Congress, NASA

More voices in the CCDev chorus

At last week’s International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) in Las Cruces, New Mexico, NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver made the argument that spending on NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program now would save more money later that would have to go to Russia for continued Soyuz flights. She is not the only person in government or industry making the case for CCDev, as several recent comments demonstrate.

Earlier at ISPCS, George Nield, associate administrator for commercial space transportation at the FAA, suggested that CCDev wasn’t getting enough funding. “Unfortunately, for the next several years, we will be completely dependent on the Russians to take our astronauts to the space station,” he said in remarks last Wednesday at ISPCS. “Although several companies are eager to show they can do the job as part of the Commercial Crew Development program, the limited amount of money that has been allocated to the program to date calls into question, at least for me, whether we are really serious,” he said.

At the same conference, Robert Bigelow of Bigelow Aerospace blamed his company’s recent decision to lay off just over half of its workforce on the slow pace of CCDev activities. Bigelow had hoped to launch its first operational habitats in 2014, but a combination of a lack of vehicles available to service those modules as well as delays among potential customers forced him to slow down the pace of work at the company and downsize its workforce. “Why be ready in 2014 with two of our large spacecraft ready for launch and fly, and we don’t have transportation and our clients aren’t ready?” he said in a speech at ISPCS last Wednesday.

The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) is also warning about CCDev funding, Aviation Week reports. At an ASAP meeting last week, one member, John Marshall, worried that “without sufficient funding, NASA will be forced to delay its development objectives or refocus the funding it has on a single provider, undermining reliability and cost effectiveness,” according to the article.

Meanwhile, there’s been one addition to Wednesday’s hearing about CCDev by the full House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. NASA Inspector General Paul Martin will join Bill Gerstenmaier on the second panel. At the end of June Martin’s office issued a report on “challenges” facing NASA’s commercial crew plans, citing several issues ranging from crew safety requirements to various models of NASA insight or oversight of commercial providers to contracting mechanisms.

29 comments to More voices in the CCDev chorus

  • amightywind

    There won’t be more funding forthcoming from congress. NASA has divided its attention over 4 CCDev programs. This is an gross extravagance that we simply cannot afford as a nation. For comparison the Air Force JSF competition only had 2 entrants. NASA should cancel at least 2 of the 4 programs and focus on the ones judged most likely to succeed (CST-100). The $300 million budgeted would more than suffice for development. You would think this is obvious to the NASA leadership in this era of budget austerity. The free spending ways of the last 3 years are a difficult habit to kick apparently.

  • The idea that less government spending in a recession is responsible government is logically bankrupt. Macroeconomics 101. Of course, it’s about political power. Which is horrible government.

  • The whole idea behind commercial cargo and, later, commercial crew was to find a less expensive yet more innovative way for government missions to reach low Earth orbit.

    Congress seems to have lost sight of that.

    When they complain about giving money to private companies, they overlook that they’ve always given money to private companies. It’s just the business model that’s changed.

    In the past, NASA selected a sole vendor and kept shovelling money at them until they got it right. Now, the vendor assumes the R&D risk and has to prove to NASA the product is sound before NASA will buy it.

    A recent NASA study found that SpaceX developed Falcon 9 for one-third of what it would have cost NASA.

    I hope that at tomorrow’s committee meeting this study is shoved in the face of the congressional porkers who are trying to delay CCDev.

  • amightywind

    The idea that less government spending in a recession is responsible government is logically bankrupt.

    We have seen the Keynesian approach which has slouched to its inevitable conclusion. The nation now on the threshold of bankruptcy with low growth and high unemployment, and little prospect that either will change Government spending must adjust down to align with post recession economic output. This frees up capital to fuel the expansion. The government spends, the more robust the expansion. Supply-side Economics 101.

  • Encouraging competition is a good thing. Dropping everyone but Boeing does nothing but maintain the status quo. And if you believe that $300 million is sufficient to fund development of a crew capsule, why should we spend billions on the unnecessary SLS?

    In any case, NASA will likely down-select to two CCDev companies in the next phase.

  • amightywind

    And if you believe that $300 million…

    $300 million for one year of funding for a modest crew capsule to an ISS facility noone wants. Seems enough. SLS/Orion is a launch architecture and a serious program for BEO space transportation.

  • SpaceMan

    Supply-side Economics 101

    “…Voodoo economics…” according to George H. W. Bush

  • vulture4

    I assume both the CST-100 and Dragon will be funded. This provides some level of competition and a backup if one of the systems has to suspend operations. Dream Chaser and Blue Origins are not close to an operational status and it is unrealistic to think they can carry crew to ISS in the immediate future, but they might continue to get R&D funding to develop technology, as should some other companies.

    Supporters of SLS/Orion should explain who will pay for it, when these same supporters refuse to pay a fair share of the cost through taxes. Should we borrow the money from China and let our kids worry about it? Will SLS/Orion be paid for by a special tax levied only on Democrats? Absent someone who volunteers to pay the bills, these programs should be cut.

    This isn’t really the forum for economics, but right now space policy is hobbled by Republican obstructionism. They block any proposal to spend tax dollars and then deny responsibility when funding is cut. The US has been cutting taxes for over 30 years, except during the Clinton administration when we had sustained growth. Interest rates are near zero and corporations are swimming in cash, yet we are in a recession. By Reagan’s “voodoo economics” we should all be millionaires by now. It’s time to try something different.

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ October 25th, 2011 at 8:21 am

    For comparison the Air Force JSF competition only had 2 entrants.

    You need to brush up on your history before you use it as the foundation of your arguments. The JSF competition was down-selected to the final two contractors (Boeing & LM), but they were not the only ones initially in the running.

    And that’s the same thing here with CCDev – four competing designs with limited funding so NASA can have better choices when it down-selects. As usual you don’t want the free market to do what it does best (competition), but instead you want the government picking the winners. Nice try, comrade.

    The $300 million budgeted would more than suffice for development.

    It looks like even you are finally realizing that commercial crew can do far more for far less. How much has it cost to add the LAS to the Orion/MPCV? $Billions? You “government is the answer” guys don’t get it.

    You would think this is obvious to the NASA leadership in this era of budget austerity.

    By any measure Bolden has been a far more responsible manager of the taxpayers money than his predecessor Michael Griffin. Griffin did such a bad management job that Congress cancelled the largest program he oversaw (Constellation) and is on the verge of canceling the 2nd largest (JWST).

  • @ablastofhotair
    “$300 million for one year of funding for a modest crew capsule to an ISS facility noone wants.”
    If “none” wanted it, it wouldn’t be happening at all. Evidently your mind is not subtle enough to detect paradoxes.

    “Seems enough. SLS/Orion is a launch architecture and a serious program for BEO space transportation.”
    SLS is the true boondoggle as aptly indicated in the article whose link ends this comment. You especially should read it as it is entitled, “In-orbit Fuel Depots vs. NASA’s Heavy Lift Space Launch System (SLS) for Dummies

    Given the last two words in the title, maybe it’s written simply enough to where even you can grasp it. On the other hand, nah, nothing could do that!

    http://satellite.tmcnet.com/topics/satellite/articles/233015-in-orbit-fuel-depots-vs-nasas-heavy-lift.htm

  • Michael from Iowa

    This is an gross extravagance that we simply cannot afford as a nation.
    As opposed to spending $40 billion on a rocket that has no guarantee of ever actually flying?

  • Robert G. Oler

    There will be plenty of money for commercial crew…SLS is going away and Webb is going to be “downscoped” watch RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ October 25th, 2011 at 8:21 am

    laugh…the falcon9 second stage is spinning out of control crashing into the ocean…at least you provide entertainment here RGO

  • Vladislaw

    Comrade amightywind wrote:

    “There won’t be more funding forthcoming from congress. NASA has divided its attention over 4 CCDev programs. This is an gross extravagance that we simply cannot afford as a nation. For comparison the Air Force JSF competition only had 2 entrants. NASA should cancel at least 2 of the 4 programs and focus on the ones judged most likely to succeed (CST-100). The $300 million budgeted would more than suffice for development. You would think this is obvious to the NASA leadership in this era of budget austerity. The free spending ways of the last 3 years are a difficult habit to kick apparently.”

    The bolshevic, Stalin loving, big government Windy had no problem when NASA blew through 13 billion on Constellation, to him that was chump change. This ultra left wing radical also has no problem with 38 billion being spent on another big government program the Senate V launch vehicle. But talk about less than a billion for a competitive, fixed price, milestone based contract for commercial space and he starts having a cow. You marxists always want big government programs to solve problems, doesn’t matter if commercial choices are 10 times cheaper, for you it’s all about having your big government control everything.

  • Dennis

    it seems to me that all this talk of our government not spending on this or that, is a joke. What I see is deficits in the Trillions for years to come, space program or not!

  • Ben Joshua

    CCDev may be the only American ride to orbit, in the harsh years just ahead for budgets and the economy, regardless of party in charge.

    Love or hate SLS / MPCV, or Cx V.2.0, there is no denying its development and operational costs, time-line and projected flight rate.

    Imagine the expansion of space activities and jobs, both old space and new, resulting from the CCDev approach, perhaps combined with fuel “depot” development, if funding continues, even at current modest levels.

    Dare to imagine!

  • Dave Huntsman

    The addition of Mr. Paul Martin, the NASA IG, may make sense – on the surface, since his office put out a report on CCDEV earlier this year. However, upon actually reading that report, one does not find any useful content; simply a short list of issues that not only anyone in the program could have recited, but anyone in the media, as well.

    In short…… the IG’s report on commercial crew contained zero independent analysis. Nada.

    At the same time in the past year, Mr. Martin’s office has, from what I understand, decided that an IG’s office in a large technical organization did not need to have any technological or programmatic smarts or experience. Nothing could be more wrong: the biggest problems within NASA are not just related to financial ‘auditing’; but to the games program managers, Center Directors, bureaucrats, and others play with budget, with technical decisions, and with programmatic scheduling.

    This activity to ‘dumb down’ the IG’s office technically and programmatically is in stark contrast to the previous IG, “Moose” Cobb (who left under a cloud for unrelated reasons). Moose felt strongly that he needed to smarten up the IG’s office to be able to independently analyze NASA’s programs and organizations. To that end he was going to establish a sort of “IG Chief Engineer’s Office” reporting to him. I know about this because he approached me about heading it up. For various reasons he never was able to establish the office before he left, but in downgrading or getting rid of engineers totally the current IG is dumbing down his own organization when he needs internal expertise the most.

    Considering that the IG’s commercial crew report was ‘content and analysis free’; and that he is simultaneously dumbing down his own office, I am concerned that having the IG give testimony may not be a value added.

  • By the way, the text of Lori Garver’s speech last week in New Mexico is now on NASA.gov at:

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/598634main_102011_Garver_Remarks_FINAL.pdf

    You go, girl. :-)

  • Explorer08

    There is so much name calling and general nastiness by posters on this site. It’s no wonder HSF is failing – - the space advocacy community is made up of middle schoolers.

  • Rhyolite

    “NASA has divided its attention over 4 CCDev programs. This is an gross extravagance that we simply cannot afford as a nation.”

    We could fund all four if we just canceled MPCV.

  • Fred Willett

    Meanwhile over at NASAspaceflight.com
    “Teams at the main NASA centers are continuing to build up their involvement in the Space Launch System”.
    It’s no wonder SLS is going to cost so much. All the centres are now scrambling for their seats on the SLS gravy train. This is why government (NASA) programs cost so much and commercial programs don’t.
    $18B to build SLS vs $700M to build Falcon 1 AND falcon 9 AND Dragon
    $1B a flight for SLS vs $125M a flight for Falcon Heavy.
    1 flight every 2 years for SLS vs up to 10 a year for Falcon Heavy.
    Now look at CCdev. It’s developing 4 crew carrying spacecraft for just $850M a year for 5 years vs SLS/MPCVs $3B a year for a 10 year program. It’s no wonder the SLS crowd resents CCdev and wants to knee-cap the commercial effort. It shows them up.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    Can’t see the addition of the IG on the panel makes much sense at all other than perhaps as a balance of arguments against the success of CCDev Program so far. Since the program is milestone-driven and the commercial companies don’t get paid unless they successfully complete the milestones then what role does the IG Office play? None. Doesn’t matter what the report may say, the milestones are all that count and it seems that they are being ticked off one by one for all four companies.

  • @Explorer08
    “There is so much name calling and general nastiness by posters on this site. It’s no wonder HSF is failing – – the space advocacy community is made up of middle schoolers.”

    If you let a little bit of name calling distract you from evaluating the validity of what is being said based on its merits and verifiable factuality, than you are a lot less mature than you think you are.

  • Dennis

    You know all this talk of Falcons second stage spinning out of control, well it still placed the Dragon into space, so the accomplishment was great. Bugs will have to be worked out no doubt, but she still flew. Lets hope the next effort will be as successful. Meanwhile lets also hope Mars is mans next destination via government and or commercial.

  • Coastal Ron

    Explorer08 wrote @ October 25th, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    There is so much name calling and general nastiness by posters on this site. It’s no wonder HSF is failing

    If you’re just another drive-by commenter, then have a nice day.

    If you really mean what you say though, you’ll stick around and “elevate the discourse” with thoughtful discussion of the topics. Lead by example, so to speak.

    So which is it?

  • Frank Glover

    @ almighty wind:

    “This is an gross extravagance that we simply cannot afford as a nation.”

    (shrug) Okay. So, what were those SLS development estimates, again?

    How many competing entrants to provide a heavy-lift service on that?

    Oh, that’s right…

    “SLS/Orion is a launch architecture and a serious program for BEO space transportation.”

    Well, the ‘launch architecture’ is the only part Congress seems willing to spend money on, and lots of it. Not a word about, or dime for ‘serious’ BEO projects (or anything else) to put on it.

    I can live with continuing Orion alone (it can still at least be sent to LEO on EELVs, then made part of some orbit-assembled and fueled system to go deeper, if we need to) but that’s all…

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    Dennis. Your quite correct, the bugs were worked out. I know of no bugs that were present in the 2nd F9 flight and successful return to Earth of the COTS-C Dragon space craft. Looks like December launch for the COTS-C 2/3 mission.
    Wrt Mars, I don’t think NASA has the balls any longer for that sort of mission. It’ll be up to private/commercial. Certainly the only ones who have seriously worked toward such an effort are Musk and Bigelow. Others have launched powerpoints but that’s about all.

  • Dennis

    If NASA works with both MUSK and BIGELOW, I believe they can carry out extended Mars missons. A Bigelow habitat, would go a long ways toward allowing a crew to depart for Mars. I do not see low cost to space as a hope that will be fullfilled anytime soon. Even if Musk can pull off 20 mil. a seat, that is not cheap and few, except for NASA paying customers, will fly. Until the cost levels reach more into the range of what an airline ticket costs, Only the few privy will make the journey into space.

  • Coastal Ron

    Dennis wrote @ October 27th, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Until the cost levels reach more into the range of what an airline ticket costs, Only the few privy will make the journey into space.

    Dennis, that is a pretty silly statement.

    There are 2.75 Billion people expected to fly on airlines this year, and with an average price of $233 that would equal $6.7 Trillion in spending. By comparison space travel is a niche market, not one for the masses.

    Let’s change your sentence and see if you understand this better:

    Until the cost levels reach more into the range of what an airline ticket costs, Only the few privy will make the journey on corporate jets.

    Now if you said that to any business jet owner, they would laugh at your statement, and the success of the business jet market is proof of that.

    So it is with space travel, where for the foreseeable future it will be limited to countries and businesses that want to do work in space, and those few individuals that can afford a short journey on an extra seat. Tourism will NOT be driving the space transportation market, and NOBODY is relying on tourism.

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