompatible CAD format, PWR has an in-house expertise to translate them

    It is not a matter translating documents. It is a matter of whether or not the hardware (not software) shop floor machinery can work in the proper system. The ability of software to translate units does not make up the (expensive) changes needed to the hardware

    “Does Pratt & Whitney have manufacturing equipment that work in the required units?”
    Likely, since English-Metric conversions happen all the time in manufacturing. But if not, they can buy what they need. I’m sure there are good deals to be had in this economy.”

    Sure everything is cheap when you want it to be. If that were true the entire US manufacturing capability would have likely changed over to metric decades ago

    “The Russian designs use large single casings to avoid welds. Does Pratt & Whitney currently have the facilities/trained personnel to perform such work?”
    “I couldn’t say”

    Then you do not know one of the basic things required to pass judgment on what is “unsurmountable”.
    “Maybe they’ll just change to a fabrication technology that is just as good that P&W does have expertise in. Why should P&W be limited to 40 year old Soviet manufacturing choices?”

    You just proved you do not have any idea what large casting technology is, thanks manufacturing expert.

    ““Could it be that the reason Pratt & Whitney has never built its own RD-180 in all these years is that the cost would be prohibitive?”
    “What is “prohibitive”?

    You argue for cost containment when HLVs are concerned, but now the sky is the limit.

    “That the NPO Energomash RD-180 is less expensive is no surprise, but if ULA didn’t think they could get a reasonable price on the P&W version they wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of getting a license for it, would they? Come on Joe, use a little basic business reasoning here.”

    Based on the above I suspect you know about as much about “business reasoning” as you do about manufacturing. Which is to say next to nothing.

    “So exactly how did you use your “background” in “manufacturing” to determine (in your professional judgment) that you “don’t see any unsurmountable problems”?”

    “We’re the U.S., and the usual limitations other countries have in copying high technology is their lack of expertise and facilities. P&W, and the U.S. manufacturing base it can draw upon, does not suffer from this limitation.”

    Nice speech and true if the sky is the limit on spending, but you are the one that always says we cannot afford an HLV. Why can we afford whatever it takes in this case?

    “Time for some quid pro quo on my SLS questions…”

    Your SLS questions (as have been pointed out by others) are circular. You say that we do not need an HLV because there are no already designed payloads for it. But if someone presents such a payload, you will say there is no reason to build it because there is no booster on which to fly it.

    I know you play be the ‘he who posts last wins’ rules, so respond to this as you choose. For myself this conversation is over.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ July 31st, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    It is not a matter translating documents. It is a matter of whether or not the hardware (not software) shop floor machinery can work in the proper system.

    I have run the machine shop section of a company, with CAM equipment. If the drawings are all input into the companies engineering system, then you’re arguing about a non-existent problem.

    Of course your whole reason for arguing about this topic is for a non-existent problem, that Russia stops selling ULA RD-180′s.

    And the bottom line to your non-existent problem is that ULA thinks that PWR will be able to supply what they need, so why are you worried?

    You say that we do not need an HLV because there are no already designed payloads for it.

    Not only that, there aren’t even any funded programs that could design such payloads.

    You’ve worked in aerospace – how long would it take to build a brand new 70mt payload and get it ready for launch? From scratch, without existing 8.4m diameter tooling and logistics, we’re talking a long time, and that’s with a strong budget (not with this Congress).

    But if someone presents such a payload, you will say there is no reason to build it because there is no booster on which to fly it.

    Great, 20 years from now you can come back and tell me I was wrong, that there was ONE payload that required the SLS. Boy, that was worth the $Billions we spent.

    I notice you don’t have the courtesy to respond to my questions in the depth I responded to yours. You’ve done this before, so it’s not a big surprise, but it’s too bad you can’t present a good explanation for your beliefs. Considering it’s about the SLS that’s no surprise of course… ;-)

  • Vladislaw

    Major Step Complete and Next Phase Accelerated for Production of U.S. Built LOX/Kerosene Oxygen Rich Staged Combustion Rocket Booster Engine

    Pratt & Whitney

    “The move toward U.S. production of the RD-180 Russian rocket engine has taken a giant step forward, as four data packages were delivered in support of the U.S. Air Force Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV)/Lockheed Martin Atlas program. The complete engine documentation is now in the U.S. being translated, and the next step is to build key components in the U.S. facility of Pratt & Whitney (P&W) located in Florida.

    The data was delivered to the West Palm Beach office of RD AMROSS LLC, a partnership between P&W Space Propulsion and NPO Energomash of Russia. The shipments consisted of more than 100,000 documents that represent the data required to produce an RD-180 engine in the U.S. The first data shipment was received in April 2003, and the final package was received in mid-August. All data packages were delivered ahead of schedule and exceeded expectations.

    “This accomplishment is a significant step forward in our commitment to assured access to space and the establishment of U.S. production of the RD-180 engine,” said Robert Monaco, president of RD AMROSS. “The joint cooperation of the Russian government, the U.S. government, Lockheed Martin, NPO Energomash, RD AMROSS and Pratt & Whitney enabled the data shipments to occur rapidly and trouble free.”

    The organized task of translating the data and preparing it for usage is currently taking place. The data includes engineering drawings, design specifications, certification design documentation and manufacturing documentation, in addition to materials data, test data and tooling documentation.”

    They have the documentation and it has all been translated, the only reason not to build it was cheaper russian labor. They are in a joint venture and as part of that they got all the docs and the right to build it.

  • Joe

    Vladislaw wrote @ July 31st, 2011 at 7:05 pm
    That press release to which you link is dated Sept. 24, 2003. Here we are eight later and they have yet to produce a single American Built RD-180.

    That should tell you something but I am sure it will not.

    You guys have fun, but please note that to protect my sanity; I am not going to even look at the ridiculous posts here from this point on. Talk about weird.

  • Martijn Meijering

    It would be simple if that were true.

    It is true. And it’s quite simple to see that as long as you don’t want an HLV for its own sake (or for the sake of jobs, pork, etc). You keep coming up with new “reasons” for an HLV, which is evidence your “reasons” aren’t really why you want an HLV. You’ve already decided you want one and you are trying to talk people into one. That’s irrational or dishonest or both.

    because setting up a base on the Moon without an absurd number of launches and ridiculous rendezvous and fuel transfer antics requires HLVs.

    Calling something absurd or ridiculous doesn’t make it so. Five to ten launches per mission isn’t prohibitive. Hundreds of launches per year are what we need if we are to have RLVs. And without RLVs we can forget about large scale manned exploration and about commercial development of space.

  • Joe

    Oh and before I leave, note that the press release says nothing about manufacturing capability only the delivery of data; which was never in dispute.

    So literally, thanks for nothing.

  • Martijn Meijering

    And the bottom line to your non-existent problem is that ULA thinks that PWR will be able to supply what they need, so why are you worried?

    Not just ULA, but the Pentagon too.

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ July 31st, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Nice research Vladislaw. And what you’re pointing out is that “Joe” was worried about a problem that was successfully addressed by the parties concerned 8 years ago.

    Too bad “Joe” didn’t do a little research before he started assuming the worst about an existing launcher (Atlas V). Of course he assumes the best for a non-existent one (SLS), so maybe that is the type of person he is…

  • Vladislaw

    Joe wrote:

    “That press release to which you link is dated Sept. 24, 2003. Here we are eight later and they have yet to produce a single American Built RD-180″

    1.) Why would they spend millions developing and building an engine that is more expensive than their partner is building it for?

    2.) Who would they sell their engine to at that higher price?

  • Vladislaw

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “Nice research Vladislaw. And what you’re pointing out is that “Joe” was worried about a problem that was successfully addressed by the parties concerned 8 years ago.”

    Gosh Ron, wasn’t there something in the VSE, comments by President Bush, the NASA charter and comments by the current President about more international cooperation?

    Russia builds the engines and their American partner sells them. Seems like a win win unless Russia is our enemy. I have confidence if the DOD wants a domestic RD – 180, they will get a RD – 180. Or else that partnership would not have been given a green light by the military. I would imagine that Pratt and Whitney assured the DOD that if push came to shove they could do it domestically at a higher cost. The partnership is for 101 engines delivered.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ July 31st, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    Oh and before I leave, note that the press release says nothing about manufacturing capability only the delivery of data; which was never in dispute.

    You’re the only one that disputes that PWR has the capability to make the 40 year old RD-180, despite the fact that PWR has a complete set of documentation to do so, and that ULA has an agreement with PWR to be a secondary supplier if needed (which they haven’t been yet). The burden of proof is on you, especially since you raised the doubt.

    The SLS has less documentation percentage-wise than PWR does for the RD-180, but you seem to have far more confidence in the ability of NASA to get it built. Not showing any favoritism are we Joe?

    Please do tell us when the first SLS payload gets funded so we can celebrate that our tax dollars are not being completely wasted. In the meantime Atlas V will keep launching payloads, regardless of your doubts about whose engines it will use.

  • That may be (if there is any rationale) because the RD-180s are considered crew rated due to their heritage from the Russian Buran program.

    There is no such thing as a “crew rated” engine, and if there were, it wouldn’t be so because it flew in a vehicle that had been eventually intended to carry crew.

    The ignorance about human rating continues unabated, apparently.

  • VirgilSamms

    “Hundreds of launches per year are what we need if we are to have RLVs. And without RLVs we can forget about large scale manned exploration and about commercial development of space”

    Science Fiction.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Science Fiction.

    As opposed to … nuclear pulse propulsion? ;-)

    RLVs are not at all controversial technically, it’s just very difficult and expensive to develop them using the arsenal system. Which is why some of us advocate doing it differently.

    Until we have RLVs all the things we space enthusiasts dream of will continue to be science fiction, but when that glorious moment finally arrives, as it assuredly will some day, then all that will become science fact.

    We need RLVs urgently, so we might as well start now…

  • Coastal Ron

    VirgilSamms wrote @ August 1st, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    “Hundreds of launches per year…”

    Science Fiction.

    So far this year there have been 50 launches worldwide, which would be on track for a total of 86 for the year, and I think this has been a slow year.

    What Martijn Meijering was trying to point out is that unless you have demand that starts pushing up against the limits of supply, there won’t be enough motivation to dramatically lower costs or provide new innovation, which in this case would be reusable launch vehicles (RLV’s).

    When that time comes, companies like Boeing will see enough market for flights to invest in the technology and manufacturing that it will take to build a completely reusable transportation system to LEO.

    But one thing is clear – there is still plenty more capacity for launching more rockets today. What is lacking is payloads, both for existing launchers and for your 130mt mega-rockets, but that could change for the commercial marketplace if the prices to get payloads to orbit declined significantly.

    A NASA rocket can’t do that, since they are barred from competing with the private marketplace, so the SLS will always be waiting for Congress to release more money. And in today’s tight budget times, that doesn’t look like a good thing to be depending on…

  • GaryChurch

    “As opposed to … nuclear pulse propulsion?

    RLVs are not at all controversial technically, it’s just very difficult and expensive to develop them using the arsenal system. Which is why some of us advocate doing it differently.”

    Well, Martijn, Nuclear Pulse Propulsion is controversial politically if not technically. With around a trillion in star wars directed energy nuclear weapon research data and a vast arsenal- and a conservative ISP of 100,000- some of us advocate it over chemical RLV’s. Especially since even with a grossly inferior maximum possible performance reusable rockets have never been proven practical.

    Bombs work.

  • Vladislaw

    Martijn Meijering wrote:

    “Until we have RLVs all the things we space enthusiasts dream of will continue to be science fiction, but when that glorious moment finally arrives, as it assuredly will some day, then all that will become science fact.

    We need RLVs urgently, so we might as well start now…”

    Although I do agree that for the industrialization of space we will need reusable launch vehicles I do not see them on the direct path to actually kick start the space economy.

    I believe it is the actual body count in space that is the most important for this stage, and along with that longer duration stays that will require at least one cargo run. If you start crunching the numbers on what a person needs, 43-57 pounds per day, (NASA numbers) just having a modest increase in bodies stationed like 36 – 54, ( a few bigelow station) the cargo demands will start getting into the area that reusable cargo carriers should start to evolve on there own.

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ August 1st, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    I believe it is the actual body count in space that is the most important for this stage…

    I think that’s a good metric.

    Getting payloads and cargo to space is generally a one-way trip, but human traffic for a long time to come will be two-way. And as the number of people increases, so will the hassle factor associated with waiting for the next rocket to be built, and in most cases, suffering ignoble capsule landings (except Dream Chase of course).

    Quicker access, lower costs, better customer experience – these factors are what RLV’s will likely address once the aerospace industry sees a predictable amount of passenger and freight traffic to LEO (and beyond). I think it’s going to take a little while to get there, but as long as the body count keeps rising, that’s the important thing.

  • Oops, goofed HTML
    “Bombs work.”
    But nuclear bombs also produce EMP as a side effect. A big problem for the world’s technological infrastructure if a ship starts nuclear propulsion within several thousand miles of Earth.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Although I do agree that for the industrialization of space we will need reusable launch vehicles I do not see them on the direct path to actually kick start the space economy.

    Oh, I agree. We need them, but trying to build them STS-style, or even COTS-style is probably doomed to failure. My best hope is demand-pull and market forces.

    I believe it is the actual body count in space that is the most important for this stage

    Body count is a decent metric, but I think a more direct metric would be tonnage (or dollar amount) per year launched with launch services tht are procured fairly, competitively and redundantly. And as you’ll know my prime candidate for raising that tonnage is an exploration program. That way you don’t need to launch more people, you just have to send them further.

    On reflection, body count in space is a good metric for measuring how far we’ve come along while tonnage is an indication of how fast we are likely to improve.

  • VirgilSamms

    “-if a ship starts nuclear propulsion within several thousand miles of Earth.”

    Moon.

  • Das Boese

    Rick Boozer wrote @ August 2nd, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    But nuclear bombs also produce EMP as a side effect. A big problem for the world’s technological infrastructure if a ship starts nuclear propulsion within several thousand miles of Earth.

    I don’t think that’s entirely correct, I seem to remember reading up on the mechanics of it a while ago where it said that most of the devastating effects of EMP on the ground are amplified by interactions within a dense atmosphere and the Earth’s magnetic field and it’s only really effective up to a hundred km or so. In space the inverse square law leads to a quick drop off unless you detonate the weapon in the immediate vicinity of a target or use a stupidly large bomb.

    In any case, Gary seems to be advocating the launch of a nuclear-powered spacecraft from the ground, which is, you know, insane.

  • In any case, Gary seems to be advocating the launch of a nuclear-powered spacecraft from the ground, which is, you know, insane.

    Sadly, that doesn’t differentiate it in any useful way from most of Gary’s proposals.

  • @Das Boese
    I realize the inverse square law is in effect. But a long series of pulses, (they’re effect is significantly weakened by distance- one pulse from 500 miles up would have one twenty-fifth the strength of a pulse from 100 miles up) might have as detrimental effect as a single pulse close by, due to the longer acting time.

    But yeah, I totally agree with you. Launching from Earth surface is nuts.

    Gary in his latest comment says he mean’s to launch from the moon, which given current economic realities is about as nutty.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Gary in his latest comment says he mean’s to launch from the moon

    In fairness, he did say that in an earlier thread too. It’s one of his wacky arguments for needing an HLV. As I said the other thread, he either believes you need an HLV to go to the moon at all (in which case he is ignorant), or he is trying to trick people into believing it is (in which case he is being dishonest).

  • vulture4

    Martin: We need RLVs urgently, so we might as well start now…

    We just had one, and we trashed it. We had four technology demonstrator programs (not prototypes for SSTO or operational shutles) and all were canceled under Bush. Most of the CCDev conttractors are at least talking reusability, but the only real RLV projects right now are DOD, the X-37 (in orbit) and the LOX/RP-1 flyback booster (design study). Nevertheless it is certainly possible to build a practical RLV, particularly if e don’t fire all the Shuttle workers before we at least ask what they have learned.

  • Martijn Meijering

    We just had one, and we trashed it.

    Twenty five years late.

    the only real RLV projects right now are DOD, the X-37 (in orbit) and the LOX/RP-1 flyback booster (design study).

    Don’t forget the suborbital people. They’re not in it for suborbit, that’s just a stepping stone to what they want to do eventually, which is an orbital RLV, first unmanned, then manned.

    A large and fiercely competitive propellant launch market in support of an exploration program (any exploration program, manned or unmanned) would lead to a whole host of commercial RLV projects.

    If we start now, this could be operational within three years. Within ten to fifteen years after that we’d have commercial RLVs capable of safely and affordably lifting people to orbit. Then we’ll have become a truly spacefaring civilisation.

    All this could happen within our lifetime. All this could have happened a generation ago if the Shuttle hadn’t happened or a couple of years ago if Shuttle had been cancelled after the loss of Challenger.

  • vulture4

    It is unlikely the suborbital operators can go orbital without NASA help. And NASA apparently does not have anyone left who knows enough about the cost of spacecraft operations to realize that we shouldn’t use them once and throw them away.

  • Martijn Meijering

    All the help they need is funding, and that funding would be available on capital markets once there was a large and fiercely competitive propellant launch market. Whether there is anyone left at NASA who understands you should not throw your spacecraft and especially launchers away would no longer be crucial since NASA would be out of the launch business.

  • Coastal Ron

    vulture4 wrote @ August 10th, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    And NASA apparently does not have anyone left who knows enough about the cost of spacecraft operations to realize that we shouldn’t use them once and throw them away.

    NASA never had anyone to begin with, and cost was never a prime concern of the Shuttle program.

    If it was a major concern then they would have had a serious discussion in the 80′s and 90′s about the Shuttle not meeting it’s cost of operation and flight frequency goals. They didn’t because cost wasn’t an issue.

    The techniques and management knowledge needed for operating a transportation system as efficiently as possible have a lot of commonality between transportation types, so shutting down the Shuttle program is not going to create any knowledge gaps.

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