NASA

ULA wants NASA to accelerate commercial crew decision

The head of United Launch Alliance (ULA) would like to see NASA speed up the timetable for downselecting a company or companies to develop commercial crew systems, Florida Today reports. ULA CEO Michael Gass, speaking at a press conference Tuesday marking the joint venture’s fifth anniversary, noted that ULA has agreements with three commercial crew developers—Blue Origin, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada—to provide launch services for their proposed commercial crew vehicles. (Those companies account for three of the four firms with funded second-round Commercial Crew Development, or CCDev-2, awards from NASA; SpaceX, which proposes to use its own Falcon 9 rocket, is the fourth.) While those agreements would appear to be ringing endorsements of ULA’s launch capabilities, Gass said it hinders ULA from taking steps to support any single company, including investing in them.

“Why would you continue to invest when one of three of your investments could only be the potential winner?” Gass asked, according to the report. He added it would be “helpful” if NASA made a decision earlier on the vehicle or vehicles it will support full-fledged development of. Gass was also critical of the limited funding provided for the program in FY 2012, with its original request of $850 million cut by more than half to $406 million. “We talk about wanting to close the gap and not be dependent on foreign sources only, but then we don’t fully fund the capability.”

At least some in Congress support the desire of Gass to speed up a vehicle decision. Language in the conference report for the final FY12 “minibus” appropriations bill suggested that NASA consider “an accelerated down-select process that would concentrate and maximize the impact of each appropriated dollar.” NASA has not indicated any changes in their commercial crew development plans, although NASA administrator Charles Bolden said Monday they agency was studying “the most effective and efficient way we can bring it into being” without going into greater detail.

96 comments to ULA wants NASA to accelerate commercial crew decision

  • Coastal Ron

    I don’t support down-selecting to one provider, but if Congress is not going to support Commercial Crew fully then getting two providers going faster may be the only choice.

    Down-selecting to only one provider, no matter who it is, would effectively choke off efforts to get a competitive transportation system going, and we’d be stuck with another monopoly situation, regardless if they are perceived as benevolent.

    This is another fine mess Congress is getting us into.

  • lol

    They should split the money and and keep all the serious choices funded so they’re ready to go when funding inevitably changes for the better

  • when funding inevitably changes for the better

    Well, aren’t you the optimist.

  • Its silly to develop commercial crew capability for the ISS in the first place: there’s simply not enough traffic to the ISS from US soil for multiple spaceflight companies.

    The Federal government needs to be promoting space tourism as a way to sustain the commercial crew industry by starting a national and international space lotto system for space tourism aboard private American space vessels to private American space stations.

  • Marcel F. Williams wrote:

    Its silly to develop commercial crew capability for the ISS in the first place: there’s simply not enough traffic to the ISS from US soil for multiple spaceflight companies.

    Because there hasn’t been an available option until now.

    The commercial companies have repeatedly told Congress they have lots of clients lined up. So does Bigelow. The problem until now has been that the only way one could get into space from the U.S. is to be a government employee.

    The demand is there. The private sector will proceed with or without the government. The only issue here is accelerating development of commercial vehicles to benefit NASA. The private sector does not need NASA; Bigelow is just waiting for the commercial companies to finish their vehicles, which will be around 2015.

  • MrEarl

    With such a steep cut in funding, downselecting to two may be the best thing to do. Unfortunately that would seem to give the edge to Boeing and SpaceX since I think NASA would want to at least one traditional company (Boeing) to go along with a “new space” company like SpaceX.
    What may be best is to select Boeing and SN’s Dream Chaser because Musk has already stated that he will continue to develop Dragon without government funding.

    Rand you’ll notice that the one posters name is LOL. I think he was being sarcastic.

  • Coastal Ron

    MrEarl wrote @ December 7th, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    What may be best is to select Boeing and SN’s Dream Chaser because Musk has already stated that he will continue to develop Dragon without government funding.

    If SpaceX submits a bid, then NASA won’t be able to ignore them “because we think they’ll go ahead anyways”. There has to be quantitative reasons for making bid awards, otherwise the whole thing will be tied up in legal appeals.

    We already know that SpaceX is willing to take on the “big guys” in court, since they tried to stop ULA from being formed by arguing (correctly) that it would lead to a monopoly. NASA knows that, and I don’t see Bolden doing any backroom bid manipulations.

    That being said, NASA could decide to award SNC’s Dream Chaser one of the funding slots by arguing that they represent a migration path that NASA wants to support. In that case it would be a competition between SpaceX and Boeing for the other funding slot, and SpaceX would be in a better position to win by virtue of better pricing and more mature hardware. I’m not saying Boeing can’t win, but it’s not a slam dunk for them either.

  • SpaceMan

    “Why would you continue to invest when one of three of your investments could only be the potential winner?”

    Geeeez, (rolls eyes almost out of sockets).

    Dude, it is called taking a risk and is what VCs and others that haven’t spent decades with their hog snouts deep in the corruption pool of government handouts do to succeed. Maybe you should give it a try for once.

    No wonder the world is in such a pile of solid excrement.

    And BTW…

    Optimism = what our ancestors had that allowed them to get us out of the caves and mud pits. Sheesh, the foolishness is so bad it burns.

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ December 7th, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Its silly to develop commercial crew capability for the ISS in the first place: there’s simply not enough traffic to the ISS from US soil for multiple spaceflight companies.

    As you do in most of your posts, you ignore how the world works, which is through supply & demand forces. There is demand for crew transportation to the ISS – this is undeniable, even by you. Currently the demand is being supplied by Russia, and by 2016 they will be charging $63M/seat for transportation to the ISS.

    So then the question is whether the Commercial Crew providers can provide crew transportation services (i.e. “supply”) at a price that NASA is willing to pay. If they charge more than what they pay for the Soyuz, they may balk, especially if budgets are tight. However all of the Commercial Crew providers have said they can provide crew services for competitive prices to the Soyuz, and SpaceX has said that they could provide pricing far less ($20M/seat) for trips of seven passengers ($140M/flight, regardless how many fly).

    How can they charge those prices and survive on low volumes?

    For rockets, all are relying on existing rockets that are already in production. Pricing is very predictable, and the launch facilities are in constant use for non-crew services, so the costs are spread across a large customer base, regardless how many crew flights go per year.

    For the capsules, those are a higher risk cost-wise, but still manageable depending on what the company goals are. For SpaceX, they use the same basic capsule design for cargo as they will for crew, so their overhead is pretty low. For Boeing, they have stated that they want to be in the crew space transportation business, so they may be willing to break even on their operations for quite a while in order to ensure that they establish a lead in a new market. All of the crew vehicles will be reusable, so costs over time will go down.

    In short, because you don’t understand Supply & Demand, that is why you don’t understand why those four companies think Commercial Crew is a viable market to be in.

  • SpaceColonizer

    Part of me wants to see this blow up in ULA’s face and have SpaceX be the last man standing. However, like usual, I agree with Coastal Ron on this that we shouldn’t be downselecting to just one anyways. I understand the argument that there isn’t enough ISS business to support two firms, but that presumes that ISS is the only business case these companies have.

    The big question on my mind is: if SpaceX rejects NASA oversight, and therefore funding, but SpaceX succeeds in getting the Dragon ready by the time the remaining contender is, will NASA refuse to contract with SpaceX even if it is the better deal. To put it more broadly, is NASA stuck with the firm it downselects to even if others remain competitive?

  • CharlesHouston

    As is sometimes the case, the discussions here illuminate the variety of viewpoints.
    For (orbital) tourists to pay money to fly into space, don’t you think that they will expect what Dennis Tito, etc got? A trip to the ISS? Do we think that orbital tourism could survive if it does not include visit to ISS?
    For governments, they will pay for required trips – crew rotation, etc. I think there will be no extra flights. They will be too expensive.
    So the ISS is going to be the choke point – how often can it accept tourists and be distracted from maintenance, etc?
    So there will be a strictly limited number of flights, which will drive most companies out of business quickly. We likely will eliminate Blue Origin soon and then will be down to Boeing and SpaceX, and will have Sierra Nevada out there trying to break into the market.
    I think we should get it over with and eliminate Blue Origin already (sadly) and put Sierra Nevada on “warm”. Maybe one day we could expand ISS with another Node so it could handle more people at once? But where would that money come from?

  • CharlesHouston wrote:

    For (orbital) tourists to pay money to fly into space, don’t you think that they will expect what Dennis Tito, etc got? A trip to the ISS? Do we think that orbital tourism could survive if it does not include visit to ISS?

    Who said the only interested customers are tourists?!

    Bigelow has MOUs with six nations to use their station. This isn’t for tourism. This is for research.

    Robert Bigelow told Space.com in October 2010:

    “These are countries that do not want to be hostage to just what the International Space Station may or may not deliver.”

    There will also be plenty of pharmaceuticals and high-tech manufacturing companies that will want access to LEO. Astrogenetix already packages flights for pharmaceutical and biotech companies; as they move from research to production, they’ll want their own private manufacturing plants in LEO that won’t be subject to the whims of Congress.

    If tourists want to come up and get their kicks, so be it. But they’ll be the distinct minority when it comes to commercial traffic.

  • Boeing and SpaceX are the clear CCDEV 3 winners.

    Blue Origin only needs a tiny contract in compariosn to the big CCDEV winners (like they received in CCDEV 1 & 2) to show that they are still playing the NASA game to certify their vehicles. Blue Origin has their own money and their own rocket, so they will keep moving forward even if NASA gives them a small $20-Million contract for CCDEV 3. NASA could name Blue Origin as a CCDEV 3 winner with little money expended.

    Sierra Nevada, which is a government contractor with relatively small private funding compared to Blue Origin or SpaceX, is the company that will probably get cut by NASA. The Dream Chaser has been cut by NASA before so this is nothing new for them.

    Sierra Nevada needs to partner better with Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites so they can get access to serious non-NASA funding. Sierra Nevada also needs to propose a serious strategy to use a rocket other than the ULA Atlas V. Rutan and Virgin Galactic have been mostly quiet on an air-launched orbital rocket, but they have both said in the past that they will eventually announce an orbital capability. It makes no sense for Sierra Nevada to spend ~ $600-Million on Atlas V rockets in CCDEV, because this will not give them a pricing advantage over Boeing for future ISS commercial crew contracts, and because that $600-Million could be used by Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites (i.e. Northrop) to build an air-launched orbital system. The Dream Chaser also could/should be built by Scaled Composites or The SpaceShip Company (i.e. the joint venture of Scaled/Northrop and Virgin Galactic). If Sierra Nevada does not make these choices, then it is hard to see how they will be competitive.

    Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser is probably the next to get cut if Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites does not put a lot of real money and resources behind them. SpaceX, Boeing, and Blue Origin will probably be the CCDEV 3 winners, but it might only be Boeing and SpaceX.

  • Coastal Ron

    CharlesHouston wrote @ December 7th, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    For (orbital) tourists to pay money to fly into space, don’t you think that they will expect what Dennis Tito, etc got? A trip to the ISS?

    They can expect that, but there is not a lot of hope for that. The only paying tourists (as opposed to guests of NASA) have gone to the ISS as “guests” of Russia – Russia was making money on the deal. The U.S. doesn’t seem as motivated to do that at this point.

    I have always said that tourism will be an out-growth of our efforts in space, not a driver. As we add more capacity for various research and business reasons, then tourism can follow behind and ride along when there is room. but we’re a long way from having a dedicated tourism destination in space.

    Do we think that orbital tourism could survive if it does not include visit to ISS?

    Yes. I think Bigelow will allow tourism as part of the services that he’ll be providing with his space station service. But I don’t see tourism as a significant factor in getting Commercial Crew going, or keeping it going, so if there was no tourism for a while, that’s no big deal.

    For governments, they will pay for required trips – crew rotation, etc. I think there will be no extra flights. They will be too expensive.

    I disagree, mainly because I see the most significant choke point as access. The going price for getting to the ISS on Soyuz is $63M in 2016, but there is limited availability. Once Commercial crew gets going, access goes up dramatically, and prices will likely fall. Just to qualify, I’m not talking about faster crew rotations or larger crew sizes, but I do see an opportunity for short visits during crew rotation flights, just like what we did when Shuttle visited the ISS.

    For instance, if the pricing model for Commercial Crew is to buy a flight, that would cost $140M for a Dragon capsule. NASA can fit up to 7 people in it, but I think they would add one or two to the crew that is going up for rotation, and those extra people would only stay on the station for one or two days. That’s long enough for technicians and engineers to view problems up close, and long enough for press and politicians to get a look around. I think this will be very popular.

  • Coastal Ron

    Anom wrote @ December 7th, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Sierra Nevada needs to partner better with Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites so they can get access to serious non-NASA funding.

    I don’t see that happening. Virgin Galactic has it’s hands full just trying to get sub-orbital tourism going, and I don’t see them jumping into another unproven market (unproven for them), especially one that requires different skill-sets and far more capital.

    Sierra Nevada also needs to propose a serious strategy to use a rocket other than the ULA Atlas V.

    They could have gone with Falcon 9, but I think there were a couple of reasons they didn’t, including not wanting to co-fund a competitor. But considering the timescale they are dealing with (i.e. being ready by 2016), what are their choices? Atlas V is a low risk choice, and considering the riskiness of everything else they are doing, it’s nice to remove major risk from a program.

    It makes no sense for Sierra Nevada to spend ~ $600-Million on Atlas V rockets in CCDEV

    Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but Atlas V doesn’t cost $600M. More in the range of $120M.

    The Dream Chaser has been cut by NASA before so this is nothing new for them.

    Well, not this exact program. NASA has dropped lots of precursor programs, but this is different enough to be “new”.

    We’ll have to see what NASA does, but I think Dream Chaser could survive. I think it’s design, in that it lands horizontally, is a big plus, and that it has future growth potential for being air-launched (my interpretation – nothing I’ve read). This coming summer should be interesting.

  • A M Swallow

    ULA is in the happy position of being paid to back 3 of the 4 horses in a race. Providing it can use similar man rating modifications and payload adapters for all 3 this will not take a lot of time. It is just integrating 3 payloads.

    Some where along the line ULA and the capsule firms may find that the FAA makes them legally Common Carriers or Contract Carriers.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_carrier

  • Frank Glover

    @ CharlesHouston:
    “For (orbital) tourists to pay money to fly into space, don’t you think that they will expect what Dennis Tito, etc got? A trip to the ISS? Do we think that orbital tourism could survive if it does not include visit to ISS?”

    They may well want time in *some* kind of space station, yes. (staying in the confines of a smaller ship may be acceptable for a circumlunar flight, but not so much for several days in LEO) But that time need not duplicate the Tito experience, or mean only ISS…

    Robert Bigelow has often said he’s not aimed primarily at orbital hotels, despite his own business origins, but I doubt he’d have any issues if any of *his* customers chose to accommodate paying visitors as a secondary revenue stream to whatever their primary orbital purpose may be.

    At the very least, I’d try to design an ISS-like ‘cupola’ into my station, even if I didn’t absolutely need it. Even pictures of its view are excellent, and paying visitors will make extensive use of one. It can only be psychologically beneficial to off-duty crew, as well…

  • A downselect to one provider would be a disaster, but it’s what Hutchinson and other backers of the $L$ want because it would eliminate the competition that is keeping costsd low. But right now only SpaceX and Boeing have a real chance to get the job done.

    Dream chaser’s lift to drag ratio is vastly inferior to the X-37, which was originally a subscale prototype for Boeing’s winged orbital Space Plane. NASA has had a romance with lifting bodies since the sixties, when no one believed there were materials that could tolerate the aerodynamic heating of a sharp leading edge. But the simple fact is that a fuselage makes a really bad wing and a wing makes a horribly inefficient fuselage. No lifting body has ever landed on a runway unpowered at a realistic orbital flight weight.

    The biggest puzzle about the Dream Chaser is why, if NASA was even considering a runway lander, they picked a lifting body when every spacecraft that has ever landed on a runway (X-15, Shuttle, Buran, SpaceShip, and X-37) had wings.

    Blue Origin has the money to continue and is basically developing the VTOVL technology first demonstrated in the DC-X, before NASA foolishly abandoned all reusable technology. Musk also wants to do VTOVL; maybe they should merge; that way they might have the capital to compete with Boeing.

  • Coastal Ron,

    I agree with your points, but Sierra Nevada does not have much leverage to continue unless it moves in Virgin Galactic’s direction. They need a business plan that is not totally dependent on government funding, because Boeing will win that game.

    The Atlas V is now ~ $200-Million for “commercial” customers and ~ $400-Million to US Government. Sierra Nevada will minimum pay for 2 and probably 3 Atlas V rockets for their test program, so this is where I get the $600-Million number.

    The Atlas V is not a serious commercial rocket, and will only be purchased on government programs that can afford it. I do agree with you, however, that it will be hard for Sierra Nevada to go elsewhere because CCDEV 3 requires critical design review in 2014 for the rocket and the spacecraft……but Sierra Nevada has to take risk and find a credible non-NASA funding source to be competitive.

    Virgin Galactic and Scaled/Northrop would help if Sierra Nevada built Dream Chaser at TSC/Scaled/Northrop and if they used an orbital air-launch system built by TSC/Scaled/Northrop. Virgin keeps talking about a point-to-point inter-continental spaceplane as SpaceShip 3 so you can assume a White Knight 3 carrier aircraft in the 150-ton to 300-ton lift class and rocket liquid propulsion technologies that lend themselves to an orbital launch system for Dream Chaser. Virgin Galactic can afford an orbital capability if NASA helps to fund it through Sierra Nevada.

  • Coastal Ron

    common sense wrote @ December 7th, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    It was “designed” (or rather expected) to be air launched…

    Neat references, and I LOVE the music on the YouTube video.

    We’re currently missing a carrier aircraft and booster section, but if Dream Chaser can be proved out with vertical take-offs and horizontal landings, then developing the air launch version will be that much less complicated.

    That’s the promise I see in it, and we’ll just have to wait and see if that matters to NASA.

  • General comment … If circumstances force them to end the competition (and therefore the innovation and efficiency), it’ll come down to Boeing (familiar name) and SpaceX (already flown).

    Boeing has a lot more lobbying money to spread around D.C., so expect the congresscritters to pressure Bolden to select CST-100 regardless of merits.

  • And I’ll add a conspiracy theory P.S. to my last … Since Boeing benefits from ending the competition now, and since the ULA (which includes Boeing) CEO just held a press conference suggesting it end now, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find out that Boeing threw around a bunch of lobbying money during the budget reconciliation process to assure the congresscritters pulled the plug now before the uppity competition could step up to the plate.

  • Justin Kugler

    Ron, our goal is to go to 7 crew on the ISS in 2016.

  • @Coastal Ron

    Sorry but even Boeing has stated that there is not enough traffic to the ISS to make a business case for commercial crew. That’s why Boeing has partnership with Bigelow to provide transport to private commercial space stations.

    Promoting space tourism is the key to a sustainable private space industry. And establishing a national and international space lotto system is the key to doing it without the need for tax payer dollars.

  • Robert G. Oler

    ULA wants NASA to accelerate commercial crew decision
    Gass said it hinders ULA from taking steps to support any single company, including investing in them.”

    something that should not be allowed to happen. can we say “antitrust” RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Justin Kugler wrote @ December 7th, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    our goal is to go to 7 crew on the ISS in 2016.

    Good to hear.

    Out of curiosity, why then, and why not now? What are the limiting factors, or is it a matter of ramping up?

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ December 7th, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Sorry but even Boeing has stated that there is not enough traffic to the ISS to make a business case for commercial crew.

    That’s not what they testified before Congress, so I think you’re wrong. That said, ALL of the Commercial Crew providers are planning on expanding the crew transportation market beyond just the U.S. need for the ISS.

    And regarding Boeing, you didn’t mention the agreement they made with Space Adventures last year that allows Space Adventures to market excess seats on their flights. This would be the same service they were providing on the Soyuz, and could include short stays at the ISS.

    The ISS for Commercial Crew providers is likely a loss leader for them, with the true profitability coming with expanded service. That is what SpaceX and Boeing have essentially said, and that is what SNC and Blue Origin likely plan for too.

    It’s a pretty typical business plan, and it’s amazing that you can’t see it.

  • Coastal Ron

    Anom wrote @ December 7th, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Virgin Galactic and Scaled/Northrop would help if Sierra Nevada built Dream Chaser at TSC/Scaled/Northrop and if they used an orbital air-launch system built by TSC/Scaled/Northrop.

    I could see that as a possibility. I think it will depend on how much Northrop Grumman wants to get into the space hardware/services business. As of 2008 they only got 2.3% of NASA’s budget, versus 17.3% for LM and 12.1% for Boeing, so who knows, maybe they’ll want to increase that percentage.

    For me, I like the potential of Dream Chaser, so I just hope someone is able to get it going.

  • Fred Willett

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ December 7th, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Sorry but even Boeing has stated that there is not enough traffic to the ISS to make a business case for commercial crew. That’s why Boeing has partnership with Bigelow …
    Not quite. Boeing said their business case for providing flights for Bigelow didn’t close without NASA as an anchor tenant.
    Bigelow has been pushing Boeing to create the CST-100 because they need a second source for crew transport beside SpaceX who had already committed to building crewed Dragon.
    As for tourists on the ISS. NASA can’t take paying tourists. It can, however, invite along guests for PR reasons. e.g. Senators, Congress persons, media identities, James Cameron, etc. And if it’s only rotating 3 or 4 crew on a given flight what’s it going to do with the other seats? Fly them empty, or generate some free PR with a free ride for someone?

  • Justin Kugler wrote:

    Ron, our goal is to go to 7 crew on the ISS in 2016.

    Source? Not questioning you, I’d just like to know about future plans for expanding the number of ISS crew.

    I know that when Shuttle docked at ISS we’d sometimes have 13 on board — six regular ISS crew plus seven Shuttle crew. Have we ever gone higher? What’s the highest the ISS can sustain for a long duration?

  • Bennett

    vulture4 wrote“…maybe they should merge; that way they might have the capital to compete with Boeing.”

    From what I’ve read about Bezos and Musk, this would be a difficult partnership, and I’m sure both men would exclaim “partnerships are for dancing!”

    Stephen C. Smith wrote “I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find out that Boeing threw around a bunch of lobbying money during the budget reconciliation process to assure the congresscritters pulled the plug now before the uppity competition could step up to the plate.”

    Never doubt it.

  • Byeman

    “Part of me wants to see this blow up in ULA’s face and have SpaceX be the last man standing

    That is the worse thing that could happen. A Spacex less world is better than a ULA less world.

    As usual, there is the standard idiotic blather from the avian poster.

    1. The same payload adapter can not be used by all three.
    2. And what does carrier designations have to do with the current thread. It isn’t going to happen for many years. passengers would sign waivers.

  • Byeman

    Sorry Williams, but a lottery is not going to make a business case for tourism either. And you repeating it isn’t going to make it true or even happen. You keep repeating this like the man yelling on the street corner. Promoting tourism would be a waste of tax dollars.

  • Louis Vargas

    Space-X has enough investors that they will carry on with or without NASA, and will have people in orbit sooner than anyone anticipates. You can be sure they will get all the support they can from the US taxpayer to offset their expenses, but Mr. Musk is ready to go it alone if needed. Dragon will allow Justin to get that 7 person crew on ISS. If they are smart, Boeing will also keep on their schedule or forever lose their place in Earth to orbit carriage. Of course if they’d been smarter they would have gone to a horizontal landing vehicle. I’m not sure what to make of Dream Chaser. They have some good people working but it seems like a stretch that they will ever progress beyond the concept stage. We need horizontal landing or we are taking a big step backward.

  • pathfinder_01

    Ron, ISS was built for a crew of 7. It has been limited to 6 due to lifeboat issues (Soyuz only holds 3). With any craft able to hold at least 4 and act as a lifeboat the crew can go up to 7. Russia is thinking about going to 3 cosmonauts when commercial crew comes online and NASA wants 4 people. I am not sure if they added the extra sleeping bunk on the US side and Russia wants to add a some more crew sleeping quarters in their node module which was due to be launched in 2012, but not sure of it’s current status. Sleeping quaters are racks and can be launched by the HTV if one is needed to be added to the station .

  • MrEarl

    What limits the ISS to a crew of 6 right now is the Soyuze. Each holds 3 and Russia can produce 2 per year.
    The CS-100 dosen’t have the ability to stay on orbit for 250 days to provide emegency excape. The only vehicals in planning that I know of that can do that are the Dragon and Orion.

  • vulture4

    Thirteen people were on the ISS during STS-127. Good point that crew is limited to the capacity of the docked spacecraft, which could go to 14 with two vehicles of the Dragon/CST-100 class docked, although it’s not likely this would be comfortable for an extended period without more modules and ECLSS upgrades.

  • pathfinder_01

    ISS has a certain amount of surge capacity, but then you had the shuttle providing some of the food and it’s lifesuppot systems to aid the station.

  • Coastal Ron

    SpaceColonizer wrote @ December 7th, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    The big question on my mind is: if SpaceX rejects NASA oversight, and therefore funding, but SpaceX succeeds in getting the Dragon ready by the time the remaining contender is, will NASA refuse to contract with SpaceX even if it is the better deal. To put it more broadly, is NASA stuck with the firm it downselects to even if others remain competitive?

    Yes, NASA will have to stay with who they award the contract to. Also, there will be more than price as the deciding factor for the Commercial Crew contract, which you could see when NASA scored the winners for CCDev-2. SpaceX would win on price alone, but Boeing could have some advantages in other meaningful categories.

    If SpaceX didn’t win a crew contract with NASA it might be able to do an un-funded SAA to validate their systems with NASA, but I don’t see how they would get any NASA business until the next award period, which could be five years further down the road (~2021).

    I don’t think SpaceX will pull out of the competition on their own, and I do think that they will pursue legal means if they think that the award is politically biased against them. However I think that regardless whether or not they get NASA business, they will pursue Bigelow and whoever else wants rides to LEO.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Since everyone is guessing what Newt would do should he gain the Presidency, I’ll add my guess.

    ATK will come in with a very low launch cost for Liberty, and Newt will accuse everyone else of being “”crony capitalists”, cancel their orders, and buy from ATK.

  • Coastal Ron

    MrEarl wrote @ December 8th, 2011 at 10:03 am

    The CS-100 dosen’t have the ability to stay on orbit for 250 days to provide emegency excape.

    CST-100 can stay attached to the ISS for up to seven months, as can Dream Chaser, which is as good as Soyuz. Dragon can stay in space for two years, but that is likely a capability that won’t be used for LEO crew transportation.

    Looks like the Air Force is taking care of the reusable booster system for the Dream Chaser.

    That’s not anything that will make Dream Chaser more or less viable, and so far it’s meant for vertical launch, not horizontal launch. What makes you think Dream Chaser needs it as opposed to any of the other reusable crew vehicles?

  • Edgar Zapata

    The take on the word “commercial” is all over the place here. There is an excellent figure at the NASA website here that figuratively shows commercial in the context of where we are now, the traditional ways of doing business. That figure is at:

    http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/partnership/comm_space/

    Lets clarify in a simple sense what “commercial crew” means in just the context of a capability NASA uses that is also used, in part or in whole, by others.

    If Boeing’s concept for commercial crew is also something they will seriously pursue providing to others, such as tourist to a Bigelow Station, then that’s commercial. It would be expected that Boeing would amortize many costs over multiple customers and NASA would be better able to predict and control it’s costs (that part which is the price charged by Boeing).

    Similarly, if a vehicle and a capsule like Space-X and Dragon are already providing cargo to ISS, and then do Crew as well, the previous gist is almost there but not quite, as the ISS program would own both these systems. But, since the same vehicle is provided for satellite launches then that becomes consistent with “commercial” again as thought of previously. Better yet, if a Dragon capsule is provided to others (DoD, or private, etc) customers then the use of a Falcon-9/Dragon combo for ISS crew is even more commercial, again using the amortization definition.

    Going by the figure on the web link above there is of course more, eventually wanting “commercial” to mean increases in reliability, through learning and volume and growth, so as to get to that firm-fixed price world, with far less government effort into or overseeing the service required.

    Keep these basic definitions in mind, as some of the comments here appear to see only the tourism angle, or some odd mention of other flights to ISS? Any sharing, even traditional satellites, that makes NASA one of many customers for part or all of a crew launch system heads in the “commercial” direction.

    Again, see the figure at:

    http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/partnership/comm_space/

  • Justin Kugler

    Lifeboat access really is the limiting factor at this point. We can supply enough consumables to keep the crew going. I think they have about a year’s worth of food right now, for example. ECLS can handle one more and we’re testing new scrubbers like the Amine Swingbed.

    I imagine we’ll ramp up to seven crew (and that does require more ground support) when the vehicle capability is there. If CCDev slides, so does having seven crew on the Station.

  • common sense

    @Fred Willett wrote @ December 8th, 2011 at 3:28 am

    “As for tourists on the ISS. NASA can’t take paying tourists. It can, however, invite along guests for PR reasons. e.g. Senators, Congress persons, media identities, James Cameron, etc. And if it’s only rotating 3 or 4 crew on a given flight what’s it going to do with the other seats? Fly them empty, or generate some free PR with a free ride for someone?”

    Some creative SAA might help bring “tourists” in empty seats. Said “tourists” would pay NASA. NASA can take cash indeed. The SAA would have to be worked out in a subtle way but I think it is possible.

    http://nodis3.gsfc.nasa.gov/1050-1.html

    I.5. REIMBURSABLE AGREEMENT

    The term “reimbursable” is used to indicate those instances where the Government is receiving payment for the goods or services it provides. Two types of reimbursable agreements exist–those that are fully reimbursable and others covering partially reimbursable activities. A reimbursable agreement permits a public or private entity to use NASA facilities, personnel expertise, or equipment to advance its interests. Unless a statute or agency waiver allows for less than full cost reimbursement, NASA is reimbursed for all accountable costs as defined in FMM 9090. With a fully reimbursable agreement, NASA has no requirement for the results of the activities performed and, but for the requirement of the reimbursing party, NASA would not be undertaking the activity. Therefore, all the costs must be borne by the reimbursing party. This includes risk costs.

  • Coastal Ron

    Edgar Zapata wrote @ December 8th, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Similarly, if a vehicle and a capsule like Space-X and Dragon are already providing cargo to ISS, and then do Crew as well, the previous gist is almost there but not quite, as the ISS program would own both these systems.

    Nope, NASA doesn’t “own” Dragon. SpaceX provides a service for a negotiated price, and retains ownership of all their assets. They can also provide those same services to others without going through NASA.

    On the NASA page you reference, the key statement is “Government purchase of services instead of hardware“.

    To truly make it a commercial market you also need competition, which is why so many of us hope that NASA doesn’t down-select to only one provider. Only having one provider, no matter who it is, does not encourage or foster competition and innovation.

  • Robert G. Oler

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ December 8th, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Since everyone is guessing what Newt would do should he gain the Presidency, I’ll add my guess.

    ATK will come in with a very low launch cost for Liberty, and Newt will accuse everyone else of being “”crony capitalists”, cancel their orders, and buy from ATK.>>

    I dont think that. Truth is I dont know what to expect from Gingrich in almost any policy field. He has great ideas but they usually simply stay ideas in all but the most simple and non controverisal ones. Second he is at least in his rhetoric at least maleable to some extent…and third it is hard to imagine how he would relate with the Congress (controlled by either party). I must confess to some “interest” in both a Gingrich campaign and potential Presidency. Right now I wouldnt vote for him; but The Republic desperately needs a leader and the guy we have now has a hard time leading anything to anywhere.

    Having said that…Gingrich or anyone who takes the Presidential oath on Jan 20 2013 will have a lot of their policy shaped by the dual need to get federal spending under control AND spur the economy. No matter where one comes down in that divide the reality is that the current NASA, the SLS/Webb NASA do nothing but spend. They do not create jobs they do not spurr the economy (the NASA multiplier is less then unemployment) the old NASA does not perform..

    and Newt is likely to continue the trend of descoping the old NASA and bringing in commercial providers.

    What I really think would be different in the space field with Newt as oppossed to Obama (and what might cost Obama the Presidency in a Newt/Barack campaign)…is that Newt can make coherent speeches with a vision attached to them of where his policy would take us…right now we have rather bland Obama speeches competing against “for free” viewgraphs of strows at L1 doing things …all for not a lot of money.

    Robert G. Oler

  • NASA is actually looking to increase the ISS crew to 8 or 9 or 10 total crew members with commercial crew and not 7 members.

    NASA wants the ISS partner agreement to be modified to 3 Russians, 4 NASA Astronauts, and 1 European/Japanese/other per full-time crew for 8 people total. If the European/Japanese want to continue to buy transportation through NASA, or use the Russians or commercial transport to the ISS, then Europe/Japan can increase their ISS utilization to take 2 or 3 ISS full-time crew slots for 9 or 10 total ISS crew members. This would mean Europe and Japan could always have 1 Astronaut on the ISS at all times instead of 0.5-times the year. The Soyuz carrying 3 members and commercial crew vehicles carrying 6 or 7 people can support an ISS crew of 9 to 10 people. The Russian Soyuz 2.1b rocket with 1-ton extra payload to ISS and the new model Progress re-supply spacecraft with wider 2.9-meter diameter can more than double logistics to ISS (i.e. 3-tons dry cargo versus 1.2-tons dry cargo per Progress to ISS) at no serious increase to cost. At present, NASA is clear that they want 4 NASA Astronauts, but they are unclear about how the ISS partners agreement will be re-negotiated. This is a minimum of 8 crew members on the ISS, but there can be more.

    The current ISS partners agreement basically allows for 2.5 Russians, 2 Americans, 0.5 Europeans, 0.5 Japanese, and 0.5 Canadian/Italian/European/other per year which is 6 people per year. The Russians can bargain that last 0.5 person slot, so the Russians effectively have 3 slots on ISS that they control. I would guess that RSC Energia will use NASA’s commercial crew program to pressure Roscosmos to fund a 6-person Russian PTK-NP manned spacecraft flown on Soyuz 2-3V so the Russians can bargain to increase their ISS utilization from 3 people to 6 people. This would mean a maximum ISS crew of 13 people.

    NASA has repeatedly said the goal of commercial crew is to send 4 NASA Astronauts to the ISS and to double ISS utilization which is currently 2 NASA Astronauts. The commercial crew plan is to have 2 flights per year and 6 month NASA-Astronaut rotations. Charles Bolden has told Congress that he would like 3 or 4 flights per year so a 4-man NASA Astronaut crew could limit stays to 4 months or 3 months instead.

    On top of all the above, commercial entities like Space Adventures have shown that the ISS partners are flexible to allowing 10-day short trips to the ISS for Soyuz with 3 seats. The Space Adventures agreement for Boeing CST-100 spare seats to the ISS would suggest an additional 7 seats for short stays. A lot of additional space will be added to the ISS by the Russian MLM in ~ 2014. It is also easy for Europe to detach (as opposed to throwing away) their MPLM/ATV-pressure section to the Russian segment for an addition ~ 100 m3 of living space during a regularly scheduled ATV flight. Orbital Sciences can do the same and detach ~ 30 m3 of living volume on a Cygnus flight.

    There is nothing stopping NASA from buying an ISS cargo flight from SpaceX or Boeing, and having Space Adventures selling 3 or 4 seats to go to the ISS for 10-days during that cargo re-supply.

    There are lots of options for NASA, commerical, and others once commercial crew vehicles are available, and NASA has already shifted ISS policy to double ISS utilization to 4 NASA Astronauts. This is all without a single Bigelow BA-330 being launched.

  • Vladislaw

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “We’ll have to see what NASA does, but I think Dream Chaser could survive. I think it’s design, in that it lands horizontally, is a big plus, and that it has future growth potential for being air-launched (my interpretation – nothing I’ve read). This coming summer should be interesting.”

    I am reminded of the movie “The Right Stuff”. Where the astronaut corp is moved to the point of being a monkey on the flight and not doing anything but going along for the ride. They, in effect, blackmail von braun to include a window and more flight controls. ( in the movie anyway, I do not know how that really went down, or if it happened at all)

    Astro = Space, naut = sailor. There are two types that go into space for NASA, astrotechs, those that go up as a mission specialists and astronauts that pilot the ship.

    I would think there is a segment of the astronaut corp that would prefer and will push hard for NASA to go with the dream chaser. Especially if they can get congress to actually buy/lease them so they get to have their hand on the stick for landing.

  • Maybe one day we could expand ISS with another Node so it could handle more people at once? But where would that money come from?

    It would make more sense to coorbit a Bigelow facility, which would provide a place for tourists to stay and take “day trips” to ISS for tours in a crew ferry, which would also serve as a safe haven to eliminate the idiotic requirement that crew be evacuated all the way to earth in an emergency.

    ATK will come in with a very low launch cost for Liberty, and Newt will accuse everyone else of being “”crony capitalists”, cancel their orders, and buy from ATK.

    a) Newt isn’t stupid and b) Newt will take space policy advice from Jim Muncy. Ergo, that’s the least likely thing to happen.

  • amightywind

    Given the current funding environment, I have been calling for a down select to two proposals asap. It is pretty wasteful to string along marginal proposals. In my opinion the best options are the CST-100 and Dreamchaser because they use the same reliable launcher in the Atlas V.

  • Vladislaw wrote:

    I am reminded of the movie “The Right Stuff”. Where the astronaut corp is moved to the point of being a monkey on the flight and not doing anything but going along for the ride. They, in effect, blackmail von braun to include a window and more flight controls. ( in the movie anyway, I do not know how that really went down, or if it happened at all)

    The movie was entirely wrong. Von Braun had nothing to do with the Mercury capsule. Besides, the film’s creators claim the Von Braun character was a generic composite and not meant to actually be Von Braun. (Per the commentaries on the DVD …)

    I’m currently reading Sputnik and the Soviet Space Challenge by Asif Siddiqi. I’m currently at the part where the Soviets create their version of the Mercury program. The vehicle was called Vostok, but their equivalent of the “Mercury Seven” was the “Vanguard Six.”

    The big difference was that the Soviets felt they were doing so well with automation that they didn’t need a passenger who was a skilled engineer. The notion that U.S. astronauts would pilot their craft was considered to be a weakness from the Soviet perspective.

  • Vladislaw

    amightywind wrote

    “because they use the same reliable launcher in the Atlas V.”

    You sure love putting our nation’s eggs in one basket with the things you support. Why have the nation’s space access dominated by a single string. We have had 30 years of that and it was proven multiple times we need multiple players. It would be better to have Boeing and SpaceX so that we have back up and don’t paint ourselves into a freakin’ corner .. AGAIN.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 8th, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    What will be entertaining to watch aside from everything else, is how each commercial supplier; particularly Boeing plays with the notion of human interface.

    The “astronaut does it” culture at NASA is so high (and out of control) that they spend enormous amounts of time teaching the various “mythic heroes” how to do things that automation can quite easily do. What comes to mind with the shuttle is the resistance to “autoland”. The time and other savings (money) that would have been garnered having the orbiter land itself; which it was quite capable of doing would have been large…but that was resisted heavily by the astronaut culture.

    “Where the person in the loop is” is a question that like exploration by robots has been more or less answered in every other venue of US technical life in a far different manner then NASA has allowed it to be even discussed. I am kind of interested to see the approaches some of the various commercial providers propose.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg wrote @ December 8th, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    a) Newt isn’t stupid and b) Newt will take space policy advice from Jim Muncy.>>

    the reality is that neither you nor anyone else knows that. Frum in Dead Right as does the Book “The future and its enemies” has a pretty good analysis of how Newt was long on rhetoric but short on actual action when it came to the space station decisions that were made.

    one of the things which scares the GOP establishment and “conservative groups” so much about Newt is that no one has a good handle on what he would actually do if he had the Oval Office

    I find it entertaining RGO

  • common sense

    @ Rand Simberg wrote @ December 8th, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    “a) Newt isn’t stupid and b) Newt will take space policy advice from Jim Muncy. Ergo, that’s the least likely thing to happen.”

    It does not matter that Newt takes advice from Jim Muncy. Now does it? I was under the impression that somehow Lori Garver tried to implement a policy supported by Jim Muncy. If yes, why is it so difficult to implement? Could it be because of a self serving Congress (Dems and GOPers)?

    Gingrich would have a similar hard time getting his policy accepted. And if he is as Robert said an “insurgent” within the GOP then even harder.

    The President is NOT the problem. Congress is. The whole Congress. It is a current failure that needs reform.

  • amightywind

    Why have the nation’s space access dominated by a single string.

    The ISS mission is not worth the cost for the development of a new launcher. The new small spacecraft under consideration are small potatoes. When ISS is gone, hopefully soon, so too will be the mission.

  • Gingrich would have a similar hard time getting his policy accepted.

    That is both true and irrelevant to what I wrote, which is that he’s not going to hand out money to ATK.

  • Jim Muncy

    OMG. Rand, I’m already persona non grata
    in the State of Utah. Do you want the French
    coming after me too? 8-)

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ December 8th, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    The ISS mission is not worth the cost for the development of a new launcher. The new small spacecraft under consideration are small potatoes. When ISS is gone, hopefully soon, so too will be the mission.

    Wow. Not only do you view $200M chunks of revenue as “small potatoes”, but you readily acknowledge that your crew vehicle suggestions are not based on what’s best for the taxpayers $100B investment in the ISS, but in degrading that investment as fast as possible.

    And there I was thinking that you were trying, really really hard, to make an insightful recommendation… ;-)

  • Justin Kugler

    The last time the French went after someone, we had the Rainbow Warrior incident. I think you’re safe, Jim. :)

  • common sense

    @ Rand Simberg wrote @ December 8th, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    “That is both true and irrelevant to what I wrote, which is that he’s not going to hand out money to ATK.”

    Agreed. I misread the post. I missed “Newt” in “Newt will accuse everyone else of being “”crony capitalists,cancel their orders, and buy from ATK”. Oh well…

    Nonetheless the President does not “hand out money” to any one. Congress does and Congress is and would be at fault.

    As for the French… I wonder how much cash they made with Ariane and how much we did with Shuttle or the EELVs… Sweet irony for our GOP friends. ;)

    http://www.spacenews.com/launch/100105-arianespace-revenue-boosted-launch-prices.html
    http://www.spacenews.com/civil/110104-arianespace-needs-aid.html

    http://www.esa.int/esaMI/DG/SEM65JWWVUG_0.html

  • SpaceMan

    The President is NOT the problem. Congress is. The whole Congress

    There you go again with that sane common sense.

    Be careful, be very careful. You have just told the truth, the complete unvarnished truth. That is very dangerous since it will offend most of the population, not to mention the many unknowledgeable who post here regularly.

    I do have to admit it is the disinfectant we all need.

  • amightywind

    taxpayers $100B investment in the ISS

    Well, the tax payers paid $100 billion. And never in the history of science was more money spent for less scientific return. Let’s face it. The ISS is a diplomatic facility. I pine at the opportunity cost of this malinvestment.

    And there I was thinking that you were trying, really really hard, to make an insightful recommendation

    I was. What use will battery powered vehicles with a lifetime of a few days with a maximum operating range of 250 miles be to the future of space exploration? Very little.

  • CharlesHouston

    We should note that many people here are saying that “Dream Chaser can do this, Bigelow will do this, etc etc.” but none of these are flying yet. My years in this crazy biz tell me to be very cautious with making plans. The ISS can go to 7 or 8 or whatever number of crew?? We still sometimes have concerns about keeping anyone on it! We only have the Soyuz (to get people up there) and that gives us heartburn sometimes.
    Didn’t Bigelow just lay off half of their staff? Hasn’t SpaceX been delaying launch? This is just the way this business is.

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ December 8th, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    “As for the French… I wonder how much cash they made with Ariane and how much we did with Shuttle or the EELVs… Sweet irony for our GOP friends”

    I wondered that as well until the start of this year when I got some briefings in Germany on the issue.

    In 1984 I wrote a piece for Commercial Space (an AWST pub) which discussed how the shuttle was going to work (assuming it was a success financially) in terms of being a “commercial launch vehicle” but operated by the government. IE how would the notion of free enterprise play out in a government operated system; what made it different from the emerging European consortium.

    The question I could not answer for the piece fell into place this year when I got a nice tour of the facilities and a fairly high level briefing where they in fact talked about that very issue. Of course there is no way for me to independently verify those figures…but the Europeans almost operate on space lift like the SAudis do on oil…meaning they treat it not as a program, but as a commodity which subsidizes other things.

    I believe this to be true because I have talked pretty hard with the AMSAT DL people who are trying to get a ride to high earth orbit for their Phase 3E (which I support) and a ride for their mars effort (which I think is goofy) and what I hear from them about how the finances work there is pretty much what I was told officially.

    Ariane V makes money, they expect their deal with the Russians to make money same with Vega…it has state backing for long term notions but in the end they treat it as a profit center.

    Shuttle never made a dime…the commercial launches never really paid the cost of the basic lift in any real fashion. RGO

  • pathfinder_01

    “It would make more sense to coorbit a Bigelow facility, which would provide a place for tourists to stay and take “day trips” to ISS for tours in a crew ferry, which would also serve as a safe haven to eliminate the idiotic requirement that crew be evacuated all the way to earth in an emergency.”

    The is no such requirement. The ISS has areas designated as safe rooms where the crew can fall back and mount an attempt to fix things. However you always want the ability to return to earth if possible (and it is possible from LEO to the moon, mars trip probably not or very limited return). And you want to guard that ability (for instance) in case of emergency one crew member goes back toward Soyuz to make sure that the way out is not blocked. Also due to the limits of Soyuz( can only support a crew for 4 days total), Russia requires that 1 month of supply be maintained on the ISS in case they need to mount a rescue effort(i.e. they will send up another crew specially trained with tools and repair parts). So if the crew onboard can’t fix the problem they might be forced to evacuate if the amount of supply drops such that another crew can not board.

    The ISS can treat some medical emergencies say a burn, but say a 2nd or 3rd degree burn requires additional medical attention best found on earth. Another common emergency could be something like a detached retina, common on earth and near sighted people are at risk for this but the treatment requires surgery (laser) or the person may totally lose vision in that eye. Burst appendix fall into this category. Kidney stones in the past were a common cause for ending missions early on Salyut (if you are prone to them zero g for some reason increases your risk for them). Basically the crew is trained to handle medical emergencies and they are about on the level of a paramedic, and the ISS is not a hospital.

  • CharlesHouston wrote:

    Didn’t Bigelow just lay off half of their staff?

    They laid off half their engineers because they don’t need them anymore. They’re just waiting for the commercial crew vehicles to fly.

    In the real world, people are employed based on need, not politics to protect votes at election time.

    Hasn’t SpaceX been delaying launch?

    Yes, because NASA keeps slowing them down with bureaucracy.

    The truth shall set you free.

  • CharlesHouston

    pathfinder_01 said “The ISS has areas designated as safe rooms where the crew can fall back” and as of when I last worked that program – that had been a thought but was never implemented. The “safe” rooms are the Soyuz vehicles and there is little you could do from there. In fact if the ISS had serious problems the cautious thing to do is to undock in case the ISS went out of control and started to build up rotation rates. They could possibly shut the door to the US segment – they must always stay in the Russian segment since that has the Soyuz capsules docked to it.

  • CharlesHouston

    Stephen C Smith said “They laid off half their engineers because they don’t need them anymore. They’re just waiting for the commercial crew vehicles to fly.” and that may be. But in every program I have worked, people are needed during construction and afterwards; people that Bigelow has laid off will likely not be available if and when they begin construction. Laying off half of your staff means that you do not anticipate construction for a long time, perhaps long enough that it will never happen. If, in several years, Bigelow decides to build – they can hire and train people. But between now and then, the cautious person will acknowledge that they have dispersed their ability to build a station. So let’s not confidently discuss what Bigelow (or Boeing, or Sierra Nevada or NASA) “can” or “will” do.

  • KDP

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 9th, 2011 at 7:06 am

    Re: Hasn’t SpaceX been delaying launch? — Yes, because NASA keeps slowing them down with bureaucracy.

    I bet you are right.

    Trying to think about it from NASA’s point of view, or, at least some elements within NASA, a quickly successful SpaceX and Dragon would be a PR problem. I imagine it would be increasingly difficult to argue for continued funding for Orion with an alternative that fulfills all the short-term needs. Without an ISS justification for Orion, it isn’t needed until what, almost 2020?

    I also noted a rather sudden flurry of nice pictures of Orion progress hitting the media after SpaceX’s flight last year, as if in response.

    If I was someone strongly motivated to preserve Orion’s support, I wouldn’t want the alternatives to look too good. So, yeah, I would guess there would be some interest in holding SpaceX back.

    We don’t have to like it, but it makes logical sense.

    As usual, your comments tend to ring true. Thanks.

    Ken

  • Robert G. Oler

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ December 9th, 2011 at 6:24 am
    “The is no such requirement. The ISS has areas designated as safe rooms where the crew can fall back and mount an attempt to fix things. However you always want the ability to return to earth if possible (and it is possible from LEO to the moon, mars trip probably not or very limited return). And you want to guard that ability (for instance) in case of emergency one crew member goes back toward Soyuz to make sure that the way out is not blocked.”

    Really:?

    there are so many things that need to change with ISS and one of the them is the “we have to have an earth return vehicle.” the notion of true safe rooms, coorbiting platforms where some help can be had…etc all have to arrive after we delete the notion that we can simply abandon the station. The funny thing is that I can see NASA pushing the panic button pretty fast but the Russians not RGO

  • @ almightywind

    “I was. What use will battery powered vehicles with a lifetime of a few days with a maximum operating range of 250 miles be to the future of space exploration? Very little.”

    If you consider all worthwhile HSF to consist of only deep space exploration, you might be right. As it happens, that assumption is incorrect. It’s not all about ‘exploration.’

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 8th, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    What I think you are describing, if correct, would even be “supremer” irony. Because what I read is that the government is acting like NACA supporting private enterprises for the long term. Providing resources for R&D etc.

    The infamous socialist French (Europeans) actually using a mechanism that was in place in the capitalist USA in NACA time now replaced with a semi-fascist system.

    So great.

  • Coastal Ron

    CharlesHouston wrote @ December 9th, 2011 at 10:08 am

    So let’s not confidently discuss what Bigelow (or Boeing, or Sierra Nevada or NASA) “can” or “will” do.

    You’ll have pretty boring conversations if all you ever talk about is what has already happened. And I think you’re missing that we all know that “forward looking statements” may not happen, so don’t think you’re the only one that recognizes that.

    However there are milestones, trends, shipments, demonstrations and other indications that can be used to indicate what could very likely happen in the future.

    SpaceX has flown one Dragon and two Falcon 9 flights, so it’s not very hard to connect the dots towards them offering crew capability. Likewise with Bigelow,they have launched and operated two inflatable habitats, so it’s not a leap to see that the larger habitats they are actually building in a real factory could be flown in the future.

    So by all means, stick to talking about only those things that have already happened. Me, and others, we’ll also be talking about the future, and the only way you get there is by doing that.

  • edgar zapata

    Coastal ron…I was using the term “own” loosely to refer to using systems not used by anyone else.

  • edgar zapata

    Also…coastal ron…

    On the page i reference i would say the key concept in commercial thoughts is service on the y axis but sharing, the amortizing i refer to, on the x axis.

    I would think each idea does not of necessity mean the other. Plotting existing systems mentally to that map/figure is useful.

  • Byeman

    “Yes, because NASA keeps slowing them down with bureaucracy.”

    That is not true.

  • Byeman

    “We don’t have to like it, but it makes logical sense.”

    No, it is doesn’t. It is equivalent to the internet conspiracy crackpots.

  • Coastal Ron

    edgar zapata wrote @ December 9th, 2011

    I was using the term “own” loosely to refer to using systems not used by anyone else.

    I thought you were using that word incorrectly, but in any case you have cleared up what you were trying to get across.

    On the page i reference i would say the key concept in commercial thoughts is service on the y axis but sharing, the amortizing i refer to, on the x axis.

    So what you were referencing on the X axis of the chart is that currently Commercial Crew would be in the “Government is the only customer” and “Government is anchor tenant” section? From what we have heard from Boeing and Bigelow, and Boeing and Space Adventures, we appear to be in the “Government is anchor tenant” section, since other customers have stated they will start up after NASA does.

    On the Y axis, Commercial Cargo and Commercial Crew started out in the “Shared Risk” section, and for cargo the CRS program is getting ready to start up “Firm Fixed Price” deliveries. Commercial Crew looks like it might transition to that if they down-select next year, in which case NASA will be asking for a FFP for service. I would imagine the Commercial Crew providers will try to get listed on the GSA Schedule as quickly as possible, since that would open up any government agency to using crew services to LEO.

    I think if you plot all the activity in the commercial cargo and crew area, it’s clear there is a definite commercial LEO transportation sector that is getting ready to emerge. That’s good news for NASA, the future of our expansion out into space, and us taxpayers too.

    Thanks for sharing the chart.

  • Hasn’t SpaceX been delaying launch?

    No. Others have been delaying SpaceX’s launch, which is now scheduled for February 7th.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Sorry, Rand, but I’ll disagree.

    What sank Newt with his colleagues was his attempt to build a “Pentagon South” outside of Atlanta.

    This was not simply pork, it was the whole ##@([#@ pig.

    So ATK’s delaying tactic wins with either Newt or Romney.

    My guess is that while Newt might be able to get the nomination, his series of trophy wives will sink him with female voters.

    But its a long time to the election.

    In the meantime, China will be working to improve the space sector of its economy, with a family of low cost launchers capable of being scaled to payload size, and much improved satellites.

    BTW, all of the fragments of 73P except 1 are now lost, smaller than the capabilities of our impactor detection systems, but large enough to present a deadly hazard.

  • Coastal Ron

    KDP wrote @ December 9th, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Hasn’t SpaceX been delaying launch? — Yes, because NASA keeps slowing them down with bureaucracy.

    I know that there are conspiracies and back-room maneuvering that does happen, but I don’t see that as a factor with SpaceX getting their C2/C3 mission going.

    Let’s remember that if the Progress launch back in August hadn’t failed, we’d be much further along in this conversation – the personnel that will be capturing the Dragon don’t even launch until later this month because of that delay.

    The main issues that have been made public seem to be:

    - SpaceX software, which appears to have been mainly resolved
    - ISS partner agreement for approach & docking
    - Collision concerns with the Falcon 9 2nd stage payloads

    As an outsider, it doesn’t appear that any of these are unusual or petty, and it seems like the kind of stuff that first time programs run into.

    Two months from now we’ll have forgotten about all this fuss because the Dragon flight will have either succeeded, or not. But these issues will have been solved for future flights.

  • KDP wrote:

    Trying to think about it from NASA’s point of view, or, at least some elements within NASA, a quickly successful SpaceX and Dragon would be a PR problem. I imagine it would be increasingly difficult to argue for continued funding for Orion with an alternative that fulfills all the short-term needs. Without an ISS justification for Orion, it isn’t needed until what, almost 2020?

    I disagree.

    My opinion is that the delays are due to “paralysis by analysis.” NASA has become so risk-averse after Challenger and Columbia that they’re petrified of the unknown. A lot of these people loved Shuttle simply because it was something they know. They don’t know a different system. They don’t want to be the one hauled before Congress when the Dragon plows into the ISS, even though any sane person knows that won’t happen. (Dragon will park below the ISS and then be berthed by an ISS crew member using a robot arm.)

    There are lots of people in NASA desperate to see Dragon fly, for no other reason than to catch up on the backlog of experiments waiting to fly to ISS. But another part of NASA doesn’t want to be the one who green-lights an unknown.

    As for Orion, that was foisted upon NASA by Congress. Don’t blame NASA. Blame Congress. I suspect that pretty much everyone at NASA knows SLS and the MPCV are a joke.

  • Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 9th, 2011 at 7:06 am

    Hasn’t SpaceX been delaying launch? — Yes, because NASA keeps slowing them down with bureaucracy.

    You’ve made this claim elsewhere. Specifics, please.

  • Here’s the article on the Seattle Times web site about today’s announcement at the Future Forum:

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2016975481_apusscitestrocket.html

  • Robert G. Oler

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ December 9th, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    What sank Newt with his colleagues was his attempt to build a “Pentagon South” outside of Atlanta.

    My guess is that while Newt might be able to get the nomination, his series of trophy wives will sink him with female voters. ”

    What sank Newt in his run as speaker were three things; the first is that he became intensely disliked by the members of the House; this was mostly because while he was trying to remove a sitting President for what came down to a consensual affair, Newt was having one himself. And finally was his attitude when confronted with this. “Morning Joe” has on many occassions told the story of him confronting The Speaker with proof of His affair and on one occasion being told essentially that what Newt did was Newts business and that was OK because he (Newt) was a great leader, as Joe puts it “it doesnt matter that I do what I say, just that I say it”…thats a direct quote from Morning Joe’s comments on Thursday of this week and Gingrich wont deny them.

    All sins can be forgiven in some circumstances and for most Americans that includes the three wives; but if Newt is the nominee I predict what will derail him is some sort of current hypocrisy where he is caught in a recent instance of saying one thing for the masses and doing another…a la FAnnie Mae.

    Having said that there is in my view no chance that ATK’s launcher “Liberty” will ever launch anything except in view graphs. One can see ULA already moving to cut off new entrants into the field…think Brannif/SWA RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ December 9th, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 8th, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    What I think you are describing, if correct, would even be “supremer” irony. …

    It is however not surprising. I would expect the Europeans and Russians to be far more successful with a government run venture trying to appeal to private enterprise BECAUSE they have far more experience with it and really know how to make it work in a limited sense.

    My point in the 84 article was that the US had less history in such endeavors…The Army tried to fly the airmail in the 30′s and failed…the FAA runs the Airtraffic control system and runs it well; but the system evolves slowly and other then the actual control environment is not dynamic…and none of these things were done by an agency that had little or no operational experience.

    The later is in my view what killed the effort…clearly the technology was immature but what really floundered was with no operational experience the agency was unable to know where and when to streamline….a key indicator of this was the continued waiving of flight rules..

    Had it worked the world would be a different place; that it did not only means we have wasted three decades RGO

  • Seer

    Edgar Zapata, liked your articles on costing the eelv program and the ssto rocket. The last one especially. Would you care to guess what the latest costs for the eelv rockets are?

  • Byeman

    “My opinion is that the delays are due to “paralysis by analysis.”

    Uninformed opinion.

    Your “specifics” do not support your claim of bureaucracy.

    Spacex software was not ready.
    Dragon could plow into the ISS while is approaching the it, there is no difference between berthing and docking in this respect.

    the Popsci document claim is for manned missions.

  • he was trying to remove a sitting President for what came down to a consensual affair

    No matter how many times this lie is repeated, it does not become true. Clinton was not impeached for having an affair.

  • Byeman wrote:

    Your “specifics” do not support your claim of bureaucracy.

    Sounds to me like you don’t know what the word “bureaucracy” means.

    I suggest that you click here and read the definition of “bureaucracy.”

    If you want to seriously claim that NASA has no bureaucracy, then I’m going to move on because you would seem to have no idea what a government agency is all about.

  • Byeman

    OK, I will make a more detailed sentence for you. “Your “specifics” do not support your claim of bureaucracy slowing down Spacex”
    Is that more understandable for a tour guide?

  • Byeman wrote:

    “Your “specifics” do not support your claim of bureaucracy slowing down Spacex”
    Is that more understandable for a tour guide?

    Let’s ignore your insults and lies, and get back to the fundamental point — you don’t know what the word “bureaucracy” means.

    NASA delayed the SpaceX launch for months because they were afraid of what might happen with the OrbComm launches. That is indisputable.

    Russia delayed the SpaceX launch for months supposedly because they were afraid Dragon would crash into the ISS — which is a laugh given their recent track record. NASA bureaucracy flew to Moscow to appease the Russians. It’s been widely reported that NASA bureaucracy was trying to figure out a way to conduct the mission without offending the Russians.

    Personally, I think the Russians wanted to delay Dragon because they know once it’s operational for commercial crew then the Russian monopoly comes to an end.

    Hopefully that is simple enough even for you. It is my last post on the subject. Find someone else to troll.

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