Congress, NASA

Report estimates SLS/MPCV cost at up to $38 billion through 2021

The Orlando Sentinel reported late today that NASA estimates the cost of its new heavy-lift launch vehicle and crew spacecraft could be as much as $38 billion through 2021. The estimate, from an internal NASA report obtained by the Sentinel, pegged the cost of developing the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) through 2017, the scheduled date of the first, uncrewed test flight of the vehicles, at $17-22 billion. Getting the vehicles ready for their next launch, and the first crewed mission, in late 2021 would be an additional $12-16 billion, bringing the overall cost through 2021 at $29-38 billion.

The article doesn’t go into greater details about the cost estimates, but the numbers given work out to an average cost per year in the first phase of $2.4-3.1 billion (assuming this starts in fiscal year 2011, when Congress appropriated $3 billion in the final continuing resolution for SLS and MPCV.) In the second phase (2018-2021), the cost of preparing the vehicles for crewed missions and carrying out that initial human circumlunar mission would cost an average of $3-4 billion a year.

The sums reported in the article can cause some sticker shock, but the per-year averages are not nearly as bad, and in line with what Congress appropriated in 2011 and has proposed (at least in the House) for 2012. However, there are several caveats to keep in mind. One is that development programs rarely have flat budgets: there will be, presumably, a peak in funding at some point, perhaps around mid-decade, where the program costs will be considerably higher than the average. A second issue is whether even the average funding levels can be sustained over a longer period, particularly in an era of relative fiscal austerity for discretionary programs like NASA. Perhaps the biggest issue, though, is that this is NASA’s own internal budget estimate, and the agency does not have a track record for hewing closely to those original estimates as programs are implemented. A separate independent cost review by Booz Allen Hamilton is in progress, as previously reported; as the Sentinel article notes, “even agency insiders expect Booz Allen Hamilton to come back with a higher price tag given NASA’s history of lowballing initial cost estimates.”

144 comments to Report estimates SLS/MPCV cost at up to $38 billion through 2021

  • SpaceColonizer

    You know that part in the zombie movies where after they shot the zombie already it pops back up and you think to yourself “that’s why you should have double tapped!”? That’s the kind of sensation I’m getting right now. Constellation was killed once before, and when it came back as the SLS, it was like watching a horror movie cliche. Hopefully these new estimates can act as a sufficient warning so we can put the zombie down for good before it “bites” NASA, causing the whole organization to decay.

  • Coastal Ron

    We’re never going to leave planet Earth if every time we want to go somewhere someone says “first we spend $38B on rocket that doesn’t have a defined payload“.

    That’s 10 years of sitting around hoping that the SLS magically gets built on-time and on-budget (fat chance), and that $38B doesn’t even include mission costs, so then we have to wait another 10 years to get that hardware paid for and built.

    We know how to build 919,960 lb modular spacecraft without an HLV (the ISS), and we have under-used American launchers that can put ISS-sized modules into space for far less that it cost us using the Shuttle. $38B would pay for 4,200,000 lbs of mass in LEO if we used Delta IV Heavy, or 35,568,000 lbs of mass into LEO using Falcon Heavy.

    Why are we dinking around with the SLS, when we could be out exploring space?

    • ken anthony

      You make too much sense Ron. I’m afraid that instead of pausing two seconds for thought they will read right past you. This is why commerce should take the lead.

  • Major Tom

    Cripes… what is it with $35-40 billion development cost estimates and NASA-designed human space flight projects?

    Steve Cook, the original Ares I manager, estimated Ares I/Orion costs through first flight at $35 billion.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/18/science/space/18nasa.html?_r=1&ref=us

    Doug Cooke, the Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems, also estimated Ares I/Orion costs through IOC at $36 billion.

    http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_space_thewritestuff/2009/07/what-are-the-real-costs-of-nasas-constellation-program.html

    And the Orlando Sentinel pegged Ares I/Orion development at $40 billion.

    http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2009-05-06/news/Shuttle_1_orion-rocket-plan-for-nasa

    Not including launch, the International Space Station has cost $35-40 billion to develop.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14505278/ns/technology_and_science-space/t/whats-cost-space-station/

    And now MPCV/SLS comes in at $38 billion to develop? The repeatability of these numbers is unreal. It’s like the agency can’t do anything new on its own in human space flight unless U.S. taxpayers first make a downpayment of $35-40 billion.

    $38 billion would pay for the development of 14 different EELV-class launch vehicle families with a few billion dollars to spare. (The Atlas V and Delta IV cost about $5 billion total to develop, including Boeing, LockMart, and USAF investment.)

    $38 billion would pay for the development of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle 97 times over. (Falcon 9 cost $390 million in total SpaceX and government investment.)

    $38 billion would pay for the launch of over 125 Delta IV Heavy launch vehicles (at about $300 million each), which would put over 2.8 million kilograms of payload in LEO. That’s more mass than six International Space Stations.

    $38 billion would pay for more than 16 Mars Science Lab (MSL) missions at $2.3 billion each.

    $38 billion would pay for 76% of the cost of the $50 billion JSC cost estimate for Zubrin’s Mars Direct humans-to-Mars architecture.

    $38 billion for a launch vehicle and a human capsule just for ETO transport is insane. There’s so much more NASA could do with that money.

    Sigh…

  • Robert G. Oler

    Wow SLS is going to cost enormous sums of money…what a surprise, shock, dismay…zounds …RGO

  • Alan

    I’m neither shocked nor surprised with the estimated cost.

  • Major Tom

    Gotta love this passage from the Orlando Sentinel article:

    “One champion of the new government-run rocket program, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said in 2010 that if NASA cannot build a new heavy-lift rocket by 2016 for $11.5 billion, ‘we ought to question whether or not we can build a rocket.’

    When asked about the preliminary cost and schedule estimates — and whether Nelson stood by that statement — Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin wrote in an email: ‘… everything is under review by OMB [Office of Management and Budget] and others and subject to change.’”

    A couple weeks ago a certain Senate committee was issuing subpoenas because NASA couldn’t confirm an SLS design until OMB had an independent cost estimate. Now that numbers are leaking out showing the Senate Launch System is three times what the Senate budgeted for, it’s okay that OMB is obtaining an independent cost estimate and that NASA is taking time to make sure that the numbers are right.

    What an remarkable turnaround…

  • josh

    sls will never ever fly. bush ruined the nation’s finances for the next few decades (if the us will ever recover is an open question) so there is no way in hell the money will be there for pork like this. maybe for a few years and then someone will pull the plug. nasa will have accomplished nothing and spend a few billion in the process. don’t kid yourself, commercial is our only hope for manned spaceflight now.

  • Egad

    > there are several caveats to keep in mind.

    Another might be the question, “What are we, as in ‘We, the People’ getting for this money?” A BFR and a capsule with no identified reasons to exist other than to serve as a back-up and ill-suited ISS support vehicle, as far as one can tell at the moment.

  • common sense

    I’d be crying if it was not so serious. AAA+ to AA+ and people think we’ll have an SLS and an MPCV? I think they ought to take their out of their… err… the sand. As I said think NASA budget minus (you know like in subtraction) $5B: Our next step to SLS. I wonder how these coming elections will look like. Monday seems to be an interesting day to come for the NYSE.

    Oh well. I guess we won’t have a sidemount either.

  • In 2009, NASA was spending approximately $3 billion a year on the space shuttle program, $2 billion a year on the ISS program, and $3.4 billion a year for the Constellation program. That’s $8.4 billion a year for manned spaceflight related development and activities. And over a ten year period that would be $84 billion.

    So I don’t know how you can call a mere $38 billion over ten years sticker shock (that’s less than the cost of occupying Iraq for four months)!

    Continuing the LEO on steroids ISS program at currently $3 billion a year would cost $30 billion over the next 10 years all by itself.

  • Rhyolite

    “bringing the overall cost through 2021 at $29-38 billion”

    Ares I/Orion was going to be about $40 billion and was going to take 12 years to first manned flight (2005 to 2017). Are we to believe that NASA is going to manage to build a launch vehicle that is three times as large and achieve a manned launch faster (10 years, 2011 to 2021) for less money? History suggest these cost and schedule estimates are way too optimistic.

  • Das Boese

    There’s another caveat you missed, though it hardly bears repeating:

    Even if they can keep the cost from peaking too much, funding is sustained and they stay within the initial estimate…
    …there is no money to develop the sort of gargantuan payloads that would require this rocket.

    Nuts.

  • Robert G. Oler

    This is the coup de grace of SLS…38 billion really is 50 or so billion but lets stick with the numbers…40 billion is 8 Ford Class CVN’s.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Michael from Iowa

    And there we have it ladies and gentlemen – the final nail in the SLS coffin.

  • Fred Willett

    Harking back to the 2011 Whitehouse appropriation request for NASA ($19B) the exploration budget was only $4.2B of that. So if the SLS is going to cost $4B a year then what is NASA going to use to actually build payloads?
    And if, no when, the budget shrinks?
    Bear in mind NASA’s budget has already been cut back quite a bit from the $19B Obama originally requested.
    When I first heard this plan where the SLS only launches once a year starting in 2017 I tried working on the assumption of an operating cost of $1B per year for SLS for its one launch a year, and at that sort of cost I couldn’t see how NASA was going to afford it. But at $3-4B a year? With shrinking budgets?

  • Fred Willett

    Of course there is one way NASA can make this work.
    Ignore the budget and hope. It worked for Constellation….. didn’t it?

  • Aggelos

    38 bi..
    Jesus..

    If they are serious,,
    Just scrap the plans ,and give Elon 3 bi to build his Falcon xxx adult rocket..

    With 50t Falcon heavy in 3 years from now..

    really,,scrap it,,its not worth it..

  • Martijn Meijering

    $38B, how can that be? We’ve just heard Marcel F. Williams tell us a family of SLS launchers would be simpler (much simpler even) and cheaper than competitively procured launch services!

  • Michael from Iowa wrote:

    And there we have it ladies and gentlemen – the final nail in the SLS coffin.

    Not gonna happen. Too many porking members of Congress with their snouts in the NASA trough. It’ll take more than a bloated cost estimate to kill SLS. Remember, these are the politicians who took it upon themselves to design a rocket, and then told NASA to go build it for the amount of money they said it should cost. It was like telling Boeing to build a jet fighter they designed out of Lincoln Logs for $1.49 and be sure it can fly at Mach 10.

    It’s just one more sign that our political system is broken.

    And while I generally try to honor Jeff’s request we not stray from space politics, I do think that the American people deserve some blame for this mess. I was a political consultant for many years. My mantra has always been that the voters get what they deserve. Most voters don’t pay attention, and choose candidates for reasons that have nothing to do with logic.

    We’re seeing that now with Congress — the voters elected Tea Party kooks whose goal was to crash the government. Well, mission accomplished.

    I cringed when the Space Coast elected Rep. Sandy Adams. Even before she took office, she published an opinion column in which she claimed U.S. astronauts were being forced to fly on Chinese rockets. Florida Today warned before the election that her lack of knowledge about U.S. space policy is “appalling.”

    So should we be surprised when people like Adams deliberately try to crash the economy?!

    Unless we the voters start paying attention and vote for candidates who actually have some smarts, we’re in for more of the same. And that includes using NASA as their personal pork barrel.

  • Vladislaw

    Let’s add 3 billion to that budget of 38 billion and include SpaceX for a HLLV and build the two systems side by side. I would like to see what happens to the two programs as they progress and who does the most in the bend metal department.

  • Alan

    the voters elected Obama whose goal was to crash the government. Well, mission accomplished.

    I’ve corrected his statement.

  • Alan

    Since we’re borrowing 42 cents of every dollar spent by Washington, we’re well past the day of being able to pour at least $38B down the hole for some porkulus spending for employment in UT, AL and FL on a Rocket to Nowhere with No Mission.

    The will be no money for ANY payloads!!! And no weak excuses about a “field of dreams” – you’re living in a liberal hollywood fantasy.

    Enough is enough. this needs to end. this needs to stop.

    We can pay for a helluva lot of Atlas V launches AND build in-country RD-180s or a home-grown replacement AND prop depot research/demonstrators/stations for that amount of cash.

    It is NOT WORTH IT.

  • Major Tom

    “We’re seeing that now with Congress — the voters elected Tea Party kooks whose goal was to crash the government. Well, mission accomplished.”

    To be fair, although they may share blame for yesterday’s credit downgrade, no Tea Party freshmen in the House are responsible for SLS. SLS has been driven over the cliff by a few long-standing Senators on both sides of the aisle: Hatch, Hutchison, Nelson, Shelby, et al.

    FWIW…

  • Michael from Iowa

    @Stephen
    The House is currently proposing $2 billion in cuts to NASA’s budget on top of shutting down the JWST because “we can’t afford to spend as much on space”. There’s no way you’ll get the majority of Congress on board with dropping twenty times that on a rocket that won’t fly for ten years.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ August 5th, 2011 at 10:57 pm
    “So I don’t know how you can call a mere $38 billion over ten years sticker shock (that’s less than the cost of occupying Iraq for four months)!”

    If all you get out of that “mere” $38B are a couple of flights in ten years (with no payload for those flights, oops!) it’s really easy to call it sticker shock. In fact, there are a lot of other things you can call it as well.

    As if occupying Iraq does not produce sticker shock?

  • Alan

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ August 5th, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    In 2009, NASA was spending approximately $3 billion a year on the space shuttle program, $2 billion a year on the ISS program, and $3.4 billion a year for the Constellation program. That’s $8.4 billion a year for manned spaceflight related development and activities.

    Let’s use your numbers for a minute – that means that we were spending $6.4B on getting to LEO and $2B on doing thing one we got to LEO.

    That $6.4B could have developed Delta IV Heavy, “man-rated” Atlas V, built a couple commercial craft (CST-100, Dreamchaser/HL-20), and development of LOX/LH2 Prop Depots (plus bought a few BA-330′s).

  • Anton

    How is it possible that spaceX can build a 53 metricT launcher for max 1B$ and it will cost NASA at least 38B$ to build a 70 metricT launcher? Why can SpaceX do it a factor 38 (!) cheaper?

  • common sense

    @ Alan wrote @ August 6th, 2011 at 9:34 am

    “the voters elected Obama whose goal was to crash the government. Well, mission accomplished.

    I’ve corrected his statement.”

    History revisionism at work? When did the crash start? Do you know?

  • Bill Hensley

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the average run rate is about equal to what Congress wants to give them – $3 billion a year. I’d be willing to bet that the way they came up with the $38 billion estimate is by assuming a run rate and calculating how many years it would take to build the thing – not the other way around. All that simply proves that NASA’s overheads are too high to accomplish anything on a reasonable budget. I hope this doesn’t kill the agency, but I do hope it leads to a fundamental change in the way they do projects.

    On a good day I like to imagine that’s what Congress was thinking when they insisted NASA build SLS in five years for $15 billion. Maybe their real message was, “This is plenty of time and money if you can reform the agency.” But then I think…Naaahhh. It’s hard to give Congress that much credit.

    Still, we’ve already got good indications that public-private partnerships like COTS, CRS and CCDev are the way to go. I hope this crisis leads to a recognition that this new approach is the only way forward for NASA.

  • To be fair, although they may share blame for yesterday’s credit downgrade

    The credit downgrade was caused by a belated recognition that the current political class is not going to do anything serious about getting the nation’s finances in order. It had nothing to do with the Tea Party.

  • @Marcel Williams
    “So I don’t know how you can call a mere $38 billion over ten years sticker shock (that’s less than the cost of occupying Iraq for four months)! “

    And that is part of the reality-disconnect of SLS, when adherents refer to an amount as large $38 billion as a “mere” amount during austere economic times. You are indeed this blog’s equivalent of Lewis Carroll’s White Queen. Hell, $38 billion dollars is serious money even in economic prosperity. It is that kind of Alfred E. Newman “What me worry?” attitude toward project costs that got NASA into this predicament to begin via Constellation.

    For one thing Marcel, there was not a debt ceiling panel during those years you mentioned. Because of that panel, NASA and everything else will get substantial cuts. Hello! Elephant in the Room! When are you and the other SLS huggers going to quit running away from the real problem with SLS?

    What is even more stupid is that even with no decreases in the proposed budget for SLS, that budget is less than half of $38 billion. So even under the best of conditions, how could it possibly be built anywhere near a reasonable timeline?

    Marcel, when are you going to seriously address this problem? How can NASA posssibly get around it and build SLS? YOU NEVER SAY.

  • Egad

    > SLS has been driven over the cliff by a few long-standing Senators on both sides of the aisle: Hatch, Hutchison, Nelson, Shelby, et al.

    True, but incomplete. None of those are capable of coming up with SLS as it appears in legislation by themselves. Somebody had to convince them that those were the words to use to steer pork their way and that the effort wouldn’t blow up in their faces. Aside from the obvious business interests, there are murky indications that “somebody” included committee staff members and maybe dissident factions within NASA wedded to Constellation or maybe just to BFRs. One hopes that the mechanisms that produced this porkulent piece of sausage will eventually come to light.

  • DCSCA

    “Unless we the voters start paying attention and vote for candidates who actually have some smarts, we’re in for more of the same.”

    Voters did, in fact, elect a CIC with ‘smarts’ who is clearly befuddled if not overwhelmed by the challenges of economic collapse. The results- ‘more of the same.’ The nation needs another FDR. Or JFK. It needs a ‘Capitain Kirk’ on the bridge. Instead, it has installed a ‘Mr. Spock.’ A space agency that proposes a luxury expense like a ‘new heavy-lift launch vehicle and crew spacecraft [costing] $38 billion through 2021′ is in need of getting in touch with the very down-to-earth realities of what’s going on in it’s own backyard on this planet. The proposal will be rejected in the Age of Austerity. It’ll never get off the ground with costs like that– and it is most likely a low-ball number as well.

  • GeeSpace

    If the cost estimates are correctly reported, this looks like a repeat of President George H. W. Bush’s “90 day Report” again. All big, fancy items with no real focus on missions or pirposes,

  • Bob Mahoney

    One reason the SLS was born (jobs/pork being the another, of course…one can argue over the relative percentages) was the seeming absence of NASA being focused on doing something specific under the current Administration’s space policy, its (as I described it previously in one of my essays) “How to go everywhere and nowhere at the same time.” Many Americans (and their reps in Congress) sensed a vacuum of ideas and goals amid all the discussion of infinite possibilities and “mere technology advancement” while that which was Constellation was being slashed and burned.

    While high cost estimates (in particular their remarkable consistency, as pointed out above) will go a long way toward lessening the desirability of the SLS and undermining the illusory premise that exploration requires heavy lift, a strong additional step toward making SLS elimination more palatable would be for NASA to define a concrete architecture of lunar return, asteroid sorties, and Martian orbit missions built upon the establishment of a sustainable cislunar transportation infrastructure that exploits the other core elements of the administration’s policy alongside other enabling technologies/capabilities: commercial LEO crew access, EELVs, fuel depots, MPCV, Bigelow modules, etc.

    For many, it’s not a matter of precisely how one accomplishes a goal, it is merely the firm perception that a specific goal is in fact being pursued, that will permit them to embrace a new reality. In that same essay I suggested that it would be difficult for many to let go of the near-culturally-iconic notion of NASA astronauts flying on NASA spacecraft. The SLS/MPCV remnant of Constellation was designed in part to fulfill this expectation. If only NASA were permitted to define an overarching strategy with specific goals sequentially defined—without the SLS but with the other elements—this expectation might be satisfied.

    Then, perhaps, we would all have a sense again that we were going somewhere…besides deeper into debt.

  • “Continuing the LEO on steroids ISS program at currently $3 billion a year would cost $30 billion over the next 10 years all by itself.”
    It would if we were going to rely on the Russians for that entire 10 years. But not if commercial crew takes over as it should, assuming it isn’t robbed by the money hungry SLS to make a dent in its short-fall.

  • amightywind

    The price is right! Let’s cut metal.

  • Jeff Foust

    A reminder to, as always, keep your comments focused on the topic of the post and not on general political issues. Your cooperation is appreciated.

  • Michael from Iowa

    @amightywind

    And were the hell are we supposed to get the funding for this? The House is already proposing a $2 billion CUT to NASA’s budget, and now we find that the SLS will cost three times its congressional budget – NASA would probably have to shut down nearly every tech program and unmanned science mission to free up enough funding to get SLS running by the end of the decade.

    Are you really that obsessed, that deluded that you’d rather see NASA scrap nearly every program its running, burn entire departments to the ground, just to keep something resembling Constellation alive?

  • vulture4

    The idea the NASA needs an arbitrary “concrete goal” that it will then spend billions on, like some sort of billion dollar concrete canoe race, is just plain silly. What is the “concrete goal” of the NIH, the NSF, the NIST, the DOE, the DOD? I would suggest that anyone pining over Constellation first learn why we went to the moon in the first place. It wasn’t “because it is hard.”

    I am equally distressed by the demeaning attitude of so many in NASA toward Lori Garver, who appears to think before she acts and seems to be intent on making NASA research and development practical and relevant to the future of America, something that hasn’t been high on the priority list.

    As for SLS and MPCV, the Obama administration rightly attempted to cancel Constellation, and has not yet succeeded in doing so. The sooner we pull the plug on these turkeys, the better.

  • Alan

    amightywind wrote @ August 6th, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    The price is right! Let’s cut metal.

    We’ll use your VISA card.

  • amightywind

    And were the hell are we supposed to get the funding for this?

    By gutting…er…reforming Social Security and Medicare. The amount required equals the cost of 1 month’s fraud in both programs. I would rather fund NASA than pensions people haven’t earned.

    Are you really that obsessed, that deluded that you’d rather see NASA scrap nearly every program its running, burn entire departments to the ground, just to keep something resembling Constellation alive?

    Yes.

  • Vladislaw

    “That $6.4B could have developed Delta IV Heavy, “man-rated” Atlas V, built a couple commercial craft (CST-100, Dreamchaser/HL-20), and development of LOX/LH2 Prop Depots (plus bought a few BA-330′s).”

    Toss in what was wasted on Constellation and we could have did it three times over and been launching.already. That doesn’t really matter to the no competition, cost plus, NASA/BIGROCKET club.

    You could show them a parking lot of 100′s of modules that could be funded and launched on currently available launch systems. It has to be NASA and it has to be big that is the bottom line.

  • @Doug Lassiter

    “If all you get out of that “mere” $38B are a couple of flights in ten years (with no payload for those flights, oops!) it’s really easy to call it sticker shock. In fact, there are a lot of other things you can call it as well.

    As if occupying Iraq does not produce sticker shock?”

    Congress requested that the administration submit near term cis-lunar missions for the SLS to them. And all Holdren and the Obama administration could come up with was one unmanned flyby of the Moon and then, 4 years later, one manned flyby of the Moon:-) A manned and unmanned redux of Apollo 8??? They should be ashamed of themselves!

    No mention of lunar orbital missions, no Langrange point missions to L1, L2, L4, and L5. No lunar base or lunar sortie missions. No deployment of the largest Bigelow space stations.

    Obviously, Congress is going to have to mandate missions for the SLS too since the Obama administration either lacks the imagination to do so or more probably just doesn’t want to use the SLS in any meaningful way.

    Commercial crew, by the way, is also going to cost NASA more than $30 billion over the next ten years just for continuing the ISS as a make-work program for the emerging manned spaceflight companies.

    The Apollo program, by the way, during the peak of its development was costing NASA more than $33 billion per year in today’s dollars. So SLS funding is nearly ten times cheaper.

    And, please, spending $3.8 billion a year on the SLS program is no comparison to spending over $100 billion a year occupying Iraq! But if you think those numbers are equal then I’ll give you $3.8 billion and you can give me $100 billion and we’ll call it even:-)

  • @Alan

    “Let’s use your numbers for a minute – that means that we were spending $6.4B on getting to LEO and $2B on doing thing one we got to LEO.

    That $6.4B could have developed Delta IV Heavy, “man-rated” Atlas V, built a couple commercial craft (CST-100, Dreamchaser/HL-20), and development of LOX/LH2 Prop Depots (plus bought a few BA-330′s).”

    Continuing the ISS program as a make-work program for the commercial crew is going to cost us $3 billion a year ($30 billion over ten years). That’s $30 billion that NASA could have used for beyond LEO missions.

  • @Rick Boozer

    Even if you totally eliminated NASA and its budget it would have no significant impact on reducing the debt since NASA expenditures are less than 0.6% of total budget expenditures. The NASA budget is just too tiny.

    But it would have a significant negative effect on our technological advancement and economic growth.

  • common sense

    @ amightywind wrote @ August 6th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    “Are you really that obsessed, that deluded that you’d rather see NASA scrap nearly every program its running, burn entire departments to the ground, just to keep something resembling Constellation alive?

    Yes.”

    It must be liberating to come out on this. At least you’re starting to address the problem you have with this: Obsession and delusion. Nice progress, nice progress. Let’s hope you just started a trend and that all those who wish to keep SLS/MPCV will eventually be as honest as you are and then we’ll start the treatment. It’s never too late you know.

  • Frank Glover

    @ Costal Ron:

    “Why are we dinking around with the SLS, when we could be out exploring space?”

    Because many of those with authority see me for those they represent (and thereby themselves) in the former, and hardly consider the latter…

    And because too many others think that something like the former is a prerequisite for the latter, as we did it that way once before. But back then, time was more important than affordability, and that attitude went away soon after the narrow goal was achieved. (even to the point of not flying the last two of that era’s HLV.). It has not returned. Today, ‘good’ and ‘cheap’ trump ‘fast.’

    @ Major Tom:

    “$38 billion for a launch vehicle and a human capsule just for ETO transport is insane. There’s so much more NASA could do with that money.”

    Assuming we could even keep ISS operating while doing that. Without that (and this system would have no commercial value for transport to commercial stations from Bigelow or anyone else), all you could do is replicate Apollo 7 until (and if) the HLV and Lunar lander became available.

    I never thought I’d say this, but where’s William Proxmire, when you need him? If this isn’t ‘Golden Fleece’ bait, I don’t know what is…

    @amightywind

    “The price is right! Let’s cut metal.”

    (blink-blink)

    You know, this might be worth it to get a Federation starship, or even just the warp drive…but only to get a BFR without even the payloads to do something with it? Excuse me while I pick up my jaw…

    “By gutting…er…reforming Social Security and Medicare.”

    Good luck with that. If somehow that happened, it would go to servicing the debt, long before SLS ever saw a dime of it.

    “Yes.”

    You’ve peaked. You’ve reached the top of the arc.I don’t think anything you can ever say again, will surpass this one post…

  • Doug Lassiter

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ August 6th, 2011 at 4:25 pm
    “Congress requested that the administration submit near term cis-lunar missions for the SLS to them. And all Holdren and the Obama administration could come up with was one unmanned flyby of the Moon and then, 4 years later, one manned flyby of the Moon:-) A manned and unmanned redux of Apollo 8??? They should be ashamed of themselves!”

    There is no argument, in a cost-unconstrained world, about the huge range of exciting missions one could do with an SLS. But back in the real world, where dollars don’t grow on trees, responsible minds have to prevail when asked about realizable capabilities. As I said, when you spend $3B/year on an SLS, who’s paying for the payload? We could afford to send 50 metric tons of rocks to the Moon, I guess, but that’s not something that will “inspire” the next generation of scientists and engineers, nor really constitute “exploration” in the minds of the public.

    The idea that if an SLS happens, then funding for payloads (deep space habs, landers, etc.) will magically appear, is preposterous.

    Congress can “mandate missions” up the kazoo, but if they’re not willing to put their dollars on the table, then their mandates are laughable. Just as for NASA proposing missions they know they can’t afford. The congressional mandate for Constellation worked that way. The dollars to be able to responsibly build and use and HLV weren’t on the table. They still aren’t. The SLS is a launcher. Not a mission. You need a payload for a mission, and payloads aren’t cheap.

    Re the cost of Apollo, again, your justification of funding for ambitious missions is a bit bizarre. They’re fundable because they’re cheaper than Iraq? OK, stop our deployment in Iraq and bring those dollars home where we can use some of them for ambitious space missions. Yes, Congress. It’s about you. You have to pull that plug. It’s fundable because it’s cheaper than Apollo? Apollo was about beating the Soviet Union. It did that. We don’t have a Cold War going on anymore with missles aimed at us that would spur that kind of huge investment in competition. Show me the money, and then we can start wagging fingers about not using it.

    Now what has changed the equation is the involvement of commercial, and the prospect that NASA’s estimate for the cost of doing things might not pertain anymore.

  • “Even if you totally eliminated NASA and its budget it would have no significant impact on reducing the debt since NASA expenditures are less than 0.6% of total budget expenditures. The NASA budget is just too tiny. “
    Of course that’s true. I’ve known that for decades. Heck everybody who reads this blog has known that, but what does that have to do with what is actually going to happen with NASA’s budget? The NASA budget will not be raised. Even in good times it was never raised significantly after Apollo. Don’t you understand? Everything is going to be cut. I don’t like it any more than you do. But you still haven’t answered the question. How can SLS be finished given the fact that the budget will not be increased?

  • common sense

    @ Bob Mahoney wrote @ August 6th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    “If only NASA were permitted to define an overarching strategy with specific goals sequentially defined—without the SLS but with the other elements—this expectation might be satisfied.”

    I agree, yet another time. Must be the “evolution” process… I think that it was the premise of the FY11 plan. For some reason NASA is only allowed 90 day like studies nowadays. Must be because the Moon or Mars or NEOs are soon to leave our solar system? Don’t know, just asking.

    So we’re in for rough waters ahead. How about we take all this time we are soon to have and build the LEO commercial transportation infrastructure. Concurrently NASA and partners start addressing the big picture. Make a modular, evolvable (argh again evolution!) architecture withs Plan As, Bs and maybe Cs and Ds. But how about we start thinking.

    No more Moon firsters, Mars firsters or whatever-firsters. Get all the people in one room and get them to think. Will be hard though since just like anyone else’s MY plan is the best plan ever. But how about we give it a try?

    And if those who despise commercial space had at least watched the New Space 2011 conference they would see that these people do NOT want to end NASA, recognize NASA, some are even Moon ISRU advocates (can you believe this?) and that some prominent industry (aka Old Space) are part of it.

    Whenever we are in deep down maybe we’ll start thinking. Maybe too late though but who cares? I want an HLV a real big HLV with SRBs and flames all around making a lot of noise just like my SUV!!! Dog darn it!

    Oh well…

  • josh

    hmm, anyone else think mighty is a troll? or maybe he really is that crazy, it’s hard to tell…

    i asked this over on spacetransportnews too: how long will it take for sls to be cancelled. i think we all agree it will be but when? my guess is 2015 at the very latest, but possibly as early as this year.

  • Sorry last sentence should have read:
    How can SLS be finished given the fact that the budget will be cut?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ August 6th, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    “Even if you totally eliminated NASA and its budget it would have no significant impact on reducing the debt since NASA expenditures are less than 0.6% of total budget expenditures. The NASA budget is just too tiny. ”

    that is just wrong.

    Deciding which Federal programs to cut and which to fund is a series of making a lot of small cuts…it is not just saying “we wont fund XXXXX” and it is a requirement to tackle things which have long term funding “bombs” built in…

    This is SLS. 40-55 billion barely gets you to a “rocket” with a capsule on top…which can launch 1 or 2 times a year…It doesnt get you to any serious “exploration” after the capsule one needs a “lander” of some sort (unless one wants to go to the asteriod thing)…and if you or Wind’s suggestion is followed and the Congress creates new payloads for SLS then those would have to be paid for.

    These are called “escalators” in the federal government and SLS is full of them.

    The entire federal budget is full of these small programs that balloon into large sums. And this is assuming that SLS could be done for anything associated with the stated cost, it cant.

    Worse for your line above. SLS is not a technology maker…nor is it an infrastructure maker that produces JOBS that have any value past the federal payroll…meaning just like shuttle if the funding goes away so do the jobs.

    What we really need in This country is “investment” dollars that like the interstate highway, when they are done being spent, have left infrastructure that private industry can take advantage of. There is nothing in that description for SLS.

    NASA HSF right now does not produce technology it consumes it…Spending at NASA has less multiplier then unemployment does.

    Sorry you are advocating that are not going to happen SLS is dead RGO

  • Alan

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ August 6th, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    But it would have a significant negative effect on our technological advancement and economic growth.

    Lots of arm-waiving, but short on hard facts.

  • SpaceMan

    can you all say pork ?

    PORK, PORK, PORK…

  • Rhyolite

    Anton wrote @ August 6th, 2011 at 11:43 am

    “How is it possible that spaceX can build a 53 metricT launcher for max 1B$ and it will cost NASA at least 38B$ to build a 70 metricT launcher? Why can SpaceX do it a factor 38 (!) cheaper?”

    Basically, it comes down to carrying the Shuttle infrastructure. That infrastructure costs $200M per month even if it isn’t doing anything, which works out to $2.4B/yr and $24B over the next 10 years. No cost effective launch vehicle is ever going to come of the shuttle heritage.

    It would be much more cost effective to derive an HLV, assuming one is even necessary, from our existing fleets of medium launch vehicles, as SpaceX is doing. At the very least, the infrastructure costs for those vehicles are borne by paying customers with actual missions.

  • Michael from Iowa wrote:

    The House is currently proposing $2 billion in cuts to NASA’s budget on top of shutting down the JWST because “we can’t afford to spend as much on space”. There’s no way you’ll get the majority of Congress on board with dropping twenty times that on a rocket that won’t fly for ten years.

    They’ll cut programs that don’t bring a significant number of jobs to their districts. Nobody cares much about JWST. They want to eliminate the aeronautics part of NASA, they want to kill climate change research, anything that doesn’t send big $$$ to their districts. They’ll kill commercial crew and cargo before they kill SLS. It’s because the House and Senate space committees are comprised largely of politicians elected from districts that represent either space centers and/or major contractors with a lot of jobs, AKA voters.

    If they really cared about closing the gap, all that SLS money would have gone into commercial crew and we’d have astronauts flying again on U.S. craft by 2014 if not sooner.

    Most of the House and Senate rely on the votes of their “expert” subcommittees, unless a particular provision somehow personally affects their own pork. So anything that comes out of a subcommittee will probably be adopted by their own body — but what happens in the other chamber is another matter. In the end, it will boil down to a conference committee between the two chambers which will hammer out a compromise.

    Elsewhere …

    I was out on the reservation today at KSC when an apparent controlled burn began near the VAB. Click here to see a photo. At times, the column was even bigger than what you see in the photo. I checked with KSC security and was told it’s a controlled burn, but at times I had to wonder.

  • Bob Mahoney

    @vulture4:
    The idea the NASA needs an arbitrary “concrete goal” that it will then spend billions on, like some sort of billion dollar concrete canoe race, is just plain silly. What is the “concrete goal” of the NIH, the NSF, the NIST, the DOE, the DOD? I would suggest that anyone pining over Constellation first learn why we went to the moon in the first place. It wasn’t “because it is hard.”

    Please don’t misrepresent my post with such oversimplifications & recastings. (And is there anything more silly than hiding behind a tag like ‘vulture’?)

    No, not an arbitrary goal, but a coherent strategy for pursuing specific exploration objectives…presuming the nation wants to get people & industry out into space, which numerous polls seem to indicate it still wants to do.

    While you may not recognize the reality of it, NASA’s mission differs from that of the other agencies you listed, in particular as it has been embraced by the public at large. [And those agencies DO have concrete goals, btw, just not any that compare closely to the nature of space exploration.] Yes, it is a research agency, but in addition it remains something else, a highly visible vehicle for the public’s deeper yearnings to explore and find satisfaction for their deeper appetites by relishing and rejoicing in the accomplishments of others. People across the globe cheer for their own home team, whether the field be soccer, football, skiing, gymnastics, etc. In certain very specific ways, NASA serves as the US nation’s home team in the fields of space science and exploration.

    One can dismiss or ignore such an analysis on the stark page of an accountant’s balance sheet, but nonetheless NASA does fulfill such a role. Sometimes it does a better job and sometimes it does a worse job, but it is a role that the American people bestowed upon NASA and they continue to expect NASA to fulfill it. Why else would a recent poll suggest that, now that the reality of it has hit them, half view retirement of the shuttle as a mistake, while a strong majority confidently expect another vehicle to take its place? If NASA was just another “NIH” or “DOE”, would one expect such strong sentiments to get voiced?

    And do not suggest that I am pining over the loss of the Constellation architecture, or paint me as a supporter of NASA-only Apollo-style exploration. And I am fully aware of why Apollo happened, and it was in part “because it was hard”—otherwise achieving its geopolitical objective would have been an empty accomplishment.

    The greatest perceived fault of the current administration’s space policy was its lack of a specific exploration strategy for human spaceflight, which explains in part why so many folks have become convinced that it is advocating the end of US human spaceflight and why (in part) the Congress is imposing SLS & MPCV upon NASA.

    I am suggesting that defining such a specific strategy that employs the administration’s own proposed elements would assist in broadening the acceptance of the new paradigm it is supposedly trying to implement. “Do research” and “Let’s go somewhere eventually” simply aren’t cutting it.

    [As for the spending of billions on it...one could always choose not to spend anything on it, and thereby fulfill the perceptions of those same folks... But more reasonably, the nation has for decades been comfortable with spending ~1/2% of annual outlays on such endeavors. I am merely presuming that this will continue. I happen to believe that spending billions on something "concrete" (or, more accurately, on a number of specific somethings that make up a sustainable, growing architecture) is better than spending billions on numerous ill-defined promises because such "concrete" serves to focus the necessary research and impose choices on the involved players. There is nothing more expensive than a govt program unhindered by specfic objectives to meet.]

  • Rhyolite

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ August 6th, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    “But it would have a significant negative effect on our technological advancement and economic growth.”

    SLS could have been built in 1975. There is absolutely nothing in it that represents technological advancement. In the mean time, all of the actual technology development accounts are getting gutted to pay for it.

  • E.P. Grondine

    I am amazed at how the DIRECT TEAM’s estimate and this one came to differ by so much.

  • @Doug Lassiter

    “There is no argument, in a cost-unconstrained world, about the huge range of exciting missions one could do with an SLS. But back in the real world, where dollars don’t grow on trees, responsible minds have to prevail when asked about realizable capabilities. As I said, when you spend $3B/year on an SLS, who’s paying for the payload? We could afford to send 50 metric tons of rocks to the Moon, I guess, but that’s not something that will “inspire” the next generation of scientists and engineers, nor really constitute “exploration” in the minds of the public.

    The idea that if an SLS happens, then funding for payloads (deep space habs, landers, etc.) will magically appear, is preposterous.”

    NASA’s manned space related budget is around $8 billion. So $3.8 billion still leaves you with $4.2 billion a year for other things. Since Congress and the President want to use the ISS as workfare for the commercial crew program, that takes about another $3 billion out of the budget. That would still leave NASA with an additional $1.2 billion a year to develop a single stage lunar lander (6 to 12 billion in development cost). Of course, if NASA terminated the ISS program in 2016, they’d have plenty of money for beyond LEO programs. But I’ll assume that the ISS corporate work-fare program is finally terminated in 2020.

    If we assume that the recurring cost for the SLS in 2020 is about $3 billion a year (similar to the cost of the shuttle program), that would still leave you with $5 billion dollars a year to fund lunar landers and their lunar base related payloads. Also, if those single stage lunar landers utilize lunar fuel resources and are reusable (perhaps 5 to 10 times?), recurring lunar lander cost could be substantially reduced.

  • sc220

    Goodbye SLS/Ares V/ALS/NLS/SDCLV/… It was nice knowing ye!!

  • @Oler

    “What we really need in This country is “investment” dollars that like the interstate highway, when they are done being spent, have left infrastructure that private industry can take advantage of. There is nothing in that description for SLS.”

    The SLS family of rocket configurations will give us a highway all the way to the precious water resources at the lunar poles so that America’s emerging private spaceflight companies won’t have to import cheap space depot fuel of lunar origin from China, Russia, Japan, or India. Better to grow jobs here than over there.

    The SLS family of rockets will also allow the US to dominate the space tourism and space hotel business by being the only rocket capable of launching Bigelow’s largest space station, the 65 tonne plus BA-2100.

    The SLS family of rocket will allow us to deploy huge reusable light sails at the Lagrange points capable of capturing small 100 tonne plus asteroids for return to cis-lunar space for the exploitation of their water and platinum resources.

    Investing and developing future space technologies is a good thing for the economy!

  • @Rhyolite

    “SLS could have been built in 1975. There is absolutely nothing in it that represents technological advancement. In the mean time, all of the actual technology development accounts are getting gutted to pay for it.”

    If we had built in back in 1975, we’d probably already have bases on the Moon and Mars. Continuously growing lunar colonies would probably be one of the most powerful economic regions in the solar system by this time with complete domination over the satellite manufacturing and launch market. They might also be a major source of energy production for the Earth if space solar power satellites were also manufactured on the Moon.

    Instead we spent the last 35 years investing hundreds of billions of dollars on LEO on steroids programs (the space shuttle and the ISS). And now some folks are calling NASA a failure. But we’d probably be much richer and much more technologically advanced if NASA had spent those funds on logical manned beyond LEO programs.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Bob Mahoney wrote @ August 6th, 2011 at 7:26 pm
    “I am suggesting that defining such a specific strategy that employs the administration’s own proposed elements would assist in broadening the acceptance of the new paradigm it is supposedly trying to implement. “Do research” and “Let’s go somewhere eventually” simply aren’t cutting it. ”

    This is sensible, and as long as one doesn’t presume that a “concrete goal” is fulfilled just by landing on a rock (not likely to be concrete, I guess), I could support such a sentiment. The trouble is that most people presume that landing on a rock is the only worthwhile goal for human space flight. It’s an end in and of itself, as it was with Apollo.

    Why exactly are we (sort of) going to a NEO? Because they’re dangerous? Nah. Sending humans to a random NEO isn’t going to make the others any less dangerous. Because it’s the next rock beyond the Moon? Well, that’s hardly exciting.

    The power of VSE was that it really tried to give strategic direction to human space flight, and while VSE was abandoned in a shower of lunar dust, VSE was novel in that it was a real vision for what a truly strategic direction for human space flight could look like. We had never really seen that before. We don’t do “visions” that often, or that well. That is, we were going places to DO something. The “let’s go somewhere eventually” is indeed disappointing. But not because it isn’t specific about what rock we’re going to, or when, but because it isn’t specific about what we want to achieve by going there. Sorry, but “exploration” and “inspiration” are flaccid, hand waving phrases that don’t really mean anything, er … concrete.

    Are we going to “bring the solar system in to our economic sphere? Are we going to plant seeds of humanity on other worlds, perhaps as species insurance? This administration hasn’t dared to say, and neither has Congress.

  • Alan

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ August 6th, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    I am amazed at how the DIRECT TEAM’s estimate and this one came to differ by so much.

    Their estimates might have worked IF the work was performed (a) outside NASA or (b) not under FAR. It just go to show you how naive the DIRECT team was . . . probably not a cost accountant or program manager in the lot.

    What it does expose is probably the root-cause of why NASA consistently underestimates project costs – their internal estimation system in engineering SIGNIFICANTLY underestimates how much it costs NASA to build anything. It appears that they don’t factor in any (or enough) cost(i.e funds) for risk (technological, programmatic, etc.) or contingency.

    I will be interested to see what the external estimate comes back with …

  • Alan

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ August 6th, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    If we had built in back in 1975, we’d probably already have bases on the Moon and Mars.

    and if your grandmother had wheels . . .

  • Bennett

    Marcel wrote “Since Congress and the President want to use the ISS as workfare for the commercial crew program…”

    I find this comment to be quite twisted.

    Despite an obvious need for it, Congress, with only one or two exceptions, seems to be committed to killing commercial crew program.

    Their plans for the ISS seem to be “Now that it’s finished, let’s see if we can get a few years of science experiments out of it.”

    That NASA (Griffin) failed to get a replacement into place before the Shuttle retired puts the US HSF Program in a position of needing to go with plan-B, which is commercial crew.

    That you twist these facts to portray commercial astronaut transport to the ISS as “workfare”, hinders your credibility on this and every other subject imo.

  • Bennett

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ August 7th, 2011 at 12:31 am

    Wonderful dissection of the situation. I vote for dusting off the VSE and reissuing it as VSE 2.0 or some such.

    Why not USE something we already paid good money for (a plan) and mold it to fit our fiscal reality?

    ULA, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, (and many other companies), are ready to go. The death of the SLS opens the door for VSE 2.0.

  • Alan

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ August 6th, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    “The SLS family of rocket will allow us to deploy huge reusable light sails at the Lagrange points capable of capturing small 100 tonne plus asteroids for return to cis-lunar space for the exploitation of their water and platinum resources.”

    and you have built the business case and run the financial numbers on it?

  • Martijn Meijering

    It just go to show you how naive the DIRECT team was

    Naive would be a very charitable interpretation, these guys were about as naive as Nelson, Shelby and Hutchison and for the same reason.

  • vulture4

    The mission to an asteroid proposal was only chosen by Obama because he had been told that there was no money for a lander (which is true) and the Shuttle could not be extended (which was possibly true, but it was Augustine option 4b). So only the “flexible path” was possible, even though it was scientifically senseless.

    My question is, does _anybody_ know what Obama was told that stopped him from selecting option 4b and extending Shuttle? My guess is that he was told it could not be done by 1) Wayne Hale, who said as much in his blog, because he had already been told to cancel all the Shuttle supply contracts, and 2) someone who thought that putting the final nail in Shuttle would save Constellation, because there would then be no alternative. But who was it, and when, and how, and why?

  • Martijn Meijering

    there was no money for a lander (which is true)

    There would have been money for a lander if they had cancelled Ares / SLS and Orion / MPCV. Dragon could have been used as the capsule.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ August 6th, 2011 at 11:01 pm
    “NASA’s manned space related budget is around $8 billion. So $3.8 billion still leaves you with $4.2 billion a year for other things.”

    Other things? Other than building a launch vehicle? Whatever could those things be?

    MPCV has been level at about $3B/yr. Flight support at about $1B/yr. Technology is trying to be at $1B/yr, as is commercial. ISS, of course, is about $3B/yr. There’s your $8B. So which tree is your money for SLS payloads growing on?

    Even if you killed off U.S. ISS participation in 2016, disincentivizing international participation on future exploration work, that means you don’t have money to start on an SLS payload until the SLS is supposed to be almost done. Kill off commercial, and you actually disincentivize a lot of national participation. Kill off technology development and, well, as has been pointed out, NASA stops being a technology leader. SLS is old technology.

    It’s actually very convenient for Congress that the SLS doesn’t have any planned destinations. Because if it did, then Congress would have to budget for payloads. Maybe they are indeed thinking about just hauling rocks. Imagine the wide eyes in the youth of the nation gazing at a load of rocks headed skyward!

    The only conceivable reason to start the SLS is that once that commitment is made, the Administration and Congress will feel obligated to increase the human space flight budget in order to be able to use it. So SLS is the paintbrush that Congress is using to paint themselves into a corner.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ August 6th, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    That is wishful thinking passing for policy.

    There is no real path toward any future where SLS actually contributes to any of the things that you suggest it is vital to.

    If what you are suggesting had a chance of happening then Shuttle would have at least made some headway on it…and there is no data to support that.

    There are several problems with your thought process…not the least of which is that SLS development is to expensive and the launch cost are to expensive to do anything along the lines you suggest…then we get into the notion of government trying to use transportation per se as an infrastructure.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ August 6th, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    I am amazed at how the DIRECT TEAM’s estimate and this one came to differ by so much…

    Alan’s response is pretty much on track, I would add this

    The DIRECT people can come up with those estimates in part because they can hand waive all the problems away.

    This is the “space politics” board so I’ll just hold my responses to that…but there are technical issues as well (although I think those are the least of their cost estimate problem).

    The ESSENCE of a “SHUTTLE FOLLOW ON” is not that it is a mythic exploration machine but that it preserves the positions of the “stakeholders” in the shuttle program.

    The SLS estimates are in my view, high, but they are based on that reality…ie that most if not all the jobs of hte shuttle program (and certainly the “companies involved”) are kept. DIRECT does a lot of handwaving they promise to maintain “the industrial base” and “jobs” but press Stephen M or any of the DIRECT cheerleaders on “other” forums and you get this mamby pamby answer as to how many jobs will be preserved.

    But here is the trick…without all or a good percentage of the jobs being preserved then political support for DIRECT, SLS or anything else flounders.

    SLS cost what it does to maintain the political support to keep it going and the cost are what are going to kill it…RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    vulture4 wrote @ August 7th, 2011 at 9:39 am
    “My question is, does _anybody_ know what Obama was told that stopped him from selecting option 4b and extending Shuttle?”

    in no particular order a) shuttle fixed cost are very high no matter how few you fly, b) the shuttle can go bang at any moment c) what on the creators earth or heaven would you use it for?

    Robert G. Oler

  • Frank Glover

    @ Marcel F. Williams

    “The SLS family of rocket configurations will give us a highway all the way to the precious water resources at the lunar poles…”

    Too bad we can’t afford the tolls for that highway…

    “The SLS family of rockets will also allow the US to dominate the space tourism and space hotel business by being the only rocket capable of launching Bigelow’s largest space station, the 65 tonne plus BA-2100.”

    And when a prospective customer, BA-2100 in hand, asks (and not being a privately operated launcher, exactly who *does* he ask?) “How much is launching this going to cost me?” What will the answer be?

    And if the government doesn’t charge for ‘commercial’ SLS launches in such a way as to recover its development costs, then please admit that it’s simply a subsidy. (which is *not* the same as technology development so that someone *else* might develop their own HLV…assuming that the current technology isn’t there. SpaceX would hardly be talking about a Falcon XX if that were so, but they have the sense to concentrate on payload ranges for which existing and projected demands are more solid, and wait and see if there’s much of a market for commercial HLV, first.). And when it’s played up as the government subsidizing launches of a ‘space hotel for wealthy fat cats’ (you *know* that’s what they’ll say…at least the tourist value of ISS is both purely secondary, and used by someone else’s space program), the NASA PR department will have plenty of damage control ahead of it…

    “The SLS family of rocket will allow us to deploy huge reusable light sails at the Lagrange points capable of capturing small 100 tonne plus asteroids…”

    You don’t need HLV of any stripe for that, either.

    “Investing and developing future space technologies is a good thing for the economy!”

    Not *every* space technology. Kennedy said we do these things “..not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

    But I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean doing them in the *hardest possible* way…

    Consider, even though wide-bodied jets are already developed, already exist, and do so because they’re the most economical solution for many heavily-traveled routes, they are still NOT an economical solution for shorter, lightly traveled routes. You want to spend unacceptable amounts of *public* money for development of an analogous capability to LEO, without even the justification that sufficient demand for that capacity exists.

    “If we had built [SLS] in back in 1975, we’d probably already have bases on the Moon and Mars…”

    We already had a heavy lift technology back then. We didn’t keep building and using it, because we stopped doing the things that we believed (not necessarily correctly) required it, NOT the other way around.

    The fact that we didn’t use up all the Saturn Fives that *were* built, should be a powerful clue. In that case, even he ‘payloads’ existed, but not the will to fund the individual missions. They had become ‘rockets to nowhere,’ albeit by policy decision.

    Of what use would building more Saturns or anything like SLS have been in that environment? More lawn ornaments for more NASA centers?

  • @Martijn Meijering
    “There would have been money for a lander if they had cancelled Ares / SLS and Orion / MPCV. Dragon could have been used as the capsule.”

    Maybe no extra money would be needed for a lander. Elon mentioned in a recent video interview that the powered landing capability of the Dragon makes for a lunar/Mars lander by default. Why say this if he does not have plans? He has stated before that a Dragon could do a fairly long “hop” on Earth after landing. Seems to me, given those facts, a Dragon could act as a lunar lander/ascent vehicle, particularly if one removes the weight of the atmospheric re-entry heat shield and maybe transport 3 astronauts rather than 7? Especially with Falcon Heavy added to the mix. One Dragon for reentry and one for landing.

    No need for Marcel’s precious SLS. That’s the thing Mr. Williams doesn’t understand, SLS will never get us there because it will never be built, but a NASA/commercial partnership can.

  • @Marcel Williams

    You never answered my question. All you did was tell me something I have known for decades, that NASA’s budget is a fraction of 1% of the total budget expenditures.

    Again, the question, “How can SLS be built when Congress will not only not raise NASA’s budget, but actually cut it?”

    And again, getting rid of all expenses related to transport to the ISS and adding it to SLS still won’t get it built anywhere near a reasonable timeline. That’s because the total cost is at least $38 billion! And that is NASA estimate which are usually notoriously conservative. I will bet you dollars to navy beans that the independent Booz-Allen estimate will show a much higher figure when it is released.

    Please, give me an answer that logically applies to the question this time. In my last comment in answer to Martijn, I gave a logical and affordable scenario for a lunar return without SLS. I think we will all witness a commercial entity (be it SpaceX or some other, with or without NASA’s help) put humans on the moon not only before NASA could do it alone, but before the Chinese. The alternative I outlined could be completed in the next 10 years probably for a total cost not much more than one year’s current budget for SLS.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Maybe no extra money would be needed for a lander.

    That would be even better.

    What I care about is establishing a large and fiercely competitive propellant launch market as soon as possible. Everything else (future of the ISS, commercial crew, who gets to build the spacecraft, destinations beyond LEO, technology development, manned or unmanned) is secondary. To first order I would want to maximise the risk-adjusted NPV of total spending on competitively launched propellant in support of an exploration program, any exploration program.

    That’s because I believe that’s the quickest and safest road to cheap lift and because I believe that to first order cheap lift is the only thing that matters. With it, we’ll have the whole solar system, without we’ll have LEO for a select group of government employees or Apollo on steroids at best.

  • One other thing I forgot to mention in the lunar lander scenario. Probably a “service module” would need to be added to the mix to provide deceleration into lunar orbit, but the development of that would not be nearly as expensive as an HLV. Perhaps that could be NASA’s hardware contribution to the project?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rick Boozer wrote @ August 7th, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    NASA spent over 1 billion dollars on a prop module for ISS that was going nowhere…1 billion dollars to reinvent Agena…RGO

  • “That’s because I believe that’s the quickest and safest road to cheap lift and because I believe that to first order cheap lift is the only thing that matters. With it, we’ll have the whole solar system, without we’ll have LEO for a select group of government employees or Apollo on steroids at best.”

    That has been my position for about twenty years. I think most of us who are not part of the SLS cult would agree with that.

  • Scott Bass

    if I had to guess, Nasa is in for much deeper cuts over the next couple of years….just about every government program will be. practically no one including the president will be in a position to advocate a strong space program…..reason being is entitlement reform is coming….which means every government expenditure will come under scrutiny because you can’t cut the social programs till you have trimmed everywhere else….politically you cant anyway………I think I have lost hope for NASA to survive in its current form since I do not even see a presidential contender that even has Nasa on its radar scope. I am curious what what the s&p downgrade will do to the stock market tomorrow…..The losses may be 10 times what the Nasa budget is for decades in just one day all because niether party took it seriously enough to do the right thing.

  • what a waste

    Some key points: No one in congress believes the number being given (directly or indirectly) by Lori and Bolden. Congress wants the raw data so they can do the est. in house. Lori wants to kill SLS on cost and her credibility is zero . Part of the delay is an effort to move SLS management from MSFC to JSC. Little faith @ NASA HQ in NASA MSFC line managers. A different space new site has the out brief from the Ares I PDR from Aug 2008 (written by the engineers). Go read it. Right now SLS is a NASA design up to SSR (about 1 year from start) then the contractors own it. No more NASA design. Limited oversight. This is a major change from CxP (NASA design, built, contactor manufactured). It was proven some line management @ MSFC could not do job on Ares I. Corruption and incompetence the biggest drivers. People have no idea what was going on.

  • what a waste

    NASA spent over 1 billion dollars on a prop module for ISS that was going nowhere…1 billion dollars to reinvent Agena…RGO

    No, It was 435 million. USPM is a bit more than the Agena A-D, Safety was the key cost driver. USPM was to be based on the end of Node 2 and the PMA attached to it. You docked @ the end of the USPM with the thrusters pointing right at shuttle windows. About 100 valves between the tanks and the motors just to make sure. Boeing blew USPM because the people running it had no motivation to make it work. The NASA folks had a full plate with the DD-250 of the US Lab, Airlock, Truss segments, PCA software (you name it). Boeing just burned the money.

  • Alan

    Frank Glover wrote @ August 7th, 2011 at 11:51 am

    @ Marcel F. Williams
    “If we had built [SLS] in back in 1975, we’d probably already have bases on the Moon and Mars…”

    The fact that we didn’t use up all the Saturn Fives that *were* built, should be a powerful clue. In that case, even he ‘payloads’ existed, but not the will to fund the individual missions. They had become ‘rockets to nowhere,’ albeit by policy decision.

    We did have a payload that required an HLV in 1975 …

    SKYLAB “B” CURRENT STATISTICAL SUMMARY
    ORBITAL PARAMETERS: 0.0 x 0.0 Miles
    ORBITAL INCLINATION: 38 Degrees
    ORBITAL PERIOD: APP. 1440 MINUTES (24 hours)
    DISTANCE/ORBIT: 0.0 MILES
    (NASM Space Race Gallery)
    http://www.nasm.si.edu/exhibitions/gal114/index.cfm#skylab

    It was “sacrificed” in order to get the Space Shuttle.

  • Alan

    Rick Boozer wrote @ August 7th, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    One other thing I forgot to mention in the lunar lander scenario. Probably a “service module” would need to be added to the mix to provide deceleration into lunar orbit, but the development of that would not be nearly as expensive as an HLV.

    Just put another set of the Dragon escape rockets and propellant tanks into the Dragon’s trunk and aim them out the rear. The thrust structure is there already ….

    VOILA you have a “service module” that works with Dragon.

    Nothing like a modular design to keep costs down.

  • Egad

    > A different space new site has the out brief from the Ares I PDR from Aug 2008 (written by the engineers). Go read it.

    Sounds interesting. Give us a URL, please.

  • Alan

    what a waste wrote @ August 7th, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Some key points: No one in congress believes the number being given (directly or indirectly) by Lori and Bolden. Congress wants the raw data so they can do the est. in house.

    Are these the same “Engineering Experts” that Sen Hatch said that the only way to build an HLV is with SRMs? Or are these the same “Engineering Experts” Sen Shelby keeps citing. It’s strange that these “engineering experts” don’t have the ability to back their mouths up themselves, but have to hide behind the pants of Senators.

    The simple solution is to make 51DMascot the new NASA Administrator.

  • Alan

    what a waste wrote @ August 7th, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Boeing blew USPM because the people running it had no motivation to make it work. The NASA folks had a full plate with the DD-250 of the US Lab, Airlock, Truss segments, PCA software (you name it). Boeing just burned the money.

    And the reasons why that wouldn’t happen again with the SLS contracts are?
    Plus, in Boeing’s defense, where’s your proof to corroborate your claim. I think corporate legal would like to hear about your allegations.

  • @ what a waste
    “No one in congress believes the number being given (directly or indirectly) by Lori and Bolden.

    OK, if the current numbers are false, the independent Booz-Allen analysis will reveal it.

    So your insinuation is that SLS can be built at a cost to rival a new space company. SpaceX submitted a quote to NASA saying they could develop a 150 mt to LEO HLV for $2.5 billion. Musk actually said he doesn’t even know how he can make it cost that much, he just added padding to cover his ass. That’s less than the SLS budget for one year assuming no cuts. So you should be fine with cutting the SLS budget down from $3 billion per year if SLS can now give comparable cost reduction.

    Yeah, sure. :)
    Your pseudonym fits you in a way that you did not intend.

  • Frank Glover

    @Alan: You’re right. I remember an article around that time (in Flight International, I think) wherein it was noted that even the Soviets were surprised that we didn’t go ahead with another set of Skylab missions.

    Perfectly good flight hardware (I believe it was cannibalized for fans and a few other items that went into the Shuttle program or elsewhere) that’s now in the National Air and Space museum…

    http://www.nasm.si.edu/exhibitions/gal114/#skylab

  • Robert G. Oler

    what a waste wrote @ August 7th, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    “No, It was 435 million. USPM is a bit more than the Agena A-D, Safety was the key cost driver. USPM was to be based on the end of Node 2 and the PMA attached to it. You docked @ the end of the USPM with the thrusters pointing right at shuttle windows. About 100 valves between the tanks and the motors just to make sure.”

    I had in mind the total prop module cost from ICM to USPM and USPS and all…

    Really what is needed is a slightly modified Agena D…sorry that is just facts.

    NASA always builds the little box you related and then explains how “safety” drove up cost.

    First the US Prop module was/is a backup to the Russian systems. It “flies” at the wrong end of the station for reboost and “turning” the entire thing uses up a lot of fuel…It was not like this was going to be done “at the spur” of the moment so the notion that the module “had” to be docked at PMA-2 and act as a shuttle feed through is in itself a little goofy.

    The second role of the module was attitude control/desaturate the CMG thing…and again that was secondary to Ivan’s toys so again it was not like this was again a spur of the moment thing…”movement” of the module between PMA port(s) 2 and 3. was possible.

    Instead they played around with this goofy system that had as you put it “100″ (my word is lots) of things in it as NASA did one goofy safety analysis after another and over redundancyed the thing driving up cost.

    “Safety was the key cost driver. ” NASA and its HSF people would not understand “safety” if it fell on them. That is why they killed 14 astronauts RGO

  • Rhyolite

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ August 6th, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    “If we had built in back in 1975…”

    …it would have gotten canceled in 1976.

    Just like the other HLV we had in the 70s.

  • what a waste

    ICM was needed if the Service Module failed. If so, it would docked to the aft end of the FGB. The ICM was based on a well proven upper stage used by DOD. It’s still in DC wating for a mission.

    USPM was a big deal and would dock to US Node 2. bummer about it. It was lost along with the CAM when a cost cutting exercise was complete.

    “So your insinuation is that SLS can be built at a cost to rival a new space company.”

    No. Only that the est given is several orders of magnatude above the real cost.

    Congress killed Skylab, not NASA. That’s why Skylab was build without an ability to reload H2O/air/ or refule.

    “Safety was the key cost driver. ” NASA and its HSF people would not understand “safety” if it fell on them. That is why they killed 14 astronauts RGO.

    No. bad managers killed 14 astronuats.

  • Bob Mahoney

    @Doug Lassiter, responding to my previous note.

    A very well-written assessment with which I agree in large part, especially regarding your take on what the original VSE—finally—offered. There is a book out there waiting to be written about how the vision of the VSE got grenaded by the thoroughly unsustainable ESAS architecture and its progeny…including the catch-all lunar base justifications solicitation. Blech.

    And while the phrases ‘exploration’ and ‘inspiration’ may have lost their currency on forums such as this among those who have been jaded by having to wait soooo long to see the promised future finally begin, their reality remains in the consciousness and the heart of the public. The intensity of their respective flames has lessened during the past two decades, but the embers still remain and should not be discounted.

    Why? As I’ve said elsewhere, space exploration’s primary justification has always been and currently still is its ‘entertainment’ value; all other reasons are either derivative or so far down the road that they’re just as intangible as the pure ‘fun’ of exploration & discovery for its own sake. We can suggest that bringing the solar system into our economic sphere is a worthy goal and down the road this will hopefully come to pass in droves, but in the meantime—for at least another decade or so at least, I’d wager—it’s not about the money, it’s about the adventure and the corresponding pursuit of accomplishment for its own sake.

    I strongly suspect that if folks like Musk & Bigelow & Bezos were only in it for the money, they’d be investing in something a little more grounded than rockets and spaceships. Consequently, I don’t think we should write off ‘exploration’ and ‘inspiration’ as being mere empty phrases.

    If the original VSE did anything well, it defined a viable strategy for pursuing both while also setting the framework for accommodating all the other reasons.

  • $38B eh? Fully funded Commercial Crew and 300+ Falcon Heavy flights.. wow, could really do a great space program with that. Oh well, NASA must not be interested.

    • ken anthony

      No other conclusion is possible Trent.

      Bigelow would sell you a six crew BA330 for less than $100m. Falcon Heavy puts it in orbit for another $100m. Keep the FH upper stage which is already paid for and you have most of the ship needed to go anywhere in the inner solar system. $1b provides fuel for almost any mission.

      Elon has offered $20m per seat to (and from) orbit. He’ll put a 4 person lander in mars or lunar orbit for about the same price ($150m.)

      That’s an exploration program that a single person (Bigelow and Musk included in that set) could finance. Not a government. Not even a big company. In the real world $38b is enough money to actually accomplish plenty. Invested at 5% ($1.9b per year forever) and I could give you worlds and space colonies in just decades.

      • ken anthony

        OK, so nobody is really talking about $38b as a lump sum. But for a lump sum of $6b I could do the same thing just a bit slower (which is to say infinitely faster than NASA.) When I die you could have the $6b back. All the pigeon shit on my statues throughout the solar system would be enough reward.

  • @what a waste
    I earlier said:
    “So your insinuation is that SLS can be built at a cost to rival a new space company”
    To which you replied:
    “No. Only that the est given is several orders of magnatude above the real cost.”
    Then given your answer, the SLS has no economic advantage as far as advancing this nation in space exploration/exploitation if by your own admission they cannot get costs as low as the alternative. It creates jobs in certain areas of the country, but does not deliver the maximum return per tax dollar for the country as a whole.

  • what a waste

    It keeps a work force and industries intact (national strategic interest), gives NASA, DoD, etc a significant launch capability with greater safety and reliability than anything the commercial Co. can do right now and most important It’s the key to launching elements for building large ships needed to explore deep space. NASA get to select the outer mold line, commercial firms will build the system and in the end manage it like USA did the Shuttle. No one will trust a $3,000,000,000 + payload on a Falcon 9. Not for many, many years. Congress is not happy.

    There is no business case for SpaceX (over the next 8 years) and they will need significant government subsidizes to stay alive. In 2013 SpaceX will find life without Lori running NASA is very hard.

    Welcome to the jungle.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Bob Mahoney wrote @ August 8th, 2011 at 12:03 am
    “I strongly suspect that if folks like Musk & Bigelow & Bezos were only in it for the money, they’d be investing in something a little more grounded than rockets and spaceships. Consequently, I don’t think we should write off ‘exploration’ and ‘inspiration’ as being mere empty phrases. ”

    The word “exploration” lost its currency not because people have been jaded by waiting so long for human space flight to flower, but because the nature of exploration has changed. Exploration, as per gaining understanding of new places, simply no longer requires having people go there. It’s that simple. It’s the hard fact that many are just reluctant to admit. Exploration certainly isn’t an empty word. It just doesn’t mean what it used to mean.

    The missing word here is “adventure”. That’s what human space flight is really about. Lighting a fuse under a person and shooting him or her on a streak of fire into the cosmos ain’t “exploration”. It’s adventure. That’s why Musk & Bigelow & Bezos are doing it. Very much entertainment value. They are more than welcome to do it. With their own money. But is it our duty as taxpayers to give selected people adventures? I’m not so sure. Are making adventures for selected people a credible national need? I’m not sure. Does creating adventures for selected people make us look better as a nation? Not sure. Do those adventures promote “inspiration”? Perhaps, but the value (as in inspiration per dollar) is hardly clear.

  • Robert G. Oler

    what a waste wrote @ August 7th, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    “ICM was needed if the Service Module failed. ” more appropriatly if the SM was delayed. I know the ICM is still around and available…I’ve seen it!

    “No. bad managers killed 14 astronuats(sic)” and that same management structure is what dictated the goofy requirements for USPS USPM ETC. USPM was not that big a deal…as I said it was a redone Agena…(or should have been)

    you wrote in quotes
    …“So your insinuation is that SLS can be built at a cost to rival a new space company.”

    I did not write that …its easy to get confused on the quotes but I did not write that.

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Frank Glover wrote @ August 7th, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    “@Alan: You’re right. I remember an article around that time (in Flight International, I think) wherein it was noted that even the Soviets were surprised that we didn’t go ahead with another set of Skylab missions.”

    I am surprised that there was not more emphasis put on saving Skylab…well not surprised NASA likes the perfect instead of what it has…but we lost a lot when we lost Skylab. RGO

  • Vladislaw

    Waste wrote:

    “There is no business case for SpaceX (over the next 8 years) and they will need significant government subsidizes to stay alive. In 2013 SpaceX will find life without Lori running NASA is very hard.”

    I agree and except for these launches already on their flight manifest they will sure be hard pressed.

    “NASA COTS – Demo 2
    2011
    F9/Dragon
    Cape Canaveral

    NASA COTS – Demo 3
    2011
    F9/Dragon
    Cape Canaveral

    ORBCOMM – Multiple Flights
    2011-2014
    Multiple
    Cape Canaveral

    MDA Corp. (Canada)
    2011
    Falcon 9
    Cape Canaveral

    NASA Resupply to ISS – Flight 1
    2011
    F9/Dragon
    Cape Canaveral

    NASA Resupply to ISS – Flight 2
    2012
    F9/Dragon
    Cape Canaveral

    NASA Resupply to ISS – Flight 3
    2012
    F9/Dragon
    Cape Canaveral

    NASA Resupply to ISS – Flight 4
    2012
    F9/Dragon
    Cape Canaveral

    Falcon Heavy Demo Flight
    2012
    Falcon Heavy
    Vandenberg

    SES (Europe)
    2013
    Falcon 9
    Cape Canaveral

    NASA Resupply to ISS – Flight 5
    2013
    F9/Dragon
    Cape Canaveral

    NASA Resupply to ISS – Flight 6
    2013
    F9/Dragon
    Cape Canaveral

    Thaicom (Thailand)
    2013
    Falcon 9
    Cape Canaveral

    DragonLab Mission 1
    2013
    F9/Dragon
    Cape Canaveral

    NASA Resupply to ISS – Flight 7
    2013
    F9/Dragon
    Cape Canaveral

    NSPO (Taiwan)
    2013
    Falcon 9
    Vandenberg

    Spacecom (Israel)
    2014
    Falcon 9
    Cape Canaveral**

    Space Systems/Loral
    2014
    Falcon 9
    Cape Canaveral**

    NASA Resupply to ISS – Flight 8
    2014
    F9/Dragon
    Cape Canaveral

    NASA Resupply to ISS – Flight 9
    2014
    F9/Dragon
    Cape Canaveral

    NASA Resupply to ISS – Flight 10
    2014
    F9/Dragon
    Cape Canaveral

    Astrium (Europe)
    2014
    Falcon 1e
    Kwajalein

    Bigelow Aerospace
    2014
    Falcon 9
    Cape Canaveral

    CONAE (Argentina)
    2014
    Falcon 9
    Vandenberg**

    DragonLab Mission 2
    2014
    F9/Dragon
    Cape Canaveral

    SES (Europe)
    2015
    Falcon 9
    Cape Canaveral

    NASA Resupply to ISS – Flight 11
    2015
    F9/Dragon
    Cape Canaveral

    NASA Resupply to ISS – Flight 12
    2015
    F9/Dragon
    Cape Canaveral

    CONAE (Argentina)
    2015
    Falcon 9
    Vandenberg**

    Iridium
    2015-2017
    Falcon 9
    Vandenberg”

    Yes it sure looks like they will struggle.

  • @What a Shame
    “No one will trust a $3,000,000,000 + payload on a Falcon 9. Not for many, many years. Congress is not happy”
    No one was talking about a $3,000,000,000 + payload on a Falcon 9. It’s not an HLV.

    As for:
    “There is no business case for SpaceX (over the next 8 years) and they will need significant government subsidizes to stay alive. In 2013 SpaceX will find life without Lori running NASA is very hard.”
    See Vladislaw’s comment above. NASA’s contribution to SpaceX’s overall income constitutes a minor though significant part of it. But it doesn’t need NASA to stay alive since most of its income is from satellite contracts.

    “a significant launch capability with greater safety and reliability than anything the commercial Co. can do right now “
    You have no hard physical data to back that up. No NASA project has designed and fully developed a new human crewed vehicle since Shuttle.
    I will say that the engineers working on SLS are first class and some of the best in the business. However many of the people at SpaceX and other New Space firms are former NASA employees, contractors, etc. who were trained in the same NASA centers as the people working on SLS and just wanted to try something different. Both groups are peers, neither is inferior to the other.
    But the design and development engineers on SLS now are not the same people who designed and developed Apollo and Shuttle, so they have no more experience developing a crewed vehicle than anyone else. On the other hand, the engineers designing and developing at SpaceX and other New Space companies don’t either. They are all contemporaries and peers doing top knotch work, but neither can show that one is better than the other without flight history.
    The reason why SLS will be so much more expensive is that politicians tried to dictate what hardware to use and what space centers and contracting companies would do it. Heck, Orin Hatch actually bragged that the 120mt requirement was added because he thought it would make sure Utah built ATK SRBs would be used. See:
    http://mainstreetbusinessjournal.com/articleview.php?articlesid=5409&volume=13&issue=29

  • I did not write that …its easy to get confused on the quotes but I did not write that.

    If you don’t want people to get confused on quotes, the solution is simple. USE THEM.

  • Bob Mahoney

    @ Doug Lassiter

    I apparently see adventure, exploration, and inspiration as being intertwined much more so than you do. While I agree with you that someone getting on a roller coaster is all about the thrills of the person doing the riding, spaceflight has an unmistakable vicarious component even today, despite NASA’s amazingly lousy storytelling skills exercised during the past 30 years. That vicarious participation (including the learning of new things) remains a chosen/desired component of our culture.

    While most folks don’t know much about what has been going on with shuttle and station over the past 15-20 years, that something has been going on at all is still in their consciousness and they gain a certain positiveness from it, some by merely knowing that it is going on at all. While it ain’t much, even the occasional 30-second sound bite about an astronaut crew’s doings (and especially any challenges they face and overcome) contributes to the attitudes, intellect, and worldview of the folks on the street.

    Defining the appropriate level of govt involvement in ‘the grand adventure’ (which is ultimately the continuing of exploration, including human expansion into the solar system) is certainly a valid discussion that must be had, but I must disagree with you that it is necessarily a stark dichotomy between some few who’ll pay their own way to get some thrills privately and government investment in pure scientific research. I think the public expects, and wants, something more, because they gain something from the endeavor even if they themselves don’t go on the mission themselves.

    In fact, I suspect this will become increasingly apparent—more as a gut feeling than as anything explicitly obvious—in the months and years ahead as the absence of shuttle slowly sinks in and is felt more keenly.

    But I suppose down in my soul that I’m a romantic as well as being an optimist.

  • what a waste

    Your right the SpaceX engineers are super, as are the NASA/contractor teams on Ares/SLS. Different misisons/vehicles.

    Atlas V and Delta IV fly $3,000,000,000+ payloads all the time. Both are not HLV. If your rocket can’t launch a grand payload with safety and reliability why would I trust it to fly people or a science mission? If it’s that good NASA should be pushing missions to SpaceX everyday! Not one yet. JWST was to fly on an Ariane V, but one will not be available in 2020 when it’s ready to fly (if she makes it). Push to a Falcon 9. Why not? Or could it be no one is willing to bet the next great observatory on a Falcon rocket. I hope the COTS flights work. No joke, anyone who builds a rocket is a friend. I’m betting a 10-20% loss of mission (that’s my opinion). Can’t count SpaceX funded flights (demos), they don’t make money. For Iridium etc., Falcon 9 is not a Delta II. Many more spacecraft will fly per mission. So the number of flights will be small.

    I hope they make it. With the way COTS was handled, CxP ended and congress disrespected, I think SpaceX will be out after the last COTS flight. So ends money from the anchor customer (my opinion).

    Excluding COTS, I count 9 mission and two constellations between now and 2017. 6 years and estimated 20 missions. Yeah, they will go broke.

  • Rhyolite

    “No one will trust a $3,000,000,000 + payload on a Falcon 9. Not for many, many years.”

    Just how many $3B payloads do you think there are per year? The bulk of the medium lift market is for GEO comsats that run around $200M. Those customers are already signing up for slots. Even big government comsats run less than this. I’m sure SpaceX would be happy to take 90% of the market and leave the occasional mega payload to ULA.

  • Rhyolite

    “Yes it sure looks like they will struggle.”

    …to keep production up with the demand.

  • Rhyolite

    “There is no business case for SpaceX (over the next 8 years) and they will need significant government subsidizes to stay alive”

    The have more than 40 flights on the books over then next six years. Two thirds of which are commercial payloads. You’re utterly delusional – totally divorced from any factual reality.

  • Rhyolite

    “$38B eh? Fully funded Commercial Crew and 300+ Falcon Heavy flights.. wow, could really do a great space program with that. Oh well, NASA must not be interested.”

    It would be in the wrong congressional districts and we can’t have that.

  • what a waste

    I don’t see 40, I see about 20 flights.

    I hope they do struggle with production. Nice place to be. Just ask ULA.

    If SpaceX is the way everyone would be flying on a Falcon 9.
    Go look @ the Atlas V and Delta IV manifest, they cost more but the odds of making orbit are greater.

    Go look @ the insurance cost for a Falcon launch. That will tell you what the industry thinks of the rocket and SpaceX.

    I hope they make.

    Personal attacks are a sure sign of surrender.

  • Tom

    FYI….

    Orion Test Flight To Launch On Delta IV Heavy Rocket.
    AIAA Daily Launch – Aug 9, 2011
    “The efforts relating to the debut launch of Orion otherwise known as the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) on a ‘multi-hour’ test flight are ramping up, as managers discuss the preliminary objectives, which may include a ‘human capable’ version of the spacecraft being tested.” A Delta IV Heavy rocket is scheduled to launch the Orion in 2013 because the Space Launch System, the nominal rocket for the spacecraft, is not expected to be ready in time. The spacecraft that will be launched on the test flight “will begin construction later this month at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans, prior to its shipping to Florida next year, where it will be readied for the test flight.”

  • @What a Waste
    “Atlas V and Delta IV fly $3,000,000,000+ payloads all the time. Both are not HLV. If your rocket can’t launch a grand payload with safety and reliability why would I trust it to fly people or a science mission?”
    We were talking about HLVs. You brought up a launcher, Falcon 9, that is NOT an HLV, that was my point. Correct, no Falcon 9 has lifted a payload that expensive, but neither has SLS. Your statement is Orwellian double speak.

    “No joke, anyone who builds a rocket is a friend. I’m betting a 10-20% loss of mission (that’s my opinion).”
    And opinions are like “you know whats”, everybody has one. If you want some respect on this or any other blog, give some hard proven background facts to support your opinions. Don’t just pull them out of your nether regions.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Bob Mahoney wrote @ August 8th, 2011 at 11:19 pm
    “spaceflight has an unmistakable vicarious component even today, despite NASA’s amazingly lousy storytelling skills exercised during the past 30 years. That vicarious participation (including the learning of new things) remains a chosen/desired component of our culture.”

    The vicariousness of human space flight is not much different than the vicariousness of sports competitions, in which people pay money to watch other people do really hard things and dream that they too could be doing them. These sports competitions are certainly “inspirational”, and could even be called adventurous. (Ever watch a Formula 1 race?) But the federal government doesn’t underwrite them. If vicariously communicated inspiration and adventure is a national need, then the federal government is falling down on this one. At least people don’t call those sports competitions “exploration”, and blather on about how our need to do them is written in our DNA.

    “While most folks don’t know much about what has been going on with shuttle and station over the past 15-20 years, that something has been going on at all is still in their consciousness and they gain a certain positiveness from it, some by merely knowing that it is going on at all. While it ain’t much, even the occasional 30-second sound bite about an astronaut crew’s doings (and especially any challenges they face and overcome) contributes to the attitudes, intellect, and worldview of the folks on the street.”

    Whew. Something is going on, though most people don’t know what, and the 30-second sound bites we get from ISS/Shuttle contribute to attitudes, intellect, and worldview? I don’t know where to start a response. We should be proud of those 30-second sound bites, which are among the most boring parts of human space flight?? Yes, that lack of public engagement comes partly from NASA’s lack of storytelling skills, but may just also be from the fact that there isn’t much of a story to tell. The most compelling story would be that what these people are doing pushes us further down the path to where we’re going. But our government hasn’t really admitted where we’re going. I don’t mean which rock we’re going to next, but where our nation and our culture is going as a result of doing it.

    “I must disagree with you that it is necessarily a stark dichotomy between some few who’ll pay their own way to get some thrills privately and government investment in pure scientific research. I think the public expects, and wants, something more, because they gain something from the endeavor even if they themselves don’t go on the mission themselves.”

    What exactly have they gained? Spinoffs? National pride? Ah yes, it’s the famous “intangible”. To my knowledge, human space flight is the only taxpayer funded activity that anyone has ever dared to use that latter word to justify.

    “In fact, I suspect this will become increasingly apparent—more as a gut feeling than as anything explicitly obvious—in the months and years ahead as the absence of shuttle slowly sinks in and is felt more keenly.”

    Will be interesting to see how this plays out. I could just as well imagine that it will become less apparent, as the putting humans in space (which we will do in capsules, and commercially) becomes less truck driving and more about facing up to the real purpose of putting humans there. The Shuttle as a space vehicle was a distraction. A pretty one, with wings. It was about people going up in space to drive a truck. Thirty years ago, we needed people to drive the truck. As per Progress, ATV, and HTV, we don’t anymore.

  • Vladislaw

    waste wrote:

    “I hope they make it. With the way COTS was handled, CxP ended and congress disrespected, I think SpaceX will be out after the last COTS flight.”

    Certain members of congress have been disrespecting the American people with their do nothing in space pork program. 12-14 billion blown on Constellation with nothing for it but jobs in their districts and contributions from the usual suspects like ATK. You want to talk about congress having no respect for the American public just look at the antics of Senator Shelby and his, give me my pork or no one gets nothing. Shelby is the king of disrespecting the American taxpayer.

  • $38B would pay for 304 falcon Heavy Launches at $125M each, even if price is off by a large order of magnitude we still would be putting an awful lot of things in orbit. Which we won’t be dong with SLS.

  • Rhyolite

    “Atlas V and Delta IV fly $3,000,000,000+ payloads all the time.”

    EELV average less than 1 mission per year in that class. You must have an expansive definition of “all the time”.

    “I don’t see 40, I see about 20 flights.”

    They have 30 line items on their manifest. Try counting them. Of those Iridium is approximately 8 to 10 launches and Orbcom is 3 to 6 launches.

  • Bob Mahoney

    @ Doug Lassiter

    Your take on these things conveys a darkened view of the world and humanity which I do not share. I am reasonably certain that nothing I can say here will shine a light into the dismal vista you choose to perceive.

    So I will say no more in response, except to note that the differences between the ‘adventure’ of spectator sports and that of space exploration far outweigh their similarities, in very important, fundamental ways. To deny as much is, I fear, part & parcel to your negative perspective on the subject matter, a perspective I find rather depressing.

    So we are left with our disagreement. Cheers.

  • Tom

    SLS will run about $11,000,000,000 to develop if started in FY 2012 and fly by 2017. The costs given (informally) by NASA mgt. are orders of magnitude beyond reality. I counted 11 total Falcon 9 flights for Iridium and Orb…. 9 other commercial flights and not the SpaceX funded missions. So about 20. I will not justify my opinion to anyone. It’s based on 30 years in the rocket business. If you don’t like it, tuff.

  • I will not justify my opinion to anyone. It’s based on 30 years in the rocket business.

    One would never know it to read your posts.

    Or, alternately, that would explain why the rocket business is such a Charlie Foxtrot.

  • Alan

    Tom wrote @ August 9th, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    SLS will run about $11,000,000,000 to develop if started in FY 2012 and fly by 2017.

    And your basis for this statement is?

  • Tom

    X @ MSFC who did the est based on the Ares V baseline. That number was provided to HQ.

    Why would anyone think the rocket business is a CF? It’s working rather well right now. Anyone else notice all the rockets getting built and new companies coming up?

    Personal attacks are a sure sign of surrender.

  • common sense

    @ Tom wrote @ August 9th, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    “I will not justify my opinion to anyone. It’s based on 30 years in the rocket business. If you don’t like it, tuff.”

    Oh great. I’d like to see that line of argument in front of Congress. It probably is such informed opinion that told us about the announcement the other day that Orion would ride on an EELV soon. I especially enjoyed the certainty of your comment. Based on what already? Hmmm 30 years in the rocket business?

    Well I tell you what, I have over 30 years in the life business and this is as bad a justification as they come.

  • Rhyolite

    “SLS will run about $11,000,000,000 to develop if started in FY 2012 and fly by 2017.”

    Ah, I see. NASA is going to build a HLV in 1/2 the time and 1/3 the cost of Ares I. Good luck with that.

  • tom

    some people can’t read.

    FYI….

    Orion Test Flight To Launch On Delta IV Heavy Rocket.
    AIAA Daily Launch – Aug 9, 2011
    “The efforts relating to the debut launch of Orion otherwise known as the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) on a ‘multi-hour’ test flight are ramping up, as managers discuss the preliminary objectives, which may include a ‘human capable’ version of the spacecraft being tested.” A Delta IV Heavy rocket is scheduled to launch the Orion in 2013 because the Space Launch System, the nominal rocket for the spacecraft, is not expected to be ready in time. The spacecraft that will be launched on the test flight “will begin construction later this month at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans, prior to its shipping to Florida next year, where it will be readied for the test flight.”

    Ares I would have flown in 2015. The big drivers (other than software) had been solved. Even the bad mgt was getting removed.

  • Rhyolite

    tom wrote @ August 10th, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Flying on an EELV is what many of us thought they should have been doing from the beginning. What’s that got to do with an HLV?

    “Ares I would have flown in 2015. ”

    2005 to 2015 is a ten year development period. That’s double the development period you think it will take for SLS. More realistic estimates were running 2 years later. The same team is going miraculously going to developed a much bigger launcher half the time.

  • Ares I would have flown in 2015. The big drivers (other than software) had been solved. Even the bad mgt was getting removed.

    The GAO, Aerospace Corporation, NASA program management and the Augustine panel all said otherwise. But I guess we’ll take the word of some anonymous person who claims to have thirty years in the business instead.

  • Paul D.

    SLS could have been built in 1975. There is absolutely nothing in it that represents technological advancement.

    While I understand and respect the spirit of your statement, there are certainly technologies there that were not available in 1975. For example, FSW (Friction Stir Welding), which is used in making the external tank, was invented in 1991.

    SpaceX makes great use of FSW, btw, and acknowledges NASA’s role in helping prove and mature the technology (although NASA did not invent it).

  • tom

    Ares I development from 2006 to 2013 for a test flight I-Y (full up, no J2X engine) and I-Y prime (full -up uncrewed). followed by a full up crewed flight in 2015.

    You right, nothing new for SLS. Yes SpaceX is a good software development house.

  • Ares I development from 2006 to 2013 for a test flight I-Y (full up, no J2X engine) and I-Y prime (full -up uncrewed). followed by a full up crewed flight in 2015.

    That’s a fantasy schedule. They hadn’t even gotten through a real PDR.

  • common sense

    @ tom wrote @ August 10th, 2011 at 9:43 am

    “some people can’t read.”

    Yes indeed.

    “as managers discuss the preliminary objectives, which may include a ‘human capable’ version of the spacecraft being tested”

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/may

    may1    
    [mey] Show IPA
    –auxiliary verb, present singular 1st person may, 2nd may or ( Archaic ) may·est or mayst, 3rd may; present plural may; past might.
    1. (used to express possibility): It may rain.
    2. (used to express opportunity or permission): You may enter.
    3. (used to express contingency, especially in clauses indicating condition, concession, purpose, result, etc.): I may be wrong but I think you would be wise to go. Times may change but human nature stays the same.

  • Rhyolite

    Paul D. wrote @ August 10th, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Fair enough.

    Here is a picture of a Morton-Thiokol proposed Shuttle Derived Launch Vehicle from 1978:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/01/In-Line_SDLV_1978.jpg

    Change the paint scheme and it could be SLS. 98% of people wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. The point is that there is nothing fundamentally different about the design after a whole generation. If the design is the same and the economics are the same, then we are stuck in the same unfordable rut.

    I think SpaceX and all of the new space companies acknowledge their debt to government derived technologies. Transitioning technologies to industry where the can be mass produced is a good thing.

  • Tom

    “I think SpaceX and all of the new space companies acknowledge their debt to government derived technologies. Transitioning technologies to industry where the can be mass produced is a good thing.”

    Agree

  • Martijn Meijering

    I think SpaceX and all of the new space companies acknowledge their debt to government derived technologies.

    But not to the United Space Alliance and the rest of the Shuttle political-industrial complex.

  • Coastal Ron

    Tom wrote @ August 9th, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    X @ MSFC who did the est based on the Ares V baseline. That number was provided to HQ.

    If Ares I/V estimates proved anything, it was that they were far too low. Why would that have changed for SLS?

    No one in NASA has built a large rocket since the 70′s, so there is no real expertise to rely upon for true cost estimates. That’s just a fact, not a nit against anyone at NASA.

    Let’s also keep in mind that government programs have different goals than commercial ones, in that commercial products are built to satisfy customer needs and provide a profit to the company. Government programs, while defined by initial budgets, are their own customers, so they don’t have the same incentives for spending money wisely, or even making estimates that come anywhere close to reality.

    For that reason I would put more faith in outside estimates than NASA ones. It will be interesting when the official SLS cost estimates are presented to Congress.

  • Martijn Meijering

    For that reason I would put more faith in outside estimates than NASA ones.

    The obvious conflict of interests looks like a stronger reason for distrusting internal NASA estimates.

  • ken anthony

    We haven’t talked about operation costs.

    Elon says his 150mt vehicle would cost $300m per launch. More mass than SLS for a tenth the operational cost.

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