Congress, Lobbying, NASA

Advocates and professionals push back against proposed planetary cuts

The Mars Society released a statement over the weekend where, not surprisingly, it expressed strong opposition to the proposed cuts to NASA’s Mars exploration program contained in the agency’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal. “America’s planetary exploration program, in particular that involving the Red Planet, is one of the greatest chapters in the history of science, civilization and our country. Its abandonment represents nothing short of embracing America’s decline,” Mars Society president Robert Zubrin said in the statement. It encouraged members to participate in next week’s Space Exploration Alliance “Legislative Blitz”, a grassroots lobbying effort where participants will meet with congressional offices.

On Monday the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), a professional organization of planetary scientists, warned of the “grave danger” NASA’s planetary sciences program was in because of the proposed budget cuts. “Reductions of this magnitude focused narrowly on planetary science indicate that NASA is stepping away from one of its most popular and successful programs,” the DPS statement reads. “This program provides excellent value to America.” The statement falls short of calling on specific action beyond urging “Congress to support and fund a vigorous planetary science program as recommended by the National Research Council” (a reference to last year’s planetary science decadal survey), although in a tweet from the DPS DPS chair Dan Britt called on members to email or fax their congressional representatives.

92 comments to Advocates and professionals push back against proposed planetary cuts

  • What a bunch of drama queens.

    None of them seem to be mentioning that one big reason NASA dropped out of ExoMars is that they think Europe’s financial woes mean that eventually ESA won’t be able to afford it.

  • amightywind

    ExoMars is not a core mission in NASA’s Mars exploration strategy. It is Europe’s. We should continue to send increasingly capable rovers and orbiters and extend the formidable capability we’ve already established.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    Ultimately, brutally, the various factions and advocates need to realise that there is only ever going to be so much money coming their way. With a state space program, that money is going to go to projects that enjoy the politicians’ smile of approval. Right now, that means SLS and MPCV. Everything else is going to have to make do with less so it can have better funding. Until the political consensus changes, that simple fact of life with NASA isn’t going th change.

  • Robert G. Oler

    NASA’s budget has become a lot like America’s total budget issues. There are a few programs that dont work, which consume billions and kill just about everything else…yet the Congress supports them (or at least individuals do) all while the same individuals babble on about “the need to get our house in order”…and most of them are right wing Republicans. Goofy RGO

  • GeeSpace

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 8:03 am
    What a bunch of drama queens. None of them seem to be mentioning that one big reason NASA dropped out of ExoMars is that they “think” Europe’s financial woes mean that eventually ESA won’t be able to afford it.

    So that’s the “official line”. The assumption that Europe’s financial woes mean that eventually ESA won;t be able to afford it. So NASA beat them to the draw in quiting the program before (possibly) ESA withdrew from the program

    So illogical. No wonder that the space movement is in a mess.

    Also, Stephen, I wonder how many drama queens will come out if the NASA funding for commerical space compamies is cut.

  • amightywind

    Let’s see if this one gets past the censor.

    “We need to get out house in order” is a statement made by both parties. And so we are doing by trimming NASA’s Mars budget. Teh ax has to fall somewhere.

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Teh ax has to fall somewhere.

    Being 0.5% of the total national budget, and focused on things that don’t have visible paybacks for years, decades and maybe even centuries, it’s quite easy to support any reasons for funding or defunding line items at NASA.

    Of course the same happens with every other department, but we limit ourselves to space-related ones here (for myself, I was sad to see a new class of ships wiped out in the proposed DoD budget).

    This is why the lack of consensus on what our space goals should be is so bad. Politicians look for consensus to help inform them what the priorities should be, but there is none in the space community.

    - Asteroid first, or Mars, or the Moon?
    - Do we need the ISS or not?
    - Mega-rockets or use what we have?
    - Do we need fuel depots and electric propulsion?
    - Who does what?

    No wonder our politicians don’t know what to fund…

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Let’s see if this one gets past the censor.

    “We need to get out house in order” is a statement made by both parties. And so we are doing by trimming NASA’s Mars budget.”

    LOL that is the fiction that both parties engage in but its mostly GOP fiction.

    There are two programs which if they were tossed would free up enormous amounts of money to actually do things in space…SLS and Webb…and neither has any real chance of doing anything other then being a “wealth transfer payment”. But they have the support of mostly GOP lawmakers and even though they are doing little the programs continue to get that support and the lawmakers babble on about fixing things…

    Goofy RGO

  • amightywind

    - Asteroid first, or Mars, or the Moon?
    - Do we need the ISS or not?
    - Mega-rockets or use what we have?
    - Do we need fuel depots and electric propulsion?
    - Who does what?

    George W. Bush decided these in 2004. Congress agreed. Everone was happy. We were smooth sailing before the Augustine Commission sabotaged the plan. There is plenty of consensus. But an elite, empowered minority disagrees with it. They ruled the day, at least temporarily.

    1. Moon
    2. No. Decommissioned in 2015
    3. MOAR (Mother Of All Rockets) Ares V
    4. Not first order requirements. Deferred.
    5. US contractors through an open bid process.

  • MrEarl

    Ron!!!!
    We agree on something! Pick a cource, pick a method and let’s go.

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    George W. Bush decided these in 2004. Congress agreed.

    Then Congress saw an out-of-control program and cancelled it – good for them. And there wasn’t even a debate, which goes to show how passionate they were about the wishes of George W. Bush (or, He Who Must Not Be Remembered during the Republican primary).

    And yes, you and I both have our preferences, but you miss the point. The decisions can’t be mandated or handed down from above. That failed with Griffin, and it will fail with everyone else that tries it.

    We need the space community to come to consensus on this and THEN get the politicians onboard.

    Now this only matters if we want or expect government funding for our activities in space. I think there is a place for that, but instead of using the Apollo “program” type model, I like the NACA model better – help industry to expand. There is not enough money for NASA to do any grand plans anyways, so we need to come up with a set of initiatives that assume NASA won’t lead on everything.

  • Coastal Ron

    MrEarl wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    We agree on something! Pick a cource, pick a method and let’s go.

    You’re all gung-ho to go, but you won’t concede that NASA won’t have the money to do the grand plans you wish for.

    I notice every time I try to get you to talk money specifics, you go silent. That’s seems to be the norm for SLS supporters – they want it, but they won’t acknowledge that it’s unaffordable to use.

    The consensus I’m talking about has to be within the framework of a realistic amount of money. Everybody can dream up uses for the SLS, but no one has shown that potential customers like Planetary Science can afford them. Likewise for setting up shop on the Moon – we have the technology to do it, but what we have always lacked is the money. And we’ll need gobs and gobs of it, so we can’t ignore it.

    I don’t know if a consensus is possible. And if it isn’t, then the default is what we have today – slow expansion into space, driven by a combination of government spending and commerce (both old & new).

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “George W. Bush decided these in 2004. Congress agreed…
    2. No. Decommissioned in 2015″

    There’s no ISS retirement date in the VSE or any existing congressional legislation.

    “3. MOAR (Mother Of All Rockets) Ares V”

    Neither Ares V, nor any HLV, appear in the VSE. They were introduced a couple years later by Griffin.

    “5. US contractors through an open bid process”

    The VSE did put an emphasis on open competition, but Griffin did not follow that direction with Ares I.

  • President Obama inherited an $8.4 billion a year manned space program from George Bush: $3 billion a year for the Space Shuttle program, $2 billion a year for the ISS, and $3.4 billion a year for the Constellation program.

    The Shuttle program and the Constellation programs are gone ($6.4 billion in total).

    The President’s new budget cuts SLS/MPCV spending down to less than $2.8 billion a year (that’s less funding than the shuttle program received). ISS spending is increased to over $3 billion a year and commercial crew spending is increased to more than $800 million a year. So NASA is spending one billion dollars more on LEO programs than its spending on beyond LEO programs.

    Yet there are people on this forum who continue to perpetuate the myth that the SLS/MPCV is an increasing burden to the NASA budget– when exactly the opposite is true.

    The Constellation program was supposed to be spending more than $5.4 billion a year by 2013– with still no spending for a heavy lift core vehicle or a lunar landing vehicle. The SLS/MPCV program is saving NASA nearly $2.6 billion a year.

    The problem with the Obama budget is we’re not spending enough to return to the lunar surface. Just $400 million a year over the next 8 years should be enough to develop the EDS upper stage for the cargo SLS and $1 billion a year over the next 8 years should be enough to fund a single stage lunar lander. That would only increase beyond LEO spending to $4.2 billion a year which would still be substantially less than the annual spending originally proposed for the Constellation program and less than Space Shuttle/ISS spending.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi CR –

    A consensus within the space community is one thing.

    A consensus within the nation is another.

    My current daily working assumption is that when a crater related to the Holocene Start Impacts can be found and definitively proven, then the nation will quickly form a consensus as to our goals in space which is far different than that of any of NASA’s current client groups.

    As far as Mars goes, a nice size rover running up Vallea Marineris should still be possible a few years from now. There is still a lot of data mining that can be done on existing data sets from Mars.

    JWST – another Griffin/Weiler legacy.

  • @Coastal Ron
    I am as gung-ho to go on these great deep space missions as you and Mr. Earl are. But you are right about the disconnect from reality that SLS people have when it comes to the economic sustainability of their pet vehicle.

    It is so frustrating! Even if they got all of the extra funding they wanted (a fantasy in and of itself), it would still be years before SLS would be ready to actually do anything. Why wait to start deep spacefaring in order to develop a new big rocket when we can start doing it NOW with the rockets we have NOW? If they truly wanted to get going to deep space as soon as possible, they wouldn’t be pushing that turkey.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Yet there are people on this forum who continue to perpetuate the myth that the SLS/MPCV is an increasing burden to the NASA budget– when exactly the opposite is true. ”

    that is not a valid analysis.

    ISS cost are far to high, but the reality is that the money spent on SLS/Orion is also far to high and in reality is unlikely to field an operational vehicle.

    If one is planning a trip to California…and one is putting away 5000 dollars a year on the large RV that will take you there and the RV is going to cost over 100,000 dollars …one will never get to California. In the meantime it is completely possible to spend 5000 dollars on a car and then pay for hotel rooms on the way out.

    and get there in the next two years.

    Sorry…we are not spending to little, we are spending it badly RGO

  • Doug Lassiter

    Actually, the problem is that the budget proposal doesn’t even have forward planning for the MAX-C U.S. sample collection rover. The ESA ExoMars rover was considered to be expendable by the U.S. science community in the Planetary Science Decadal Survey, as a credible descope concept. In fact, putting ExoMars on the same skycrane at MAX-C would have seriously complicated the architecture. But even the MAX-C alone, with a CATE cost of $2.5B, to be followed by a similar amount for the sample return, was seen by the Administration as fiscally pretty scary. So with regard to Mars, there just wasn’t an affordable large mission option on the table.

    Now, that being the case, the money taken out of Mars exploration could have been plowed into Discovery and New Frontiers, but that didn’t happen.

  • Vladislaw

    Dang Mighty blowhard, did you ever actually read the VSE?

    From The Feb. 2004 Vision for Space Exploration
    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/55583main_vision_space_exploration2.pdf

    From Sean O’Keefe:
    “Our aim is to explore in a sustainable, affordable, and flexible manner.”

    From President Bush’s forward:

    Goal and Objectives
    The fundamental goal of this vision is to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program.

    C. Space Transportation Capabilities Supporting Exploration

    « Acquire cargo transportation as soon as practical and affordable to support missions to and from
    the International Space Station; and
    « Acquire crew transportation to and from the International Space Station, as required, after the Space Shuttle is retired from service.

    ——–
    From the Introduction:

    It seeks to establish a sustainable and flexible approach to exploration by pursuing compelling questions, developing breakthrough technologies, leveraging space resources, and making smart decisions about ongoing programs.

    From NASA Guiding Principles for Exploration:

    align ongoing programs to develop sustainable, affordable, and flexible solar system exploration strategies.

    ——–

    From Solar System and Beyond — Exploration Roadmap

    NASA does not plan to develop new launch vehicle capabilities except where critical NASA needs—such as heavy lift—are not met by commercial or military systems.

    In the days of the Apollo program, human exploration systems employed expendable, single-use vehicles requiring large ground crews and careful monitoring. For future, sustainable exploration programs, NASA requires cost-effective vehicles that may be reused, have systems that could be applied to more than one destination, and are highly reliable and need only small ground crews. NASA plans to invest in a number of new approaches to exploration, such as robotic networks, modular systems, pre-positioned propellants, advanced power and propulsion, and in-space assembly, that could enable these kinds of vehicles.

    From NASA Transformation:

    NASA will rely more heavily on private sector space capabilities to support activities in Earth orbit and future exploration activities. In particular, NASA will seek to use existing or new commercial launch vehicles

    That is what was decided by the VSE, not the BS you are claiming.

    In a senate committe meeting Dr. Griffin bragged that he had already did the research and could prove all China, or any country needed, was a 25 ton launcher and 4 launches to start a human lunar program.

    Funny that he never thought of the deltaIV heavy or the Atlas heavy, just think where we would be today if Griffin would have went with commercial launch vehicles and propellant depots starting in 2005, christ we would already be landing on Luna with the 13 billion dollars he blew through.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “The Constellation program was supposed to be spending more than $5.4 billion a year by 2013…”

    This is a false budget baseline that was never achieved. Even at its height under Griffin, Constellation only ever secured $2.4 billion in FY 2008.

    It’s like saying that I should put a downpayment on a million-dollar Ferrari because I’m sure that I’ll win the lottery and pay off the rest a few years later.

    Griffin bet Constellation based on an imaginary budget projection that had only a very slim chance of ever materializing. It’s a faulty baseline for comparison.

    “… with still no spending for a heavy lift core vehicle or a lunar landing vehicle.”

    Well, that should tell us something about the insanity that was Constellation.

    “The SLS/MPCV program is saving NASA nearly $2.6 billion a year”.

    No, at $2.8 billion per year, SLS/MPCV is $400 million per year more than the best budget that Constellation ever achieved. NASA has a flat overall budget, so that $400 million per year increase for SLS/MPCV is coming out of other parts of the agency.

    “Yet there are people on this forum who continue to perpetuate the myth that the SLS/MPCV is an increasing burden to the NASA budget– when exactly the opposite is true.”

    Assuming they don’t continue their year-for-year slips, SLS/MPCV are going to cost the country over $30 billion just to replicate Apollo 8 sometime in the 2020s.

    Even if SLS/MPCV were cheaper than Constellation’s best, achieved, annual budget level, this is not a wise use of NASA’s limited human space flight resources, especially given less expensive vehicle alternatives.

  • MrEarl

    Ron says:
    “I notice every time I try to get you to talk money specifics, you go silent. That’s seems to be the norm for SLS supporters – they want it, but they won’t acknowledge that it’s unaffordable to use.”
    Frankly Ron I’ll admit that there is no good estimates yet on how much it will cost to operate the SLS at 2 to 3 launches per year. Estimates range from $600 million to $1.6 billion per launch. Even at the higher price the SLS is not unaffordable. Development estimates are a little more solid at $12 to 15 billion to get to the Block 1A stage.
    The key will be to put together a team like we did for the ISS to spread the costs around.

  • @Earth to Marcel
    “Yet there are people on this forum who continue to perpetuate the myth that the SLS/MPCV is an increasing burden to the NASA budget– when exactly the opposite is true.
    As Oler points out, no one is claiming it “is an increasing burden to the NASA budget”, just that we could get beyond LEO sooner and in a way that is more economically sustainable in the long run without SLS. But you know this, you just refuse to accept it. Why wait to build a new rocket to go back to the Moon and elsewhere when we don’t need it to accomplish that goal and furthermore (instead of waiting to start going back when SLS is finished) we can start NOW? Why? Why? Why?

  • Robert G. Oler wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    Robert G. Oler: “ISS cost are far to high, but the reality is that the money spent on SLS/Orion is also far to high and in reality is unlikely to field an operational vehicle.”

    $2.8 billion a year is not too high to develop a manned beyond LEO capability. And the idea that NASA vendors like Boeing and Lockheed Martin and Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne can’t build rockets, engines, and space vehicles anymore (I guess only your boy Elon can?) is simply ludicrous. These are the major advocates of the SLS/MPCV system. And there’s no logical reason why they can’t build a rocket system as simple as the SLS which is actually a much simpler vehicle to develop than the space shuttle.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • @Mr Earl
    “The key will be to put together a team like we did for the ISS to spread the costs around.”
    Why bother to go through the extra effort to “put together a team like we did for the ISS to spread the costs around” for SLS, when we could start sooner to go back to moon and elsewhere without SLS and do it cheaper besides? If putting together a team of nations is a good idea, it is a good idea no matter which way we go (with or without SLS). In that case it would also make the inately lower cost of a nonSLS system even lower, so that still makes SLS a high priced turkey. But that is irrelevant to the main point. That point is: Why use a system using SLS that will BOTH delay us from reaching deep space and have a higher overall cost compared to the alternative?

  • Vladislaw

    Dark Blue Nine wrote:

    “Griffin bet Constellation based on an imaginary budget projection that had only a very slim chance of ever materializing. It’s a faulty baseline for comparison.”

    Not only that but if you had listened to Griffin in the first senate and house committe meetings the one thing that was constant refrain when ever asked about the rosey projections it was always “this is a pay as you go” effort. When you are saying you are operating on a pay as you go it is impossible to come back and say you are underfunded.

  • Vladislaw

    Marcel F. Williams wrote:

    “$2.8 billion a year is not too high to develop a manned beyond LEO capability.”

    When you have companies like Boeing, SpaceX, Lockheed willing to do it for 2.5 – 6 billion at a fixed price then paying almost 3 billion a year for 10 years is … again … insanity on a bun.

  • Dark Blue Nine wrote: “This is a false budget baseline that was never achieved. Even at its height under Griffin, Constellation only ever secured $2.4 billion in FY 2008.”

    Apparently you’ve never looked at the NASA budget proposals for the Constellation program after the Space Shuttle program was supposed to be ended. That space shuttle money was supposed to go into the Constellation program. Where did you think the Space Shuttle money was going to go after it ended???

    Dark Blue Nine wrote: “Even if SLS/MPCV were cheaper than Constellation’s best, achieved, annual budget level, this is not a wise use of NASA’s limited human space flight resources, especially given less expensive vehicle alternatives.”

    Cheaper doesn’t always mean better. The smaller launch vehicles put severe weight and fairing size constraints on payloads launched into orbit and beyond LEO. You can’t even launch Bigelow’s largest space stations, the Olympus BA 2100 with these tiny vehicles. Congress reviewed the various proposals and decided that we needed a heavy lift vehicle that could accommodate fairing sizes as large as 10 meters in diameter. And I think that was a good decision.

    But SLS spending under the 2013 budget is still cheaper than the ISS and cheaper than the shuttle program.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • @Earth to Planet Marcel
    “$2.8 billion a year is not too high to develop a manned beyond LEO capability.
    It is too high for SLS when you can get a more capable “manned beyond LEO capability” much sooner for the same amount of money. It depends on how effective you want that “manned beyond LEO capability” to be. But it’s the vehicle itself that’s the most important thing to you, not the most effective way to achieve the purpose that vehicle is supposed fulfill.

  • Rick Boozer: As Oler points out, no one is claiming it “is an increasing burden to the NASA budget”,

    Yeah. Right:-)

    Rick Boozer: “just that we could get beyond LEO sooner and in a way that is more economically sustainable in the long run without SLS.”

    The SLS/MPCV program is costing less than $3 billion a year within the $8.4 billion a year manned spaceflight budget that President Obama inherited from George Bush. How is that not sustainable? Its one thing the say you just don’t like the SLS but its ludicrous to say a $2.8 billion a year budget is unsustainable.

    What’s unsustainable is spending $3 billion a year continuing the ISS as a make-work program for the Russians and eventually the American Commercial Crew program– especially when only one or two companies can even be sustained with such an overly expensive program.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • Coastal Ron

    MrEarl wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Frankly Ron I’ll admit that there is no good estimates yet on how much it will cost to operate the SLS at 2 to 3 launches per year. Estimates range from $600 million to $1.6 billion per launch.

    As I outlined on another thread (@ February 19th, 2012 at 4:15 pm), launch costs are minor compared to the cost of an SLS-sized payload, so you are still avoiding the biggest part of the money issue.

    I laid out one example showing how NASA’s Planetary Science budget would have to be dedicated to one SLS payload for 10 years in order to pay for it. 10 years of doing nothing but building one mission payload (my imaginary Mars Mega-Lander Program). OK, let’s say we do that – what else do we use the SLS for during that ensuing 9-year period, and whose budget is it coming from?

    MSL took 7 years from proposal to launch, and JWST is on track for 22 years. Assuming the SLS development schedule doesn’t slip (yea, right), the first operational payloads could launch in 2022, or 10 years from now. When will this buildup of SLS-sized hardware destined for space start? I think it’s late already.

    Congress has already slotted the development costs for the SLS into NASA’s budget, so I concede that part of the budget is unavailable for anything else. However SLS supporters don’t want admit that there is no money for SLS payloads elsewhere in the budget, or at least not until it’s too late to keep the SLS busy during it’s first decade of availability.

    It just proves the point many of us have been making – there is no need (i.e. customers with money ready to spend) for the SLS. Dreams, desires, and other unfunded fantasies, sure, but no real need.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    “$2.8 billion a year is not too high to develop a manned beyond LEO capability. And the idea that NASA vendors like Boeing and Lockheed Martin and Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne can’t build rockets, engines, and space vehicles anymore (I guess only your boy Elon can?) is simply ludicrous. ”

    A little less cheerleading and paying more attention to the thread will serve you in good stead.

    I am quite certain that 2.8 or three billion is enough to do a beyond LEO program. But not with SLS and Orion.

    Second boeing etc probably can build vehicles for far cheaper then they are pursuing SLS and Orion…but that is completely dependent on the contracting environment.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Vladislaw: “When you have companies like Boeing, SpaceX, Lockheed willing to do it for 2.5 – 6 billion at a fixed price then paying almost 3 billion a year for 10 years is … again … insanity on a bun.”

    Actually, it would be insanity to simply throw away billions of dollars that we’ve already invested and to simply throw away valuable space shuttle technology like the RS-25 engine.

    And to believe anything Elon Musk says is insanity. The man needs to start launching his rockets– with people on them– on a regular basis and stop bragging about going to Mars.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Development estimates are a little more solid at $12 to 15 billion to get to the Block 1A stage.
    The key will be to put together a team like we did for the ISS to spread the costs around….

    there is no chance whatsoever that SLS will come in under 20 billion…and ISS is to expensive even spreading the cost around (and building a good chunk of it overseas) goofy RGO

  • @Earth to Planet Marcel
    Cheaper doesn’t always mean better. The smaller launch vehicles put severe weight and fairing size constraints on payloads launched into orbit and beyond LEO.
    According to this NASA study, the costs of using techniques to work around those limitations do not make up for SLS’s shortcomings. In other words, for every shortcoming you can find, there is a compensating minus in SLS’s column.
    http://images.spaceref.com/news/2011/21.jul2011.pdf

    Again as I stated in my preceding comment, it’s the vehicle itself that’s the most important thing to you, not the most effective way to achieve the purpose that vehicle is supposed fulfill.

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    That space shuttle money was supposed to go into the Constellation program. Where did you think the Space Shuttle money was going to go after it ended???

    There is no such thing as “Space Shuttle money”. Each program is individually funded.

    And Michael Griffin assumed that Congress would increase NASA’s budget 2.4% per year going forward, whereas the reality is that Congress has decreased NASA’s budget due to various reasons (economy, political reasons, etc.). Congress saw the disconnect and agreed to cancel the program. Pretty simple to understand.

    The smaller launch vehicles put severe weight and fairing size constraints on payloads launched into orbit and beyond LEO.

    You’re dreaming. Show us one customer – someone with money ready to spend – that says “There isn’t a rocket big enough to loft the payload I’m ready to build.” Just one. [crickets chirping]

    But SLS spending under the 2013 budget is still cheaper than the ISS and cheaper than the shuttle program.

    Spending money before you have to is a waste, no matter what you compare it to.

  • Vladislaw

    I thought Bigelow Aerospace was a commerial firm? Why is it NASA’s and the federal government’s job to provide them a launch system? If that is such a great way to do things, the department of energy should have fleets of oil tankers so oil drillers can use them, I am sure they would love it if the government built SUPER DUPER extra large tankers. Of course we would definately want them built with no bid, cost plus contracts also …. We all know .. if any government Agency understands staying on budget and schedule when they are building super duper mega projects .. it’s NASA>

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Actually, it would be insanity to simply throw away billions of dollars that we’ve already invested and to simply throw away valuable space shuttle technology like the RS-25 engine.

    The SSME/RS-25 was paid for years ago, so if it’s not needed, it’s not needed.

    What matters is how much things will cost going forward, not how much we’ve spent in the past. If that were the case, we never would have transitioned to new modes of transportation – we’d still be flying piston-powered DC-3′s.

    Besides, just like the F-1 and J-2, we still retain the knowledge – if needed – to use them in the future. But if there is a less expensive option, why should we be bound by old, and more expensive hardware? That would be fiscally nuts.

    You really don’t care about money, do you?

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Apparently you’ve never looked at the NASA budget proposals for the Constellation program after the Space Shuttle program was supposed to be ended.”

    No, I’ve read the VSE and every NASA budget after it (and many years before it) in detail. You’re just an idiot.

    Just because NASA makes “budget proposals”, especially those a decade into the future, doesn’t mean that successive White Houses or congresses are going to agree to them.

    I could make a proposal to my elementary school niece that she should pay to put a pool in my backyard next summer. That doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen.

    Budget projections are just that… projections.

    Unrealistic budget projections are worse than that.

    “You can’t even launch Bigelow’s largest space stations, the Olympus BA 2100 with these tiny vehicles. Congress reviewed the various proposals and decided that we needed a heavy lift vehicle that could accommodate fairing sizes as large as 10 meters in diameter. And I think that was a good decision.”

    Based on what criteria? The BA 2100 is a conceptual design that, if ever built, would only require an 8-meter faring. What little evidence you’re presenting doesn’t support the argument you’re making.

    Moreover, nowhere in any legislation does Congress dictate a 10-meter faring. Not only can’t you articulate a coherent argument, your argument is based on a false premise.

    “But SLS spending under the 2013 budget is still cheaper than the ISS and cheaper than the shuttle program.”

    So? A Corvette is cheaper than a Ferrari. That doesn’t mean that I need to or should buy either of them.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Frankly Ron I’ll admit that there is no good estimates yet on how much it will cost to operate the SLS at 2 to 3 launches per year.”

    SLS is not projected to launch 2-3 times per year.

    “Estimates range from $600 million to $1.6 billion per launch.”

    You’re off by almost an order of magnitude.

    SLS/MPCV is projected to cost $18 billion through its first, uncrewed test launch in 2017 and $41 billion through 2025. That’s a difference of $23 billion.

    Between 2017 and 2025, SLS/MPCV is projected to conduct four launches (including the 2017 test flight). Not counting the $18 billion in development costs prior to 2017 — only the $23 billion between 2017 and 2025 — those four launches will cost nearly $6 billion each.

    “Development estimates are a little more solid at $12 to 15 billion to get to the Block 1A stage.”

    No. Counting MPCV and ground facilities, SLS is $18 billion through 2017.

    “The key will be to put together a team like we did for the ISS to spread the costs around.”

    Not a model you’d want to emulate. IIRC, foreign contributions only amount to ~10% of ISS costs. NASA still forked over some $60 billion to complete ISS, and Shuttle operations in support of ISS put that total somewhere north of $100 billion.

    Moreover, there is no invitation for foreign participation in SLS, and the Europeans rejected NASA’s proposal to participate in MPCV development just last week.

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    Vladislaw wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    NASA’s not providing Bigelow with a launch system. They’re paying for a service they need and that service belongs to the commercial firms that provide it, potentially SpaceX and Boeing who seem to be the most likelyh to succeed at present. If Bigelow is prepared to wait and purchase such a service from other commercial firms, then that’s up to them. NASA has no hope of providing a human launch capability on it’s own any more. That together with time schedule was Bigelow’s hope and mistakes in their planning. Bigelow’s in the business of space habitats, not launch services.

  • Bigelow’s in the business of space habitats, not launch services.

    That’s a shame, they might’ve been closer to launch their stations faster if they had.

    Hindsight is always 20/20.

  • MrEarl

    DBN, you put in costs for things other than SLS that are independant development. You have no idea what the flight rate will be.
    ESA has expressed intrest in providing the SM for the MPCV.

  • pathfinder_01

    Marcel:

    While building SLS you are forced to throw away shuttle technology anyway. For instance much of the shuttle’s avionics are in the shuttle. SLS will need a new computer system and software, period. It won’t use shuttle SRB, it will first use CXP then they bid them out. The shuttle’s fuel tank was not designed to support weight at the top nor engines at the bottom, you need a new structure. I also wonder what are they going to do to replace the APU’s. On the shuttle they are an expensive but dangerous part that is reused. With today’s technology you could replace them with batteries and perhaps some sort of pump to generate hydraulic pressure to gimbal the engine, but that is going to be an interesting change if they make it.

    The shuttle’s main engines do have limitations. While they are high ISP, they are low on thrust and pretty much force you to use a large booster to get anything off the pad. This adds complication and expense. Also systems are man rated, not engines.

    On earth we build skyscrapers with nothing more than standard sized trucks. Once you exceed a certain size the costs can out weight any advantage. In fact it is rather interesting that even the largest land animals that ever lived fall short of the maximum theoretical size that and vertebrate could have. This is also true about Aircraft (past a certain size the disadvantages can outweigh the advantages.)

    The advantage of using commercial boosters is that you are sharing the costs of parts and people with others. Only the shuttle uses the RS-25 and only the rare Nasa manned mission would use it. While the RS-68(a more advanced and cheaper engine) is in used on Delta. Delta will launch five times in 2012 alone. This means that NASA isn’t bearing the full burden of keeping the RS-68 in production while with the shuttle derived NASA is.

  • Fred Willett

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 5:22 pm
    Cheaper doesn’t always mean better. The smaller launch vehicles put severe weight and fairing size constraints on payloads launched into orbit and beyond LEO. You can’t even launch Bigelow’s largest space stations, the Olympus BA 2100 with these tiny vehicles.
    Bigelow pointed out that he had talked to ULA and that he was told ULA would be able to launch BA 2100′s on a Delta IV with straight forward up grades. No SLS required. Indeed the BA 2100 at around 60t was sized to fit on that rocket.
    As well Falcon Heavy has an upgrade path from 53t to around 70t just by adding a high energy upper stage.
    There is also Atlas V Heavy which could be built if required.
    The point being that suitable commercial rockets exist right now even without invoking upgrades. The upgrade paths are there if ever we need them for things like BA 2100. So why not start exploring now with what we’ve got? Think how much progress we could be making right now if NASA wasn’t squandering $3B a year on an over sized and over expensive super rocket.
    The SLS/MPCV program is costing less than $3 billion a year within the $8.4 billion a year manned spaceflight budget that President Obama inherited from George Bush. How is that not sustainable? Its one thing the say you just don’t like the SLS but its ludicrous to say a $2.8 billion a year budget is unsustainable.
    A rocket by itself is nothing. Payloads are everything.
    Payloads, strangely enough cost money. And where is the money in the program for payloads?
    There isn’t any.
    Go back and look at the constellation program. When it started they were planning
    CM, Altair, surface habitats, surface hardware.
    Bit by bit it was all dropped as it became clear there was no money for it. The Rocket was eating all the money leaving nothing for exploration.
    Now jump forward and watch the Rally Ride presentations to the Augustine committee. She looked at dozens of architectures and hundreds of variations on them. A sample of her charts are presented in the final report.
    Her conclusions: Any heavy lift chews up all the money. To make heavy lift work NASA’s budget needed a minimum of $3B a year extra. NASA never got it.
    Without that extra money, well, look at this years budget. It has defunded practically all of Mars robotic exploration. And there is still no funding for payload development.
    But what do I know. It may, indeed, be in the President’s forward plans to fund payloads for SLS. If that’s the case look for NASA’s exploration budget to increase by $3-4B a year at some point. That would fund 2 or 3 payloads every 10 years or so…
    But until NASA gets that budget increase…

  • Fred Willett

    Sally Ride not Rally Ride. Sorry Sally. My silly slip.

  • @Marcel Williams
    “Its one thing the say you just don’t like the SLS but its ludicrous to say a $2.8 billion a year budget is unsustainable.
    Neither I nor anyone else is a 2.8 billion dollar budget is unsustainable. Your repeating that ad nauseum does NOT make it so. What we are saying is that the money could be better spent for an alternative access to deep space.

    Are you really that dense?

  • Oops. Typo. Meant to say.
    Neither I nor anyone else is saying a 2.8 billion dollar budget is unsustainable.

    But again, are you really that dense? Saying it over and over again does not make it true.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “DBN, you put in costs for things other than SLS that are independant development.”

    I don’t know what “independant development” is, but I did not count any development costs from 2017 and prior.

    “You have no idea what the flight rate will be.”

    Sure I do. It never exceeds one per year and there are as many as four years between some flights. Schedule is described here:

    http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2011/07/preliminary-nasa-evolved-sls-vehicle-21-years-away/

    “ESA has expressed intrest in providing the SM for the MPCV.”

    No. NASA proposed a while back and Europeans turned them down last week. Read here:

    http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_generic.jsp?channel=aerospacedaily&id=news/asd/2012/02/16/02.xml

  • Rick Boozer wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    @Earth to Planet Marcel
    “Cheaper doesn’t always mean better. The smaller launch vehicles put severe weight and fairing size constraints on payloads launched into orbit and beyond LEO.
    According to this NASA study, the costs of using techniques to work around those limitations do not make up for SLS’s shortcomings. In other words, for every shortcoming you can find, there is a compensating minus in SLS’s column.
    http://images.spaceref.com/news/2011/21.jul2011.pdf

    Reality to Rick Boozer:

    Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have fully evaluated the alternatives and made their choice:

    1. The smaller vehicles can’t launch the largest Bigelow Olympus space stations. Such stations would be larger and cheaper than the ISS.

    2. They can’t launch the Altair lunar lander needed to deploy large lunar habitat modules on the lunar surface

    3. They can’t launch the largest space telescopes to the Lagrange points

    4.They can’t even place fuel into orbit as cheap as the SLS could

    and

    5. They’re not as potentially flexible as the SLS. The SLS could launch 20 tonnes into orbit with only a single core vehicle (without any SRBs) with the Orion Service Module serving as the upper stage or nearly 200 tonnes into orbit with an upper stage and four 5-segment SRBs.

    The SLS is going to be a remarkable machine!

    Marcel F. Williams

  • @ Coastal Ron

    As much as I disliked Griffin and the Constellation architecture, he never relied on any increases to the NASA budget to fund the Constellation program. The NASA budget clearly relied on ending the Shuttle Program ($3 billion a year) after 2010 and then ending the ISS program ($2 billion a year) after 2015 in order to fund the program. Congress, however, didn’t want to the shuttle, ISS, and the Constellation program to end.

    And the SLS will be the only vehicle on Earth that could launch the Bigelow Olympus BA 2100 into orbit. It requires at least an 8 meter fairing and at least 65 tonnes payload capacity. Sorry Space X:-)

    Marcel F. Williams

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 9:03 pm
    “ESA has expressed intrest in providing the SM for the MPCV.”

    you are behind the times…ESA providing the SM is dead. DEAD …sorry RGO

  • @ pathfinder_01

    The RS-68 is not a man-rated engine. 200 changes to the RS-68 would be required by NASA in order for it to meet human-rating standards. And the ULA is not even considering the Delta IV as a man-rated space craft right now since they favor the Atlas V.

    But the RS-25E could give the Delta IV a man-rated engine. But they probably won’t be ready until 2020.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • MrEarl

    DBN, your information is old. If you read NSF you know that the SLS will be able to launch 2 to 3 launches per year. The acctule flight rate will depend on the missions selected and of cource budget.
    We were discussing the cost of SLS only, not MPCV or the 21st century Launch Complex.
    The French and Italy rejected the SM because it “technologically lackluster and unlikely to generate public enthusiasm”. I wonder if they would feel the same about building modules for a L1 transfer station or moon base or a lander.

  • @Fred Willett

    Since the Olympus BA 2100 requires a fairing of at least 8 meters, its difficult to see how an upgraded Delta IV heavy with a 5 meter fairing could accommodate the Olympus unless they’re talking about increasing the diameter of the core rockets as they once proposed for the Delta Super Heavy.

    Provide us with a link to the Delta IV heavy concept that you’re talking about.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    The SLS is going to be a remarkable machine!

    WOW. You have set a new record – absolutely NONE of the things you stated are true. Not even close to having truth behind them.

    For instance:

    1. “Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress” DIDN’T choose the SLS to launch a commercial space station.

    2. The Altair was never designed, so no one, including you, can state anything for certain, but any lunar lander can be launched empty and refueled in orbit. ULA has proposed a lunar lander based on their ACES 41 design, which is based on flight test Centaur hardware, and it uses existing launchers.

    3. The largest funded telescope is being launched by existing rockets. No others are proposed or funded. Let us know when someone gets money to build a bigger one, then we’ll revisit this.

    4. Based on the advertised price for the SpaceX Falcon Heavy ($125M for 53mt to LEO), the SLS would have to lift 130mt to LEO for $307M. Even in your wildest fantasies would the SLS cost less than $400M/launch, especially when you amortize the development costs (which SpaceX does in their price). I suspect that Atlas V Heavy and Delta IV Heavy will be less expensive too, since their development and sustaining costs are far less than anything government built.

    5. The SLS flexible? You forget that the Delta IV Heavy is made up of three Common Booster Cores (CBC), and Falcon Heavy uses the same design. The SLS? No commonality between it’s core section and the boosters.

    Oh, and Marcel, you keep dreaming that Congress is going to pour more money into building derivatives of the SLS (i.e. a version without boosters), but Congress isn’t funding it. So much for that unfunded fantasy.

    Bottom line Marcel – your post was either some form or tongue-in-cheek humor, or you’re under the influence of drugs. I hope the former.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 10:01 pm
    “And the SLS will be the only vehicle on Earth that could launch the Bigelow Olympus BA 2100 into orbit. It requires at least an 8 meter fairing and at least 65 tonnes payload capacity.”

    The BA 2100, which you keep coming back to as justification for an SLS, has a recurring payload cost burden that is reminiscent of the payload cost used as criticism for the SLS in the first place. The BA 2100, which has about 2.5x the pressurized volume of ISS, is supposed to hold 16 people. Assuming there was something for 16 people to do in a BA 2100, the expenditure for keeping a 16 person crew up there is pretty enormous. Even with an Orion or Dragon, it would take three crew vehicles to staff the BA 2100, and it would take that many crew vehicles to be launched every full crew rotation. Assuming that happens, say, twice a year, we’re talking lots of crew launches! That’s to say nothing of the cargo flights that would be needed to service such a station.

    Of course, if used as a space hotel, one could presume that such recurring cost wouldn’t be borne by the federal government. But the recurring cost would be even larger, as tourists wouldn’t stay that long, and the market for such space tourism has hardly been proven.

    If used as a craft to go BEO, well, the expense of outfitting it would be absolutely enormous, and there are no plans on the table for sending lots of people to very large distances anyway.

    Bottom line. If we could lift a BA 2100, we couldn’t afford to use it. Bob BIgelow knows this and, as a result, he’s proposing it as an expansion path for what he really wants to do, which is BA 330. The purpose of BA 2100 promotion, in his mind, is just to demonstrate that the BA 330 isn’t a dead-end technology, and not that the BA 2100 actually has a business case.

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    And the SLS will be the only vehicle on Earth that could launch the Bigelow Olympus BA 2100 into orbit.

    Fairies on unicorns are all that are needed for launching your fictitious payloads… ;-)

    However if large commercial payloads ever do emerge that require something bigger than 53mt & 5m fairings, then ULA’s Atlas Phase 3B Super-Heavy is capable of lifting 140mt to LEO with an 8.4m fairing. Guess the SLS isn’t so big after all.

  • Googaw

    - Asteroid first, or Mars, or the Moon?
    - Do we need the ISS or not?
    - Mega-rockets or use what we have?
    - Do we need fuel depots and electric propulsion?
    - Who does what?

    The reason there is no consensus on such questions is because they are, at least in the common space politics context, theological questions, not practical economic or technological ones. Many many things remain to be discovered about these and the many other possible destinations and technological or institutional approaches, most of which usually get ignored in these discussions. We in fact don’t know what destinations are going to be the most promising. We don’t know enough about the destinations, and we don’t know enough about the technologies needed to exploit them, and we don’t know how to make them nearly inexpensively or functional enough. Nor do we know much about how to apply our hypothetical or actual knowledge to satisfy the needs or desires of customers on earth. And we especially don’t know what curves are going to be thrown at us by new discoveries in the future.

    Of course, not knowing these things does not prevent a bunch of sci-fi-addled blowhards from opinionating endlessly about their cast-in-stone prophecies of what they tell us must come true, usually far detached from any semblance of economic reality. Whenever somebody does discover one of the these things or make one of these innovations, these lip flappers and fast typers locked in their politically dickered canons are the last to know.

    This, and not the mere ability to do things less expensively, is why private enterprise beats central planning when it comes to opening up the frontiers of new technology. In all the important technological and institutional innovations of the 20th century the U.S. beat the Soviets — semiconductors, computers, software, media, automation, etc. — because of we eschewed dogmatic central planning. Even the stuff originally developed in government labs thrived and grew because the spirit of competition, public and private, overcame the spirit of enforced dogma.

    In short, progress depends on the fight against dogmatic consensus. Consensus, however necessary for the politically funding grandiose space fantasies, is death to actual technological and institutional progress in space.

    Private enterprise thrives on competition, not on consensus, especially this kind of woefully premature sci-fi cult consensus. Some of this spirit of competition and diversity has also influenced some government labs (e.g. DARPA) but alas not in NASA or space politics. With private enterprise, with revenue voluntarily obtained from private customers, and indeed in other kinds of institutions such as DARPA where diversity and competition are valued and dogmatic consensus deprecated, it just doesn’t matter if the blowhards are wrong (as they almost always are) — their success (especially in technology-heavy and marketing-light endeavors like transportation, extracting minerals, and the like) depends on whether they are, in the most practical sense, actually right, about technology, about where the most accessible and lucrative resources may be found, and about what institutional arrangements best get us there, not how fast they can type their whining about the oh-so-terrible lack of consensus about economic fantasies on a political blog.

  • pathfinder_01

    1. The smaller vehicles can’t launch the largest Bigelow Olympus space stations. Such stations would be larger and cheaper than the ISS.
    If a station is modular then there are no limits to how big it can get and why do we need to be larger than the ISS? What drove ISS costs was the shuttle the very technology you want to reuse. You could launch in sections of up to 25 tons with current technology right now. Bigloew on the other hand couldn’t build the BA Olympus right not if he wanted to. His factory is too small and there is no way to transport a 65ton payload from Nevada to Florida. However if he wanted to he could build as many BA330 and Sundancers as money would allow.

    2. They can’t launch the Altair lunar lander needed to deploy large lunar habitat modules on the lunar surface
    Altair was oversized. You can easily fit an Apollo sized lander on any EELV. In addition with inflatable technology such a lander or a hab unit could be very expandable. Altair was designed to be both a lander and a hab. I suspect that combining these functions is probably not smart (I mean people don’t drive mobile homes to work, do they?). I mean you have got to haul all that extra volume for supplies with you every time you launch. A smarter mover might be to have a separate habitation unit. The hab unit could then be pre-deployed and reusable.

    3. They can’t launch the largest space telescopes to the Lagrange points
    No, but NASA can’t afford the largest space telescopes either. Again you can build.
    Modularity is your friend.

    4.They can’t even place fuel into orbit as cheap as the SLS could
    If SLS cost 600 million to 1.6 billion a launch then the Delta IV heavy(the most expensive rocket now in service) could lift 50tons of propellant for 600 million and no additional fixed costs(SLS like the shuttle will have fixed costs that NASA must pay). It could lift 125 tons for 1.6 billion. ULA offered NASA Delta IV heavy for 300 million a pop in 2008. Delta IV heavy is available right now. Heck if you launched 1 Delta IV heavy a year until the year SLS is projected to be ready you could lift 125tons!

    Falcon heavy which could be ready next year at the earliest could lift 200 tons for 600 million.

    5. They’re not as potentially flexible as the SLS. The SLS could launch 20 tonnes into orbit with only a single core vehicle (without any SRBs) with the Orion Service Module serving as the upper stage or nearly 200 tonnes into orbit with an upper stage and four 5-segment SRBs.

    And cost an arm in the leg. We can launch 20 tons to orbit right now no SLS needed for that trick and the max SLS could launch is about 130MT. The mobile launch platform can not support the mass of 4 SRB’s. Each Shuttle SRB masses 1,300,000 pounds. To even support the mass of the shuttle and it’s SRBs the floor of the VAB had to be beefed up in the 70ies. The Shuttle masses more than the Saturn V does empty.

  • DCSCA

    No need to get their knickers in a twist. Who needs NASA… after all, Master Musk plans to retire on Mars.

  • Vladislaw wrote:

    I thought Bigelow Aerospace was a commerial firm? Why is it NASA’s and the federal government’s job to provide them a launch system?

    Bigelow is launching with SpaceX, at least the first flight. They’ve booked a Falcon 9 for 2015:

    http://www.spacex.com/launch_manifest.php

    My guess is they’ll be a Falcon Heavy customer eventually.

  • @Marcel Williams
    In regard to SLS you say.
    “Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have fully evaluated the alternatives and made their choice:”

    The fact that “Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have fully evaluated the alternatives and made their choice:” in regard to ISS, does not keep you for calling for it’s cancellation. By doing so you are calling your own self a liar in regard to the statement above concerning Congress and SLS. If that argument applies to SLS, it applies to ISS.

    Again, are you really that dense that you don’t see that holding both those positions is contradictory or are you purposely lying? Either way, it reveals someone whose comments cannot be trusted.

    As for all of your technical points, the fallacy of those has been pointed out to you over and over again. There are work arounds and all would cost less than SLS. For instance, Falcon Heavy with Kestrel would exceed 70 mt payload and therefore would have no problem with the heaviest Bigelow modules proposed. Also, a modified heavy version of Delta or Atlas could loft it as well.

    Again, Marcel, if you have to make up things to support your position, that means you are on the wrong side.

    “The SLS is going to be a remarkable machine!”
    So says the High Priest of the Temple of the Infallable SLS. You are so brainwashed that you won’t even allow yourself to consider alternatives. But I do agree with that statement. It is a remarkable machine for its waste of resources that could be employed for more useful alternatives for accessing deep space. You are so full of it.

  • @Marcel Williams
    BTW, Marcel, please don’t make the fairing argument again to say that either Falcon or a ULA rocket can’t carry BA 2100. Development of a compatable fairing for those vehicles would cost a hell of a lot less than the cost of SLS.

    Not that it makes a difference to you on Planet Marcel.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “DBN, your information is old. If you read NSF you know that the SLS will be able to launch 2 to 3 launches per year.”

    I do read NSF, and I’ve never seen such a statement in the articles or subscriber-only information there.

    “The acctule flight rate will depend on the missions selected and of cource budget”

    NASA’s budget is going down, not coming up. Just going from the President’s FY12 budget to the President’s FY13 budget for NASA, the agency lost over $5 billion in its FY12-FY16 budget runout.

    “We were discussing the cost of SLS only, not MPCV or the 21st century Launch Complex.”

    There is no other payload for SLS besides MPCV. There are references to undefined cargo missions in the current manifest, but those will require carriers and/or upper stages for which there is no budget. When NASA comes to grips with that reality, the SLS flight rate will drop even further.

    I made no reference to the 21st Century Launch Complex. I was referring to the budget figures for SLS and MPCV ground facilities, which the program needs to launch. You can’t have a car without a place to park it.

    Even if you want to ignore my $6 billion/flight figure above, I’m not the only one who’s coming up with these multi-billion figures for each SLS launch. Here’s one transportation analyst who came to a $5 billion/flight figure using a different method:

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1979/1

    “I wonder if they would feel the same about building modules for a L1 transfer station or moon base or a lander.”

    Mere pressurized modules are even less technologically challenging than an Apollo-era propulsion system.

  • Egad

    > I laid out one example showing how NASA’s Planetary Science budget would have to be dedicated to one SLS payload for 10 years in order to pay for it. 10 years of doing nothing but building one mission payload (my imaginary Mars Mega-Lander Program). OK, let’s say we do that – what else do we use the SLS for during that ensuing 9-year period, and whose budget is it coming from?

    A few months back there was a question on NSF about what the zero flight rate cost of maintaining SLS production, launch, operations, etc. infrastructure in readiness would be. IIRC, $3 billion a year was the estimate offered,

  • Coastal Ron

    MrEarl wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    DBN, your information is old. If you read NSF you know that the SLS will be able to launch 2 to 3 launches per year.

    The SLS is just a big presurrized aluminum tube with some plumbing, wiring, electronic boxes and some complex machinery (mainly engines). Boeing makes similar products, and they shipped 38 of them last month (mainly 737′s).

    U.S. manufacturing can support any number of launches the customers of the SLS need. The question is whether anyone really needs, and can afford, the SLS. So far, not one entity has stepped forward to say they want to use the SLS, and they plan to pursue the funding. Not one.

    You don’t like to talk money, so I’ll help you out. Just tell us what the payloads are the SLS will supposedly fly? List out the payloads that will keep the SLS busy 2-3 times per year, for at least a couple of years.

    Then, using historical analogies, I’ll estimate how much these programs will cost, and when Congress will have to start funding them. Should be educational for all.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi Vlad –

    “In a senate committe meeting Dr. Griffin bragged that he had already did the research and could prove all China, or any country needed, was a 25 ton launcher and 4 launches to start a human lunar program.

    “Funny that he never thought of the deltaIV heavy or the Atlas heavy, just think where we would be today if Griffin would have went with commercial launch vehicles and propellant depots starting in 2005, christ we would already be landing on Luna with the 13 billion dollars he blew through.”

    I think about this every day, as we could have had DIRECT and 2 manned launch systems.

    Have you ever asked yourself what was Griffin’s goal?
    Why did he choose the payload and launcher sizes he did?
    What did he develop his architecture for?

    googaw –

    You’re right about these being “theological” discussions.
    I hope you’re also right that NASA’s goals will change in the light of new discoveries.

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    DBN, your information is old. If you read NSF you know that the SLS will be able to launch 2 to 3 launches per year. The acctule flight rate will depend on the missions selected and of cource budget.>>

    NSF is a cheeleading site with little or no grounding in reality. There is not going to be an L1 station in the next 10-15 years even as a planning tool

    SLS could probably launch 5 times a year if there was enough money; there isnt RGO

  • Vladislaw

    @Marcel Williams:

    “the proposed concept would include “expandable habitats offering 2,100 cubic meters of volume — nearly twice the capacity available on the International Space Station” and another providing 3,240 cubic meters.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigelow_Aerospace

    You do realize this is just a CONCEPT, it is not like it is already built sitting in some warehouse ready to launch.

    You keep throwing this out as a justification for a HLLV. What about all the other concepts, what about nuclear powered engines, et cetera, et cetera. You can not pull one single concept out of the hat, at the expense of all other concepts that are also just power point presentations, and use that as some defining reason for spending 40-50 billion on a heavy lift option.

  • @GooGaw
    “This, and not the mere ability to do things less expensively, is why private enterprise beats central planning when it comes to opening up the frontiers of new technology. In all the important technological and institutional innovations of the 20th century the U.S. beat the Soviets — semiconductors, computers, software, media, automation, etc. — because of we eschewed dogmatic central planning.”
    I can only speak for myself, but the reason I argue against the economic impracticality of SLS is because I believe in capitalism, competition and free enterprise for the reasons you state. I am just saying that lower costs and higher efficiencies are one very noticable advantage of the open competive paradigm. SLS represents central planning at its worst and makes NASA the equivalent of an old style Soviet design bureau. A Commercial Crew program open to all competitors where competition forces costs down and leads to technical innovation is the antithesis of SLS. Instead of SLS, private industry (not shepherded by a central planning NASA) could come up with other more advantageous technologies on its own with the driver of competition. So yes I agree, if we are to become a true spacefaring nation, then private enterprise is the key.

  • Vladislaw

    E.P. Grondine wrote:

    “Have you ever asked yourself what was Griffin’s goal?
    Why did he choose the payload and launcher sizes he did?
    What did he develop his architecture for?”

    Actually I have, when you look at the FLO architecture that Griffin worked on, the Shuttle had already been flying about 10 years. So there was almost a decade of data on the SRB’s, but Griffin chose not to use them at all, was actually pretty damn strong on the idea that they SHOULDN’T be used. It was basically running away from all of that heritage hardware etc.

    So then he finally gets his big break, knows that if it is going to have any chance of success it would will have to be just barebones and fast tracked as much as possible, what does he do?

    By passes commercial for a crew launcher (COTS-D, the fourth leg of the COTS program) and ends up holding back data on the results leading to the Ares 1 and Ares V decision tree. He had actually went out of his way to show that commercial wouldn’t work and it could only go forward is if all the heritage processes, hardware and contractors from the Shuttle were incorporated. Exactly the opposite of what he had been proposing for the last decade.

    It was also diametrically opposed to what he told the Senate committee when he said all China needed to do to have a manned lunar program was to finish the Long March 5, a 25 ton launcher. China only needs a 25 ton launcher to goto the moon but America …. it was impossible for us to use those same sized commercial launchers.. America needed at least 130 ton launchers to do the same thing.

    When he was named for the position of NASA Administrator I would have liked to see the minutes from those meetings. Under O’Keefe and Stridel (sp) they were going to utilize commercial and do a spiral design, all of that ended with Griffin coming on board.

    So was it just the stakeholders in the Shuttle, plying money to certain Senators and House members and then those players laying it out to Griffin, “if you want the job, this is your new gospel”

    The only other reason I can think of … is it was a plan to finally destroy NASA’s ability to be involved with launching rockets. Because you can bet, if SLS dies (which I believe it will) NASA won’t be getting another chance and it will be commercial from now on until such time NASA can buy turn key launch systems .. like WK2/SS2.

    Of course if you read the conspiracy sites .. the aliens are not allowing us to go past LEO …. smiles

  • Egad

    Just tell us what the payloads are the SLS will supposedly fly? List out the payloads that will keep the SLS busy 2-3 times per year, for at least a couple of years.

    Then, using historical analogies, I’ll estimate how much these programs will cost, and when Congress will have to start funding them. Should be educational for all.

    Can I play too? Getting real or even making an attempt to get real about what an SLS-supported program would be and how much it would cost is something that seems to get passed over more often than not.

    Here’s my submission(*) for you to cost-estimate:

    Send two four-person expeditions to the lunar surface each year. Each expedition remains there two months and conducts a total of twenty sorties to locations up to twenty kilometers from the landing site in order to carry out geological/resource surveys. This goes on for at least a decade, i.e., at least twenty expeditions.

    (*) I don’t particularly advocate this program, but it seems like something that could called “exploration” with a reasonably straight face.

  • Vladislaw

    “Send two four-person expeditions to the lunar surface each year. Each expedition remains there two months and conducts a total of twenty sorties to locations up to twenty kilometers from the landing site in order to carry out geological/resource surveys”

    1.6 billion per launch, 3.2 billion. for the crew launches. One habitat launch per location? 1/2 billion for the habitat,1.3 billion for the cargo launch about 5.5 billion a year? Just ball parkin’ it

    I believe you would also have to figure in about 1 billion for delayed launches and another couple billion for if and when the program gets shut down for a few years when an accident occurs.. Nottin’ better than having all your Nation’s eggs in one basket with a mega single string system where the entire Nation grinds to a halt when an accident occurs.

    Of course the Nation would not even consider this with any other form of the transportation systems we use. Can you imagine if ALL automobiles across the entire Nation where shut down because of a single car accident? Planes? Ships? Only in space and NASA is this considered. Talk about nuts.

  • Coastal Ron

    Egad wrote @ February 22nd, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Can I play too?

    Absolutely. The goal is to find a use for the SLS, and if there is one, to figure out the funding stream to support it.

    Send two four-person expeditions to the lunar surface each year…

    This is a bit on the complex side. It’s also a little broad for calculating SLS need, as ULA has already done a study showing that this type of mission could be done using existing launchers, with fuel depots and landers based on their Centaur inspired ACES 41 architecture. You can find the study here. Sure you could use the SLS, but it’s not needed.

    However for budget purposes, your proposed mission is also very close to what Constellation was, so I would start with the $150B estimate (the last estimate before it was cancelled), and add in more for the additional trips needed. Considering that NASA’s Exploration and Space Operations budgets combined only equal $8B per year, your proposed mission would consume 100% of those budgets for 19 years.

    Again, the SLS is not needed for this type of mission, so we need to find SLS-specific payloads that we can overlay into future NASA budges to see if the SLS is affordable. Any other proposals?

  • Egad

    The goal is to find a use for the SLS, and if there is one, to figure out the funding stream to support it.

    I was thinking in terms of missions that were mandated to use SLS, rather than ones that would absolutely need it. I.e., if you’re mandated to use SLS for something, what is that something going to cost? No mind if the something could be done for less money without SLS.

    Probably you can do the two-expeditions-per-year thing with Deltas or Atlases or Falcons cheaper than with SLS, but that wouldn’t keep the relevant Senators and Congressmen and their constituents and contributors happy enough. As an aside, I have a strong suspicion that the reason the Authorization language that created the SLS program avoided mention of missions was that the drafters knew there was a grave danger that most affordable missions could be done without SLS.

  • Vladislaw

    CR wrote:

    “Absolutely. The goal is to find a use for the SLS, and if there is one, to figure out the funding stream to support it.”

    I believe you might have that a little bass ackwards.

    As you and I both know, there really isn’t a problem for finding something to do with the SLS. Hell, LEO, GEO, EM1 & 2 plus Lunar orbital space stations, Lunar bases, etc.

    Actually the goal is to find a funding stream for anything that SLS could possibly launch, period. Under the current budgetary nightmare we find ourselves in, I highly doubt you can convince congress to fund anything other than the, gold and gem stone encrusted capsule, MPCV.

    I do not see them funding a new telescope after the James Webb debacle. MAYBE a habitat for the ISS? Some kind of a joint venture with Bigelow?

    70 – 130 tons… that’s one hell of a chunk of hardware and if NASA is doing it? What is their usual average cost per ton of launched hardware? 1/4 to 1 billion a ton?

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ February 22nd, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    I do not see them [Congress] funding a new telescope after the James Webb debacle. MAYBE a habitat for the ISS? Some kind of a joint venture with Bigelow?

    Well you understand that, and I understand that, but SLS supporters can’t wrap their minds around that concept, or if they do, they are ardently ignoring it in the hopes that somewhere down the road NASA’s budget is allowed to expand again. Maybe they secretly hope that Gingrich gets elected – hard to tell.

    70 – 130 tons… that’s one hell of a chunk of hardware and if NASA is doing it? What is their usual average cost per ton of launched hardware? 1/4 to 1 billion a ton?

    Not a bad rule of thumb.

  • Aberwys

    Um…is someone missing the point here? Mars 2018′s budget is about $50M. Mars 2016 might be a bit more…$70M or so…

    “The Axe has to fall somewhere”?

    What is gained by a net cut of $120M from ExoMars?

    I think that there are plenty of more blocks to chop to get that small amount.

    And please, don’t tell me that’s going to JWST, because that’s not going to buy you too many beryllium mirrors or the associated labor.

    Can someone in the know remind me of what are we going to get from “Space Technology” again?
    Why is NASA doing research on solar vs. what DoE and NREL are doing?
    Why is NASA doing research on algae based fuels? And _how_ does that benefit space or society?

    I smell a sort of comeuppance in the air with the research centers feeling like they have finally “got theirs” now that many of the greybeards who supported flight centers (eg. Weiler et al) are out of the picture.

    Discuss.

  • Coastal Ron

    Aberwys wrote @ February 22nd, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    I’m pulling the following info from the NASA FY2013 Budget Summary.

    Can someone in the know remind me of what are we going to get from “Space Technology” again?

    According to the NASA FY2013 Budget Request:

    In FY 2013, NASA will move the development and testing of entry, descent, and landing systems from the Aeronautics account to Space Technology, better leveraging the Agency-wide knowledge base in these research areas. Space Technology will also advance high-priority, high-visibility technical areas through testing and launch milestones of a laser communications relay demonstration, a deep space atomic clock, and activities related to storage and transfer of cryogenic propellants, among others. NASA will continue to stimulate a U.S. economic powerhouse, the small business sector, through the competitive Small Business Innovative Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.

    Why is NASA doing research on solar vs. what DoE and NREL are doing?

    The term “solar” is used a lot in the budget – solar system, solar radiance & irradiance, solar probes (don’t ask), solar orbiter. Be more specific.

    Why is NASA doing research on algae based fuels? And _how_ does that benefit space or society?

    This is a legacy project from the Griffin era – here is the NASA page posted April 2009 (sorry to disappoint Obama conspiracy fanatics). The first paragraph says:

    NASA scientists have proposed an ingenious and remarkably resourceful process to produce “clean energy” biofuels, that cleans waste water, removes carbon dioxide from the air, retains important nutrients, and does not compete with agriculture for land or freshwater.

    I would imagine it’s related to closed-loop environmental systems.

  • Fred Willett

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 21st, 2012 at 11:05 pm
    Provide us with a link to the Delta IV heavy concept that you’re talking about.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=OqsHK2vxyzo
    right at the end of this clip Bigelow VP Jay Ingham mentions a “slightly cut down 1150 Olympus could fit on a modified Delta IV Heavy 70t with 6 or 7 m fairing”.
    Then there’s this ISDC keynote from 2011:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uc93LWus-7k&feature=relatedcft
    about 15:15 min in looking at a configuration of a BA 2100 and 2 BA 330s Robert Bigelow says “This would be launchable on a 70 metric ton super heavy. George Sowers of ULA says they could modify a Delta IV into that launch capability.”
    The bottom line is that while the BA 2100 is something Bigelow may consider some time in the future it has not been dreamed up without reguard to what commercial LV’s might be available to launch it. Fantasy NASA rockets are not needed.

  • E.P. Grondine

    vlad –

    Thanks for your estimate, but who knows?
    This is going to be a good job for the NASA history office.

  • @Dark Blue Nine wrote

    “No, I’ve read the VSE and every NASA budget after it (and many years before it) in detail. You’re just an idiot.”

    I love really intelligent responses. It really illustrates your rationality and common sense:-)

    Marcel F. Williams

  • Vladislaw wrote:

    “I thought Bigelow Aerospace was a commerial firm? Why is it NASA’s and the federal government’s job to provide them a launch system? If that is such a great way to do things, the department of energy should have fleets of oil tankers so oil drillers can use them, I am sure they would love it if the government built SUPER DUPER extra large tankers. Of course we would definately want them built with no bid, cost plus contracts also …. We all know .. if any government Agency understands staying on budget and schedule when they are building super duper mega projects .. it’s NASA”

    1. The SLS is primarily a Moon rocket. I know President Obama doesn’t want a Moon rocket but the Congress does.

    2. The fact that the SLS can do other things like launch large cheap space stations is a good thing for NASA which will need a replacement for the hyper expensive SLS in 2020 and for Bigelow which will get some early business and the NASA stamp of approval for its space station.

    3. If a private company like the USA (United Space Alliance) utilizes the SLS to launch the Olympus into orbit for private companies and for foreign governments then the recurring cost for the SLS will be reduced.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • pathfinder_01:

    ” What drove ISS costs was the shuttle the very technology you want to reuse. You could launch in sections of up to 25 tons with current technology right now. Bigloew on the other hand couldn’t build the BA Olympus right not if he wanted to. His factory is too small and there is no way to transport a 65ton payload from Nevada to Florida. ”

    The Shuttle could only launch about 25 tonnes into orbit at about $450 per launch. The SLS will be able to launch between 70 to 100 tonnes into orbit right at the start at about $500 per launch. So the SLS will obviously be able to launch payloads into orbit dramatically cheaper than the Shuttle.

    Because of low demand, Delta IV heavy launches are somewhere around $400 million per launch. So that ain’t no bargain.

    Unless, NASA launches an Olympus using part of the current supply of RS-25 engines, the SLS will probably not be ready to launch the Olympus until 2020 at the earliest when the new RS-25E engines are finally being produced. So Bigelow Aerospace has about 8 years to get its Olympus factory ready! That’s lenty of time, IMO.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • Coastal Ron said: “Based on the advertised price for the SpaceX Falcon Heavy ($125M for 53mt to LEO), the SLS would have to lift 130mt to LEO for $307M. Even in your wildest fantasies would the SLS cost less than $400M/launch, especially when you amortize the development costs (which SpaceX does in their price). I suspect that Atlas V Heavy and Delta IV Heavy will be less expensive too, since their development and sustaining costs are far less than anything government built.”

    Elon can’t even routinely get his Falcon 9 into space. So I wouldn’t worry about his Falcon Heavy:-) The man needs to stop bragging about the Moon and Mars and landing boosters vertically back on Earth– and start putting his birds in the air!!!

    Marcel F. Williams

  • Fred Willett wrote:

    “http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=OqsHK2vxyzo
    right at the end of this clip Bigelow VP Jay Ingham mentions a “slightly cut down 1150 Olympus could fit on a modified Delta IV Heavy 70t with 6 or 7 m fairing”.
    Then there’s this ISDC keynote from 2011:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uc93LWus-7k&feature=relatedcft
    about 15:15 min in looking at a configuration of a BA 2100 and 2 BA 330s Robert Bigelow says “This would be launchable on a 70 metric ton super heavy. George Sowers of ULA says they could modify a Delta IV into that launch capability.”
    The bottom line is that while the BA 2100 is something Bigelow may consider some time in the future it has not been dreamed up without reguard to what commercial LV’s might be available to launch it. Fantasy NASA rockets are not needed.”

    Thanks a lot for the very interesting links to the Bigelow program!

    Once the SLS is fully operational, Bigelow Aerospace won’t have to dream about deploying the largest Olympus space stations into orbit.

    The only Delta Super Heavy concepts that I’m aware of require an 8 meter core boosters plus a new upper stage booster:

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CDwQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fforum.nasaspaceflight.com%2Findex.php%3Faction%3Ddlattach%3Btopic%3D16279.0%3Battach%3D125215&ei=7X1GT7DWCIiRiQLQ2ITbDQ&usg=AFQjCNG-eLJRRgzlh-wHbi9kKKq5nUhkKA

    That should be enough to accommodate a payload fairing larger than 8 meters. But the SLS will have an 8.4 meter core booster. So Boeing would just be building another large diameter rocket?

    The basic Delta IV heavy is already a pretty complex and very expensive launch vehicle, so I assume that any newer and more complex vehicle would be even more expensive.

    As a cargo carrier for 20 tonne payloads, the SLS core booster could probably put the basic Delta IV heavy out of business.

    The Delta IV heavy requires three RS-68 engines, three core boosters, and a LOX/LH2 upper stage.

    An SLS derived cargo vehicle capable of launching 20 tonnes into orbit would require: four RS-68 engines– but only one core booster– with the Orion Service Module serving as the upper stage (only 8 or 9 tonnes of hypergolic fuel would be required to finally lift the payload into orbit)

    Marcel F. Williams

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 23rd, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Elon can’t even routinely get his Falcon 9 into space.

    Odd statement from someone that idolizes a powerpoint rocket. Falcon 9 has launched two times, and is waiting for final payload approval to launch yet again. Oh, and they plan to move two more to the launch pad this year.

    How many Ares or SLS rockets have launched?

    I’ll take reality over fantasy any day…

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 23rd, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Because of low demand, Delta IV heavy launches are somewhere around $400 million per launch. So that ain’t no bargain.

    And based on zero demand, SLS will be the most expensive rocket in history.

    Let’s review reality here. Delta IV Heavy is made up of Delta IV CBC’s (seven CBC’s are launching this year), so there is a constant flow of Delta IV production to rely upon. ULA is also a government contractor, which means that it’s not an inexpensive entity compared to commercial companies, but no worse than any NASA contractor (which it is).

    The SLS will be built, and likely operated, by government contractors, so no cost advantage there between the SLS and any rocket, including Delta IV Heavy. However what is really hilarious is your delusion that the SLS will only cost 20% more than a Delta IV Heavy ($500M vs $400M) despite the fact that the SLS needs $30B worth of development funds, and will weigh 3-6X more than Delta IV Heavy.

    Let’s just look at what it takes to launch the SLS vs Delta IV Heavy. The SLS requires vertical integration in the largest building of it’s type in the world, and must use the largest crawler in the world to move to the largest launch tower in the world. Delta IV Heavy integrates horizontally, and is rolled out and lifted vertically – easy peazy. Everything is more expensive on the SLS – everything.

    No one that has at least half a brain believes your fictitious numbers. Do you use a dartboard to make them up, or fairies whisper them in you ear… ;-)

  • @Coastal Ron
    “I’ll take reality over fantasy any day…”
    I’m afraid it will always be the inverse on Planet Marcel. Notice he never addressed the following point made by me:
    “The fact that “Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have fully evaluated the alternatives and made their choice:” in regard to ISS, does not keep you from calling for it’s cancellation. By doing so you are calling your own self a liar in regard to the statement above concerning Congress and SLS. If that argument applies to SLS, it applies to ISS.”
    He hates to be confused with logic. :)

  • Aberwys

    Solar, as in solar panels.

    My phone doesn’t make responding easy, so apologies for seeming terse.

  • Fred Willett

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 23rd, 2012 at 1:20 pm
    The only Delta Super Heavy concepts that I’m aware of require an 8 meter core boosters plus a new upper stage booster:
    I’m sure George Sowers keeps you up to date on all their plans and options. (grin) But a bigger core may not be necessary. A larger faring introduces losses and some stability issues. But these are not insurmountable problems. Let ULA worry about them. If they think they have a solution they will offer it (at a cost). If Robert Bigelow wants to take it up it’s up to him.

    As a cargo carrier for 20 tonne payloads, the SLS core booster could probably put the basic Delta IV heavy out of business.
    That’s the problem right there. Shuttle, at $1.4B a flight kept commercial grounded because what business can compete when the tax payer is picking up all the costs to subsidise a government launcher. A SLS that will cost $Bs per launch can only kill commercial heavy lift.
    Atlas and Delta and Falcon all have paths to evolve into super heavy lift if there is any demand for that capacity. But does NASA ask commercial to develop that capacity?
    No.
    NASA insists on developing their own SLS ln the process squashing commercial space.
    It’s no accident that the US has lost the bulk of commercial launch. Other countries subsidise launch on their rockets.
    NASA for years ran their own private launch system (shuttle) depressing demand for US native LV’s, forcing up costs for native US LVs and costing the US market share in the commercial satellite market as a consequence.
    Now they’re doing it again with SLS.

  • Googaw

    “You can’t even launch Bigelow’s largest space stations, the Olympus BA 2100 with these tiny vehicles.”

    Besides the silliness of labeling normal, and even abnormally large, rockets as “tiny”, a very good sign that SLS has jumped the shark is that now its supporters too are invoking the visions of the UFO hunter as the “market” for their rocket. The amazing thing is that even with Bigelow they have to go to the most extremely impractical end of his daydreams to find their payload. The several versions Bigelow has designed for launch on normal rockets are apparently not, as Newt might say, sufficiently grandiose.

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