Congress

Congressman files GAO complaint about SLS plans

NASA’s plan to sole-source most elements of the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket has led one member of Congress to complain to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). “I have serious concerns with NASA’s attempt to avoid holding a full and open competition to acquire the SLS,” Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA) wrote in a September 22 letter to the GAO, provided by the advocacy group Tea Party in Space (TPIS).

McClintock wrote that he believed NASA’s plans to procure key elements of the SLS through modifying existing contracts made them “de facto sole source awards” that could be in violation of the 1984 Competition in Contracting Act, which allows sole source awards only when there is a “single responsible source” to meet government needs. “I am aware of multiple potential contractors who have expressed intent to compete for any available SLS contracts, and who should have every opportunity to do so,” McClintock wrote, without identifying those contractors. (McClintock’s northern California district does include part of the Sacramento metropolitan area, which is home to Aerojet, a company that has sought competition for at least the SLS’s booster rockets.)

In a “Space Launch System Acquisition Overview” released the same day as McClintock’s letter, NASA states that SLS procurements “will include utilization of existing assets to expedite development, as well as further development of technologies and future competitions for advanced systems and key technology areas specific to SLS evolved vehicle needs.” This includes using existing Ares contracts for the boosters, core and upper stages, and avionics, as well as using existing RS-25D (SSME) main engines for the core stage and continuing the J-2X development contract for the upper stage engine. As previously indicated by NASA, though, there will be a competition for “advanced boosters” for use after the initial SLS flights (which will use the five-segment SRBs developed for Ares), as well as “competitive acquisitions” for spacecraft and payload adaptors and the rocket’s payload fairing. More details about NASA’s SLS acquisition plans are expected at an industry day this Thursday at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

McClintock asked the GAO to investigate NASA’s SLS procurement plans, including if NASA determined any cost difference between modifying SLS contracts and holding a full and open competition for SLS components. He also asks the GAO to consider making its own independent cost estimate of the SLS, “given the concerns raised by the independent Booz Allen Hamilton” cost estimate completed this summer.

TPIS praised McClintock’s complaint in a press release, asking other organizations affiliated with the Tea Party movement to call on the GAO to stay the SLS procurement until the agency can complete its investigation. “Every thoughtful member of Congress should join Congressman McClintock in challenging the spending of $32 billion in taxpayer funds without free and open competition,” said Andrew Gasser. (The $32 billion appears to reference reports of internal NASA estimates for the cost of the overall program; announced plans call for $3 billion a year through at least 2017 on SLS, the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, and related programs.) TPIS’s disgust with SLS can be summarized in this one sentence from Gasser: “This SLS bailout earmark is Solyndra on steroids.”

82 comments to Congressman files GAO complaint about SLS plans

  • The problem with McClintock’s complaint is that he’s asking the GAO to investigate action by Congress.

    Congress can do what it wants.

    If Congress wants to violate its own law, it can.

    Congress told NASA to use existing contractors. NASA wasn’t allowed to design the rocket. Congress did — specifically, the Senate space subcommittee.

  • amightywind

    TPIS – Three People In Seclusion

    ATK has tested the 5 segment SRB. They perform admirably. They are ready for delivery. Teledyne would spend years and $ billions to develop lower thrust boosters with Russian engines. Solyndra indeed. The parochial efforts of an obscure California congressmen is not news.

  • Kirby Runyon

    I just want SLS to die and for the money to be freed up for commercial crew and new planetary missions (e.g. the proposed Uranus orbiter).

  • Martijn Meijering

    A good first step, but still no outrage over having an SLS at all.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Stephen,

    Having looked at the white paper on TPIS’s website, I disagree.
    The issue isn’t what Congress legislated. The issue is how NASA is attempting to carry out what Congress legislated. Nothing in the 2010 Authorization actually gives NASA the legal authority to violate CICA.

  • Remember it was the Augustine Report coupled with the non-partisan GAO’s assessment of the cost of Ares I/Orion as $49 billion (with the bulk of that money going to Ares I) that ultimately led to the cancellation of Ares I and Constellation. Thus, this new GAO investigation could spell the beginning of the end for SLS.

    BTW, here is a GAO summary covering the Ares I/Orion findings:

    http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-844

  • amightywind

    Remember it was the Augustine Report coupled with the non-partisan GAO’s

    The GAO is highly partisan, as their scoring of Obamacare under pressure from Obama and Pelosi clearly showed.

    The leftist bureaucracy has clearly made an effort to subvert the will of the American people by slow walking SLS.

  • E.P. Grondine

    It looks like neocons versus Reagan conservatives (1984 act) to me.

    What could ULA have done with that $10,000,000,000 spent to put ATK in the medium heavy launch market?

    In any case, We could have kept the tech base and avoided the disruption if OKeefe and Reidel had of been allowed to proceed with NLS (DIRECT).

    I have these really rotten feelings that there’s more to the Solyndra failure than we know now. And we’re not hearing about it.

    AW, who knows what a GAO investigation might turn up?

  • Good Morning,

    There is a strong sense of uncertainty on Capital Hill. People are beginning to lift the hood and examine what NASA is actually doing. It is not just TPIS, there are other organizations too.

    $32 to $62 billion dollars for a vehicle without a mission and without payloads is simply wrong. There is nothing fiscally responsible about Space Launch System. Senators and a few congressmen are scrambling to try to keep the same systems in place.

    Last week Gene Cernan just said that we need to develop new technologies and new systems to explore (and settle) space. So why is NASA being forced to use 40 year old technology?

    I hope you would all call your congressman or woman today and ask them to support Congressman McClintock’s GAO request. You could also call Congressman McClintock to say thank you at (202)225-2511. I do not think many people who read this forum realize the pressure he was under.

    If you have not already done so, here is a link to our GAO page:

    http://www.teapartyinspace.org/?q=content/gao

    Here you can find the white paper, the letter, and a graphic. There is so much to this. I am very thankful to Congressman McClintock and what he did.

    Respectfully,
    Andrew Gasser
    TEA Party in Space

  • John

    A California represenative complaining about NASA? How suprising. Probably in Elon Musk’s pocket ..All of you people bagging on NASA better take a buyer beware approach. The fact is the Obama Administration has taken a crown jewel of this country and made a mess

  • common sense

    @ John wrote @ September 27th, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Another enlightened comment… Yeah California bashing NASA, always. After all in California they only have Ames, Dryden and JPL. Yeah real logic to bash NASA.

    How about he is complaining about SLS? You know not NASA but one idiotic bankrupt NASA program: SLS. And by the way lest you did not follow, it is NOT a NASA program it is Congress program. I know it’s difficult to understand but NASA did not want it. Congress wants it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    A little off topic with apologies to Jeff.

    I would like to thank everyone for their public and private (including phone calls) well wishes. Kathleen Mae Oler was delivered yesterday. She weighed 2 lbs 4 ounces which is about 110 percent on the development chart scale and 15 inches long. Mae was perfectly formed with no cord issues. The folks at UTMB have some candidates but why this happened is a mystery. We have let UTMB do a full series of test and evaluations in hopes of that future knowledge which will aide future babies and parents. From all indications it seems as though Mae went to heaven with no pain or any distress.

    Monica and I were with her for quite sometime. Monica is doing well physically and emotionally. She will be home in the next hour or so. Everyone at UTMB was not only professional but very very gracious and kind.

    Life goes on and we will have more children. Thanks again to everyone for their kind thoughts and encouragement. Robert and Monica Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    John wrote @ September 27th, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    “The fact is the Obama Administration has taken a crown jewel of this country and made a mess”

    everything is relative and so doubtless from your perspective things at NASA were “jewel” quality, but that is using in my view a very low standard from both an historical and current standard.

    In reality NASA has not been in the “crown” of technological or managerial accomplishment for about 30 years, maybe longer. What they use to be able to accomplish and time and money in actual hardware; today they can at best accomplish in computer generated viewgraphs and animation.

    The agency has simply lost its edge. It took it over 100 billion dollars to assemble and build (and more to launch) a space station that they dont have a clue or real agency desire to do anything with, their “next project” is simply an attempt to rehash old launch technologies.

    It use to be that they could spend 5 billion intodays dollars and fly something. Gemini then ENTIRE effort took less money then it did to try and build Ares 1 the rocket. The agency is no where in new technologies…on a fraction of what it takes just to keep the lights on folks like SpaceX and Armadillo are developing the new technologies that will hopefully open spaceflight and keep rocket launching as a US technology.

    The agency which killed 14 people by sheer incompetence on minor technological process issues if it is a crown jewel shows you how rotten the crown has gotten…so yeah you might be correct

    Robert G. Oler

  • kayawanee

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ September 27th, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    I’m so sorry. My prayers are with you and your family.

  • Rhyolite

    “All of you people bagging on NASA better take a buyer beware approach.”

    Yes, we are all suspicious of a NASA being bought off by ATK.

  • Ferris Valyn wrote:

    Having looked at the white paper on TPIS’s website, I disagree.
    The issue isn’t what Congress legislated. The issue is how NASA is attempting to carry out what Congress legislated. Nothing in the 2010 Authorization actually gives NASA the legal authority to violate CICA.

    Here’s the exact language from the authorization act that created SLS:

    Modification of current contracts. — In order to limit NASA’s termination liability costs and support critical capabilities, the Administrator shall, to the extent practicable, extend or modify existing vehicle development and associated contracts necessary to meet the requirements in paragraph (1), including contracts for ground testing of solid rocket motors, if necessary, to ensure their availability for development of the Space Launch System.

    Furthermore, the GAO is not a law enforcement agency. They are independent external auditors who offer an opinion. Only Congress can act, and Congress already has.

  • Robert G. Oler

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ September 27th, 2011 at 11:28 am

    “It looks like neocons versus Reagan conservatives (1984 act) to me.”

    thats pretty good…to me however it is just goofy people with no hold on reality vrs sanity.

    In the end one really has to bend the pretzel to have any support for SLS. Ignore that it is a technological dinosaur…and a management kludge…what surprises me is that anyone with any sanity could be supportive of the thing based on its cost.

    SLS is going to die this year…but those who support it essentially support spending over 50 billion dollars on simply rocket development with no real hint that this rocket will do anything but preserve the status quo of the last 30 years at NASA…ie its decades and billions of development and then “what”?

    And it doesnt take that much to see that in the comments of the “NASA fan club” like Whittington or Wind…or the politicians who enable it. This is the reason that there is so much distrust among almost the entire American public of the efforts of the federal government.

    Go look at the dollars and years spent on one of the most complex programs of its day…the recent spy satellite revelations. As DD noted (to paraphrase) in his great article on the subject…it was something that at a lot of cost, the federal government did correct. It changed the future.

    now you have people like Whittington, Wind, Olson, Hutchinson etc supporting a pretty expensive federal effort whose goal is to prolong the past…even their rhetoric says it “traditional NASA roles” (which is goofy on itself)…

    To me this shows how goofy the entire thing is. RGO

  • Ferris Valyn

    Stephen

    I’d suggest reading the white paper – I believe it’ll answer some of your points.

    Aaron Oesterle

  • JohnHunt

    I too just want SLS to die. But I’d rather all that money stay for HSF by funding new COTS-like commercial programs:
    – Commercial Cis-lunar Transportation Services
    – Commercial Lunar Ice Development Program

  • Gary Miles

    Ferris,

    I have to agree with Stephen. The 2010 congressional act specifically gave NASA the right to preserve existing NASA contracts in support of SLS to minimize costs.

  • JohnHunt

    Hey Robert, Thanks for sharing about your loss. My thouggts are with you & your family. Blessings,

  • Mr. Smith,

    All GAO has to say is that how SLS contracts are being awarded is a violation of the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA). We simply will not tolerate abuses like this to occur.

    The white paper linked above does a very good job of explaining what I am talking about in very clear language.

    Senator Hutchison is retiring and Senator Nelson is in bad shape for re-election. To be perfectly clear, the senate drove this design which is a fiscal nightmare. Moreover, it is about spending money in districts and not about space exploration.

    Even very casual NASA observers can see how poorly NASA is operating. When you have programs like CxP, SLS, and JWST all failing so miserably, it is a reason to pause. NASA budgets are shrinking and yet we are trying to spend billions on a launch system that will only fly once once or twice a year?

    This just doesn’t make sense… fiscally or otherwise.

    Respectfully,
    Andrew Gasser
    TEA Party in Space

  • Al Fansome

    To the extent that existing law (e.g., CICA) limits or prohibits using or modifying existing contracts, it is not “practicable”.

    FWIW,

    – Al

  • Ferris Valyn

    amightywind – well, you can get your chance to challenge them, in public no less – TPIS is going to be at TeaCon – http://www.teapartyinspace.org/?q=content/teacon-2011-tpis-going

    I mean, if they aren’t of any standing, sure that will be proven at an event like TEACON

  • Jim Nobles

    I believe this may be the beginning of the return of sanity concerning NASA. It should not be too difficult to show that the SLS is different enough from Constellation to be worth rebidding. NASA still has to obey the law. Even more so, a non favorable judgement on any segment of the SLS will open the door for litigation from interested potential bidders. There is so much wrong with SLS that it’s hard to imagine it lasting past the first round of real scrutiny by agencies designed to help protect the American taxpayer from fraud and corruption.

    Have a nice day.

  • reader

    a brilliant comment over at Houston Chronicle, by dirk713

    Life imitates art. In an effort to cash in on the success of AMC’s early 60′s nostalgic Mad Men, we now have NBC’s Playboy Club, and ABC’s Pan Am. Refusing to be outdone, NASA has unveiled its own contribution to the current wave of mid 20th century chic. Its latest craft to join the ranks of human spaceflight vehicles consists of a crew capsule launched atop a super spiffy multi-stage rocket. Swell! The only thing that could possibly make this gear even more fab would be to eschew the onboard computers for transistors and vacuum tubes.

    link

  • vulture4

    The major difficulty with SLS/Orion is not the design, it is that it will cost over $3B+/yr and NASA does not want or need it because it will be much too expensive to use. It’s painful to see a government agency really trying to reduce waste but being prevented from doing so by members of Congress from both parties, apparently to protect powerful contractors.

    It should be noted that the massive 30-40 year old Apollo/Shuttle infrastructure, the VAB, MLPs, CX-39 etc, are needed only for the SLS and so the SLS budget should, in fareness to CCDev, include the costs of maintaining and modernizing those quite expensive facilities.

  • This is the first of many well-intentioned delays that will send SLS over-budget and delay its utility. Seems probable TIPS own actions will end up costing the taxpayer more. Another round of NASA studies to validate the choice would seem to be in order?

  • monkey boy

    I fear that a failure to procure the new SLS or revive Constellation will be the death knell of American dominance of the heavens. Conflicts have evolved throughout human history, from land, to the seas, to the air. It is certain that the trajectory of conflict points towards the stars. Without the rocket power needed to carry American values into space we may be looking at a new world order defined by Chinese and Russian overhead dominance.
    The long history of multipolarity in Europe has produced two World Wars resulting in death and destruction beyond the world’s imagination. American hegemony has been the guarantee of global security and stability since 1945 and has the military prowess to extend that reign well into the future. I shudder to think of what a new multipolar world could bring. American predominance is the last bulwark against a world of regional competing powers fighting desperately for influence. In the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia we can see the potential for destabilizing action building. Venezuela, Syria, Iran, and North Korea have all demonstrated the intent to exercise regional hegemony. Absent American power they will be free to do so. Multipolarity will similarly offer no deterrent to the acquisition of nuclear weapons. The wars spurred by America’s decline would mean a worldwide nuclear firestorm, a World War III that will likely eradicate all human and non-human life from the globe.
    There are, however, numerous obstacles to dominance. Building a new rocket would be certain to attract the attention of extra-terrestrials, determined to keep us on our rock. The result would be an invasion and occupation of the planet Earth, and the taking of all humans to be slaves. Despite the minute risk and hyperbole of this scenario, were policy makers to discount it humankind would be at great risk. Enslavement is by any metric a greater evil than human extinction.
    For those questioning my expertise, I am a student at a college some have called the Harvard of New Mexico. My major is hotel management, but I have taken a class in political science and my father was in the military. This clearly makes me an expert in international relations and space, which is just a big hotel if you think about it.

  • DCSCA

    @reader wrote @ September 27th, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    “The only thing that could possibly make this gear even more fab would be to eschew the onboard computers for transistors and vacuum tubes.”

    Yes and another great nod to nostalgia from 1969 is a Volkswagen Beetle ad with an image of the LM and the headline: “It’s ugly. But it gets you there.” Earth to dirk713. Earth to dirk713. Be advised- all that stuff worked.

  • DCSCA

    Tea Party meddling into R&D spaceflight planning, development and operations is akin to children striking a matches in a warehouse full of TNT. Best these dweebs focus on something more down to earth to complain about and attempt to overhaul– like the United States Postal Service.

  • Coastal Ron

    monkey boy wrote @ September 27th, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    This clearly makes me an expert in international relations and space, which is just a big hotel if you think about it.

    It was an interesting far-right opinion piece until you said:

    Building a new rocket would be certain to attract the attention of extra-terrestrials, determined to keep us on our rock. The result would be an invasion and occupation of the planet Earth, and the taking of all humans to be slaves.

    Then I couldn’t tell if you were being serious or facetious – I’m hoping for the latter…

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ September 27th, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Tea Party meddling into R&D spaceflight planning, development and operations…

    For someone that pretends to be concerned about spending (42 cents of every dollar is borrowed, blah, blah, blah), you sure don’t show it.

    If Congress’s plans for spending as much as possible in certain states can’t stand up to a little scrutiny, then too bad for them.

    Which brings up the question – what are you afraid an investigation will find?

  • common sense

    @ monkey boy wrote @ September 27th, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Wow.

    However I will wager that if extra-terrestrial beings have found ways to come all the way from their home planet to Earth then I suspect no SLS will ever stop them enslaving the entire human species and the co-hosts of this Earth.

    Everything else in your post becomes moot of course.

    I wonder if DCSCA can chime in and help in this issue since he/she always wanted to have NASA under the wing of the DoD.

    Interesting conversation.

  • RE: DCSA

    The TEA party is simply asking for a fair an open competition of the various components of the SLS rocket. The original CEV which was turned into the MPCV was competed originally. All we ask is that all other systems of the SLS be competed the same way.

    Not to much to ask.

    Isaac Mooers
    TPIS Director of Operations.

  • Andrew Gasser wrote:

    The white paper linked above does a very good job of explaining what I am talking about in very clear language.

    Andrew, you are missing the point.

    The GAO has no law enforcement authority.

    Go to this page on the GAO web site:

    http://www.gao.gov/legal/bids/bidfaqs.html

    What happens when GAO sustains a protest?
    If we agree with a protester that the agency violated a procurement law or regulation in a prejudicial manner, we will issue a decision sustaining the protest and recommend that the agency address the violation through appropriate corrective action. The agency must then advise us whether it will comply with the recommendation.

    The GAO has no authority to force any federal agency to change a policy decision. NASA was directed by Congress in 2010 to modify existing contracts. That’s what they’re doing. Even if GAO finds that Congress violated its own law, GAO has no authority to force NASA to reverse their actions.

    I was an auditor for two years (not with GAO). Auditors perform an independent analysis and report findings. They’re not cops, they’re not a judge nor are they a jury.

    I sympathize with your cause. SLS is pork, which I’ve written many times both here and on my site. But the GAO can’t stop it, despite what you may think. GAO issued many audits in the 2006-2010 time frame reporting all the problems with Constellation but had no authority to do anything about it. It took an act of Congress in 2010 to kill Constellation.

  • vulture4

    Monkey Boy, I’ve been at this for twenty years, and I am speechless. You are the best. That’s all I can say.

  • Frank Glover

    @ almightywind:

    “The leftist bureaucracy has clearly made an effort to subvert the will of the American people by slow walking SLS.”

    How many ‘American People’ outside of specific elements of Congress, the contractors, and others who actually have a direct interest in the outcome, have expressed any ‘will’ or even awareness regarding SLS? (and no, a handful of gutsy guys who once rode something like it, under very different political conditions, for very different reasons, don’t speak for everyone else, either)

    @ monkeyboy:

    “Without the rocket power needed to carry American values into space…”

    Actually, I agree with the sentiment, but…these must be some pretty heavy values, if they can’t be launched on what we’ve already got.

    “…we may be looking at a new world order defined by Chinese and Russian overhead dominance.”

    Why worry? If an operational HLV is what matters, they don’t have one either.

    Russia knows how to use its existing launchers to put small stuff together in orbit to make big stuff. China seems about to try.That’s where your concerns, if any, should lie. Not in having a single BFR that won’t be ready soon, and won’t have anything worthy of it, if it ever is ready.

    “Building a new rocket would be certain to attract the attention of extra-terrestrials…”

    ??

    @ DSCA:

    “Tea Party meddling into R&D spaceflight planning, development and operations is akin to children striking a matches in a warehouse full of TNT. ”

    But when Congress is the ‘meddling kids’ instead…

  • SpaceColonizer

    @JohnHunt

    I too want SLS to die, and would like commercial services used/encouraged to the maximum extent possible. But I think your suggestions are jumping the gun a little. The current commercial programs exist to support ISS, a preexisting and paid for program. Cis lunar transport and ice mining have no programs to support them yet. And in the case of the ice mining, very difficult to ask private sector to develop unproven technologies without slipping into the cost+ contracting method, which won’t be “commercial” at all. Those two ideas essentially ask for a moon base to be established. Then you have to make commercial entities, and more importantly their private investors, believe that this base will remain in operation long enough to support a market. That would require quite a few things, including a larger NASA budget and assurance that that budget can withstand a couple of decades worth of shifting political tides.

    I for one am not a moon firster. I think the moon is a distraction. The settlement of Mars is the more important goal for space settlement. Setting up a base on the moon as a “test” for Mars just sucks up time and money, and it is very hard to imagine keeping a moon base funded while continuing to Mars. The only scenario where I see a moon base in the picture is if a serious buisiness case can be made that sending water and other resources available on Luna can be sent from there to Mars far cheaper than sending them directly from Earth. Yes, gravity on the moon is smaller meaning smaller rocket for a given payload, but you have to keep in mind the up front costs of developing those facilities need to be amortized.

    I think the future of public/private space relationships will involve NASA establishing footholds, and then commercial services being employed ASAP to support those footholds. Commercial can get started early, but have to be given a good reason to believe the market they are shooting for will exist when they’re ready to service it. If you want the moon, then NASA has to get a moon base program started. Commercial can start sending non-perishable supplies and construction materials before people even get there. That would cover your cis lunar suggestion. One of the science missions that NASA would perform would be prospecting and extraction of ice and other materials… but commercial won’t take over until there is good incentive for them to do so.

    For me, Mars first is the way to go, and even more than that I support the one way, no return approach. Just like above, I would want NASA to commit to setting up the “foothold” while commercial can get started early sending supplies. Still requires a long term budget commitment that may never materialize. I actually think this method is MORE likely to cause commercial lunar mining if commercial thinks setting up such facilities to send materials to Mars will be cheaper for them than sending from Earth. NASA provides the demand, commercial invests in the way they think is cheapest for them to meet that demand.

    Sorry for the long winded post… I have nothing better to do right now.

  • reader

    Earth to dirk713. Be advised- all that stuff worked.

    Nobody is arguing that, i just found the parallel the poster drew between the 60ies nostalgia shows and the new Saturn V lookalike incredibly funny.

  • E.P. Grondine

    $10,000,000,000.00
    $10,000,000,000.00
    $10,000,000,000.00

    We could have had the NLS (DIRECT), and two manned launch systems, one on the Atlas and the other on the Delta, with change left over for NEO detection systems…

    Instead, we got….#%@&*^@

    A well deserved salute to Administrator Bolden for piloting NASA through these rough and stormy waters…

  • DCSCA

    @reader wrote @ September 27th, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Hmmm. Earth to 713, Earth to dirk713… be advised, Soyuz is from the 1960s, too. Still works– and they’re laughing all the way to the bank over there. So the joke’s on us– or rather U.S. A lot of stuff of 1960s design still work– both human and machine. But hey, thanks for posting the VW ad. Have one framed up in the den.

  • Jim

    The SLS is basically done and can fly in two years. Congress is the hold up and more delays will only cost the tax payers more money. The contractors at NASA “If I might add are also commercial companys” have done a great job in preparing for whats to come with the SLS.

  • Scott Bass

    What’s in a name? After President Obama canceled the constellation project, NASA seemed to swiftly change the names of all hardware involved, the Orion capsule became the multi purpose crew vehicle, the ares 1 was retired and the ares v became the space launch system…. And moon lander was to be Altair.
    I think we should keep the names… To me we have simply evolved the plan, the goal of mars continues and Orion and Ares v are great names….unless you actually prefer SLS and MPCV.
    I wish I could dictate this….. It’s not rocket science ;)

  • reader

    It would be just easier to have version numbers on these never ending and ever changing plans.
    Call original ESAS 0.08 , and the cancelled version of it somewhere around 0.12, SLS/MPCV would be somewhere around 0.15

    Same thing, different revisions. And a long time before a major release.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    To Robert and Monica Oler.
    My deepest sympathies on your loss. Sometimes there are no answers but as you say, life goes on. My wife and I were denied children for no apparent reasons either so in some ways we understand.
    Neil and Jenny

  • Al Fansome

    @Stephen Smith:

    You do realize this is a clear warning shot across NASA’s bow … and a warning to every company (e.g., Boeing, ATK) that has been positioning themselves for the coming gravy train.

    It is increasingly clear issue will be resolved in the courts.

    Every U.S. firm (SpaceX, Aerojet, etc.) has access to the courts to protest a non-competitive award under CICA. GAO is just a first step. There is a very clear legal case here, which is set out in the TPIS white paper.

    If I am Boeing, I may begin to think my strategy is risky, and very expensive. To execute the strategy, I must keep hundreds to thousands of people on the payroll for the possibility of an SLS contract. As my assessment of that future contract looks more distant, and increasingly unlikely, … at some point the right decision is to cut my losses.

    If I am Boeing, I want to do my own legal assessment. If the Boeing lawyers determine this contract is unlikely to proceed without a full & open competition, as a Boeing executive the right decision is to cut my losses (and fold my hand) early.

    FWIW,

    – Al

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    Jim wrote @ September 27th, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    The SLS is a pile of parts. So far it’s a paper concept. No hardware has been built for it, no design plans have been approved. And worse, there’s not enough money in the kitty to build and fly it and there’s certainly no money for missions whatever they are since they haven’t been identified yet either. Where do you get this idea that’s it’s ready to fly in 2 years. Udder udder b.s.

  • SpaceColonizer

    @Jim

    SLS most certainly cannot fly in two years, and I have doubts it can fly by 2017 if it flies at all. If congress is the hold up, it’s only to keep the do nothing money flowing longer. And OMFG commercial is NOT the same thing as private sector! Commercial companies compete for FIXED PRICE service contracts and build the hardware with investment capital. If they fail to accomplish terms of contract, they lose contract to a competing company. But these other companies, the ones building SLS, did NOT compete for their contracts. They were hand fed them by members of congress. Also, their contracts are COST PLUS. And apparently when they fail to accomplish the terms of their contract, they are awarded new money and/or new contracts to make up for it. They failed miserably on Constellation, but they just got new contracts for SLS. It’s a sick joke to call them “commercial”.

  • Coastal Ron

    Jim wrote @ September 27th, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    The SLS is basically done and can fly in two years.

    You mean, like, in an animation, right?

    Or has it been secretly built and hidden away in one of Cheney’s “undisclosed locations”?

    They don’t even know the design of the core yet, and everyone acknowledges that it will be an engineering challenge to build, so how can it be ready to fly in two years?

    Congress is the hold up and more delays will only cost the tax payers more money.

    Well, let’s remember that it’s Congress that’s forcing NASA to build this unneeded thing in the first place, and not providing the proper funds is both good (it will fail quicker) and bad (it’ll raise the price if it’s not cancelled).

    The contractors at NASA “If I might add are also commercial companys” have done a great job in preparing for whats to come with the SLS.

    “If I might add you seems surprised by this”.

    Seriously, who did you think was building NASA’s hardware – NASA? Something like 85% of NASA’s budget goes to contractors, so this was not some sort of secret.

    And of course they’ve done a great job preparing for the SLS, since it’s partly due to their lobbying that the Senate is forcing NASA to build it. Hadn’t you made that connection?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Jim wrote @ September 27th, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    The SLS is basically done and can fly in two years>>

    Only in the Mr. Rogers world of Make Believe

    “. Congress is the hold up and more delays will only cost the tax payers more money. ” SLS will cost the tax payers a lot of money

    “The contractors at NASA “If I might add are also commercial companys” have done a great job in preparing for whats to come with the SLS.”

    they are not commercial companies, at least the divisions that do SLS…there is nothing commercial about them. They are not investing their own money in this effort…even their lobby cost eventually work their way back to the taxpayer RGO

  • Matt Wiser

    For the TPIS crowd: NASA was told by Congress to use existing Ares contracts where practicable. The agency is doing what it was told to do by Congress. This request for GAO investigation smells, all right: like sour grapes. And so that’s what, two now (McClintock and Rohrbacher, who are whining about SLS? (you might as well add Paul-but then again, he votes against NASA each and every time)

    As for bidding: Charlie Bolden has said that is what he plans to do with the system down the line-liquids v. solids for side-mount, new engines to replace the SSMEs, and so on. Open it up to bids and may the best firm(s) win. But right now, he’s doing what Congress told him to do: make the maximimum possible use of existing contracts and hardware.

  • Ryholite

    “The SLS is basically done and can fly in two years.”

    That’s a good one. I think we were all in need of a bit of comic relief.

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ September 27th, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    This request for GAO investigation smells, all right: like sour grapes.

    Depends, of course, on which side of the issue you’re on.

    As for bidding: Charlie Bolden has said that is what he plans to do with the system down the line-liquids v. solids for side-mount, new engines to replace the SSMEs, and so on.

    Actually the only thing NASA has said they will compete is the boosters. Here is NASA’s statement when they announced the configuration:

    NASA elected to initiate a competition for the booster stage based on performance parameters rather than on the type of propellant because of the need for flexibility. The specific acquisition strategy for procuring the core stage, booster stage, and upper stage is being developed and will be announced at a later time.

    Guess you heard wrong, huh?

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ September 27th, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    RGO- sympathies to you and your wife. There are no words– except perhaps, press on’… and time might be better spent off this box for a while. Take care– DCSCA.

  • John Mankins

    Dear Robert and Monica Oler…

    I would also like to offer my deepest sympathies for your loss. Words are entirely inadequate at such times.

    Sincerely,

    – John Mankins

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    Matt Wiser wrote @ September 27th, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Wouldn’t you agree that it’s a waste of resources to go with one design only to change it down the line whenever that is. You know, changing engines, going from solids to liquids, and so on, is totally changing the characteristics of the vehicle. It’s not like changing your socks. It’ll virtually be a new design.
    That’s why vehicles ‘evolve’. Examples include ESAs Arienne, SpaceX Falcons, Orbital Science vehicles, ULAs Delta, Atlas, etc, etc,
    Do you think NASA (Congress) might actually learn some lessons from those that have been there, done that. Nah, not possible!!

  • @Scott Bass
    “I think we should keep the names… To me we have simply evolved the plan, the goal of mars continues and Orion and Ares v are great names….unless you actually prefer SLS and MPCV.”
    Except for “the goal is Mars continues” part (continuing SLS is the perfect way to ensure we don’t get American astronauts to Mars), I think calling them Orion and Ares V is a great idea. It might help some people who are sitting on the fence realize that SLS/MPCV is just the old budget-devouring Constellation wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  • yg1968

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ September 27th, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Sad news. My prayers are also with you and your family.

  • Matt Wiser

    Beancounter: did you even read the 2010 Authorization Act? It states that SLS will be evolvable: from 70 tons in what one might call “Block I”) to 130 in the final version.

    All this whining by McClintock Rohrbacher is just sour grapes, period. NASA is doing what Congress told it to do. Use to the maximium extent possible existing contracts, hardware, etc.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Mr. Wiser,

    All this whining by McClintock Rohrbacher is just sour grapes, period. NASA is doing what Congress told it to do. Use to the maximium extent possible existing contracts, hardware, etc.

    Where practicable. Don’t forget that. And of course, NASA needs to follow the law, which includes CICA.

    Or shouldn’t NASA follow the law?

  • Randy

    NASA does follow the law. That is why it requires the budget that it has to get anything done. If the commercial outfits were using the FAR to guide them in their procurement activity it would have bankrupted them all. We are arguing about a law that is part of the problem not part of the solution.

    The ridiculous cost driver for SLS is insisting that we put people on top of it. Yes, we need something capable of lifting more weight than anyone has ever lifted before to assemble the hardware needed for the ambitious missions ahead but to incur the cost of man rating the vehicle makes no sense. The missions ahead will never be like Apollo where we load everything up and leave in one shot. We’re going to be gone for months or years, not days. Put the parts up and then bring the people to assemble and check out before they fly but use another vehicle. Using this monster for personnel will never make sense, technically or from a cost stand point. We can shave 25-35% from the design cost as well as the production and launch cost by using common sense.

    The real message from TPIS should be that Congress should not design a space vehicle.Outline the vision, legislate what we want to do, what time frame we would like to do it in and how much it will cost. You have to leave the Agency the freedom to determine how or it can’t be done within the other two constraints.

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ September 28th, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Beancounter: did you even read the 2010 Authorization Act? It states that SLS will be evolvable: from 70 tons in what one might call “Block I”) to 130 in the final version.

    Why are you always so behind on your reading Matt? That description was true for the Authorization Act, but the Appropriations Act, which takes precedence, states:

    shall have a lift capability not less than 130 tons and which shall have an upper stage and other core elements developed simultaneously.

    It’s NASA saying “nope, we can’t do that by 2016, and here’s the real plan”, not Congress.

    Matt, Congress can wish for pigs to fly, but that doesn’t mean pork will suddenly sprout wings… ;-)

  • Martijn Meijering

    Yes, we need something capable of lifting more weight than anyone has ever lifted before to assemble the hardware needed for the ambitious missions ahead

    That’s simply not true. Especially if you intend to assemble the hardware in space.

  • AnonJG

    Dear Robert and Monica Oler,
    Deepest Sympathies.

  • @Martijn:

    That’s simply not true. Especially if you intend to assemble the hardware in space.

    Assuming you can assemble it in space in the first place.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Assuming you can assemble it in space in the first place.

    Mere docking and refueling should be most of the “assembly” work.

  • Coastal Ron

    Prez Cannady wrote @ September 28th, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Assuming you can assemble it in space in the first place.

    Why couldn’t they? Skyscrapers are built using existing tractor-trailer transportation, and the ISS has shown we can build very large modular structures within a 50,000 lb & 5m wide limit. And that’s without using inflatables, which allows for even larger diameter structures using existing launch vehicles.

    This all gets back to need. Where are the requirements for something beyond what we can do today?

  • @Prez Cannaday

    Assuming you can assemble it in space in the first place.

    Yeah, no kidding dude… that whole ISS thing is a hoax… just like the moon landings… they never happened.

    And while we are on ISS, every module could have been carried into orbit on an EELV as far as MASS is concerned. SLS is nothing more than a jobs program.

    VR
    RE327

  • Matt Wiser

    Prez, With all the experience with ISS construction? When it’s time to head on to Mars, the vehicle will have to be assembled in orbit prior to departure. Not to mention sending some things on ahead (like surface hab(s), power source, surface rovers).

  • The TPIS are a bunch of looney blowhards. Boeing will do the bulk of the SLS. There won’t be any big surprises in propulsion either.

    What did people expect?

    Stop everything, do 1.5 years of dog and pony show and give the work to the same companies anyway?

    More: http://nasaengineer.com/?p=2611

  • Martijn Meijering

    This all gets back to need. Where are the requirements for something beyond what we can do today?

    Especially as it is difficult even with terrestrial logistics and infrastructure. Trucks, roads, railroads, aircraft, shipping containers, vacuum facilities etc all impose size constraints.

  • John

    ATK has Congress and NASA in their back pocket so McClintock or anyone else won’t get an investigation. SLS is not even a viable exploration program but merely an extension of the Constellation bottomless money pit, so good luck with cleaning up that process.

  • Old Fart

    Robert & Monica
    Im so very sorry , You both are in my thoughts.
    In His Faith
    Lee
    aka
    Old Fart

  • @Martijn:

    Mere docking and refueling should be most of the “assembly” work.

    Provided your payload can stay under your arbitrary mass and faring restrictions.

  • @Wiser:

    Prez, With all the experience with ISS construction?

    What experience? ISS failed to even spark a revolution in industrial and construction processes dirt side. What you have a series of one shots designed overwhelmingly to achieve one goal–to fit on the Shuttle. Would you fly iSS to the Moon? To Mars? To Saturn? Hell, would you even reboost it if you could get away with leaving it in freefall?

    Astronauts playing Legos isn’t anywhere near the league of building a nuclear reactor in space. And a vestigial capability to take on hypergolic propellant doesn’t even play the same sport as replenishing cislunar and interplanetary spacecraft.

    When it’s time to head on to Mars, the vehicle will have to be assembled in orbit prior to departure. Not to mention sending some things on ahead (like surface hab(s), power source, surface rovers).

    Undoubtedly (though I don’t give a damn about going to Mars). So either all your complete assemblies are going to be 20 mT and 5 meters in diameter, you’re going to build a real industrial capability in orbit, or you’re going to need a bigger rocket.

  • @RocketScientist:

    And while we are on ISS, every module could have been carried into orbit on an EELV as far as MASS is concerned. SLS is nothing more than a jobs program.

    Congrats. It’s good to know Americans could’ve cut $25-30 billion off the price tag for putting together the most useless scenic lookout on or off Earth.

  • @Martijn:

    Why couldn’t they? Skyscrapers are built using existing tractor-trailer transportation, and the ISS has shown we can build very large modular structures within a 50,000 lb & 5m wide limit.

    Yes, let’s compare a 1000 ton, flimsy toy to a 300,000 ton skyscraper–or a 100,000 ton seagoing ship. Maybe an apple tree, since not a one has to do with any of the others.

    And that’s without using inflatables, which allows for even larger diameter structures using existing launch vehicles.

    How do you inflate a nuclear reactor?

    This all gets back to need. Where are the requirements for something beyond what we can do today?

    What do you think we can do today?

  • @Martijn:

    Especially as it is difficult even with terrestrial logistics and infrastructure. Trucks, roads, railroads, aircraft, shipping containers, vacuum facilities etc all impose size constraints.

    Oh, so when your containerized skyscaper material and manpower arrive on site, they assemble them using good old brawn and hand tools? Pay no attention to that factory over yonder.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Provided your payload can stay under your arbitrary mass and faring restrictions.

    20-30mT and 5m aren’t onerous restrictions.

    Astronauts playing Legos isn’t anywhere near the league of building a nuclear reactor in space.

    Straw man, the reactor would be launched in one piece.

    How do you inflate a nuclear reactor?

    You don’t have to.

    Oh, so when your containerized skyscaper material and manpower arrive on site, they assemble them using good old brawn and hand tools?

    They would dock modules, refuel tanks and move and install equipment racks inside pressurised habitats.

  • @Martijn:

    20-30mT and 5m aren’t onerous restrictions.

    The power of positive thinking, eh?

    Straw man, the reactor would be launched in one piece.

    How do you figure?

    They would dock modules, refuel tanks and move and install equipment racks inside pressurised habitats.

    An interesting way to build a skyscraper, and uniquely lacking in explanation. How do you “dock” modules of a skyscraper? Why would you refuel it in the first place? And why are you rambling about furnishing the thing?

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