NASA

An independent cost assessment, without costs

For those expecting many details about the independent cost assessment (ICA) of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) recently completed by Booz Allen Hamilton, an executive summary released Tuesday by the space agency was disappointing. The report provides no specific cost numbers for the SLS, the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), or the “21st Century Ground Systems Program”, the suite of spaceport upgrades planned for the Kennedy Space Center to accommodate the SLS. Instead, the summary provides a qualitative assessment of the quality of the cost estimates prepared by NASA.

Supporters and skeptics of SLS will both find something to support their arguments in the executive summary. “The ICA Team concludes that the estimate is acceptable to serve as the basis for near-term, 3-5 year, AoA [analysis of alternatives] and Program decisions,” the report states. However, it’s less positive about the long term. “The estimate is not suitable for long-term budget planning or the development of a program baseline. The SLS cost estimate assumes several cost efficiencies that have not been realized on previous NASA programs. These efficiencies represent cost risk to the program as it is unclear whether they are realistic and leads to the impression that the estimate is optimistic.”

The report raised similar long-term concerns about the costs for MPCV and the spaceport upgrades. “Due to procurement of items still in development and large cost risks in the out years, NASA cannot have full confidence in the estimates for long-term planning,” the report concludes.

109 comments to An independent cost assessment, without costs

  • Anyone think Senator Hutchison will issue another press release, this time admitting she was wrong and apologizing?

    No, I didn’t think so either.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Aside from the costs, there is the “small problem” that the rocket just will not work. RGO, MT, you ready?

  • Kirby Runyon

    As I’ve said before, I hope the Powers That Be wisen up really quick to the idea that SLS is an exploration disaster and that the same sorts of missions can be used by utilizing two Falcon Heavy launches. That still preserves the option to use Dragon or Orion (I refuse to use another dumb acronym–MPCV) for BEO missions. As to the reliability of 27 engines on Falcon Heavy–don’t worry about it. Soyuz has 20 engines and the Saturn 1b had 8 H-1 engines. They work/worked great.

  • kop

    SLS supporters can’t find support in that unless they only want a half-done rocket.

  • Coastal Ron

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ August 23rd, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Aside from the costs, there is the “small problem” that the rocket just will not work.

    I have no doubt that given enough time and money that the SLS can fly, and even fly safely.

    However, existing, near-term and future commercial launchers can take care of NASA’s needs for the foreseeable future, and spending money on the SLS means that we’re not spending money on hardware for robotic and HSF missions. To me it’s purely a cost & opportunity issue.

  • Curtis Quick

    This suggests (strongly) that the $38 billion NASA cost estimate is not a high-end estimate, but a low estimate that might have to be scaled upward later. This does not bode well for congressional approval when the authorization was for only $16 billion. This could kill SLS even sooner than was thought. Whatever would be spent on it now would be throwing good money after bad.

  • tom

    If anyone has a commercial rocket that meets the human rating standard and can lift 160mt. We should buy it (after they prove it safe). Until then NASA should let a contract to strong space (as the old space industry was called today) and build one. Lastly, NASA supporters in the US senate that want something and don’t get it have little reason to support the rest of NASA. She wants jobs and a vision of NASA she is comfortable with. That is 100% valid. Upset her off and kiss many a good mission good by! Without a rocket, a spacecraft and human mission she has no reason to support the rest of NASA. It is very possible NASA could be a $8,000,000,000 agency by 2015.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Coastal Ron wrote @ August 23rd, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    “I have no doubt that given enough time and money that the SLS can fly, and even fly safely.”

    Well….lol…given enough time and money an F-4 Phantom will do light speed…but I dont know that it would do it safely.

    The shuttle system and its components are in my view arguably “not safe” given the culture in which they are operated in. And I dont see that culture changing. NASA is good at substituting people and money for common sense…and then being surprised when thats not enough to keep people alive.

    In the end part of killing SLS is to kill the infrastructure which has taken human spaceflight from something that was becoming “like” any other complex system operated by the or in the US…and turned it into a more or less random chance machine RGO

  • adastramike

    So, as far as the Executive Summary goes, all the Booz Allen Hamilton review says is that NASA’s cost estimates are reliable for near-term budget planning? Where are the independent cost numbers? Then again I really was doubtful that Booz Allen Hamilton had the expertise to independently cost the SLS — obviously that’s NASA’s job. But then why did the OMB claim that they needed to wait on the BAH report to move forward on SLS, if all its says is the near-term budget estimates are acceptable? And from what I read it is recommending more cost estimates. If I were truly cynical I’d say that they’re again proposing studying SLS costs even further — not a bad idea as part of moving forward on SLS, but a bad idea if it’s meant to stall SLS development.

    That leads to the question: can the HLV effort survive this type of wrangling? It must if Congress wants to save face — which I think they will most certainly want to do. And it must if we want to have some certitude as to the development efforts NASA focuses on in its HSF program. Otherwise we’ll be facing another NASA authorization act of 2011 or 2012, with yet it’s own debates, and a debilitating faceoff between Congress and the WH — all of which our HSF industry cannot afford. It’s really time to stop the stalling and move on in developing the HLV, not drag it out so we effectively end up starting development 5 years from now — only to repeat history and have the next President cancel it, since it was under Obama’s purvue.

    Certainly the SLS as architected isn’t perfect — but who can develop a ‘perfect’ system that pleases all naysayers? At some point you have to just pick a design and move forward on it. In the best of worlds, however, one thing I’d like to see changed is that SLS remain a cargo only vehicle — don’t use it to launch Orion (21 metric tonnes with service/propulsion module I believe), as it’s like using a mega pick-up truck to carry just 1 person. It’s a waste of gas. If Orion is mated with an Earth Departure Stage, or lunar lander, or other assemblage then it might make more sense. But then that’s trying to combine cargo and crew — which the Columbia Accident Investigation Board frowned upon in the Shuttle’s design. It makes more sense to rendezvous your cargo with your crew in LEO and dock them there before sending them off to their destination. As for launching Orion, use an existing EELV and human-rate it — unless one of the emerging commercial launchers can lift 21 metric tonnes of crew vehicle. Since NASA wants to use a Delta-IV heavy to loft Orion on a 2013 test flight, continue on with that launcher.

  • DCSCA

    A bureaucracy is a curious animal with an amazing array of survival skills. This one raises its tail and blows smoke.

  • Given enough time and money, SLS might fly. However, the flight rate will be very low, ruling out much in the way of iterative improvements.

    Enough time and money to make SLS work would pretty much kill off everything else NASA does.

  • Fred Willett

    The problem is that the budget looks fine for the first 3-5 years. All the problems identified are in the years beyond that.
    SLS proponents will take comfort in that. Get started now and hope for a miracle to fix the problems in the out years. Just kick the can down the road.
    Griffin redux.
    We’ve been here before.
    We will be here again.
    Bet ‘cha…sadly.

  • Martijn Meijering

    SLS is an exploration disaster and that the same sorts of missions can be used by utilizing two Falcon Heavy launches

    Or with a larger number of existing EELV and Falcon 9 launches. If we want to go to the moon (or Mars, or an asteroid) we need a spacecraft, not yet another launcher. We already have adequate launch vehicles, with more on the way. If there is enough traffic, then SpaceX will field FH on its own dime, ULA will field EELV Phase 1, and if there isn’t enough traffic, then they won’t and shouldn’t. FH’s 50mT throw weight isn’t some special breakthrough we need. It’s neither a breakthrough nor special. What matters is cost. If SpaceX can reduce launch prices to $1,000/kg as they say they can, then that would be the breakthrough. Improving on that will likely require RLVs.

  • @ Fred Willett
    “The problem is that the budget looks fine for the first 3-5 years. All the problems identified are in the years beyond that.
    Not this is what it says:
    “In general, the estimates prepared by SLS, MPCV, and 21CGS are consistent with Analysis of Alternative (AoA) level estimates and are reasonable point estimates for budget planning in the near-term 3-5 year budget horizon.”
    Not at all Fred. It’s not saying the SLS budget looks valid for the 3-5 years, it’s saying NASA’s cost estimates look valid for first 3-5 years. Cost estimates are used to determine if the budget Congress gives them is reasonable to do the job. NASA’s latest over-all cost estimate for SLS was a ridiculous $38 billion. In other words, the first three to five years of that over-all cost estimate (not budget) appear to fit reality. The same principle applies, not just to SLS, but the two other NASA program cost estimates mentioned.Not good news for SLS huggers.

    Also notice:
    “”Both of these categories lower the estimates below what historical data suggests and indicate that the estimates are optimistic.”
    Translation from corporate business speak to English: The $38 billion over-all cost estimate for the entire SLS program is probably too low.

  • Mark Whittington

    As Scott Pace recently pointed out, the $38 billion figure includes reoccuring costs, including personnel and infrastructure, that NASA would incur whether SLS was built or not. Hence, SLS really costs something less that $38 billion except under funny, NASA accounting.

    About the only two missions in a decade. That assumes we stick to the silly Obama program to go to an asteroid, to where launch windows are somewhat limited. Going back to the Moon means more launch opportunities, hence less operational cost per launch.

    As for the conclusions that long term costs of the SLS are uncertain, one did not need to spend all that money and take many months to come to that conclusion. That is true for any long term, technological project.

    Now we have to decide, do we want to do space exploration or not? If so, we need to be adults about it and spend what it takes. If not, then we had best prepare for the inevitable decline of the United States.

  • vulture4

    I have seen two different, almost completely separate cultures at KSC.

    The NASA culture sees the actual shuttle only in the abstract, as a way of getting the mission done. Safety is provide by paperwork. There are conscientious NASA people, but they are not conscious of what the Shuttle really is.

    But all the people who actually put their hands on the Shuttle (other thanthe crew) were USA contractors, technicians and engineers, and they were the most motivated and conscientious people I have ever worked with. They knew very well that the crew’s safety depended not on NASA’s procedures and documents, but on their meticulous craftsmanship in assembling, inspecting and maintaining every component and system.

    The failures of the Shuttle, both the Challenger and Columbia, were due primarily to unanticipated failures in the design itself, corrected by changes. Many other problems were detected and corrected before they caused disasters. But many of these problems were understood only as experience was gained. By the end of the program the Shuttle was flying safely.

    While the Shuttle design was old and should certainly have been replaced, its goal, access to LEO at a cost that would make HSF practical, achieved by reusability, was sound, and much had been learned over 30 years. It should have been replaced by a better Shuttle.

    The problem with SLS and with MPCV is more fundamental than the cost overruns. It is unclear that they provide any benefits that the taxpayers, or other customers, would consider worth even the original cost.

    I agree with Martijn that the critical parameter for space launch is cost. If SpaceX can meet its goals on launch cost, they will have a substantial market. While they do not invest in NASA’s probably ineffective level of hardware redundancy and safety paperwork, they are intent on achieving considerable flight experience before carrying people, and this provides, in practical terms, a higher level of reliability.

  • amightywind

    Nobody, certainly not the inept leadership junta at NASA, can reliably estimate costs for a project like this. Visibility past a few years simply doesn’t exist. Ask Boeing how well they did with the 787, Airbus for the A380, or Lockmart with the F-35. These are not stupid people. They are trying to estimate using random variables to provide simple answers to people who are. The question is does the United States want a space transportation system? The Mickey Mouse efforts of newspace don’t qualify.

  • Martijn Meijering

    It should have been replaced by a better Shuttle.

    Certainly, multiple shuttles even and ones worthy of the name. A crucial question is why this was never done.

  • North American

    It is unclear that they provide any benefits that the taxpayers, or other customers, would consider worth even the original cost.

    What exactly is unclear about the lack of taxpayer value and the absense of national benefits of a monster rocket we don’t need, that will cost orders of magnitude over new offerings and an order of magnitude more than existing launch vehicles, and will fly maybe once a year twenty years from now?

    Be precise. Thanks in advance.

  • @Mark Whittington
    “As Scott Pace recently pointed out, the $38 billion figure includes reoccuring costs, including personnel and infrastructure, that NASA would incur whether SLS was built or not. Hence, SLS really costs something less that $38 billion except under funny, NASA accounting.”

    And Pace saying that recurring costs are included does not make the last sentence that YOU added correct and it contradicts the Booz-Allen finding:
    ““In general, the estimates prepared by SLS, MPCV, and 21CGS are consistent with Analysis of Alternative (AoA) level estimates and are reasonable point estimates for budget planning in the near-term 3-5 year budget horizon.””

    Including recurring personnel and infrastructure costs is normal practice, because they would be part of the cost of the project once the project exists. Where the cost would blow up to $38 billion is not in the pre-existing personnel and infrastructure, but the extra personnel, infrastructure, and other costs specific to the SLS project.

  • Major Tom

    “As Scott Pace recently pointed out, the $38 billion figure includes reoccuring costs, including personnel and infrastructure, that NASA would incur whether SLS was built or not. Hence, SLS really costs something less that $38 billion except under funny, NASA accounting.”

    No, it doesn’t. Unless you never want to launch it, you have to pay for SLS personnel and infrastructure. That’s like saying I’ll pay for all the parts of this car, but I won’t pay an assembly line to put the car together, a truck to ship the car from Detroit, and gas to be put in car’s tank.

    It’s a shame how much the Apollo infrastructure and Shuttle workforce cost compared to EELV or Falcon (or Soyuz). But it’s just idiotic to pay for the development of a launch vehicle if you don’t also budget for its operations.

    “About the only two missions in a decade. That assumes we stick to the silly Obama program to go to an asteroid, to where launch windows are somewhat limited.”

    No, they’re not. There are dozens upon dozens of NEO conjunctions every year.

    Don’t make stuff up.

    “That is true for any long term, technological project.”

    The SLS design is needlessly and obscenely complex because of the congressional politics, but SLS is not a “technological project”. There are no new technologies with unknown parameters involved.

    “If so, we need to be adults about it and spend what it takes.”

    If you don’t know how much your launch vehicle is going to cost, you have no hope of budgeting for how you’re going to use that launch vehicle, whether for exploration or anything else.

    C’mon, think a little before you post.

    “If not, then we had best prepare for the inevitable decline of the United States.”

    Thankfully, U.S. greatness is built on much firmer foundations than, and has never been dependent on, the Senate Launch System.

    Sigh…

  • Spaces

    Basically it said that the cost estimates were in line and reasonable for 3-5 years. Out number years are unknown and cannot ever be guaranteed because the budget numbers just don’t go out that far. That is always an unknown in any project, there is no sense in even analyzing that, let’s get real.

    The recommendation was that another independent assessment be done at the next program milestone.

    IE…. move forward with the program as it is within NASA’s cost estimates and check yourself at the 3-5 year mark and re-assess.

    Here comes SLS !

  • Now we have to decide, do we want to do space exploration or not?

    Indeed. And if we want to do space exploration, we need to focus our resources on those things actually necessary to do space exploration (and development) instead of make-work unaffordable and unnecessary giant launch systems.

  • Coastal Ron

    tom wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 12:59 am

    If anyone has a commercial rocket that meets the human rating standard and can lift 160mt. We should buy it (after they prove it safe). Until then NASA should let a contract to strong space (as the old space industry was called today) and build one.

    An HLV doesn’t need to carry crew, so if you just use one of the commercial crew providers to get to a transfer point in LEO, then you avoid a lot of extra cost. Through the commercial crew program NASA should end up with two or more providers to provide redundancy, whereas the SLS would be a Single Point of Failure for both crew and cargo.

    Also, what’s been missing in the whole SLS debate is talk about what 130mt payloads (not 160mt) there are to lift. People hope that Congress will fund something that mandates 130mt chunks of stuff, but so far we’re probably more than a decade away from such payloads.

    For instance, the most recent NASA studies that involved heavy lift were for the HEFT and Nautilus-X. Both could be assembled and supported by a NASA HLV, but they could also be assembled and supported by current and near-term commercial launchers. HEFT required nothing larger than Delta IV Heavy.

    Congress is putting the cart before a non-existent horse by ordering a transport system to be built without an established or clear need. Instead they should fund the mission (i.e. HEFT or Nautilus-X) and have NASA bid out the transportation to more than two providers (competition keeps prices in check).

    The only thing holding us back at this point is a few people in Congress that want NASA jobs, not NASA exploration.

  • IE…. move forward with the program as it is within NASA’s cost estimates and check yourself at the 3-5 year mark and re-assess.

    Here comes SLS !

    Unfortunately for you, but fortunately for the taxpayers and true space enthusiasts, you forgot the part about how the cost estimate far exceeds the amount that Congress will be willing to fund.

    Bye bye, SLS.

  • Coastal Ron

    Spaces wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Basically it said that the cost estimates were in line and reasonable for 3-5 years.

    Yes, but for the NASA estimates ($35B), not the Senate estimates ($16B).

    Are you saying that all programs funded by Congress should assume that it’s OK to start even though they know they are going to go more than 2X over their legally allowed budget? How is that fiscally responsible?

  • Jimmy

    Were they for the same duration?
    The 16 billion for the Senate I thought was until like 2016 or so.
    The 29-38 billion for NASA goes out till 2021 or so.

    So, you can’t really look at the overall cost but the amount of $ per year Congress will give to SLS. If both scenarios above equal lets say 3 billion a year and that figure will fit in NASA’s yearly budget then it’s a doable program. It might not be ready when they thought it could be but the $ per year are the same.

  • Nasa_blogger

    You have to remember that NASA/Bolden prepared that program for what it would look like being under less budget than was originally planned. A budget restricted plan.

    When the Senate proposed their plan for it to take “x” amount of years they did not assume a budget restricted scenario.

    So, it will no doubt take longer to achieve the same goals while being budget restricted.

    The Congress will understand and likely approve it. They have to have something in the manned flight box to check. Without SLS, what does NASA propose?

  • common sense

    Let me repeat something I said in another post that oddly I can not repost (hmm). Maybe I need a longer explanation so here goes.

    The BOEs are not traceable and not documented. The BOEs or Basis of Estimates are used to tell you why something costs what it costs based on history of previous programs.

    For example, let’s say you want to estimate the wind tunnel cost of a new to be designed aircraft. Let’s assume further you want this aircraft to be multi-mission and carrier based. Then you can look at what the cost was for say an F/A-18 and base your estimates on that corrected for inflation etc. Now say you want to do these estimates for the F-35 with same capabilities and VTOL. Well you can use if available the cost for the Harrier and add to the previous, still corrected for inflation etc.

    So why don’t we have traceable BOEs? Well, when was the last time we developed an HLV with a capsule and a LAS? Easy enough: Apollo. Where is the cost for Apollo systems and subsystems? Almost impossible to find. So people come up with whatever they think is applicable.

    Since it is a SD HLV for the SLS one may look up the cost for Shuttle, right? Well yes and no. The mission is so totally different that very few cost items are similar, AND, just like Apollo where do we find those costs?

    Not to mention that for Apollo the NASA budget for HSF was so much larger than today’s that the only reasoned BOEs are that it is not affordable.

    Conclusion: No one, NO ONE, knows if these costs are real. It is not malicious hiding of the cost it is that no one really knows. So the cost may be $38B but it may as well be $50B or $10B (which I doubt). And in NASA’s diligent efforts (no matter what some say) to find out the cost they came up with $38B. Is this real? Well a real easy gauge would be to look at the cost of known aerospace systems and compare that cost with their then BOEs. Anyone wants to give it a try? Check F-35 or V-22 or B1 or whatever you like.

    I hope this is clear(er) now.

    FWIW.

    ——-

    http://images.spaceref.com/news/2011/BAH.Executive.Summary.pdf

    “Finding: The BOEs provided by the Programs are not fully traceable or documented. An independent organization could not replicate Program estimates using the data sets provided by SLS, MPCV, or 21CGS without additional explanation from Program staff. ”

  • common sense

    Ah yes and to make a few go overboard. The only potentially available cost for such a system as SLS/MPCV are where? At SpaceX. The closest to such a system we ever built. So go ask Elon. And if he comes back with a $3B figure then how do you make the NASA estimates live in the new real world of things?

    Good luck with that.

    Oh well.

  • Here’s the January 2011 article from Aviation Week reminding us that NASA warned Congress at that time the money budgeted for SLS was way too low.

    The Booz Allen report could be viewed as confirmation not only that NASA’s warning was right, but that the actual cost will be even higher.

    It will be interesting to see how much longer Congress can keep its head stuck in the sand and deny they need to pony up more money if they really want SLS to fly — although I’m in the camp that believes Congress couldn’t care less if it flies, they just want pork sent to their districts.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi RGO –

    All good, BUT you still seem to think that the evil Obama team and Administrator Bolden are intentionally trying to kill infrastructre. It was Griffin who narrowed the options to 1, and now that that Optrion 1 is not working, we’re pretty well screwed, given the political environment.

    The compromise was for DIRECT, which compromise ATK manged to trash. You can see the inability of our leaders to form a consensus in this political environment.

    When I think that the shuttle tech base could long ago have been converted to the NLS/DIRECT for a tenth of this amount of money, with no disruption in the tech base and the lives of those people, it makes me want to scream. In order to avoid the stress, many people just stopped watching quite a while ago. I can’t give myself that luxury with a clear conscious.

    America’s greatness was its manufacturing base. You don’t limit union power by trashing your manufacturing base.

    You don’t pay for a war with tax cuts for billionaires either. You don’t improve your economy by printing money, or borrowing it abroad.

  • amightywind

    America’s greatness was its manufacturing base. You don’t limit union power by trashing your manufacturing base.

    Good Lord! The unions are answerable for the decline of American manufacturing. The car industry died. They are trying to kill the aircraft industry. The strength of America is entrepreneurial spirit, not a bunch of union sluggos, not crony capitalists. Manufacturing is doing well in right to work states.

    You don’t pay for a war with tax cuts for billionaires either. You don’t improve your economy by printing money, or borrowing it abroad.

    If you seize the assets of all billionaires in the country, you get about $300 billion. It doesn’t come close to solving the problem. Stop wasting our time.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 8:41 am

    “Nobody, certainly not the inept leadership junta at NASA, can reliably estimate costs for a project like this. Visibility past a few years simply doesn’t exist. Ask Boeing how well they did with the 787, Airbus for the A380, or Lockmart with the F-35. These are not stupid people. ”

    and Whittington not to be left out wrote:

    Mark Whittington wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 7:03 am
    “As for the conclusions that long term costs of the SLS are uncertain, one did not need to spend all that money and take many months to come to that conclusion. That is true for any long term, technological project”

    both are goofy

    SLS is a pretty mature system even in viewgraphs…and NASA flunkies never stop claiming that it is a mature system right up until they need to explain the cost, and then its “all the development cost”.

    There is really little that has to be “put together” for SLS that is not really well understood or actually flying. The projects scope is a little more complex then taking a Boeing 737/800 and turning it into the BBJ but it is not all that much more then turning the Next gen 737′s into the Poseidon. It is taking known parts, developing some mods to them (the ET strongback mostly which is just load analysis…and then pushing it all together.

    It is a far less complex issue then the FORD CVN or building Gemini out of Mercury…and yet they once did Gemini out of Mercury and today we are doing the FORD CVN amazingly pretty much on cost.

    Boeing got into trouble with the Dreamliner not because of its aerodynamics but because of its manufactoring process, where they abandoned what had worked for them in the past, what they understood and moved to something that they lost complete control over. The F-35 is in shambles mostly because of the variations of the basic airplane, that are in themselves really new planes.

    There are two realities in the cost of SLS which both of you (and others) ignore.

    The first is that right now NASA HSF is incapable of doing anything really anything for any sort of budget or cost; because the basic systems in the agency are broken. If you asked them to build a toliet (well they did) it would go over budget not because of the technology but because of the management skills.

    Second; SLS is going to be expenisve to build and operate because it comes out of the shuttle system which had gotten expensive to operate…and there is no indication that preserving that infrastructure (the jobs) will not preserve the very things that made the system cost explode.

    Both of you are just shilling for a big government program and dont have the courage to admit it RGO

  • amightywind

    A Progress spacecraft was just lost. Behold your space program, America!

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark Whittington wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 7:03 am

    “Now we have to decide, do we want to do space exploration or not? If so, we need to be adults about it and spend what it takes. If not, then we had best prepare for the inevitable decline of the United States.:”

    We are doing space exploration. Vesta is being explored, the Moon has exploration going on “right now”, Mercury… it is a false statement on your part that building a rocket that no one wants and has no payloads is “exploration”.

    At best what you were stammering at was “do we want human exploration of space”…and then once again you glue up a false statement that building SLS is the only way to have human exploration of space.

    As for the decline of the US…the GOP spending habits under Bush the last, the goofy tea party notions and missteps by the current administration have played a far larger role in that then having a few NASA employees planning for the next decade to go do a flags and footprints mission.

    But then again you like big government…RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    If you seize the assets of all billionaires in the country, you get about $300 billion. It doesn’t come close to solving the problem. Stop wasting our time.

    Wrong as usual. You only need the assets of 12 of them.

    http://www.forbes.com/wealth/forbes-400#p_1_s_arank_-1_

    But of course no one is talking about seizing anything, only increasing the tax rates to something that everyone else is paying – gee, making things fair seems so foreign these days.

  • Next step is what

    If they cancel SLS, what will NASA/ White House propose for NASA HSF? Will they just stick with the original plan that KSC will lead project X, JSC will lead project Y, Marshall will lead project Z, etc…

    I can’t remember what each NASA center was directed to do under Obama’s original plan but at least it will be something and the current employees can move off of Constellation/SLS to supporting commercial, or technology demonstration, etc…

    It’s still work/pork, just a different flavor right?

  • Robert G. Oler

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    “America’s greatness was its manufacturing base. You don’t limit union power by trashing your manufacturing base.

    You don’t pay for a war with tax cuts for billionaires either. You don’t improve your economy by printing money, or borrowing it abroad.”

    trashing the manufactoring base and tax cuts for billionares are the only GOP economic points left…they soon will be gone.

    It is not that the federal government spends to much; the problem is that it spends a lot of the money on things which have no residual value to the American people.

    The federal government is spending some money to expand HWY 646 down where I live….it is employing people and keeping businesses afloat…but at the end of the construction stage two things will remain…1) something of value to “ordinary Americans” will have been created…something that they can use to their own personal fortune and 2) the thing that is created (the new road) will increase the tax revenues to a degree larger then the tax dollars spent on it.

    Some space programs do that directly. It is hard to say that the US government did not get its money’s worth off of Syncom (the entire project) nor today that every dollar spent on the GPS system does not come back to the US Treasury in some fashion in dollars far above what it cost to “do GPS”.

    They can spend 40-60-100 billion on SLS and the problem is that at the end, as the money goes out the door…nothing of value has been created where “ordinary” Americans can increase their fortune off it…and 2) there are no tax dollars that come close to even equaling what was spent.

    None of the people who support SLS can explain how “tax revenue” is enhanced by building it. OK so some technowelfare people get money to pay taxes…but that doesnt ever equal the dollars “given” to them to do their jobs.

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    A Progress spacecraft was just lost…

    no it failed…they know where it is. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    “. Manufacturing is doing well in right to work states.”

    no that is not really true…off topic but its not correct RGO

  • The comments by Mr. Whittington are not grounded in fact, reality, fiscal responsibility, or the free market. There is so much wrong with this executive summary.

    One of the recommendations calls for a design! We agree!

    Finding: The BOEs provided by the Programs are not fully traceable or documented. An independent organization could not replicate Program estimates using the data sets provided by SLS, MPCV, or 21CGS without additional explanation from Program staff.
    Recommendation: The ICA Team recommends that HEO/ESD use the occasion of a selection of a new SLS architecture to establish a common practice across Programs for generating cost and schedule estimates; establish documentation standards for BOEs; and create and disseminate BOE, cost, and schedule estimate templates to Programs.

    Let the free markets have their way with SLS if we really want a SHLV. It is time the disciples of SLS be called to account.

    Luckily for us, some on Capital Hill agree.

    Respectfully,
    Andrew Gasser
    TEA Party in Space

  • bold

    Recommendation: The ICA Team recommends that HEO/ESD use the occasion of a selection of a new SLS architecture to establish a common practice across Programs for generating cost and schedule estimates

    Don’t just bold half the statement to make it look like something it is not.
    It does not say it recommends a new SLS architecture. Nice try.

    It means use THIS occasion which is the selection of a new SLS architecture to establish blah, blah, blah.

    Not to select a new SLS architecture !!!!

    That’s goofy!

  • Coastal Ron

    Next step is what wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    If they cancel SLS, what will NASA/ White House propose for NASA HSF?

    My hope would be that NASA would propose, and Congress would fund, the Nautilus-X reusable spaceship.

    It can be built with current technology, lifted by current launchers, and being the first reusable spaceship it will be a good PR magnet as it tests out the technologies we need to venture around and beyond the Moon. It would truly be the first NASA spacecraft to leave LEO that could take a news reporter onboard, which would provide a big PR bump for NASA.

    The NASA estimate for the Nautilus-X is less than $4B with completion within 6 years, so even if it were to run over it would cost far less and be ready well before the full-up version of the SLS. Another reason why the SLS is not needed.

    What would you rather have – a reusable spaceship that can go on 24 month exploration trips, or an HLV that takes a decade to build and doesn’t leave enough budget for any mission payloads?

    I am anxious to get out into space and do things, and the SLS only delays that. Kill it now before it wastes anymore money.

  • RGO “SLS is going to be expensive to build and operate because it comes out of the shuttle system which had gotten expensive to operate.”

    So half the cost operational cost of the STS while delivering 5x the payload is too expensive? For those short on math skills that is ten fold reduction over STS placing SLS (i.e. Jupiter-130 variant) well bellow the prices Russia currently charges us per kg.

    Still not impressed? How about the fact that just one Jupiter-130 launch will deliver twice the payload for half the cost (assuming 2 launches/year) of the ‘oh so affordable dawn of a new era Rand wet dream’ CRS contract? A CRS contract that cost as much per kg as the ‘evil’ STS, only with no crew and large down mass capabilities. Doesn’t seem like we are making much progress does it?

    Speaking of progress, I’m sure glad we placed the future of our $100 billion dollar ISS investment in Russia oh so reliable hands. Not to worry, I’m sure SpaceX with 1/1,000 the launch experience of Russia will never ever have a bad day. After all, more engines just means more to love. Well at least we have Orbital, right on schedule and under budget, oh sorry reverse that. Good times.

    Option 4B……….looking better and better every day.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 10:52 am

    “true space enthusiasts… ”

    And don’t presume to count yourself among them, as you’ve repeatedly noted on this very forum that the hardware is more important to you than the safety of the crews that ride it. Be it cars or space vehicles, the conservative motto is makin’ a buck overrides makin’ it safe.

  • Vladislaw

    Stephen Metschan wrote:

    “A CRS contract that cost as much per kg as the ‘evil’ STS, only with no crew and large down mass capabilities. Doesn’t seem like we are making much progress does it?”

    Shuttle costs were in the neighborhood of 18k per pound.

    The contract with SpaceX is for a MINIMUM of 44,000 pounds of cargo to the ISS. The dragon has the ability to bring up a combined pressurized/non pressurized cargo of 13000 pounds. So potentially SpaceX could actually deliver 156,000 pounds of cargo or over 70 metric tons. Another thing not factored in is that Dragon has a down capability of 6600 pounds or over 79000 pounds of down cargo over 12 flights.

    Even if you give the cost of down the same as up cargo NASA is still getting the potential of a hell of lot of cargo for 133mil per flight or 6785.00 dollars per pound of cargo moved.

  • vulture4

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 9:13 am
    “Certainly, multiple shuttles even and ones worthy of the name. A crucial question is why this was never done.”

    The simple answer is that between 2000 and 2005 the George W. Bush administration, assisted by Sean O’Keefe and Mike Griffin, cancelled every single NASA RLV program; X-33, X-34, DC-X, X-37, Shuttle. Why? Apparently because they were bored.

    “Boeing got into trouble with the Dreamliner not because of its aerodynamics but because of its manufacturing process, where they abandoned what had worked for them in the past, what they understood and moved to something that they lost complete control over.”

    That’s why the Chinese government is currently paying its manufacturers to produce composite test structures for civil aircraft.

    NASA should have been all over this problem before it even started, funding analysis, test articles, and flight testing for composite primary structures. That’s what NACA would have done, advance American productivity with R&D, tech support, and seed money to keep US industry ahead of the competition, and protect the US manufacturing base. Instead Boeing had to farm out R&D overseas and suffer years of delay. That meant American jobs lost.

    When NASA sets priorities, it should do what NACA did: instead of asking what NASA wants, it should be asking what industry needs.

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    For those short on math skills that is ten fold reduction over STS placing SLS (i.e. Jupiter-130 variant) well bellow the prices Russia currently charges us per kg.

    I know you keep wanting to use the DIRECT design, but that’s not what Congress has directed NASA to build. And for NASA, the costs start with $38B to get to the first pound of payload, then they get amortized down as more payload goes up.

    But here is the hole that the SLS digs itself into. Let’s take just the Senate number of $16B for R&D – that could buy 1,750,000 lbs of payload into LEO on Delta IV Heavy ($450M), but doesn’t reflect price reductions for volume buys, so in reality it would be over 2M lbs into LEO.

    To get 2,000,000 lbs of payload into LEO on the SLS would take seven launches, which according to NASA figures done before the SLS ($1.6B/flight), would cost $11B just for the launches. So now we have $16B (the fake Senate number) for development, and $11B for the actual launches, or $27B total. That works out to $13,500/lb, which is not 1/10th of the $30,000/lb historical average for the Shuttle.

    For comparison:
    Delta IV Heavy costs $9,000/lb
    Falcon 9 costs $2,600/lb
    Falcon Heavy will cost $1,100/lb

    I did the math using the NASA $38B number, and the $1.6B/flight estimate from NASA, and the SLS would need to fly 38 times with 130mt payloads in order to average down to $9,000/lb. That would equal 10,887,760 lb of payload to LEO. I don’t know how many decades it would take before it reached Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy levels of cost, but suffice it to say the SLS will be the most expensive way to get mass to space.

    And that also assumes that Congress is funding a program that requires that much mass in space, which I doubt will happen anytime soon, especially since that’s equivalent to 11 ISS-massed structures.

    The only true need for the SLS is if you need to get a structure to space that has a larger diameter, or single bulk size, that is larger than what existing launchers can handle. So far Congress has not funded such a product or program, and NASA hasn’t even identified a near-term program that would need such large payloads.

    The facts are very clear on this – the SLS is not needed, and in fact will be a drain on NASA’s finances.

  • common sense

    @ vulture4 wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    “When NASA sets priorities, it should do what NACA did: instead of asking what NASA wants, it should be asking what industry needs.”

    Actually NASA does this, not as much as it could but still. Unfortunately the industry is not ready for it, yet.

    Enquire, you’ll see.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    “So half the cost operational cost of the STS while delivering 5x the payload is too expensive? ”

    no its fiction.

    Where to start…ok lets start here.

    Only in the world of DIRECT or SLS is there the phrase “operating cost”…a phrase which essentially says “non of the development cost count”…and that phrase is made even “more better” by the notion that it only applies to whatever system (DIRECT or SLS) that is being supported.

    IE SpaceX or OSC must bear per pound all the cost of the project (development and launch and ops) but SLS or DIRECT only have to figure the cost of flying that single one rocket into the equation.

    And aside from the intellectual dishonesty (but you and Whittington and Wind seem OK with that feature) you also ignore other “things”. There is right now nothing to put on an SLS or DIRECT even if somehow we got it for free. OK we are developing whatever ORION is called these days…but YOU nor anyone ever factor those cost in…nor the “mythical” payload carrier that to use your words “deliver twice the payload for half the cost”

    No hint how much that “payload” carrier cost to develop or “operate” or how they are going to use it up on the space station or anything else.

    All your post is Stephen is more “hand waving” where you substitute your fantasies of what could be for not a lot of money against other groups “harder” numbers.

    As for Progress. LOL

    What happens if we build your DIRECT and it carries all the payload you envision and it goes “bang”…then the station is really screwed. Because well there isnt anything else.

    One reason The Republic is in trouble is that for so long it has listened to people like you whose answers to problems are purely rhetoric and have nothing really behind them.

    We cannot afford SLS or Direct are any of the other fantasy rockets where the word “cost” is just another word for the phrase “something we make up”.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    vulture4 wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    NASA should have been all over this problem before it even started, funding analysis, test articles, and flight testing for composite primary structures.

    Boeings problem was that they designed something that required too much too quickly from their supply chain. They still have problems getting enough fasteners for their composite structures, which tells you the magnitude of the problem they are having, even with being 3 years late. They just instituted a one month line shutdown to try and let their suppliers catch up with production.

    The supply chain issue was also cited by their management as the prime reason they were pursuing an engine upgrade to the 737 instead of an all new airplane, even though their customers were telling them they wanted an all new airplane (better fuel savings over a re-engined 737).

    NASA couldn’t have helped out too much with this problem, but I think one of NASA’s best roles is in doing cutting edge research that leads to better products, so I hope that continues to be funded and supported.

  • And don’t presume to count yourself among them, as you’ve repeatedly noted on this very forum that the hardware is more important to you than the safety of the crews that ride it.

    Yes, because unlike you, I think that space is sufficiently important that it’s worth risking ilves for.

  • Here’s a prediction …

    December’s SpaceX Dragon demo flight will be revised as an emergency supply fight. SpaceX will prove they have the right stuff, and the Administration’s commercial cargo strategy will have won.

  • common sense

    @ Stephen C. Smith wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    “December’s SpaceX Dragon demo flight will be revised as an emergency supply fight.”

    That would be quite a gamble and I don’t know that SpaceX is equipped to deal with this kind of pressure. What they could do is indeed bring cargo but present it as a test flight with more cheese. Maybe it is what you mean but I would not go that route on the 2nd Dragon flight or at least not mention it – publicly that is. Playing with fire so to speak… I don’t know seems risky to me on a 1 flight gamble.

  • North American

    It does not say it recommends a new SLS architecture.

    Well, since the current SLS architecture – Ares V, is technically and fiscally unexecutable, just like the last one was (Constellation), you will just have to forgive us if we read it as obvious – a new SLS architecture will be required.

  • Coastal Ron

    common sense wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    That would be quite a gamble and I don’t know that SpaceX is equipped to deal with this kind of pressure.

    The combined D2/D3 flight was already planned to dock at the ISS and provide a token amount of supplies, so all they would be doing is upping the amount carried.

    Since the risk is not in the payload, but in ability of the Dragon capsule to perform all the proper maneuvers in order to be allowed to dock at the ISS, I don’t see any additional risk. The stakes may be higher politically, but they were already high for SpaceX anyways…

  • John Malkin

    SpaceX could take up cargo but it’s not needed. STS-135 took up all the consumables needed for at least the next 6 months. ATV3 will be there in March. The bigger problem is if it will affect Soyuz crew rotation since we don’t have any backup for crew rotation.

    – ISS Status Briefing

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Nah I am not talking technical aspect of the deal. It’s a test flight and we all know who live in the real world why we run test flights.

    I am saying this would be premature to announce anything of the sort. They can do it with more (than) cheese and if it works then good. But do not tell before hand. I think SpaceX has enough pressure like that, political and otherwise.

    And even if the berthing/docking/shakinghandswithISS works well I would not make any more than necessary the issue of crew rescue vehicle.

    You heard about “Moon fever”?

    FWIW.

  • Costal Ron, so let me understand, your position is that the Jupiter-130 would cost more to develop and operate than the STS?

    $38 Billion is about what the STS cost to actually develop in inflation corrected dollars
    $3.2 Billion is about what the STS cost to fly at two launches per year which includes copious amounts of NASA oversight I might add. Something that neither SpaceX nor the Russians are forced to enjoy.

    Let’s use some more reasonable numbers (which still includes copious amounts of NASA oversight);

    Jupiter-130 DT&E $10 Billion
    Jupiter-130 Operational cost $1.6 Billion/year at 2 flights per year

    20 year time frame is $10 Billion + $ 16 Billion = $26 Billion

    Mass to Orbit 2x10x220,000 lbs = 4,400,000 lbs

    Or $5,900/lb total program or about $3,600/lb operational only.

    Plus we have second to none capability for second to none missions. Think off no more JWST and MSL money pits in an attempt to shoe horn missions in to payload fairings optimized for Earth orbit military applications. Heck the cost overruns on just these two missions would nearly pay for the DT&E for the Jupiter-130

    Plus we are actually following the law of the land so that’s an extra special bonus for those who still believe that Constitution is still worth more than paper its written on.

    You see Obama knows how to sign the law, he just doesn’t know how to execute the law, and that’s really the most important part of the law, the execution, anyone can sign it.

  • I watched the press conference on NASA TV. Basically the problem is resupply to the Russian side, not the U.S. side. The STS-135 flight added by the Obama administration extended U.S. supplies through 2012.

    That said, SpaceX could offer to take up critical supplies for the Russian side. But can Russian supplies be unloaded from the U.S. module? Probably just some logistics to overcome, but I don’t really know.

    The other issue is whether the problem with Progress 44 is a system shared by Soyuz. That creates a crew rotation problem.

  • DCSCA

    @Stephen C. Smith wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 5:08 pm
    “Here’s a prediction …December’s SpaceX Dragon demo flight will be revised as an emergency supply fight.”

    It’s a poor prediction. Emotion driven, as:

    1. It’s not needed per the contingency plans already in place for such a failure (not to mention STS-135 just resupplied the ISS with a year’s worth of goodies just weeks ago.) And the Progress contracting services most likely cover a failure of this sort and it is Russia’s responsibility for a make-good to cover losses and costs of same.

    2. As a contractor, it is ultimately not SpaceX’s decision to make in the first place. It’s bad business, too, as there’s no contract in place for a one-off. Besides, the risk for Musketeers in this instance does not outweigh the reward. A failure, or even a partial success, below over-hyped expectations, would be seen as a setback and evidence that Musk went before he was ready and cannot deliver as advertised. And as we’ve seen in the past, Musk doesn’t take these kind of risks- except in press releases.

    If Musketeers weren’t capable– or willing– to risk lofting a manned Dragon on a suborbital flight to demonstrate competence in systems, procedures and hardware to the investor class- and the space community– thereby reaping the reward of making government subsidies and private investment easier to obtain– they ain’t gonna risk everything on a test demo flight to deliver a wheel of cheese.

    It’s an emotion-driven proposal outside SpaceX’s planned test flight program. A methodical timeline, to their credit, they’ve stuck with. They go when they’re confident and ready– and that’s a big plus in SpaceX’s column.

  • DCSCA

    @common sense wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    “That would be quite a gamble and I don’t know that SpaceX is equipped to deal with this kind of pressure.”

    Wow. ‘common sense’ from ‘common sense.’ Surprise, we agree.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Nobody said it wasn’t a calculated risk but you have stated on this forum that the hardware was of more value than the crew it carries. Sad, sick perspective. End of story.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    “Let’s use some more reasonable numbers (which still includes copious amounts of NASA oversight);”

    you are still spouting fiction. The numbers you quote for “Jupiter” development have no reality to anything because there is “no one” who is going to accept the basis which those numbers reflect. No one other then “non rocket scientist” are pushing those numbers.

    In addition there are no cost in your analysis FOR PAYLOADS or PAYLOAD Carriers…

    When you or anyone else at DIRECT can pull numbers out of thin air then the cost can be anything that you want them to be…as I noted in an earlier post in your world the word “cost” just means “something we make up”

    That might fly on the fan club forum where nothing bad about DIRECT or shuttle can be said, but here phoney numbers get a response. RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    You see Obama knows how to sign the law, he just doesn’t know how to execute the law

    President’s don’t design rockets while they are in office, they have agencies to do that.

    And Obama’s agency (NASA) is just following the letter of the law. Now you may disagree with the design, but they feel it meets the letter of the law, and the intent of Congress.

    You may also feel that the Jupiter-130 is a better design, or at least less costly one, and maybe you’re right. However I am like many that dislike the SLS because it is not needed at all, and so any spending on an unneeded HLV is wasted spending.

    Mass to Orbit 2x10x220,000 lbs = 4,400,000 lbs

    Or $5,900/lb total program or about $3,600/lb operational only.

    Oh, and you have a big math error. All your money calculations are for the Jupiter-130, which has a mass to LEO of 75 tons (per the DIRECT website), which would be 150,000 lbs here in the U.S. You used mass calculations of 220,000 lbs, which is for the Jupiter-246.

    Correcting for that error, your costs for 3,000,000 lbs to LEO are really $8,667/lb, or about what Delta IV Heavy costs (but without the development risk).

    So you still haven’t shown where there is any significant advantage for any HLV, unless there is a need for something that can’t fit on a current launcher. And so far NASA hasn’t identified such a payload, and Congress has funded it, so why should we be spend the money on a launcher for it?

  • Rhyolite

    Sigh…how many people on this page were complaining that NASA high balled the SLS estimate to get it canceled? No, in fact, they low balled the estimate. In reality, we are looking at a $60B program before first operational flight.

  • MM_NASA

    Well, now that has been finalized, let’s build SLS and advance the frontiers of space. It is quite sad to see how brainwashed some of you have become with the emergence of the commercial space sector. You all will believe anything that comes out of Elon Musk’s mouth – quite pathetic. A couple of things that Space X has to demonstrate to the world: (1) can it even put up a cargo flight to ISS and have a successful mission; (2) can it satisfy all the regulations needed to make sure it is man-rated and (3) can these test flights be successful without disaster. Even after all that, it needs to demonstrate to NASA that it is capable of crew launches. All of this requires a LOT of money and time. What happens when Space X can NO longer make a profit? What happens when other destinations BEO are pursued that requires extensive amount of R&D (which accounts to a lot of money)? Oh, I am sure Space X will have all the infrastructure, research, technology and resources to venture further out into the solar system. Let’s be honest with ourselves – space exploration started with NASA for a reason. The Space Agency is the only U.S. agency that can truly explore space. I am sick and tired of all the snide comments of removing MSFC, JSC, KSC and other centers. This is the livelihood of many talented and passionate aerospace engineers who have much more experience than the pimple-faced Space X folks. Personally, I would never be caught dead in a Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy. I value my life.

  • Ha

    No, the estimate is reasonable
    Where do you come up with a 60 billion dollar figure
    That’s goofy.
    Don’t make stuff up!

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    “The numbers you quote for “Jupiter” development have no reality to anything because there is “no one” who is going to accept the basis which those numbers reflect.”

    It’s funny some how. NASA comes up with numbers for which Booz Allen says the BOEs are not traceable and not documented. Yet Stephen thinks that DIRECT has the right numbers. I’d love to see their BOEs scrutinized like those of the SLS… It’d be fun.

  • josh

    yeah, 60 billion sounds realistic. no problemo though, it’s not like the us is teetering on the brink of financial collapse, there is lots of money to spare. oh, wait…

  • josh

    plus, it’ll keep windy and folks like him employed. isn’t that worth 60 billion of taxpayer dollars?

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi SM –

    Those numbers sound about right, and you make a very good case on payload size leading to payload cost savings.

    BUT your history summary is off. All had agreed to DIRECT, and then ATK came along an inserted that 130 ton clause.

    While we await the results of the next 5 seg test firing, even if that’s one great test firing it still won’t change the fundamentals of solids.

    There’s a great joke about I’d like to share with everyone here, but its so tart that Jeff would probably object.

  • Nobody said it wasn’t a calculated risk but you have stated on this forum that the hardware was of more value than the crew it carries.

    Because that’s reality. No Shuttle crew is worth billions of dollars, and any Shuttle crew can be replaced much more quickly and easily than an orbiter.

    Sad, sick perspective. End of story.

    That’s reality. If you don’t understand that, idiotic, innumerate perspective. End of story.

  • Dennis

    Many here think it should be SpaceX to the rescue. Wont happen. First other supply carriers are out there, tried and proven. They even carry larger payloads thanthe Russian Progress. A Gremlin got into the works as wll always happen at some point in time. Murphys Law, so to speak. It will be fixed and then move on. I really dont see anything drastic coming of this.

  • Das Boese

    MM_NASA wrote @ August 24th, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    Well, now that has been finalized, let’s build SLS and advance the frontiers of space.

    Nothing is “finalized”, NASA has not released the final design. The whole point of this evaluation was to see if the currently favored design is viable. It’s not. Reading comprehension!

    It is quite sad to see how brainwashed some of you have become with the emergence of the commercial space sector. You all will believe anything that comes out of Elon Musk’s mouth – quite pathetic.

    The commercial space sector has existed for decades, the only thing new is the idea that *gasp* if we trust a commercial company to put up billion-dollar satellites, why not humans too?

    A couple of things that Space X has to demonstrate to the world: (1) can it even put up a cargo flight to ISS and have a successful mission; (2) can it satisfy all the regulations needed to make sure it is man-rated and (3) can these test flights be successful without disaster. Even after all that, it needs to demonstrate to NASA that it is capable of crew launches.

    What, SLS doesn’t have to demonstrate all of these things, too?

    All of this requires a LOT of money and time.

    Yeah, an order of magnitude above any commercial alternative for SLS.

    What happens when Space X can NO longer make a profit?

    The only way that would happen if someone else came along and did it even cheaper than SpaceX can, in which case NASA would probably move on to that company. In any case, SpaceX has plenty of commercial customers so their revenue stream is not in any danger for the foreseeable future

    What happens when other destinations BEO are pursued that requires extensive amount of R&D (which accounts to a lot of money)?

    We agree! R&D is what NASA should be doing, not building rockets. That would be great news for SpaceX and their competitors because all that hardware will need to be launched and flight-tested.

    Oh, I am sure Space X will have all the infrastructure, research, technology and resources to venture further out into the solar system.

    They might, but there’s really no point for them to do that because exploration isn’t profitable, transportation however is.

    Let’s be honest with ourselves – space exploration started with NASA for a reason.

    Actually it started with the Soviet Union’s military and the sputnik program, in the U.S. I believe it was ARPA and NACA.

    The Space Agency is the only U.S. agency that can truly explore space.

    If only they were allowed to do that instead of being forced to build rockets.

    I am sick and tired of all the snide comments of removing MSFC, JSC, KSC and other centers. This is the livelihood of many talented and passionate aerospace engineers who have much more experience than the pimple-faced Space X folks.

    Oh yeah, NASA employees deserve respect, but insulting the employees of SpaceX is totally fair game. Very mature.
    You do know that SpaceX employs quite a few former NASA engineers and astronauts, don’t you? They’re every bit as experienced, talented and passionate about their job, with the added bonus that their livelihood depends on it.

    Personally, I would never be caught dead in a Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy. I value my life.

    LOL

  • @Dennis
    “Many here think it should be SpaceX to the rescue. Wont happen. First other supply carriers are out there, tried and proven”
    Nope, we think SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, SNC etc. to the rescue.

  • @MM_NASA
    “Well, now that has been finalized, let’s build SLS and advance the frontiers of space. It is quite sad to see how brainwashed some of you have become with the emergence of the commercial space sector. You all will believe anything that comes out of Elon Musk’s mouth – quite pathetic.”
    More monomaniacal obsession with Musk from the SLS crowd. See my reply to Dennis.

  • @Ha
    “Where do you come up with a 60 billion dollar figure
    That’s goofy.
    Don’t make stuff up!”

    Yeah, instead it’s a mere $38 billion! ;)

  • josh

    I think comments like those of MM_NASA are pretty revealing and show us what’s really going on here. He obviously feels threatened and is afraid (of losing his job/status etc.), thus the name-calling and lashing out at people he sees as the enemy (i.e. those threatening him).
    windy is the same, there might be one or two more like them on here. what’s important to understand is that these people can’t be reasoned with because they’re terrified and will say anything they think will help protect themselves. it won’t work in the long-run but i just wanted to remind everyone that what’s on display here on the side of the sls-camp is just raw human emotion and resistance to change. has nothing to do with reasoned discussion so don’t expect that. they can’t help it.

  • Costal Ron: “Obama’s agency (NASA) is just following the letter of the law.”

    First off it’s not “Obama’a Agency” it the citizens agency. Second the Whitehouse is purposefully ‘not’ releasing the funding for SLS which is in fact breaking the law that he signed. The NASA rank and file would love to follow the law but it’s a little hard when you aren’t getting the funding released as directed by the law. After they were forced into signing the law (given the veto proof support it had in Congress) their next move was ,to put it kindly, slow roll it with endless studies. I still like to call it what it is breaking the law.

    Not that breaking the law is much of a concern with the Saul Alinsky clones that infect the executive branch but that serious issue will have to wait until Jan 2013 to deal with. Until then they plan on doing as much damage as possible to all the institutions that have inspired this nation and/or underpin our success as nation.

    BTW, we will know when the beginning of the end of this Obama nightmare (of which the destruction of NASA is just a tiny part) is upon us when we get the bust of Winston Churchill back into the Whitehouse. Those who are confused by what Obama says and what he does should investigate as to why he rudely gave that back to Great Britain. The answer to that question will open your eyes to so many other actions.

    Second the ‘math’ error is actually me taking out our conservative knock down. Explain to me this, the STS stack places about 120mT of mass into orbit (orbiter + payload +crew). How is it that the very same of everything can only place 75mT. That’s right, when NASA said we were defying the laws of physics, they were right but only in the opposite direction. There is no way that the Jupiter-130 won’t put more mass in orbit than what we are claiming. We were just being good Scotty engineers, holding back so we can be seen as miracle workers.

    All (especially the crack pipe poster that the SLS will cost $60 Billion), the contractors have committed (behind the scenes) to produce the Jupiter-130 for less than $10 Billion, in less than five years and operate it for half the cost of STS at two flights per year, ‘provided’ we use the same contracting vehicle SpaceX is using. That’s the key, if we use NASA micromanagement 101 then by all means it could well cost a Trillion dollars and take five centuries. But that is not what is on the table as serious proposal before Congress. Unfortunately the Whitehouse won’t let NASA let that contract see the light of day, which brings me back to beginning. So in sum Obama fiddles while the nation burns.

    So the numbers stand, the Jupiter-130 will be the lowest cost most capable launch system in the world. A great launch system worthy of a great nation that still dreams big dreams. Which is exactly why Obama in Co doesn’t want it, because it supports the world view of their political enemies. Or what I like to call Americans.

  • Dennis Wingo

    $38 Billion is about what the STS cost to actually develop in inflation corrected dollars

    The problem with these types of comparisons is that the engineering expertise and the industrial base that designed and built STS no longer exists.

    From the awarding of the production contract in 1972 the first orbiter was out the door and doing drop tests by 1976.

    As far as heavy lift goes, the production contract for the Saturn V was awarded in 1962 with the first launch in late 1966. This is while at the same time man rating a nuclear missile (Titan II).

    Does anyone seriously think, based on the performance of constellation, that we could do the same today with SLS?

    We simply don’t have the industrial and engineering base to do this anymore and to recapture that will take a LOT of money.

  • common sense

    @ Dennis Wingo wrote @ August 25th, 2011 at 11:35 am

    “We simply don’t have the industrial and engineering base to do this anymore and to recapture that will take a LOT of money.”

    I assume you meant NASA. Otherwise you know… SpaceX is a good example the industry can do things for a lot less.

    But this is not about SpaceX. It is about cost. If SpaceX has provided 2 rockets (F1/F9) and a capsule (Dragon) for about $1B we could get well you know 38 companies to do that too.

    I would like to say however that it would not cost that much money if we were smart about it. Yes public/private partnership is a must. NASA can (and does) provide the technical expertise for very specialized (sub)systems such as TPS, Aerodynamics and other stuff. The industry could provide their expertise at systems integration (just as the old Spiral was supposed to do). You could make OldSpace compete with NewSpace (oh wait! CCDev is doing just that). Personnel could transition from NASA to industry and vice versa as necessary. What we need is not so much cash but a real smart implementation of the plan. COTS/CCDev/CRS have all the right ingredients.

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ August 25th, 2011 at 10:40 am

    …to produce the Jupiter-130 for less than $10 Billion, in less than five years and operate it for half the cost of STS at two flights per year…

    Stephen, you keep arguing the supply side of the equation, but what you don’t understand is that there is no demand for an HLV. Zero.

    Nobody NEEDS to put 150,000 lbs or 220,000 lbs of mass into LEO twice per year. Nobody, not even NASA, even has the BUDGET to build the space hardware that would weigh that much, much less operate it, and still be able to afford two Jupiter-130 launches per year.

    Regardless if it’s the SLS or the Jupiter-130, NASA doesn’t NEED a launcher of any kind, so any spending on one will be a waste.

  • Coastal Ron

    Dennis Wingo wrote @ August 25th, 2011 at 11:35 am

    We simply don’t have the industrial and engineering base to do this anymore and to recapture that will take a LOT of money.

    Oh I think we have more than enough talent and capability here in the U.S. What we lack is the Apollo and Shuttle-sized budgets to pay for them.

  • Dennis “Does anyone seriously think, based on the performance of constellation, that we could do the same today with SLS?”

    Dennis you just made my point, if we use the Constellation model (ie excessive NASA micro management) then you are 100% correct. “IF” on the other hand we use the SpaceX procurement model only leveraging ‘existing’ hardware, experience and infrastructure of the STS than yes $10 Billion, five years, half of the Op cost of STS for the Jupiter-130 config is a very good number.

    Heck SpaceX with zero experience, zero hardware, zero infrastructure and the most important of all near zero NASA micro management can do what it did then why not the SLS under a similar set of groundrules?

    That is the key to the SLS success, or for that matter any success however repackaged and relabeled going forward. Whether its new and improve Elon or tried and true Lockheed/Martin.

  • Costal Ron: “Stephen, you keep arguing the supply side of the equation, but what you don’t understand is that there is no demand for an HLV. Zero.”

    There was zero market for the 747 as well. In fact it would have bankrupted Boeing if it weren’t for a fuel price shock and high inflation that occurred shortly after it left the factory for the first time.

    I just don’t understand why you fail to acknowledge that we would see a significant decrease in the cost of spacecraft development and significant increase in mission capabilities in a Jupiter-130 world?

    I for one would be happy with a breakthrough mission every five or so years vs all the retread missions that await us ‘if’ constrained to existing launch system capabilities.

    I’m also aware of some very useful missions that have nothing to do with NASA, but then again in an Obama world that would give the USA an unfair advantage over our enemies. Oh that’s right Americans are the enemies in his world view.

    Go ahead all just keep supporting this guy while NASA HSF dies a slow death. The budget lost will not be shifted to anything you want.

  • common sense

    “I’m also aware of some very useful missions that have nothing to do with NASA, but then again in an Obama world that would give the USA an unfair advantage over our enemies. Oh that’s right Americans are the enemies in his world view.

    Go ahead all just keep supporting this guy while NASA HSF dies a slow death. The budget lost will not be shifted to anything you want.”

    Pathetic unsupported rambling.

    Here again I vastly prefer our own and original amightywind.

    BTW, how much support do you expect from “this guy”? You’re sure to sell something to “this guy”. Good luck though.

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ August 25th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    There was zero market for the 747 as well.

    I don’t think you quite understand economics.

    The 747 was a fungible form of transportation, in that it transported the same people and cargo that could have been carried on the 707 or other commercial aircraft. What was different about it was how many people, and how much cargo, it could carry.

    The question about it’s viability had to do with it’s development cost and whether there was a large enough demand from the airlines to fly more people on one flight. Essentially, would there be enough orders, and could they charge enough to make a profit? There was, and they could, so it succeeded.

    An HLV cannot claim the same. There are already a plethora of med-heavy launchers that can put mass into space for far less than the numbers you quote for Jupiter-130, and many heavy launchers too. And once Falcon Heavy becomes operational, then it will be a fraction the price of the Jupiter-130, so why would anyone want to buy one in the commercial market?

    The only demand for a new launcher is if it does something the market needs that isn’t addressed currently. Price is what SpaceX is addressing, but all the Jupiter-130 can address is payload size and mass. Who needs that?

    Sure we all dream that there will be mega-payloads that will fly someday, since that would signal a huge increase in space activity. But that isn’t funded right now, and there are no plans that call out for 300,000-440,000 lbs of mass to LEO every year for 10 years.

    If it was fungible mass, in that it could fit on any launcher, then Delta IV Heavy could do that for $4B/year, or Falcon Heavy could do it for as low as $500M/year. Both launchers require far less out-of-pocket money upfront, essentially zero taxpayer risk, and they can spread their operational costs across other customers in case it turns out we really don’t need that much mass in space.

    Identify the customers for the Jupiter-130, tell us when their funding will be in place, and then we can talk. Until then, we don’t need any new HLV’s. Sorry.

  • There was zero market for the 747 as well.

    That is historical ignorance. Had it been true, Boeing would not have bet the company on it. They did so only after getting orders from Juan Trippe.

    I just don’t understand why you fail to acknowledge that we would see a significant decrease in the cost of spacecraft development and significant increase in mission capabilities in a Jupiter-130 world?

    We will see it in a Falcon Heavy world as well, for a lot less money.

  • Common Sense: “BTW, how much support do you expect from “this guy”? You’re sure to sell something to “this guy”. Good luck though.”

    We tried, God knows we tried, complete with pretty please with cream and sugar on top (i.e. wouldn’t you like to be the next Kennedy, it was right there for the taking etc.). Even a quarter of Bill Clinton’s self-interest common sense (it’s the economy stupid, Florida’s electoral votes, massive unemployment, offloading American jobs to the Russians etc.) should have pulled him our way.

    No way he’s on a mission with a specific purpose and that is to humble the USA before all other nations on all fronts, technical, military, financial, manufacturing, innovation, energy etc. See a pattern yet? All that bowing before world leaders was not an accident and Charlie told the 100% truth with regards to what Obama said was NASA primary mission. Or as George Soro’s has ‘publicly’ advocated a ‘managed decline’ of the USA. See in their world view our success must come at expense of someone else. Everything is zero sum game.

    It soon became clear that the impasse came about not because of what we were selling or how we were selling it (ie a vibrant US space program that fits the available budget). No the problem is what we were promoting as a feature (and one Congress really really liked +2/3, no small accomplishment BTW) is seen as serious bug in this camps book. As such no matter what you say or how you spin it, it’s impossible to sell this to someone with that kind of worldview.

    I know this may be hard to believe (as an American patriot it was hard for me to accept at first as well), but there are people in positions of power in the country that sincerely hate everything to do with this country. Sure we aren’t perfect but the level of hatred is really off the hook and 180 degrees out of sync with realities of history and the true nature of the world at large. And don’t expect them to come right out in say it to your face either, watch what they do. In public they’ll say what they need to say in order to provide cover for what they are doing behind the scenes. Saul Alinsky was no dummy, and neither are his disciples.

    Anyway, I understand that NASA management is in need of some serious tough love post CxP, heck post Apollo, the more honest among them will admit the same and there is strong desire to do so if given half a chance and a leadership committed to the same. But most of the Elon worshipers NASA haters on here are just playing into his hands. SLS loss will not be your success, because in the end we both share the same goal, a vibrant US space program, a goal not shared by this Whitehouse based 100% on their actions. Words and even the signed Law of the land counts for nothing. Just like Pappa Saul would have wanted.

    Anyway file this under hear me now and believe me later if you wish but from this one citizens perspective this is how it reads to me. I would love nothing better than to be proved wrong about what sure smells like an anti-American mindset. Then again “sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice”. So maybe they aren’t so bad after all. There’s always hope.

  • Rand: “That is historical ignorance. Had it been true, Boeing would not have bet the company on it. They did so only after getting orders from Juan Trippe.”

    Dead Wrong. Rand I know that spacecraft design 101 or anything to do with rockets for that matter isn’t your bag (though your sure do write a lot nonsense about it), but commercial airplane history and economics 101 as well?

    Fact the Boeing company almost went bankrupt over the 747. What saved the day wasn’t PanAm but dumb luck. See the sunk cost for the 747 was in pre 1970 dollars while the price of airplane that burned half the gas per seat of the current fleet was in post high inflation 1970 dollars.

    Now for extra credit Rand, what was also happening after 1970, hint it makes up 1/3 of the take off weight of 747, people will line up around the block if they need it?

    Anyway it is a fact that the marketing group at Boeing advised against the 747 because ……wait for it……..there was no market. What kicked off the 747 was basically I’m braver than you bet between Bill and Juan, if you sell it for this price I’ll buy this many.

    So PanAm was the launch customer and as with all launch customers they are important but the business case was far from closing based on that order alone. Hence why the Finance guys had such heartburn and sleepless nights even after the teaser price for PanAm.

    Of course with the dumb luck that happened after the program was well underway both Boeing (more orders than projected at higher prices) and PanAm (a good lock on the first order run helping them to dominate early 747 class markets, gee I thought their weren’t any markets) made out really well.

    Anyway nice try grasshopper, 747? What’s that? Never heard of it?

  • josh

    “but then again in an Obama world that would give the USA an unfair advantage over our enemies. Oh that’s right Americans are the enemies in his world view. ”

    “A great launch system worthy of a great nation that still dreams big dreams. Which is exactly why Obama in Co doesn’t want it, because it supports the world view of their political enemies. Or what I like to call Americans.”

    you sure are making every effort to sound like an obama-hating redneck spouting pompous nonsense. it’s hard to take you serious this way.
    you probably still believe in american “exceptionalism” too. boy, are you in for a rude awakening this century..

  • Costal Ron: “If it was fungible mass, in that it could fit on any launcher.”

    That’s the key word is ‘if’ it’s a fungible mass. 100% agree when it comes to propellant provided you have depot and a reliable transfer mechanism but a Spacecraft is most definitely ‘not’ a fungible mass.

    Would you have us believe that a 75mT by 10m spacecraft cut up into 3x25mT by 5m chunks is the same? The latter will cost at least twice as much and do half what the former will do.

    Only about 20% of the total mission cost is launch cost. So even if the launch cost was free Space exploration and development would still be very expensive. When it comes to launch mass only 20% is spacecraft.

    That is why our proposal ‘included’ a commercial supply propellant depot. Initially supplied from Earth and then one day using Lunar ISRU if cost competitive. Add robust reuseable spacecraft and we might actually be able to afford this.

    The nature of propellant vs. everything else is totally different in all aspects. Just about the only thing they share in common is that they all have mass and volume.

  • Josh, we will see.

    Who would have predicted that the America of 1936 would have produced the America of 1946? Not bad given that we were out numbered twenty to one, composed of people the rest of the world drove away wouldn’t you say?

    Actually I love this country precisely ‘because’ its composed of peoples from around the world, the ultimate experiment in what the world itself could become if only it where to embrace rather than reject the principles of the Constitution. While we are by no means perfect, largely because we fall short of our own principles, you can clearly do worse.

    Like your country for example.

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ August 25th, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    So PanAm was the launch customer and as with all launch customers they are important but the business case was far from closing based on that order alone.

    Who is the SLS launch customer, and wouldn’t you agree that they are far from closing the business case?

    Even if Congress were to substitute their SLS for your Jupiter-130, how do you close the business case? What customers will make it a “success”?

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ August 25th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    I’m beginning to wonder whether anything you say can be believed without further clarification.

    First you say this about information that is on the DIRECT website:

    We were just being good Scotty engineers, holding back so we can be seen as miracle workers.

    That was in regards to the website stating that the Jupiter-130 would have a capacity to LEO of 75 tons, while the calculations you used for $/lb were based on “secret” numbers of 110 (which is supposed to be the -246 capacity). How is anyone supposed to make a reasonable comparison if you cant’ tell us the real numbers?

    Then you use a declarative statement to say:

    There was zero market for the 747 as well.

    But when confronted with the facts that Pan Am was the launch customer, you agree and say:

    So PanAm was the launch customer

    If Pan Am was the launch customer with an order for 25 747′s, that means there was a market.

    So in your world does 75 = 110, and “zero” = 25?

    Reminds me of the Monty Python mattress salesman skit:

    Mr Lambert: Or, perhaps I should have explained. Mr Verity does tend to exaggerate, so every figure he gives you will be ten times too high. Otherwise he’s perfectly all right, perfectly ha, ha, ha.

    Can you provide a conversion chart?

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ August 25th, 2011 at 1:21 am

    “Because that’s reality. No Shuttle crew is worth billions of dollars, and any Shuttle crew can be replaced much more quickly and easily than an orbiter.” =eye roll= Your reality. And it’s quite warped. Reaffirming your poor value system says it all- and it’s valueless to HSF. End of story.

  • josh

    “Like your country for example.”

    Uhm, i’m no more a citizen of nazi germany then you’re a citizen of the confederacy:P

    And yeah, we’ll see. Just watch.

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ August 25th, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Would you have us believe that a 75mT by 10m spacecraft cut up into 3x25mT by 5m chunks is the same?

    I’m sure you’re aware of the term “trade studies”. Whenever someone finally gets approval for a program that requires lots of mass into orbit, they will first be doing trade studies to find out the best combination of size and other factors. Some of that will take into account what will fit on available launchers, and some of that will take into account the cost to build.

    I know you like to focus on what the Jupiter family of launchers can do, but I’m from the manufacturing world, so I look at the cost to build the payloads. So far we can build 4.5m diameter (ISS sized modules) on existing tooling and use existing test facilities. Not only that, but those modules fit on ground and air transportation. Not so with 10m diameter modules.

    Not to say that we couldn’t upscale all our facilities and transportation systems. They did it for Apollo, but unless you have lots of money, or you plan on using them on a continuous basis, the trade studies would probably show that existing 4.5m assemblies work just fine. If you ever watch NASA TV, those ISS astronauts are bouncing around in all the room those modules have, so it’s not like we’re restricted. And Bigelow modules promise even larger diameter structures if needed.

    So really we’re waiting for a funded need before we can decide these things – when will that happen?

    So even if the launch cost was free Space exploration and development would still be very expensive.

    Very expensive. When will someone be coughing up the money for these expensive payloads?

    And will they have enough money to launch an HLV twice a year for 10 years?

    I don’t know any government agency that will be doing that anytime soon, nor any foreign government that we would sell to.

    What’s your guess, and when?

  • Stephen Metschan

    Costal Ron, concerning our performance numbers, we where just a bit miffed at how the NASA leadership was lying to Congress about our performance numbers (ie defying the laws of physics), even while they had ESAS Appendix 6 proving them as liars. Regardless of whether its 75mT or closer to what the STS stack does now at 110mT the operational $/kg numbers are still very good for the Jupiter-130 at only 2 launches per year.

    Your point on affording the payload that the even the Jupiter-130 could put up there is good one, which is why Griffinistas attempt at resurrecting the Ares-5 is foolish to the extreme. If the budget/need arises the Jupiter-130 can be upgraded all the way up to the Ares-5 classic configuration faster than the new missions can be brought on line.

    I guess when it comes down to it, it’s hard to look forward to rehashed missions of the last fifty years. The serious cost overruns of exciting mission objectives like JWST and MSL didn’t have anything to do with ‘management’ as NASA claimed, it was the technical challenge of trying to exceed the objectives of past missions (or why bother) while constrained to the existing launch systems. There are also important national security improvements the Jupiter-130 would specifically enable. If we only charged the incremental launch cost, the space based solar business case would finally close. There is just a whole host of good things that could happen in a Jupiter-130 world.

    The biggest regret is that we didn’t do this after Challenger. Imagine what we could have done by now?

    The biggest problem though is if the SLS goes down the money will not go to Space but simple go back into the general fund and represent a bug splat on the windshield worth of difference to the fiscal mess we are in.

    All good leaders understand that before a people can do what seems to be the impossible they must first believe that they can do the impossible. NASA is a great way through example to inspire the American people to move through this fiscal crises (ie our best days are still ahead). Think back at all the past great Presidents that lead this nation out of tough times, they all have this in common. Hopefully we can have some influence on the next President because this one clearly doesn’t get what being President is all about, at least in American anyway.

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ August 26th, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Regardless of whether its 75mT or closer to what the STS stack does now at 110mT the operational $/kg numbers are still very good for the Jupiter-130 at only 2 launches per year.

    If you want people to believe and use your numbers, you need to stick with whatever you publish, regardless if it’s your safe number or what you consider a “real” number. Take a page from SpaceX, where they bumped up their Falcon Heavy numbers only after they had validated them internally, and I bet they are still holding onto some margin.

    It’s OK to give the customer more than they ask for, but don’t give them less. Your using inconsistent numbers is less, especially since someone that doesn’t know you can’t end up with the same answer your provide.

    If we only charged the incremental launch cost, the space based solar business case would finally close. There is just a whole host of good things that could happen in a Jupiter-130 world.

    Look, until you get customers committing to using your rocket, it has no future. If you need a current example of this, just compare SpaceX and their Falcon 9 with ATK/Astrium and their Liberty. One has $3B in customer backlog, and the other has $0. Both are new rocket companies, but one knows how to sell to rocket customers, and the other doesn’t.

    Until you can convince customers to risk their money on you, you will never launch. It’s not NASA’s fault, it’s not Congresses fault, it’s not Obama’s fault, it’s your fault. That’s just the harsh truth of the business world.

    You are just one of many fungible forms of transportation, and until there is a demonstrated need for your unique attributes (what makes you not a fungible commodity), you’re going nowhere.

    Blaming others doesn’t get you launch customers.

  • common sense

    “Blaming others doesn’t get you launch customers.”

    Yep. As in any business.

    Let’s see. You insult your customer and then you expect the customer to come and buy your product? You better have one heck of a great product. Which DIRECT is not. Stephen’s advocacy is turning into a bitter rant.

    My advice: Stephen should go do something else before he gets eaten alive by his own doing. Sometime cutting your losses is the best thing to do. Or you can dream that a future President and Congress will see the light but then again what are the chances?

    Oh well…

  • Vladislaw

    “There are also important national security improvements the Jupiter-130 would specifically enable. If we only charged the incremental launch cost, the space based solar business case would finally close.”

    I agree, I think the federal government should build huge trucks also. We build skyscrapers on their side and just load them on the government trucks and drive the skyscraper to the site and tip it up.. gosh now that would be something. If only we have gigantic government designed, developed, built at cost plus and operated by the dept of transportation.

    Can just imagine what this would open up? Gone would all these small 18 wheelers that haul stuff to build skyscrapers. Just do it one go. The business community would be all over these!

    We could haul buildings and all kinds of neat stuff if only we had gigantic government operated trucks.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Well said, Vladislaw.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ August 25th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    “We will see it in a Falcon Heavy world as well, for a lot less money.”

    More press release shilling for a paper rocket that does not exist.

    Best you focus on the problem at hand, getting the Falcon/Dragon/ISS servicing system operational. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

  • Best you focus on the problem at hand, getting the Falcon/Dragon/ISS servicing system operational.

    Why would I need to “focus” on that? Only an idiot would think that it’s my job, as opposed to Spacex’s. And they seem to be doing so.

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