Congress, NASA

House to hold commercial crew hearing next week

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee announced yesterday that it is holding a hearing next Wednesday titled “NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Program: Accomplishments and Challenges”. Even with the hearing now only six days off, the committee has not released the names of any witnesses who will testify before the full committee. One can, though, anticipate participation from NASA officials and probably executives from companies that have CCDev awards from NASA.

Update 2:50 pm: Here’s an updated witness list released by the committee earlier today:

Panel One

  • Mr. John Elbon, Vice President and General Manger, Space Exploration Division, The Boeing Company
  • Mr. Steve Lindsey, Director, Space Exploration, Sierra Nevada Space Systems
  • Mr. Elon Musk, CEO and CTO, Space Exploration Technologies
  • Mr. Charles Precourt, Vice President and General Manager, ATK Space Launch Systems
  • Mr. George Sowers, Vice President, Business Development and Advanced Programs, United Launch Alliance

Panel Two

  • Mr. Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA

78 comments to House to hold commercial crew hearing next week

  • I suspect that among the witnesses called up will be some of the usual suspects pushing the status quo. Will they actually call up people from CCDev companies? I hope so. But they may be too scared to, fearing it could turn to a discussion of better alternatives to SLS. For instance, some may talk about calling up Musk, but talk is cheap. Though I would love to be proved wrong about this.

  • amightywind

    The hearing comes none too soon. We hear Bigelow is laying off half its staff because Nerdspace has failed to deliver LEO transportation. 2011 will inexplicably expire with no COTS launch activity. We need to know why.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    I certainly hope that, for a hearing on commercial crew, they at least ask representiatives companies that are receiving Federal funding to develop said capabilities to testify, even if only to ask: “So, what have you guys done with that money?” The head of whatever NASA office is managing CCDev should be present too.

  • I would humbly submit to this audience that if you look at the CCDev program with any scrutiny you will find exactly “what those guys have done with that money.” The fact that the financial vehicle NASA is using is a Space Act Agreement allows everyone to see what these providers were paid for and when they were paid. Why NASA wants to switch to the FAR is unknown and foolish.

    Capabilities are being developed more often than not. Here is just an example just a few hours old.

    http://nasawatch.com/archives/2011/10/nasa-approves-s.html

    “Today, SpaceX announced it has successfully completed the preliminary design review of its revolutionary launch abort system, a system designed for manned missions using its Dragon spacecraft. This represents a major step toward creating an American-made successor to the Space Shuttle. NASA’s approval of the latest design review marks the fourth successfully completed milestone under the agency’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program and demonstrates the innovation that’s possible when NASA partners with the private sector.

    So as we can see your tax dollars are being wisely spent. Compare and contrast that to the NASA budgets where money is just lobbed into a project but you do not see just how the money was spent.

    As to why there were not any launches this year, NASA needs to validate SpaceX’s data. They are not going to let a vehicle approach the ISS unless they are 109% confident the data provided is good. It also didn’t help that Russia had back to back failures in a week causing a crew manning issue on ISS.

    Full Disclosure: I am not paid a dime by SpaceX. I do not work for SpaceX or otherwise receive compensation from SpaceX. TPIS does not pick the winners… the free market does.

    Bigelow is in the market for a ride, so is NASA. What is truly perplexing about this entire situation is the lack of funding coming from the congress. I know there are some fantastic people on the house side and some brilliant people on the senate side. Maybe there is a communication breakdown between NASA and the congress about the value and successes of CCDev?

    Respectfully,
    Andrew Gasser
    TEA Party in Space

  • mr. mark

    Funny that you should say that amightwind as Spacex just cleared the NASA design review for their LAS system and now will start full production and testing of that system. Should make for a good day at the hearing.

  • mr. mark

    amightywind again it’s the Russians that have caused the near term delay not Spacex. Spacex cannot launch until the Progress flight on October 30th and the Soyuz flight later in the year that’s why the flight was pushed back. If we are going to ask what caused the delay let’s get the facts straight. Also NASA has not cleared the flight profile yet. They have to sign off on that as well.

  • Malmesbury

    I understand that Musk is expecting to testify.

    As to proof of progress – the entire COTS and CCDEV contract structure consists of “Meet the milestone. Get the cheque”.

  • Vladislaw

    SpaceX also had extra milestones added. Bill Gerstenmaier explained this at a committee meeting. When COTS was started it was Plan B and the Ares I / Orion would be Plan A until such time as commercial firms were up and running. When Ares I went off the rails on budget and schedule COTS was moved up to Plan A and extra milestones were called for to increase the chances for success on early flights. This added another 6 months to the schedule.

  • SpaceColonizer

    Should be a good one. Can’t wait to see the witness list.

  • yg1968

    According to Popular Mechanics, SpaceX told them that Musk would be testifying at a Congressionnal hearing this month. I am guessing that it is this hearing.

  • amightywind

    “Today, SpaceX announced it has successfully completed the preliminary design review of its revolutionary launch abort system”

    Not sure what is so revolutionary about a system you have to haul all the way to orbit at the expense of payload. Not so sure about an abort system that has negative stability. But if one claims it is revolutionary enough times and it becomes true for the slack-jawed fanbois that post on this site. TPIS would be wise to form its own opinions and not parrot the press releases of shadow firms with very little to show for years of extravagant expenditures. My reaction to the story is it is 2011. Orion successfully tested its abort system 2 years ago. What has SpaceX been doing?

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ October 20th, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Orion successfully tested its abort system 2 years ago. What has SpaceX been doing?

    Successfully testing their capsule in space, not on the ground.

    When will Orion/MPCV make it to space? It looks like that won’t happen until AFTER SpaceX has started crew transportation service to the ISS, and likely after Boeing too. That’s the power of a market-based solutions, comrade.

  • @ablastofhotair
    “Orion successfully tested its abort system 2 years ago. What has SpaceX been doing?”

    That whole comment was stupid, even for you. Because it is “hauled all the way to orbit” and back again, a new launch abort system does not have to be paid for each time the spacecraft is flown. Yes, NASA will fly the spacecraft only once, but what’s to keep SpaceX from selling it after its first use to Bigelow, some other company, or a government with less deep pockets than Uncle Sam? After all, Dragon was designed to be reusable from the get go.

    But another advantage of the SpaceX LAS is that it will allow the Dragon to make a touch down on land (in most cases where the LAS is not used for an inflight abort: otherwise, ocean splashdown). Unlike the Orion capsule which must do an old-style Apolloesque ocean splashdown no matter what. That alone makes it “revolutionary” compared to the More Politically Correct Vehicle.

  • Coastal Ron

    Hmm, why no Blue Origin?

    And what is the justification for ATK? That they are paying to be included in the CCDev program? I can see the testimony now:

    Chairman Hall – Mr. Precourt (ATK), why are you here?

    Mr. Precourt – I don’t know. No one wants to use our rocket for crew, so I’m just as clueless about this as you are Mr. Chairman.

    Chairman Hall – OK, thank you for testifying.

  • Bennett

    Thanks for adding the Witness List!

    This should be a very interesting hearing, what with the mix of Nerdspace and Jockspace executives…

  • Bennett

    “Unlike the Orion capsule which must do an old-style Apolloesque ocean splashdown no matter what.”

    I think they’re doing dry land landings with airbag deployment, no?

  • Good afternoon Everyone.

    I would like to remind everyone (including amightywind), that TPIS will be hosting a conference call tonight. It is possible that this topic will be discussed as well as others that have appeared in recent days on this blog. One of the best things about TPIS is we respect each and everyone’s view. As Andrew has said often, “We don’t pick the winners.” We just want the best bang for our taxpayer buck.

    Here is the link to the telecon:
    http://www.teapartyinspace.org/?q=content/tpis-telecon-20-oct

    Gary Anderson

  • Jeff, thanks for the update. I am happy to see that my suspicions were unfounded. I will have some popcorn ready for that webcast. This should be fun!

  • amightywind

    When will Orion/MPCV make it to space?

    It may be a long time because the program has been severely hobbled by the Bolsheviks.

    a new launch abort system does not have to be paid for each time the spacecraft is flown.

    You aren’t thinking clearly. Parts of the Dragon capsule are purportedly reusable (though we have seen no evidence of this). There has been no mention of whether the LAS is. You assume it is, but it is problematic. It looks like Dragon will carry LAS in 2 bubble modules on the side of the vehicle. Do they plan to reenter like that? Dubious. Please, try to judge what SpaceX does not what their press releases say.

    Unlike the Orion capsule which must do an old-style Apolloesque ocean splashdown no matter what.

    At the cost of reduced performance. I see no advantage to landing in the Utah desert over splashing down 5 miles off the coast of the Cape. Neither did Orion’s brilliant designers at Lockmart.

  • SpaceColonizer

    Great list. Can’t wait. Suspect that more witnesses will be added to second panel.

  • Larson

    TPIS would be wise to form its own opinions and not parrot the press releases of shadow firms with very little to show for years of extravagant expenditures.

    Extravagant expenditures? Really? I wish I could believe you are kidding. You could not possibly be more obtuse:
    http://www.parabolicarc.com/2011/05/31/nasa-analysis-falcon-9-cheaper-traditional-approach/

    I’ll quote the relevant portion, so you don’t even have to click on the link

    SpaceX has publicly indicated that the development cost for Falcon 9 launch vehicle was approximately $300 million. Additionally, approximately $90 million was spent developing the Falcon 1 launch vehicle which did contribute to some extent to the Falcon 9, for a total of $390 million. NASA has verified these costs.

    390 million for two vehicles capable (and proven able) of reaching orbit. How much was spent on Ares I-X? 445 million for one suborbital demonstration. How much has been spent on Orion/MPCV? 5 billion. 5 BILLION for a project that hasn’t yet produced a flight model. How much has been (and will be) spent on SLS? God only knows at this point. So, amightywind, tell me how SpaceX has been spending so extravigantly while these other programs presumably aren’t? Because from where I’m sitting, it certainly looks like SpaceX’s approach has produced more bang for the buck.

  • Justin Kugler

    Be careful what you wish for, windy. You just might get it. Next Wednesday should be interesting.

  • DCSCA

    Rick Boozer wrote @ October 20th, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    “After all, Dragon was designed to be reusable from the get go.”

    It has no ‘get go.’ Tick-tock, tick-tock.

  • DCSCA

    “House to hold commercial crew hearing next week”

    More government waste- of both time and resources.

  • @ablastofhotair
    “There has been no mention of whether the LAS is [reusable (sic)].”
    You dope. The LAS will be an integral part of the human crewed Dragon. It won’t separate before or after use like earlier LAS. Ergo, if the Dragon is resused the LAS is reused.

    As was announced today about the NASA award for their LAS milestone (my boldface):
    “Dragon’s integrated launch abort system provides astronauts with the ability to safely escape from the beginning of the launch until the rocket reaches orbit”
    and
    “The new launch abort system provides crew with emergency escape capability throughout the entire flight and returns with the spacecraft, allowing for easy reuse.”
    Don’t you ever get tired of being proved a fool?

  • @ablastofhotair
    “There has been no mention of whether the LAS is [reusable (sic)].”
    You dope. The LAS will be an integral part of the human crewed Dragon. It won’t separate before or after use like earlier LAS. Ergo, if the Dragon is resused the LAS is reused.

    As was announced today about the NASA award for their LAS milestone (my boldface):
    “Dragon’s integrated launch abort system provides astronauts with the ability to safely escape from the beginning of the launch until the rocket reaches orbit”
    and
    “The new launch abort system provides crew with emergency escape capability throughout the entire flight and returns with the spacecraft, allowing for easy reuse.”
    Don’t you ever get tired of being proved a fool?

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ October 20th, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    More government waste- of both time and resources.

    Hearings are one of the few ways citizens can discern what their representatives in Congress are actually doing or thinking about doing, so no, not a waste in that regard. When waste does occur is when they call inadequate witnesses, such as former government employees that are decades removed from the subjects being discussed…

  • Why do I get the feeling that Chairman Hall will call in sick that day?

    Dana Rohrabacher might be there by himself.

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ October 20th, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    It may be a long time because the program has been severely hobbled by the Bolsheviks.

    Maybe. But Bolden has been slowly marginalizing them within the various NASA programs, and clear-eyed decision making is being restored.

    Ironically the only chance the SLS has to survive is with Bolden, since he is making sure NASA doesn’t make the same mistakes that Griffin did regarding irresponsible budget & schedule choices.

    I see no advantage to landing in the Utah desert over splashing down 5 miles off the coast of the Cape.

    Well you won’t need the Navy for one (big $$$), and you don’t have to worry about salt-water corrosion for reusable spacecraft. Anything that decreases turnaround and increases safety is the right direction.

    Neither did Orion’s brilliant designers at Lockmart.

    Anybody can take Apollo capsule drawings and draw them bigger – remember Orion was part of Griffin’s “Apollo on steroids”. So no, the amount of innovation from a functional standpoint is not that much, which is why it’s such a head-scratcher for why it’s costing them $8B.

  • pathfinder_01

    Actually Orion(and any capsule with a service module) is not capable of splashing down five miles off the cape. The service module burns up and will follow a simillar track as the capsule coming in so you need a safe place for the service module to be disposed off. Five miles off the cape will cause debris from the service module to land on land. Orion will mostly likely be recovered from the Pacific or much futher out in the Atlantic.

  • pathfinder_01

    “Unlike the Orion capsule which must do an old-style Apolloesque ocean splashdown no matter what.”

    “I think they’re doing dry land landings with airbag deployment, no?”

    They originally wanted land landings and reusability for Orion, but Ares 1’s performance problems caused the need to lighten Orion. By dropping reusability and land landings they saved mass.

    Boeing CST 100 is making use of the airbags for land landings and frankly land landings are preferred to sea landings (cheaper (i.e. don’t need a ship) and no inherent risk of the capsule sinking(and the crew drowning). Sea landings however do increase the areas on the earth that the capsule can land on.

  • Matt Wiser

    About bloody time! Hopefully the commitee will do its thing and hold these guys’ feet to the fire. It will be very interesting indeed. Maybe this time NASA TV will cover the hearings, since the last two hearings dealing with HSF weren’t shown-even on C-SPAN!

    Oh, Ron: dissing the only people who have both LEO and BEO flight time in their log books isn’t a good idea. Those guys are a wealth of experience that needs to be tapped. They are a national-level resource that should be used to their fullest extent.

  • josh

    windy comes across more desperate by the day. really grasping at straws here…

    anyway, nice to see musk is going to be testifying.

    Testify, Elon, testify!!:P

  • Bennett

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ October 20th, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    “Boeing CST 100 is making use of the airbags for land landings”

    Ah, correct. Thanks for that, and the clarification. I remember seeing the video a few weeks ago and confused the two. This is a good thing as I had a really hard time imagining that Rick Boozer would make such a mistake.

    I’m glad I expressed uncertainty!

  • Robert G. Oler

    I cut and pasted this directly off of NASA watch…no link but you can find it…Jeff can comment if its not accurate.

    “This comment from NASA’s Phil McAlister via Jeff Foust on Twitter from the ISPCS (International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight) is somewhat revealing as to NASA’s preceptions in terms of the appropriate size of a government oversight office.

    @Jeff_Foust: McAlister: Comm’l Crew office capped at 250, which for NASA is a very lean program; “not a standing army but a platoon.” #ispcs”

    As KC points out this is not a Platoon…250 people that is almost the complement of an AEGIS Destroyer. RGO

  • vulture4

    Orion deorbits with the service module engine so the service module cannot separate until after the burn and will always impact uprange from the capsule. It cannot land anywhere near the east coast. The downside of west coast landing is that the farther north you go the more problems there are with weather, and a separate recovery force is needed in addition to what may be needed on the east coast for launch.

    Dragon could land on the east coast by doing a partial deorbit burn, dropping the trunk in a trajectory for the mid-Atlantic, and then doing an additional retrograde burn to come down just offshore. For cargo this might be practical. But meeting NASA crew recovery requirements offshore will not be cheap anywhere. However the weather is fairly good off Florida.

    Land recovery is cheaper, but Orion has no capability for it. Dragon could do a partial deorbit, drop the trunk on a trajectory into the Atlantic, and then complete the burn and land at KSC with either Musk’s fanciful retrorockets or a conventional guided parachute and landing with the abort thrusters.

    Of course the best way to land a spacecraft is with wings, like the X-15, Shuttle, Buran SpaceShip, and X-37.

  • Rhyolite

    “It may be a long time because the program has been severely hobbled by the Bolsheviks.”

    What’s worse, imaginary Bolshevicks or the program’s chronic inability to execute on time and budget?

  • Wow, I gotta clear some things up.
    I need to disclose that I work for XCOR aerospace, and I will not comment on any XCOR activities other that to say that we are pretty awesome. I do know many spaceX employees from ones with badge numbers in the single digits to those in the mid thousands. I have had frozen yogurt at their factory and have run a conference with them as a keystone sponsor.

    With all that said, people who think they are wasting money are wrong. They are persuing an agressive program fueled by a batallion of young engineers under the guidance of a very experianced team. They are building things as quickly as they can. This second launch is much more complicated than the first and they are treating it as such. Elon has a personal philosophy favoring reuse for as much as possible, because he wants to sell rocket transport, not rockets themselves.

    Vertcal landing is now within the reach of hobbyspace folks, look at my friend paul breed. Or masten space systems. Don’t worry, spacex and other commercial companies are your best bet. If you want to beat up on a group, go for orbital sciences. Where is taurus?

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    The major challenge for CCDev Program will be around the NASA contracting strategy going forward. If they revert to FAR it’s going to cost buckets and take longer. They might not even make 2016. Could be Orion / MPCV all over again particularly when you read that they’ve got something like 250 staff in their oversight office now. How many later? The Gods weep!!

  • @ josh
    “anyway, nice to see musk is going to be testifying.

    Testify, Elon, testify!!:P
    As I said it’s going to be fun!”

    If Hall tries a battle of wits with Musk (or most of the other listed witnesses for that matter), he will find he is only half armed. Almost as much fun will be thinking about what Wiser is expecting to happen at the hearing versus what will actually take place. Maybe after the hearing, reality will set in and the king of rationalization will abdicate his thrown.

  • Oops! ‘Throne’ not ‘thrown’

  • Jim Nobles

    I’ll offer a general opinion of the state of things.

    If it’s Retrospace V.S. Nerdspace bet short term on Retrospace as they still have a lot of inertia, which can look like momentum in some cases. But be ready to cash out at any time.

    But bet long term on Nerdspace because they see a future and now see a path to it.

    That’s the way I look at it.

  • Byeman

    “Hopefully the commitee will do its thing and hold these guys’ feet to the fire.”

    Hold whose feet to the fire? They have no say in what commercial companies do.

  • amightywind

    Well you won’t need the Navy for one (big $$$), and you don’t have to worry about salt-water corrosion for reusable spacecraft.

    Seems to me a brief exposure to salt water is easier to design for than the structural requirements for a hard landing on a playa. No need for heavy decel rocket systems or deployable landing bags. The Russians use these because blue water recovery for them truly makes no sense. When they start launching from Vostochny that may change. Recovery of SRBs was routine, back when we had a space program. Orion capsule recovery is even less demanding.

    If Hall tries a battle of wits with Musk …, he will find he is only half armed.

    More likely that Hall will demonstrate that Musk is a legend in his own mind.

    They are building things as quickly as they can. This second launch is much more complicated than the first and they are treating it as such.

    Human spaceflight isn’t like running a website. Throwing a bucket of monkeys at the problem won’t cut it. America already has almost 50 years of cumulative experience in spacecraft development. I don’t see what there is to learn from a bunch of web designers who switched careers to reimplement ’60′s technology, and very slowly at that.

  • Perhaps Mr. Hall’s hearing aid will magically malfunction.

  • pathfinder_01

    “Seems to me a brief exposure to salt water is easier to design for than the structural requirements for a hard landing on a playa. No need for heavy decel rocket systems or deployable landing bags.”

    Ah, no Salt water can do bad things to metals that being said it depends on how the structure of the capsule is designed. In the case of Orion, Apollo and Soyuz the Structure is designed to deform and take the impact of landing like a car does in a crash but that makes the capsule single use. In addition any capsule must be designed to land both on land and on water. One method maybe primary but in the case of Apollo you could land on land(it would injure the crew but they should be able to survive). An abort or winds can take the capsule into an undesirable landing location.

    “ The Russians use these because blue water recovery for them truly makes no sense. When they start launching from Vostochny that may change. Recovery of SRBs was routine, back when we had a space program. Orion capsule recovery is even less demanding”

    SRB’s on occasion were damaged and sometimes sank. Orion due to it’s size will require a non commercially available helicopter to pull of of the water. Dragon is light enough that you just need to rent a helicopter to lift it out the water.

  • @ablastofhotair
    “More likely that Hall will demonstrate that Musk is a legend in his own mind.”

    You fail to see the dark carbon coating on your metal container even though you accuse the other side of that fault. That same criticism doesn’t apply to you? The one who:
    In this very thread has made at least one significant statement proven to be false; i.e., there is no specification to NASA of the crewed Dragon doing touch down on land by rocket power using its LAS.

    Also, the following gaffs, your statements in the past that:
    The second stage of the first flight of F9 crashed into the ocean instead of making orbit. (That one alone made you a living legend!)
    Not knowing the difference between a hardware specification and an undocumented pre-existing condition.
    All supporters of commercial spaceflight are far-left radicals.

    OMG, I have so many more I could write! And yet you continue on with your idiotic brain farts.
    Yeah, you have A LOT of credibility on this blog. You are the true “legend in his own mind”

  • clive wrote:

    Wow, I gotta clear some things up.

    Clive, we have one or two trolls here who post all sorts of outrageous lies about commercial space to get attention. I don’t reply to them, but many folks can’t resist.

    The regulars know who’s who and what are their motivations. Don’t worry, we don’t take seriously all the lies spewed by the trolls.

    Good luck with XCOR. Plenty of room for you here at KSC/CCAFS when you’re ready.

  • amightywind

    SRB’s on occasion were damaged and sometimes sank. Orion due to it’s size will require a non commercially available helicopter to pull of of the water. Dragon is light enough that you just need to rent a helicopter to lift it out the water.

    I am aware of the loss of the SRB’s of STS-4. Are there any others in 30 years? An Orion is watertight. An SRB is open ended. Not a bad record.

    A shipboard bow winch recovery would be infinitely simpler for Orion recovery. The Dragon is recoverable by helo because it is tiny.

    The second stage of the first flight of F9 crashed into the ocean instead of making orbit.

    A logical conclusion based on the fragmentary real time information coming from SpaceX. Spaceflight now called a minutes early second stage shutdown. My guess is SpaceX greatly overstated the mass of the test vehicle.

    All supporters of commercial spaceflight are far-left radicals.

    No. Simberg is not. He is only misguided. Oler is a classic mushy-middle moderate. He can be made to think anything if it is repeated often enough. However, like green energy, Nerdspace is dominated by far-left radicals. Am I wrong?

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ October 20th, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    About bloody time! Hopefully the commitee will do its thing and hold these guys’ feet to the fire.

    Give us a preview Matt – what are the questions that will “hold these guys’ feet to the fire”, and who will the questions be directed at?

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ October 20th, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    dissing the only people who have both LEO and BEO flight time in their log books isn’t a good idea.

    My statement stands. If you’re going to bring someone in to testify, then they should have recent relevant experience.

    As of today we have no lunar plans, no lunar budget, and only the most basic of BEO spacecraft being built (MPCV), so other than inspirational rah-rah talk nothing Apollo astronauts say about lunar activities is of material importance.

    For LEO we have dozens of LEO spacecraft commanders that have more time in LEO than the Apollo-era astronauts that have been testifying before Congress, and we have dozens of ISS astronauts that have far more time and experience in space than their Apollo era counterparts. None of those more experienced astronauts have been invited to testify, so Congress is getting perspective that is decades out of date.

    If Congress wants relevant space perspective, they should invite people like:

    - Frank L. Culbertson, Jr.
    - Peggy Whitson
    - Ken Bowersox
    - Michael Foale
    - Shannon Walker
    - Scott Kelly

    We don’t lack American space heroes that have more relevant space experience, so it’s pretty troubling when Congress has to skip whole generations of astronauts to focus on political points, not national needs.

  • Dude Man

    If you want to beat up on a group, go for orbital sciences. Where is Taurus II?

    Dude, it’s been not even four years since COTS-2 proposal submission.

    How long did your last rocket take to launch from proposal?

  • Vladislaw

    amightywind wrote:

    “It may be a long time because the program has been severely hobbled by the Bolsheviks.”

    Ya they were hobbled all right. $6 BILLION dollars .. that is quite the hobble tied around their ankles.

    Now why aren’t those same “Bolsheviks” hobbling commercial crew with that much? I would like to see them get “hobbled” just as bad as Orion.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ October 21st, 2011 at 10:13 am

    “. Oler is a classic mushy-middle moderate. He can be made to think anything if it is repeated often enough.”

    I know that you and Whittington try, but I just keep batting down your goofiness (and his).

    Thanks for calling me a moderate…I am getting the reputation on my facebook page as a liberal..RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ October 21st, 2011 at 10:13 am

    However, like green energy, Nerdspace is dominated by far-left radicals.

    In all my years of management I was quite proud that I was mostly oblivious to the political leanings of not only my employees, but most people I worked with. I have strong political beliefs, but from a business standpoint I feel it’s more important what people do at work than what they do in the voting booth.

    IIRC, you are a software guy, so should we lump you in with all the other software people when we talk about their political leanings? That would put you in the same political category as Musk (who is a software guy too), which is either bad for you or bad for him… ;-)

    Am I wrong?

    Too easy – if you’re typing on this blog, then most likely “yes”.

  • @ablastofhotair
    “A logical conclusion based on the fragmentary real time information coming from SpaceX. Spaceflight now called a minutes early second stage shutdown. My guess is SpaceX greatly overstated the mass of the test vehicle.
    B.S. The rest of who had watched the launch in real-time saw the camera view from the spacecraft all the way to orbit and already knew it and heard SpaceX announce that it had reached orbit. If you had watched the launch all the way up to LEO, you would have known it too. Instead, you kept arguing with us who saw it and heard the original SpaceX announcement, long after it was a fait accompli.

    “All supporters of commercial spaceflight are far-left radicals.

    No. Simberg is not. He is only misguided. Oler is a classic mushy”

    You didn’t make that qualification a couple of years ago when you originally made that statement. You did not exclude anybody.

    Remember my answer to you at the time? I answered about how convenient it was for you to take every one who disagrees with you and put them in a nice little far left pidgeon hole. That way you don’t have to do any of that tedious stuff called thinking.

    I think you must be the Bolshevik because you surely do try to rewrite history in similar manner to what they did.

    But as I have said before, you are our resident ultra right-wing nutball. Every political discussion group has to have one.

  • Matt Wiser

    Musk is just another entrepeneur (a wild-eyed one), nothing more, who has a service he wants to offer NASA and other customers. However, he’s been somewhat…vocal in his remarks, and a chance to explain himself before a Congressional committee is well past due.

    So, Ron, you think the old hands ought to just shut up and take their retirement checks? I think not, and Congress doesn’t either: why do you think they keep getting called to the Hill? Those guys have a wealth of experience that ought to be tapped for as long as possible.

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ October 21st, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    Musk is just another entrepeneur (a wild-eyed one), nothing more

    Sounds like you don’t like entrepreneurs. Hmm, let’s see what the definition is:

    entrepreneur

    a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.

    Wow, sounds pretty horrible. Are you recommending that Congress should outlaw entrepreneurs, or at least severely limit their “products & services” until a government panel thinks they are ready for government use?

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ October 21st, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    you think the old hands ought to just shut up and take their retirement checks?

    I don’t blame anyone that is called in front of Congress for testifying, since they are there at the behest of Congress, not the other way around.

    However, as SpacePolicyOnline.com noted “All three are strong critics of the Obama Administration’s plan as evidenced by previous congressional testimony, letters and op-ed pieces.“, so it was already known what they were going to say, especially since they had already testified at a previous hearing. Congress wanted a repeat of previous testimony, and that’s what they got – no new information. What a waste of time.

    why do you think they keep getting called to the Hill?

    Because they say the same thing over, and over again, and that’s what Chairman Hall wants. If Hall wanted opposing views, then Armstrong, Cernan and Griffin would only have testified once.

    Those guys have a wealth of experience that ought to be tapped for as long as possible.

    The true measure of that statement is not how much they testify before Congress, but how much work they get as consultants, teachers and speakers. This is the best way to gauge the influence someone has as a thought-leader in their field.

    You can be the judge of how these three are judged on those criteria, and that should help you to understand how relevant their experience is in today’s world, and how much people want to tap them for their knowledge.

  • But as I have said before, you are our resident ultra right-wing nutball.

    What does “ultra right-wing” mean in the context of this troll? The creature irrationally hates private activities and entrepreneurs. Doesn’t sound very “right wing” to me.

  • “What does “ultra right-wing” mean in the context of this troll? The creature irrationally hates private activities and entrepreneurs. Doesn’t sound very “right wing” to me.”
    He visualizes himself as being on the far political right, whether he is or not. Many of the people I know who support the old NASA status quo consider themselves conservatives far to the right of center and I also know some people who consider themselves to be far to left who hold the same position. Though I must admit that the latter variety exhibit more philosophical consistency in bashing competitive capitalism in space transportation, since they hold that same position for everything else. BTW, I’m not saying that there are not a lot of people who consider themselves conservative and/or far to the right who hold the opposite point of view vis-a-vis NASA.

  • Matt Wiser

    Ron: Have the old hands in a Panel 1, more recent fliers in Panel 2. Problem solved. You’d have a broad range of experience and views, though I imagine that any recent veterans won’t be people on active duty in the Astronaut Office. And who knows? There may be folks who actually agree with what the old hands are saying. If there are, you going to diss their views, hmm?

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ October 22nd, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    Have the old hands in a Panel 1, more recent fliers in Panel 2.

    OK, but we get “new” old hands, right? Not just the same ones over and over again? Because if it’s the same two people, then that’s not a very good slice of perspective.

    though I imagine that any recent veterans won’t be people on active duty in the Astronaut Office.

    And you’d be wrong. I’ve included at least one in the short list I provided October 21st, 2011 at 11:43 am – I guess you didn’t even bother to read about why I included them?

    And who knows? There may be folks who actually agree with what the old hands are saying.

    And there are certainly old hands that disagree with the two old hands proffered so far. But the only way to find out is to get them talking.

    If there are, you going to diss their views, hmm?

    I have consistently said that we need relevant witnesses, not witnesses that only agree with me. I think this sets me apart from you actually, because I don’t think you would accept anything but the “Moon First” perspective.

    I already know that there are Shuttle-generation astronauts that have lots of experience that won’t agree with all the viewpoints I support, but they have far more, and more recent experience in space than your two Apollo surrogates, so I would tend to listen to them first.

    Still boils down to this Matt – I support things that will get us into space far more quickly than what you want, and it turns out to cost less too. And, I don’t care what sequence we do asteroids, the Moon, EML-1 and so on – I’ll let the capabilities present the next best destination.

    You on the other hand only support one architecture and one destination, both of which take decades to come to fruition. As the Constellation program proved, this is a politically shaky foundation to hang your hopes on.

    We’ll see what happens in the next two years…

  • Byeman

    “a chance to explain himself before a Congressional committee is well past due. ”

    He has no need to do this.

  • Alan

    Rand Simberg wrote @ October 22nd, 2011 at 3:57 pm


    “But as I have said before, you are our resident ultra right-wing nutball.”

    What does “ultra right-wing” mean in the context of this troll? The creature irrationally hates private activities and entrepreneurs. Doesn’t sound very “right wing” to me.

    More like Fascist Corporatism … ultimately descending from Georges Sorel’s vision of Collectivist anarchism. So one could call Windy a Clintonian/Blarite Statist follower of The Third Way. Certainly not “ultra-right wing”, more like kissing cousin of the mensheviks.

    He irrationally hates private activities and entrepreneurs who are considered a threat towards his preferred corporate combinations.

  • vulture4

    A few points about land and ocean recovery, which I have observed for a couple of decades. Almost all the SRBs were recovered and reused, but the cost of doing so was greater than the cost of constructing new expendable boosters because of the complexity and infrastructure required for ocean recovery and the need to completely rebuild the boosters between flights. It was done for many years, but it was not economically feasible.

    Neither Orion nor Dragon can be recovered by helicopter, but Dragon can be hoisted fairly easily by a ship hoist while Orion lacks even a lift attachment point and requires a well-deck ship, available only from the Navy. While recovering a commercial cargo capsule at sea can be relatively cheap (as was the intial SpaceX recovery) meeting NASA requirements means putting a lot of people in the area, and doing it a couple hundred miles offshore is not cheap. Without land recovery reusability is not feasible.

    Hitting the ground without a fully controlled touchdown pretty much rules out reuse. Dragon may be able to do so. The rockets on the Dragon are not a LAS that can be used for landing, they are a landing system that eliminates the need to carry a LAS, which will never be used anyway.

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ October 22nd, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    BTW, I see that you’ve avoided answering my earlier question:

    Give us a preview Matt – what are the questions that will “hold these guys’ feet to the fire”, and who will the questions be directed at?

    Matt?

  • @Coastal Ron
    “BTW, I see that you’ve avoided answering my earlier question:”

    And if it’s a question for which there is not an honest answer where SLS comes up less than roses, he will probably do one of the following (based on my past experience with him): a) continue to not answer your question, i.e., ignore it, or b) pretend you asked a question different from the one you actually asked and answer said alternate question, or c) answer your question with another question that has little or nothing to do with the question you asked.

  • @Coastal Ron
    Dang! I forgot the last option: d) give you an answer that is based on pure conjecture or hear say or what he prefers to believe rather than independently verifiable fact.

  • Matt Wiser

    When I mean hold Musk’s feet to the fire, I’d be grilling him about some of the promises (or boasts) he’s made. A proper explanation of that “retiring on Mars” nonsense (he won’t, but his grandkids might), or how does he plan to have a completely resuable rocket based on Falcon 9-with so many engineering hurdles to overcome? Not to mention that he’s two years behind schedule in cargo runs to ISS. What was it that Chairman Hall said at a commercial cargo hearing? “Don’t overpromise us.”

    Getting the frank and honest opinions of astronauts-both Apollo era and more recent shuttle fliers, is vital. The Apollo hands’ wealth of experince in BEO operations-including work on a planetary surface, is something that needs to be tapped for future reference. Just get them talking and air things out. Get the recent vets’ opinion on possible future courses of action re: exploration and see if there’s common ground. And if some “agree to disagree” on specifics, that’s fine. Just as long as flying BEO missions as soon as possible are one thing all agree on.

    In case you haven’t noticed, check out a recent piece on the Space Review: it seems to indicate the NEO mission as currently outlined by POTUS may be a nonstarter. Said it before, and I’ll repeat: Under ideal circumstances, Moon first (including Earth-Moon L Points), then NEO and Earth-Sun L-Points, then Mars. In that order. Now, we’re more likely to see Lunar orbit and L-Points before boots on the ground,-and maybe the NEO mission, but that will come in due course. And personally, I’d very much prefer the first human back on the lunar surface be an American, PERIOD.

    Here’s the article: http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1949/1

  • Das Boese

    Matt Wiser wrote @ October 23rd, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    When I mean hold Musk’s feet to the fire, I’d be grilling him about some of the promises (or boasts) he’s made. A proper explanation of that “retiring on Mars” nonsense (he won’t, but his grandkids might), or how does he plan to have a completely resuable rocket based on Falcon 9-with so many engineering hurdles to overcome?

    Since none of this is at all relevant to commercial crew, what you suggest is that elected representatives waste valuable time and public funds to indulge your personal obsession with Elon Musk. Don’t know about your country, in mine this kind of misconduct carries severe legal consequences.

    Not to mention that he’s two years behind schedule in cargo runs to ISS.

    SpaceX has met all of NASA’s goals on time so far, otherwise they would not have received payment. Admittedly there have been significant alterations to the original schedule following the implosion of Constellation and the subsequent changes at NASA and within the COTS program it necessitated.

    What was it that Chairman Hall said at a commercial cargo hearing? “Don’t overpromise us.”

    Perhaps the Chairman should have repeated this sentiment during the discussions about SLS and MPCV, which have a much worse history of not fulfilling initial promises.

    Getting the frank and honest opinions of astronauts-both Apollo era and more recent shuttle fliers, is vital.

    Unless of course, their views contradict yours.

    The Apollo hands’ wealth of experince in BEO operations-including work on a planetary surface, is something that

    …is again irrelevant to the topic of this hearing which is commercial crew.

    Experience in collecting rock and dust samples during a short, monumentally expensive stay on the moon is not a sufficient qualification for discussing current or future policy regarding LEO transport of humans and goods.

    Just get them talking and air things out. Get the recent vets’ opinion on possible future courses of action re: exploration and see if there’s common ground. And if some “agree to disagree” on specifics, that’s fine. Just as long as flying BEO missions as soon as possible are one thing all agree on.

    In other words, every opinion is fine as long as it’s the same as yours, with a bit of wiggle room to give the illusion of diversity.Got it.

    In case you haven’t noticed, check out a recent piece on the Space Review: it seems to indicate the NEO mission as currently outlined by POTUS may be a nonstarter. Said it before, and I’ll repeat: Under ideal circumstances, Moon first (including Earth-Moon L Points), then NEO and Earth-Sun L-Points, then Mars. In that order. Now, we’re more likely to see Lunar orbit and L-Points before boots on the ground,-and maybe the NEO mission, but that will come in due course.

    You can repeat what you said before as often as you want, repetition does not make it true. Until you come up with sound reasoning why your plan is the only way forward and how it’s gonna work in the real world, you shall be dismissed.

  • @Alan
    “Certainly not “ultra-right wing”, more like kissing cousin of the mensheviks. … He irrationally hates private activities and entrepreneurs who are considered a threat towards his preferred corporate combinations.”

    As I indicated in my reply to Rand, when it comes to people with similar positions to those of ablastofhotair, it doesn’t matter whether you, I or anyone else thinks they don’t pass a litmus test for being purely ideologically right-of-center, they consider themselves to be right-of-center no matter what. Nothing any of the rest of us can say will change their minds.

  • A proper explanation of that “retiring on Mars” nonsense (he won’t, but his grandkids might), or how does he plan to have a completely resuable rocket based on Falcon 9-with so many engineering hurdles to overcome? Not to mention that he’s two years behind schedule in cargo runs to ISS. What was it that Chairman Hall said at a commercial cargo hearing?

    a) He has already answered those questions. The fact that you are too dim to understand the answers is your problem, not his or ours, and as Das Boese notes, b) they have zero relevance to the topic at hand, which is commercial crew.

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ October 23rd, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    When I mean hold Musk’s feet to the fire, I’d be grilling him about some of the promises (or boasts) he’s made.

    I’ll echo what Das Boese said – what you’re talking about regarding Musk is your own personal vendetta, not something that Congress is worried about.

    Retiring on Mars is not the concern of Congress, and the business plans of a company are of no concern of Congress either – whether SpaceX achieves reusability, which is an internal company goal, is immaterial to Congress since SpaceX is not under contract to do so.

    Not to mention that he’s two years behind schedule in cargo runs to ISS.

    When the Michael Griffin led NASA awarded SpaceX the original COTS contract, they didn’t want to set specific contract dates since it was a development contract and this type of public-private partnership had never been done. NASA did add the dates that SpaceX (and later OSC) proffered, but NASA was not planning to depend on them. You can see that when NASA wanted to add the extra Shuttle flight to stock up the ISS.

    Are they running behind their announced schedule? Yes. Is that unusual in aerospace? No, and SpaceX and OSC are not being paid for slipping schedule either. So why are you so focused on it? Were you as upset when the Ares I was slipping schedule one year for every year it moved forward? No. So your fake umbrage is just that – fake.

    What was it that Chairman Hall said at a commercial cargo hearing? “Don’t overpromise us.”

    Another “Cernian” type statement that makes a nice soundbite but doesn’t do anything. The great thing about COTS/CRS is that SpaceX and OSC don’t get paid unless they deliver the goods, whether it’s engineering milestones or cargo to the ISS. Compare that to the Cost-Plus contracts that NASA had for Constellation, where we spent $4B on a capsule that never saw the light of day. More fake umbrage.

    Talk is cheap, but unfortunately that’s what you seem to place your faith in. I prefer results, which is why I like what is happening with the COTS & CCDev programs – public milestones that everyone can see, and an aggressive schedule to get things into space at the lowest possible cost.

  • @Coastal Ron

    Ah! It was option d)! :-)

  • Coastal Ron

    Rick Boozer wrote @ October 24th, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Ah! It was option d)!

    Kind of what we expected I’m sure, since SpaceX (and the other COTS & CCDev participants) have not been misspending any government money – how do you complain about companies that are performing to contract?

    They can’t. Instead they focus on the personal aspects of “someone”, which in this case is Elon Musk. But even there, what’s to argue with? The number of jobs he’s produced? How he’s making the U.S. competitive in the international launch market again?

    I think Matt is hoping “something” will come up at the hearing, and then he’ll point retroactively at it and say “see, I told you”…

  • Coastal Ron

    I watched the whole hearing, and I didn’t see anybody holding anyones “feet to the fire”.

    Sorry Matt – I guess they didn’t get your memo about Musk & Mars…

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