Congress, NASA

Nelson crosses the aisle on ISS, KSC issues

It’s frequently noted here and elsewhere that space issues do not follow party lines closely, if at all, with differences of opinion more likely to be along regional or other lines than party affiliation. That’s demonstrated in the last few days by a couple of statements on space issues by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), working with two Republican colleagues.

Late Monday Nelson, in his role of chairman of the space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, issued a joint statement with the full committee’s ranking member, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), regarding the possibility that the ISS’s crew could be reduced to three or possibly, if temporarily, zero, in the wake of last week’s Soyuz launch failure:

“This is a very serious situation that bears close attention. Obviously, we must satisfy ourselves that the problem with the Russian rocket is identified and corrected as soon as possible. Perhaps the problems can be resolved quickly. But the very fact that NASA must make contingency plans for reducing the size or evacuating the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) if the Russian Soyuz cannot return to flight by November, is a compelling illustration of the urgent need to comply with the law and proceed immediately with the development of alternative and backup launch capabilities. Failure to take this action undermines U.S. leadership in space and jeopardizes our huge investment in the ISS.”

It’s notable that the brief statement does not explicitly mention any specific “alternative and backup launch capabilities”, although the “urgent need to comply with the law” is a subtle reference to the Space Launch System (SLS), which Hutchison explicitly referenced in a statement of her own last week after the launch failure. Backup means can also include commercial crew vehicles, although there’s little stated concern that NASA is not complying with the law regarding their development.

The fact that Hutchison and Nelson issued a joint statement is not surprising, as the two have closely worked together on space issues for years. What is a little more surprising is a joint letter to President Obama by Nelson and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Rubio, in his first year in the Senate, has so far shown less interest in space than Nelson, although he does serve on the science and space subcommittee; there’s also a considerable general ideological difference between the two senators. However, the two joined forces in the letter to protect funding going to the Kennedy Space Center.

Nelson and Rubio reference a letter earlier this month from five other senators from Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, who expressed concern about a “misallocation of SLS funds” for facility upgrades at KSC. Agreeing with the earlier letter’s call to move forward on the SLS, the Florida senators argue that spending SLS funds on KSC upgrades is within the intent of the law, saying that the funded upgrades are distinct from the more general “21st Century Launch Complex” upgrades planned for KSC and funded separately. “[T]hese projects have been selected because they decrease development and operations costs for the new vehicle,” they write. “Therefore, we strongly support the continued use of SLS funds to develop a complete heavy-lift rocket, including the KSC projects in question.” Or, in this case, geography trumps ideology.

86 comments to Nelson crosses the aisle on ISS, KSC issues

  • amightywind

    Nelson isn’t crossing the aisle. SLS ne Constellation has bipartisan support. It is the ideologues in the Obama Administration who are still pushing nerdspace in the face of widespread skepticism. The Obama policy to rely on Russia for ISS access is a disaster. Ares I would have been nearly ready to fly if the program had been allowed to succeed. Now we risk losing ISS.

    Nelson is realizing too late that he has walked the plank for Obama over NASA. He will now follow agency he betrayed down to Davy Jone’s Locker…

  • Florida Today on the Nelson-Rubio letter.

    Pigs at the trough. All around.

    Bring on commecial space to get us out of this embarrassment.

  • Das Boese

    amightywind wrote @ August 30th, 2011 at 8:13 am

    Now we risk losing ISS.

    Wishful thinking, but repeating it over and over still doesn’t make it true.

  • E.P. Grondine

    AW –

    Good morning. It was Griffin who killed work on manned craft that could be launched by either EELV. That’s why the large capsule was so important to ATK and Griffin – it “required” the Ares 1.

    Nelson was across the aisle from the start, with the blockage of Gration’s nomination.

    And Obama has Reid now siding with ATK, and on the other side of the aisle. If only Reid and Hatch could as quickly agree on spending and taxes as they did on the need for solid rockets…

    Jeff, the regions are the south and west (military factories built there in World War 2) versus the Northeast and midlands (read rust belt).

    The problem with all of this, just as it has been from the very start, is that even if Ares1 (er Liberty) can be made to “work”, it will still be a crummy rocket for manned launch.

    (RGO, MT, please explain the facts of life to some here again.)

    While I preferred the DIRECT compromise, ATK closed that window with that 130 ton clause.

    Alan’s 100 ton alternative sounds pretty good,if he’s right.

  • Each subgroup of SLS supporters is fighting to take the other subgroup’s pork. It would be amusing, if it weren’t so disgusting.

  • Alan

    amightywind wrote @ August 30th, 2011 at 8:13 am

    Now we risk losing ISS.

    I thought you wanted to splash ISS into the ocean and free the money up for SLS? Well now is your chance to get what you want, if the station is de-manned and there is a significant breakdown … Skylab Redux

  • amightywind

    That’s why the large capsule was so important to ATK and Griffin – it “required” the Ares 1.

    Oiy! After 30 years of flying in relative comfort on the Space Shuttle, it is unbefitting of America to fly its astronauts for a long duration mission in close pack. In this country we drive full sized 4-door pickup trucks, not smart cars. (At least I do!) The Ares I configuration is pretty much gone. The nerdspace pirates succeeded in that. But the Direct configurations support the Orion spacecraft and extra modules. That is what I now support.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rick Boozer wrote @ August 30th, 2011 at 10:30 am

    “Each subgroup of SLS supporters is fighting to take the other subgroup’s pork. It would be amusing, if it weren’t so disgusting.”

    well said. It is fun to watch the action grow more exciting as the Titanic slips beneath the waves and all that is left are various scraps RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ August 30th, 2011 at 8:33 am
    “Bring on commecial space to get us out of this embarrassment.”

    well said…and it is where events are, with some good planning on Charlies part…taking us Fortune favors the bold RGO

  • John Malkin

    http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n1108/29shannon/

    This should be the horse that pulls the cart. I’m not sure if this is the right person but we need to have defined missions and I don’t mean a grand vision or destinations (destinations are part of a mission). The goal since VSE is to go beyond earth orbit but we need the steps to get there. This might justify an HLV. Of course congress (the committees both science and appropriations) MUST agree to the missions and funding them. NASA needs to come back with realistic budgets for the missions. Personally I think these mission need to take settlement into consideration and aim to enabled it.

  • Rhyolite

    “It’s frequently noted here and elsewhere that space issues do not follow party lines closely”

    In other words, pork is bipartisan.

  • Major Tom

    “Ares I would have been nearly ready to fly…”

    No, Ares I/Orion would not be “nearly ready to fly.” As of March 2009, Constellation’s own schedule for IOC had slipped to 2015, four years from now — which would have made it useless to the current ISS demanning issue.

    http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2009/03/aresorion-slipping-18-months-shuttle-extension-upper-hand/

    And the final report of the Augustine Committee put the technically realistic IOC for Ares I/Orion in 2017-2019, and that assumed $3-5B/yr. was magically added to the NASA budget.

    Don’t make stuff up.

  • Alan

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ August 30th, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Alan’s 100 ton alternative sounds pretty good,if he’s right.

    I’m not the one saying it, ULA is the one saying it …

    Delta CBCs manufactured by ULA in AL, RD-68As by PWR in CA, and the GEM 60s in UT by ATK

    So tell me WHY we need SLS when we can get the upgraded Delta IV Heavy with existing infrastructure and minor pad upgrades at both CCAFS SLC-37 and VAFB SLC-6 to launch as many 95-100 ton payloads as needed. Would have a LOT of money left over to actually go to BEO.

  • Alan

    amightywind wrote @ August 30th, 2011 at 10:55 am

    That’s why the large capsule was so important to ATK and Griffin – it “required” the Ares 1.

    Oiy! After 30 years of flying in relative comfort on the Space Shuttle, it is unbefitting of America to fly its astronauts for a long duration mission in close pack.

    That’s the point of a mission module – provide some living space for the crew. A BA-330 or the old US HAB module (or the CAM) would make a real comfy mission module.

  • Rhyolite

    Alan wrote @ August 30th, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Sounds good to me too. The key point is that you don’t need a whole separate manufacturing infrastructure and standing army to operate the HLV. If payloads are slow in coming, Delta IV can support itself launching its current customer set.

    The reality is that HLV supporters can’t tell you what size HLV they need. The SLS specs were pulled out of thin air to justify a specific design and keep the pork flowing.

  • amightywind

    So tell me WHY we need SLS when we can get the upgraded Delta IV Heavy

    Because there are no paths for upgrading the existing Delta IV vehicle to 100 tons. It would require development of a new vehicle, which is what we are doing! Look folks, we’ll never get anywhere if we stay stuck on stupid.

  • There is nothing less relevant to the condition of ISS than SLS – except inasmuch as the latter sucks up money that could be used to have commercial access options by mid-decade.

    The Gang of Three noted above – Rubio, Nelson and Hutchison – as well as their confreres, care not a whit if ISS ends up in the Pacific sooner or later due to the lack of varied, reliable access, as long as they can buy votes today or satisfy their twisted “understanding” of space. The latter comes from naive young aides, lobbying by the cost-plus dependent companies, and the ego-driven deluded like Mike Griffin and Doug Cooke.

  • Alex

    “And the final report of the Augustine Committee put the technically realistic IOC for Ares I/Orion in 2017-2019, and that assumed $3-5B/yr. was magically added to the NASA budget.

    Don’t make stuff up.”

    I don’t think you’re entirely accurate. Augustine said Ares I/Orion in ’17-19 with a constrained funding profile and no ISS after ’15. This was the infamous, “Ares V by 2028 with no lunar lander” scenario.

    The 3 billion-plus up scenario had Ares V earlier in the 2020s and a firmer 16-17 date for Ares I/Orion. Still no ISS, though.

  • ok then

    Craziness. SLS is of no help to ISS until 2017+ and even then it won’t have a 2cd flight until 2020+. That can’t solve ISS crew / cargo issues.

    Commercial is the gap closer.

  • Michael from Iowa

    Bump the SpaceX Dragon/Falcon 9 launch up a month and load it up with supplies. Make a short-term resupply and keep the station manned until the Soyuz investigation completes.

  • rpatituc

    NASA is too risk averse! They should fly humans on Dragon in November.
    NASA would have done that in the 60′s. They ought to bring back some of that
    heroism. It may be a risk for astronauts to use dragon, but they ought to risk
    it for America.

  • HLV-SLS + LEO propellant depot + in-space Nuclear Thermal Rocket engine (NTR) shuttle = DEEP SPACE MISSIONS

  • Coastal Ron

    Michael from Iowa wrote @ August 30th, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Bump the SpaceX Dragon/Falcon 9 launch up a month and load it up with supplies. Make a short-term resupply and keep the station manned until the Soyuz investigation completes.

    It’s the crew return issue that is causing all the concern right now, since the Soyuz landing area will soon be in the dead of winter and without enough daylight to search for a capsule that is even just a little bit off course when returning. Supplies are not an issue.

    Now if you really wanted to be bold, you could add three seats to the C2/C3 Dragon and use it as a replacement lifeboat (current Soyuz has to return by Jan.).

    However we are far from needing to consider this, and I think the Russians will fix things in time. But it does show the need for a 2nd (and likely 3rd too) LEO crew system (i.e. CCDev).

  • SLS cannot solve any of the immediate problems or concerns about ISS and is unlikely to do so for a number of years. Those funding demands are as likely to delay ISS servicing missions as enable it in any near future.. The immediate ISS concerns would be more swiftly met by increased funding to the “Commercial” launch providers with a push for earlier launch capabilities.

    I would be interested to her what Governor Perry thinks about NASA funding as it is such a big part of his home state.

  • Dennis

    I though SpaceX still was working on its launch escape system. Without it, no one will ride a Dragon. I dont think their life support systems are done either….. If it wasnt for those extra twin sates, the Falcon will carry along with the Dragon, they could probably make a complete supply run andnot just a partial…

  • Alan

    amightywind wrote @ August 30th, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    So tell me WHY we need SLS when we can get the upgraded Delta IV Heavy

    Because there are no paths for upgrading the existing Delta IV vehicle to 100 tons. It would require development of a new vehicle, which is what we are doing!

    Bullpucky!

    I tried posting the link to the ULA PowerPoint earlier but it is sitting in the moderation queue, so if you Google “Delta IV growth options” you will see as the first result a PDF document called Delta IV Growth Options on nasaspaceflight.com. I use that ULA document as a reference point:

    a 95-100 ton Delta IV can be enabled by performing all of the following:

    (1) convert to PWR RS-68As for CBCs (this is in progress)

    (2) add six ATK GEM 60 SRMs

    (3) ACES Second Stage
    (4) “Other Enhancements”

    The upgraded Delta IV Heavy will use a 6.5m x 85 ft fairing, 95-100 ton to 470km 28.5 degree LEO. “Existing Infrastructure” and “Minor Pad Modifications”.

    So I repeat my question:

    So tell me WHY we need SLS when we can get the upgraded Delta IV Heavy

    And I add a new question:

    WHAT are the requirements that drive the 100 tons – Name the source? 95 tons vs 100 tons is statistically and financially insignificant.

    I’ve cited my sources. Where are yours?

    If you NEED a HLV (as opposed to WANT one), then the fastest possible route is the ACES upper stage, RS68A-equipped Delta IV CBCs, and half-a dozen ATK GEM 60 SRMs. With a funded SAA for ULA I bet they can get the four elements completed prior to the end of 2016.

  • Martijn Meijering

    HLV-SLS + LEO propellant depot + in-space Nuclear Thermal Rocket engine (NTR) shuttle = DEEP SPACE MISSIONS

    EELV + cryogenic upper stages + EOR + hypergolic refueling + Lagrange point staging + Deep Space Shuttle = DEEP SPACE MISSIONS + large and fiercely competitive propellant launch market

    No cryogenic depots, NTR, HLV needed let alone on the critical path either to exploration or to cheap lift. Less cost, less risk, no new technology needed, greater returns.

    + SEP => added efficiency (even if only beyond the van Allens and even if only for the hypergolic propellant)

  • I though SpaceX still was working on its launch escape system. Without it, no one will ride a Dragon.

    I think you could find many people who would.

  • Alan

    Coastal Ron wrote @ August 30th, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Michael from Iowa wrote @ August 30th, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    “Bump the SpaceX Dragon/Falcon 9 launch up a month and load it up with supplies. Make a short-term resupply and keep the station manned until the Soyuz investigation completes.”

    It’s the crew return issue that is causing all the concern right now, since the Soyuz landing area will soon be in the dead of winter and without enough daylight to search for a capsule that is even just a little bit off course when returning. Supplies are not an issue.

    It begs the question I saw previously posted, and I realize there is a remote chance of a technical reason, but why not just plan a re-entry over the upper midwest US or southern Canadian prairie? I expect US Space Command can track the re-entry path and we can put more boots on the ground for quick recovery. A lot more population than the steppes of Central Asia. Plus think of the PR opportunities! It’s not like there’s some secret technology in the Soyuz Re-entry Module . . .

    It’s a matter of Russian pride (and stubbornness) that prevent this solution from being viable.

  • Coastal Ron

    Dennis wrote @ August 30th, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    I though SpaceX still was working on its launch escape system.

    You are confusing cargo and crew requirements – cargo doesn’t need an escape system.

    Without it, no one will ride a Dragon.

    Are aware that the Shuttle flew 131 times without a launch escape system, killed two sets of crew, and they had no problem filling the seats? Plus, capsules are inherently safer than the Shuttle due to their mounting location on the top of the rocket instead on the side, even without an LAS. In an emergency, they’d have problem getting volunteers, but luckily we don’t have an emergency, so it’s a moot point.

    If it wasnt for those extra twin sates, the Falcon will carry along with the Dragon, they could probably make a complete supply run andnot just a partial.

    You really shouldn’t post while drunk or on serious meds. Based on what I think you meant, all the technology needed for this next C2/C3 COTS mission is available, and it’s more a matter of NASA reviewing the plan and approving it (or not if they choose).

    And keep in mind that this next SpaceX COTS mission is a test to see if they can rendezvous successfully with the ISS, and any cargo they carry is part of the test, not a paid cargo mission.

  • Coastal Ron

    Alan wrote @ August 30th, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    It begs the question I saw previously posted, and I realize there is a remote chance of a technical reason, but why not just plan a re-entry over the upper midwest US or southern Canadian prairie?

    I can only offer a guess, in that it’s probably not technical (except for tracking), and more a combination or having never landed anywhere else, liability issues that would need to be worked out, and in general too much work to use as an official backup plan until now.

    It’s likely everything will get resolved, but this should be a good wake-up call for Congress to better support the CCDev program.

  • Martijn Meijering

    a 95-100 ton Delta IV can be enabled by performing all of the following

    That can’t be right, without the solids it’s something like 45-50mT, nowhere near 90mT. And if you look closely at the graph, you’ll see what the problem is: the payload is indicated by the blue line underneath the rocket, not by the tip of the rocket. ;-) So it’s50mT, not 95-100mT.

    And the ACES upper stage is what’s important, a bigger, refuelable upper stage would indeed be very useful. Current upper stages give you a bottleneck of 16-20mT from LEO to L1/L2, where you could refuel again even if you use just hypergolics. That’s doable, but something bigger would be nice, especially for interplanetary missions. A bigger launch vehicle is just relatively unimportant side effect.

  • tps

    There isn’t any reason the Soyuz can’t land someplace else other then Mother Russia. Sven’s space page has an article about figuring out the emergency coordinates that were radioed up to a Soyuz crew in 1979 in case they couldn’t land in Russia. Some were in America, Canada, and France.

    http://www.svengrahn.pp.se/histind/Ugol/Ugol.html

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    Dragon doesn’t need a LAS to act as a lifeboat replacement for Soyuz. It’s only on the way up that it needs one. Therefore, can remain on station for a few months or so, that would add breathing space for the Russians to review and determine the root cause of their failure, with a reasonable expectation of being able to fix it. The existing crew can stay put. There’s no need to replace them at the moment.
    ISS emergency solved!! There’s a few other assumptions involved of course, but none beyond the realms of possibility.

  • Martijn Meijering wrote @ August 30th, 2011 at 4:25 pm
    HLV-SLS + LEO propellant depot + in-space Nuclear Thermal Rocket engine (NTR) shuttle = DEEP SPACE MISSIONS
    EELV + cryogenic upper stages + EOR + hypergolic refueling + Lagrange point staging + Deep Space Shuttle = DEEP SPACE MISSIONS + large and fiercely competitive propellant launch market
    No cryogenic depots, NTR, HLV needed let alone on the critical path either to exploration or to cheap lift. Less cost, less risk, no new technology needed, greater returns.+ SEP => added efficiency (even if only beyond the van Allens and even if only for the hypergolic propellant)

    Sorry you missed some points:
    RLV is the cheaper space ops application. You are correct EELV cheap to build but does FAIL (*note latest example; ISS SUPPLY Russian Progress.)
    -Show me where Shuttle Main Engines SME FAIL?
    -Apart from ’86 STS-51-L Challenger SRB fail show me SRB FAIL?
    -chemical Isp 450 max vs nuke Isp 825-1200 or higher this gives better T/W ratio means more payload capacity. Space nukes are higher performance than any chem fuel.
    -most professional astronautical engineers approve of in-space fuel LOX + alternative type fuels depot with NTR missions.
    -Shuttle NTR Lagrange park orbits for easy repair, maintenance & access.
    -with a NUKE-NASA we promise to bring back FREE LAUNCH
    (NASA GATEWAY/HITCHHIKER PROGRAM)

    TOTAL COST: $100 USD/lb to LEO GUARANTEED !!
    *proviso: To design, build, operate and maintain this type of expansive space program. NASA and some aerospace companies would need to be purged to get rid of stagnant thinking and petty cronyism.

  • Matt Wiser

    Governor Perry would likely support it, as JSC is in his home state. However, he’s made no policy statement on the subject, other than the “Obama killed Shuttle” nonsense.

  • That is payload launch costs @ $100 dollars/pound to LEO GUARANTEED !!

  • Martijn Meijering

    @Bruce:

    I’m all for RLVs, in fact that is why I would like to see an exploration program done in the way I sketched. The point would be to create a large and fiercely competitive propellant launch market since I believe that may be the best way to stimulate commercial development of small RLVs. Nevertheless ELVs, perhaps partially reusable ones, are likely to remain the system of choice for large payloads (10-30mT) for the foreseeable future.

    Similarly, I’m all for cryogenic depots, but I want the market to develop them when they become cost effective. Until that time we can make do with refuelable storable propellant spacecraft and EOR with cryogenic upper stages that are launched fully fueled. The propellant launch market is what’s important, optimising the precise type of propellant is much less so.

    Nuclear propulsion too would be great. I’m not convinced NTR is better than NEP or even whether SEP might not be better than NEP in the inner solar system. As an aside: NTR engines have lower T/W than chemical ones. Higher Isp tends to go hand in hand with lower T/W.

  • @Martijn Meijering:

    RLV vs ELV the economics & capabilities of both have been outlined a lot.
    Suffice to say each has a role in space applications. ELV’s best advantage is in light repetitive payload launches. Over time RLV will approach ELV in amortizing costs on HLV-SLS (even better cost performance w/ nuke launch component). Not to mention the latest example, of the ISS PROGRESS ELV supply system FAIL and threat of ISS vacancy. Maybe a mixed RLV/ELV could work. Trust me 3 bulk (LOX) cryo-depots will pay for themselves in the first 2.5 missions.
    -The advantage of NTR is optimum T/W ratio
    -NTR is multi task ( idle-power up-relaunch)
    -NTR is multi functional
    NTR has a operational heat sink in removing heat from working exhaust velocity thrust plume. NEP requires extra hardware to remove heat and removing heat is very important in space nuke systems. VASIMIR and other ion type thrust systems border on HYPE (near HOAX) capabilities most applications for plasma ion thrust is smaller applications nowhere near the scaling up capabilities of pure NTR systems or hybrid NTR/NEP systems.
    NTR systems have better T/W ratio for in-space enviro than chemical.
    Granted Gas Core fission, matter/antimatter annihilation, and Fusion are better but they are NOT near term space propulsion techs.

    THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE TO NTR FOR SPACE PROPULSION.

    That is if you want to drive a space program that is pro-expansive, pro-human (HSF), pro-human (colony), pro-market, pro-exploration, pro-destination.

  • Das Boese

    Bruce Behrhorst wrote @ August 31st, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE TO NTR FOR SPACE PROPULSION.

    Writing it in bold and allcaps doesn’t make it more convincing, it makes you look like a kook.

    *proviso: To design, build, operate and maintain this type of expansive space program. NASA and some aerospace companies would need to be purged to get rid of stagnant thinking and petty cronyism.

    Oh yeah, easy peasy. Unless you live in a reality where the USA aren’t similar to the Soviet Union under Stalin, which is to say, our reality.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Bruce, I think you are missing my point. In my opinion the single biggest obstacle and in fact the only significant obstacle to commercial development of space in our lifetime is high launch prices. If we manage to reduce them to $100-$1,000/kg instead of the $10,000/kg of today, then everything else will follow. At those prices there would be significant commercial traffic to LEO and beyond and that would bring in enough money to develop everything else (cryogenic depots, ISRU, aerobraking, BEO, NTR you name it).

    So the question is how do we get there as soon as possible. I submit it’s not by spending lots of money on things that will only matter after we have cheap lift, such as, well, cryogenic depots, ISRU, aerobraking, BEO, NTR you name it. First things first. If you are optimising something else than the bottleneck, then you aren’t being all that helpful.

    So how do we focus on RLVs? I submit that the best way is not by another STS, NASP or X-33 program, but by providing enormous competitive demand for launch services and letting market forces take care of it. Doing an exploration program based around propellant transfer and competitive price-based procurement of the required propellant launches would do the trick.

    That’s why I want to focus on the simplest thing that will work, and in my opinion that would be something close to the following: an unmanned program that uses a refuelable hypergolic transfer stage to do propellant-intensive science missions. If that’s not exciting enough you can add manned capabilities as needed, as long as you spend at least $1B a year on competitive propellant launches.

    As for NTR: I suggest you read Kirk Sorensen’s articles on NTR over at Selenian Boondocks. They’re not a panacea, though I think they are interesting, especially with LOX augmentation or something similar.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Oops, I don’t know why I said BEO above, I meant NEP.

  • Coastal Ron

    Bruce Behrhorst wrote @ August 31st, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE TO NTR FOR SPACE PROPULSION.

    Yikes, are you another incarnation of Gary Church?

    Just in case you’re not, yes, there are always alternatives, so what ever logic system you are using is failing you.

    Now if you wanted to make the assertion that NTR would be less expensive in the future than chemical alternatives (or whatever), then fine, that’s your supposition.

    But to claim there are no alternatives is ignorant. Don’t be yet another ignorant poster.

  • The ‘bottleneck’ is not insurmountable for NTR:
    A payload launch costs @ $100 dollars/pound to LEO GUARANTEED !!

    The best option is RLV main engines on HLV-SLS make them recoverable,
    LOX/H2 bulk propellant depots and the in-space NTR features will take care of a marketable space program.

    The problem I have with this blog is it’s populated with people stuck on process and its anemic commercial space program which is going no where but to LEO.
    Russian EELV’s is sinking its own space program not to mention ISS which by extension SpaceX and all the pet ‘newspace groupies’. It’s not going to work unless there are major corrections in space programs RSA, ESA NASA and their space private company contractors.
    All my space nuclear consultations are with Dr. Howe of CSNR http://csnr.usra.edu/ , S. Borowski, NASA Glenn. read book
    THE NUCLEAR ROCKET, James Dewar.

  • Martijn Meijering

    The ‘bottleneck’ is not insurmountable for NTR

    Are you suggesting NTR for both Earth to orbit and for in-space propulsion or just the latter?

    The best option is RLV main engines on HLV-SLS make them recoverable, LOX/H2 bulk propellant depots and the in-space NTR features will take care of a marketable space program.

    What do you mean by RLV engines on SLS? And if the SLS is to be an RLV, then the whole vehicle has to be recoverable by definition, not just the engines. Or are you suggesting a partially reusable vehicle is better?

    And what do you mean by “best”? If you mean most capable in the long term, then maybe you are right, except for SLS. If you mean most likely to give us $100-$1,000/kg launch costs within twenty years, then I fear you are dead wrong. And it is the latter definition I care about.

  • Coastal Ron

    Bruce Behrhorst wrote @ August 31st, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    A payload launch costs @ $100 dollars/pound to LEO GUARANTEED !!

    Then what are you waiting for? Go start up that rocket company and show every one else how it’s done. That’s what real innovators do. Until then, you’re just another clueless enthusiast.

    Sorry if that hurt’s your feelings, but you’ve already been calling the rest of the aerospace industry bumbling idiots for not seeing clearly what you see, so let’s call it even.

    Now if you want people to take you seriously, go publish a paper or provide more detail than the alphabet soup you’ve been spouting so far.

    All my space nuclear consultations…

    I’m sure they appreciate your enthusiastic questions.

    read book

    There is a big difference between writing a book and making something work in real life. You know:

    Those who can, do. Those who can’t write books.

  • Martijn Meijering wrote @ August 31st, 2011 at 8:13 pm
    What do you mean by RLV engines on SLS? And if the SLS is to be an RLV, then the whole vehicle has to be recoverable by definition, not just the engines. Or are you suggesting a partially reusable vehicle is better?

    One of our members suggested the main stage + tank and engines could be recoverable cooled, encased, shrouded and dry.

    And what do you mean by “best”? If you mean most capable in the long term, then maybe you are right, except for SLS. If you mean most likely to give us $100-$1,000/kg launch costs within twenty years, then I fear you are dead wrong.

    Within 5-8 years of NTR service $100-$500/lb launch cost.
    One of the blogs silly newspace groupies suggested NTR has no history of operation.

    Some ‘space politics’ bloggers need to read up on nuclear rockets.

    The bottom line is newspace is on life support and unless there is acknowledgment that large segments of the space industry need to build with nuclear space science in mind the space industry will soon end. Bloggers will always talk about what could of…or should of been…rather than letting real engineers and astronauts tell us what they have experienced and how more people in the future can experience the same space voyages creating a growing industry that needs educated graduates to work in the space industry making a good living.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Within 5-8 years of NTR service $100-$500/lb launch cost.

    That needs some explanation… You didn’t answer my question whether you meant to use NTR for Earth to orbit. If not, how could NTR lead to a dramatic reduction in costs? And even if you do mean to use NTR for ETO it’s not clear how that would automatically reduce costs (or even at all).

  • Martijn Meijering

    I meant launch costs specifically.

  • Coastal Ron

    Bruce Behrhorst wrote @ September 1st, 2011 at 1:14 am

    One of the blogs silly newspace groupies suggested NTR has no history of operation.

    What is the history of NTR launches? None that I’m aware of, at least launching from Earth.

    Or are you talking about NTR being just another family of in-space thruster? In which case it has no effect on lowering launch costs.

    You are far too vague.

  • Martijn Meijering wrote @ September 1st, 2011 at 7:37 am
    That needs some explanation… You didn’t answer my question whether you meant to use NTR for Earth to orbit. If not, how could NTR lead to a dramatic reduction in costs?
    And even if you do mean to use NTR for ETO it’s not clear how that would automatically reduce costs (or even at all).dd

    Ok I’ll give you summary but you need to consult for details and costing analysis study.

    We can consider a small NTR engine to begin the process to broaden domestic and foreign participation in the space program, increasing private, while decreasing Gov’t funding.
    FIVE GROUPS that have been barred from space will benefit from wider access:
    -Professional societies
    -amateur astronomers
    -students
    -inventors/entrepreneurs
    -enviro/greens
    and as access to free space increased it allows the public a return on investment of their tax dollars and expands tax base same for private investment balance sheet and margins including munies and stocks and bonds sales. NASA’s infrastructure would need to morf from an operational org. to one with private & public responsibilities, including supporting a burgeoning private sector space program.

    THE TECH CONCEPT:

    One RE-CORE and one RE-USE engine would operate as a launch system.
    A RE-CORE would carry a RE-USE engine, LH2 or Payload to LEO, then return to earth for a new core and then fly again, carrying payload or LH2 for the RE-USE engine to fly a mission. This would be mated to the RE-USE engine which then fires to carry the payload on to its mission elsewhere, then returns to LEO for more LH2 and payload the RE-CORE had carried up. This scenario would repeat until it has reached the end of its operational life of 30 hours with 180-recycles.

    THE LAUNCH SYSTEM HAS 5 COMPONENTS
    ’4th generation RE-CORE engine & stage’

    RE-CORE & its BOOSTER ENGINE:

    800MW (40K lb of T), 6K lb engine weight, 1000 Isp, 100gal of LH2/sec. consumption.
    - STAGE: LH2 tank weight: 20K lbs, 17K lb payload, 3K lb cocoon, LH2: 90gals/45K lbs.
    TOTAL:
    -engine 6K-lbs
    -LH2 tank 20K-lbs
    -LH2 45K-lbs
    -cocoon 3K-lbs
    -payload 17K-lbs
    =91K-lbs

    SENARIO CONCEPT

    - JUST-IN-TIME-LAUNCH (keeps cost down)
    - DARPA RASCAL (Cargo plane launch C-5 STARLIFTER or GLOBEMASTER)
    - Strap-on SRBs boosts stage to >100K ft. altitude to fire RE-CORE to full power (safe rad ops)
    -Repeat cargo flights to reduce cost still.

    RECOVERY OF RE-CORE ENGINE

    -The RE-CORE must be separated from its empty tank a relatively easy task before its return to earth. Cocoon must be recovered.
    -Inspection servicing & recertification: RE-CORE engines
    - RE-CORE RE-LAUNCH
    -Space ops infrastructure: Re-use Engine once the RE-CORE returns to LEO, it must be demated from its payload, which in turn must be mated to the RE-USE engine that has been parked. Then it would fire, carrying its payload to BEO.

    COST:

    A RE-CORE could carry 1.7 million lbs to LEO in 100 flights for TOTAL: $6.16billion or about $3600/lb if all costs are amortized, if not the RE-CORE cost could drop to $108/lb. The RE-USE engine could carry 600K-lbs to BEO for $166/lb or 300K for $332/lb.

    COMPARE WITH CHEMICAL

    STS takes a pound of cargo to LEO for $15,000 while ELV DELTA 4 HEAVY @ a cost of $140 milion each, will take 48K lbs to LEO.

    THAT’S PROJECTS TO $2900/lb !!

    If this sounds good you proceed to a Nuclear Fleet Model

    (summary figures)
    JAMES DEWAR, The Nuclear Rocket, Chapter 4

  • Willis Shirk

    Thank you Bruce for bringing both facts and logic to the discussion as to the need for NTR propulsion. James Dewar’s scenario for developing a commercial/government partnership to fully develop a robust set of NTR mission architectures that can deliver payload at $100 per pound to LEO is truly an inspired concept. Others are possible as well, including even direct launch from the earth’s surface, rather than Dewar’s proposal for airborne launch before firing the NTR. Nearly all of the pioneers of the space age either dreamed of or actually advocated nuclear propulsion as the way to fully open up the frontier, including Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Robert Goddard, Wernher von Braun, Stanislaw Ulam, Freeman Dyson, and Arthur C. Clarke.

  • Coastal Ron

    Bruce Behrhorst wrote @ September 1st, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    A RE-CORE could carry 1.7 million lbs to LEO in 100 flights for TOTAL: $6.16billion or about $3600/lb if all costs are amortized, if not the RE-CORE cost could drop to $108/lb.

    I’m a manufacturing-type person, not a rocket engineer, so I’ll just comment on the cost side.

    First of all yes, you need to amortize all costs, since nothing in life is free.

    I assume you’ve added in the cost of using military transports (which are not free) – what are your cost assumptions, and what happens if the military doesn’t want to support your business? What is your alternate aircraft, and how does that affect your capabilities and costs?

    Still, your price of $3,600/lb to LEO is not very enticing, especially when you consider that SpaceX is offering Falcon 9 (23,050 lb to LEO) for $2,560/lb, and Falcon Heavy (117,000 lb to LEO) for $1,070/lb. What is your competitive advantage? In other words, why should a company use you instead of SpaceX?

    You still haven’t explained your technology either – how does an NTR work, and why is it so much better than current rocket technology? And let’s avoid the conspiracy theories as to why no one is using it right now – just the facts please.

  • Coastal Ron

    Willis Shirk wrote @ September 1st, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    James Dewar’s scenario for developing a commercial/government partnership to fully develop a robust set of NTR mission architectures that can deliver payload at $100 per pound to LEO is truly an inspired concept.

    And according to him, just a theory. On the Amazon website for his book, he is the only one with a comment, and it’s him saying he realizes that a containment system needs to be added to the nuclear engine (wasn’t in the book). And then he says:

    If I am right, and I think I am, then we drop our launch costs dramatically, perhaps to $100/pound and then even lower.

    It sounds like he has theories that need to be proven. Until then, they are just theories. And unless you can get your projected costs to be significantly lower than what is currently available with chemical engines, no one is going to want to spend much money on testing out his theories.

    I’m just pointing out the facts of business, and life.

  • Willis Shirk

    Coastal Ron, the NERVA NTR’s on which James Dewar based this second book are more fully described in his first book “To the End of the Solar System, The Story of the Nuclear Rocket.” They were not theoretical, they were actually built and tested by Westinghouse Electric and Aerojet General between 1955 and 1973 and greatly exceeded their initial design goals. The ground tests took place at the Nevada Test Site with the engines mounted upside down on the test stands with the rocket plume firing upward into the atmosphere. They were ready for final flight tests from the Kennedy Space Center when the program was canceled by President Nixon in 1973. Since then, widespread irrational paranoia about any technology with the word nuclear in it has so far stymied efforts to revive the technology. The iron laws of physics and economics will eventually prevail, however, if we are ever to have a real and robust space exploration program, not one forever confined to LEO. To allay public fears, Wernher von Braun proposed using his Saturn V first stage to boost the NERVA upper stage above the thickest part of the earth;s atmosphere before firing the nuclear rocket engine, but this precaution is really not necessary.

    All of this is in the public record and I have recently published an article on the topic in Pennsylvania Heritage magazine entitled “Aiming for the Stars, the Forgotten Legacy of the Westinghouse Astronuclear Laboratory,” (Summer 2011), pp. 6-13.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Hey, if it works I’m all for it. I think I need to give this book a try. That said, it would be up to the market to decide if this is the right approach – which they could do if there were large demand. So creating a large demand still looks like the key step.

    To be honest I’m very skeptical this is what the market would choose, but they might, just as they might choose an HLV although that seems unlikely too. Nevertheless there are many chemical RLV concepts that could radically reduce launch costs too and those would be much easier and less controversial to develop. So if there is ever going to be a nuclear RLV at all (and if it were based on LOX augmented ammonia or even hydrazine that wouldn’t be impossible), then it is likely chemical ones will precede it.

  • Willis Shirk

    PS, as a clarification, I do not recall writing anything in that review about a containment system needing to be added. THe NERVA engines were designed with adequate containment. Further, the $3,500 per pound to LEO is for a CHEMICAL rocket engine, not the nuclear rocket engine. This cost for chemical rockets varies rather widely depending on the particular launch vehicle employed and the Space Shuttle was undoubtedly the most expensive. That being said, the figure of $10,000 per pound that is often quoted is a gross exaggeration for LEO operations. It does trend higher for geosynchronous orbit and beyond, but most chemical launch vehicles probably range between $2,500 per pound to $5,000 per pound to LEO.

    While we are talking numbers, I should mention that American taxpayers paid about $1.45 billion on the NERVA program between 1955 and 1973, likely equivalent to $4.5 billion in todays dollars.

  • Willis Shirk

    PSS,
    Here is my complete review of Dewar’s book:

    James Dewar’s latest book, “The Nuclear Rocket, Making Our Planet Green, Peaceful and Prosperous,” articulates an important argument for developing a privately-funded space program built around the nuclear rocket technology originally developed more than thirty years ago by Westinghouse and Aerojet under the NERVA program. Like his earlier book, “To the End of the Solar System,” Dewar grounds his argument in the facts of physics, namely the fundamental rocket equation and the central role specific impulse plays in enabling a manned space program that makes possible true colonization of the entire solar system. More importantly, his latest book underscores his deep understanding of how the political process works and the realities of international diplomacy and the private enterprise system. While many readers will undoubtedly challenge some of his specifics for the implementation of a “Democratization of Space Act” and the accompanying corporate architecture, this book initiates an important public discussion of how to open up the space frontier to all peoples of the earth, not just the elites. It is a richly textured argument that asks readers to engage the complexities of our predicament as a species still stuck on the beach while before us lies untapped a vast ocean of unrealized possibilities that can be uniquely enabled by nuclear rocket technology. Both of James Dewar’s books are important seminal contributions to pro-space literature that place him firmly in the direct chain of visionaries advocating atomic powered rocket technology from Konstantin Tsiolkovsky through Leo Szilard, Robert Goddard, Neils Bohr, Glenn T. Seaborg, Wernher von Braun, Stanislaw Ulam, Robert W. Bussard, Senator Clinton P. Anderson, Walt Esselman, Freeman Dyson, and a host of scientists and engineers at Los Alamos, General Atomics, Westinghouse Electric Company, and Aerojet General who established proof on concept based on solid science and engineering.

  • Martijn Meijering

    That being said, the figure of $10,000 per pound that is often quoted is a gross exaggeration for LEO operations.

    The number I keep seeing is $10,000 per kg, not per pound.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Dewar grounds his argument in the facts of physics, namely the fundamental rocket equation and the central role specific impulse plays in enabling a manned space program that makes possible true colonization of the entire solar system.

    High specific impulse isn’t the only thing that matters and NTR isn’t necessarily the best way to achieve it. Launch costs to LEO in particular aren’t necessarily related to high specific impulse. And ISRU will be a major factor too, eventually. With ISRU propellant one of the best uses of an NTR may be in a low specific impulse nuclear steam rocket. And if you truly want high specific impulse, then SEP or NEP will give you higher values.

    But again, all this could and should be left to the market, all NASA needs to do is to provide a demand for propellant in orbit and all it has to do for that is to go out and explore. We could do that really soon with technology already in hand. The market would take care of infrastructure development and technology upgrades.

  • Coastal Ron

    Willis Shirk wrote @ September 1st, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    I do not recall writing anything in that review about a containment system needing to be added.

    Unless Willis Shirk = James Dewar, then no. Dewar wrote what I was talking about. Just check Amazon.

    Further, the $3,500 per pound to LEO is for a CHEMICAL rocket engine, not the nuclear rocket engine.

    Talk to Bruce Behrhorst, he’s the one that quoted $3,600/lb to LEO if the costs are fully amortized. And yes, they do need to be – there is no such thing as free in business.

    It does trend higher for geosynchronous orbit and beyond, but most chemical launch vehicles probably range between $2,500 per pound to $5,000 per pound to LEO.

    It doesn’t “trend higher”, it a fact that it does cost more to move a payload to GTO.

    Regarding costs to LEO, you need to be comparing fungible forms of transportation, which means that you can’t be comparing a rocket that can only carry 5,000 kg versus one that carries 10,000 kg.

    Behrhorst said that the NTR would carry 17,000 lbs to LEO, so let’s compare rockets in the med-heavy class that are similar. Here are the figures that I have been using based on publicly available information:

    Atlas V = ~$100M for 21,600 lbs to LEO, or $4,630/lb
    Falcon 9 = $59M for 23,050 lbs to LEO, or $2,560/lb

    While we are talking numbers, I should mention that American taxpayers paid about…

    So what? Do you know how much we’ve spent on the thousands of other programs that never became successful?

  • Vladislaw

    Although I am pro nuclear power and propulsion, I do not know how that would fly politically. It is one thing if a terrorist grabs a commercial airliner, quit another if a terrorist grabs a nuclear powered spacecraft in LEO. Not that I say it could/would happen, only that if that arguement is used it would be a tough sell politically for commerical nuclear powered spacecraft. If only the government does it, gone is innovation, cost reductions and being open to everyone, it would be a few NASA personal at great costs.

  • common sense

    Where is our friend Virgil/Gary when we need him???

  • Coastal Ron

    Willis Shirk wrote @ September 1st, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    Since then, widespread irrational paranoia about any technology with the word nuclear in it has so far stymied efforts to revive the technology.

    Yes, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was just a bunch of “widespread irrational paranoia about any technology with the word nuclear in it”.

    I’ve lived near a nuclear power plant, and I have the anti-radiation absorption pills to prove it, so you can’t say that “nuclear” doesn’t have some potential downsides.

    Look, Nuclear Thermal Rockets (NTR) could be a useful engine technology for in-space use, but we have so many tried and true alternatives that it’s not worth the effort to find out if NTR will be a reliable, long-term technology. Of course that could change if you could find someone to pony up the money to make a business out of it, but I doubt it. Sorry.

    OK, who has the next “better mousetrap” that they want reviewed?

  • Willis Shirk

    Well, I live next to Three Mile Island, both before, during, and since the accident, and I do not have any of those Potassium iodide tablets. You do realize that the tablets have serious health consequences in their own right and should not be taken unless a radioactive release is actually in process? Yes, any technology made by man can fail, especially when built on an earthquake fault without taking into consideration the maximum size of earthquake that can occur in that area into account, but the safety record of nuclear power is far, far better than any other energy technology we have available to us. In the case of Three Mile Island no one died, despite extensive testing there is no evidence to suggest anyone got sick after the fact, and no property was damaged beyond the reactor vessel. Too bad all of our disasters do not have such benign consequences.

  • Coastal Ron wrote @ September 1st, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Postal Ron, sorry…Coastal Ron;

    First of all yes, you need to amortize all costs, since nothing in life is free.

    You seem ‘anal’ about narrow process.
    You have a choice when you purchase a car, house, or launch system. You can purchase-out-right, partial up-front payment with balance financed or finance entire puchase. There are lots of alternatives to the basic payment options. I’m sure Lockheed or Boeing would love to build aircraft for just such a mission since the price on these aircraft have been manufactured in bulk meaning these aren’t a one-off manufactured item.Naturallly the cost would be lower. In the event the american aerospace industry does not want to cooperate then I could tender bids from Antonov An-225 Mriya. This would be natural since this would be a International Project to keep costs (down) competative via the bid process.

    Still, your price of $3,600/lb to LEO is not very enticing, especially when you consider that SpaceX is offering Falcon 9 (23,050 lb to LEO) for $2,560/lb, and Falcon Heavy (117,000 lb to LEO) for $1,070/lb. What is your competitive advantage? In other words, why should a company use you instead of SpaceX?

    The RE-USE engine could carry 600K-lbs BEO for $166/lb or 300K for $332/lbs. That’s BEO (BEYOND EARTH ORBIT)

    NTR technology has already proven itself it can deliver the thrust necessary to back-up private international nuclear industry and RSA, NASA, ESA nuke scientist & engineer talk. The pro-space nuke people only repeat what hard science/engineering have pointed out for years.
    You’re correct it has not flown in space under commercial setting but Falcon SpaceX has not altogether proven beyond doubt it can deliver @ recommended puchase price. And with the ISS under ‘life support’ they will find it hard to compete in the crowded SAT median payload launch market.

    Pound-for-Pound @ the launch pad system level comparison WE have the physics on our side just ask any rocket scientist worth their salt. And it only gets better as destination a human/robotic mission in our solar system. Again ask any astronautical engineer we have had Flight Directors who have have countless Apollo and Shuttle flight time tell us it is unreasonable NOT to use nuclear space propulsion this goes for Astronauts/Cosmonauts most fair accurate polling has given space nukes their approval for both propulsion and power in space.

    The problem is not science, engineering or cost it’s corruption, greed and crony single sector interests.

  • Coastal Ron wrote @ September 1st, 2011 at 8:17 pm
    And according to him, just a theory. On the Amazon website for his book, he is the only one with a comment, and it’s him saying he realizes that a containment system needs to be added to the nuclear engine (wasn’t in the book). And then he says:

    “If I am right, and I think I am, then we drop our launch costs dramatically, perhaps to $100/pound and then even lower.”

    It sounds like he has theories that need to be proven. Until then, they are just theories. And unless you can get your projected costs to be significantly lower than what is currently available with chemical engines, no one is going to want to spend much money on testing out his theories.

    J. Dewar states this on Amazon book review because re-entry or explosion will not cause big problem with high purity U235 fuel because USAF had incident where a MIRV warhead on a ICBM exploded from its silo
    throwing the MIRV and silo lid thousand yards from silo opening in Arkansas during Clinton governor period. Some warheads use weapon grade U fuel. NO nuclear explosion happened as a result. Obviously

  • Vladislaw wrote @ September 2nd, 2011 at 1:08 pm
    Although I am pro nuclear power and propulsion, I do not know how that would fly politically. It is one thing if a terrorist grabs a commercial airliner, quit another if a terrorist grabs a nuclear powered spacecraft in LEO. Not that I say it could/would happen, only that if that arguement is used it would be a tough sell politically for commerical nuclear powered spacecraft. If only the government does it, gone is innovation, cost reductions and being open to everyone, it would be a few NASA personal at great costs.

    That’s assuming everyone in the world is an A-hole.

    U235 fuel purity can be poisoned in the event of worse-case-scenario launch anomaly. If anomaly is on re-entry it would be under lock box and radioactive with tracking sensors plus a hefty GOLD, CASH, or STOCK OPTION in the international quid pro quo NUCROC CORP. REWARD!!

    How many people or gov’t worldwide would turn such wealth and opportunity down?

  • Vladislaw

    Bruce, I like your passion but you seem to be ignoring political realities. It would be like me saying, I can solve all of NASA’s problems, we simply move 100 billion a year from miltiary spending and add it to NASA’s budget. Gee see how simple it was. But, politically, it just is not going to happen. So to sit and rant everyday about that would be pointless.

    When President Bush suggested we go nuclear, Project Promethus lasted all of one year and was down to closeout costs in the third year.

    When President Obama wanted to get the isotope production increased for NASA’s RPG’s we saw how well that went over, what did they get 25 mil?

    If we had infrastructure in place and were mining and processing volatiles offworld it might be an easier sale, politically. But for right now, I think the best way we can advance the space sector is to push commercial fuel depots and commercial crew and fuel/cargo runs for NASA and Bigelow. At least CCDEV is getting peanuts, I think nuclear will be lucky if it can get the peanut shells.

  • Coastal Ron

    Bruce Behrhorst wrote @ September 2nd, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    How many people or gov’t worldwide would turn such wealth and opportunity down?

    Just ask the people that died on 9/11 how many crazy people it takes.

    You do realize that terrorists are not necessarily motivated by money, but by ideology? They are out to make a statement, whether it be political, religious or whatever. Nuclear isn’t alone in this, as biological weapons can be just as deadly.

    But since you’re flying that nuclear material over everyones house, just the mention of the statistical probability that something could go wrong (a lot of zeros followed by a 1), in the publics mind that means it could happen. Throw in the threat of terrorists getting their hands on the material, and irrational doesn’t look so irrational anymore.

    In any case, it only needs to affect the investors, in which case you won’t get far.

  • Coastal Ron

    Willis Shirk wrote @ September 2nd, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    You do realize that the tablets have serious health consequences in their own right and should not be taken unless a radioactive release is actually in process?

    Yep. Of course the alternative is supposed to be worse, so what’s a person supposed to do?

    Yes, any technology made by man can fail…

    And if you’ve paid attention at all, rockets fall from the sky all the time. So the challenge NTR has is not proving that it works, but proving that it’s safe in all failure modes. That is going to take a lot of upfront money, and that is the reason why I don’t see it being funded – there are too many unknowns from the operations side, not the technical side.

    Again, you have to ask yourself whether there is a market need for what you’re offering? SpaceX used a lot of investor money getting to the point where they could win their first government contract (COTS), and even more money getting to their first commercial launch contract. And they are using proven technology and manufacturing techniques. The rocket business is inherently risky for the providers, and it’s risky for the customers.

    You are coming in with a product or service that has very high negatives, and I haven’t heard much of how you are going to address those negatives with the people or companies that you want as customers. They have choices, so it’s all up to you to change their minds. But don’t blame them if they don’t, since the customer is always right (even when they’re not).

  • Coastal Ron

    Bruce Behrhorst wrote @ September 2nd, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Spruce Behrhorst, sorry…Bruce Behrhorst ;-)

    You seem ‘anal’ about narrow process.
    You have a choice when you purchase a car, house, or launch system. You can purchase-out-right, partial up-front payment with balance financed or finance entire puchase. There are lots of alternatives to the basic payment options.

    OK, that tells me you don’t know anything about cost accounting. That’s OK, but it just means that you have a lot of surprises ahead when you find out how much things really cost.

    In the event the american aerospace industry does not want to cooperate then I could tender bids from Antonov An-225 Mriya.

    Now you’re showing your ignorance of the aerospace industry. You said that you would be using a C-5 or C-17, but those are U.S. Military aircraft. Lockheed Martin can’t sell you one, since the U.S. Government owns the design and rights to it, and the U.S. Government is very particular about who they sell sophisticated aircraft to.

    As far as getting your hands on an Antonov An-225, there is only one flying, and if you want your own it will cost you at least $300M to finish a partially built second one. If you only buy one, that becomes a single point of failure (SPOF) for your entire launch system, so that will be a big concern for potential customers since replacing it will take huge amounts of money and time.

    You’re correct it has not flown in space under commercial setting but Falcon SpaceX has not altogether proven beyond doubt it can deliver @ recommended puchase price.

    The difference here is that SpaceX is a real company that customers can not only visit, but audit to validate what SpaceX is saying. NASA has audited them, and found that they have sound financials (profitable since 2007). Another customer, SES, “the second-largest global commercial-satellite operator, has a reputation for conservative risk management. It uses painstaking technical analysis and detailed engineering evaluation before making launch decisions or signing partners. [from the WSJ]”

    There are no NTR companies, so no one can say for sure what the true costs will be. For the air-drop version you still don’t even know if you have an aircraft that you can use, and what it’s capabilities are. There are too many variables to be able to produce reliable estimates. Just look at NASA and see how hard it is for them to estimate the cost to design, build and operate rockets – it’s a hard business for everyone.

    The problem is not science, engineering or cost it’s corruption, greed and crony single sector interests.

    Then how do you explain the success of SpaceX? What they prove is if you have the right product for the right market you can make a go of it in the rocket business. We’ll see if they succeed long term, but you should be emulating what they have done instead of complaining about how no one is holding your hand and making you an overnight success.

    Does anyone that supports this idea have money, or experience running a rocket company? That would be important you know…

  • Willis Shirk

    Let me see if I understand what you are saying, Coastal Ron. The very detailed NTR plan that is laid out by James Dewar in his book “The Nuclear Rocket” won’t work because he has neither money (like Elon Musk) or operates a successful rocket company (like SpaceX). By those criteria I guess that Robert Goddard, Wernher von Braun and Sergei Korolev never actually achieved anything. Further, let us look at what Elon Musk and SpaceX have so far actually achieved. They have two successful unmanned missions, one of which included two orbits of the earth and a successful splashdown – about what NASA had achieved way back in 1959. (Of course the launch pad infrastructure, the tracking system, and assistance on the recovery were all paid for by taxpayers.) Yes that is success and we all hope for much more in the future.

    Then you say that NASA has audited SpaceX and found from their financials that they have been a profitable company since 2007. What exactly does a government space agency like NASA know about the profitability of a private company, any private company? Ultimately it will be investors that determine whether or not SpaceX succeeds and I would say the jury is still out on that one.

  • Willis Shirk

    On the same topic, this for me raises again a question I have regarding all of the unconditional praise bestowed on SpaceX on message boards such as this one well in advance of their achieving more than a tiny percentage of their very laudatory long term goals. It particularly bothered me when Elon Musk so directly attacked Neil Armstrong for questioning the emerging consensus that NASA should cede its responsibility for building launch vehicles and crew exploration vehicles entirely to private sector companies such as his. Neil Armstrong and most of the other Apollo astronauts (with the notable exception of Buzz Aldrin) had a point that deserved more serious thought than Elon’s very disrespectful brushoff.

    Further, I wonder if SpaceX would have achieved its initial successes quite so quickly if Elon Musk did not enjoy quite such close personal relationships with Lori Garver and others within the current administration? I recognize that NASA is, and always has been, a political pawn of the current presidential administration, and whatever their agenda happens to be. In the past, the private contractors supporting NASA missions have always jockeyed for advantage with the administration to favor their on companies. I don’t think anything has really changed in this new era of so-called “commercial space” except that the players jockeying for political advantage now include a new crop of even younger millionaires and billionaires.

    While I welcome the new space entrepreneurs to the table, I worry that the starry-eyed Lori Garver and Charles Bolden who have now been placed in charge at NASA fully appreciate the risks they are running if this new generation of space entrepreneurs is not quickly able to fill the vacuum created by their policy of so abruptly ending of the entire Constellation program.

  • Coastal Ron

    Willis Shirk wrote @ September 3rd, 2011 at 8:01 am

    The very detailed NTR plan that is laid out by James Dewar in his book “The Nuclear Rocket” won’t work because he has neither money (like Elon Musk) or operates a successful rocket company (like SpaceX).

    I use SpaceX as a recent example of how to succeed in a very tough rocket market. So far all I’ve heard from you is talk, and as you know, talk is cheap. Actually building a business and getting customers to give you money is really, really hard.

    NTR looks like it might be a good technology to use out in space, far away from the “irrational” humans here on Earth. But there isn’t much of a market need for that right now, so maybe the time for NTR hasn’t come yet?

    What exactly does a government space agency like NASA know about the profitability of a private company, any private company?

    Auditing the financials of a company in order to determine if what they say is true is pretty basic. Any CPA could do it, and the U.S. Government employs lots of them for government contracting purposes. I guess you’ve never worked in the government contracting arena since being audited by the government for contract awards or contract viability is SOP.

    As part of the initial COTS program, SpaceX and Rocketplane Kistler (RpK) had to present their financials to NASA so that NASA knew if they had the financial ability to complete the contract. Eventually RpK couldn’t meet the financial obligations of getting further funding, so that’s why Orbital Sciences was brought in.

    This is pretty standard type stuff, so you should really become more educated on it, especially if you want money from the government. But private funding can be just as hard too, so don’t expect any easy money.

    In short, except for blaming other people and flowery words of things to come, I haven’t seen much of a sound business case for NTR. History is littered with technology programs that worked in limited tests but never made it to operational status, so if you want to change that you had better get busy and figure out:

    1. Who needs your technology (REALLY needs)?
    2. What they are willing to pay?

    Until you know that, you won’t know if you have a viable business.

  • Coastal Ron

    Willis Shirk wrote @ September 3rd, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Let me give you an example of what your NTR mutual admiration society should be doing:

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=33062

    Here is a clear example of where a company (XCOR) identified a customer (ULA) that had a clearly defined problem (lower costs to stay competitive). XCOR has never competed in this marketspace before, but they have building increasingly larger engines to get to this point. We’ll see if they succeed, but both companies are risking time and money on what they see as a good possible solution.

    Why isn’t an NTR 2nd stage motor being considered? Isn’t being a 2nd stage motor what NTR should be good at? And the upper stage that ULA has is currently LOX/LH2, which could be a lot simpler if all it needed to be was just an LH2 tank. This is the type of market you should be chasing, since it requires the least amount of upfront capital, and allows you to work out the inevitable design bugs on smaller engines.

    If all your plans start out like what Bruce Behrhorst is advocating ($300M just for a launch platform), you’re never going to attract investors, much less customers.

    Don’t you have any successful business people in your club to tell you this?

  • Coastal Ron

    Willis Shirk wrote @ September 3rd, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Further, I wonder if SpaceX would have achieved its initial successes quite so quickly if Elon Musk did not enjoy quite such close personal relationships with Lori Garver and others within the current administration?

    I know facts may get in the way of your silly proposition, but you should really look to see who awarded SpaceX their first, and to date largest, government contract. Since you seem to be researched-challenged, I’ll save you the trouble – Bush/Griffin.

    Now how does your narrative play out?

    It particularly bothered me when Elon Musk so directly attacked Neil Armstrong for questioning the emerging consensus that NASA should cede its responsibility for building launch vehicles and crew exploration vehicles entirely to private sector companies such as his.

    You believe the fallacy that somehow commercial crew, which was proposed by Bush/Griffin in the FY06 NASA budget, is somehow forcing NASA to “cede its responsibility for building launch vehicles and crew exploration vehicles”. Can you point out where it says they are responsible for that in the NASA Charter?

    Since February 2006 (Bush/Griffin again), NASA’s self-described mission statement is to “pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.” I don’t see “operate an LEO shuttle service to the ISS” as part of that.

    What you are confused about is the difference between doing something for the first time, which is what NASA does best, and doing it over, and over, and over, which is what commercial companies do best.

    Travel to LEO is at the level where aerospace companies, which have always built NASA’s hardware, are able to build and operate their own spaceflight systems. Exploration continues to be an area that only NASA is interested in pursuing, so commercial aerospace will just continue it’s usual role of being the hardware builders, but with their launch, cargo and crew services, they can help NASA do more exploration while spending less money upfront.

    Is this confusing to you?

  • Willis Shirk

    Coastal Ron Wrote:

    “What you are confused about is the difference between doing something for the first time, which is what NASA does best, and doing it over, and over, and over, which is what commercial companies do best.”

    With so any issues to address, I will choose just this one. You mean as examples of commercial companies being it better at doing it “over and over and over again” the case of SpaceX’s two successful flights to date, or perhaps the example of the crash of Blue Origin’s launch vehicle yesterday?

    You are right, I am confused by that argument.

  • Coastal Ron

    Willis Shirk wrote @ September 3rd, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    You mean as examples of commercial companies being it better at doing it “over and over and over again

    It’s funny how people that are against either A) Commercial Space, or B) SpaceX, tend to equate Commercial Space with only one company – SpaceX.

    Reminds me of the saying “you can’t see the forest for the trees”.

    I can talk all day about all the good things I think SpaceX is doing from a manufacturing and marketing standpoint, and I can also talk all day about all the good things that ULA, Orbital Sciences, SNC, Boeing, Blue Origin and XCOR are doing too. The only way we’ll have a robust space transportation system is by having more than one provider, and the more the better. Are you against that?

    When are we going to be able to add an NTR company to that list? How come an NTR company isn’t chasing engine replacement opportunities like what XCOR is doing? Or rocket opportunities like SpaceX?

    Some people see roadblocks, while others see opportunity. Which one are you?

    or perhaps the example of the crash of Blue Origin’s launch vehicle yesterday?

    You mean their internally funded sub-orbital test vehicle? You’re setting a pretty high bar for yourself, aren’t you? You guarantee that an NTR company will never suffer a failure during test? I doubt it.

    If you actually read what Blue Origin owner Jeff Bezos said, then you would know that failure does not end things for them. SpaceX has been the same way, and it’s a lesson you should learn too for your NTR efforts – hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Which at the very least means you better have deep pockets and a good incremental testing plan.

    What’s holding YOU back? Fear of failure?

  • Vladislaw

    “You mean as examples of commercial companies being it better at doing it “over and over and over again” the case of SpaceX’s two successful flights to date, or perhaps the example of the crash of Blue Origin’s launch vehicle yesterday?”

    So you choose as your example to illustrate commercial operations two companies that are still flying TEST flights?

    They have not started commercial operations. That would be like saying your project for a nuclear ship that is going to be flying cargo for 100 bucks a pound after the first test launch say.. why are you not flying once a week a already?

    If you want an illustration of more commercial operations look to Orbital, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, not cherry pick two companies still running test flights.

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ September 3rd, 2011 at 10:44 pm
    @ Vladislaw wrote @ September 3rd, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    Why in heck are you debating the nuke cult? They are not in to debate technology but just to spread over your face whatever history they might know or not and the people who know or not. Same as any cult, be it Apollo, SLS, Shuttle, NTR…

    The day they really want to have an argument is the day they will start learning technology and go for it. In the mean time they whine the others who actually do. And their arguments?

    Whatever. I could have the same debate with a wall.

  • To sum up. I’m sure most space technology fans and the general public would join me when I say, we need to move forward with space and the economy.
    I’m NOT ANTI-NEWSPACE. I appreciate SNC developing DREAMCHASER a wonderful launch system but damn! Its taken 48yrs. to bring a USAF Boeing X-20 Dyno-soar back from historic archived file blueprint?

    An inspirational space program is about expanding space building, funding and using NEW EFFECTIVE CONCEPTS TECHNOLOGY not coddling a revisionist space program.

  • Coastal Ron

    Bruce Behrhorst wrote @ September 4th, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    I’m NOT ANTI-NEWSPACE. I appreciate SNC developing DREAMCHASER a wonderful launch system but damn! Its taken 48yrs. to bring a USAF Boeing X-20 Dyno-soar back from historic archived file blueprint?

    Dream Chaser is based on the HL-20, not the X-20. Try to keep up.

    The reason we’re regressing from the Shuttle is that we never realized how expensive the Shuttle was. That was a failure of leadership, but here we are, so in a way we’re resetting the clock by going back to what the incremental improvements are to 60′s generation designs – capsules and lifting bodies.

    However complaining about “old tech” is like complaining that we should have fusion-powered flying cars instead of the internal combustion ones that still use rubber tires. Some things work so well that there aren’t lower cost alternatives.

    An inspirational space program…

    Oh, no, not another person that thinks space should be “inspirational”. Space is a huge place, and just like the not-so-huge place we live on today, you have to divine inspiration in your own way – don’t wait for others to define it for you.

    I don’t need an “inspirational space program”, I just want one that does the most with the least money. The Moon was “inspirational” for about one landing, and then the rest of humanity figured out that every other landing was just work, and though watching others work can be interesting, we don’t have too much time in our lives for that.

  • Willis Shirk

    For me, I find the notion of a “bargain basement” space program unacceptable. I can still remember President Kennedy’s resonant voice proclaiming at Rice University in 1962 “we choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things, not because they is easy, but because they are hard.” We need a space program that inspires young people to take on the personal challenge of the hard courses in physics, engineering, and mathematics because they know that they will one day have a vital role to play in actually opening up the space frontier. We need to reawaken in our nation the kind of can-do attitude that built the first atomic bomb, developed the first digital computers, and landed those first men on the moon, the cost be damned. We need to once again be a nation that does not shrink from the big challenges, such as landing humans on Mars within a decade, nor quibble over the costs of actually transforming those dreams into reality.

    More that five decades ago, Buckminster Fuller reminded us all that there is, and never will be, any shortage of wealth in the world to pay for such ambitious goals as space exploration when he declared that “wealth is merely energy compounded by ingenuity, and since by the conservation of mass-energy, energy can never decrease while ingenuity can only increase, total wealth can only increase.” It disturbs me that there has emerged in recent years this peculiar notion that we can only afford a space program on the cheap by enlisting a few billionaires who happen to have succeeded in making their wealth in completely unrelated fields to open up the space frontier for the rest of us by some combination of investing their own wealth together with a tiny amount of taxpayer money. While I sincerely hope they succeed, I still think that it is a cowardly way for a nation to run a space program. Further, I must note that none of the true space pioneers of of the 20th century including Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Robert Goddard, Sergei Korolev, or Wernher von Braun, were either billionaires or even successful businessmen. So far the only billionaires or millionaires who have actually flown in space have done so on Russian rockets that were designed under the regime of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics!

  • common sense

    @ Willis Shirk wrote @ September 5th, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    You need to come back to Earth a little while before embarking on such space projects.

  • Coastal Ron

    Willis Shirk wrote @ September 5th, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    We need to reawaken in our nation the kind of can-do attitude that built the first atomic bomb, developed the first digital computers, and landed those first men on the moon, the cost be damned.

    Apparently you live in an un-innovative area of the U.S. Where I live we have a vibrant entrepreneurial community that takes the best of science, industry and education and spins out lots of innovations. And my community is not unique, as we are competing for the best and brightest with other such communities around the U.S. I know for certain that the recession never hit the software programming industry – there is little unemployment there.

    Is innovation happening in aerospace? Yes. One large example is Boeing, who is pushing the boundaries of what can be done design-wise with a large non-aluminum airplane that must be mass-produced and durable. You don’t get that with high school dropouts, and programs like that are exciting to work on.

    Medium sized aerospace companies like Orbital Sciences and Sierra Nevada Corp. have lots of exciting programs too, as do the various startups. So I think it’s more a matter of you not looking around than any real lack of “excitement”.

    It disturbs me that there has emerged in recent years this peculiar notion that we can only afford a space program on the cheap by enlisting a few billionaires…

    It disturbs me that you think it’s true. The “few billionaires” that you allude to are spending their own money to create aerospace products and services that can be used by many groups, including NASA. These individuals and companies are making it less expensive to get to and do things in space. Isn’t that the innovation that you have said is lacking?

    What do you think Goddard would think of SpaceX lowering the cost to access space? Don’t you think he would cheer them on?

    Your line of reasoning, that we must spend ever-increasing amounts of money on space, is a recipe for disaster. And it’s unsustainable in todays budget environment. I think you should go back and rethink what’s really important – doing more in space, or just paying more.

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